Twin Peaks–why is it so captivating?

Photo by Alan Light
Kyle MacLachlan, who played FBI agent Dale Cooper
Photo by Alan Light

Remember the huge success that was Twin Peaks? The moody series with the wacky characters, the haunting small-town setting, and the burning question—Who killed Laura Palmer?

Well, I happened to have been too young when the series first aired (1990, in case you’re wondering), but I just watched it and I can see why it became such a hit!

Who did kill Laura Palmer?

And should we really have found out?

But that aside, talk about wonderful characterizations! There’s something to fascinate you about every character. Lucy at the sheriff’s office with her high-pitched voice and goofy love-affair with Andy—the deputy who cries at every murder scene. Agent Cooper, the extremely efficient FBI agent who believes in mysticism (throwing rocks at a bottle to figure out who the murderer is?) and waxes lyrically about pies and pines. Audrey, the high school student who changes into her red, high-heeled shoes as she arrives at school. I especially loved Leland, Laura Palmer’s eccentric, more than a little crooked, lawyer father, heart-broken at his daughter’s death.

(Spoiler for the one other person who’s not seen the series.)

When he was revealed as the murderer, I went “No, no, no! Not him!”. And then he even died. *sigh*

My other favorite was Ben Horne. You know, the rich owner of the Great Northern hotel (virtually another character in the series) who also happened to own the local brothel. Yes, so he was a bit ruthless, and rather weird, but he was so funny!

Not to mention Andrew, the forensic specialist who’s a bit “socially inept” (i.e. utterly rude).

What makes Twin Peaks a great series? Is it just the memorable characters? The atmospheric forest, the murder mystery?

I don’t think so, or not on its own anyway. It’s something more, something less tangible. Perhaps it’s how these different elements come together so seamlessly to form a whole? Or the way the bizarre mixes with the very real? The way we see how this girl’s death—this young, popular, beautiful girl—affects everyone in the community. Her father grieves. Her friends are genuinely shocked. Her mother falls apart. The saw mill owner shuts down the mill for the day.

Her life matters.

And with her life mattering, we get this burning need to find out what happened to her. And, of course, during the course of the investigation, more and more mysterious things crop up, and we learn that Laura Palmer had a lot of secrets. This seemingly normal girl, with an entire different life we never knew about… It’s a good mystery, isn’t it?

How about you? What do you remember most about the series? What did you love or hate?

4 thoughts on “Twin Peaks–why is it so captivating?

  • September 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    I have also enjoyed this series immensely, although the second season took a dive in the mud and couldn’t hold a candle to the first half of it. My favorite character was Leland too and I think he was perhaps the best actor there, together with the guy who played Benjamin Horne. The others, well… Let’s say I was not impressed.

    I think you might like also some Lynch movies like Inland Empire and Mulholland Drive, which I recommend in case you haven’t seen them already!

    • September 4, 2013 at 5:03 am

      Yes the series does go downhill after we find out who killed Laura Palmer, doesn’t it? I saw Mulholland Drive forever ago–definitely has that same “strangeness” to it! I haven’t seen Inland Empire yet, but it’s in the TBW (to-be-watched) pile.

  • September 13, 2013 at 8:42 pm

    Love this post. When we first moved to San Diego I didn’t know anyone and my husband was in the Navy (hence my novel The Girl in the Jitterbug Dress). I became addicted to my fictional friends. The series was so weird and compelling and I hadn’t seen anything like it since Northern Exposure, but of course TP was darker.

  • September 14, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Northern Exposure, eh? Never heard about it, I must confess, but I’ll check it out! Always on the lookout for a good series. 🙂 Thanks!


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