Welcome to the Weekend Binge. Every week, we’ll suggest a binge-able title designed to keep you from getting too stir crazy. Check back throughout the weekend for even more gloriously queer entertainment.
The Trip: Twin Peaks
A moment of vocabulary review: the word “queer” can have at least two meanings: one, referring to the LGBTQ community; the other, meaning strange or unusual.
For a Weekend Binge that manages to check both boxes, look no further than Twin Peaks, the much-discussed, debated, praised and maligned TV series from the minds of writer Mark Frost and surrealist director David Lynch. The original series debuted on ABC back in 1991 and became an unexpected phenomenon, helping to launch the careers of Lara Flynn Boyle, Dana Ashbrook, David Duchovny, Sheryl Lee, Sherilyn Fenn, Mädchen Amick and Heather Graham, as well as to cement the stardom of Kyle McLaughlin, Michael Ontkean, Piper Laurie and Ray Wise. Even viewers unfamiliar with the series will know its effect: Twin Peaks has influenced countless shows since, such as The X-Files, Riverdale, Bates Motel, Battlestar Galactica and beyond.
The premise: A local fisherman discovers the body of Laura Palmer (Lee), the angelic homecoming queen of a small Washington town, washed up on the shore of a local river. The murder invites eccentric FBI Agent Dale Cooper (McLaughlin) to investigate. Very quickly, Cooper uncovers clues that incriminate virtually everyone in town in connection with Palmer, who led a double life as a high school student and a bisexual, drug-addicted prostitute. Cooper also begins to discover an even deeper mystery amid the woods of Twin Peaks–a path leading to a dream world of magic and extreme danger. Along the way, the agent also enlists the help of a transgender FBI agent, Denise Bryson (Duchovny).
Oh, and yes, the show is also the notorious series that introduced a backward-talking dwarf to the zeitgeist, spawning countless parodies since.
Twin Peaks, for all its influence, had a sordid production history. Following the success of the first season (which only ran eight episodes), the show returned for a second season, with network ABC mandating that Lynch & Frost reveal Laura Palmer’s killer. The pair complied, but solving the series’ central mystery left the show without an underlying plot. Viewers fled in droves, and despite the second season ending on a cliffhanger, ABC nixed the show. Lynch revived the story for an odd prequel/sequel movie a year later, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The film met with a critical and box office drubbing, as it made virtually no sense outside the context of the TV series.
It all seemed a mess, until lo and behold, 2017 saw the release of a third season which reunited most of the original cast (and brought in a few megastars to boot: Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Tom Sizemore, Michael Cera, Richard Chamberlain, Amanda Seyfried, and Matthew Lillard all appear), resolved the Season 2 cliffhanger, and pushed the series in a wild new direction.
At its core, Twin Peaks is a science fiction mystery in which all the usual wild, CGI effects are substituted for simple objects: a red curtain represents a door to another world, and a latex glove takes the place of a superweapon. It’s all very surreal and nonsensical, but paradoxically, viewers can make sense of it all.
Whether or not you decide to decode the series language or just enjoy it as a hallucinatory nightmare is totally up to you, dear reader. Either way, we recommend kicking back and strapping in for a wild, funny and terrifying journey into a world of mystery and secrets. Since holidays often bring about trips to visit friends and family, we suggest one more: one we promise you’ll not soon forget.
Seasons 1 & 2 stream on Hulu, Netflix, Paramount+, YouTube and VUDU.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me streams on HBO Max, Amazon, YouTube & VUDU.
Season 3 streams on Amazon, Hulu and Showtime.