The TV show Twin Peaks, written and realized by Mark Frost and director extraordinaire David Lynch, has generated obviously millions of true fans worldwide who still meet at conventions to share theories and possible explanations for the many mysteries that inform the series. Even decades after the last episode of Twin Peaks season two was aired.

It premiered in April 1990 and finished in June 1991, presenting a total of roughly 25 hours of TV entertainment, a pilot of 93 minutes and 29 additional episodes.

For many, if not all fans, the show was not over with the last episode, even though by then the central plot, the brutal and mysterious murder of 17-year old Laura Palmer, was mostly resolved. But, as this was a David Lynch show, his creations usually leave the audience with more questions than answers.

In 1992 a prequel Fire Walk With Me movie was produced; there the last seven days in the life of Laura were revealed. However, even as some mysteries were solved, several more new ones were presented.

So much so that the cult surrounding the series has changed audiences and TV series production forever, as the show combined surrealism, spirituality, and small town routines with several genres, such as stories of adventure, horror, detective, voyeurism, high school romance, the supernatural, fairy tales and probably a whole number of other origins. As a worldwide result, many fanzines, websites, publications and conventions came into existence over the years. Clearly, the show was (light) years ahead of its time.

In Mai 2017 the third season (also known as Twin Peaks: The Return, a limited series) premiered on TV and continued the plot, solved some old riddles and quests, but again it left the viewer with many new unanswered questions and unsatisfactory cliffhangers. This third season, however, is not part of Approaching Twin Peaks.

The volume here contains twelve essays altogether and they all are occupied with the original series (seasons 1 and 2) and the movie Fire Walk With Me. As the editors introduce their volume, the discussion of the series is anything but finished: “…[L]ike Laura Palmer, Twin Peaks has continued to haunt us. It remains an enduringly alluring television show, and, as previously noted, has inspired a dedicated and persistent fan base. As a work largely associated with David Lynch (Mark Frost’s seminal importance has arguably been insufficiently recognized), Twin Peaks has also been the ongoing subject of scholarly discourse, not only as an inevitable subject of consideration in most books on Lynch’s oeuvre but also the subject of several studies….”

The individual texts strongly vary in quality; some are written by researchers and academics, others by authors and fans. The topics are excellently chosen, though. They range from surreal elements of the series, to the reinvention of TV by Lynch, trauma connected to the Pacific Midwest, spirituality and Christian thought that are main aspects of the series, domestic violence and stages of possession in movies, parallels to movies by Stanley Kubrik, nightmarish visions of America in the average small town, vampirism, the doppelgaenger and the many loose ends and missing pieces of the enigmatic tale.

Even if there already are dozens of books dealing with similar content, Approaching Twin Peaks belongs on the stack of the better researched publications. So somehow the book arrived “just in time” to be used as another manual to the understanding (if possible) of the entire tale. After season three, however, we can expect a whole new set of books on the Lynch/Frost TV masterpiece.

Review by Dr. A. Ebert © 2018

Eric Hoffman and Dominick Grace (eds.) Approaching Twin Peaks: Critical Essays on the Original Series. McFarland, 2017, 212 p.