Twenty-five years later, it happened again: After much speculation — and ahead of a protracted back-and-forth with David Lynch — Showtime announced in 2014 that it would be the home network for a continuation of Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost’s beloved cult television show, “Twin Peaks.”
When the Pacific Northwest neo-noir debuted in 1990, it changed television forever. It also launched a loyal community of fans, drew critical attention from academics and journalists alike, and resonated strongly with Northwest viewers before ending abruptly in a metaphysical cliff-hanger after only two seasons. So the show’s unlikely continuation in the form of 18 beautiful, newly baffling episodes was one of the past decade’s biggest pop-cultural surprises — and an especially big deal for “Twin Peaks” fans in Washington state, who know the town by its other name: North Bend.
Writer Matt Briggs is one of them. He grew up in the Snoqualmie Valley, and sees a special resonance between Lynch’s vision and the natural environment and communities of the Northwest, and he wrote convincingly of their relationship to “the special brand of mysteriousness and supernatural suspense that ‘Twin Peaks’ is known for” in an essay published in Moss, a local literary journal. “The fictional town is a location that reflects the tension between the fecundity of the ancient forests and the constant change of the new,” Briggs writes. “The landscape of ‘Twin Peaks’ represents loss inside of loss of loss.”
Briggs recalls growing up under Mount Si and witnessing North Bend’s transformation from a logging town into “an exurb of the East Side tech industry” where Jeff Bezos “lived in the same forest that ‘Twin Peaks’ was filmed in.” He sees in Lynch’s series a story that “operates with broad strokes using things I am familiar with as someone who grew up in the American West.”
While his initial excitement about the show stemmed from seeing familiar places onscreen — like the Mar-T (now Twede’s) Cafe, and the North Bend movie theater where he’d watched “Time Bandits” — Briggs says he increasingly began to view the series as “a tangential mirror of my home.”
“‘Twin Peaks’ and to a lesser degree Blue Velvet … seem to be cultural documents of the Pacific Northwest,” Briggs tells me via email. “David Lynch has his own agenda. There are other things going on in his work, but it is a way of seeing our own region.”
Briggs points out that Seattle, like Twin Peaks, is a place that “despite its progressive and socialist sympathies, also has some dark, very racist acts in its history.” It’s also a company town with ties to powerful men. “We were Bill Boeing’s town,” says Briggs. “We were Bill Gates’ town. We are Jeff Bezo’s town. ‘Twin Peaks’ was Benjamin Horne’s town, and before that Andrew Packard’s town. There are such nice people in nice houses and some of them are up to things that only [the show’s demon antagonist] Bob would think of doing.”
When “Twin Peaks: The Return” aired, Briggs wondered how this twisted mirror of the Northwest would hold up. “I was wondering how the third season would sit within a location that had changed so much, and yet, just as the principal cast that survived and is 30 years older, the valley is 30 years older,” he says. “I’m 30 years older. And there is still something in the woods. They still keep finding these things [like] the illegal gingerbread house in the Snoqualmie forest.”
As the Northwest continues to develop and change, the region’s transitive state — Briggs’ “loss inside of loss of loss” — seems continuously ripe for deconstruction, or, for fans, something closer to pilgrimage.
The latter has become a way of life for David Israel, who leads tours of “Twin Peaks” filming locations in and around North Bend. Israel has been a fan of the series since it premiered, and, like Briggs, was especially drawn to the show’s Northwest locations. “That was one of the coolest things about it,” he says. “You know, this is where I live, this is where I grew up. It connected with me in that way, probably more than anything. That’s why I wanted to know where everything was. I wanted to find all these filming locations.”
That became the basis for Israel’s tour company. And he really does know the ins and outs of “Twin Peaks” shooting locations, down to the transformation of the fictional Fat Trout Trailer Park, whose original North Bend stand-in had to be replaced after it was torn down. When Israel approached the manager of the new trailer park about including it in the updated tour, he was surprised to find that “the guy that answers is in the revival.” It was Bill O’Dell, who appears in episode 12 and has a memorable exchange with Harry Dean Stanton as a character named Kriscol.
With the revival now over, Israel says he’s modified his tours to include locations from the new episodes. But interest in the tours — and in the show itself — hasn’t flagged. He’s even had guests come from out of the country just for the tour. “You know, it’s never-ending,” he says. “It’s kind of like the Beatles, you know? It’s there for every generation.”
And that new generation has easier access to the series, too. When I first watched in 2010, it was on DVDs rented from Scarecrow Video; the version of the “Twin Peaks” pilot episode that originally aired on TV wasn’t even released on home video in the United States until 2007. But now, with several comprehensive (if not outright completist) box-sets containing extras like the companion film, “Fire Walk with Me,” all of seasons one and two on Netflix, and “The Return” on Showtime (or Hulu, or Amazon), it’s easier than ever to return to the mysterious Northwest town of Twin Peaks — or to visit for the first time. And it remains the perfect audiovisual accompaniment for our dark Pacific Northwest nights, with their gray frieze of winter that — for now — still feels dependable.