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30 years later, ‘Twin Peaks’ stills loves us as much as we love it

Deputy Hawk was late to our phone call. To be fair, the man was on duty. 

“I mean, this raccoon was the size of a Volkswagen,” Michael Horse, the actor behind the Twin Peaks icon, tells me through triumphant chuckles. “I built a chicken coop the guys from Alcatraz couldn’t escape from, so this raccoon must have had bolt cutters or something. ”

Nestled in his northern California home, Horse regales me with the details of his raccoon rumble (and apologizes repeatedly for keeping me waiting) before diving into the subject of our call. Prior to connecting with Mashable, the 68-year-old had planned to be in Graceland with cast members and fans to celebrate Twin Peaks’ 30th anniversary. But given the rapid spread of coronavirus, organizers had no choice but to postpone festivities until November. 

“There are two kinds of people: the ones who get Twin Peaks and the ones who don’t.”

So for now, the Hawk is partying with me. Well, me and his cat, Carlos whom he says was very worried about the chickens. “Anyway,” he laughs, “how are you?”

In my mind, there are few things more daunting than writing about Twin Peaks. Dripping with David Lynch’s surreal sensibilities and Mark Frost’s immense intelligence, the legendary show sits in a part of my brain typically reserved for the big questions of life: Is my existence meaningful? Where does space go? How long after the expiration date can you still drink the milk? 

From the original series and movie to the Showtime return, novels, and fan forums, the universe of Twin Peaks is bafflingly complex. Not just in terms of plot, but as a matter of TV history, life philosophy, and metaphysical exercise. When Horse tells me there are two types of people in this world — “the ones who get Twin Peaks and the ones who don’t” — I fear for a moment that I’m the latter.

"I mean this raccoon was the size of a Volkswagen."

“I mean this raccoon was the size of a Volkswagen.”

Image: courtesy of twin peaks: From Z to A

Brandishing my knowledge of the franchise like a shield, I hit Horse with a few questions about deep-cut details and viewer theories. It’s a feeble attempt to establish credibility in a realm no one, including Horse, really understands.

“A lot of things about Twin Peaks don’t make sense to me, and I’m in it,” he says through an audible grin. “Because it isn’t about the questions. It’s about the journey.” 

It’s a sentiment I’d already heard speaking with Dana Ashbrook on the phone an hour before. Of course, anything is more resonant coming from the Hawk than Bobby Briggs — no matter how phenomenal his Return redemption arc was — but it’s the one-two punch of hearing it from both of them that puts me at ease. 

“They know the show so well, and they care about David, and they care about us so much. We’re so, so lucky.”

“No, I don’t go down that road,” Ashbrook tells me, making it politely clear that he would not be entertaining any questions about the father of Lucy’s baby while socially distancing in the Catskills. “I don’t speculate about that stuff. I just leave it up to the viewer. That’s their job.”

Known for its game-changing role in serialized drama, Twin Peaks isn’t the most inviting world. Not only is the entire thing built on the grisly murder of a 17-year-old girl, but the clashing of mystery, soap, and sci-fi genres makes it unlike anything to come before or after it. It’s one of a kind, a singular experience that doesn’t fit into any matrix. A round peg in a stack of waffles.

I’d spent hours preparing for these conversations, agonizing over making the perfect observation to wow my subjects as much as my editors. It turns out, I could just say hi because that’s what fans do. Especially Twin Peaks fans.

“It’s the sweetest, most cool, most artistic fan base of any show,” Ashbrook says. “For a lot of them, the show is an escape from a difficult childhood, difficult teenage years, or whatever, a difficult life. They know the show so well, and they care about David, and they care about us so much. We’re so, so lucky.”

“They’re so smart, and they’re so kind, and they’re so polite,” Horse agrees. “They come into my wife’s gallery and I’m usually never there. But my wife can spot ‘em. She says they look like deer in headlights, and she goes, ‘He’s not here, but I’ll tell him you stopped by.’”

“Why does anyone like anything?”

We chat about the kind of work Horse’s wife does, his former home in Topanga Canyon, and the beauty of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score, which he describes as being straight from “the dream world.” 

With Ashbrook, I ask about auditioning (he didn’t really, Lynch signed off on Ashbrook’s casting long before “the day”), which of his castmates he keeps in touch with (a whole lot of them, usually by text), and what about the show makes it worth revisiting 30 years later. 

“Why does anyone like anything?” he quips. “I don’t know. It strikes a chord.” 

Neither actor hands me the key to understanding Twin Peaks. We just talk warmly and kindly about this show we all like very much. They’re fans just like I am.

Though the questions of Twin Peaks are certain to haunt me well into the next 30 years, I’m confident in saying these conversations taught me what truly makes it special. Yes, it’s the exquisite cinematography, inventive humor, pitch-perfect performances, and mesmerizing world. But it’s also just us. Sitting in a diner. Having a damn fine cup of coffee — and a slice of cherry pie. 

Twin Peaks Season 1 and 2 are streaming on Hulu, Netflix, and CBS All Access. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is available for purchase or rent on iTunes and Amazon Prime. Twin Peaks: The Return can be found on Showtime

The entire Twin Peaks collection is compiled on Blu-ray in Twin Peaks: From Z to A.

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