The pilot for “Twin Peaks” aired on April 8, 1990, exactly thirty years ago last month. From this initial hour-and-a-half long mini-movie, all the way through the final cliffhanger, David Lynch sucks the audience in and keeps them on the edge of their seats as the exuberant cast of characters wind their way through the mystery that is the murder of Laura Palmer.
It’s difficult to give a brief overview of this true puzzle of a show without entering into plot spoilers that would drastically change a person’s initial viewing experience. So instead I’ll offer a couple things to pay attention to — things that make the show stand out as great as it truly is.
First, take some time to appreciate the soundtrack. The opening theme greets the audience with every episode, but is mimicked throughout the show during key moments of the plot, especially romantic ones. Pay attention to when this theme is repeated, as it often gives some important insights into which relationships are worth indulging.
The main theme isn’t the only standout of the soundtrack. Both instrumental and vocal songs created by Angelo Badalamenti specifically for the show give the Pacific northwest setting a distinct feel, and also serve to highlight the period in which the show was filmed. And, especially when characters find themselves at the Roadhouse, make sure your ears are perked.
Second, the show is not only driven by the twist and turns of its plot, but more subtly by the interactions and dynamics developed between its main characters. Lynch does a wonderful job of highlighting minute gestures that silently illuminate the thoughts and feelings of respective cast members.
Sometimes this is done clearly and intentionally, where the camera will hang on one shot for an extended period of time to highlight some distinct movements. Other times it takes a keen eye to catch the details of a character’s interactions with another. A sideways glance or excessive blinking, done in just a few moments, often tell the viewer all they need to know about how two characters feel about one another, or about another person in the scene.
Some characters to lend particular attention to are Sheriff Harry Truman and Special Agent Dale Cooper, who together drive much of the show, James Hurley and Donna Haywood, no matter how much I grew to despise their relationship, and Audrey Horne, who was my clear favorite character throughout the entire series.
Finally, and most importantly, keep close track of symbols. Douglas fir trees, black coffee and owls are three that immediately come to my mind. There are many others that pop up throughout the show, and it’s entertaining in and of itself to try and keep track of how they relate to one another and to the characters in the show.
So now that you have a couple of things to pay closer attention to while watching, take an hour-and-a-half on Netflix and watch the pilot. You’ll be truly surprised to find that, thirty years later, this masterpiece of a thriller hasn’t aged a bit — aside from the notorious 80s-era haircuts.
Grab a cup of joe, throw on your coziest flannel, and watch “Twin Peaks.”
Jacob Maranda ’22 is from Rock Island, Il. His majors are philosophy and economics.