Monday, October 20, 2014

Twin Peaks is Back! (a conversation with John Thorne, editor of Wrapped in Plastic, pt. 3)


Needless to say (although I'm saying it anyway), this interview with John Thorne - co-editor/publisher/writer behind Twin Peaks magazine Wrapped in Plastic - will include many, many spoilers for the series and film.

When I spoke to John Thorne for the first time in July about the history of his magazine Wrapped in Plastic, I only planned to publish one interview. Yet as we spoke about the upcoming Entire Mystery blu-ray release, I realized we'd have to talk again to discuss what would probably be the last addition to the Twin Peaks canon. It took a couple months, but I was finally able to follow up with him about the deleted scenes, the mysterious Palmer family reunion, and other special features. We also spoke about the possibility of David Lynch and Mark Frost returning to Twin Peaks and both of us thought it extremely unlikely. There was even a wistful tone in John's voice as he commented about The Missing Pieces: "I would say, it felt like he was done. That this is an end point. In a way this is sort of a door closing. Arguably it could be a door opening too." He then added, referring to Lynch's recent art show in Philadelphia, "I would hope that he looks at these paintings again and thinks, I want to see these paintings move and he’s ready to do it again."

Well, here we are a month later and a third interview was obviously necessary. If you're reading this, you surely already know, but on October 6, Showtime announced it will be airing a 9-episode continuation of Twin Peaks. Every episode will be written by Mark Frost and David Lynch, and they will all be directed by Lynch. Many cast members have already declared their interest in returning, and last week (after this interview was conducted - it's impossible to keep up with the news!) Frost also announced an upcoming novel which will divulge what's happened in the town of Twin Peaks over the past twenty-five years. Clearly, John and I had a lot to discuss so we eagerly got back to it. Part three, the final installment of our ongoing conversation (for now), covers questions about the new series, John's interpretation of the original series finale, and why the media still doesn't get Twin Peaks.


THE RETURN OF TWIN PEAKS

Good to talk to you again. It’s been an eventful few days!

To say the least! I mean, it’s been quite a week.

So what was your first reaction to the tweets [Lynch and Frost simultaneously posted "That gum you like is going to come back in style" on Twitter a few days before the announcement] and then to the actual announcement on Monday?

I saw the tweets. I was very subdued about it at the time. I’ve been through this many, many, many, many times. It was curious that there was the double tweet and that Frost had tweeted. So I expected something really was going to happen. It’s funny, I read on bulletin boards [that] people couldn’t sleep over the weekend because they were anticipating Monday. I literally forgot…I really put it out of my head having lived with this for so long. I got up Monday, I thought, well something might happen. Then when I found out on Monday it really did floor me. Just walking around in a daze, just stunned that there was going to be new Twin Peaks. Just amazed. There was certainly an idea that was floated for a while that there was going to be a Twin Peaks game. They were going to be involved in a game, it was going to be immersive and really detailed. And to be honest with you, that didn’t do anything for me. I was like well, if that’s what it’s going to be, I don’t really care. I was prepared for it to be an announcement like that. A game, some sort of merchandising, maybe there’s going to be another book. So I kept my feet on the ground but then when I saw the trailer for the series itself and there were nine episodes directed by Lynch, that really stunned me, I was shocked!

Well, it’s exactly what we talked about last time when you were saying [what] if it was a show on FX and Lynch and Frost wrote all of them and Lynch directed them.

The most exciting aspect of it all for me is that Frost is involved. Obviously there couldn’t be a Twin Peaks without David Lynch. We’ve seen that there can be a Twin Peaks without Mark Frost and I love Fire Walk With Me, it’s one of my favorite parts of the story but my concern – I think I mentioned in the interview with you – was that if Lynch were to return to Twin Peaks it would be something that we probably weren’t necessarily expecting. It would take off on another odd or strange tangent. Which would have been great, and I would have embraced it. But the fact that Frost was involved brings us back to the series. And that to me is just the most exciting thing, that Frost is going to be bringing his storytelling and narrative skills to putting together a very compelling, engaging story that you will anticipate from week to week. There is this narrative that will be played out over nine weeks and that we will be engaged with between episodes. We will be discussing it and trying to make sense of it and anticipate what’s happening and so much of that is Frost’s ability to tease us along.


[Last time we spoke] I wasn’t sure I wanted a continuation. I thought, I’m fine with this. So I’m almost a little bit surprised by my own reaction, which is oh great! I think for me the two biggest things...number one is this is David Lynch directing again in a long form, which he hasn’t done in ten years. And I thought maybe was never going to do again. So I think that’s number one. And number two is this is going to get so many more people into Twin Peaks. Like what we were talking about last time, how it’s this cult thing but now it’s just, the deluge. What about you?

Certainly, I wanted new Twin Peaks. There’s no question about that. I don’t want to sound pretentious [but] I think I am experienced enough to not necessarily be surprised at whatever turn it takes. Because it could go to a place that we don’t expect. It’s going to be what it is and I will embrace it for that. But yes, the exciting thing also is there will be a great many people coming back to Twin Peaks who have forgotten it. There will be a great, great many people who come to Twin Peaks for the first time. It will enter the cultural consciousness again as does any significant artistic television program. So right now the shows that are engaging the cultural community are Mad Men and Breaking Bad recently and True Detective. That will happen again. There will be an intense engagement with Twin Peaks again. And that’s a hard thing for me to come to grips with right now because it was a tiny little cult show that Craig and I did a magazine about. We were fans of this little show. And for it to explode into the popular culture again is going to be strange. I would not be surprised to see a tremendous amount of merchandise come out of it again, calendars, T-shirts, potentially even little action figures, that kind of stuff. This is sort of like an alternate reality to me.

It really is, yeah.

I never, ever would have predicted that this would happen. It’s as if someone took me out of one reality and dropped me down in another reality and I think maybe there’s a John Thorne and Joel Bocko and all of us else who are still in the reality we were in last week. It was like, oh no, there will never be a Twin Peaks that comes back. It’s the more likely scenario.

It’s surreal. I think what I’m anticipating most is when the day comes where everyone has to talk about Twin Peaks because it’s the big thing, and the critics have to write about it, and they don’t know what to say anymore. That’s what I can’t wait for, because right now people have a pigeonhole for it. When the day comes where they watch some episode and there’s some Lynch mindbender in it and their jaws are just on the floor, maybe it angers them, maybe they don’t like it, maybe they want to criticize it. That's going to thrill me, when they can't digest it anymore.

When Fire Walk With Me comes out, the critics go see it, they spend two hours with it and then they have to write something overnight. Well, they hated it – it’s crap. But it takes ten, fifteen years for someone that has the patience and interest to say, wait a minute, wait a minute, this is something you can’t react to with in a matter of moments. You really have to engage with it and think about it, and let it seep, and I think you’re right. I think Twin Peaks could come on and it could turn a lot of people off.

But they won’t be able to dismiss it as quickly or easily as they did Fire Walk With Me because it will be nine episodes. They won’t have time to ignore it, which is great.

I thought, this isn’t going to happen, this is going to be a Netflix thing. They'll dump all the episodes, the whole series will drop at once. It was only after Monday’s announcement that it’s a nine-episode series that I thought, well obviously that is the better format for Twin Peaks. How really terrible it would have been for an entire series of Twin Peaks to come out at once. There would have been people who knew the ending nine hours after the season was on. And other people who wanted to take the time with it and look at it slowly. Now we are forced into that schedule, we have nine weeks to just immerse ourselves in this and to anticipate every episode and that is the thing I’m looking forward to the most, truly, is just to be suspended by the show, to be lifted by the show and be waiting, anticipating to see what is going to happen. That is a wonderful thing and it couldn't happen on Netflix.


THE MEDIA & TWIN PEAKS

I’ve been reading a lot of news coverage in the past few days and it’s been this weird mixture of excitement and frustration. The first reaction is oh, this is awesome, everybody’s writing about Twin Peaks again, it’s in Time Magazine, it’s in the New York Times, everyone is discussing it. And then the next sensation is disappointment because they’re all doing exactly what I said they would do in our last conversation. They’re all saying season one is what matters. They’re all virtually ignoring season two, giving Fire Walk With Me a footnote and basically presenting it as the show that’s all about atmosphere and actually doesn’t have or need any sort of coherent theme or narrative. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a film guy, I love Lynch. Especially the first time I watch his stuff, it’s all atmosphere, it’s all mood, I don’t care what’s going on, I don’t care what it means. But the more you watch Twin Peaks, the more you see that there is definitely a meaning there. There is definitely a purpose. There is definitely a theme. They reprinted a New York article recently and it was, Twin Peaks has nothing in its pretty little head except the aim to please. Which was certainly not the case as the second season showed. What are your thoughts on that if you have any? Are you feeling that frustration?

I think that the first season is a wonderful piece, those eight episodes. It really is a pretty straightforward mystery: who killed Laura Palmer? They’re moving toward solving it, they’re gathering clues. It’s got this wonderful sensibility about it, it’s unusual, it’s different. And then it’s not really until season two that we get into the more abstract and bizarre elements if you will. I think that those elements in season two and the film are essential to Twin Peaks. They cannot be ignored, we cannot say well, this is a chance for them to essentially correct a big mistake.

Which is the implication in all of these articles.

Yes, yes, exactly. That's the philosophy, like, ok, well now, we can do it right because we took a turn the wrong direction, we’ll fix it. I don’t believe they did take a wrong turn, I don’t believe any Twin Peaks fan does. There was no turn in the wrong direction. I honestly don’t think that Lynch and Frost are thinking that way. [Frost] had studied Madame Blavatsky, the whole idea of the Black and White Lodges...theosophy. I think Lynch embraced the concept of there being a good and evil and whether it manifested itself in an actual physical location or whether it’s all internal, he loved the idea of going in there and exploring it. So all of that has to carry forward into the new [series]. It reminds me of the series The Prisoner. I think it’s nineteen episodes total. And I think Patrick McGoohan went on record as saying only episode 1, episode 2, episode 4, and episode 17 or something like that...those are the episodes that really address the world I’m talking about – the other ones don’t matter. He’s essentially saying you can try to unwrap all the other episodes but it doesn’t matter because they steer you in the wrong direction. It’s these episodes that really matter. For me it would be an awful thing if they said well you know really only season one and the first four episodes of season two matter, the rest of it doesn’t matter.

I’m a little bit surprised to see all these people talking about it like this time capsule, this artifact. But it half-takes place in an imaginary 50s world anyway. I saw an article saying this show was a relic of a time when people trusted small towns cops and I’m thinking, what are you talking about? This was twenty-five years after the 60s. It was already an anachronism at the time. People are saying it fits into this 1990 zeitgeist. At the end of the day you can’t really bind Twin Peaks by a time or a place or a pop cultural moment. It’s David Lynch, it takes place outside of that. That’s what people are going to have to discover and I’m hoping, good or bad, it blows their mind. Even the great shows of television now, you can put them within their zeitgeist. I want them to say I don’t know how to discuss this with the way that I usually discuss TV shows or movies. I’m speechless.

I’m predicting those people were not adults in 1990! Because that’s just so not true. Twin Peaks had an otherworldly feel then. Truman says Twin Peaks is a long way from the world. And that’s what Twin Peaks was. It was like a place you longed for or something like that. There’s no question that they can capture that atmosphere again. It will be timeless and otherworldly to an extent. The characters have aged and maybe they have cell phones now and all of that. But that’s ok. It’s still going to be in the Pacific Northwest and it's still going to have a sense of ruralness to it. Someone said, how can Agent Cooper exist in a post-9/11 world? And I’m like, well, how did he exist in a post-Cold War world? How did he exist in a post-World War II world? I mean, why would it matter? Why are we bringing real-world things into Twin Peaks. In fact it was very rare for Twin Peaks to acknowledge real-world events. They acknowledged the Kennedys and they acknowledged the Dalai Lama but nothing else.

It defined the zeitgeist more than the zeitgeist defined it.

Yeah, I think so. So I’m not at all worried about that. Inland Empire – did it feel post-9/11? Did The Straight Story feel like it was Clinton-era? I mean, no.


But people aren’t used to talking about art like that because we live in a very, very cultural criticism/sociology-directed intellectual environment. That’s how people look at everything now. It has value and I like doing it at times too but it’s missing something.

I think Twin Peaks is different. I think it’s off in its own place and I don’t think it matters in any respect. Time has passed. That’s all. It will be its own thing.

One of the reasons you got going with Wrapped in Plastic was to counteract the myths and conventional wisdom [about] the show. Where do you see yourself going from here, getting back into Twin Peaks?

I hate the word counteracting, but that’s probably a fair term. I think what I do and we just did in our conversation is say these things are there if you look deep enough. And they’re fundamental. If the first episode tends to contradict something that we think fundamentally has been established, I will point that stuff out and I will argue it out and use as much evidence as I can. That’s really what it’s been: evidence-based analysis of this artwork that Frost and Lynch put together. So I look forward to engaging with the work. And maybe struggling with it, certainly. Fire Walk With Me, I don’t think I’ve ever struggled with a piece of art, a film or a book more than I did with that film, and still do. I don’t know if you were asking about the future of Wrapped in Plastic or not?

Sure, yeah, in any form.

I’ve certainly given it a lot of thought. This week’s been somewhat stressful as well as exciting, because I feel some pressure! Wrapped in Plastic was there for thirteen years. But the thing about Wrapped in Plastic was it was never being published simultaneous with new Twin Peaks work. We had a piece of art that was completed as far as we were concerned. We were engaging with it after the fact. To think that it's coming back on...I couldn’t write about it until it was over again. The nine episodes end and then [I could] go back and assimilate it and try to engage with it as a whole. Certainly I’ll be writing about it as it airs, just little thoughts, questions. Part of the fun of Twin Peaks was certainly engaging with that while it was on. You’d meet with friends and you’d hash it out. What’s going to happen? What did this mean? I love that and I look forward to doing that online with everyone else out there. But afterwards, that’s where you have the time to let it get a little distance from it, to engage with it in a calm and sober way. After it’s over I would hope that I’d be able to write something of significance. Where that would show up, I really don’t know. I don’t see there being a continuation of Wrapped in Plastic in print form, certainly not like it was.

And print in general now is…

Exactly. We’ll see what happens. I certainly wish Craig was here. In some ways it’s really bittersweet because what a sweet treat to have Twin Peaks coming back but how bitter it is that Craig’s not here to experience it. But I can guarantee you if he were here, we would have already been making plans for something. And he was the one who would get those solid plans in motion.


THE SEASON TWO FINALE

How does the prospect of a continuation of Twin Peaks change your view of everything: of the series, of the movie, of The Missing Pieces even?

It could conceivably – and I have no fear of this – it could very well change the theories I’ve put forward about what I think is happening in Fire Walk With Me. Particularly the opening sequence, which I think is a dream. It could also potentially impact the way I perceive the final episode, which Lynch basically did his own way without following Frost’s intention. Frost had had a script and an intention for the story to go a particular way. Lynch didn’t necessarily go the opposite way but he turned the story in a slightly different if not significantly different direction. So what they do in that first episode...it may take a while, to address the events of the final episode. I will be curious to see if they embrace one particular vision over another.

As far as the final episode goes, that’s something – in all our long conversations – I don’t think we addressed too much. You did mention that you see the good and the bad side of Cooper racing to see who gets out of the Lodge first and the bad one wins. Briefly, how else do you see it that you think might be changed by the new series?

Well, I have to go back and look at the original script. I think [in] the original script essentially what you had was Cooper has been possessed by Bob. And he came out of the Lodge and now Bob was inside of him or potentially controlling him as he did Leland. What Lynch did, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of evidence to support this...

[Martha] Nochimson thinks that he changed it to make it the two Coopers.

He divided Cooper. You really can’t – this will be interesting to see, they have to be careful here because Lynch pretty definitively divides Cooper into two beings. Annie says in the movie the good Dale is trapped in the Lodge and the Log Lady’s introduction to the final episode says, where there was one, now there is two and that’s Lynch-written dialogue. So Lynch has indicated there are two Coopers.

Why do you think he did that, what do you think is the significance of that vs. what they had planned?

That’s a good question and I really want to go back and read what I wrote because I feel like what was important to Lynch was the internal workings of characters. We see it in Laura, and we see it many of the other films all the way back to Eraserhead. And really what I think Lynch likes to do see is see how the characters’ flaws or weaknesses or fears trip them up. They cause them to create whatever bad situation occurred. In fact, there’s a quote in Lynch on Lynch. Lynch said something to the effect of, that didn’t make sense to me. That’s not the way it should work, that Cooper would be possessed by Bob.

[after finding the exact quote in the book:] "Why was Cooper possessed by Bob at the end? It seems like he’s lost it." That’s what Chris Rodley says. [Lynch] says, well the thing is he hasn’t been possessed. It’s the doppelganger thing, the idea of two sides to everyone, he’s really up against himself.

Right. That is it, exactly right. He’s really up against himself. If there is any one sentence that summarizes a tremendous amount of David Lynch’s characterization over the years, that’s the line right there. I think it’s fairly clear that there’s never two Coopers in the original script. There’s one Cooper and the big shock ending is Cooper looks in the mirror and sees Bob. Lynch did not like that and did not believe in that. I’m fairly happy with the essay I wrote because you see a seesawing begin, this imbalance is introduced and then Cooper begins to...it’s like those bridges when the frequency hits them and they start to waggle back and forth rapidly until they fall apart. I believe that’s what happened to Cooper. If you look carefully he goes back and forth between two different rooms in the episode. He’s not continuing through a sequence of rooms.


Yeah, I always got the sense that he was going back and forth too and then I hear other people say it differently.

No, there’s no question, he goes in and out. I believe that he is dividing, he’s finding himself separating, and so he does in fact separate into two different beings. Lynch introduces the idea that Cooper makes a mistake, or Cooper does something wrong.

And everybody disagrees about what that is. Some people say he offers his soul and he shouldn’t, some people say it’s that he runs from Bob...

I think that’s what I said: he shows fear.

That’s when the other Cooper emerges, when he runs from Bob. It’s not when he gives his soul.

The fear was the chink in the armor and everything starts to crumble at that point. Hawk says if you go in there with imperfect courage, it will take over your soul. Or whatever the line is. Cooper does in fact go into the Lodge with imperfect courage. He shows fear, he runs. There’s two Coopers and they race to get out.

And [Lynch] says too, of course, that the Red Room/Lodge/whatever changes based on whoever goes in there. So everything he’s seeing in there is…

Of the psyche. It’s a reflection of the psyche of the visitor. The bad side of Cooper gets out and the good side is left in. I felt that [Lynch] needed to commit to that shock visual, that ending. He had to show Bob in the mirror but it’s fairly evident from all that we see, and all that Lynch has said: that was Cooper, that’s not Bob. That was evil Cooper who was in alliance with Bob, much the way that Bob was in alliance with other denizens of the Red Room, the convenience store. He’s working with the Little Man…

And with Leland in the real world before Cooper.

Yes, although I think there’s a difference. Leland in the real world was susceptible to Bob because Leland was so weak. Leland showed so many weaknesses and opened himself up. It’s not surprising that people would opt to say well, he possessed Leland, Bob did, so now he’s possessing Cooper but I think Lynch did not like that idea at all. And made sure to divide Cooper. We see a good Cooper in Fire Walk With Me, and Annie is very explicit about it. So all of that is I think firmly established. What happens now in these new episodes? Does Frost see it that way? Is Lynch open to changing it? Obviously the fact that these two guys are doing it is very exciting, it’s going to be wonderful. But do they say, well, let’s retrofit some of what happens so we can keep this narrative momentum going in this direction? Do we set aside some of these "established" facts. That would be alarming to me a little bit and I would end up potentially being disappointed. And I don’t want that to happen.


COOPER AND LAURA IN 2016

My guess is that that will not happen because Lynch binds himself by what he’s done before. For example, I’m not 100% sure where Lynch saw the mythology of the show going. I suspect that it went in a more literal way than he wanted it to but he stuck with it. So in Fire Walk With Me, he doubles down on the fact that this is a real supernatural world that they’re corresponding with. And even little tiny things like Dead Dog Farm, the baby powder, things he could easily ignore or pretend didn’t exist. It’s like Mulholland Drive, he has something he’s stuck by and he honors that in a way and turns it into a challenge, to turn it into something that’s still his own while abiding by the rules he’s set. So I think his version of ret-conning will change the meaning but not the content if that makes sense. So I would be shocked if he or Frost undid anything. In fact Frost had one of the more interesting quotes I’d seen. Someone asked him what about Fire Walk With Me? Is that canon to you? And he said…Yes. Basically, yes! So that was very interesting.

You know, I’m hesitant to start speculating on how the show is going to open. I don’t mean to be in any way presumptuous but I would assume that if we’re going to come back to Cooper twenty-five years later, then he’s in an asylum. And has been locked up because of what he did, because he’s a villainous creature. In twenty-five years maybe there’s some alignment of something or other where a re-merging of the two is possible and so we see that perhaps playing out.

You see good Cooper return to the worldly Cooper?

Yes, and he’s balanced. In a general sense, do we see Cooper re-combine and then that good side of Cooper has to come back? The presence of evil can’t be really Bob because Frank Silva’s not here, so what is it? Cooper battling himself in order to regain balance and a sense of goodness re-established?

Well that’s an interesting point because I would speculate that he’s going to be evil in the world and people haven’t recognized it. I know you have a little bit different reading of the Leland-Bob possession thing. To me it’s more analogous. I would see Cooper as being the new presence of Bob in the world. And my guess would be, nobody’s recognized it.

I’m really holding out hope that they address that Lynch version of Cooper vs. ignoring it and saying oh, Cooper got possessed, we just have to exorcise the demon of Bob and Cooper’s okay. That doesn’t work for me - we’ll see what happens. What Frost brings is this great narrative momentum, a throughline. Let it play itself out over nine episodes, let it engage us thoroughly as we have cliffhanger after cliffhanger building to a finale. Lynch bring[s] the mood and the substance of who these characters are. Who Cooper is and why he was flawed and what happened to him, addressing those aspects within the narrative. That’s the ideal. It does make me wonder what the role of Laura Palmer is.


That was going to be my next question!

In many respects you could say that Laura Palmer was the one character who achieves satisfactory closure. That really we got a wonderful ending for Laura in Fire Walk With Me - there’s no denying that in the final scene, she’s in a joyous place, a passage, she’s found solace. There’s an arc that she goes through to get to that point and Cooper is there, a guiding presence. And [in Between Two Worlds] I was quite worried when Laura was about to speak, what she was going to say. But she kept it very vague and she said there’s a lot more to the mystery that people don’t know about.

It's funny because it baffled me a bit. I was coming up with rationalizations but none of them really worked. What does he mean? Now it’s pretty plain, you could read all this cryptic stuff into it…he’s basically saying get ready, there’s more Twin Peaks on the way! It was that simple, but nobody thought he was being that on-the-nose. He really was.

He was. I certainly dismissed it, but if you want to point the first indication that new Twin Peaks was coming was the Laura Palmer dialogue in Between Two Worlds. So what happens with Laura in this storyline, for Sheryl Lee the actor, obviously there’s many opportunities. They could bring her back as they said they might, as the redheaded cousin. And we see her in the real world as another character, ala Madeleine Ferguson. Then she plays Laura as a guiding, ethereal presence.

The White Lodge version of Bob, basically.

But there’s no character arc for her to go through. Unless she’s tasked with the challenge to reunite Cooper with himself, to bring the good Cooper out. This is strange speculation - who know what they’re going to do? But I don’t think you can ignore that Laura’s story came to a conclusion. The new story has to be introduced for Laura and I don’t know how they’re going to convey that. Unless they just say, you know what, Laura’s still struggling to come to some sort of resolution.

Frost had an interesting answer to that question in a different interview. They said Laura Palmer’s mystery was solved, but will you continue that somehow in the new series? You would think the answer is, well that story’s been settled, time to move on. Which is what he was saying in 1990 when they were ready to bring in Windom Earle. Instead he said something to the effect of, that mystery opened up a lot of other mysteries and every mystery that has happened so far is going to play a role in this. So in other words, yes. I think his thinking on that has changed. He’s even said it in print in the introduction to the reprint of the diary he says I made a mistake and David was right. We shouldn’t have ended that storyline.

Let's hope so. Let’s be optimistic that Frost embraces the Fire Walk With Me mentality and then turns that into an engaging narrative along with Lynch. We need them both to be on board with the philosophy of the series or the world of Twin Peaks. It’s very exciting.

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