Lost in the Movies: The long return to Journey Through Twin Peaks: a behind-the-scenes essay (pt. 3 of 4)

The long return to Journey Through Twin Peaks: a behind-the-scenes essay (pt. 3 of 4)


The first part of this essay provides the context which my original 2014 - 15 video series JOURNEY THROUGH TWIN PEAKS grew out of and the second part details their process of creation. This third part focuses on the videos I published in 2020 - 21 which cover Twin Peaks' third season and the other work of the show's contributors. A fourth part of this essay will follow next year, after I've created more videos focused exclusively on season three.

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In the summer of 2018, following a cousin's wedding near San Francisco, I flew north to visit another cousin in Seattle. During this visit, we took a day trip to the area where Twin Peaks was shot, my first visit to the small towns of North Bend and Snoqualmie, as well as a few locations closer to the city - or even in its very heart (did you know that the rustic Roadhouse is actually a theater embedded right in downtown Seattle?). I'd moved from California to New Hampshire a couple years earlier but while out west again I was struck by how much...bigger everything is there. Not just the massive trees which dwarf eastern timber, but also the large patches of uninhabited areas between cities as well as the very sprawl of those cities (Los Angeles obviously, but even smaller urban centers like Seattle feel more spread out, less clustered, than a metropolis like New York or Boston). Paradoxically, both the bulk of massive natural phenomena like redwoods or the Rockies and the preponderance of empty or less densely populated spaces contribute to this experience of bigness, vast both vertically and horizontally.

About a year and a half after this trip, I finally got to work on new chapters of Journey Through Twin Peaks (although the ideas behind them had been percolating for a long time). These sprawling, scattered, grand-scale videos, in process and end result, bear the same relationship to my earlier videos as the West Coast does to the East. The contrasts are endless and illuminating. Parts 1 - 4 of Journey, assembled in just over four months in the fall and winter of 2014 - 15, were acts of extreme concentration. Little else filtered into my consciousness aside from Twin Peaks and my devotion to illustrating its chronological journey, mostly using clips from the series or film even as I expanded and experimented with my palette in the latter chapters. Part 5 of Journey, the form that these 2020 - 21 videos would eventually be assembled into, took nearly a year, during which my attention was spread across many other projects too. This also happened to be perhaps the most eventful historical epoch of my entire life even if I (like most of the world) was isolated in my experience of it. Part 5 was itself quite jumbled - both in terms of chronology and subject matter - and on top of that it was created all out of order, with the "last" section completed and released nine months before what were supposed to be earlier passages. Part 5 also ended up being longer than any previous comparable unit, indeed half the runtime of the previous four parts combined (its largest component chapter was itself almost as long as Part 1), and far from limiting itself to Twin Peaks (though it leapt around all three seasons and Fire Walk With Me, along with spin-off materials) it incorporated clips from well over a hundred different source materials scoured from YouTube or via hunts down different avenues.

Yet out of this often bewildering and overwhelming process, I was able to craft something that feels very much of a piece with the earlier videos - an expansion that carries on their spirit - and when I wasn't exasperated with delays or juggling different inputs and outputs, I had a ball putting it together. An order eventually emerged from the swirling activity.

If the writing, preparation, and editing of Journey Through Twin Peaks Part 5 was a complicated and drawn-out endeavor, so was the lead-up to it. Though I'll try to keep myself focused on the period of these videos, an introduction is necessary to set the stage because five long years passed between finishing Part 4 and initiating Part 5, much longer than I expected.

Interlude
My own "in-between" years

Of course, I knew there was going to be a waiting period. As of February 4, 2015, when I put the finishing touches on my Fire Walk With Me chapters and, with them, my presentation of the entire original cycle, the recently-announced third season of Twin Peaks was expected to premiere some time in 2016. I planned to cover the series as it unfolded week to week in a written viewing diary form; only after it concluded would I consider how to structure future video essays. Even this early on, though, I began to consider other addenda, particularly a chapter on the original series collaborators (like writers Harley Peyton and Robert Engels) whom I hadn't been able to incorporate into the videos that clipped their work without referring to it directly. This and some other ideas - diving a bit deeper into Lynch's and Frost's non-Peaks work to see how it might anticipate season three, tracing Peaks' influence on television, and paying tribute to the fan culture around the show - eventually encouraged me to consider not just one more addition to the Journey canon, but two, a Part 5 to lead up to season three and a Part 6 to focus on the season itself. Little did I know that Part 5 wouldn't come together until years after the season it anticipated, and that, as of this writing, I still haven't done much work on Part 6.

There was a meta-aspect to all of this, of course. As I began to consider videos to cover the "in-between" years for Twin Peaks and its fandom, I was myself in the midst of "in-between" years for my own video work on the series. I still had plenty to keep myself busy, however; the subsequent half-decade would be the most consistently busy period I ever experienced in my online work.

2015: In the immediate wake of Journey, I took about six weeks for a breather before riding the waves of both Twin Peaks and video essays initiated by Journey had initiated for me. For the time being, these would be separate waves. I found numerous ways to keep exploring Peaks, generating a pretty expansive library of work in a variety of mediums, and with a variety of subjects: a ranking/out-of-chronology rewatch of the whole series; collections of previous forum comments (mine and others); and numerous appearances on the Obnoxious & Anonymous YouTube Channel and brand new Twin Peaks Unwrapped podcasts. Surprisingly, though, Peaks remained in the minority of my output as I resumed a Neon Genesis Evangelion viewing diary I'd begun years earlier, began cultivating regular YouTube series on my channel beginning with a couple Evangelion videos (including one that compared the show to Twin Peaks), and contributing regular video essays to Fandor which allowed me to experiment with the form under the editorship of Kevin B. Lee, who had already been an inspiration for my own work. I even got sucked into Tumblr, where I regularly posted Peaks images and short observations - including many from my own videos; my solitary enterprise of the year before was growing into a more a more communal affair as we all anticipated the Showtime series, now delayed until 2017. After catching up with the True Detective series from a year earlier, I even got to cover the second season week-to-week, a bit of a dry run for Twin Peaks' eventual return and this triumphant year was topped off with a David Lynch/Jacques Rivette retrospective I attended in New York, analyzing Fire Walk With Me and the director's work in a whole new context.

2016: Things slowed down the year I moved to New Hampshire and began to initiate some more long-term projects (some still unfolding or on pause). Primary among these was a character series which involved extensive preparation begun this summer; entries on all but twenty characters would be published the following spring but I couldn't finish them before what Showtime was now calling The Return, so the exercise has been on ice ever since, awaiting a reboot to incorporate all the new material (as of now, it's planned to resume in January of 2022 - fingers crossed...). This turn toward a more microscopic focus, digging deep into corners of the series rather than attempting to take in the whole sweep at once (even when pausing on a single detail), was indicative of a broader trend which would play out eventually in the new videos. I was aware at this time of a shift in my orientation toward Peaks, as the longing and passion of that earlier engagement gave way to something more serene and cerebral.

2017: If the peak of my personal Peaks enthusiasm was reached in 2014 - 15, the year 2017 was the more obvious public summit. As the long-awaited Return finally unfolded, I reacted in real time alongside everyone else. I was invited onto several other podcasts besides my usual regulars, engagement on the site soared (some threads under my posts were hundreds of comments long, whereas now I can go months without a single comment), and on social media I was able to reach many new readers or viewers who were developing an interest in something that was obviously more relevant than it had been in decades. The videos, now two and a half years old and unengaged with the new material, were at the center of this attention and I began thinking about how - and when - I would resume that project. For whatever reason, I was not in a rush, even if I thought I'd get there for sure within a year. I focused more on my rebooted character series as the year wound down, thinking I'd finish that first (oops).

2018: Maybe I would have gotten to the videos this year under normal circumstances, but when I kicked off a Patreon with monthly podcasts, initiated a carousel of TV first season viewing diaries, and assembled archives and retrospectives around the tenth anniversary of my site, a resumed Journey quickly became out of the question. My busiest year to date set me back even as I re-visited The Return in a variety of different media.

2019: Early on, I extended my more microscopic, contemplative approach to Peaks even further by beginning a Patreon episode-by-episode podcast. Meanwhile it became clear to me that I really needed to lay down some train track if I was ever going to get back to Journey, so I outlined my first schedule to do just that. By this point I'd already published two YouTube announcements forecasting return dates which had been passed without a peep. This time, my planned Fall 2019 debut was also surpassed but at least I could keep track of exactly what was setting me back and how to overcome it. And eventually - shocker! - I actually did overcome it. Using this metric, I found myself closer than ever before in the winter of 2020. Let's (really) start there.

Volume III
Coming Back

Keeping the theme, it would be hard to find a more different origin point for my two Journeys than the summer of 2014 vs. the winter of 2020. During that earlier season I was saturated in Twin Peaks - the current obsession which has never really let up since was at that point just a few months old, and I'd spent those months blasting through Lynch's filmography and the show itself several times, developing concepts about it that still felt fresh and exploratory. Although there were a few hints of what would come in the later years of the decade (most notably, the Ferguson protests in late August 2014 which would lead eventually to the worldwide explosion of Black Lives Matters demonstrations in June 2020), the political-cultural climate was relatively quiet. Having become fairly disillusioned with mainstream politics during the latter years of the Obama administration - in which change (or rather, lack thereof) seemed to be the provenance of far out-of-touch elites at the top - I was primed to fall deep into this fictional world with little distraction from the news.

Well, despite that initial lag time, my years of Twin Peaks would also turn out to be the years of a rising left, spearheaded by the initially quixotic Bernie Sanders campaign of 2016 which was taking a more serious run at power in 2020. As I laid the groundwork for the new Journey, I was also knocking on doors in my home state, which happens to be the first official primary contest on the political schedule. Canvassing for Bernie every weekend, eventually helping to run a station in the lead-up to the primary itself, there was a sense of excitement for renewing this communal political endeavor which in some ways dovetailed with (while, for the moment, overshadowing) my excitement at renewing more personal projects. Indeed, I was finally creating video essays again (it had been three years since I'd published a new one, almost as significant as my break from Journey in particular). There's even a thematic connection to be found here, since the video I was working on in late February - just as Bernie's chances were peaking with his Nevada win and the weakness of all his opponents - dealt with the political hopes of an earlier generation hitting its thirties: a comparison between The Big Chill and Return of the Secaucus Seven. Ominously, of course, those characters' hopes have already been dashed before those films even begin...and sure enough, a few days after I finished the bittersweet video essay, ours would be as well. And then - not even really then, but in the exact moment - the Covid-19 pandemic hit with full force.

This was the backdrop for my re-initiation into Journey Through Twin Peaks. For several weeks, after uploading an announcement as a prelude, I published video essays that I'd been working on from 2018 to 2020 (including one eerily focused on cinematic images of packed hospital wards, paired with a Walt Whitman poem which had been assembled a year earlier and planned for this date long before coronavirus spread). Behind the scenes I was finally not just prepping, but actually directly working on new Journey material. For several weeks as the crisis mounted, I never left my house nor saw another single person (some lived in this state for many months longer; I was lucky in that sense). When I and most others I knew realized we were living in quarantine, we already had been for some time - there was no conscious "before and after," just an "after." During this time of isolation, I re-watched numerous David Lynch videos, online shorts from his digital era in the early 2000s (which is when I got the idea to open the new videos with a clip from Lynch's 2006 Ballerina), and marathoned season 3. Only in the last days of March did I began writing what I planned to release on April 8 (the thirtieth anniversary of the Twin Peaks pilot), revising it in early April and then actually pausing to work on a Patreon podcast! (I'm looking back on my journal now, and can hardly believe I was so cavalier about reaching this crucial deadline after years of waiting.)

The first new chapter of Journey Through Twin Peaks in twenty-five years was assembled almost entirely on April 6, 2020; after all the anticipation and preparation (the many media clips were gathered several days earlier) everything came together with tremendous ease. Of course, "The Dance Resumes" - as I titled chapter 29 - was initially just supposed to be the introduction to a chapter; as it ballooned into a nine-minute survey of how David Lynch and Mark Frost had drifted apart and begun to come together again in 2006, I realized that both practically and aesthetically it needed its own space. In fact I'd had a whole other idea for how to kick off Part 5 before shifting gears. Immediately prior to the season three finale in 2017, it occurred to me that "Song to the Siren" (which Lynch unforgettably used in Lost Highway but originally intended for Blue Velvet) would be a great musical kickoff for my new Journey, both suiting the longing, melancholy mood of season three and also contrasting with its greater reserve, juxtaposing the passionate spirit of that earlier Lynch era (marked by his collaboration with Mary Sweeney) with the colder, more distanced aesthetic of his more recent work. When the finale premiered a few days later - with its long road trips, elusive attempts to re-take the past, and extensive Cooper/Diane pairing (including a horrifying sex scene to counterpose with the Alice/Pete lovemaking in Lost Highway) - my epiphany began to feel more like a premonition.

But if that chilling, traumatic montage greatly suited the historical moment when Part 5 was set to debut, it did not actually mesh with the overall spirit of what Part 5 was intended to be - an eclectic, overflowing, largely celebratory exploration of all the different contexts that informed Twin Peaks old and new. When I cut the sequence ahead of time in the fall of 2019 I realized this, and decided it would make a much better opening for the darker and more meditative Part 6; since I had it onhand anyway, I published this standalone montage, titled "Dark Dreams on the Radio",  as a teaser and palette cleanser a few days before Part 5 debuted. By contrast, "The Dance Resumes" was guided by narration and situated less in a nether-dream realm than a very particular historical and cultural context. If its excited tone did not match the doom and gloom of the ongoing pandemic, its getting-lost-inside-a-world energy certainly suited a moment when people were retreating further and further into media, shut off from any distractions. And it climaxed with a rapid-fire succession of clips from many of the works that would be featured in upcoming chapters, scored with Nina Simone's "Sinnerman" (as sampled in Inland Empire), since I decided to open and close Parts 5 and 6 of the new Journey with an outside song used in a David Lynch film (a riff on the use of non-Peaks Julee Cruise songs in Parts 1 - 4).

Thanks largely to that closing montage, but also given an assist by the variety of news clips, DVD menus and special features, documentary excerpts, and random images (like an early "Instant Netflix" landing page), this single nine-minute video - edited in one day - contained more source material than the entire four hours of Parts 1 - 4. And I was only getting started. I paused Journey to create a couple Patreon podcasts and a new schedule (this one intended to get me through the videos rather than just to their brink, with far less success this time). Then I jumped into chapter 30, which was originally supposed to be just the second half of an introduction - such expansions and divisions would become a hallmark of my videos this spring. "25 Years Later..." covered the "in-between years" - stretching all the way from the Japanese Georgia Coffee commercials and first Twin Peaks festival/Fire Walk With Me U.S. premiere of '92 to the Cannes premiere of season three in '17. This was a delight to assemble, although preparing some of the clips was also quite tedious (I remember that the very high-definition French TV clips took forever to convert into a Final Cut-ready clip; my computer, while efficient, is old). This video allowed me to dip into dozens of TV shows, many of which I had never watched, so finding the appropriate clip was something of an adventure.

"25 Years Later..." took several days to edit, a bit longer than the previous chapter though I was still keeping up a manageable pace (I thought). According to the new schedule, I would craft the next four chapters - on David Lynch, other original series collaborators, Mark Frost, and The Return - by May 21, in time for the third anniversary of the season three premiere. Trouble was on the horizon. Perhaps inadvisably from a scheduling standpoint - though it certainly put me in the mood aesthetically and thematically - I held my first David Lynch marathon since 2014 (this time, I only watched the features, skipping shorts, commercials, and TV episodes). This was to prepare me for the chapter detailing his collaboration with Mary Sweeney, his editor, producer, one-time writer (of The Straight Story), romantic partner, mother of his child, and - briefly, near the end - third wife. I've long been fascinated with Sweeney's role in Lynch's artistic evolution, noticing that the period when she cut his films (actually starting before a film, with the killer's reveal episode of Twin Peaks, and extending through Mulholland Drive) covered the Lynch works I emotionally connected with the most. This chapter would also cover Lynch's work prior and subsequent to "the Sweeney era", creating grounds for contrast as well as anticipation of the aesthetic shift in The Return.

As I visualized the concepts here - particularly a side-by-side montage - I fell in love with the material. I also knew it needed more space to breathe, at least on YouTube, so I posted as chapter 31 what would end up being just the first third of the Lynch/Sweeney material, "Unstubborn Stylist", name inspired by a David Borwell essay. (Eventually I would re-combine all the Lynch/Sweeney chapters into a standalone half-hour video on Vimeo). This need for space became particularly true when I developed a section featuring extended, uncut (by me, quite pointedly cut by Sweeney) sequences from their work together. All of this talk about Sweeney's aesthetic, however momentarily illustrated by brief, striking dissolves or sharp cuts, didn't really do justice to her sensibility unless we were given time to saturate in it. The result, chapter 32, was titled "Dream Souls" after Hawk's mystical speech following Laura's funeral in Twin Peaks episode 3. Despite or because of the strict parameters of this video - until the final few seconds, I only add four cuts to the existing material - it really sparked my imagination. I particularly enjoyed titling each sequence: "The Truth Shall Make You Mad" (after an Aldous Huxley quote); "The Parent and the Child" (a pairing that opens in both directions); "What is Born in the Desert?" (an oblique reference to Part 8 of The Return); and "From Monster to Ingenue" (linking the first and last character close-up of the Lynch/Sweeney montage).

And though it wasn't quite the intention, at least as far as I recall, each of the four sequences focuses on two characters while using others to emphasize their connection: the first Mulholland Drive clip deploys the Silencio M.C. to bond Betty and Rita closer together; the Straight Story clip precedes Rose's conversation with Alvan - in which she's the child - with her observation of a little boy chasing the ball - in which she is the surrogate parent, remembering her own lost child; the Lost Highway clip fuses and then separates Pete and Alice, replacing them with a quasi-confrontation between Fred and the Mystery Man (who verbally links Renee and Alice); and finally the second Mulholland Drive clip plays a game of telephone linking the creature behind the dumpster at Winkie's diner and the fresh-faced Betty exiting her airplane, an absolutely brilliant transition I don't think I ever noticed until I isolated the sequence in this manner. How appropriate all of these pairings are for a video about a collaboration.

The Lynch/Sweeney videos came out in rapid succession, within a day or two of one another, concluding with chapter 33 - "On the Other Side" (a lyric from the Chrysta Bell song that climaxes Inland Empire, Lynch's first non-Sweeney-edited feature since Wild at Heart). This chapter opens with a succession of three Cannes visits - remarkably, in retrospect, I originally intended to place the '99 one in between the Mulholland Drive and Straight Story clips in the previous chapter before realizing that four long clips in a row worked much better than whatever motley assembly I originally intended. If "Unstubborn Stylist" is the ascent into "Dream Souls", "On the Other Side" is the descent from it. Without getting into the specifics of Sweeney's and Lynch's personal/professional breakup, I noticed (more than intended) that Lynch's fourth wife is sprinkled throughout the video, popping up in one of the David Lynch dot com segments and narrating the clip from Boat. Nonetheless, the thrust of the video - which I think is accurate - is that Lynch's work was taking him in a new direction before their personal relationship ended; it's all a bit chicken-and-egg given that he was editing his own pieces for the first time at this point. By the way, the website collage - in which I create a series of mini-screens against the backdrop of the home page was one of those perfect coincidences of necessity and innovation: the quality of the clips was far too low for me to fill the screen with them, resulting in a much more interesting visual display that captures something about the early 2000s online aesthetic.

Here I hit a hiccup. Thank God I indulged in this passage of Part 5 - it ended up being my favorite - but when I wrapped "The Other Side" on May 14, it was quite clear that there was no way I could produce three more chapters, including what was likely to be the longest of all, in a week. So I decided to prioritize chapter 36 - "The Return" - for the anniversary date of May 21. Even so, I was only able to upload the first section, the one focused on the two-part premiere itself, on that deadline as a temporary placeholder. The rest of my work on chapter 36 - my longest ever, reaching nearly a half-hour - did go quickly; since it relied almost exclusively on clips from season three, aside from some films I compared to Part 8, the clips fell into place pretty rapidly once I had the narration written. The full chapter was ready within a couple days, but I hit a new snag; when I uploaded the video late on May 23/early on May 24, I received a copyright block not due to the footage (I'd dealt with CBS back in 2014) but due to the closing music - Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game", as featured in Wild at Heart. This perhaps more than anything halted my momentum. I lodged a fair use complaint and waited for the following month until the claim had expired and my video was available once again. In the meantime, I uploaded the chapter to Vimeo and posted several announcements and updates keeping viewers up-to-date until the video was finally available again.

This was a fun chapter to create, both more ambitious and simpler than the others I'd been working on so far. On the one hand, its length and scope provided an exciting challenge: how to encompass an entire eighteen-episode season in a single chapter? I was able to effectively create several mini-chapters in one, a microcosm of the earlier parts in which each little section of the series got its own defining encapsulation. I also got to repeat my proto-Cinepoem of pairing Harold Pinter's reading of W.B. Yeats' "The Second Coming" with the killer's reveal (since spun off into an entire series) by accompanying the atomic test of Part 8 with Lynch alum Jeremy Irons' reading of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land." And the subject matter provided the opportunity for a return to form, exploring different parts of the series itself rather than all the broader peripheral phenomena. This was a great way to end Part 5, but of course in terms of my process this wasn't actually the end of Part 5 at all. I'd skipped over two chapters - the original series collaborators and Mark Frost - in order to reach The Return around the time of its season premiere. Now I had to find the opportunity to wrap up these other two chapters, and finish the entire Part 6 by the end of the summer as originally planned. No problem, right?

Here is where my work on Journey - and, significantly, surrounding it - began to resemble Xeno's paradox, in which Achilles races a tortoise but the closer he gets to catching up with the slow-moving target, the more impossible it becomes to actually reach it. In the end, I not only wouldn't finish Part 6 that summer, I wouldn't even get to start it (today, a year later, it's been postponed until after I finish dozens of other more immediate projects); and those two chapters holding everything else up would turn out to be two of the longest to create, especially - in unbelievable terms - the second. My spring of fast-paced work was over, beginning with months of back-and-forth on the blocked, unblocked, and blocked-again Return chapter. Additionally my planned detour into creating a Mad Men viewing diary backlog (to post while I was working on the videos) was derailed when Netflix dropped the show from its service the very day that I intended to start season four. As I waited for discs to arrive in lieu of instant streaming access, I jumped ahead to finish Patreon podcasts for the upcoming month. I also decided to go ahead with my scheduled premiere of a public podcast, re-presenting material from my Patreon every other week. In order to keep my site active every week, I even took the time to collect screenshots from Pinocchio for a visual tribute. Distractions and other obligations abounded in stark contrast to the focus that accompanied my work on Parts 1 - 4. Now my entire plan for how to tackle Journey was thrown out of whack.

From May 24 to July 16, I didn't do any work whatsoever on the videos. I then spent a couple days writing and recording my narration for chapter 34 (the one on original series collaborators) before pausing again for another two months to wrap up other projects. At this point I lost the original audio file and ended up re-writing the narration, starting from scratch. Finally, on September 26 I began selecting clips to edit for the first time in four long months. This summer in which I planned to finish Journey Through Twin Peaks completely - not just Part 5 but Part 6 as well - had turned into an utter disaster in which I barely worked on the project at all. Even though I still had other projects demanding my attention, I finally dropped everything - allowing even my Patreon rewards to pass their deadline - in order to focus exclusively on chapter 34, now titled "A Candle in Every Window". That title was a misremembered quote from Mark Frost's introduction to The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer which I ended up having to essentially re-write myself as narration, focusing on the idea of Twin Peaks' many stories - and contributors - as illuminated windows and rooms in a big house. After eleven days, I finished this work in early October.

The video kicked off with a montage that was initially supposed to unfold a little later in the chapter but proved irresistible as an intro: a series of lights and houses drawn from the material under discussion. Using that candle/window motif as inspiration - surprisingly, the concept preceded the visual illustration - I found perfectly suited shots from seven different films directed by Twin Peaks episode directors or writers: a car arriving outside a mansion in Tina Rathborne's Zelly and Me, a crowd approaching a lit-up backwoods bordello in Robert Engels' Wiseguy, someone banging on a door and demanding entry in Tim Hunter's River's Edge, a lighthouse shining across a beach where a car was parked in Graeme Clifford's Frances, passing headlights illuminating a bedroom in Caleb Deschanel's The Escape Artist, two girls shining flashlights out their bedroom windows across their suburban street in Lesli Linka Glatter's Now and Then, and finally - after shots from those other films of characters spying through windows on Dennis Hopper and David Lynch himself - a woman taking up a candle in a red-curtained movie theater in Duwayne Dunham's Halloweentown (which made the perfect transition into the Roadhouse in episode 14, where I would begin to discuss the show's editors). This is the sort of serendipity I live for in these projects, moments of unplanned opportunity that bring an idea to life.

"A Candle in Every Window" really formed the nucleus for Part 5 years earlier; I'd long wanted a chance to explore other creative voices on the show aside from Lynch and Frost. I'd begun preparing for this project a year earlier by watching at least one feature film, sometimes several, by everyone who wrote or directed an episode of Twin Peaks - in one case, even digging up an arc from the 1990 crime show Wiseguy, written by Engels in an obvious tribute to Peaks (it's a murder mystery set in an quirky, isolated small town called "Lynchboro"). I discussed these directors in a Patreon podcast that January (much of which was later broken up into public podcasts here, here, and here), as well as a longer one on River's Edge, which had the most in common with Twin Peaks. So I was pretty well-saturated in the Peaks directorial expanded universe by this point, even if I had only had room to sample small pieces in the video: most notably a split-screen stylistic, thematic, and iconographic comparison of shots from each director's feature and Peaks work (the synchronicities were a delight to discover). Perhaps most elaborately, I created a mosaic of thirty episodes, with various squares illuminating and going into motion while other stood still, to visualize the rotation of editors who worked on Twin Peaks. This was arguably my most visually ambitious Journey video to date (only the Mythology chapter back in Part 3 could compete), but it couldn't - pardon the expression - hold a candle to what was coming round the bend.

As this already incredibly eventful year drew to its climax with the drawn-out, Trump-driven drama of the November election amidst a new spike in Covid cases, I was mostly distracted from further work on Journey although I did catch up with podcast commitments postponed during the previous chapter and finally finished reading my last Mark Frost books. Since the spring of 2019 I'd been making my way through Frost's literary output which ranges from children's fantasies to golf histories to pulp thrillers to historical adventures and beyond. That meant that I was preparing for this last, delayed and out-of-order chapter of Part 5 for seventeen months off and on - hell, for years before that even, as I was watching Hill Street Blues episodes that he wrote as early as 2018. The video's production and runtime would also be either record-setting or close to it: two full months of editing (working on it at least a little bit, sometimes all day, for thirty-nine of those days) with an end result that ran twenty-four minutes, my second-longest chapter of the whole series. After writing its narration around Thanksgiving, I began editing on December 4 and would not finish editing until February 4 - by coincidence, the sixth anniversary of when I completed the original Journey series. Keep in mind that original series of twenty-eight chapters was assembled in four and a half months, just over the double the time it took me to compose this single chapter in 2020 - 21.

Thus, chapter 35, "The Bookhouse Boy", formed the perfect microcosm for all of Part 5 in its chaotic placement, laborious process, expansive size, wealth of material, and tangential relationship to Twin Peaks. I loved the fact that somehow in my wandering exploration of the surrealist David Lynch-directed series I could find room for clips from instructional golf films, a highlight reel of the Red Sox's mid-seventies World Series comeback, and even a jaunty montage of Roaring Twenties historical incidents set to the novelty number "Do the Raccoon." But if Frost's eclectic subjects offered a jumping-off point, I always kept these explorations tethered to his work as a whole, anchored in themes and sensibilities he would bring to Peaks, especially The Return. This was perhaps most evident when I tackled one of his lesser-known works, The Six Messiahs (a sequel to his hit 1993 novel The List of Seven). A nineteenth-century road trip that set Arthur Conan Doyle and a colorful cast of characters across the U.S. to converge in the west, there was so much here that overlapped with the narrative structure of season three. But how to show this? Perhaps taking a cue from The Return's fondness for cheesy characters'-faces-floating-in-balls, I sent icons of both Peaks and Messiahs characters on trajectories across an old railroad map, popping in sneak peeks of the work Frost would write for Showtime twenty years later to further illustrate their commonalities. (I even got to squeeze in brief clips of An American Tail and its sequel to evoke the New York and Southwest of the novel, which happens to be set at the same time as those animated films.)

Essentially a parade of little standalone sequences, each with its own defining aesthetic, held together by the chronological flow of Frost's career with its twists and turns between different subjects and forms of media, this chapter might be my most satisfying video editing experience ever. It allowed me to pivot from straightforward cutting of clips to frames within frames (using both a vertical and horizontal film-strip effect to visualize chronologies), from dissolves and superimpositions between disparate works (one of the most fun, unplanned until I stumbled into it, fusing Frost's private eye comedy Buddy Faro to David Lynch's original TV pilot for Mulholland Drive) to multilayered collages creating new images through unusual combinations. The attention to detail could be obsessive at times - when I found the chorus line of Frost's book covers too low-quality I reassembled it one frame at a time for hours (thank God for podcasts to keep my mind occupied). There was  also plenty of room for invention inside a sharply-defined structure, all in tribute to a creator whose larger body of work had been largely ignored in the past. That said, I was helped immensely by David Bushman's interview book Conversations with Mark Frost which was published early in 2020, one of many ways that the new Journey benefitted from such a long gestation. Finally this chapter deposits me right back into Twin Peaks as I photographed the gorgeous pages of Frost's Secret History book and enjoyed scanning across and zooming into the high-resolution images as a form of exploration only possible in this context.

The last straggling survivor of a nearly yearlong project was now complete, near the end of my second period of tight quarantine (beneficial for my focus on Journey at least) during the winter Covid uptick. Of course I'd run completely aground of not just my original schedule but the replacement created in October. Obviously I would have to re-think, yet again, how to reach Part 6 (and execute it in a far more orderly manner). Meanwhile, I assembled all of Part 5 into a single cohesive video in mid-February - technically two videos, in fact, since my hard drive couldn't handle drawing on all that source material for one full output. I dubbed this assembly of chapters "Over the Mountain Pass", paraphrasing one of Robert Oppenheimer's quotes about the atomic bomb, offered a couple image collections and took a deep breathe (well, not exactly - I now had to race to catch up with long-postponed Patreon rewards and other projects in the midst of what was supposed to be my first out-of-town vacation in well over a year - since before the pandemic, and before Journey). Eventually in May I would launch a new "Path back to JOURNEY THROUGH TWIN PEAKS" which would prioritize creating a full year and a half of backlog before getting to Part 6. With that in mind, plus the sheer amount of work that went into just Part 5, it seemed like a good idea to devote a single essay to what I worked on between, in political terms, the collapse of Bernie's campaign in March 2020 and the passage of Biden's stimulus package in March 2021. Or, in even more world-historical terms, the outbreak of coronavirus in the U.S. (I was in lockdown right as the process began) and the rollout of vaccines a year later (I got my first shot days after returning from that trip).

Who knows what context the next and, likely, final part of Journey Through Twin Peaks will be created in? An immersive, Peaks-focused meditation, like the first batch? Amidst a cascade of disorienting personal and societal distractions (punctuated with unusually pared-down periods), like this most recent edition? I am certainly trying to clear the deck in terms of my other online work, but the larger world may have its own ideas for 2022. In September 1990, as the second season approached amidst a Persian Gulf crisis, the collapse of the Cold War order, and signs of economic distress, Tom Shales wrote in the Washington Post, "The so-called real world seems ever more surreal - more illogical, more threatening, more unjust, more nuts. ... To experience the alternative insanity of 'Twin Peaks' is to escape, albeit briefly, the everyday insanity in which we exist."

See you at the curtain call.

The fourth part of this essay will be published in 2022 or 2023, whenever Part 6 is finished.

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