Twin Peaks is one of many shows my family probably shouldn’t have let me watch as a kid. The reasoning was that it was just TV. A refreshing attitude, for sure (same with just taking us to R-rated films if we wanted to see them since we could keep our mouths shut and not distract other theater goers), but one that led to a whole lot of bizarre early genre influence on my life.
Twin Peaks sparked a lifelong fascination with David Lynch’s work in my young mind. I liked just how weird the show was. It was a little scary, but I was already watching classic horror films at that point and reading any scary book I could get my hands on. I distinctly remember having nightmares about Laura Palmer’s body and the backwards talking dream sequences. Still, I couldn’t get enough.
This particular video crossed my path months ago and I just needed something fun to write about today. Part of the weirdness of Twin Peaks was the obsession over the mundane. A serious murder investigation requiring federal agents is led by a man hooked on coffee in a town that prides itself on excellent coffee. This supercut shows all the coffee references in the two seasons of the show. Fire Walk with Me, the polarizing prequel (I’m on the yea side, especially with Jennifer Chambers Lynch’s diary as a reference text for the film), is not included. I can’t remember if coffee played as large a role in that.
Break this down with me. Special Agent Dale Cooper is an unconventional man. He’s a detective in the same mode as Monk or Psych. The quirks define the genius and frustration of the character. He’s otherized for comedic effect, almost poking fun at potential mental health issues in play.
However, in the context of Twin Peaks, everyone is transformed into a cartoon. It’s this bizarre nightmare that has more in common with the slapstick of The Invisible Man than the stark realism of Freaks. If everyone is a weirdo (and the weirdest are the most sane), then no one is being judged for not acting in a typical way in horror. It’s a typical Lynch device: push the bizarre so far that the mundane sticks out more than the quirks.
Coffee is the stabilizing force on the series. Everyone’s world is turned upside down. The more Special Agent Cooper discovers about Laura Palmer’s life leading to her murder, the more the town suffers. The perfect cheerleader is a drug huffing sex fiend with friends in all the wrong places. Everyone shared a secret with her.
The only thing that doesn’t change is that damn fine cup of coffee at The Double R Diner. Anyone in town (high school students and older) can stop by the diner for a cup of coffee. Some take it black. Others need a lot of cream and sugar. It’s the great equalizer in the town.
Shut down the lumber mill. Shut down the school. Shut down the upstanding citizens connected to dark criminal operations. Even shut down the life of one of the most promising young citizens. So long as that diner stays open, the town can still function.
The coffee is a testament to Lynch’s level of planning on all of his productions. It’s also a testament to the show’s demise. Season 2 brought in a lot of guest directors who thought they could just throw any weird image on the screen and make it stick; it didn’t. The weird for the sake of weird (rather than weird for the sake of an overriding narrative or theme) is what killed Twin Peaks in its second season. The whole show is worth watching (all the richer the second time around), but temper your expectations. Losing the significance of a cup of coffee in that town helped unravel the whole show.
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