A Skeleton Key to Twin Peaks Returns: Overview
First of all, this is not going to be an exercise in trying to tell you what Twin Peaks Returns means or what is happening in terms of conjecture. Mark Frost has a great quote in his masterpiece The Secret History of Twin Peaks, where he distinguishes between secrets and mystery. The Archivist in that text writes, “Mysteries are the stories we tell ourselves to contend with life’s resistance to our longing for answers.” I believe we can derive the meaning of secrets from this definition of mystery, in that secrets are facts that are simply unknown, waiting to be discovered. As writers and filmmakers, Mark Frost and David Lynch are masters of narrative drama, sound and imagery; they are magicians, constantly pulling a magic trick over on the viewer, one we come back time and time again to enjoy.
That being said, there are still images on the screen that fall into the aura of our pupils. There are still audio cues and music that make their waves in our ears. And there are seconds and minutes that tick by as scenes change along with their narrative focus. These things are unavoidable and, despite the magician’s feint that happens from episodic part to part, these seconds can be mined for meaning. That is what this work of analysis contends and the methodology under which it seeks this meaning is laid out below.
The process begins by watching each episode several times and over the course of these watchings, enacting the following process:
- Note each scenes sequential number
- Note each scenes location within the narrative
- Note the start and stop time, on screen (using the Showtime Now App) for each scene
- Describe in as much detail as possible what is actually happening in each scene without slipping into conjecture (this is sometimes difficult)
- Note the primary narrative conflict in each scene and any supporting narrative conflicts (again, this can occasionally slip into conjecture and will become the primary points of contention amongst Twin Peaks fanatics and scholars. So be it.)
- Record the scenes by sequential number, with start and stop times into a spreadsheet that determines the overall narrative voice within each episode and progressively as parts are aired as sum of total voice
- Transfer this information to the Skeleton Key image
- Report results
The ultimate goal of this work is to produce a tool that Twin Peaks fans can use, as they engage with this art, from episodic part to part, and understand where the narrative has been and where it is, so they may be better able to determine for themselves where it is going and therefore what it means. Twin Peaks is a mirror being held up to the soul of the viewer and ultimately every viewer will undergo their own experience of this great work of our time. This tool is aimed to assist in that self-exploration. Here is an example of how the tool works and what the reader can expect from part analysis to part analysis.
The Skeleton Key Format
The format of this tool is composed of two primary sections:
- The left hand column is a list of all the current narrative conflicts in the show. These are the scholarly creation of the author, derived from watching the show as a fan and scholar of television. New narratives will be briefly discussed in the overview section as they are introduced from episodic part to part.
- The right hand column is a breakdown by narrative conflict, revealing the scene numbers and % of overall voice. For example, here we see that the Woman Being Murdered in South Dakota actually consumed 39% of the overall focus of Part 1, despite that it is hidden in the episode halfway through. Lynch and Frost are masters of deception and famous for encasing the primary narrative of Twin Peaks between moment of quirkiness, comedy and outright oddity. This tool seeks to pull the veil back on that magic trick, if only for a moment.
The Episode Breakdown by Scene
Here are the details behind the image. Each scene will be laid out on the operating table with a name, a place, and a moment by moment recap of what happens, followed by the author’s interpretation of what the primary and supporting narratives are (these are what will be mapped back to the Skeleton Key). A complete cast listing (word for word as broadcast in each episode) will be provided as well as all music and lyrics (as broadcast in Closed Captions) for each episode.
Additionally, there will be a “That’s Our Dougie” Word Cloud provided for every scene in which Dougie (if you don’t know who he is, don’t worry you will by episode 3) repeats specific words and phrases. The author believes these words and phrases may align with scenes and events happening on other areas of the narrative and if that is the case, this tool will provide a common framework within which to perform that analysis in the future. In addition to the Word Cloud, there will be a table in each scene noting what words are said and how many times they are said.
So there we have it, a fairly simple methodology and purpose to this analysis of one of the great works of literary television in our time. There will be much more to say about the meaning of the secrets and mysteries of Twin Peaks but seeking such meaning is outside the purpose of this tool and better left to experts like Scott Ryan and John Thorne of The Blue Rose Magazine. This work was performed as a fan and scholar of great television and the author’s hope is that this tool will improve the enjoyment of this great work of art for the overall Twin Peaks community.
So with this all being said, let us proceed to our analysis of Part One, and then…who knows where we go from there?
CLICK HERE to read A Skeleton Key to Twin Peaks Part One