Review by Eliza Quinn
CW: Violence against women, spoilers.
Like so many others, I was eagerly awaiting the return of Twin Peaks. I was ready for those beautiful Douglas Firs, that tumbling waterfall and of course, those damn fine cups of coffee. I wanted to reunite with my old favourites, to know where their lives were now. I was excited to see how a whole new cast of characters would fare in those mysterious woods. But now, having watched the first four episodes, there’s a nagging feeling in the back of my mind. The original series was hardly a feminist masterpiece (though it was a masterpiece in so many other ways) but something tells me that for the women in the world of David Lynch, there’s something a little more sinister than the Black Lodge at work.
Let’s have a look at how the women of Twin Peaks are faring so far. We have been re-introduced to some old favourites (the late Catherine Coulson as the wonderful Log Lady) and a handful of new women have been brought into the mix. Of those, there are a few with recurring roles, who appear in more than one scene. The first is Tracey – she brings coffees to Sam Colby as he watches the mysterious glass box for hours on end. As often happens when young people on TV are bored and alone, they start to make out. Seven seconds later she is fully naked and another seven seconds after that, they are slashed to death by a mysterious entity that emerged from the box. She is in the foreground, protecting her boyfriend from the lens of the camera.
Moving on to Phyllis Hastings, the wife of William Hastings, the man accused of killing a woman and leaving her decapitated head in her apartment with the headless body of an unnamed John Doe.
What we learn about Phyllis is that she is cheating on her husband with their lawyer. We don’t get to learn much else, because shortly after that, Dale Cooper shows up and shoots her directly in the eye.
Next we have Darya, a woman who looks like a Bratz doll as she accompanies Cooper across the state in the pursuit of some nefarious business. In her final scene, she is chilling out in matching lingerie, as Coop learns she is there to kill him – he punches her repeatedly in the face, smothers her and shoots her in the head. She’s still in her sexy undies at this point, and as Cooper takes the pillow off her face, her half-closed eyes could be mistaken for bedroom eyes, were it not for all the blood and grey matter scattered on the sheets.
And then we meet Jade – our first woman of colour. We meet her with Dougie (another of Coop’s doppelgangers), she is fully naked while he remains dressed. It becomes apparent that she is a sex worker and narrowly avoids being shot while driving Dougie/Cooper back to his hotel. She takes on the role of caretaker for Dougie/Cooper, giving him $5 and telling him to get help, before she drives off again – will we ever see her again?
And of course, we can’t forget the newest agent on the scene, Tamara Preston. To describe her as Agent Denise Bryson does, she’s “a beautiful agent, barely thirty”. Agent Gordon Cole (played by David Lynch himself) replies that she “has the stuff” but later when discussing the matters of the case, he tells her to go wait in the restaurant because she’s wearing a wire at his request. He watches her leave in her high heels and pencil skirt, and the camera does too.
Perhaps David Lynch puts it best himself when playing Agent Cole – “I’m old school”. Although Lynch has been working on projects since his last major film Inland Empire in 2006, he hasn’t released anything that has had this level of attention since. It seems like he has spent the last decade or so watching his own films, without taking in the conversations regarding representation and nuance in the portrayal of marginalised characters.
There are other writers more qualified than I who could also investigate the portrayal of Native Americans, possible ‘redface’ and the depiction of transwomen in the newest series. Whilst the characters we have seen from the original Twin Peaks have had fleeting portrayals, they seem to be mesmerising in ways that go beyond our familiarity with them – our favourite receptionist Lucy is just as endearing, and the scene in which Sarah Palmer watches a brutal nature documentary without batting an eye is equal parts disturbing and captivating. But whilst Lynch seems to have a fondness for these characters, the new female characters on Twin Peaks seem to be little more than a pair of breasts and a source of blood. The camera lingers on their bodies, and whilst the portrayal of violence on film doesn’t necessarily mean condoning it, Twin Peaks seems to luxuriate in the evisceration of its female characters.
In spite of this, I remind myself that Twin Peaks is still in its early days – we are only four episodes into an eighteen part series, and there is plenty of time for things to turn around, opportunities for Lynch to flesh out his female characters without reducing them only to their flesh. For now though, the coffee in Twin Peaks is just as hot, but it is leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.[share]