“she’s gone away” – nine inch nails (2016)

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As fans are approaching the halfway point of Showtime’s limited series run of the latest iteration of Twin Peaks, everyone is left in the dark about what exactly is going on.  The two previous seasons that aired over 25 years ago dabbled in the supernatural and was strange and quirky even by today’s broadcast programming standards.  Since then, now on premium subscription cable and with an increasingly esoteric filmography under his belt, David Lynch has crafted something out of the ashes of an old project.

As weird as the original seasons of Twin Peaks were, the show was fairly innocuous.  While it wasn’t, and still isn’t, the most accessible show in attracting viewers, it had enough character to set itself apart from typical television at that time.  The world was clamoring to know who killed Laura Palmer.  When the killer was revealed halfway through season two and the show changed narrative to focus on a conflict between Special Agent Dale Cooper and a former partner, viewership dropped and increasingly poor ratings tanked the show before it could wrap up loose ends.

After the show was cancelled, Lynch attempted to get the world of Twin Peaks alive.  The theatrical release of the 1992 prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was the first of a planned series of films that expanded the story of Twin Peaks.  The film was a commercial failure and it tanked any future plans to continue the story.

It took to attempts to watch the entirety of the original series.  In 2011, I tried the first time.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first season, but I was losing interest as the second season continued.  I actually stopped watching after the Josie met her fate.  It just seemed so ridiculous to me that I wasn’t compelled to finish.  While I really enjoyed the earlier episodes, I didn’t see a point in finishing.  I knew the series ended prematurely and there would be no closure beyond finding out Laura Palmer’s killer.

Lynch had a couple of false starts in launching a revival.  However, when the most recent confirmation of a revival occurred and scenes were getting shot, I thought Well, I guess I have to get caught back up.  I started the series over again earlier this year, a full six years after the first attempt to finish, and made it all the way to the mysterious cliff hanger at the end of season two.  I also watched Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me in preparation.  Pressure was on to get up to speed!

As part of catching up prior to the new episodes airing was reading the compendium The Secret History of Twin Peaks published by the show’s co-creator Mark Frost.  The book was a compiled dossier of memos, letters, newspaper clippings, and other source material tracking strange phenomenon in the area of Twin Peaks as far back as the Lewis and Clark expedition all the way through the disappearance of Special Agent Dale Cooper.  While the book offered some cool insight into the area’s connection to the supernatural, it also tied up some loose ends between the original series and the revival as the fate and development of key figures were discussed.

After 30 episodes, a feature-length film, and a book, I was ready.  I felt so prepared for what was coming and was excited to see what Lynch would do with this world after so long.  Eight episodes in, I don’t think anyone was prepared for what was coming.  And, for that, I feel thankful.  Nostalgia governs our culture now as intellectual properties are constantly rehashed and rebooted.  I expected, like many, that we would see all of our old friends and hear tongue-in-cheek references to great pie and damn fine coffee.  Instead, the revival reflected a more artistically mature Lynch who left the world of the original series behind and incorporated stylistic elements of his later works such as Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.  For that, I’m glad because nostalgia is the most tiring form of capitalism.

We’re only halfway through at this point.  No one really knows what’s going on and no one will really start connecting the dots until Lynch wants us to.  That could happen in the last episode, or not at all.  We’re just going along for the ride.  I even find humor in the set up as I cynically think that Lynch is just playing a practical joke on his viewers.  Obviously, that isn’t the case.  But, it helps me not think too hard about what’s going on and just observe.

Music has always been a key component of the original series.  Angelo Badalamenti’s beautiful score was featured throughout the first two series and added context to scenes and characters.  In the revival, his score isn’t driving scenes as prominently as it did before. In fact, most of the time, his score isn’t featured at all.  Badalamenti’s score was, in itself, a character of the original series.  However, things change.

While Badalamenti’s score is less prominent in the revival, music is still very important in these newer episodes.  In most of the episodes, a band is performing at the Roadhouse (or Bang Bang Bar) usually over the ending credits.  Julee Cruise performed at the very same bar sparingly in the originals series, but band performances weren’t central to the narrative until the revival.  In all but one episode, bands in the revival include Chromatics, the Cactus Blossoms, Au Revoir Simone, Trouble, Sharon Van Etten, and most recently, Nine Inch Nails.  Lynch is a fan of all these groups.  However, with the revival, things have changed and have also drastically distanced themselves from the tone of the original series.  Music was integral to the show before and it still is, but in a vastly different way.

In the most recent episode, one that has been dubbed as the strangest one to date, featured Nine Inch Nails.  Funnily enough, this was the only group featured thus far that got an introduction and was cleverly incorrectly billed as “The Nine Inch Nails.”  Also, this performance was in the middle of the episode as opposed to the end over the credits.

The band performed “She’s Gone Away” from their most recent EP released in December 2016 called Not the Actual Events.  The track is a hard-hitting industrial rock song that is dark and serves as the perfect segue to the explosive sequence of images and modern ensemble music that follows before ultimately settling into the quiet bucolic setting of the following dessert scenes.  Even the music choice is interesting because it does contract with the styles of the musicians that were featured previously.  It was Lynch setting us up for the show’s darkest turn to date.  This is a Lynch soundtrack choice that easily mirrors the musical direction of earlier works like Lost Highway.

On its own, “She’s Gone Away” is an excellent track. Nine Inch Nails has been one of those bands that has consistently released good material.  While some albums and songs are better than others, they have never released a bad song.

After eight episodes, so much yet so little has occurred in the Twin Peaks revival.  It is hard to imagine how everything is going to tie together over the proceeding ten episodes.  I personally have doubts about any closure at the end.  I did recently learn that a follow-up to Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks is being released in October.  Titled The Final Dossier, this book seems to be a compendium that provides clarification to events and sequences during the revival episodes, but perhaps after as well.  We shall see.  I am eager to see how things turn out and how Lynch crafts a story with a distinct flare that sheds all traces of nostalgia.  Either way, I know that there will still be damn fine music.