You don’t take a trip to David Lynch and Mark Frost’s fictional town of Twin Peaks to look for answers.
Or you shouldn’t. But after watching Showtime’s Twin Peaks: The Return earlier this year, you can’t be blamed for wanting more clarity. Eighteen hours of inter-dimensional weirdness, wildly varied acting performances, musical guest stars (“The Nine Inch Nails!”), and some of television’s best sound design and most daring cinematography is a lot of pure Lynch. But Twin Peaks is also Mark Frost’s creation and his newest book, Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier, attempts to give fans a bit of everything, too.
Everything and nothing.
Twenty-five years have passed since we last saw the residents of the weirdest town in the Northwest, and Lynch’s latest miniseries dropped us right into the present day and right into a fascinating and frustrating jumble of old friends, old enemies, new offspring, more violence, and an ever-deepening metaphysical mystery. Last year’s pre-Return volume, the fat, beautiful, and equally frustrating The Secret History of Twin Peaks, delved deep into the town’s development and a lot of backstory on the figure of Major Garland Briggs, whose disappearance heavily shadowed the events in the new TV season.
The Final Dossier is a lot more straightforward than The Secret History of Twin Peaks, with its narrative-within-a-narrative marginalia and collection of found objects, including newspaper clippings, diner menus, and photographs. Collected in The Final Dossier are individual character dossiers written by FBI agent and Blue Rose Task Force member Special Agent Tamara Preston and a post-finale wrap-up to clip a few very loose ends. As the TV show jumped between Twin Peaks, Las Vegas, Montana, New Mexico, and the 1950s, the original Twin Peaks cast got a bit short-changed on screen presence. Some actors didn’t show up at all—whether it was because of death, as in the case of Jack Nance, failing health, or infamous feuds with David Lynch—namely Lara Flynn Boyle, who did not want to reprise her ’90s role, and the iconic Man From Another Place actor, Michael J. Anderson, who was not invited back after some very public statements against, well, everyone.
The Final Dossier attempts to fill in some blanks on missing residents. But none of these pieces add up to much of a satisfying whole. A scant few Return theories are confirmed, but each chapter feels more like a detailed Wikipedia entry than anything really revelatory. Still, it’s a must for die-hard fans.
How’s Annie Blackburn doing after her return from The Black Lodge? (Hint: It’s not good.) And what’s Fake Cool Girl Donna Haywood been up to? (Hint: It’s not good.) Wanna learn more about what happened to teen sexpot Audrey Horne after her explosive protest in the season two finale? (Hint: It was briefly covered in The Return and it’s really, really not good.) There’s definitely a pattern for the women of Twin Peaks, and it’s really tragic. We also learn a bit more about a few other, newer characters to the Peaks universe, including Mr. C’s shifty henchman Ray Moore, the illusive “We’re not gonna talk about Judy!” -Judy, and Special Agent Phillip Jeffries, played so famously by David Bowie in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Lesser characters get some focus, too; if you liked Dr. Jacoby’s or Jerry Horne’s new business ventures, there are dossiers for you. If you wanted to know more about Norma Jennings’ crappy mother, well, you’ll be happy, but you’re obviously a complete weirdo. I would, however, want the dossier on the person responsible for booking all of those music acts at the Roadhouse; they have to be using dark magic of some kind to lure such famous performers—excluding James Hurley, of course!—to such a podunk town.
There are, at least, blessedly few references to UFOs this time around.
Frost writes in the voice of a savvy FBI upstart, which is much more engaging and believable in print. I don’t know what actress Chrysta Bell was going for in her portrayal of Special Agent Preston, but I hated her so much I cheered when Laura Dern’s Diane spit out a “Fuck you, Tammy.” Speaking of Diane Evans, Agent Cooper’s right-hand woman and a crucial character in The Return gets barely a mention here, though it feels purposeful; “Tammy” says one could write a whole book on her, wink, wink. I want more Diane, from her multi-colored manicure and vintage sweaters to her romance with Dale Cooper to her creepy jaunt into the Blue Rose case files. Frost’s own voice rings especially clear when he takes a few digs at real-world events, and his sense of humor is wry and welcome among a lot of ill-advised romances, nervous breakdowns, and familial estrangement. Frost saves his shadiest of shade for a certain New York real estate mogul who is not really an “authentic billionaire.” It only gets more darkly funny from there, when said businessman dons that infamous jade Owl Cave signet ring and meets Twin Peaks‘ most irresistible witch, the red-headed widow Lana Milford.
The final dossier in The Final Dossier is more of a confirmation of what happened in the Return finale, which I won’t spoil here. Not that it would make a lick of difference for understanding or enjoying the last hour of new Lynch material we’re likely to get for some time; Lynch is inherently spoiler-proof. More interesting is the broad rumination on humanity’s capacity for darkness that the town of Twin Peaks encompasses. I found Frost strangely comforting and optimistic compared to the seedier world of David Lynch. Humanity is weird and connected in surprising ways. It is up to us, Frost advises, to live with our eyes wide open to what we can find beyond all of the evil in this world.
While I was ultimately a bit let down by the lack of handsome production extras and Lynchian-style storytelling, Frost gets his chance to shine with both of these supplemental books. And while The Final Dossier isn’t compulsory reading for most audiences, it is definitely canon for authentic fans of the larger world of Twin Peaks lore. No shade intended.
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier is available now from Flatiron Books.
Sometimes Theresa DeLucci‘s arms bend back. She is a regular contributor to Tor.com, covering book reviews and TV, including HBO’s Game of Thrones. She’s also discussed entertainment for Boing Boing, Den of Geek, and Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy. Follow her into the Black Lodge or see her on Twitter.