The eternal influence of Twin Peaks

April 08, 2020 2 min read

Thirty years ago today, peak television was born.

ABC, a second-place network at the time mostly known for family-friendly dramas and comedies, took a gamble on an unusual crime drama about murder and secrets in the Pacific Northwest. Mark Lynch was best known as a writer for Hill Street Blues. David Lynch had two Oscar nominations under his belt and a penchant for the unusual. They were brought together for a biopic that never happened, but it was in this partnership that Lynch first had the mental image of a dead woman washed ashore; a picture that would eventually spiral into the pilot episode of Twin Peaks. Months of planning and a bit of reluctance to move into television on Lynch's part culminated in what is possibly the most influential television program since Dragnet. The movie-length premiere was a hit with critics and audiences. It was unlike anything else seen on television, and perhaps more importantly, it managed to package Lynch's idiosyncrasies in a format easily digestible by the masses. Basically, he made a soap opera.

While it originally lasted just two seasons, it left an indelible mark on many creators, shaping how they would tell their stories, build their worlds, develop their characters, and film their programs. Shows like The Sopranos, Riverdale, Legion, and the excellent first season of Desperate Housewives -- don't argue -- all share DNA with it.

That influence extends to games as well. There are obvious examples and some that seem bewildering at first but start to make sense the more you think about it. When I first learned Takashi Tezuka wanted The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening to feel like Twin Peaks, I couldn't see the connection. Of course, at the time, I hadn't yet seen the show. But after binging the series a few years ago and then going back through Link's Awakening on my 3DS, the connection became evident.

Tezuka spoke about the suspicious characters in the show as inspiration, but he also managed to introduce an unraveling storyline to the Zelda franchise -- something that hadn't been there before -- as well as a surreal feeling that permeates the entire project.

The eternal influence of Twin Peaks screenshot