Almost two decades after its premiere and subsequent cancellation after only two seasons, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks has found representation in popular culture as USA Network’s original series Psych drew upon the groundbreaking series for inspiration for its latest episode. And, to quote Agent Dale Cooper, the main character of Twin Peaks, the episode was “a damn fine” tribute.
Penned by series star and co-producer James Roday, the episode was filled with inside jokes quickly recognizable to Peaks fans, and every one of them was laced with an obvious love and respect for the original material. From the recreation of the infamous scene of the discovery of Laura Palmer’s body at a lakeside, to the plays on characters’ names, to the wink-wink-nudge-nudge homages to characters themselves and other classic moments from Lynch’s work, there was never a moment that it wasn’t plainly obvious that Roday knew exactly what he was doing.
It’s hard even to talk about all of the things that were brilliant about this episode, because something wonderful was happening at every turn. In addition to all of the Peaks references, Shawn and Gus (and therefore, Roday and Dule Hill) were as funny as ever, their familiar banter lighting up the screen. Their interactions with Peaks veterans Dana Ashbrook (the one-time Bobby Briggs, now playing the father of the murdered girl), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne all-grown-up as the small town’s librarian), Sheryl Lee (the original plastic-wrapped victim, Laura Palmer, appearing as the town doctor), and Ray Wise (once the grieving father, here, another kind of father as Shawn’s parish priest) were terrific, and one can only imagine the conversations that might have taken place on the set during filming.
What might have been the nicest thing about the episode was that, even though it was obviously rife with Twin Peaks references, jokes, and even musical stylings, as the soundtrack echoed Angelo Badalamenti’s romantic and mysterious themes, it was still very much Psych. This little town of Dual Spires was Shawn and Gus’ playground, and these people were characters completely of the world of Psych.
Maybe they called back to the characters that the stable of guest stars once played, but they were all interesting mash-ups of figures familiar to Peaks fans, never a direct correlation to any one character. Ashbrook, Fenn, and Lee, especially, were given chances to step outside of the molds of Bobby Briggs, Audrey Horne, and Laura Palmer/Madeleine Ferguson, and play around with other thing, although they also brought the tiniest flashes of those three to their characters, enough that people could see, even behind the characters, that these people were very, very happy to be involved in this project. They were a delight to watch, and Ray Wise, as always, sparkled. (And pulled off his own tribute to his Peaks character with wry grace: his sudden change of hair color recalled Leland Palmer’s own sudden transformation in Season Two.)
As a Psych fan, I was thrilled with the episode; they’re handling the relationship between Shawn and Jules (Maggie Lawson) in a sweet, innocent, charming way, and Roday and Lawson are endearing together. Hill remains one of the best actors on television at conveying emotion through his expressions, and Timothy Omundson’s “Lassie” is quite possibly one of the most understatedly funny characters on TV.
As a Twin Peaks fan, I couldn’t have been happier with the way this episode was handled. In a lot of ways, it was a love letter to the show, to Lynch, and to the cast, and having so many of the original players come back to take part is something really special, and perhaps long overdue. The only thing missing was an appearance by Kyle MacLachlan and an Agent Cooper caricature, but when one thinks about it, Shawn filled the role of Cooper, and he did it very, very well.
Like Norma’s cherry pie in Peaks, and the cinnamon pie and cider in this episode of Psych…