A Tale of Three Diners, Part One: Twin Peaks’ RR Diner

‘Previously during the investigation’:

Location, Location, Location: Twin Peaks v. Alan Wake v. Deadly Premonition

First Warning: This is a rough and incomplete draft of a longer work. I began it ahead of the new series of Twin Peaks, and it’s unclear as yet how big an impact the revival will have on what I’ve written. In the meantime, I may skip forward to writing the follow-up chapters (like I said, this is going to be a long work) for Alan Wake and Deadly Premonition.

Second Warning: The things that I tell you will contain spoilers.

 

Welcome to Twin Peaks’ RR Diner!

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‘I’d forgotten there were still places like this – towns where everybody knew everybody.’

Alan Wake.

When it came to casting the iconic RR Diner for Twin Peaks’ pilot episode, director David Lynch and his crew chose the real-life Mar-T Café – formerly Thompson’s Café, which first opened at 137 North Bend Way, North Bend, Washington, in 1941. No Twin Peaks fan pilgrimage would be complete without visiting the ‘real’ RR (now known as Twede’s Café) for a slice of cherry pie. For many fans, including myself, it was seeing photos of the RR’s restoration last year that gave us our first real sense that the series was returning to our screens, long before Entertainment Weekly set the internet on fire with its first exclusive preview of the revival.

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The original location filming for the pilot gave the RR a certain air of authenticity that was lacking in its depiction in the actual series. That’s because, following the pilot, the RR’s interior scenes were shot on a soundstage in Los Angeles. One diner is an actual diner, in real-life, while the other is an indoor studio set. Now, before I unpack some of the differences between these two versions of the RR, I want to make it clear upfront that I’m not looking to argue that one version is better than another, that one is ‘real’ or wholly ‘authentic’ while the other is ‘fake’. I prefer to view them as two different ‘actors’ playing the same role, each bringing something different to the part, in much the same way Lara Flynn Boyle and Moira Kelly both do a brilliant job of playing Donna Hayward, offering two different takes on the same character that in a way complement one another. Yes, the studio set diner may feel a bit less ‘real’ in some ways than the version shot inside an actual diner, but it is the version of the diner that viewers of the series will be most familiar with. The studio set diner is as solid and real and iconic as the Red Room, and like the Red Room it’s home to many of the series’ most memorable scenes. Not for one moment during those scenes does the studio set diner feel anything less than authentic.

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Now, at time of writing – less than a month before it debuts – it appears that for the series’ revival Lynch has returned to shooting inside the actual diner, which had previously only been used in the pilot and the motion picture prequel-sequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992). As far as I can tell from the above photo, released by Entertainment Weekly, the revival’s RR most closely resembles the FWWM version (though some unofficial photos suggest that it also includes elements of the version featured in the series – the checkered floor, for example – making it more of a hybrid). Looking at the photo above fills me with warm, fuzzy feelings, primarily because it features two actresses I adore, Mädchen Amick and Peggy Lipton, reprising their roles after a 25 year absence. Everything about the diner here looks bright and sunny and fresh and clean. No cobwebs here! I have no idea what’s happening in the scene, and I know I’m projecting onto it, but I do think there’s a real warmth to how it’s lit, in Amick’s smile and Lipton’s knowing glance. They look like two close friends in agreement over something.

This warm, familiar vibe intrigues me, since I always felt that the pilot/FWWM version of the diner, filmed on location, lacked the warm, cosy atmosphere created on the studio set. For one thing, we only ever see a small handful of characters in the diner in both the pilot and FWWM. That alone makes it feel a lot less cosy and familiar. Indeed, it doesn’t matter how many times I see the pilot, the RR always looks strange and new and unfamiliar, precisely because this version of it only appears once in the actual course of the series. In FWWM the diner looks and feels even more strange, thanks in part to the presence of Laura Palmer, the girl who was dead to begin with, and to the diner’s having had a dramatic makeover – not to mention Peggy Lipton’s new hairstyle. It seems the women in Twin Peaks have an uncanny knack for growing and restyling their hair overnight. Either that, or Twin Peaks encompasses a number of closely related parallel worlds – a theory that, after Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks, seems a distinct possibility.

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The on-location RR is the ‘Sunday best’ version, the one reserved for special occasions (i.e. the pilot, FWWM and the revival). The studio set RR is the ‘everyday’ or ‘weekday’ version, the one we stick with through all the highs and lows of the main series, where the regular business of the series – the development of the main plot, and of various sub-plots – is conducted. Visually, the studio set RR looks and feels less real when compared to its on-location counterpart. Note how the camera shies away from focusing on the (fake) outside world. The camera does not, indeed cannot, follow characters as they enter/exit the studio diner from/into the outside world. And with the exception (so far) of the pilot and FWWM, there are no scenes set, and shot, outside the RR. The studio RR thus emphasises the diner’s interior space – a space that is further away from the outside world than its on-location counterpart, a space that exists within its own little bubble. In this way it could be said that the RR’s staff and patrons – to quote David Bowie’s Philip Jeffries in FWWM – ‘live inside a dream’.

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As with some of Twin Peaks’ other locations, such as the Great Northern Hotel and the local Sheriff Station, there is in the RR a sense that the great outdoors has been brought indoors. There is also a sense of worlds outside our perceivable external reality being close at hand. Note how the wood inside the studio set RR is a much darker shade of brown compared to the on-location RR. When Truman talks to Cooper about the dark presence in the woods, it feels like we’re brushing up close against that mystery, precisely because the characters are surrounded by, and are literally brushing up against, dark wood. On the studio set the camera maintains a tight focus on the characters and their typically private conversations, creating a far more intimate atmosphere than can be seen in either the pilot and FWWM. The décor on the studio set also strikes me as more kitsch, with its chintzy wallpaper and checkered floor. All of these different elements combine to make the studio set RR more adaptable to the needs of the series than its real-world counterpart. By that I mean the studio set RR lends itself to all of the series’ different modes – mystery, comedy, romance and more. Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine many of the series’ RR scenes working as well, if at all, had they been filmed on location.

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The pilot/FWWM RR is largely devoid of the human warmth that could be found in the scenes shot within its studio counterpart. In the scenes filmed inside the former Mar-T Café – just one scene in the pilot, and a short sequence in FWWM – the RR appears to be a lot less busy in terms of trade. In FWWM the diner is dead, in terms of business, and there’s a deleted scene showing Norma crying in an empty booth that could be one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen on film. It certainly doesn’t feel like a scene that could’ve happened on the studio set RR, where we never do see Norma truly alone. This entire sequence has a fly-on-the-wall realism about it that feels out of keeping with the rest of the film (which is presumably why most of it was cut), as well as being at odds with what we’ve seen of the RR prior to this. There’s nothing in the series itself that quite compares with the devastating emotional reality of this scene.

Speaking of quiet, that flags another key difference between the two diners: the use of music. As Kathryn Kalinak (1995) has argued, in Twin Peaks the line between music that is diegetic (that is, music that has an on-screen source) and non-diegetic (added in later – i.e. a soundtrack, sound effects, etc) is blurred. One of the most memorable examples of this is Audrey’s dance, where the music subtly shifts from being diegetic to non-diegetic, creating a ‘dreamy’ feeling that is perfectly in tune with the character’s mood. It calls to mind ‘The Dance of the Dream Man’ from Agent Cooper’s dream. Audrey is close to re-enacting it, and this uncanny parallel creates a sense of the ‘real’ world of Twin Peaks brushing up close against that ‘other’ world, the supernatural world that, in Twin Peaks, can be entered through dreams or through other magical means. Whilst the pilot makes powerful use of the jukebox, the reason it’s powerful is because no music precedes it. The rest of what we hear in the diner in the pilot are just the ordinary (diegetic) sounds of a diner. The music coming from the jukebox remains diegetic, as it’s distinctly muffled when we cut to Shelly and Bobby outside the diner. Again, this makes the pilot’s RR feel just a little bit more connected to the ‘real’ world than the series’ version. That said, there is some talk of dreams just before Bobby exits the diner, before the music kicks in as the door closes behind him. There is a distinctly dreamy feeling about all this, as the music plays over a close-up of Norma. But then the camera quickly cuts to the reality outside, ensuring that this particular dream stays held within the diner. FWWM, meanwhile, eschews music. All of its sounds are diegetic – but since the diner is dead, its quietness and its stillness exacerbates the sadness in Norma, forcing her to confront her own loneliness. There’s no dancing for Norma. Oh Norma : ( Thankfully, that moment of existential despair remains an exception to the rules that normally govern the RR’s appearances.

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Though no major events occur in the RR, at least in terms of plot, a lot happens here over the course of the series. This is because the RR functions as a local community hub, a place that most of the series’ townsfolk will pass through at some point during the series. It’s a place where characters brush up close against the mysteries of the town, in the whispered conversations about the death of Laura Palmer and ‘the mystery of the woods surrounding Twin Peaks’. It’s a place where high school teens, local law enforcement and even the occasional criminal make plans over coffee or a soda. And it’s a place where, above all else, ‘the mysteries of love come clear’. It’s in the RR that Coop falls for Annie Blackburn, where they laugh together like a couple of goofballs over a ridiculous joke. It’s where his boss, the hard-of-hearing Gordon Cole, falls for Shelly Johnson – whose voice, to his amazement, rings crystal clear. It’s where Bobby Briggs realises the depth of his love, not just for Shelly, but for his father, in one of the series’ most surprising, compelling and emotional scenes. It’s where Norma and Ed share fleeting moments of emotional intimacy, away from the jealous stares of their spouses. And it’s where the bonds of sisterhood are forged between Norma and Shelly, and later Annie. It’s a place for small, beautiful moments, for quiet epiphanies, minor revelations and miracles. And to quote the Log Lady, ‘what’s wrong with miracles?

 

The Characters

The two characters most closely associated with the RR Diner over the course of Twin Peaks are its owner, Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton), and waitress Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick). That’s because there isn’t a scene set in the RR that doesn’t feature or focus on either one or both of these characters. Norma and Shelly are the RR, so much so that it’s easy to forget that there’s anyone else working here. And of the various waitresses who do, there can be no doubt that Shelly is Norma’s favourite. Both women bond over the fact that they each have ‘two men apiece and [they] don’t know what to do with any of the four of them’, and over the course of the series we see them as confidantes, best friends and sisters. Given the approximately twenty-year age-gap between them, it’s also easy to read Norma as a maternal presence in Shelly’s life (something that differentiates Shelly from the other teen characters in Twin Peaks is that both of her parents are conspicuously absent from the show and never discussed). You just know that when Norma retires that Shelly will almost certainly be the one to take over as manager of the RR.

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There are two other waitresses in the RR with speaking roles. The first of these is Heidi (Andrea Hays), a minor but memorable character. We only get to see Heidi in the pilot, the final episode of season two and in FWWM (all directed by Lynch). In her first two appearances she’s late to work because she either ‘couldn’t get her car started’ or was ‘too busy jump-startin’ the old man!’ The repetition of these lines creates a circular sense of time in Twin Peaks. Everything that happens here will happen again. Heidi’s appearance in the 2017 revival has been confirmed (see the picture of her with Marv Rosand and Amanda Seyfried further below), and I would be surprised if her return appearance does not involve further repetition of those famous utterances.

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After Shelly Johnson the most significant of the RR’s waitresses is Norma’s sister, Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham). Annie arrives in Twin Peaks late on in season two having just left a convent, where she went to stay after a failed suicide attempt. Norma is helping Annie out by giving her a job at the RR, to help her re-acclimatise to the outside world. Though Annie turns out to be a major character as the series’ final episodes unfold, in the RR she feels a little bit like a third wheel. That’s because the RR has been, for the most part, The Norma and Shelly Show. It’s not that Annie isn’t welcome here, far from it. Norma and Shelly treat Annie as their equal. And Annie blends in perfectly with her surroundings at the RR – I’m tempted to say, a little too perfectly. I don’t mean that to sound hostile. I like Annie. I consider her an immensely likeable character. But there’s something odd about Annie, something that has made many viewers take exception to her. Why is that? I think the Vlog Lady nails the reasons why in this video essay about Annie. Annie, she argues, seems strangely unrooted in this town where she is supposed to have grown up. None of the town’s other residents seem to recognise or remember her. It is tempting to attribute this weird and inexplicable disconnect between Annie and the town as a failing on the writers’ part, and given how turbulent the series’ production had been for most of season two this wouldn’t come as a surprise.

But this nagging sense that there’s something  odd about Annie has become even more pronounced following the publication of Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks, in 2016. That’s because the book flatly contradicts all the facts established within the show regarding Norma’s family history. Norma apparently now has a different mother and, even more strikingly, no sister. Whilst the show’s original ending hints at a possible rationale for covering up Annie’s existence, there is so much that is different about Twin Peaks in this book that the possibility that Twin Peaks’ narrative extends across multiple parallel worlds seems a more likely explanation. In any event, Annie’s erasure draws attention to how superfluous she is to Norma’s existence. By that I mean, except for one or two minor scenes in which their relationship is acknowledged, we don’t really get to see Norma and Annie relate to each other as sisters. Right from the outset, their personalities and their respective histories seem to exist independently of each other. It was as if the writers had forgotten that the two were meant to be sisters immediately after introducing them as such. As the Vlog Lady argues, it seems odd how Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) refers to Annie by her full name, given that he seems to have known Norma for years. Also, that Norma is too wrapped up in her relationship trouble in the series’ final episode to notice her sister’s kidnapping by a known serial killer.

Had the series continued into a third series, straight after season two, one wonders how Annie and Norma’s relationship, such as it is, would have been developed. As things currently stand, all one can say is that their relationship is virtually non-existent and that Annie remains an enigma. Perhaps that’s what makes the series’ final line (‘how’s Annie?’) so haunting. It’s a question that has been haunting fans for more than twenty-five years. It’s a question that haunts Frost’s book, given her conspicuous absence. And it’s a question that haunts the upcoming revival, as actress Heather Graham isn’t listed to appear. How was Annie, after she left the hospital following the events of season two…? Who exactly was this Annie Blackburn character anyway? Where did she come from, exactly? Where did she go? Interestingly, Annie’s brief on-screen appearance in FWWM was itself an act of erasure. She appears, like a ghost, in Laura Palmer’s bed, where Laura seems unfazed by her sudden, inexplicable appearance. Laura is, however, terrified by her sudden disappearance, recalling Donna’s startled response to the equally inexplicable vanishing of the creamed corn on Mrs Tremond’s plate in episode nine.

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On that note, I like how the Vlog Lady aligns Annie with the residents of Twin Peaks’ otherworld. It suggests there’s something more to Norma’s observation that Annie seemed to come ‘from another place and time’ than we might at first realise. Perhaps Annie is, as the Vlog Lady suggests, like Philip Gerard (Al Strobel), the human vessel for a supernatural being. Or perhaps she’s a more independent spirit, like Mrs Tremond/Chalfont (Frances Bay), one that chameleonically disguises itself in the fabric of history as well as through wearing a RR waitress’s uniform. Then again, Annie strikes me as being a very real, very human person, with very real, very human problems (as evidenced by the scars on her wrists). I’d rather not read Annie as an ultimately unknown and unknowable femme fatale who is, perhaps knowingly, leading Cooper to his fate. I don’t think that resonates at all with her depiction on the show, or in FWWM. I think it more likely that she isn’t cognizant of any connection she might have to the otherworld – unless, of course, it’s a part of her past that she’s reluctant to disclose to anyone (just as an increasingly suicidal Laura Palmer kept her experience of Twin Peaks’ otherworld a secret from everyone close to her).

If I were to try and read Annie in more abstracted terms, I would suggest that the reason why Annie wins the Miss Twin Peaks contest is precisely because she is Twin Peaks, ‘the whole damn town’, a living, breathing embodiment of its love, its beauty, its goofy charm and tragic history. Maybe the reason no one seems to remember or recognise Annie is because she has always been there, around them. I’m reminded here of an old expression about how, when you have lived in a place for many years, you don’t tend to pay much attention to what’s on your own doorstep. Instead, you take it for granted. It’s just there. I think that neatly characterises Annie’s relationship to the town and its residents: she’s there, she’s around them, but to them she’s never more than just a part of the scenery. But Dale sees her. And Dale loves Annie in ways that remind us of when he first fell in love with the town – in particular, when he takes her out on the lake for a date (‘Ducks! On the lake!’). Following Annie’s arrival it feels as if an important part of Twin Peaks’ magic – Cooper’s wonderment at the beauty of his surroundings – has been renewed. It is happening again. What once was lost has now been found. Annie is the spirit of Twin Peaks, estranged from itself, returning home. Remember that time is circular in Twin Peaks, and mythic: every arrival is a return, and every return an arrival (or revival).

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Annie and Dale’s blossoming romance is coupled with an ominous sense of foreboding, as the villainous Windom Earle watches the pair on their first date through his binoculars. At the centre of Earle’s plans regarding the Miss Twin Peaks contest is the assumption that only one of three women are likely to win (Shelly, Donna and Audrey – he obviously went crazy after seeing that Rolling Stone photoshoot). For whatever reason, Earle doesn’t seem to consider any of the town’s other women as serious contenders for the prize (which, given the strong possibility of bias amongst the judges, seems oddly naïve). In any case, the best laid plans of Windom Earle are disrupted by Annie’s arrival. Earle seems to sense this. He can see that the pair are in love. Perhaps Earle can sense a fearful symmetry between Annie and Caroline (Brenda E. Mathers), Dale’s former lover and Earle’s former wife (murdered by Earle). Perhaps Earle senses that Annie should be his ‘queen’ – that having anyone else in that role would feel anti-climactic, to say the least. Annie must become Miss Twin Peaks. She must, and she will. But Earle, the schemer, doesn’t have to do anything to make that happen. He just needs to take a page from Coop’s book and go with the flow. There are greater forces at work here, and while Earle might like to think he’s in control of the game board, he is in fact just another chess piece in the game of interdimensional chess being played by the supernatural forces that haunt this town – and a disposable piece at that.

The sense of foreboding created in these episodes, combined with our knowledge of the outcome of the Miss Twin Peaks contest, makes it possible to view Annie as a lamb being led to slaughter. Not only is there a horrible sense of inevitability surrounding the contest, there’s also this horrible sense that Annie was made precisely for this purpose, that she was created to be the sacrificial lamb. And yet Annie survives her Red Room experience. She isn’t ‘fridged’, a term first used in comic book circles to describe how female characters are often treated ‘as merely a device to move a male character’s story arc forward, rather than as a fully developed character in [their] own right’. It’s certainly true that Annie is an underdeveloped character, and it’s easy to imagine that a ‘fridging’ could’ve been her fate. But the objectification of women is not something that Twin Peaks simply or mindlessly perpetuates; it’s one of the series’ central themes, a theme that it insistently draws attention to and encourages us to interrogate.

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Norma, the first ever winner of Miss Twin Peaks, encourages Shelly and Annie to take part, not knowing about Windom Earle’s plans to make the winner his ‘queen’, a chess piece in his battle of wits with Dale Cooper. Earle initially targets Shelly (as well as Audrey and Donna), leaving her with a fragment of a poem by the great Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Shelley for Shelly! Shelly also inspires Dale Cooper’s boss, Gordon Cole (David Lynch), to take up poetry. ‘I PLAN ON WRITING AN EPIC POEM ABOUT THIS GORGEOUS PIE’ shouts Cole, but it’s Shelly who truly inspires him: ‘THAT’S THE KIND OF GIRL TO MAKE YOU WISH YOU SPOKE A LITTLE FRENCH’, ‘WHAT A BEAUTY, REMINDS ME OF THAT STATUE, THE BABE WITHOUT THE ARMS’. ‘The babe without the arms’ is the Venus de Milo, or Aphrodite of Milos. Venus and Aphrodite are, respectively, the Roman and Greek names for the goddess of love and beauty. The statue in question is featured prominently in Twin Peaks’ Red Room – an objectification of ‘love and beauty’ that, in the Red Room’s dreamscape, seems suggestive of the town’s (and the series’) problematic treatment of its women, most obviously Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), but no less Shelly Johnson. Fortunately, the women of Twin Peaks know a thing or two about resisting. Even after her death, Laura resists containment within the many objects that represent facets of her. ‘Sometimes her arms bend back’, but they cannot be broken off like the statue’s. Still, the ritual nature of Laura’s death and that of her cousin Maddy, and the way in which it is echoed in the Miss Twin Peaks contest, as the women perform a dance routine wearing transparent plastic raincoats – ‘wrapped in plastic’, in other words, like Laura and Maddy’s corpses – threatens to reveal some unpleasant home truths about the town.

You could argue that Norma is complicit in this local exercise in objectifying women, given that she sits on the Miss Twin Peaks judges’ panel alongside Mayor Milford (John Boylan) and Dick Tremayne (Ian Buchanan). Now, that’s a horrible thought to have. I love Norma, and it’s a reading I’m reluctant to press too heavily upon. After all, it’s not as if the custom is to kill the winner of Miss Twin Peaks, however neatly that idea might resonate with certain folk traditions that have been misinterpreted, misrepresented, or just plain invented for use in countless horror films, novels, etc. Twin Peaks is not The Wicker Man. Norma describes the contest to Shelly and Annie as ‘a day of healing and coming together’. Normally it would only be the latter, but following the death of Laura Palmer (who, no doubt, would have won the contest had she lived) Norma expects the event to perform this double duty in order to meet the psychic needs of the community. And as the owner of the RR Diner Norma is used to catering to those needs: see the special breakfast that she fixes for Sheriff Truman, after the death of Josie (Joan Chen). Deputy ‘Hawk’ (Michael Horse) makes a point of telling Truman that the dish was specially prepared by Norma, as if that knowledge will give the dish additional healing properties.

Norma cares about the town and its people (for additional evidence, ‘look into the meals on wheels’). She certainly doesn’t seek to promote Miss Twin Peaks because she wants to encourage the sexual objectification of women. Unlike her fellow judges – two foolish men, both compromised by the duplicitous Lana Milford (Robyn Lively) – Norma is the most likely of the three to make a fair and balanced judgment of each woman’s respective merits. For Norma the event is about bringing the community together in a celebration of the wonderful women of Twin Peaks, to help make everyone feel good about themselves. But… perhaps making everyone feel good about themselves is a part of the problem? Encouraging people to forget rather than confront what has happened isn’t conducive to healing in the long run. You could argue that Norma has become a part of Twin Peaks’ patriarchal system in becoming one of the town’s elders, and that she is, regardless of her best intentions, complicit, to however small a degree, in perpetuating a local institution that is problematic, irrespective of whatever good might come of it. It’s still, after all, an event that encourages the exploitation of women for the male gaze. You could counter this by pointing out that all the men involved in the contest are weak, ridiculous and/or easily manipulated (the Mayor, Dick Tremayne, Mr Pinkle), and that the women involved are far from passive. The fact that the contest’s host is the sweet, kindly Doc Hayward (Warren Frost), one of the series’ most lovable characters, may also go a long way towards dampening suspicions of what might seem to many to be an incredibly dated, sexist custom. But we also shouldn’t forget that patriarchy is upheld and reinforced by weak, ridiculous men, by so-called ‘good’ men, and by all kinds of people going about their everyday lives. ‘In a town like Twin Peaks no one is innocent’.

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While we’re on the subject of male chauvinists, let’s talk about Norma’s husband, Hank Jennings (Chris Mulkey). He’s bad news from the moment he arrives – a regular snake in the grass. Hank attracts shaky subplots and hokey characters, making the sacred space of the RR feel increasingly less sacred as season two progresses. Around Hank the chintz grows chintzier. When news arrives that the famous food critic M.T. Wentz is coming to town, Hank grabs some cash from out the till to decorate the RR. But his efforts only succeed in making the RR look like a sad little Italian restaurant for passing couples who haven’t made a booking elsewhere and whose relationships are on the rocks. Those of us who love the RR see through this cheap disguise, to Hank’s naked attempt to ingratiate himself with his estranged wife. It’s all the more painful to watch because of Norma’s willingness to go along with it. If Norma is the RR, then this is what the RR looks like when you make Norma feel insecure, when you make her doubt herself, when you toy with her dreams of romance. When Norma strips the tables bare of the new tablecloths she is, at the same time, laying bare her emotions in a (possibly final) conversation with her mother, Vivian (Jane Greer). The relationship between Norma and the RR is thus symbiotic, as the act of restoring the diner to its former self brings Norma renewed self-confidence. With Hank and Vivian gone, the diner returns to being the sacred space it was before the season two slump – just in time to welcome Annie, whose smile brings an additional ray of sunshine to a diner that was beginning to look gloomy and drab.

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Over the course of the series we get to see Norma, Shelly, Annie and Hank in a variety of different settings; but, along with Heidi, there are two minor characters who we never get to see outside the diner. The first is ‘Toad’ (Kevin Young), a stereotypical trucker who provides a bit of (mostly) silent comic-relief. Toad is always to be found in the RR eating, eating, eating, though on one occasion he could be seen frowning over a chess game with local champ Pete Martell (Jack Nance). Mark Frost’s Secret History dishes out a bit more detail on Toad, revealing that he was on the Twin Peaks’ high school football team along with Hank, Truman and a few other familiar names. Another character worth mentioning here is the cook, played by Marv Rosand. Rosand’s sole appearance to date was in the one deleted scene from FWWM that I mentioned in the previous section, and which was featured in The Missing Pieces (2014), so you could argue that he’s something of a new character, since it’s only within the last three years that audiences have had the chance to see his brief but touching performance. Rosand passed away in 2015, not long after filming material for the 2017 revival. Here’s a photo of him with Andrea Hays (Heidi) and new series’ cast member Amanda Seyfried – yet another photo that fills me with warm, fuzzy feelings.

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Beyond the core group of characters directly connected to the diner, the RR represents Twin Peaks in microcosm. So many characters pass through its doors that it would be easier to say who doesn’t. For example, you wouldn’t expect to see members of Twin Peaks’ rival dynasties, the Packards and the Hornes, frequenting the RR. They are Twin Peaks’ elite, not to be seen in an establishment catering to a primarily working-class clientele, albeit one with many notable (upper-)middle-class exceptions. (The RR is a bit like a pub in a British soap opera in that regard, in that it’s frequented by basically the entire town, as the needs of the plot dictate.) The Hornes’ and the Packards’ sole representatives at the RR are, not coincidentally, their two most wayward members: the rebellious Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) and Pete Martell, who married ‘the [sawmill] boss’s sister,’ Catherine Packard (Piper Laurie), following ‘a summer’s indiscretion’. Pete, the common man who went to live on Mount Olympus, fits in perfectly with the woodsmen, truckers and fishermen who frequent the RR. The same cannot be said of Audrey Horne. She belongs to an altogether different group that frequents the RR: teenagers.

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The presence of teenagers in the RR calls to mind other famous diners from American pop culture, such as Pop Tate’s Chock’lit Shoppe from the long-running Archie comics franchise. Pop’s Shoppe is situated in the fictional town of Riverdale, which as it happens is now the subject of a Twin Peaks-inspired TV show guest-starring Twin Peaks’ and the RR’s own Mädchen Amick. As well as being a local teen hang-out, the RR is also a magnet for law officials. By that I mean not just local law enforcement officers, like Sheriff Truman and his deputies Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) and Tommy ‘Hawk’ Hill, but also members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, such as Special Agents Dale Cooper, Roger Hardy (Clarence Williams III), Denise Bryson (David Duchovny) and Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (not forgetting season two villain Windom Earle, Cooper’s former partner-turned-nemesis, who shows up at the diner in different disguises). Beyond these two groups a range of supporting characters drop in – the Haywards, Nadine Hurley (Wendy Robie), Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson), Dick Tremayne and more. The RR serves ‘the whole damn town’, and in doing so, the whole damn series.

That concludes this stage of my analysis of Twin Peaks’ RR Diner. Stay tuned for updates to this post, as I examine the mysteries and (more importantly) the food that comes into play during our visits to the RR.

 

Bibliography

Kalinak, Kathryn. ‘“Disturbing the Guests with This Racket”: Music and Twin Peaks’. Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. Ed. David Lavery. Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1995.

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