Young crime reporter Sergei Sokolov was working for Moscow’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper in the early 1990s when the first series of cult U.S. television drama Twin Peaks was broadcast.
Sokolov was so entranced by David Lynch’s murder mystery set in small-town America that he and three other colleagues made it the subject of a column. Every week, they would pore over the plot details in an attempt to identify the killer.
The title of the column—”Who killed Laura Palmer?”—referred to the prom-queen in the series, whose death prompts FBI Agent Dale Cooper to travel to the town of Twin Peaks in Washington State. In ensuing investigation, he falls in love and unearths a web of sordid secrets and a mystical netherworld.
“Twin Peaks had a huge resonance among young people and everyone went mad over finding out who the murderer was,” says Sokolov, now deputy editor at the newspaper. “In terms of influence there are only two shows that can compare: House and Game of Thrones.”
With a third series of Twin Peaks now available, Russia is revisiting a passion for Lynch’s grandiose, fictional world— one that is populated by fraudsters, demons, drug addicts, rapists and a psychic lady who always carries a log.
“It’s most interesting to follow up on what has happened to us and to Lynch,” Russian author Dmitry Bykov wrote in a recent column for Novaya Gazeta. He describes the original series as a “memorial to the bloody, feverish, glamorous and stupid 1990s.”
The new series features many of the same actors, including Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Cooper. It picks up where series two left off — with Cooper apparently possessed by a demon after a show-down in the paranormal Black Lodge.
Twin Peaks first aired in Russia in November 1993, more than two years after the first two seasons were shown in the United States. Back then, Russians were wild about mass produced Latin American soaps, and Santa Barbara, another American melodrama.
Twin Peaks stood out.
“It was thunder in a clear sky, like chewing gum with a new taste — people tried and they liked it,” says Oleg Bykov, a 36-year-old designer from the Siberian city of Omsk. The superfan manages a Twin Peaks social media community, which has more than 67,000 subscribers.
Much of the appeal of the original series lay in its embrace of mysticism, which flourished in post-Soviet Russia, and in its depiction of life outside of a big city.
“We had only just found out what America was,” says Sokolov. “Twin Peaks showed a rural America that looked like our own countryside.”