'Under the sycamore trees’: irony and sincerity in Twin Peaks Episode 29

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding


In the final episode of Twin Peaks’ second season, Special Agent Dale Cooper enters the Black Lodge and witnesses a strange scene (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vOg0HyJpvI). A mysterious character played by jazz legend Jimmy Scott appears against the Lodge’s red velvet curtains and sings ‘Sycamore Trees’, an original song penned by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti. Cooper watches, seemingly in abject horror, amidst darkness and flashing lights as the song plays out in full and The Man from Another Place dances on to screen and stares at him. The ‘Sycamore Trees’ scene is deeply unsettling in a mysteriously ambiguous way and has a starkly different tone to the season preceding it.

In this paper, I examine the ‘Sycamore Trees’ scene and argue that Lynch uses this pivotal scene to experiment with tone, genre, and aesthetics in a way completely different from the rest of the original Twin Peaks. This short scene is foundational for establishing the tone and aesthetics of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Twin Peaks: The Return and anticipates the hybridity of irony and sincerity that would come to define Lynch’s later work. Using Adam Kelly’s formulation of New Sincerity and Nicholas Rombes’ work on Lynch’s sincerity-in-irony, I analyse this scene through a New Sincerity lens to look at how it establishes embryonic versions of many of the elements that define Twin Peaks: The Return including the use of full-length songs with real-world musicians to create atmosphere, experimentation with non-traditional lighting, and a definite sense of irony produced by the contrast between what a character sees and how they react to it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication/
ISBN (Electronic)9789464668605
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021
EventBeyond Life and Death: Twin Peaks at Thirty conference - Online
Duration: 31 Jul 202131 Jul 2021


ConferenceBeyond Life and Death


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