Television

Twin Peaks

David Lynch has proved himself to be one of the world’s most interesting and unique visual filmmakers. His movies generally possess an eerie, dreamlike quality, with plots heavy on symbolism, surrealism and duality and peppered with moments of bizarre humour and nightmares. One of Lynch’s most interesting projects, however, appeared on smaller screens – Twin Peaks first aired on television in the early 90s and became something of a water-cooler discussion point during its two brief seasons, captivating the world with its murder mystery plot and perplexing nature. Despite its television roots, Twin Peaks stands as a quintessential Lynch vehicle, with all of his familiar motifs and trademarks, and remains to this day one of the most interesting and unusual shows ever broadcast.twin peaksThe show focuses on (initially anyway) the death of Homecoming Queen and general all round public-darling Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), who is found post-brutal rape and murder wrapped in plastic by the side of river – very unusual for the sleepy, out-of-the-way lumber town of Twin Peaks. FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Lynch staple Kyle MacLachan) is called into investigate the crime, and in doing so, the audience is given a window into Twin Peaks and its unusual inhabitants, each with their own unusual story to tell; and it soon becomes clear that murder may not be the only horrible thing lurking in the town.agent cooperWhat’s first striking with Twin Peaks is the way it meshes genres. Essentially, a very well made soap opera with a central murder, it blurs, seemingly at random, into comedy, film-noir, the gothic, crime drama, love story, and supernatural horror. There’s a lot going on here, numerous interlocking plots and threads far beyond the central mystery. It follows the usual soap opera events – affairs, scams, love – yet is directed strangely, as though everything is slightly off-kilter, slower and dreamier than reality. The acting is strong but purposefully out-of-it and unusual, and the show has a billowing, overly dramatic musical score which possesses a dark undercurrent and makes the audience stand on edge. The soap opera nature is for awhile, highly involving, as is the who-killed-Laura thread, which becomes very tense as it proceeds, but what mainly sets Twin Peaks apart is its dabbling in the surreal, in dreams and nightmares and monsters. Working with a kind of magical realism, featuring demonic spirits, infamous red-curtained rooms with odd speaking midgets (actors said their lines backwards and the tape was then reversed, hence the other-worldy tone), Twin Peaks isn’t afraid to go to weird places, and becomes stranger over time. The show actually contains some of the scariest images ever committed to television. The scene in which Laura’s killer is revealed and kills again is horrific – distressing and frightening and unlike anything else on TV – and then there are the eerie giants, psychic episodes, and BOB – a creature from another world entirely. There’s also the final climax, which rivals even the trippier moments in Mulholland Drive and stands as one of the most out-there episodes of television ever made. When the show is at its best, it’s unreal.twinpeaks2Yet despite the mixing of genres it retains its own central, heavily Lynchian, identity, with a fantastically dark atmosphere which draws the audience in. It’s very much Blue Velvet The TV Show, and focuses on a lot of similar themes – namely, the wholesome all-American town with a hideous, demonic underbelly – no more defined than in Laura Palmer herself. The Homecoming Queen hangs over the show, haunting it as a symbol of the town’s destroyed innocence, though we soon learn that Laura herself possessed a promiscuous and cocaine-fuelled hidden nature, and wasn’t quite the angel the town remembers.twinpeaks5Twin Peaks also boasts and impeccably strong cast. Things are headed up my MacLachan’s bright eyed, quirky coffee-loving Cooper, one of the most interesting and loveable of all tv characters – MacLachan has since stated that his performance was based on a running impression of Lynch which explains the character’s perplexing, high-energy nature. He’s a joy to watch and gets some amazing lines. He’s joined by a whole host of colourful creations (and fairly beautiful women – Twin Peaks contains one of the all-time prettiest female casts) such as the slinky, smart and cool Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn), Laura Flynn Boyle’s investigative Donna, star-crossed lover of James Marshall’s James Hurley, Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) and too many more to name. Everyone is on form. Perhaps most surprising is Sheryl Lee’s Laura Palmer – hired to play a body, Lynch was so impressed by her performance he kept using her in flash-backs and eventually had her return to play Laura’s near identical cousin Maddy. Lee went on to give an Oscar-worthy performance in the prequel movie, Fire Walk with Me, though she was shamefully overlooked at the time. Special mention also has to go to demon BOB, who also fell into the show accidentally. Actor Frank Silva was set-dresser who accidentally got into a shot and Lynch was so struck by the strangeness of the scene that he shot extra footage of Silva without knowing how to use it. BOB soon became an integral part of the show and one of its most memorable features, as well as one of the scariest TV villains.twinpeaks6It’s a show that slowly washes over you, and for some, will take time to sink in. Lynch, and co-creator Mark Frost, turned to television to escape the time-restrictions of film – essentially, a show runs indefinitely unless cancelled – and so this allowed the two to take their time, slowly unfolding the central plot and allowing the town to breathe. This does however become problematic. There are only two seasons of Twin Peaks, and whilst the world was captivating at first, interest soon subsided, and it’s a widely accepted belief that the show falls apart during its second season. The issue is that the first season is relatively short and gets by on its quirky characters, tense plot and central murder mystery. Coming into Season 2, things initially remain strong, but unfortunately, the Laura Palmer murder is resolved rather quickly, and Twin Peaks begins to flounder, as the writers cram in a bunch of desperate plots to steal focus from the loss of Laura. The magic and surreal elements become stronger in Season 2, which put some viewers off at the time, and there are some scenes later on in the run which casual viewers will find utterly incomprehensible. The show does find its footing again as it builds towards a tense climax, but there’s about ten episodes where everyone literally treads water and the show becomes very tedious. Most viewers don’t make it to the ending. Twin Peaks would have benefited from a much shorter second season, or simply ending after Laura’s case is resolved. And that’s one of the more interesting elements of the show – Lynch and Frost have claimed that they knew the identity of Laura’s killer from the start, and whilst this may be true, it seems unlikely that they ever planned to reveal it – hence television being an indefinite medium. The murder is essentially the catalyst to expose the town’s underbelly and introduce Dale Cooper to it’s inhabitants, and paradoxically, the murder gives the show life that lets it run on forever. This theory is clearer when you consider how much Lynch made up as he went along (BOB, the dreams, the One-Armed Man) and how the murderer was only revealed due to network pressure. It would have been an interesting experiment at least to see Twin Peaks remain mysterious. twin peaks horseDespite these faults, the good really does outweigh the bad – the show has such highs and the second season, with all its problems, doesn’t take away from the previous greatness.But what’s most clear about the show is it’s influence. It changed television, basically. It’s important to note that back in the 80s, television was built on sitcoms and soaps was seen as a limited art-form. It was a beneath most directors. Twin Peaks, with its compelling plot-line, characters and visual mastery, opened the door for everything which followed. Without Twin Peaks, there wouldn’t have been The X-Files, The Soprano’s, Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even shows such as the Gilmore Girls, as Twin Peaks invented the small-town ensemble. It’s amazing what an impact the series has had on the medium, inspiring writers and artists to be creative and really push the boundaries of the box. Most of the big dramas of today wouldn’t have happened ifTwin Peaks hadn’t.It’s definitely an important show and one Lynch fans will love, and had a massive impact on the television world. It’s certainly got problems and does loss steam, but when it’s on form, it really fires, and its characters, cultural strength and creative madness will never be forgotten. Be sure to check out the prequel too – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.

5/5

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2 thoughts on “Twin Peaks

  1. Pingback: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me | Some Films and Stuff

  2. Pingback: Mulholland Drive | Some Films and Stuff

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