Created by: Mark Frost & David Lynch
Media Reviewed: DVD
Who killed Laura Palmer? That’s certainly the question on everyone’s mind in the quiet northwestern town of Twin Peaks, just one day after the high school prom queen is found wrapped in plastic. As FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper arrives to handle the investigation, he – like the audience – soon finds that Twin Peaks isn’t exactly what it appears to be…
You may be wondering what the hell a review of this 23-year-old show is doing on The Blood Theatre. Re-read the “Created by” above and that should spell it out; Yes indeed, you know things are gonna get really twisted when Mr. Lynch gets involved and Twin Peaks is no exception. Together with Mark Frost, Lynch has created a world where the odd is obvious, the irregular regular and yet manages to coat it in a way that the audience (and executives at ABC, no doubt) can follow along. This is what made Twin Peaks the cultural phenomenon it is, with shows from Saturday Night Live to the Simpsons spoofing and channeling its weird nuances. Many people might be turned off by what appears to be “cheesiness”, but they’re missing the irony of Lynch – life IS cheesy and soap operatic. The first season is a strong debut for a type of show that today’s contemporary television is sorely lacking.
STORY ARC AND BIG BAD
With a show like this, this section gets a little tricky. You can blame Drew for making it. Right from the get go, the pilot episode draws you in. As mentioned above, the murder of Laura Palmer takes precedence and is at the forefront of everyone’s minds; however, the town has secrets that the investigation threatens to bring to light. A cocaine smuggling ring that may have ties to Laura’s death is pursued; conspirators plan the destruction of the town mill to make way for a housing development; the endless amount of adulteration (everyone is seeing someone else. You’ll get used to it); and of course, the “evil that lurks in the woods” – a mysterious supernatural force that haunts Cooper’s dreams and may be the key to everything. All of these events tie into each other in an interesting (albeit typically dramatic) fashion and lead up to a fantastic season finale that I won’t spoil.
This is one of those rare series where almost all of the cast members appear in every episode. With a cast as large as this, that’s no easy feat, but the writers pull it off in a convincing way. I can’t list everyone that appears, but the main three include:
Kyle MacLachlan as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper:
What can I say about this man that hasn’t already been said? Dale Cooper is one of the most interesting, quirky, loveable and idiosyncratic lead characters that has ever graced the small screen. MacLachlan puts a lot of heart into the character and you can’t help but smile whenever he’s onscreen. His supernatural dreams yield disturbing links to the case in Twin Peaks and are honestly unsettling. Yes, I have a man-crush! I’m not ashamed!
Michael Ontkean as Twin Peaks Sheriff Harry S. Truman
Just like the President before him, the buck stops with Sheriff Truman. Now, Hollywood has raised us to believe that the “Feds” and “local law enforcement” are sworn and mortal enemies that only work together to stop the killers. I expected that to be true here as well, but I’m grateful that isn’t so. Harry is an awesome partner for Cooper and the friendship that grows between the two feels sincere.
Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer/Maddy Ferguson
Yes, even the dead girl needs to be played by someone. Lynch reportedly loved working with Lee so much that he wrote the character of Laura’s cousin Maddy specifically for her. It sounds cheesy, but it works; many of the townspeople are unsettled by how much she looks like Laura.
I’m not going to detail the cast any further, as writing about one and not another won’t do them justice. You simply need to see these characters interacting with each other and you’ll understand.
BESTS AND WORSTS
“Best” is a tough call, as the pilot episode is the first foray into this strange world and the season finale is full of revelations. But I’ll put my foot down and say episode three (or episode two for some, as the pilot apparently doesn’t count) “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer” is my favourite. Directed by Lynch, it features baguette eating, mystical rock throwing, introduces fellow FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield (another personal favourite of mine) and ends with one of the most disturbing and iconic dream sequences in popular culture.
Worst is another tough one, but I’ll say episode seven (or six to those odd few). “Realization Time”, despite its name, it doesn’t quite have the revelations and instead acts as a springboard for the action-packed finale. Not a terrible episode, but you’ll wonder where it’s all going.
If, like me, you’ve gone for years hearing faint references to “that Twin Peaks show” and never really investigated further, it’s time to sit down and experience it for yourself. Even if the Lynch-ian surrealism is too much for you (and really, if you think it is, try watching one of his films), just remember – this show was on TV at a time when The Learning Channel still meant it. Take a trip into Twin Peaks. I hear they’ve got damn good coffee…