Twin Peaks: The Complete Series

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Twin Peaks: The Complete Series Movie Review


X-Files, Heroes, Lost? They all owe their very souls to a short-lived TV series that ran for just two seasons from 1990-1992. You might have heard of it: Twin Peaks.

I'll admit now that I wore an "I killed Laura Palmer" t-shirt thoughout my freshman year of college. Am I embarrassed by that now? Yes, but not as much as you'd think. Twin Peaks was a bona-fide phenomenon, the most subversively popular thing of its day and still a brainy-slash-guilty pleasure with few equals.

The brainchild of David Lynch, Twin Peaks tells a deceptively simple story of a highschool girl, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), who in the show's first scene washes up on the shore of a lake in her small Washington town, wrapped in plastic. Who killed Laura Palmer became a national TV question the likes of which hadn't been asked since J.R. took one in the gut.

Lynch certainly gave us plenty of people to point fingers at: A good 40 major characters appeared on the show, with even more in smaller roles. Was it the hot-tempered Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), Laura's boyfriend? Biker James Hurley (James Marshall), her other boyfriend? Her nutty therapist (Russ Tamblyn)? The local hotel magnate Ben Horne (Richard Beymer)? FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan in a career-defining role) is on the case, aided by the local sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean), bringing with him some truly unconventional sleuthing skills.

Rather than focus on hard evidence, Cooper relies on meditation, dreams and visions of midgets and giants, and Tibetan mysticism to guide him to the truth. It's a good thing, too, because when the killer is finally revealed early in season two, no one could have guessed who it was. Well, not really: The perp is actually a supernatural entity of sorts. I'd explain more but, if you haven't seen the show, you wouldn't believe me.

Suspicion is readily available: There's not a resident of Twin Peaks who isn't quirky in some way. One woman (the infamous "log lady") carries a chopped log as if it's a baby. Bobby's dad (Don S. Davis) never appears out of full military dress. Shrink Jacoby wears 3-D glasses. Prescription 3-D glasses.

After eight short episodes (including the pilot), Twin Peaks' first season came to an abrupt halt, stranding millions who were dying to know the resolution of the show's cliffhanger ending, which had at least six people, including Cooper, facing death, just as we were about to find out whodunit. And then one of TV's worst things ever occurred: Twin Peaks' second season.

1991 saw Peaks being renewed with a 22-episode order, something the show just couldn't support. The breakneck pace of the first season, which likely left many viewers confused yet thrilled, was replaced by a plodding pace that made no one happy at all, dragging out the big reveal for another eight episodes (though viewers knew who killed Laura well before the law did). And then what? Well, after housekeeping, the show took a straight nose dive jump into the shark's mouth. Cooper is stripped of his badge and decides to start wearing flannel while looking for real estate. Characters critical to the original plot thread now have nothing to do and are all but written out: Series anchor Lara Flynn Boyle plays messenger for Hurley, who gets caught up in an absurd rich-woman-frames-stud-for-murdering-her-husband plot. Hurley then literally rides off into the sunset and off the show. In unrelated news, Ben Horne goes crazy and starts reenacting the Civil War in his office.

And then there's the saga of the sawmill and "Ghostwood Estates," which revives one dead character, turns one "good" character totally evil, and erupts into a lengthy vengeance/real estate saga with no resolution, despite gobbling up hours of screen time.

And Cooper gets a love interest: Heather Graham's slurry, lisping ex-nun-cum-waitress catches the G-man's eye, leaving the audience to wonder why the hell he didn't go for the far hotter and far more intelligent Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) instead. (She ends up in the arms of a guest starring Billy Zane, who abruptly jets out of town near the end of the season.) Graham is involved ultimately in the story that keeps the show (barely) watchable: Cooper's crazy old partner Windom Earle shows up in town, and starts killing people. This is at least resolved in the final episode, and the twist ending makes you wonder what might have been had Peaks had a season three. (Alas, Lynch went on to make the awful On the Air, which was canceled after three episodes.)

And so what are we to make of Twin Peaks, paradoxically one of the best and worst shows ever made, despite its brief run? I'm not ashamed to call it a classic, but with the exception of Boyle, many of the show's stars might feel shortchanged by what it got them. You need look no farther than the careers Sherilyn Fenn, Mädchen Amick, and Sheryl Lee to see how little Peaks earned them in the end. That said, I totally had a crush on Amick for years. She definitely should have won the Miss Twin Peaks pageant in the final episode. Hey, stop the groaning!

Finally putting the whole show together on one DVD box set (the pilot has been impossible to get for years), the "Gold Box" adds a handful of deleted scenes plus a disc of archival material: MacLachlan's Peaks spoof on a 1990 episode of SNL, a 30-minute interview with the principals, and some oddities like scenes from the 2006 Twin Peaks Festival. Also: Don't miss the international version of the pilot, which attempts to wrap up the entire show in one two-hour episode, complete with fingering and apprehending the killer.

The answer's in the coffee.


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Twin Peaks: The Complete Series Rating

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