Saturday, 15 May 2010

Twin Peaks

Still one of the most talked about TV series that ever graced our screens, David Lynch and Mark Frost's brainchild still influences culture today and still stands up to the test of time as we remember it 20 years on.

I remember running through the first season of Twin Peaks and loved it, but once I was finished I realised that the second series was a bit harder to get hold of. I only got about halfway through the second series and I lost interest. Now returning to it years later with the release of the Gold box set I started it again in the hope of watching the series in it's brief entirety.

When pitched, the expectations for this were low but the Twin Peaks pilot did better than anyone expected when it was finally aired and the first series was soon commissioned. Lynch had never done TV before and him and Frost decided that the murder of Laura Palmer would be a McGuffin that would introduce the rest of the town to us gradually, and the dark horror that lies beneath all of us would be slowly uncovered. The parallel storylines were intriguing as well as mesmerising but the real treat is the mainstream look into Lynch's mind, something that people find too hard to enter when it comes to films such as Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire or even Blue Velvet but it is clear that the man is nothing short of a genius and for those who doubt it, they need to watch this series.

The series introduced a lot of well-known actors into the spotlight including David Duchovny, Heather Graham, Lara Flynn Boyle, Kyle MacLachlan and Billy Zane to name but a few but had more than a few hiccups along the way. Namely, after the first series did so well, the second series soon started to see a dip in the audience and the TV network told them to reveal Laura's killer. This reveal caused a lot of friction as Lynch didn't want the audience to ever find out the killer as it was inconsequential for one and secondly, it was the overall reason that people kept watching, however Frost wanted the killer to be known at some point but not when the network wanted it, but as is always the case, the artist loses. Lynch and Frost left the show and once the killer was revealed, the series' ratings were abysmal and soon the series was cancelled. Lynch started to enter again near the end and was in charge of the final episode but apart from that, he felt that what had once been something he was proud of turned into a monster - and he was right.

Everything about the first season was perfect, it was a great balance of a soap opera and an arthouse film. The storylines were intriguing, the characters well thought out and the imagery was fantastic. Classic Lynch style is spread all over it, the suburban American 50's-esque culture, the zany fish-out-of-water element and the fucking weird shit that we're used to when we watch his work. Anyone who has ever watched it will remember The Red Room - a dream that Agent Cooper has that stars a midget talking backwards and more, and the evil that lurks in the forest called simply Bob. It's suffice to say that a lot of these storylines and revelations were caused by accident or simply making it up as they went along, but this spontaneity works remarkably well (unlike some series that try to replicate Twin Peaks like Lost).

The running story is that we are all trying to find out what happened to Laura Palmer and we see that the girl next door is actually quite a dark character. But soon, there's so many interesting things going on, you get hooked and then it's got you by the balls as you are led deeper into the forests surrounding the small town. The brothel 'One Eyed Jacks', the visions Sarah Palmer is having, the recluse and his secret diary of Laura's, what happened in that train car, Big Ed's affair, Ben Horne and Leo Johnson's business, and the Log Lady. This is just the tip of the iceberg in a series that keeps you guessing and, instead of something like Lost which you want to know answers for, in Twin Peaks you're afraid what the answers will bring. There will also be no other show that will spend more than ten minutes of near silence as a man serves some milk to a man recently shot. It took risks, it thought outside of the box and it's something that, especially in this economy, will never happen again in a TV drama.

However, the second series completely ruins this idyllic dream and soon, as Lynch and Frost abandon the audience, you are left with a soap opera as cheesy as any other daytime serial (James Hurley's storyline of the open road is cringeworthy at best). The characters end up in places that are sheer stupid, and all those big things you held out for end up in huge disappointment. For instance, Nadine has an eyepatch, is completely crazy but yet remarkably strong - you are left to wonder why she has a patch and why she is so strong, that it will reveal itself in a huge way or even better not at all, that it might do with something in this strange town and play a part later on; but instead it is simply revealed and brushed aside during this second series. It starts well enough but you can almost pinpoint the exact moment of where it is going wrong, and all the characters change for the worse. Audrey goes from loony sexy teen to career woman, Lara Flynn Boyle looks like she can't be bothered anymore and goes from rebel girl to dancing queen, Ben Horne goes from entrepreneur with a strange brother to a loony civil war nut, and don't get me started on the whole Jocelyn and the mill storyline. It is clear they are trying to tie up loose ends Lynch left unanswered and trying to re-create a more standard series, which not only disappoints the audience who have stayed with it, but will fail to bring anyone on board to the same old tripe they could see anywhere. Any weird stuff is just a rehash of what Lynch introduced first time round and it all becomes a big mess. They try to reason everything and in doing so take all the fun out of the series.

Fortunately, the final episode where Cooper enters The Red Room again is a masterpiece that is more fitting to the first season than ever. It's half an hour or so of some very strange stuff and thank God it left the series on an absolute high, for had it been left to the writers beforehand, it would have been ruined in my mind forever. For those yet to watch it, I would watch the entire first season, about 5 or 6 episodes of the second season and then return to the final episode because all that stuff in-between will ruin it all. If you see it and think differently let me know, but I guarantee you won't. Regardless, this is one piece of television history that people will remember fondly and if you think all this TV on now is revolutionary, you should see what Lynch was doing two decades ago.

First Series - 10/10
Second Series - 5/10

Overall - 9/10

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