I know who killed Laura Palmer

But I’m not going to tell you.

Hallucinations, giants, a lady with a pet log?  Yeah, this is David Lynch.  It’s business as usual here, so we’re dealing with something between the slightly odd and the totally fucking crazy.  But you already know all this David Lynch fans, and what did you expect really?

Twin Peaks was a drama about the murder of a young girl in a sleepy industrial town.  It ran for two series between 1990 and 1991 with the first series attracting critical acclaim, and the second absolutely bombing.  All the action is based around the sweet and innocent Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), wholesome prom queen who tutors kids and volunteers her spare time helping the community weirdoes.  Laura also likes cocaine, works in a gentleman’s club and has a few other skeletons in the broom closet.  One chilly morning in Twin Peaks Laura’s plastic wrapped body is washed up by the lake and chaos ensues.

Agent Cooper of the FBI (Kyle Mac Lachlan) comes to town to investigate the murder and begins to uncover the dark underside of this sleepy town meeting a lot of the wacky residents along the way.  I’ve always imagined that relatively isolated small towns are a ripe breeding ground for eccentrics and Twin Peaks does not fail to deliver on this.  As well as speaking to the residents of Twin Peaks Agent Cooper also begins to have cryptic dreams and hallucinations that he must decode in order for them to help with the case.  We are drawn into Agent Cooper’s complex psyche; enter a giant, a midget, the ghost of Laura, a red room and a creepy butler.  Everyone speaks in riddles and nothing makes a lot of sense.

Not having done a great amount of research on Twin Peaks or met anyone who had seen it, I didn’t realise that Laura’s murderer would not be revealed until season two (I thought the second series was going to deal with something else).  So I felt massively cheated at the end of season one when things did not reach a conclusion.  Also I’d made the mistake of buying the seasons separately and the second one was twice the price.  Season two seems to move a lot more slowly than season one, although I don’t know if this was just because my impatience was mounting and my enthusiasm was starting wane.  Also things got really super freaky with the mention of messages picked up in outer space.  This was really just unfathomably weird, even for David Lynch, and I wasn’t altogether impressed.  My frustration with series two apparently reflected that of the American public in the early 90s.  Network pressure lead to the revelation of Laura’s killer in the middle of season two, when it was apparently planned for the end.

There are maybe nine or ten episodes left for me to get through and at this point I think I might have to shelf the rest of Twin Peaks for a later date.  I feel like the real conclusion has been reached and I’m not sure I really care that much about seeing the other plot lines reach their end.  The only one of the side stories I was really interested in by mid season two was the relationship between Agent Cooper and Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn).  Apparently the original plan had been for them to get together, however Kyle McLachlan voiced his disapproval because he felt that it was not right for his character.  I understand that it would be unlikely for an FBI agent to get together with a teenage girl, who he had recently rescued from a brothel, but hey, this is Twin Peaks – stranger things have happened.  I think it is a shame that this storyline was not developed, and think it would have been good to have a new relationship to keep things interesting after the killer has been revealed.

Damn fine coffee: Agent Cooper and Audrey Horne

Damn fine coffee: Agent Cooper and Audrey Horne

I realise that this review has a kind of negative slant, and I don’t mean it be that way at all (at least not entirely).  Season one had me absolutely hooked; I couldn’t get enough of it.  And even season two had its compelling moments.  I love the ‘look’ of the series.  From a cinematic point of view the surrealist scenes are really cool – in the sort of way that you just know that large copies of the stills would make excellent prints because the composition and choice of colour is so good.  I have to admit that I was also guilty of analysing the clothes, and I was pretty much dying for a pleated tartan skirt and a pair of brogues a la Audrey Horne by the end of series one as well.  I get a big kick out of the inherent surrealist weirdness typical to David Lynch films.  The surrealist elements in Lynch’s films are always something that makes me wonder about how appealing they are to mainstream audiences.  If the very hint of an arthouse film is something that sends you running then I would suggest that David Lynch is probably not for you, and you should probably just stick to Spiderman or whatever.

I think my main problem with Twin Peaks was structure of the plot in series two, and the way that it began to become confused and without focus.  David Foster Wallace is able to express this a lot better than I can:

‘Like most storytellers who use mystery as a structural device and not a thematic device, Lynch is way better at deepening and complicating mysteries than he is at wrapping them up.  And the series’ second season showed that he was aware of this and it was making him really nervous.  By its thirtieth episode the show had degenerated into tics and mannerisms and red herrings, and part of the explanation for this was that Lynch was trying to divert our attention from the fact that he really had no idea how to wrap the central murder case up.  Part of the reason I actually preferred Twin Peaks’s second season to its first was the fascinating spectacle of watching a narrative structure disintegrate and a narrative artist freeze up and try to shuck and jive when the plot reached a point where his own weaknesses as an artist were going to be exposed.’

David Foster Wallace, David Lynch Keeps his Head, 1996

I don’t like to leave anything unfinished, but unfortunately I think that Twin Peaks is going to have to be tossed aside with all those craft projects that were never quite right and those books that I just can’t seem to persevere with.  So long Twin Peaks, we had a good run, and it was fun while it lasted.


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