Man, oh man, do I remember “Twin Peaks.” I didn’t catch the initial wave of popular fascination with the series, created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, but when they re-ran those first seven episodes, I found myself absolutely enthralled with the adventures of Sheriff Harry S. Truman and FBI Agent Dale Cooper. They dealt with the denizens of Twin Peaks, Wash., while trying to solve the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer. (I was also, it should be admitted, in deep smit with Sherilyn Fenn, who played the mysterious and sexy Audrey Horne.)
But, wow, how about that second season, huh?
Well, as you can tell by the rating that was doled out above, I was clearly just as fascinated with the second season as the first. Although to be fair, there’s no way it could have ever been compared with that short and sweet seven-episode run which set up the series’ scenario. It was also inevitable that viewership would drop off dramatically with each episode that didn’t uncover Laura’s murderer, given America’s interest in rapid-fire resolutions. Still, this odd view of life in a Northwestern town always managed to be worth watching, even when it was at its strangest. And boy, was it strange.
No, seriously, there are some absolutely batshit goings-on during Season Two. My personal favorite: Maj. Briggs mysteriously vanishes for two days while on a fishing trip with Agent Cooper, then suddenly reappears in his living room, making it look as though he’s just returned from flying a plane during World War I, with mysterious scars on his neck. I mean, my god, that alone is enough material to spawn a whole other series! One has to presume that the producers of “Lost” were fans of “Twin Peaks” back in the day, because this mixture of straightforward comedy, drama, and even melodrama, with occasional ventures into downright surreal events that flirt with science fiction (or possibly magic) is right up their alley. Unfortunately, for every legitimately fascinating concept that popped up during this season, there were bits that were just way too weird for their own good, like Nadine Hurley psychologically devolving to her teen years and developing super-strength in the process, or a depressed Benjamin Horne suddenly believing that he’s fighting the Civil War. Lynch fans may decry this as blasphemy, but one could easily argue that subsequent series, like “Northern Exposure” and “Picket Fences,” did a better job with those sorts of plot lines. Although “Twin Peaks” was all about eccentricity from the very beginning, the show was always at its best when it was being serious rather than just plumb goofy.
It’s best not to dwell on these moments, however. They might be plentiful during the second half of the season – not coincidentally, they begin in earnest after Laura Palmer’s murderer is finally brought to justice, as the series was trying to find new footing – but much of the first half of Season Two is gripping as hell. Cliffhangers from the end of Season One (like the mystery of who shot Agent Cooper, who lived and died after the explosion at the Packard Sawmill, and how Audrey Horne was going to escape from One Eyed Jacks -- the whorehouse owned by her father), were all wrapped up in suitably dramatic fashion. Despite the beliefs of the more antsy viewers, the resolution of Laura Palmer’s murder unraveled at a reasonable pace. There were a lot of pieces to the puzzle (so many, in fact, that Lynch put together a theatrical prequel to the show), and as they were put together, viewers were presented with scenes as chilling and disturbing as any horror flick. The subplot with shut-in Harold Smith (Lenny Von Dohlen) and his possession of Laura’s secret diary was particularly noteworthy. The moment when viewers finally realized that the mysterious “Bob,” who’d been accused of the murder, was actually Laura’s own father was still shocking, no matter how long it took to get there. Even during the too-odd second half of the season, you’ve got a number of plotlines to keep things interesting: the ongoing saga of Leo Johnson (when will he emerge from his coma and exact revenge on his wife?); the mystery surrounding Josie Packard (Joan Chen) and her past; and Agent Cooper’s battles with the FBI, the DEA and his former partner, Windom Earle.
The last episode of “Twin Peaks,” however, remains one of the most obnoxious television finales of all time, with more unresolved cliffhangers than ABC should have allowed. In particular, having the final shot of the series reveal that the evil spirit of Bob had possessed Dale Cooper was downright cruel. (I ain’t gonna lie to you: I am still pissed.) It really shouldn’t have been all that surprising. After all, it’s well documented that if David Lynch had had his druthers, Laura Palmer’s murder would’ve been left unsolved forever. Yet, it seems as though Lynch and Frost owed something to the show’s fans to provide at least a little more closure than they received. Blame part of it on the fact that a third season wasn’t out of the question at the time the episode was filmed. More than 15 years later, some of us are still wondering about the final fates of Ben Horne, Audrey Horne, Pete Martell, Andy and Lucy’s baby, Annie Blackburn, and, of course, the aforementioned Cooper. If there had been any justice, Lynch would’ve wrapped up the loose ends with a movie rather than leaving us hanging in the wind.
There’ll probably never be another show like “Twin Peaks,” or, at the very least, there’ll never be a show that presents such a darkly original view of small-town America. It’s good to finally have the entire series on DVD. Now, there’s only one question remaining: how long will it take CBS/Paramount to release “Twin Peaks: The Complete Series” as one big package?Special Features: When Bravo re-ran the series some years ago, they had the genius idea to hire actress Margaret Lanterman to reprise her role as The Log Lady and record new Lynch-written intros for every episode, all of which are included here. (You’re provided with the option to watch the episodes with or without them.) Unlike the first release of “Twin Peaks,” however, there are no commentary tracks, which is a major, major disappointment. The letdown is slightly rectified, however, by the inclusion of about 40 minutes worth of new interviews with many of the series’ major players, including Kyle McLachlan, Sherilyn Fenn, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook and even David Duchovny. (Surely you remember his turn as transvestite DEA agent Dennis/Denise Bryson.) There are also more in-depth “insights” with several of the episodes’ directors, as well as Jennifer Lynch (David’s daughter), who wrote the series’ tie-in book, “The Laura Palmer Diary.”