Wrapped In Plastic – Pt. 1

[Contains damn fine coffee and SPOILERS!!!]

I originally started watching the other-worldly whodunnit Twin Peaks (1990-1991) in order to parody it, in a comic strip I was drawing at the time. There was so much hype surrounding its arrival on our screens (including the publication of pages from prime-murder-victim Laura Palmer’s “secret diary” in the newspaper my parents read*), that my knee-jerk reaction was a cynical desire to mock it. But when I actually sat down to see what all the fuss was about, I quickly got sucked in like millions of other fans around the world, and cast my snarky notepad and pencil to the carpet. Now, with the imminent arrival of a long-awaited and highly-anticipated third season (scheduled to begin May 21st), I realised it was time to revisit the series, via the very swanky (but now erroneously titled) “Entire Mystery” boxset.

Sheryl Lee as ‘Laura Palmer’ in “Twin Peaks” (S1-2)My immediate reaction after re-watching the feature-length pilot was that it was the greatest police procedural ever made… conforming to the established conventions of that genre, while also doodling all sorts of supernatural surrealism, soap-y melodrama, and broad sitcomedy/slapstick in the margins. Written by Mark Frost and David Lynch, with direction by the latter, it played like an attempt by slightly out-of-phase aliens to synthesise the most popular forms of Earthling entertainment, and it was, in a word, magnificent! Sadly, the quality (and ratings) noticeably declined over the following two seasons, in direct proportion to the level of involvement of the show’s creators: If either one of them had a hand on the wheel, then it looked and sounded like the Twin Peaks we knew and loved, but if both were absent from the writing/directing credits, then it was generally well below-par. Never boring, or “bad”, necessarily… but Frost & Lynch set the bar so high with the pilot, that even the best episodes by other writers/directors failed to deliver the same beautifully-“lensed” smorgasbord of laughter, chills, and owl-crap-craziness that launched the series with such a cinematic splash. Weirdly, of all the substitute directors that worked on the second season, the one I thought got closest to the original spirit of the show was a moonlighting Diane Keaton! There isn’t a single reference in the boxset featurettes to explain how she came to be involved with the show… so I’m just going to imagine her riding into the studio like Zorro to save the episode (#2.15), before riding off into the night again, her mysterious mission accomplished…

Wendy Robie as ‘Nadine Hurley’ in “Twin Peaks” (S1-2)Apparently there was some heated debate between Frost and Lynch over whether the central mystery of the first season (“Who killed Laura Palmer?”) should ever be resolved, in any sort of explicit way onscreen… unsurprisingly, the notoriously opaque Lynch was against it, while Frost was in favour of appeasing the audience’s fanatical curiosity. As a result, her murderer (or at least the human vessel used by her murderer) was identified, caught, and killed-off around the middle of season two (ep #2.09, to be exact)… leaving the show without a compelling central investigation to anchor all the other subplots and randomness. Instead, we were asked to invest in the machinations of ‘Windom Earle’ (Kenneth Welsh), an FBI-agent-turned-poor-man’s-Joker-wannabe, who cackled and connived his way around town wearing a series of ridiculous disguises, like a far-less-sinister Count Olaf (from A Series of Unfortunate Events). In other words, he was a sucky substitute for the psycho-killer-combo of ‘BOB’ (Frank Silva) & ‘Leland Palmer’ (Ray Wise), and he dragged the series down into a quagmire of Scooby-Doo-ish idiocy. Lynch valiantly tried to rescue the series from this artistic/intellectual nosedive with season two’s extended finale, hastily overwriting many of the character changes that had occurred in his neglectful absence, redeploying several iconic supporting players who’d been forgotten in the meanwhile, and refocussing the show’s wandering attention back on the jazzy-purgatory of The Black Lodge… all while (thankfully) giving Earle as little screen-time as possible! Phew! As far as I can tell, the third season will be a limited series written-and-directed by the original creators, and therefore has a very good chance of living up to the fans’ expectations, and repaying their loyalty…

Russ and Amber Tamblyn ala the “Twin Peaks - The Entire Mystery” Blu-Ray/DVD Release Screening at the Vista Theatre in Los Angeles, California (July 15, 2014)As for the boxset itself, there are some great extras included here, and I especially enjoyed a featurette called “Postcards From The Cast”, in which the actors shared various anecdotes from their lives outside of the show, such as Sheryl Lee’s eco-friendly sabbatical in Africa, Richard Beymer’s shamanic drug-trip in the Amazon, and Al Strobel’s near-death out-of-body experience following the car crash that took his left arm. There’s also a cameo by Amber Tamblyn, recounting how her father (Russ Tamblyn) took her to a cast signing event when she was 7 or 8, and she got them all to autograph a shiny new pair of shoes she was wearing… which remain one of the family’s most treasured possessions. Bless. Oh, and Wendy Robie was uber-adorable in her segment, discussing Frost & Lynch’s initial concern that she might be too happy and smiley to play an angry character like ‘Nadine’! But I’ll be discussing casting a little more in my next post, so let’s not get into all that now…

P.S. Generally speaking, I can’t stand instrumental music, regardless of the style or artist responsible… but Angelo Badalamenti’s score for this show is one of the few exceptions to that rule… in fact the Twin Peaks soundtrack album is one of the first CDs I ever bought, and I’ve listened to it countless times since then. Of course, Julee Cruise’s vocals are a plus, but even without them, there’s something so wonderfully hypnotic and strange about the score, that my ears just never get tired of hearing it.


* Fun fact: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer was written by David Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer Lynch, with minimal supervision and input from him.


About Dee CrowSeer

A comic-book writer with an interest in philosophy, equality, and diversity. He/him.
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