Twin Peaks: The Original Series

David Lynch’s pathfinding TV show released on Blu-ray

Sep. 20, 2016
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They found the homecoming queen on the beach, her body wrapped in plastic, her lips turned purple and her hair spilling out like seaweed. The death of Laura Palmer was the MacGuffin for “Twin Peaks,” a lonely outlier in the badlands of early 1990s television for its creativity and strangely intriguing story. Remarkably, “Twin Peaks” originated in network broadcasting, not premium cable, and was co-created by David Lynch, America’s best-known cult film director for Blue Velvet and Eraserhead. In those days the very idea of Lynch in prime time was a breakthrough— an affront to the commercial calculus of network TV.

The newly released set “Twin Peaks: The Original Series, Fire Walk with Me & the Missing Pieces Blu-ray” puts both seasons and the film prequel in high definition. Seen in this format, the beauty of Lynch’s cinematography is more apparent now than when the show first aired.

“Twin Peaks” took up the same theme and in a similar setting as Blue Velvet. Beneath the placid normalcy of small-town America, corruption festers; age-old vices thrive under the surface, amplified by modern drug trafficking, cocaine in particular. Peaceful looking Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer’s hometown, sits in a bucolic country of Douglas firs with low misty mountains and a cascading waterfall. Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt comes to mind as a predecessor from Hollywood’s golden age for its exploration of a twisted psyche hiding under the cover of respectable family life in an idyllic setting.

The pathfinding “Twin Peaks” pointed the way to the complicatedly bizarre storyline of “Lost” and the paranormal plots of “The X-Files.” Lynch’s Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) summoned preternatural abilities in pursuit of Laura Palmer’s killer; he relied on dreams for clues—many of them on the fringe of nightmare. According to Twin Peaks’ Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean), evil lurked in the woods. A secret society, communicating with masonic hand signals, strove to keep darkness at bay. Cooper must have helped inspire “The X-Files” conceit of FBI agents chasing suspects into the twilight zone.

Lynch’s particular genius involved wrapping his dream-image surrealism into a package acceptable for weekly TV. He embraced melodrama, banality and even, on occasion, bad acting with cheerful irony. There was enough infidelity, madness and murderous passion in “Twin Peaks” to fill a soap opera, and if that wasn’t enough, Lynch occasionally cut to a fictitious daytime soap opera called “Invitation to Love.” His characters were all memorable and some were archetypal, especially Big Ed (Everett McGill), a laconic hero in the Gary Cooper mode; and James Hurley (James Marshall), the sensitive Harley-riding outlaw. Leavening the drama was an off-kilter sense of humor, which found laughter in the quirks of its characters.

Fire Walk With Me failed at the box office upon release in 1992, partly because the series had already been cancelled and the mystery of Laura Palmer’s killer had been revealed. Although including several striking scenes (along with much artful gruesomeness), it’s not as satisfying as the TV show. The series was spacious with many hours to build suspense and introduce characters and tangents. The film feels crowded with many loose ends untied. Lynch has been working on a new “Twin Peaks” series with plans to debut episodes in 2017.

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