Twin Peaks: The Second Season (DVD)

Twin Peaks: The Second Season
Created by: David Lynch and Mark Frost
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Sheryl Lee, Lara Flynn Boyle, Ray Wise, Warren Frost

David Lynch became something of a household name in the 80’s, thanks to a string of critically-acclaimed films that included The Elephant Man, Dune and Blue Velvet, but his TV series Twin Peaks is probably the most influential and culturally important thing he’s ever done. Developed with Mark Frost (who had previously created the equally groundbreaking Hill Street Blues), the show was way ahead of its time, known for its intricate plot twists, cliffhanger endings and bizarre cast of characters, not to mention tremendous cinematography and production quality.

For the uninitiated, the show is based around the mysterious death of teenager Laura Palmer, following FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper as he conducts an investigation in the northeastern town of Twin Peaks. The deeper he gets, however, the more he begins to uncover twisted secrets among the rest of the townsfolk, revealing a seedy underbelly that contrasts with the town’s quaint appearance. Twin Peaks spawned a huge cult following and can be seen as a precursor to shows like Northern Exposure, X-Files, Desperate Housewives, Lost and Carnivale, among others, and is largely responsible for bringing television credibility as an artistic medium.

It may be hard to understand nowadays just how innovative this show was at the time. You have to consider the other shows that were popular in 1990 when Twin Peaks aired; primarily sitcoms like The Cosby Show, Golden Girls, and Cheers, plus a few mystery shows like Murder, She Wrote and Matlock. The murder mystery at the center of Twin Peaks is what ultimately helped draw people in, but it was the complex soap opera that gave it the depth that it was known for.

Considering that it’s one of the most important TV shows of all time, it’s been a rough ride getting Twin Peaks on DVD. Up until now, only the first season and the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me were available, with the pilot episode also available separately through an Asian distributor. Season 1 has since gone out of print, and Lynch fans have been dying for the remaining 22 episodes to be released. To say that the second season has been long overdue is something of an understatement.

Season 2 picks up from a huge cliffhanger at the end of Season 1 (spoiler alert, if you haven’t seen it) where Special Agent Dale Cooper is shot in his hotel room and lies in a pool of his own blood. This two hour season premiere is perhaps the high point of the series in my opinion, with plenty of action and humour mixed in with all the strange offbeat characters we’ve come to expect from Lynch.

As the second season continues, things get progressively weirder, creepier and more supernatural, with the eventual discovery of the White and Black Lodge and a mystical extradimensional gateway in the woods outside Twin Peaks. The unexpected revelation of Laura’s killer early on in the second season is often cited as being the primary reason for the drop in ratings and the show’s eventual cancellation. It’s strange to note that it was the network who wanted the mystery to be resolved soon, for fear of its audience losing interest; nowadays we have the opposite situation with Lost where the lack of answers for viewers seem to be causing a decline in ratings as well.

Although I will admit that Twin Peaks is frustratingly slow-paced at times, and didn’t necessarily end on a high note, it was still smart, sexy and sophisticated, not to mention surprisingly humourous at times. Beautifully shot, it really raised the bar for television in general, and the video has been cleaned up dramatically here (as you can tell when compared to the Log Lady intros to the episodes which were taken from the original source).

Kyle MacLachlan anchors the show with his wry humour and endless optimism, but the cast was packed with great actors and a wide array of compelling characters. The acting is pretty over the top, at times seeming almost like a parody of soap operas, and could easily be misunderstood by someone watching it today. The challenging nature of Twin Peaks makes it seem almost unthinkable that it actually aired at all, much less in the early 90’s. I question whether or not it would make it on TV today, since it is one of the most dense and complicated (not to mention trippy and surreal) shows ever produced.

The extra features don’t quite measure up to the first season DVD set, with only a smattering of interviews from the various episode directors, David Lynch’s daughter Jennifer (who wrote Laura Palmer’s Diary) and some of the show’s stars. The aforementioned Log Lady episode intros are also included, originally added when Bravo re-aired the series following its cancellation. They are slightly amusing, though not much more than a curiosity.

Regardless of what you thought of season 2 as a whole, at long last, the rest of the Twin Peaks story is now out there. This is a series that, above all, deserves to be kept for future generations and stands as a testament to the brilliance that television can achieve when a brave and (for the most part) uncompromising vision is applied. — Sean

SCORE: 3.5 stars

Recommended If You Like: Carnivale, Desperate Housewives, Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet