Weekly Binge: Twin Peaks
It's been nearly 25 years and Twin Peaks is still as much of a cult phenomenon today as it was when it first aired in 1990. With the Blu-ray finally available (with special features galore), isn't it time you stopped by David Lynch's surreal '90s treat Twin Peaks?
What's the premise? FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper arrives in the small town of Twin Peaks on the Washington/Canada border to investigate the murder of beauty queen Laura Palmer. What Cooper finds is a treasure trove of bizarre characters and even more bizarre supernatural phenomena.
What's it like? Basically, it's as though David Lynch made a film noir soap opera. Imagine Dallas mixed with The X-Files mixed with Blue Velvet, plus lots of coffee, doughnuts, and cherry pie on top.
Where can I see it? The complete series is available on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as streaming on Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, iTunes, Netflix, and Hulu.
How long will it take?The pilot episode is 90 minutes long and the following 29 episodes run about 45 minutes each, giving you approximately 24 surreal hours in the fair city of Twin Peaks, WA. If you are really hardcore and have a lot of damn fine coffee (and hot!), you could probably watch the whole series in one weekend -- which you might be tempted to do since the show often ends with a cliffhanger. However, each episode is so dense (and often confusing), you might want to limit yourself to a few episodes a day. Either way, you could definitely enjoy the entire mystery in less than a month.
What do the critics think? Howard Rosenberg of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Twin Peaks "teeters on the very edge of exquisite absurdity. Its genius plays both on the level of subtly ludicrous melodrama and on the level of baffling whodunit." Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly gave the show an A, saying "Plot is irrelevant; moments are everything. Lynch and Frost have mastered a way to make a weekly series endlessly entertaining."
Why should I watch this? You could make the case that all the great serial shows we've had in the past two decades owe a debt to what Mark Frost and Lynch accomplished on ABC with Twin Peaks -- a show way ahead of its time. It takes everything unique to David Lynch's films and distills it through an episodic lens. Just remember, the owls are not what they seem. You will fall in love with Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) at the same time, and you will never see another character quite like the Log Lady (or any of the other strange and wonderful townsfolk of Twin Peaks). Although, be warned: the show was cancelled during its second season and ends in one of the most unresolved cliffhangers of all time. Get yourself a large helping of cherry pie as you reach the end to help yourself through it.
What's my next step? Once you've finished the entire series, give yourself a little break and then watch David Lynch's prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. You might hate it at first (it was booed at Cannes and goes to horrific places with characters you've grown to love), but you're sure to like it much more on a second viewing. If you want more television about quirky small towns, try Northern Exposure or Gilmore Girls (the latter of which features several actresses from Twin Peaks in guest roles). If you want to solve another season-long mystery, try True Detective, The Bridge, Broadchurch, or Top of the Lake. Or, for a serial that's a bit surreal, try NBC's Hannibal. Film-wise, you might enjoy the 1944 film noir Laura, which inspired many aspects of the show, from Laura Palmer's name to the characteristics of Special Agent Dale Cooper. Lastly, if you haven't delved into the world of David Lynch, try watching his feature films in order, starting with Eraserhead, to see the director evolve as an artist.
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