Twin Peaks season two
I just found these thoughts which I jotted after watching the second season for the first time. I’m kind of into TV in a biiig way at the moment, so it seems as good a time as any to post it.
One thing that strikes me very strongly as notable about Twin Peaks’ second season is the series’ shift from supernatural crime procedural or whodunit into all-out fantasy territory, in effect – something albeit sublimated into its domestic/pseudo-American soap milieu.
I’m both frustrated by and also quite like the impression that this shift, like the plot in general, wasn’t born out of a particular strategy. Case(s) in point: the characters who unexpectedly become important (eg, Colonel Briggs), others that are marginalised (James); elements that are abandoned (eg, the idea that the boy Andy and Dick are vying for somehow killed his parents, or the young magician who Donna meets when doing her Meals on Wheels investigations); strange plot tangents and convolutions (Nadine’s super-strength; Windom Earl apparently being retconned into being familiar with Twin Peaks and having been part of the Airforce’s Bluebird project)…
Of course, the ridiculousness of Twin Peaks’ obfuscations is all a part of its twisted subversion of moronic soap tropes: double- and triple-crossings, ever-changing allegiances (especially within Josie/Catherine/Ben/Andrew Packard/Thomas Eckert territory), unexpected appearances by long-lost characters, comas, etc, etc. But, it subverts these kind of hoary, melodramatic clichés by using them in the creation of something far more unique and compelling, to the extent that its use of symbolism and cross-fades and the ubiquitous, often seemingly ‘inappropriate’ lounge-jazz soundtrack, produces something surprisingly avant-garde for a TV show with such appeal and pop-cultural staying power (and a TV show rather closer to film, certainly than was ordinary for television at the time).
By comparison to broadly comparable modern shows – mainly from the HBO stable (Carnivàle, True Blood, et al) – which so are meticulously plotted that everything which happens is foreshadowed and resolved, everything about Twin Peaks does seem wildly messy and undisciplined. The sense of a (putting it politely) ‘organic’ production process does though feed the absorbing impenetrability of the series at large, and is in a way a large part of its freewheeling appeal. Add to that the mix of absurd, sometimes almost slapstick humour, the arguably over-large, sprawling ensemble cast, and an often genuinely unnerving sense of dread and menace, well – received wisdom would have it that that shouldn’t work, yet (though I’m sure it frustrates a lot of people) it’s beyond question that it creates a formula that’s massively appealing, whether anyone’d be able to replicate or even pin it down or not.
I would also suggest that given its made-up-on-the-hoof feel, it’s miraculous that season two is actually more intriguing than the original (…at least, to me), with its more expansive canvas, and in that, against all odds, it doesn’t totally fall apart (even in spite of a slight lapse into Indiana Jones-stupid clues in cave paintings) – and even if it doesn’t necessarily offer resolutions.
The opposition of the Black and White Lodges seems a little simplistic – and tokenistic (throwing the audience a bone in the form of an easily graspable concept underpinning events) – especially given how characteristically oblique and ambiguous the show is otherwise. But, scenes like the extended stobe-lit chaos at the Miss Twin Peaks show are quite astonishing, and Windom Earl’s disguise as the Log Lady a brilliant little knowing nod to her iconic status. Also, given that the popular consensus seems to be that the series collapsed after Laura’s story was resolved, the last episode of season two – and last episode full stop – is amazingly satisfying (and makes up for any mid-season sag). Though obviously setting up things for another season, leaving Leo with a box of tarantulas above his head, and Pete, Andrew Packard, and Audrey (!) apparently blown up, Cooper’s journey into the Black Lodge and encounters with cloudy-eyed versions of deceased characters (and himself), seems like a worthy summation of the series, as well as being a pinnacle of borderline-surreal horror, with his endless running from room to room being deeply unnerving in its nightmarish non-logic. There’s a cumulative power in these scenes’ extended length, and is all the more disturbing and tense for its lack of logic. It’s quite astonishingly brave; while no doubt indulgent and frustrating to some (which is pretty much what I feel about Inland Empire), as an expression of the Black Lodge’s ‘evil’ and power it seems fitting that this could only be approximated through an abstract approach.
Obviously, almost all the incidental characters’ stories are left hanging, but as these were mainly all tangential to the main story – of Laura, and then the Black Lodge – that doesn’t bother me overly, and despite the series concluding with a never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger, with Cooper possessed by Bob, I’m not sure there could have been a more fitting note to end on.
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