Friday, May 29, 2009

Twin Peaks: Season 2 Episode 4 (or episode 11)

[Jill Duffy, Girl Reporter, continues her episode by episode look at Twin Peaks. For more in this series see the toolbar on the right or the labels on the bottom.]


A shrill scream of terror.

A faint voice sings, repeatedly, “Bobby?” and “Leo.”

This is a terrifying opener. It grips the audience and promise a mystery. For me, it works. I’m immediately into this episode. This is what Twin Peaks is all about. The level of terror and horror is over the top by television standards. It’s truly frightening, not just on the surface, but deep down where real unspeakable stuff lies.

There are several scenes in this series that I cannot believe were ever allowed to air on television. However, the opening terror in this episode is counter-balanced soon after with comedy. Here comes good old Deputy Andy, asking Doc Hayward if he’s allowed a do-over on his sperm test.

And then, the episode tumbles downhill, with more subplot focus than I can keep up with. For example: There’s a buzz in the wee town of Twin Peaks that the biggest food and hotel critic in the Northwest is on his way! But, oh no! No one knows what he looks like! Everyone from Norma at the greasy spoon to Horne at his hotel is sprucing up the joint, laying out the linen tablecloths and rolling out the red carpet. Who could it be?

Who cares?

Meanwhile, the orchid guy, Harold, inexplicably and out of nowhere has Laura’s secret diary. Donna continues to hang around him and flirt with him. Audrey gets drugged. Some one gets shot. Maddy and Donna are at odds with each other, fighting over James mostly, but at the same time they have to work together. Josie is playing Truman like a freaking fiddle, and Josie and the mysterious man from Hong Kong have one of the worst acted scenes I’ve seen in a long time.

But, you have to watch. This is one of those shows that make it difficult for viewers to skip an episode, as you never know when something big is going to happen. With soap operas, the rule of thumb is that as long as you watch on Monday, when all the plots and characters get their new direction, and Friday, when the cliffhanger happens, you can reasonably keep up. With Twin Peaks, I started to feel like I had to pay attention to all the scenes, plots, and characters that didn’t interest me because they might be important to resolving the murder-mystery. The whole premise of the show is that I will be rewarded for paying close attention to detail as Cooper and Truman put together the pieces of the puzzle. That’s what mysteries do. That’s part of the genre.

The problem with Twin Peaks is deciding whether it fits in that genre at all, as many people argue that it does not. As I wrote in one of my original posts on Twin Peaks, I never understood who Frost and Lynch intended to write a murder mystery in a television series that did not have a definite end date. Many of the best television drama series that have come around in the past few years knew ahead of time that the show would only last, say, six seasons, allowing the creators and writers to better pace out their extended miniseries.


Joe Gualtieri said...

"Many of the best television drama series that have come around in the past few years knew ahead of time that the show would only last, say, six seasons, allowing the creators and writers to better pace out their extended miniseries."

Um, like what? The closest I can think of was the five year plan Abrams had for Lost, and that was altered because ABC wanted more.

Veronica Mars? Seasons one and two were both year long arcs.

The Wire started with two single season arcs and didn't really start working over multiple years until season 3.

Galactica's pacing was uniquely haphazard out of the better shows this decade.

Most shows don't know if they'll last a year, so coming in with a five year plan seems beyond presumptutious. I'm curious as to any non-Lost, non-Babylon 5 (not a good show, but one with a plan) examples you can supply.

Pre-Buffy popularizing it, Babylon 5 aside, most shows, even with a central mystery a la the Fugitive were open ended. That was normal.

Jill Duffy said...

The Fugitive works. Any mini-series works.

Lost is definitely the prime example.

I would say about The Wire that each season *could* have been the final season without disruption, and I wonder if the writers were writing that way intentionally.

I know this is a bit out there, but what about The Real World, Survivor, or any other season-long reality show. One season, one complete story. Sure, there were more seasons of each show, but each season had a very clear arc: start at this point, end at this point, and we were there to watch the journey.

I don't think if was planned, but Freaks and Geeks ends as if it had been planned out form the beginning.