Thursday, May 25, 2017

What "Twin Peaks" Did and Didn't Do

Describing the classic television series "Twin Peaks" is a challenge. There is no one way to explain what it was about, sometimes because it didn't know itself. Half way through the series there was a dramatic reveal that many consider a disastrous decision. The network pushed the show's writers and creators to disclose a major plot. By resolving a major plot point, the purpose for the series' existence was destroyed.  Loyal fans continued to watch by grasping hold of other underlying elements. The remaining viewers jumped ship and it couldn't recover enough. Even if the show gave into the network demands, the opportunities for a creative reinvention existed; but were squandered. What worked kept it forever in pop-culture consciousness. What they missed developing could have saved it from ignoble failure.

The show starts out with the discovery of a murdered girl. The whole town grieves because she was well known and loved. An eccentric FBI agent named Cooper arrives to try and solve the case.  He discovers, along with the audience, the peculiarities of residence in this sleepy Washington lumber town. Each character has quirks and flaws that set them apart from the normal cast of television programming. To put it another way, the whole town is a psychological mess even without the discovery of Laura Palmer's body. And it works brilliantly to create both tragic and comic moments at the same time. The viewer is left to decide if they want to laugh or cry. And it only got better from there until it didn't.