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Twin Peaks (1990-1991) TV Review

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Twin Peaks

Cast:
Kyle MacLachlan as Special Agent Dale Cooper
Michael Ontkean as Sheriff Harry S. Truman
Mädchen Amick as Shelly Johnson
Dana Ashbrook as Bobby Briggs
Richard Beymer as Benjamin Horne
Lara Flynn Boyle as Donna Hayward
Sherilyn Fenn as Audrey Horne
Warren Frost as Dr. Will Hayward
Peggy Lipton as Norma Jennings
James Marshall as James Hurley
Everett McGill as Ed Hurley
Jack Nance as Pete Martell
Ray Wise as Leland Palmer
Joan Chen as Jocelyn “Josie” Packard
Piper Laurie as Catherine Martell
Kimmy Robertson as Lucy Moran
Eric Da Re as Leo Johnson
Harry Goaz as Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan
Michael Horse as Deputy Sheriff Tommy “Hawk” Hill
Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer and Madeline “Maddy” Ferguson
Russ Tamblyn as Dr. Lawrence Jacoby
Kenneth Welsh as Windom Earle
Creator: Mark Frost and David Lynch

An FBI agent, Dale Cooper, is assigned to investigate the murder of a 17-year old schoolgirl, Laura Palmer, in Twin Peaks.

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Twin Peaks was one of those shows I had been hearing about for a while. It’s a show by David Lynch that seemed to have an significant impact on pop culture and heavy influence on various forms of media following it. It also spawned a movie called Fire Walk with Me, and a revival series called The Return in the late 2010s. I was curious about it and wasn’t sure what to expect from it, or whether I was going to like it at all. Eventually I checked it out and it quickly became one of my favourite shows.

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As discouraging as it might sound, Twin Peaks is something that you’ll have to persist at when watching it. Not that it starts out bad, in fact the first episode is very well handled. Its just that you have to get used to the slower pace, large amount of odd characters and storylines, and the weird tone. Within the first three episodes however, I got on board with the show. The mystery itself is intriguing, initially focussing on the death of a girl named Laura Palmer. There’s a lot that is unclear, not there’s plenty of things aren’t explained, and in some instances you’ll have to theorise an answer or just accept it and move forward. You’ll get used to that eventually though. I found myself being quickly addicted to the show, slower paced as it was. The handling of tone is great, it is strange how weird how well it balanced the grief and camp elements. There is this level of ironic soap opera to it and it is weird in that David Lynch way, yet it is funny with the quirky dark humour. It also does a good job at conveying grief and how people would react to a death. The show takes the time to really focus on the grief and emotional responses of the people who knew Laura. Its very sincere and does this very well. Season 1 is fairly short at 8 episodes, and it is abrupt in how it ends. But at the very least, it gets you on board to check out season 2.

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Season 2 is where a lot of people are somewhat mixed on the show. From what I could tell, at a certain point, original creators Mark Frost and David Lynch becomes less involved with the show, However I liked it for the most part. There’s a lot there that I liked more than season 1, it definitely picks up the pace more. Then after a particularly major episode where a lot of things have been resolved, the movie really winds down and staggers onwards. People who have watched the series know about this section. It stretches the mystery further and adds plenty of plotlines that were hit or miss, some of them feeling like timewasters (one of them not even taking place in Twin Peaks). It felt so weird for this show to become a grinding experience. At a certain point however, it picks up and I became interested again, and it culminates in an incredibly memorable finale. The final episode is one of the most shocking and haunting episodes in a show I’ve seen, especially considering that it ended on the most gripping cliffhanger in a show of cliffhangers.

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There are plenty of memorable and strange characters in this show, too many to list them all. There are definitely some characters who are better than others, some really fall flat and are either annoying or boring. More often than not though, they work, same with the acting. However, the highlight for me and many people is Kyle MacLachlan as Dale Cooper. Watching the first episode, it quickly becomes clear why Cooper became one of the most iconic characters of all time. As the FBI agent looking for who killed Laura Palmer, he’s charismatic, likable, smart, enthusiastic and confident. Even in the show’s lowest points, it picks up whenever he’s on screen. There’s some other great performances, including Sheryl Lee, Dana Ashbrook, and Ray Wise. Even David Lynch gets to make an impression, and he is entertaining whenever he’s on screen.

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Twin Peaks quite strong on a technical levels, everything from the cinematography (even the aspect ratio), environments, locations, use of colour and shadow, all of it really works. I wouldn’t say that the show is strictly horror, but it is definitely a notable part of it. The moments of horror are incredibly effective and creepy. The editing and visuals could be off kilter and quirky or surreal and off-putting. The Black Lodge is an example of everything being made to feel strange. The music is fantastic, Angelo Badalamenti has composed some fantastic themes for the show. From the title theme to Laura Palmer’s theme, all of it is excellent and adds to the atmosphere of the show.

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Some have call Twin Peaks one of the greatest tv shows, and I can’t disagree. Mark Frost and David Lynch has made an iconic show. It is very flawed in parts, some storylines are messy or don’t hold up, and there is a decent chunk in season 2 where the show meanders aimlessly. But I can’t help but love Twin Peaks, flaws and all. The characters, performances, tone, and writing all work together to make a satisfying experience and one of my favourite TV shows.