On its Nov. 10 episode, ABC's "Twin Peaks" finally revealed who killed Laura
Palmer and at 11 o'clock that night, you could almost hear viewers across
America joining in a collective, "Huh?"
In case you missed it (or deliberately avoided it), the episode pegged Laura's
overacting father Leland Palmer as the killer; he apparently beat his
fast-living teen-queen daughter to death in an incestuous rage. Except that at
the time of the murder, Leland seemed to be possessed by an evil spirit known
as "Bob," who's visible to the clairvoyant and the damned as a leering guy with
long, stringy gray hair. At the end of the episode, Leland/Bob was about to
finish off Laura's look-alike cousin Maddie.
But there was a small bit of confusion. Earlier in the show, the One-Armed
Man, who is probably both clairvoyant and damned and who first tipped off Agent
Cooper (clairvoyant, but probably only darned) about the existence of Bob,
seemed to finger sleazy wheeler-dealer Ben Horne as Laura's demonic killer.
However, since the One-Armed Man warned Cooper in a previous episode that Bob
"needs a human host" to survive, it's possible Bob could jump from person to
person. Considering that Cooper has already been in telepathic contact with
extra-terrestrials, a supernatural Bob wouldn't be too far-fetched.
If this is too complicated, go rent the movie "The Hidden" which stars Kyle
"Agent Cooper" MacLachlan as an extra-terrestrial good-guy detective who comes
to Earth in pursuit of an evil being who inhabits the bodies of dying humans.
The similarities between "The Hidden" and "Twin Peaks" only begin there.
Anyway, back to those post-revelation cries of disappointment. Well, what did
you expect--some neat "Who Shot J.R."-style wrap-up? Haven't you learned by
now that "Twin Peaks" isn't "Dallas"?
That even some "Peaks" diehards were confused and frustrated by the episode's
lack of closure only proves how accustomed we are to TV conventions, how
enormous the obstacles are for shows that seek to break free from familiar
"Twin Peaks" is a constantly evolving show, one that refuses to lay all its
cards on the table at once. One week it's a comedy; the next week it could be
a sci-fi thriller or a soap spoof or a dark, disturbing vision of obsession.
The only thing you can count on is that creators David Lynch and Mark Frost and
their team of writers and directors will continue communicating pertinent
information in startling, original new ways; this season's long opening
scene of the bullet-riddled Cooper trying to get help from an ancient,
oblivious bellboy, for instance, was a weirdly effective depiction of the slow,
spacey way a person might feel as they teeter on the edge of consciousness.
"Twin Peaks" has floundered, felt draggy and flat, only when it has forced
itself into the standard, plot-advancing serial-drama pattern of buildup and
climax. At its best, "Twin Peaks" attempts to duplicate the pattern of real
life, where problems don't get solved on cue, where people make the same
mistakes over and over again.
"Twin Peaks" is to the traditional TV drama what African juju or mbaqanga music
is to rock 'n' roll--it meanders in many circles at once, instead of following
tension with release. It's polyrhythmic television.
But that all-buildup-no-wrap-up strategy appears to be one of the reasons for
the growing "Twin Peaks" backlash among viewers. Another reason could be media
overkill (thanks for getting this far through yet another "Twin Peaks"
article). A lot of it is almost certainly a natural consequence of our
infotainment-overloaded culture's frighteningly accelerated fad-to-trash-heap
Whatever the reasons, the anger generated by "Twin Peaks" is unusual and
fascinating. After this season's opener failed to spell out Laura's killer (it
subtly informed us that "Bob" did it), cafe and watercooler discussions about
the show were filled with talk of "betrayal" and "feeling jerked around."
Why get so angry? TV is virtually free entertainment, compared to the
investment of time, money, and energy it takes to go out to a movie. Yet "Twin
Peaks" has provoked more heated response than anything on the big screen this
year. (The obsessive interest of the show's faithful is just as intense as the
anger of ex-fans.)
Maybe the explanation is this: TV is a piece of furniture that usually
triggers viewer passivity, numbs you out; it's not supposed to excite you,
disturb you or (gasp) surprise you. Even a classy, intelligently crafted show
like "L.A. Law" sticks within traditional boundaries. "Twin Peaks" is a
delightful rarity--a show that refuses to be predictable.
If "Twin Peaks" escapes cancellation (it's rated 77th so far this season), it
will have proven how provocative TV can be if the networks are willing to take