Can you remember the last time you were so scared by a television
program that you needed to pour a drink during each commercial
break? Did you stick to coffee and donuts last Saturday evening,
when Twin Peaks revealed the identity of BOB? Or did you need
something a little stiffer? Have you noticed that the show has
abandoned much of its irony, taking its tongue out of its cheek, and
adopted the codes of the fantastic, the fabulous, and the horrific? In
doing so, hasn't it shifted from being a clever joke about soap opera
and cranked itself up several emotional gears? And isn't it true that
its science-fiction-cum slasher-movie aesthetic has now moved Twin
Peaks beyond the cerebral and started hitting you in the guts, with
all the violent force of Laura Palmer's killer?
Do you like to be teased and toyed with? Was Roland Barthes correct
to compare narrative with striptease? Were you hoping that all the
garments would come off on Saturday night? Or is it more fun seeing
the text partially clothed in slinky red herrings and enigmatic clues?
Did you _really_ want to find out who killed Laura Palmer? Didn't
you think it pathetic that so many TV critics were braying for some
resolution, accusing Twin Peaks of being a cheat, a fake, and a con for
stringing us along for so long? Wasn't that the _point_? When
Benjamin Horne was almost revealed as the killer halfway through
Saturday night's episode, didn't you secretly want _not_ to find out,
just yet? If he'd been transformed into BOB as he was being arrested,
wouldn't that have been a letdown? Aren't stories like sex? And
didn't you want to delay the climax for just a little longer? The
Saturday evening slot is helping to murder this show in the ratings,
but there is some poetry in the scheduling after all, Saturday night
is when the married couples who stay in to watch TV Do It, isn't it?
So how did you fare this Saturday? Did you guess weeks ago that
Tojamura (the stereotyped Asian gentleman who asserted: "I find
adherence to fantasy troubling and unreasonable") was a woman?
Did you suspect he was Catherine? Or did you think he was Laura?
And where is Josie? Has she really left town, or is she also present, in
disguise? Does it bother you that we care? Are you upset that
television viewers invest themselves in fiction? Do you think we
should all be doing something more "serious"? Do you find adherence
to fantasy troubling and unreasonable?
Did you shiver, scream, or cry out when Laura's father Leland
adjusted his tie in the living room mirror . . . and looking back was
the ghastly face of BOB? Did you need someone to hold on to? Do we
know that he killed Laura? Maybe it was Madeleine? Meaning that
on Saturday he attacked the real Laura? And is she
(Madeleine/Laura) dead? Or will the telepathic Log Lady alert Agent
Cooper to the murder in time for him to reach the scene of the crime
and perhaps save Madeleine/Laura, or at least hear some dying
works? If Madeleine is really Laura, is that why she saw him as BOB?
Or do we assume that Madeleine (like Laura's mother Sarah and her
friend Ronnette) can also see BOB?
BOB is scary, isn't he? Why? Because BOB is real? Is it this which
makes the second season of Twin Peaks compelling? Where does it
hurt? Do you know? Do we really know who or what BOB is? Was
last Saturday's image of the mother (Sarah Palmer) comatose,
immobile, looking on at the father's abuse of her family,
_metaphorical_? In a nation concerned about child abuse, will David
Lynch dare to joke around with this stuff? Or will he grow up?
Could a television serial ever survive mid-season narrative
resolution? Was it a coincidence that last Saturday's nail-biter
occurred during sweeps month? (Aren't some questions too dumb
even to be asked?) If Twin Peaks resolves itself, will it become a
dead soap opera? A victim of murder by narrative resolution? A
televisual corpse with no outstanding questions for life support? Are
we watching a soap opera that continues forever, or a very, very long
miniseries? If this is a soap opera with an ending, then isn't Twin
Peaks a serial killer?
Doesn't television sometimes have an emotional power unmatched by
cinema, because of its serial form and its simultaneous transmission?
Because the serial invades the fabric of our lives, and begins, in this
case, to structure our Saturday nights to become, indeed, its
climax? And because we are all watching it _together_ if not as a
nation, then at least as a time-zone-united-in-horror doesn't that
lend television greater impact, the ability to constitute a
simultaneous mass media event that thereby thrills its participants
in a way that cinema never can?
And so: Have you thought about the further possibilities for
narrative arousal? Of course you have, haven't you? Leland is the
killer but what accounts for his actions, since we know that the
letters-under-the-fingernail imply a serial killer, not a crime of
parental passion? And is his wife Sarah dead, dying, drugged, or
simply insane? If Leland is BOB, why did the One-Armed Man
collapse in the presence of Benjamin Horne? Why were pages torn
from Laura Palmer's secret diary? We know (if we've read it) that
Laura didn't tear them out so who did? Did Harold Smith really kill
himself? Or was he murdered? If so, by whom? Is Leo Johnson really
catatonic? Or is he pretending? At what point will he spark into life
and unleash his sadistic madness upon Bobby and Shelley? What is
the relation between the extraterrestrial Giant and the dithering,
ancient butler? Are they the same person? Is Diane really a tape
recorder, as the sleeve for the Twin Peaks album suggests? If not,
how and when will she appear? What does "the owls are not what
they seem" mean? And where _is_ Agent Cooper's ring?
Have you noticed that the "Invitation to Love" soap-within-a-soap
that appeared during the first season has now gone? Isn't this
significant? Doesn't its disappearance signify the transformation of
Twin Peaks from a show _about_ soap opera into something more
interesting a soap opera? Hasn't the clever-clever Twin Peaks
been slowly corrupted by its form, the _serial_? Is this perhaps not
so much David Lynch's triumph over television, but television's
triumph over Lynch?
Can soap opera deal with parallel (nonrealist) realities? (If your
answer is No, what about Pam Ewing's dream?) Isn't the crypto-
feminist critique of Twin Peaks for its images of violence against
women a mistake, since we are no longer distanced from them
through intertextual joking, but instead required to feel? Isn't this
identification (the triumph of soap, of the serial, of the TV audience)
important precisely because identifying with the horror of violence
and abuse is the first step towards educating people about it? Are we
so dumb as to believe that all representations endorse what they
show? And if as some critics have suggested soap narratives are
gendered through the link between their multiple climaxes and
female sexuality, don't we also think that constant reiteration and
discovery of _questions_ might have something to do with how
women talk, not through bold statements, but through tentative
Do we still run the risk of discovering that Twin Peaks will be yet
another David Lynch exercise in playfulness? Like Wild at Heart,
couldn't Twin Peaks still turn out to be gross yet superficial?
Excessive but pointless? How important is Mark Frost (the cocreator
of the series) and his influence in providing a counterbalance to
Lynch's tendency to spoil his on work with banality posing as Art?
Did you read all those interviews with Lynch last month and find a
single interesting statement in any of them? Or did you groan at the
vapidity of these exchanges? Does it matter what Lynch thinks?
Wouldn't it be more interesting to interview the TV audience?
What is the meaning of symmetry in Twin Peaks? Have you noticed
how often we find ourselves peeking at twins? Which of these
parallels is significant? Madeleine and Laura? The Giant and the
Butler? The One-Armed Man the the One-Eyed Woman (Nadine)? The
One-Eyed Woman and One-Eyed Jacks?
Did you hear Benjamin Horne call out "what's the meaning of this?"
when the One-Armed Man collapsed in his hotel lobby? Is Agent
Cooper suffering from hypoglycemia? Was the whipped cream that
exploded all over the newly adolescent Nadine in the Double R Coffee
Shop sexual? Can you hear a waitress offer someone pie in a coffee
shop without laughing?
Remember the Little Man From Another Place who appeared in
Agent Cooper's dreams last season? Wasn't he supposed to be
important? Remember how Cooper subsequently announced: "I know
who killed Laura Palmer"? if he meant, as we must assume, that his
unconscious mind knew the answers, where are the clues in his
dream? We now know who BOB is; but are we watching a
conventional story in which BOB is the image that represents Laura's
(and her mother's . . . and Ronette's?) denial of parental abuse, or are
these events meant to be literally supernatural? To put in another
way, if many of the strange events are located in Agent Cooper's
unconscious, who sent the AGENT COOPER message from outer space?
Do the writers know? What is the meaning of all this?
We would like answers to these questions, but like chastity we
don't want them _yet_, right? Aren't questions always more erotic