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Case Number 11101

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Twin Peaks: The Second Season

Paramount // 1990 // 1081 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // March 28th, 2007

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All Rise...

Judge Brett Cullum wants a slice of cherry pie.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Twin Peaks: The Complete First Season (published February 18th, 2002) and Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition (published November 7th, 2007) are also available.

The Charge

Windom Earle: The only thing Columbus discovered was that he was lost!

Opening Statement

Trivial Peaks Tidbit #1: The floor pattern of the Black Lodge is the same as what appears in the lobby of Henry's house in David Lynch's Eraserhead.

For over a decade I have been clutching a set of poorly mastered, LP-speed VHS tapes that contain the entire television run of Twin Peaks because it was the only way I could see the show complete from start to finish. The series is a piece of art that is easy to champion because it reinvented the hour long episodic format for the small screen. Twin Peak's legacy looms long and hard, casting shadows on every critically lauded serial drama that came after it. Every time a show comes out, the highest compliment is to compare it to the Lynch work. Without Twin Peaks you could never have Northern Exposure; Wild Palms; American Gothic; Eerie, Indiana; Picket Fences; The X-Files; Veronica Mars; Desperate Housewives; Lost; Nip/Tuck; Carnivale; ER; House; Alias; The West Wing; and CSI. Twin Peaks proved you could have intelligent, long-arcing plots, real movie production values, and touches of the surreal without comprising or pandering to get a television audience. David Lynch and Mark Frost revolutionized the medium, and the second season of the series is long overdue on DVD. It has been one of the most requested titles on the digital format, and finally we have all of it to take in (even if we need some help from our Chinese friends to catch the pilot).

Facts of the Case

Trivial Peaks Tidbit #2: Names on "Twin Peaks" often referred to classic films. Laura Palmer came from the film noir classic Laura as well as Waldo the bird and the Lydecker animal clinic. The character Madeliene Ferguson comes from a nod to Vertigo and the blonde/brunette similarities of the plots. The one armed man is named Gerard, the same name of the detective seeking out The Fugitive who was looking for a one armed man. Gordon Cole was also a character in 1950's Sunset Blvd. There are many other prime examples.

The first ten episodes of the second season of Twin Peaks provides the conclusion of the Laura Palmer mystery. It's a stunning, scary ride that has yet to be equaled on television. Fever dream images merge with real world and supernatural explanations, and the whole world spins around one horrifying revelation. Lynch and his team manage to provide a conclusion that allows for literal and supernatural explanations that feel satisfactory for such a convoluted mystery.

For the remaining thirteen episodes we have Special Agent Dale Cooper facing a violent past that has come to haunt him. His ex-partner Windom Earle surfaces in the small town to unlock a secret as well as play a dangerous cat and mouse game with Cooper. Seems the sleepy lumber town hides something awesomely supernatural, and it's all about the White Lodge and the Black Lodge. I'll let Windom explain:
Windom Earle: Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness, called the White Lodge. Gentle fawns gamboled there amidst happy, laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and joy filled the air. And when it rained, it rained sweet nectar that infused one's heart with a desire to live life in truth and beauty. Generally speaking, a ghastly place, reeking of virtue's sour smell. Engorged with the whispered prayers of kneeling mothers, mewling newborns, and fools, young and old, compelled to do good without reason.

But, I am happy to point out that our story does not end in this wretched place of saccharine excess. For there's another place, its opposite: a place of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets. No prayers dare enter this frightful maw. Spirits there care not for good deeds or priestly invocations. They are as likely to rip the flesh from your bone as greet you with a happy "Good day!" And if harnessed, these spirits in this hidden land of unmuffled screams and broken hearts would offer up a power so vast that its bearer might reorder the earth itself to his liking! This place I speak of, is known as the Black Lodge. And I intend to find it…

The Evidence

Trivial Peaks Tidbit #3: The strange vocal effects achieved in Black Lodge sequences were achieved by the actors learning to say their lines backwards. The film was then played backwards so the lines would come out forwards and sound other worldly.

Everything began quite simply when director David Lynch was paired up with author Mark Frost to produce a movie about Marilyn Monroe based on the book Goddess. That project fell through, so the pair set our to make a feature named One Saliva Bubble starring Steve Martin. Well, that never happened either. While sipping coffee one day the pair mused over what would happen if a body washed up on a shore of a sleepy town, and what if out of that scenario you created a murder mystery soap opera for television. The dynamic duo of Lynch and Frost made a ten minute pitch (then known as Northwest Passage) to an executive at ABC who loved it so much he got the network to fund seven episodes with a million dollar budget per show. Nobody thought it would ever air. But fortune smiled on the series that was to become Twin Peaks, and it got picked for a midseason replacement in the Spring of 1990. A sensation was born, and the seven episodes generated buzz that smart television had arrived. You couldn't escape Twin Peaks on every magazine cover, and people who normally stayed away from television were hooked. The whole country stood around water coolers on Friday mornings and asked the most fevered question since "Who shot J.R.?" with "Who killed Laura Palmer?." Twin Peaks was the most watched and most talked-about show of the season, and a full twenty two episode second season was ordered. It was a happy time and place until the new year began unfolding.

Several things began to happen which would make the second season a bumpy ride. First up was network meddling. The suits came in and demanded Lynch and his team firmly resolve the mystery central to the first mini-series within the first ten episodes of the second season. David Lynch was horrified because he saw the murder of the idyllic homecoming queen as the macguffin for the entire show, and he was none too pleased to unravel his greatest mystery and then have to move forward with a show that had no purpose. The network also provided new writers, and demanded fresh directors be brought into the fold to help manage a larger order of episodes (actress Diane Keaton even gets to helm one episode). Another hiccup came from the leading man, Kyle MacLachlan (who started his career in Lynch's Dune and Blue Velvet). He refused to follow through on a planned story line which would have him romantically linked to Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn, Two Moon Junction and a small role in Lynch's Wild at Heart) on the basis his character would never do such a thing. Speculation was his real life girlfriend and costar at the time, Lara Flynn Boyle (The Practice) who played Donna, had something to do with it. Whatever the case was, several new plot elements had to be introduced.

By the time the killer was unmasked, a backlash had begun. Ratings started diving, and critics accused the show of becoming a parody of itself being weird only for weird's own sake. Rumors flew that Lynch had all but abandoned the show, preferring to retreat back into film where he could work under his own rules. Time slot changes followed, and the network lethally made the show hard to find. Ultimately Twin Peaks fell in a Saturday night slot which meant instant death since it relied on a young, hip audience who would never stay home. The show was put on hiatus, and the future looked grim. Fans rallied behind an organization named C.O.O.P. ("Citizens Opposed to Offing Peaks"), and the result was a massive letter writing campaign which brought the show back for some final episodes. Agent Cooper was given a love interest without protest this time (Heather Graham in one of her first roles), and the mystery was tightened up around Windom Earle and the Black Lodge. Lynch even returned in a valiant effort by directing the season finale which promised a hideously intense cliffhanger which would surely make everyone hungry for one more year. Alas, nothing could save the show. Twin Peaks had completed its run on television after a year and a half. Lynch offered a cinematic prequel to the series Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, but we still have no resolution to the cliffhanger proposed at the end of the second season. Lynch had left each and every character of the beloved show in a precarious state on the verge of death or worse.

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Trivial Peaks Tidbit #4: Watch out for famous movie relatives. You can catch Lisa Fincher, the sister of famed director David Fincher (Zodiac), dancing with a flashlight with a young Ben and Jerry Horne during a flashback. Ted Raimi, brother of Sam Raimi director of Evil Dead and Spiderman, is featured in two episodes as Rusty, a victim of Windom Earle.

You could easily argue the best way to watch Twin Peaks would be to start with the pilot and then stop on the episode where Laura Palmer's killer is revealed to the entire town. The story reaches a satisfactory conclusion, and what comes next feels less well-formed. There's plenty of goofy fun to be had with the soap opera elements which get even crazier. There's a chance to see a young pre X-Files David Duchovny in a dress, as well as a scene-stealing role for creator David Lynch entering the story as Gordon Cole. Kenneth Welsh's (The Aviator) nine-episode appearance as Windom Earle is a highlight of the later half of the second season, and his creepy passages make the whole thing interesting if not as well-thought-out as what came before with the initial mystery. Season Two is inconsistent, but intriguing enough to sit through with rapt attention. The ugly truth is that Lynch's instinct was correct: the show had little purpose without the specter of Laura Palmer's murder haunting the story. But nobody can say they didn't try to keep things rolling with the good versus evil exploration of the Black Lodge versus the White Lodge.

There's no reason to expect anyone but fans are going to pick up Twin Peaks: The Second Season. The Artisan set that showed the first year is long out of print and hard to come by, and the pilot episode was only available as an Asian release with inferior sound and picture quality. Rumor has it there will be a future "megaset" from Paramount which will have the entire broadcast run of the series along with the pilot. So the question before us is "What makes me want to buy this one?" The best answer for that lies in the transfers. Twin Peaks didn't look or sound this good even when it aired back at the start of the '90s. Visually, the show is stunning on DVD, and there's hardly a mistake in the authoring of these episodes (which look cinematic). Even more impressive is the full surround sound mix which makes Angelo Badalementi's score more grand and sweeping than it has ever been delivered.

The extra features are nowhere near as comprehensive as what we saw on Artisan's Twin Peaks: The Complete First Season release but that's a tough act to follow. The second season is spread out over six discs featuring a bonus interview with creative people behind the show on each one. These are mainly directors of the series including Caleb Deschanel, Duwayne Dunham, Todd Holland, Tim Hunter, Stephen Gyllenhaal, and oddly David's daughter Jennifer Lynch (who wrote the book release Laura Palmer's Diary). On the final disc is a large interview grid which offers a "Play All" option which features cast members Kyle MacLachlan (Special Agent Dale Cooper), Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne), Madchen Amick (Shelly Johnson), Dana Ashbrook (Bobby Briggs), Richard Beymer (Benjamin Horne), James Marshall (James Hurley), Kimmy Robertson (Lucy Moran), Don Davis (Major Garland Briggs), Charlotte Stewart (Betty Briggs), Lenny Von Dohlen (Harold Smith), David Duchovny (cross dressing DEA Agent Dennis/Denise), Garrison Hershberger (Mike Nelson). If you choose to you can watch the interviews in small bursts off the grid, but it's an exercise in frustration. Each segment is less than two minutes with credits each time, so the best way to view them is in the "play all" mode. These interviews are little more than sound bites, but they are funny and revealing when taken as a whole. Episodes can be watched with the option to see the Log Lady intros created for Bravo (the only channel to have aired the show in syndication), but these sequences look severely dated and were not cleaned up for this release. They're here for completion, but they don't look or sound pretty. There are no episode commentaries, and no appearances from Mark Frost or David Lynch.

We rarely talk about packaging at the Verdict, but since this completes a collection it seems appropriate in the case of Twin Peaks: The Second Season. Paramount has given us a cardboard slipcase which holds three slim DVD plastic covers with two discs inside each one. It's not as artfully executed as what Artisan provided, and it's going to look strange when you set the two together on a shelf. The art looks like a simple Photoshop project; hastily put together without much thought other than an urgency to get the set out. I'll be curious to see (if a megaset does come from Paramount) if they will go with deluxe packaging.

Closing Statement

Trivial Peaks Tidbit #5: The most famous deleted scenes never shown to the public include a subplot about James Hurley and his mother. These scenes were shot but never aired. There was also an alternative scene filmed which had another identity for Laura Palmer's killer done only to throw off the media as to the true answer.

Twin Peaks was a watershed moment in television where big screen poetry found its way onto television. Each episode is full of strange symbols, obscure film references, and David Lynch's trademark stamp (even though the director was only responsible for presiding over six episodes from behind the camera). Twin Peaks: The Second Season brings together episodes 8-29 of the series, a rather uneven yet completely compelling collection. The show remains as fresh today as when it aired, and just as frustrating with no closure. Twin Peaks: The Second Season will have fans cheering for the quality of the transfers on the episodes. It'll be hard for the unconverted to find much to champion since locating a copy of the pilot and the first season now is a pricey search through eBay or Amazon for used copies. It's crucial to see the show as an unbroken whole, and hopefully if this set sells well enough we'll see a comprehensive release hit the shelves. Twin Peaks: The Second Season doesn't live up to the Artisan collection for the first year with extras or packaging, but you can't argue about the spectacular look and sound of the series on DVD. Rumor has it Lynch himself had to approve the colors and transfers. Whether that's true or not, somebody has done a bang up job authoring them.

You can't deny the power of Twin Peaks. Even when it was uneven, the show is far more interesting than 99% of what is on television before or since. It remains one of the most cinematic series ever created with its own darkly funny tone that has never been duplicated. Cinema buffs deride it as Lynch's most commercial work, because it's accessible and not as dense as his later movie projects. But one look at the season finale with its bizarre, scary sequences inside the Black Lodge, and all doubts are cast aside. This is one of the most daring television experiments ever conducted. Twin Peaks remains a show I will always hold up on a pedestal because it refused to play by anyone else's rules. Maybe that's why, after all these years and countless viewings, I still can't get enough of the series. Twin Peaks: The Second Season is a reason to celebrate simply because it is finally here. Now bring on the megaset, hopefully in a spiffy log shaped package and get Mr. Lynch and Mr. Frost to emerge from behind their red velvet curtains. Cue the dancing midget and the acid jazz.

The Verdict

Guilty of finally (legally) completing my collection of Twin Peaks on DVD. Get me a slice of cherry pie and a damn good cup of coffee and I'm set for the next ten years.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 96
Audio: 98
Extras: 82
Acting: 96
Story: 90
Judgment: 93

Perp Profile

Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Portuguese)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
• English
• Portuguese
• Spanish
Running Time: 1081 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Cult
• Drama
• Mystery
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Interactive Interview Grid
• Insights from Episode Directors and Jennifer Lynch
• Log Lady Intro

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