11 December 2000 | HenryHextonEsq
One of the truly great, original TV dramas, Twin Peaks was far from perfect; however, quite a few of its run of 29 episodes undoubtedly were. Speaking just after watching the finale, I'm torn between satisfaction at a superb final episode, and tenterhooks over what is a stark cliffhanger ending. The initial Laura Palmer murder case is unravelled expertly, by episode 16, with many great surreal and shocking moments, notably the scenes involving Bob. The show's brand of off-the-wall deadpan humour was perhaps at its best in the initial episodes, for example, Cooper's rock-throwing in the woods and Leland's bizarre, impromptu dance with Ben and Jerry Horne. The main characters were all well introduced; Kyle MacLachlan is on career-best acting form here as Agent Dale Cooper. Jack Nance is lovably gruff and likeable as Pete Martel, while Ben and Jerry Horne are wonderfully brought to life by fine writing, and acting from Richard Beymer and David Patrick Kelly. The strange spirit-like characters are introduced aptly; the Giant, the backwards-dancing Dwarf, One-armed Man, the bizarre Tremonds and killer Bob. Ray Wise deserves much credit for a sensitive portrayal of Leland. Once the initial mystery is more than adequately resolved, the focus was lost for a while. For around 7 episodes, the series comparatively treaded water: the comedy became more laboured and conventional, some tedious storylines dragged on and on - eg. Evelyn Marsh, Andy/Dick; the guiding hand of David Lynch was missing. These episodes are still very watchable; as other aspects of the mystery are mused over, but things move slowly. There is welcome characterisation of Major Briggs, but the acting and writing is at times more ordinary. While still a comfortably above-par TV show, the sublime atmosphere had been squandered to an extent. The arrival in the town of Windom Earle and, later, Annie Blackburn saw the stakes rise once more. Windom Earle is a truly sadistic, convincingly evil character, with a dry wit, wild expression and an effective penchant for disguise. His contribution to the series is immense, as a new focus is provided; climaxing with the stunning end to the penultimate episode at the Miss Twin Peaks Contest. Annie Blackburn also helps to enliven the programme, proving a subtle and effective character. Gordon Cole, played by David Lynch himself is a wonderful creation, up with Pete Martel, Albert Rosenfeld and Jerry Horne in the comic mould. I love that whole episode (c.25) where he enjoys life in the cafe, contemplating writing an "epic poem" about the wonderful apple pie and kissing Shelly in front of her boyfriend Bobby; "what you are witnessing is an intimate moment between two consenting adult human beings!" or somesuch quote.
Ben Horne is well developed; the Civil War stuff fails to amuse quite as it should, yet once he is rehabilitated, the change in his character is refreshing and nicely handled. Twin Peaks is a beautiful series aesthetically, from the wonderful titles sequence, Angelo Badalamenti's stunningly evocative music scores to some wonderfully innovative photography and direction - usually in those episodes helmed by Lynch. Got to say the female quota of Twin Peaks is ample, with the beauty of Madchen Amick, Sheryl Lee, Lara Flynn Boyle and especially Sherilyn Fenn, adding poignancy. General negative comments seem irrelevant considering the overall quality of the series, but it's true tricks were missed. With the characters they had, some more imaginative situations and wit wouldn't have gone amiss. The comic possibilities of having Jerry Horne and, say, Gordon Cole interacting were unfulfilled. Some of the characters were bland - the spotless Norma Jennings, James Hurley, Audrey's boyfriend in the later episodes - and some failed to really work - Nadine I feel added little to the series.
The very final episode is, I would say, as good a series ending as they could have come up with; tantalisingly placed, as the battle between the good and evil forces in Twin Peaks is hotting up. I declare that there are some brilliant images and directorial touches in that final one. There were however loose ends untied; what happened to Leo, Audrey and especially Ben Horne and Doc Hayward? A moot point is the absurdity of its ill-availabilty on video; I wouldn't have caught it if it weren't for the Sci-Fi Channel UK. Got to say though, that while harbouring some fantastical elements, Twin Peaks is assuredly far from the realm of Sci-Fi. It is, to be pointless categorical, like a surreal soap opera with a strong flavour of its own. There are so many great scenes, moments, lines and nuances, coupled with a magnificently dreamy, tenderly moving atmosphere when at its best, that I must say Twin Peaks ranks pretty much up there with the finest TV dramas of all - Edge of Darkness & The Singing Detective. Majestic it is. Rating:- ***** (out of *****)