Sixteen years after it went off the air and six years after the DVD set of its first-year predecessor hit store shelves, the second and last season of David Lynch's Twin Peaks TV series is finally available. Twin Peaks fans are a long-suffering bunch when it comes to home-video presentations of the '90s murder-mystery-cum-psychedelic-soap-opera. The series' pilot episode ' in which a considerable amount of exposition takes place ' has never been released in the U.S., due to the unusual licensing/financing arrangements that it took to air the show in the first place. Those same arrangements have not only forced the excellent four-DVD first season set (originally released in 2001) out of print, but they've also hamstrung the release of the second season.
Twin Peaks debuted on ABC, yet CBS Home Video is responsible for this new, six-DVD set. Why? Because CBS' parent company, Viacom, swallowed up Republic Pictures, the secondary licensor of the home-video rights ' except for the pilot, which was funded with the stipulation that it be recut as a stand-alone film in the event the show wasn't picked up by ABC. Thus, the pilot is available (and in print) in Europe as part of the first-season DVD set, but not in the United States.
Confusing? Sure. But these convoluted mechanisms are suited to this breathtakingly original and maddeningly complex television show.
Why anyone thought it would be a good idea to let David Lynch follow up Blue Velvet with a television show is a complete mystery, but Bob Iger ' the guy who replaced Michael Eisner as Disney CEO ' proved to be Lynch's unlikely champion, strong-arming seven episodes onto the air beginning in April 1990. Those episodes captured the imagination of American audiences and catapulted 'Who killed Laura Palmer?â?� into a grating TV catchphrase the likes of 'Who shot J.R.?â?� Unlike Dallas, however, with its cast of bitchy, infighting oil barons, Twin Peaks was populated by a different species of human.
From the perspective of philosophical, pie-loving, often hallucinating FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), the isolated village of Twin Peaks was a place that bared its debauched and darkly venomous soul after little more than a second glance. While the giggling high-school girls, well-meaning law enforcement officials and hard-working diner employees/gas-station workers/sawmill owners initially appear to be the essence of idealized small-town America, the secret pacts, double-crossings, drug-fueled sex romps and murderous impulses that ensnare them reveal the black heart that David Lynch believes beats within all of our chests. Without a doubt, Lynch exaggerated these elements for effects either perverse or comic (or both; hello, Log Lady), but the metaphorical implications that arose from investigating the murder of Laura Palmer are what drove the show through its first season. The divergent and tangential storylines, the outsized surrealism and, of course, That Question, made Twin Peaks as confusing as it was consuming, resulting in a show that was a surprise hit.
By the second season, Twin Peaks was altered by its own success. While Lynch employed outside writers and directors throughout the first season, his imprimatur wasn't hard to spot on all seven of the first episodes. In the second season, Lynch was only involved in four of the 22 episodes: the first two, the last one and the infamous ratings-grabber, that revealed 'Bobâ?� as Laura Palmer's killer. (Laura's father, Leland, was shown two episodes later to have been possessed by 'Bob.â?�)
While Lynch fanatics are quick to dismiss the second season as faulty and faltering ' and, to be sure, there is a distinct sense of overexertion when it comes to year two's quirk factor ' the overwhelming originality of the series was in full bloom. The Lynch-helmed episodes are the strangest and funniest, but the ability of the other writers and directors to both extend Lynch's vision and use the Twin Peaks template as a canvas on which to experiment is notable.
After Laura Palmer's killer was revealed, the big question was, 'What now?â?� And the writers and directors responded with a touch of everything. Bizarre plot feints ranging from doppelgÃ¤ngers to unforeseen romances propelled the series through its conclusion. Fans attracted by the densely woven storylines and thoroughly creepy characters hung on through the duration, while casual viewers turned on by the water-cooler conversations left in droves. (The makers of Lost may have learned a lesson here, as it seems that they have no plans to explain everything â?¦ or anything.)
Such a result was not unexpected. Even Lynch lost interest in Twin Peaks midway through the second season, thinking that, with the mystery revealed, the central tensions had been drained from the show. But the tiny, warped universe he created managed to function quite well without a teenager wrapped in plastic, a fact made clear by the captivating strangeness of this long-overdue DVD collection.