Of the many sins committed by the plots of Twin Peaks season two, the most egregious of them is that they destroyed the sense of unity that held the show together at the outset. Without Laura Palmer to serve as a central story element, characters lost their excuse to interact with each other
The question of who killed Laura Palmer holds a particular and acute power. Not only did it captivate millions of people in 1990, but it has continued to have the same effect on millions more in the decades since thanks to home video and, most importantly, Netflix. When I first started watching Twin Peaks as a teenager some years ago, I wasn’t as familiar with the phenomenon, having only been told by many about how powerful the show’s legacy has become. The first season of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s series immediately gripped me, not only with that central question but (more importantly) with the remarkable world and its characters that these men had carefully crafted.
With the sheer breadth of stories being told on an average episode of Twin Peaks, it’s startling to take a step back and realize that each episode only covers a period of 24 hours. While not as slavishly devoted to calling attention to its timeframe in the way The Killing or 24 was, Twin Peaks is a show focused on the day-to-day of the town, beginning each episode with the prerequisite cup of coffee and ending on the wind blowing through the deserted streets and forest. The basic nature of that structure only makes it more remarkable to consider how much happens in a single day, and how good the writers are at keeping the momentum of each plot going as the season progresses.
After the tour de force performance that was the pilot of Twin Peaks, the most important of the many questions raised was how on earth this would be able to sustain a weekly series. Its vision was so unique and its oddness so carefully calibrated that it was easy to understand why so many of the critics who first reviewed it and loved it gave it zero chance of mainstream success, even while you could also understand why ABC would take a chance on its vision.
In the nearly 25 years since Twin Peaks debuted on ABC, the show has achieved an almost mythic status in the canon of television. Not only has it influenced a legion of other shows, but its various elements and images have become indelible parts of pop culture. Appreciation of cherry pie and damn good coffee. A lady with a log that she treats like a beloved pet. A dwarf dancing in a room with red curtains and a zig-zag carpet. When people think of Twin Peaks, they think of its oddities, and with good reason: the surreality is so distinct that it lingers long after the details surrounding it have faded.