Billed as a character driven crime procedural that happened to deal in the paranormal, The X-Files was a show that became iconic and defined 1990s television. Though it may look and sound different to later episodes, its Pilot sets the tone for the series.
Twin Peaks is a show that’s fascinated with the female form. The pilot episode of the series is literally all about the female body, the wrapped-in-plastic form of Laura Palmer and whatever secrets surround this sad sight. And from there it only escalates. The seductive swaying of Audrey Horne to music only she can hear. Norma and Shelly hiding adultery behind their demure waitress outfits. The girls of One-Eyed Jack’s, dressed up and dealt to customers like hand of poker. The near-identical figures of Laura and her cousin Maddie. The unknown motivations and alluring figures of Josie Packard, Lana Budding Milford, Ms. Jones, even Evelyn Marsh. So many of the show’s plots place women front and center, relying on both their physical allure and their hidden depths to drive the story forward.
As season two of Twin Peaks winds down, it has narrowed its focus and it is on love, and the likelihood that it may not be enough to conquer evil. Indeed, when Major Briggs is given some kind of truth serum by Windom Earle and Earle asks what he fears most in the world, Briggs responds, “The possibility that love is not enough.” Not for anything specific, just not enough.
At first, Harry’s hangover is a funny running gag in this episode, as several different characters give their opinions as to the best cure for one, from Cooper’s attempt to make Harry throw up to Annie’s “teetotaling and prayer”. It becomes such a plot point, however, repeatedly brought up and emphasized with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, that it takes on a deeper meaning.
One of the most successful things about Twin Peaks was its uniquely seamless ability to balance the dark and the light. Thanks largely to the competent handling of David Lynch, the series has become known for both its horrifying and surreal moments as well as its goofy humour, and for the unparalleled way (at least for a time) it could flit between them, combine them, and manipulate them. One single scene could be simultaneously terrifying and chuckle-inducing, and it became up to you to determine how you were supposed to feel about that. It was challenging, but remarkably and consistently effective.
One of the early ideas behind Twin Peaks was that the murder of Laura Palmer was never intend to be the central focus of the show for long—in fact, David Lynch and Mark Frost are often cited that if they’d had their way the murderer would never be revealed. Instead, it was meant as a mechanism to introduce us an audience into the world of Twin Peaks, meeting the various eccentrics and peeling back the curtain—red or otherwise—hanging over their secrets. The town would generate stories on its own, and eventually questions of Laura and her death would fade away into the ether.
Twin Peaks without David Lynch is certainly not the same, but it’s impossible to completely lose the magic. Watching these season two episodes can sometimes feel like you are consistently making excuses, forgiving this scene and that scene and placing it within the proper context for it to go down a little easier. The truth is that so much of the series still works, even as it tries to work against all that has been built by, say, giving James his own storyline.
The long-awaited revival of Twin Peaks returned from its own horrific limbo in the Black Lodge earlier this month, when David Lynch announced on Twitter that he’d worked out a deal with Showtime to honor his original commitment to direct the third season—only six weeks after he’d walked away from the project in a similarly public fashion. The news was met with universal acclaim and relief, because after being told this unique show was coming back, it felt wrong that the auteur from whose mind it sprang had to be involved to usher his creation into its next stage of life. They wanted to see it so much, in fact, that the show’s original actors even took to social media to offer character-specific similes on what losing him would mean to the show.
Audiences should consider themselves warned that “SOS”, the two-part season 2 finale of Agents of SHIELD, does not mess around. Five named characters (plus two very unlucky SHIELD redshirts) die, Coulson loses his forearm like Ash from Evil Dead, and Simmons is dragged off Drag Me to Hell-style by that mysterious Kree stone. (Did the writers have a Sam Raimi marathon just before writing this episode?) A few storylines get resolution, like the May-Dr. Garner relationship and Cal protecting Skye, but there is also a lot of set-up for season 3 in the midst of this epic showdown between SHIELD and Jiaying. For everything it is setting up, however, the episode never loses steam for an exposition dump, nor does it rush to resolve season 2’s story arcs. It easily tops the season 1 finale “Beginning of the End”, and really, “SOS Part 1 & 2” are the best two episodes that Agents of SHIELD has produced so far.