Twin Peaks: Season 1 (1990)
By: Julian on January 27, 2011  | 
Paramount | Region 4, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 5.1 | 411 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Creators: David Lynch, Mark Frost
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Lara Flynn Boyle
Country: USA
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She's dead... wrapped in plastic.

David Lynch and Mark Frost's Twin Peaks is an odd beast, a television show that gleefully eschews the conventions normally associated with TV material. At once it is very clear that Twin Peaks would not have worked in television format; that is to say, a TV broadcast every week or fortnight – it's too maddening, too multi-faceted and there are too many characters – but on the strength of its 90-minute pilot, it's clear that Lynch and Frost seek to tap into something a little bit different, and a reappraisal on home video for those with foggy, twenty year memories is probably in order. Part-murder mystery, part-film noir, part-drama, part-comedy, Twin Peaks is the sort of intricate combination that Blue Velvet was, expanded into a plodding, seven-hour opus that delights and frustrates in equal measure.

I'll explain a little bit more about Twin Peaks' eccentricities later. For now, a synopsis: Laura Palmer, a well-liked teenager in the hamlet of Twin Peaks, Washington, has been found murdered, washed up on the bank of a lake. The FBI send their best man to help local Sheriff Harry S Truman – Kyle MacLachlan's Special Agent Dale Cooper, an utterly barmy but immensely endearing G-man. Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman explore the catalogue of potentially guilty townspeople – that is, all of them – with each lead opening up dozens more questions.

Twin Peaks Season 1 can make for quite confusing viewing: the network influence has reined in a lot of Lynch's weirdness, but alliterative names and the sheer number of characters – probably around forty in total, some of whom look quite similar – makes it seem as if Lynch and Frost are deliberately trying to bewilder us, and I am not a fan of Cooper's predilection for the supernatural and his unorthodox investigative techniques (his method of deducting suspects from the investigation by throwing a rock at a bottle when a name is called is a case in point). However, these sequences should be viewed in the spirit in which they were shot – to be deliberately offbeat. Still, in terms of avant-garde filmmaking, many of these scenes and sub-plots here are now uneasily anachronistic and slightly amusing.

Twin Peaks' supernatural themes intensify towards the end of this season and throughout the second, and the show ceases to become idiosyncratic and instead becomes utterly bizarre. The midget and red aesthetic of Cooper's dreams and an alien conspiracy are all slowly injected into Twin Peaks throughout the course of the television show, foreshadowing hugely popular science-fiction fare such as The X-Files and, later, Lost. But Lynch and Frost circle around the conclusion – namely, who killed Laura Palmer – in such an infuriating fashion that by episode eight (the finale of Season 1), the murder investigation has become merely an aside to Twin Peaks' all-encompassing weirdness. This isn't so bad in and of itself – we may stop caring about who killed Laura Palmer but one interpretation is that Laura Palmer isn't really the point of Twin Peaks; her death is merely one vehicle for presenting the insanity of the townspeople – but it doesn't disguise the fact that Twin Peaks haemorrhaged viewers by the episode throughout Season 2, and the whole thing was seen as being a bit of a joke. One can still buy "I killed Laura Palmer" t-shirts on EBay.

Technically, Twin Peaks is magnificent, and the show's most striking and enduring attribute is surely its score – Angelo Badalamenti's opening theme is instantly recognisable. But the thing that makes Twin Peaks such engrossing viewing, even today, is that it is a proud innovator of the medium. Twin Peaks lent film production qualities to television for the first time and each episode is so lovingly shot, so well-directed, and so intricately layered that one can more easily forgive some of the confusion that its labyrinthine plot induces.

Although I've spoken quite generally about Twin Peaks as a television show, this review is about Season 1, a slender eight episode affair with each running approximately 45-minutes, notwithstanding its sweeping 90-minute prologue. The first season is certainly the best, with Frost and Lynch losing way too much in the melodrama of Season 2 and their ardent avoidance in revealing Laura Palmer's killer – once again, this is not necessarily a criticism, and some of the show's original detractors may well revise their opinion when able to view all of the episodes in a comparatively short period of time, but it does evince a certain measure of cavalier self-indulgence on Frost and (I suspect mostly) Lynch's parts.
The picture is presented in its original made-for-TV 4:3 aspect ratio. It isn't particularly sharp but however theatrical Twin Peaks' aspirations were, this is still a 20-year-old TV show, so the picture quality is as good as you'd expect.
The English audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, with optional subtitles. It's fine.
Extra Features
Audio commentaries for all of the episodes except the Pilot, "Log Lady Introductions" for each of the episodes, script notes, an interview with Mark Frost, 'Postcards from the Cast", a featurette Introduction to David Lynch and a featurette entitled Learning to Speak in the Red Room. A decent enough set for fans.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
This sort of beautifully presented, but utterly insane, material is one of the reasons I am a David Lynch fan, and I've waxed lyrical about the director in other reviews for this site. A few adjectives could be used to accurately describe Twin Peaks: mad, magnificent, confusing, compelling, impenetrable, inescapable. A show that polarises its viewers on a scene-by-scene basis (not episode-by-episode or season-by-season, as is commonplace for television) cannot really be convincingly hailed as a success, but Twin Peaks' impact, both viscerally and on the television medium in general, has nonetheless been more powerful than anything before or since.

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