January 7, 2010

Episode 20 - Dead, Wrapped in Plastic

We're going back to David Lynch's Twin Peaks, boys and girls, so let's rock!

Originally aired on October 23, 2009, ep. 20 is in many ways the most interesting show we've had so far, which is, of course, due to the richness of our subject matter. Just how do you go from the shot of a dead girl with bluish lips wrapped in plastic to an FBI agent stuck in a netherworld marked by heavy red curtains and highly bizarre forms of communication - while discussing donuts, coffee and Tibetan philosophy - is beyond me. The Twin Peaks project is by no means perfect but at its best it is so much more than entertainment or art: when it gets going, Twin Peaks becomes a living entity of its own.

The question of who killed Laura Palmer is, of course, secondary to all the characters that inhabit Twin Peaks with their outworldly quirkiness and surrealism. By the beginning of the second season of the show it becomes clear that the whole affair is more than a simple murder case, and whatever a Gordon Cole's "blue rose" case is supposed to be, it is this aspect of the mystery that we are drawn to. After all, how many shows can introduce a ghostly giant that delivers cryptic clues - while the main character of the show is bleeding profusely - and maintain their air of coolness?

Another important trait of Twin Peaks is that it is heavily layered. In addition to playing with the genre of a mystery show as well as most of the existing TV tropes at its time, not excluding a meta soap opera show, the series incorporates a long list of symbols from different literary, philosophical or religious backgrounds, and fits them in one brilliant puzzle. My favorite is the white horse that appears in the Palmers' living room not long before another murder takes place.

It is a common complaint that Twin Peaks doesn't have a real ending. In the last minute of the show we see the hero, FBI agent Dale Cooper, become possessed by the villanous spirit known as BOB, which means that a lot of evil is about to be unleashed upon the town of Twin Peaks (and beyond). The film never resolves this open ending of the show either, which is why it was hated so much upon its release in 1992, and was even booed at Cannes! The interesting thing is that the film does provide an ending or at least an explanation of the show and the fates of the key characters; it is just that it is not straightforward enough to shoot down all guessing but at the end of the day, do you think that David Lynch would want it any other way?

These and other discussions take a large chunk of our episode but it doesn't mean we've forgotten about the music. Angelo Badalamenti hijacks this episode either through his original score for the series and the film or through the music for Julee Cruise's haunting songs. We also have to mention Bohren & Der Club of Gore which have been carrying the Badalamenti legacy for the last 15 years, never missing a single tone.

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