Why You Should Watch “Twin Peaks”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: we’re living in a golden age of entertainment, particularly on TV.

Better (read: smarter) people than I have tried to explain what brought us here in historical and academic terms, so I won’t try to improve upon on what’s already been done very well. But if you’re interested in the subject (and really why wouldn’t you be??) TV reviewer Alan Sepinwall wrote a great book, The Revolution Was Televised: The Cops, Crooks, Slingers, and Slayers Who Changed TV Drama Forever that covers the subject in an fun, non-academic way. It’s a good read is all I’m saying.

I argue, however, that one show, more than any other, put us on the road to TV greatness: Twin Peaks. Had it not been for Twin Peaks, we wouldn’t have gotten The Sopranos, Lost, 24, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, and many other wonderful shows that pushed the boundaries of what TV “is.”

Twin Peaks was not the first show to push the boundaries of TV. That honor belongs to Hill Street Blues (and one of that show’s writers, Mark Frost, joined David Lynch in crafting Twin Peaks). Some might argue that All in the Family or M*A*S*H, were first, but I’m specifically talking about the hour-long TV drama. Besides, AITF and M*A*S*H still adhered to many well-worn sitcom and pre-golden era TV tropes that overrule their influence. But there were other shows that broke the mold during and after Hill Street Blues like St. Elsewhere and Moonlighting.

St. Elsewhere was a post-modern take on the “medical drama.” It starred, throughout its run, William Daniels (Mr. Feeney! And KITT from Knight Rider, of course), Ed Begley Jr. (he’s been in everything and most recently was Erin’s dad in The Office finale), and Howie Mandel (he hosted Deal or No Deal and was the voice of the eponymous “Bobby” from Bobby’s World an old FOX cartoon). It’s probably most infamous for its ending where…

**SPOILER ALERT — if you count shows that ended almost 30 years ago capable of being spoiled** …we learned that the whole show took place in the imagination of an autistic boy, Tommy Westphall, staring at a snow globe with the hospital St. Elsewhere inside of it. I’ve always been fascinated by this ending because St. Elsewhere crossed over with Homicide: Life on the Street, which in turn crossed over with other shows like Law & Order. Homicide’s Richard Beltzer’s* Detective Munch crossed over on like 10 different shows as Munch meaning that all of these shows originated in the mind of Tommy Westphall. Fascinating. **SPOILERS END**

Moonlighting was the original “will they or won’t they” drama. It had highly imaginative, spirited dialogue and “outside the box” stories (for example, they had a musical episode and a black and white episode before it was fashionable to do so). It starred pre-Die Hard Bruce Willis and was on when that movie premiered so his star had begun to rise. It also starred Cybill Shepherd, who did not become as famous, and became notoriously more and more difficult to work with on the show. As far as plot, Moonlighting was about a private detective agency run by two hot people (yes, Cybill Shepherd was hot once… and Bruce used to have hair, too) who worked with a lot of sexual tension. They eventually got together and became a cautionary tale for how not to get your leads together because all drama went out of the show. It ultimately only lasted 4 seasons. If I’m being fair, the show was run by Glenn Gordon Caron, who was also a difficult personality. He had never run a show before and scripts were usually late and changed often, right up until shooting started and even during. So, the show had a few issues. But it’s notable for sharp, clever, and well-written episodes that were meta before meta was a thing. Case in point…

**SPOILER ALERT** …the last episode of the show started like all of the others. The story was just as much about the end of the show, in the real world, as it was the plot of that particular episode. Over the course of the episode, you see crew members breaking down the set in the background of scenes. David and Maddie discuss their failed romance and the dialogue is “in-world” as much as it’s a meta-commentary on how the show has failed. You could probably say that without Moonlighting there would be no Community, which is certainly the most meta show that has ever existed. **SPOILERS END**

There are many reasons why you should watch Twin Peaks (or pick it back up if you never finished originally), but I boiled them down to five in no particular order:

5. Who Killed Laura Palmer?

She’s dead, wrapped in plastic.

That question is famous. You can type it into Google and it will tell you… so don’t do it and get spoiled. The mystery surrounding her murder is made more interesting by the details of her brief, disturbed, dark life — none of which would be self evident just by looking at the angelic beauty. This is the standard-bearer by which all TV mysteries are judged.

Also, Laura’s death and life are our windows into Twin Peaks where we learn that just like Laura, nothing is what it seems. Everyone is living at least one extra life or getting’ some on the side.

4. Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn)

Audrey Horne

‘Nuff said.

3. David Lynch

It’s less creepy when sped up.

You’ve never seen a show like Twin Peaks.

Did you like True Detective? How about Lost? Or even Game of Thrones? 

All of these shows (and more) drew something from Twin Peaks. Think about all of those long, lingering wide shots of the bizarrely beautiful Louisiana countryside that filled you with dread in True Detective. Watch Twin Peaks. Somehow David Lynch turned shots of wind blowing through trees and traffic lights at night into portents of evil. Some of the scariest imagery I’ve ever seen is from Twin Peaks — and I’m talking about skin-chilling, stomach dropping scary.

2. Shelly Johnson (Madchen Amick)

See #5 “Audrey.”

1. Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan)

There’s never been a hero quite like Dale Cooper. The only things you need to know about him can be found in the below two scenes:

He’s a strange guy in a strange town investigating a strange murder.

If you’re looking for a new show to get into OR you watched Twin Peaks years ago and never finished, now is the time. The whole series is on Netflix. It’s also getting re-released on Blu-Ray along with the follow up movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. It’s a great piece of TV history and addictive as hell.

Plus, Audrey, Shelly, and Donna:

Oh, to be an eligible young man in 1990…

Let me say “You’re Welcome” in advance.

A Dearth of Strong Females in Game of Thrones? I think not.

Hermione on the Throne

How great would it be to get Hermione on Game of Thrones?

Time Magazine just reported that Game of Thrones fans are disappointed by the supposed* absence of a female character in the series upcoming 5th season.

The author, Nolan Feeney, is referring to Arianne Martell, heiress to the capital city of Dorne. She’s apparently a significant character in the books (I haven’t read that far yet — I am almost done with A Clash of Kings as of this writing.) Mr. Nolan noted: “…she was a strong, complex female character in a fictional universe that doesn’t have too many of those.”

If that’s supposed to be sarcasm, I didn’t get it. Setting aside, for the moment, the character’s supposed importance to the story in the books, I don’t see how Game of Thrones is lacking in strong female characters. Let’s count them out: Catelyn Stark**, Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, Melissandre (The Red Woman), Daenerys Targaryen, Brienne of Tarth, Asha (Theon’s sister), Osha, Lady Olenna, and, my personal favorite, Ygritte** (of “You know nothing, Jon Snow” fame). All of these women fit the “strong female character” label to me.

And I’m being somewhat dogmatic, too. I think a case can be made that Margarey Tyrell belongs in that list. She’s not stabbing people with swords or directing governments, but she’s playing a pretty high-level political game with Cersei Lannister and it’s one she’s been pursuing since Renly Baratheon. I would also suggest that Sansa deserves credit (although she has annoyed me at times) for surviving as a hostile prisoner in very bad circumstances; however, our final glimpse of Sansa suggests she’s taking control of her fate like never before. Hell, she was bat-shit crazy, but Catelyn’s sister, Lysa Arryn**, is a candidate — she was a queen and clearly in charge of her realm (again, albeit unstable in the brain space).

Consider, too, about what the author (and some of the sampled Twitter postings) are complaining. One female character is (potentially) being omitted. But they’re still adding four new female characters, that (as I understand it) are all “strong females” — Oberyn Martell’s daughters, the so-called “Sand Snakes.” The show has apparently even added a conflict (read: fight) between one of them, Obara, and another major character, which does not happen in the books. And that’s on top of the list of characters I noted above.

My point is: what are we even talking about here? What’s the purpose of this Time article? It feels like the ongoing, forced media narrative about a “war on women” or underrepresented women… or something? You tell me. I can’t figure it out.

Is the argument that there are more male characters in Game of Thrones than women? Is it that of the number of men characters vs. women characters, more men are “strong?” I wouldn’t try to refute either of those points (if that’s even from where this is coming), but take a look at some other series on TV right now. Are there even more than one or two primary women characters in the cast? Are they “strong?” Did they, for example, like Brienne of Tarth, take on, in hand to hand combat, one of the most formidable male characters in their series (to say nothing of all the other men she’s killed in combat)? And that’s just Brienne — Daenarys has been burning and burying guys left and right. Arya — freakin’ Arya — a little girl, is more badass than 90% of the males on the show.

On NCIS, they have only two female characters. Of them, they’re both “strong,” I suppose (in a network TV sense), but really only one of them is out there kicking butt and dealing justice (I’m just considering Kate, Ziva, and whoever the new one is, the same role — it satisfies the same purpose in the cast). On Special Victims Unit, there are two females, both “strong” among a cast of numerically more men (at least in my last viewing). So, are we calling out these shows as well?

Not only is this Time article unnecessary and reaching in its point (whatever it is), but I think just the opposite: Game of Thrones is setting a new standard for “strong, female characters” in entertainment. Think about who we root for on the show (or, at least, for whom I root): Daenarys, Arya, Brienne, Catelyn, Ygritte… and while I hate her guts, Cersei Lannister is a force to be reckoned with, one who has the upper hand over just about every male character.

Do some critical thinking, Time Magazine.

 

*We don’t 100% know that this character has been omitted. It just looks like, from casting info, that the role does not exist in the TV series as of now.

 

–SPOILERS BELOW–

 

**I realize that Catelyn, Ygritte, and Lysa are no longer with us, but they were on the show and were definitely “strong, female characters.”