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Posts Tagged ‘Sergei Eisenstein’

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In the first part of this series, I described how the first season of Twin Peaks was fundamentally a soap opera, a lovingly ironic take on popular prime-time soaps like Dynasty and Dallas. That version of the program, sultry and cool, reached its peak on 23 May 1990, in a cliffhanger-packed finale.

Four months later, Twin Peaks returned for a second season. But it wouldn’t be the same. Over the following twenty-two episodes, the show’s soap operatic qualities faded away—quite literally. The soap-within-a-soap, Invitation to Love, disappeared, no longer playing on anyone’s TVs. It’s heard but once in the second season, in the background, briefly—an afterthought.

What took its place? While it would be going too far to claim that Twin Peaks turned into a sitcom, it must be said that the show’s second season is much goofier than the first, littered with five-dollar words, camera mugging, and canted angles. Oddity replaced elegant aloofness, as Twin Peaks switched from running cool to hot. Many characters turned wacky, weird for weirdness’ sake, wrapped up in cornball scenarios. This is especially evident in the character of Deputy Andy Brennan. In the first season, Andy’s green, dropping his pistol during a raid, and vomiting and crying when exposed to violence and death. But in the first season finale, Andy mans up, saving Cooper from Jacques Renault, then summoning the courage to ask Lucy why she’s been giving him the cold shoulder (which leads to her telling him she’s pregnant). The start of the second season sees that progress wiped clean as Andy regresses, becoming a clown who steps on loose floorboards and knocks himself out, and who wraps his own fingers up with Scotch tape while trying to hang up sketches of BOB—a fitting image for the series’ new direction.

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Andy’s joined in his buffoonery by Nadine, who emerges from her coma transformed into an immensely-strong amnesiac who thinks she’s still in high school, as well as Ben Horne, who goes from villainous to vaudeville, chomping on celery stalks in lieu of cigars as he comically re-stages the Civil War. Amplifying these antics is a cavalcade of guest stars, including Ian Buchanan as the aptly-named Dick, a cartoonishly smarmy cad, and David LanderLaverne and Shirley’s Squiggy—who turns up three times in what could almost be three separate parts. This Twin Peaks, the more comedic Twin Peaks, the slapstick Twin Peaks, crescendos when, late in the second season, a weasel runs amok in the Great Northern Lodge after biting Dick.

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Compounding this zaniness is the fact that, behind the scenes, the powers that be at ABC forced Lynch and Frost to reveal who’d murdered Laura Palmer, which hamstrung the show. TV is always all about stalling, but presumably some of the show’s more comedic plot lines were never intended to drag on for so long. But Lynch and company needed something to pass the time while they struggled to figure out some reason for Agent Cooper to stay in town, as well as a larger, overarching storyline—another mystery to replace Laura Palmer’s murder.

But Laura was one of a kind, irreplaceable. Late in the second season, we’re introduced to Lana Budding Milford, who’s meant to recall Laura: Dr. Jacoby attests to her prodigal sexual prowess, and every man who sees her is instantly smitten. Just like Laura, Lana has the talent of making fellows feel special, the sole object of her affections.

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But unlike Laura, Lana’s a cartoon—the sitcom Laura, the Looney Tunes Laura. Lacking is Laura Palmer’s duality, her mystery.

With Laura gone, and its soap opera missing, Twin Peaks looked elsewhere for a mystery, for a new animating spirit. It found it by taking a turn toward the supernatural, reorienting itself around “the evil in the woods.”

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