Lost in the Movies: Entering Twin Peaks: comment collection #1 (summer 2014)

Entering Twin Peaks: comment collection #1 (summer 2014)

Every month, I will be offering at least one post on Twin Peaks...up until Showtime re-airs the original series. Then I will post extensive coverage of each episode (mixing new reactions with my many older pieces) immediately after they air. Stay tuned.

This has been a busy week, with more posts than usual. I might as well use the opportunity to post every weekday - so today I'm sharing another Twin Peaks post. It takes a format I've used for film in general but not yet Twin Peaks itself: digging through my old comments on various forums and threads, where I first attempted to work my way through many different ideas.

Last summer, I actually began archiving comments and discussions that seemed worthwhile in one way or another (a good idea as some of these sites, including IMDb, delete old threads when they become inactive). Looking back I can see that much of the "grunt work," so to speak, for my Journey Through Twin Peaks series was conducted via this format (although there are also a lot of concepts or tangents never pursued in those videos). In May 2014, I had mostly completed the work for my upcoming David Lynch Month series of posts. I knew the blu-ray was coming out soon, including The Missing Pieces (ninety minutes of deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me), and expected that would attract some of my attention but figured this event would be the conclusion of my recently-renewed Twin Peaks obsession, not the initiation of an even deeper phase. But by the time Lynch and Mark Frost announced the series' return on October 2, 2014 (an event that will be included in the next comments round-up, or even the one after that), I was deeper into the world than I'd ever been.

These mostly unedited comments are from different forums (or under different articles, which are linked), and occasionally may overlap although I tried to remove blatant redundancies. They are mostly concerned with the relationship of the series and the film - I began this period by seeing them as essentially different entities, with the film very much a pure subversion of the show, but ended it by realizing their essential links, thanks to The Missing Pieces. This collection concludes shortly after I'd seen the deleted scenes, as I grappled with how they fit into the larger saga. It's worth noting that I was trying out different ideas, exploring different options, and as such I would not necessarily stand by all the conclusions or speculations drawn below. In particular, I had no idea that the series would be returning and so my primary goal was determining the legacy of Twin Peaks as a complete entity.

Needless to say, there are major spoilers.

May 24, 2014 on dugpa

chalfont wrote:
hmmmm....this is a difficult one......
What about going back, say 100 years, to the time around when the town of Twin Peaks was in it's birth.
The first inhabitants, with family names we already know, like Horne, Palmer, Johnson, Martell, Briggs - and some strange connections with the people we know from the series 100 years later.
The founding of the bookhouse boys, and how the people of Twin Peaks first noticed that there were something strange in the woods...
Things happening there with strange connections to the lodges, BOB, owl cave, Blue Book Project....
The mill, Indian culture, the woods......

I'd go out on a limb and say this would be the ONLY Twin Peaks "return" that I think would be compelling beyond the curio/nostalgia factor. Yes, there were a lot of loose ends in the finale but, in a sad way, it makes sense for Cooper to end where he does (the silver lining being he's in the Lodge to greet Laura). It completes the character's arc and fits Lynch's vision (in the second half of his career) of good people - or at least people who want to be good - losing their way somehow.

But I would love to hear more about the Palmer's early days of witchery, the relationship of the original Indian tribes, their conquest, and the mysteries of the woods, and the foundation of secret societies to balance the needs of home with the duty to fight the threat without. Greil Marcus compared Twin Peaks to Young Goodman Brown, and it's a pity that - geographically - we can't go all the way back to Puritan days, but even a late 19th-century settlement could draw on some of those elements.

Another great aspect is that the actors could appear at their natural age, with people like Ray Wise or Sheryl Lee returning despite their characters having died (not that Lee couldn't employ a little red hair dye - there was that color left at least). Hell, I'd even take a Palmer family exclusive (or rather, wheatever Laura's mom's side of the family was named) going back to the East Coast in the 17th century, in which we did see them in the Salem Witch Trials. You know they were there...

June 5, 2014 on IMDb

Well, a few days after stating that I don't think Lynch & Engels knew where they'd be taking Judy in future films, a new idea occurs to me. Warning: it contains spoilers for Vertigo as well as Twin Peaks.

What if Judy was, as the OP states, a victim of Bob - but what if she was to be the NEXT victim? And what if she was to be played by Sheryl Lee yet again, allowing her to complete the triptych of blonde/brunette/redhead that Lynch had promised her before the show was cancelled?

The idea occurred to me when I was thinking about Maddy - how apparently her name was explicitly selected to evoke Madeleine from Vertigo, the Hitchcock character possessed by a dead relative (and, as it turns out, one half of a dual identity). Of course, Laura's name itself evokes the 1944 film Laura, in which everyone rhapsodizes over a dead girl before it turns out she's not really dead.

But, I wondered, what happened to the other half of Madeleine's identity - the character Kim Novak plays in the second half of the film? Why didn't they ever name a character after her? Though Vertigo is one of my favorite films, I had trouble remembering the other character's name until, suddenly, like a monkey whispering in my ear, it occurred to me: "...Judy!"

Now, I'm not one to attribute master plans or over-analytical theories to Lynch; I believe his claims that he usually makes things up as he goes along (for example Bob and the Red Room), taking inspiration from his subconscious before weaving it into a larger thread. I still think the most likely explanation is that he and Engels liked the sound of this mysterious "Judy" and figured they'd expand on it at leisure in future films.

That said, there are also times when Lynch has elements planned beforehand (think, by most accounts, Leland being the murderer) and we know that Twin Peaks is rife with very self-conscious film references despite Lynch not proclaiming much interest in cinephilia - Waldo the bird (property of Dr. Lydecker) is a also a Laura reference, and Gordon Cole is from Sunset Boulevard.

Furthermore, we know how much Lynch loved working with Sheryl Lee and how he kept inventing reasons to bring her back. Thinking of Judy as Bob's next victim, someone who would be falling under the Black Lodge's spell in the intended follow-up film makes a lot of sense out of the numerous non sequiturs Judy references in the film. First of all, "We're not gonna talk about Judy" since the Black Lodge exists outside of time and space - so Bowie knows about her, but the people outside aren't ready or able to hear about it yet. Secondly, of course, the monkey whispering at the end which always seemed, while coolly enigmatic, a bit of a distraction from the tragedy and catharsis of the Laura ending, becomes a preface for the next film in which Judy will be the focus and signifies a kind of passage of victimhood from Laura to Judy (although I guess if we're being strictly chronological, the monkey should say, "Maddy!").

I feel slightly embarrassed typing all this, like one of those Shining acolytes claiming Kubrick was making a film about his role in faking the moon landing, but I'll admit I really like this idea. Not only does it tie into the idea of a larger Twin Peaks universe, but it means Lee would have continued to play a role in that universe, just as Novak played both Maddy and Judy as different aspects of the same character. I wonder if a Judy Fire Walk With Me would have been like Mulholland Drive in a way, watching a character go from light to dark.

While Lynch and Engels may have (and probably didn't) intend any of this, I wonder if as they'd explored Judy in future films their thinking would have gone in this direction. I'm not one to hope for alternate realities especially when I like what we've got (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and Inland Empire are great movies I wouldn't want to lose) but contemplating this one is poignant.

Then again, it's not too late now for a Lee-Lynch-Judy project. Lynch said in 2000 that Twin Peaks was dead as a doornail. But then, so was Laura Palmer...

June 14, 2014 on IMDb

First off, the movie definitely complicates Leland's relationship to Bob (which was complicated at times on the show but very much given a straight-up possession angle in the episode where Leland dies). It becomes less a matter of Leland being merely some unwilling vessel, and much more about a personification of his dark side, or rather an evil spirit which he is in some ways responsible for harboring. The film also shows us Leland - seemingly operating under his "own" judgment - sleeping with and later killing Teresa Banks, so it's no longer a matter of Leland only doing bad things when Bob is in the driver's seat.

Another thing: the scene in the film changed between conception and completion. The ring is not featured in screenplay (definitely not in the murder scene, perhaps not even in the whole film though I'm not 100% sure about that [it IS featured in the rest of the screenplay, just not the murder scene - ed.]). Laura simply demands Leland/Bob kill her because she won't let Bob in, and that's what they do. In the finished film of course, Laura gets the ring from the one-armed man, puts it on, and THAT's what forces her murder. It's an action she's taken that somehow threatens Bob and/or exposes Leland (it was Teresa's after all, at one point). I've even heard speculation that the ring footage was added in post-production (with pick-up shots and some trick editing), and not actually part of the scene as shot; either way, it was a very last-minute addition, presumably because Lynch wanted the passive protagonist to take some sort of charge of her own fate at the climax. But this fact also reminds us how much the story and even meaning of Twin Peaks was reinvented/reframed as it went along.

In my opinion, the best way to look at Twin Peaks - series, film, even spin-offs like the Diary (which I view as absolutely essential in the development of Laura Palmer's character) - is as an evolution rather than a straightforward revelation of something already existent. Frost and Lynch say that Leland was always going to be the killer, and Frost at least has said there was always going to be a supernatural element although the form it would take was uncertain initially (of course Lynch's brilliantly improvised incorporation of set dresser Frank Silva birthed Bob). They didn't plan to unveil much about her murder for several seasons, but when audiences, critics, and the network put the pressure on, they had to wing it and scramble to assemble a satisfactory solution incorporating ideas they were just figuring out themselves. Compounding this, Lynch's and Frost's (but especially Lynch's) involvement with the show was sporadic at this point. While Lynch almost certainly conceived Cooper's incantation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Ray Wise recalls Lynch telling him about it when he broke the news that Leland was the killer, and it does have Lynch's fingerprints all over it [I now believe it more likely that this was Frost's contribution, not Lynch's, despite Lynch being the messenger - ed.]), it's worth noting that Lynch neither wrote nor directed the episode. So it's hard to know to what extent he invented/endorsed the notion of Leland as a helpless vehicle which the episode emphasizes numerous times. Whether or not he was onboard with it, it feels very much like an attempt to soften the shocking blow of Leland being the killer (up till now the show has been emphasizing the lurid details of Laura's sex life but as soon as it's clear her father was behind it backs off the emphasis, as if uncomfortable). One line of dialogue is particularly telling: Truman says he has trouble accepting demonic possession as an explanation, and Cooper says, "Is it any easier to believe Leland raped and murdered his own daughter?"

I remember watching the show the first time and cringing when Leland was revealed, precisely for that reason. It seemed to fundamentally alter the show's tone and mood up to that point, upsetting the balance between tragedy, horror, comedy, and mystery. You can see the writers trying to compensate for this in the abysmal middle stretch of season 2 where they overemphasize the goofiness and ignore the darkness (even, perhaps especially, in the scenes at Leland's wake). But Pandora's box has now been opened and it takes the film to fully deal with what has been released. As such, it's no wonder the account in the series and the film are not entirely complementary.

Finally, it's worth remembering that Twin Peaks marks a remarkable turning point in Lynch's oeuvre. All of his previous works had featured a fairly straightforward division of good and bad, safe and dangerous, light and dark. All of his subsequent works would blur this line and locate both of these qualities WITHIN individuals. Leland/Bob is the first time we see this process take place so it's no wonder that initially, even as the good and bad inhabit the same body, the division between them is drawn more sharply. By the time of Fire Walk With Me the groundwork has been prepared to acknowledge the evil side of a beloved character - and to identify with the victim instead of a heroic rescuer. It's fascinating to witness this process take place over 2 1/2 years but does make for some inconsistencies.

July 12, 2014 on IMDb

As I said in the initial message, I did watch the series first and I will say the one part of doing so that really benefited the movie was how curious I was to see the "real" Laura Palmer. Having watched the movie many years ago and several times this spring (and written about it quite a bit), I'm so used to the idea of Laura as someone we know and love that I'd forgotten what a novelty and curio the film was at first. Knowing so much about Laura without ever having actually gotten to know her really heightened the excitement of the film's premise.

I know some people feel like it's precisely this quality that makes the film a disappointment (since Laura is not going to match whatever they imagined) but frankly I'm not sure what in their imagination is stronger than what Lynch and Lee bring forth. I don't think I've had anticipation more fulfilled and exceeded than I did watching this movie for the first time.

It reminds me of the famous Orson Welles anecdote where he talks about a play in which every character talks about a mysterious Mr. Wu and then in the very final scene they turn toward a bridge and point: "Here comes Mr. Wu!" The character enters solemnly, cross the bridge, and the curtain falls, ending the play. As the audience leaves, they all say to each other, "That actor who played Mr. Wu was really remarkable." Dependent of course, on Mr. Wu never saying a word and allowing the talk around him to speak for him. Well, supposedly Lynch destroyed the mystery and magic surrounding Mr. Wu but I for one am glad we got to spend time with him - or her.

July 31, 2014 on IMDb (after watching the "Between Two Worlds" feature on the blu-ray, in which David Lynch interviews the actors who play the Palmer family in character)

Laura's response definitely seems to be the key to the whole sequence and like you, I'm not sure what to make of her cryptic, haunting statements beyond fleeting first impressions. To wit: she uses language allusively and poetically, as if - like Lynch - she does not trust it to convey meaning directly (one reason I think his response is so approving, rather than merely pitying or polite as with her parents). While addressing the darkness she faced, she speaks of it as a path into the greater beauty, something that Lynch also certainly believes (and demonstrates in all his movies). She seems neither bitter nor in denial (as Leland does) but comes off as the wisest of the three characters, the one who has learned the most from her experiences and moved on to a higher plane of consciousness. I still have no idea what to make of "many people without names" though!

Initially, I thought the actors may have improvised their parts but watching the whole bit, I think it's too clearly indicative of Lynch's philosophy not to have been written by him beforehand. All three actors did a wonderful job summoning forth those characters again, with the additional years taken into account. Sheryl Lee even seemed to alter her voice a little to evoke that "Laura tone." It was an appropriate coda for Twin Peaks and a reminder that for Lynch at least, Laura's story remains the heart of Twin Peaks.

By the way, Grace Zabriskie really benefited from those deleted scenes, didn't she? So many great moments with Sarah, really fleshing out her character.

circa August 2, 2014 on IMDb

You can see some of the clues of the show's dissolution planted early in season 2, although these episodes also include some of the best bits of the entire series. (I view season 1 as the most consistent, but early season 2 has the highest highs.) Namely, the non-Laura subplots suddenly seem disconnected from the whole in a way they didn't in season 1, and the stakes seem far lower.

Think about it: in season 1, stuff like Leo sniffing out Shelly & Bobby, the conspiracy to burn down the mill with its constantly shifting alliances, the police sting to expose a Renault drug ring, even Norma and Ed's precarious relationship with Nadine's psychosis and Hank's parole...all of this has a basic tension to it plus given the little we know about who killed Laura it all seems like it could be potentially related to her death. Add to that the overlapping nature of the plots and characters - everyone is connected by less than six degrees of separation, so despite the multitude of storylines it's pretty tightly wound.

And then cut to season 2. Within a few episodes we can tell that Super Nadine has nothing to do with anything. The Shelly & Bobby caring for Leo has nothing to do with anything. Certainly the Andy/Dick/Lucy menage a trois leads nowhere. These are all essentially comic subplots - in season 1, they found plenty of time for comic moments but not entire plotlines that were there just for laughs (except for why Lucy was treating Andy badly, which was introduced late, and even THAT had an element of suspense to it). Even more mysterious/tense elements like Josie's backstory, Catherine's disappearance, and Audrey kidnapped at One Eyed Jack's don't feel as compelling because the characters are now sliced off from one another (there's way less interpenetration of character stories in season 2 from the get-go). Meanwhile the Laura stuff - Harold and the diary, Leland's increasing grief (or is it guilt?)-driven madness, Maddy's increasing likeness to Laura, and of course the investigation itself - all become more and more engrossing.

The lack of interconnectedness was intended; as Mark Frost said in articles at the time he was afraid that when Laura's killer was revealed people would stop watching the show so he wanted to involve viewers with other things going on in town that had nothing to do with Laura Palmer. But it turns out Lynch was correct: Laura was the golden goose, and ending that storyline would stop producing the golden eggs. You can see that even before the goose is killed, when the writers start trying to get eggs from elsewhere.

So while the first third of season two contains some of the best Twin Peaks has to offer, it also hints at why the second two-thirds (especially the middle third) will fall to pieces. The final third (starting with the episode after Josie gets stuck in the doorknob) picks up a bit because it re-introduces the element of tension (which was only there in Josie's story, but that was so sloppily presented, with characters just popping up and the danger against her pretty weakly established, that the suspense was killed). Even somewhat silly stuff like the Martells and the mysterious box has an element of suspense. We still lack the compelling central cohesion of a Laura Palmer (Windom Earle is starting to tie disparate plot threads together, but he's not as interesting and not as rooted in the town of Twin Peaks itself), but at least we're getting somewhere.

circa August 4, 2014, responding to Keith Phipps' piece "The unfixable enigma of Twin Peaks"

Well, I agree and disagree. The Missing Pieces do not make Fire Walk With me more "complete." They, do, however make Twin Peaks as an entire saga (or "Entire Mystery" as the blu-ray puts it) feel much more...if not complete, than whole.

Back when I first encountered your writing on Twin Peaks I remember being disappointed when, after reading your thorough episode guide, I saw that you considered FWWM a disappointing end to the series. I like that you're grappling with it a bit more here, and especially appreciate this line - "Its undeniable decline and strange resurrection as a punishing movie has become part of its lore, not footnotes to be dismissed." What The Missing Pieces does for me is connect the wildly disparate film and series in a way I hadn't expected (I was looking forward to these deleted scenes but mostly as curios which would tell us more about the decisions Lynch made editorially vis a vis FWWM; as expected, they confirm that the film is not "missing" something but has actually been tightened into something close to its necessary form). I had begun to feel that, given the rancor and misunderstanding so many Peaks fans have towards the film, perhaps it was best seen as a standalone surreal study of an abuse victim's psyche rather than a part of the Twin Peaks universe. I loved show and movie both but that love came from different places and seemed to conflict with one another.

By tying Laura more deeply to the community and allowing us a tonal, stylistic, and narrative bridge between the two worlds, I think The Missing Pieces deserves to be seen BETWEEN the series & the film so that we end not with Cooper complaining about brushing his teeth & a shot of garmonbozia but Laura getting her Angel.

With the help of this new transitional passage between the final episode and the feature film, I now view Twin Peaks as a long, uneven, achronological, many-cooks-in-the-kitchen but still coherent story beginning with an inanimate but intriguing corpse washing up on shore - pure body - and ending with Laura bathed in light, smiling and crying and finally receiving the transcendence she never thought she deserved - pure spirit. (Oh and just because I always have to stick up for Sheryl Lee's performance, she may have - quite intentional - moments of "bug-eyed excess" but even, maybe especially, these moments are 100% committed, deeply unsettling and powerful, and most of all, paradoxically, inexplicably, but undeniably REAL.)

It may not be the narrative fans wanted. It may not resolve numerous loose ends. It may not have a consistent tone, style, or narrative approach (something that makes me like it more in a War and Peace kinda way, but whatever). It may not be blessed, in its full form, by the series' undeniable co-creator and moving force Mark Frost. It may not even be the narrative Lynch set out to tell in the first place, when a longer series was envisioned, or even closer to the end, when sequels were still planned (but when has he ever reached a destination by setting out for it from the beginning?). It may not be easy to digest or wrap up or even approve of...but it DOES work.

And, as Lynch would say, "it's a beautiful thing."

August 4, 2014 on Blu-Ray Forum

Normally I would agree with you; as I said I can't think of ANY other film where I'd recommend this route [watching the deleted scenes before the feature]! And your viewpoint makes sense so - don't get me wrong - I'm not necessarily trying to convince you. But the topic is pretty fascinating, so I'll expand a bit (short version, though, is: are the scenes just ephemera or are they canon, and if they're canon don't they make the most emotional/narrative sense coming BEFORE the presentation of the murder and Laura's angel?). Here's the thing:

1) It's Lynch. His works usually don't operate in a straightforward narrative manner anyway! So suggesting a more radical approach to viewing a multi-part saga doesn't necessarily seem atypical, just one more step in his reframing of the usual viewing experience.

2) It's Twin Peaks/FWWM - even the "conventional" approach is somewhat unusual, as almost everyone recommends watching the saga out of chronological order with the murder which sets the plot in motion coming last. (And even if one watched the prequel first, there'd still be trouble since it's a sequel as well!)

3) Most importantly...if the scenes were just "deleted bits" and nothing more that would be one thing but Lynch has gone out of his way to present them as both canonical and a stand-alone entity (which is not to say "The Missing Pieces" necessarily works as a narrative structure, maybe more like a container to hold all these fragments - although at times it does feel like there's an overall shape). If the scenes are presented in a way that makes them "part" of the story rather than extraneous to them, the question becomes where do they fit in best? I think they fit rather disappointingly at the end of the saga - first of all, the perspective doesn't make as much emotional sense: why are we suddenly more distant from Laura than we were in FWWM? Secondly, this is narratively very unsatisfactory as the saga now ends on an ambiguous, downbeat note with Bad Cooper tricking the sheriff and a shot of garmonbozia sizzling. Much better to end with Laura getting her angel, which feels a better conclusion, and full-circle from where we began.

4) Context-wise FWWM was scripted as a very loose, episodic film. Even the finished product, with a much tighter narrative structure, has been accused (somewhat unfairly) of being "one scene just following the next." As a result, these deleted scenes tend to stand on their own pretty well. What is the context we're missing? Not much, if we've watched the series already. As far as the extra cast members go, we aren't missing any context at all from the movie since they mostly aren't present in it. As far as Laura, we're missing a bit of context (why is she running down the stairs? what upset her to make her run to Donna? who did she see Bobby kill?) but in the EXACT SAME WAY we're already missing context on the series (why was Laura into drugs and prostitution? the obvious question, who killed her? and - exactly the same as in the Missing Pieces - who did she see Bobby kill?).
Like I said, it's a second pass on the material, coming closer to Laura's experience than the series but not as close as the film. The only spots where context seems a bit more egregiously missing are the fight in Deer Meadow, Donna and Laura meeting their lumberjack johns, and the angel discussion which inspires the note to Laura. I don't think any of those scenes fail without added context, as it's pretty easy to figure out what's going on leading up to them (well, except for the fight perhaps!).
And the surreal setpieces - with Jeffries, the Lodge etc. - are just as mind-boggling seeing FWWM or Missing Pieces first, so context doesn't help much there! Also worth remembering many of the Missing Pieces are extended scenes - so Lynch re-presents information or interaction that's in FWWM but with more added to it.

I think, ultimately, the main barrier to viewing The Missing Pieces as part 2 in a 3-part saga is mental. Conceptualized as deleted scenes, watching them before the feature from which they were deleted rankles the viewer. But if we forget this aspect of the material, if we imagine that FWWM had come out in the Internet age and Lynch had released these scenes either piecemeal or as a web series or as a standalone viral feature before the movie was released - as teasers for the finished film and preparation for its shift in focus & style - I don't think anyone would have a problem with watching them this way. It's the historical context that holds us back. Lynch has already gone out of his way to contextualize & present these scenes in a way out of the usual "deleted scenes" context so it's up to us to meet him halfway (if we choose).

As you say, though - to each their own! I know on future viewings of the whole saga, I will want to start with Laura's body washing up on shore and end with her getting her angel and include the Missing Pieces as part of the experience.

August 8, 2014 on IMDb

I don't know if Lynch's absence can be blamed on Wild at Heart. When that promotion was at its heaviest, the first 7 episodes of season 2 were in production and those were the episodes Lynch was most heavily involved with (he directed 4 out of the first 8 hours of the season). According to what I've been able to glean, the real weak spots in season two - episodes 17-23 - were produced between September and December, when Wild at Heart had long ago been released stateside. The closest I've come to a "practical" explanation of Lynch's absence is from the new oral history Reflections which claims he was in Japan preparing an art show. Important as that may be, you think preventing the cancellation of his prime-time network TV show would have come first.

Near as I can gather, Lynch went MIA because he wanted to: he was disillusioned by the end of the Laura Palmer mystery. The more I learn, the more I understand Lynch's attachment to this story. He has always been fascinated by mystery and the unknown and by plunging on into the darkness. The question of "Who killed Laura Palmer?" produced all of this. But as we - and he - learned more about Laura, something else happened too: he began to fall in love with the character herself. Like Jeffrey (in Blue Velvet) unable to untangle the woman from her mystery, Lynch's interest in a mysterious situation gave way to an interest in the person at the center of that mystery. He assigned his own daughter to write Laura's diary, included a sympathetically brutal flashback to her murder in the season two premiere, directed the episode revealing her killer, and then abandoned ship as soon as she was out of the story.

Let's not forget the extent to which Sheryl Lee was Lynch's muse in all this. Between flashbacks, dreams, video footage, shots of the corpse, and the eventual introduction of Maddy, Lee is in the guest credits for EVERY SINGLE EPISODE from the pilot through episode 16. From that point on she is not in ANY episode until Lynch returns to direct the finale. Except, that is, for the credits rolling over her portrait; interestingly enough, this is the one element Lynch discards whenever he directs an episode (except for episode 9 - perhaps because, aside from the reveal in which Maddy "becomes" Laura in gruesome fashion, episode 9 is the only episode he directed which DOESN'T feature Laura Palmer in dream, flashback, or as a corpse). Not-so-incidentally, the final shot of episode 29 is not actually Bad Cooper cackling in the bathroom. It's a shot of a cup of coffee in the Red Room, with Laura's image appearing in it. As if to say, at bottom of all the fun damn fine cups of coffee, this is and always was the story of Laura Palmer. And then, of course, Lynch (without the series co-creator) made Fire Walk With Me.

Mark Frost's take on the situation appears to have been somewhat different. He saw Laura as a way into the town but interviews and articles from the time reveal his surprise at how fascinated viewers had become by the MacGuffin. While in retrospect he says Lynch was correct to oppose an early revelation, at the time Frost was supposedly more ambivalent. And the pragmatist in him knew that if they DID resolve the mystery, they needed to wean viewers away from Laura. Hence the increasingly disconnected subplots of season 2, even before the killer is revealed. Note too that for a stretch of about 10 episodes, not only do we never see Laura (or Maddy, her walking reminder) we barely even hear about her. I think the only exception is James briefly discussing her with Evelyn, away from the town of Twin Peaks [there are a few other exceptions too, all featured in chapter 11 of the video series I made several months later]. Then, in the last couple episodes her name pops up several times including at the diner, where Norma hints that the community is still suffering. Then in episode 29, Lynch brings back Ronette Pulaski and Sarah Palmer (who were not in the script), not to mention Laura and Leland themselves (who were either not scripted or featured very briefly). He wants to remind us where we came from - what we've forgotten.

Exhibit A: the beginning of episode 17 is a casebook study in suppression and denial - we can actually see the process taking place during the bizarre wake scene, with its cutaways from uncomfortable attempts to "close" the Palmer family tragedy to comic asides. I can't say I like the episode very much but it's fascinating to look at: like an x-ray of Twin Peaks' deep internal illness. Interestingly, writer Tricia Brock (who had never written an episode of the show before) says that Frost walked her through the entire episode...and that she never met Lynch once. Frost himself seems to have disappeared soon after, to prep Storyville and with Lara Flynn Boyle (allegedly) having axed the core storyline of season two - Cooper's relationship to Audrey - producer Harley Peyton was left with the worst of all possible worlds: abysmal ratings, media backlash, abandoned central storyline, prematurely finished series hook, Frost and his structural talents gone, Lynch and his surreal inspiration gone. The subsequent episodes are the worst of the series though it may already have been doomed for doing certain things right even before it started doing things wrong.

When Twin Peaks worked as an ongoing show, it was because it tapped into the deep wellspring which Lynch accessed most readily, while sustaining itself through the brilliantly-structured momentum and intricate assembly of Frost. When Lynch said Frost was at least 50%, maybe more, of what made Twin Peaks work, he wasn't kidding. But ultimately it was Lynch who knew the key. Without Laura Palmer, Twin Peaks was a body without a soul.

August 11, 2014, responding to Nick Newman's piece "How 'The Missing Pieces' deepen the legacy of 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me'"

Great to see you dive into the Lynchian swamp and begin to untangle (and also relish the insurmountable tangles) of what he's created. Some observations I agree with, some I have a different take on. To wit:

1) "in this fan’s estimation, one that no domestic-abuse drama already driven by such honesty, brutality, and passion deserves." Yes, as you say here & elsewhere in the article FWWM did not need these scenes and if anything, their appearance makes the somewhat messy feature film look all the more tight and coherent in its structure and focus.

2) "But a good one hasn’t been mined as much I’d expect: assessing The Missing Pieces as a deepening of the Twin Peaks legacy" As I said on Twitter, I completely agree with this. As discussions have emerged over the past few weeks there's been analysis of where certain scenes would go in an imagined (and quickly realized) fanedit, how they expand on the mythology of the Black Lodge or fill in gaps in knowledge, and of course discussion of the fun aspect of watching them. But I haven't seen much thought put towards HOW they fit in to the Twin Peaks story, how they strengthen & deepen its existence as a full narrative. If these are "Missing Pieces" then where do they fit in? I have a very strong idea, but more on that in a moment.

3) "its action runs in the same order as Fire’s narrative and, yet, is divorced from the context of that story, at once allowing general coherence and absolute bemusement." I found that certain scenes seemed to play better with knowledge from the film (primarily the FBI sequences) while others seemed to build off the sensibility of the show (basically the non-Laura scenes in Twin Peaks; Ed and Norma, Pete & Josie at the lumberyard etc.) Still others, particularly the extensions of familiar FWWM scenes, exist in a fascinating Mobius strip-like relationship to FWWM. On the one hand, they make an appropriately distanced segue from the series' perspective (in which Laura and her mysteries were offscreen) and the film's (in which Laura and her mysteries were our entire horizon). On the other hand, having seen the film to take a step back and view Laura's helpless interactions with her friends and neighbors takes on an extra poignancy. The relationship between The Missing Pieces, Twin Peaks (the TV series), and Fire Walk With Me is very complex; given that the relationship of series & film was already very complex (sequel/prequel, radical shift in tone and perspective, absence of Mark Frost from the proceedings) it's no small feat to make an "appropriate" vantage point even harder to grasp. But I think this reflects Lynch's views about time and perspective, that they are malleable and that conventional narrative structures simply can't contain or even approximate the full spectrum of consciousness and reality. Hence, the circular, multifaceted nature of everything he's written since Lost Highway - a nature which, in retrospect, comes to characterize Twin Peaks as well.

4) "The show’s final episodes hinted, somewhat obliquely, that we’d been watching all this time was not exactly an “original” series of events — rather the latest trip around a circular construction of time that its characters were destined to repeat time and again." Exactly - see above. This explains why so many viewers feel an itch to start again at the pilot after finishing FWWM. And this conception of how Twin Peaks operates is just so Lynchian.

5) "Instead of breaking Twin Peaks’s circular trajectory into a straight line, everything now bolstered by clear incepting and concluding points, these additional segments mostly expand the circumference — an effect that is now the closest we can come to solving an unsolvable puzzle." Absolutely. And given that we're all pretty much bound by linear time (at least in the process of watching a movie/movies), this again begs the question: where/when to watch The Missing Pieces? Obviously this is open to many interpretations but what I found, almost accidentally, is that they work best for me (and I suspect, they would work well for many first-time viewers) BETWEEN the series and the film. I've gotten hell for suggesting this in other forums, but notably none of the detractors really addressed my central point: where the Missing Pieces work best in emotional/dramatic terms. Instead, the emphasis seemed to be "these are deleted scenes, they shouldn't be watched before the film they were deleted from!" which seems to ignore the fascinating way Lynch has presented them, as canonical and detached from the feature they were originally intended to be a part of.
Something I also haven't seen discussed is the way Lynch apparently tampered with these scenes years after the fact. These sequences were edited by David Lynch, not Mary Sweeney, and they were done so - by all apparent evidence - circa 2014, not 1992. Not only does this mean incorporation of techniques and perspectives that Lynch was not really employing 22 years ago (making The Missing Pieces, at times and in certain respects, closer to Inland Empire than Fire Walk With Me or Twin Peaks in sensibility), it also means that he assembled these scenes with their standalone nature already in mind. Note the prevalence of master shots, long takes, and hard cutting in pointed contrast to the aesthetic employed in Fire Walk With Me, which emphasizes close-ups, long dissolves, and more fluid cutting to takes us into Laura's subjectivity. These techniques also serve as a bridge to the series, in which Lynch's directorial approach was often characterized by high angles, long takes, and masters and thus further serve to solidify a link between show and movie. With that in mind...

6) "Which could speak to why the only scenes with any sense of stagnation involve Laura herself: simply put, shedding light on hidden corners, even those that prove tangential, enlivens Peaks’s sprawling saga more than a different angle on what’s been established through other narratives." This is where I most disagree with you. I found the most powerful material to be the scenes of Laura interacting with her community, including the extended, more distanced/objective versions of FWWM scenes like her visit to Bobby's. (Especially poignant was the Hayward sequence which could frankly be called "Twin Peaks in a nutshell" were such an encapsulation ever possible.) These are the moments that most revolutionized the way I look at the series, the film, and the bigger picture of a "Twin Peaks saga" incorporating these wildly diverse entities. After watching the Laura scenes in The Missing Pieces, for the first time ever (for me) ALL of Twin Peaks began to feel like a sprawling but cohesive whole.

7) "How nice, though when the show many love with such passion had never even intended to solve the mystery at its dark heart, why hope to have our perceptions reconfigured now?" My take on how The Missing Pieces impacts Twin Peaks' legacy is a little different. I don't think it resolves a mystery because that's kind of contrary to its spirit BUT I do think it resolves a narrative - if "resolves" or even "narrative" are the right words to use. That is to say by linking the series and film, Lynch emphasizes that there is one story, an "entire mystery," which begins with a body washing up on shore and ends with a spirit greeted by an angel. Chronologically circular, spiritually- rather than materially-driven, subtly shifting the positions and perspectives of the central characters of Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper (whose connected yet disconnected relationship mirrors those in so many other Lynch films), this "Twin Peaks saga" (something Mark Frost began with Lynch, but chose not to participate in concluding) is basically Lynch's reinvention of the material, akin to what he did with Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, forming a singular if difficult-to-grasp experience out of many disparate fragments.

In the first Log Lady intro which he recorded in 1993, after it was clear Twin Peaks had ended as a phenomenon, Lynch has our guide into the universe state, "It is a story of many but it begins with one...Laura is the one" (a prologue which has a nice echo in Lynch's newly created epilogue, Between Two Worlds, in which Laura herself says something to the effect of "There are still many faces without names"). By reminding us that FWWM is a proper - nay, essential - part of the saga and that Laura smiling in the light is the final image of Twin Peaks' story, it's as if Lynch takes us through that "many" back into "the one." Beautiful.


Brandon's Timelines said...

So Showtime will be airing the original two seasons before season three starts?

Joel Bocko said...

Yes, David Nevins recently confirmed that the series will be re-aired in early 2017. Which suggests to me that they'll appear once a day or several times a week (since if they were only once a week, that would mean the new series wouldn't air till August which seems unlikely) leading up to the new premiere.

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