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The scent of douglas firs.........or burnt engine oil?
on 30 December 2010
In the Pilot episode, as Special Agent Cooper rolls past the town's famous signboard and he is already savouring the scent of the Douglas firs it soon becomes clear that, revealed to us through the medium of Cooper's senses, and his infectious enthusiasm for the place, It will soon be almost impossible not to share his enthusiasm for the town of Twin Peaks. We soon learn that if we can't trust Coop we can't trust anybody and it becomes easy to believe that heaven really is a small lumber town that serves transcendental apple pies.
Cooper's hearty enthusiasm for the town is also reassuring to local Sheriff Truman and a respectful working relationship is born that is not only touching but also goes against the grain of the long running convention of uneasy crime fighting partners. While the sheriff's team proved, from the outset to be somewhat eccentric, Cooper's FBI colleagues revealed an endearing and utterly original notion of the Bureau and its workings. Watching Cooper and Co at work on the dark, baffling and surreal mystery of Laura Palmer's death made the first series utterly compelling.
This tension and fascination could possibly have been prolonged indefinitely or at least a whole lot longer. Unfortunately the TV company famously panicked and forced the revelation of Laura's killer early on in the second series, Co-creator David Lynch was called away on other business (Wild at Heart) and the private lives of the cast began to interfere with the plotting of the story. Thanks to compromise, pragmatism, the charisma of the show's better stars together with some enterprising flourishes from the show's various directors, the season managed to keep going to the end - or at least until Lynch's late reappearance as the director of some final fascinating scenes.
After the premature unmasking of Laura's killer, the rest of the town's small-time and slightly bigger-time villains are soon hastily dispatched as well, leaving the Sheriff's Dept to concentrate all their efforts on season two's dastardly newcomer - the `unspeakable' Wyndham Earl.
It could be argued that David Lynch has created some of the screen's most terrifying and original villains - Frank Booth, Bobby Peru, Lost Highway's Mystery Man, even BOB himself. Unfortunately Lynch must have been mentally or physically absent when Wyndham Earl was dreamed up. Wyndham spends most of his time in his forest hideaway laughing like a maniac, as he first devises a series of totally pointless chess-related crimes, before planning his evil master stroke - the kidnap of the `Miss Twin Peaks' beauty pageant winner. We're apparently supposed to see him as Hannibal Lecter - but cleverer - and more evil - whereas actually what we have is a sixties Batman villain who can't even manage to stick to a theme for his villainy. Between bouts of cackling and overacting we see him make the occasional foray into town wearing a selection of music-hall disguises and stuck-on facial hair that bafflingly manage to fool everybody he meets. When Wyndham's actual master plan is finally revealed it makes no sense at all other then to ephasize how evil he is - and to get Cooper where he needs to be for the end of the season.
Although Season One wasn't entirely lacking in hopeless subplots - (surely it must have been a relief for everyone when the Josie Packard's tedious sawmill finally burnt down). Season two sees not only the resurrection of the mind numbing sawmill melodrama, but also the cringeworthy spectacle of Nadine Hurley going back to school and the time-wasting diversion of sensitive cardboard-biker James's frowny tussle with a cardboard 'femme fatale'.
As the population count on Twin Peaks' famous sign dwindles (it actually stays at 51,201) the only guy in town as busy as Agent Coop seems to be psychiatrist Doctor Jacoby who has the entire town sign up as his patients as they fall prey to a bizarre collection of mental maladies. Far more watchable than Nadine's appalling high school episode is the case of Ben Horne whose personal crisis compels him to transform his office into a civil war battle field. Ben Horne's character seems to thrive on having a new direction to explore. Likewise Shelly and Bobby do a great job at being three dimensional and happily going wherever the story takes them. Audrey still manages to be engaging despite the character being severely compromised by script changes.
Is Coop still infectious? Absolutely. Are his familiar and less familiar FBI team still a joy to behold? Assuredly so!
Luckily, with Twin Peaks, despite and because of all the nonsense when favourite characters are on screen doing their thing, it becomes easy not to mind too much where the plot is actually going and just savour the great moments, when they occur - whether they're funny, absolutely terrifying or just plain lovely!