Twin Peaks‘ Demise (Teil 1)

Aufgrund meiner Urlaubsauszeit bin ich eine Woche schreibtechnisch außer Gefecht gesetzt. Stattdessen gibt es, wegen Überlänge auf mehrere Artikel verteilt, eine Arbeit über Twin Peaks, die ich im Rahmen meiner Ausbildung geschrieben habe. Teil 2 ist hierTeil 3 hier.

Hier ist Teil 1.

Twin Peaks’ Demise:

Conceptual and Technical Pitfalls in Twin Peaks’ Second Season

The television show Twin Peaks is famous for many things – its odd mix of genres, its unique atmosphere, its haunting recurring images and its love for cherry pie amongst others. The show, however, also became infamous for its huge success in its first season – which lead to incredible heights such as the crew being featured on the front pages of the Rolling Stone, the Time magazine, and even the Playboy – and its stunningly rapid decline in ratings and popularity in its second and thus final season. Reasons have been given plenty: one of the main ones cited by many scholars and even David Lynch himself was ABC’s decision to move the show from Thursday to Saturday night (Lynch and Rodley 183). Lynch also speaks of the inevitability of a receding popularity, comparing it to love (Lynch and Rodley 177), which may be exciting at first, but gradually becomes less intense as time progresses, just like Twin Peaks’ success. In this paper, however, I would like to focus solely on the writing aspect of the show (and thereby focusing on the artistic choices of the writers and creators). Twin Peaks’ downfall can be attributed at least partly to the writers themselves due to ill decisions made both in the conception and execution of the show’s second season.

When ABC picked up Twin Peaks for a second season consisting of a full 22 episodes, the writers were being confronted with a major problem: the Twin Peaks of the first season was not ready for it – because so many avenues of investigation had already been followed up, and because so many characters were left with little to do. Changes were made, completely restructuring the show – several characters’ personalities were altered, and thanks to the many cliffhangers of episode 1.07 (“The Last Evening”), many story lines could be dropped and new ones introduced in one of Twin Peaks’ most pivotal episodes, the season two opener “May the Giant Be with You”, episode 2.01 (Lavery 39). Donna, for instance, was no longer the good girl from next door (as signalled to be, for example, in the pilot, in which she was wearing a very conservative shirt) – instead, she was reinvented as a far “cooler” girl, wearing sunglasses and smoking cigarettes; in fact, her depiction is almost alienating after seeing her in the first eight episodes. By doing so, the creators gave the character of Donna more interesting things to do and say. The same goes for Nadine, who all of a sudden had the mindset of a 16-year-old after having woken up from a coma, providing new possibilities how her character could develop. The lumber mill was burnt down, Jacques Renault was dead, Cooper survived albeit with no clues whatsoever about who had shot him, and most of the leads that the police and the teen-team of James, Donna and Madeline had been following turned out to be dead ends. The show needed new leads and new plotlines.

It is possibly here that the writers must have stumbled upon the problem of Twin Peaks’ genre. So far, the detective story part of Twin Peaks about the murder of Laura Palmer had been in the foreground, both in the show and in the audience’s minds and expectations. It was Lynch’s stated goal to have the murder mystery slowly glide into the background as the focus is set on the main characters themselves (Lynch and Rodley 180). “May the Giant Be with You” seems to try to establish exactly that: a show that could go on indefinitely. Many aspects of the second season, beginning with the above mentioned episode 2.01, are much “more soap-opera-esque” than the first season: instead of piling up dead ends on the murder of Laura Palmer, much more focus is put on the meandering storylines of secondary characters such as Nadine or the incapacitated Leo. “Meandering” is not meant to denounce these story lines per se – it is simply what soap operas are trying to do to entertain. And here lies one of Twin Peaks huge conceptual dilemmas – the viewers expecting the show to solve the crime are likely not too interested in a soap opera, whereas fans of soap operas had not been drawn to this show to begin with. Viewers left the show after Leland had been revealed to be the culprit – their expectations had been fulfilled. Since that kind of audience was not interested in the “soap-opera-esque” subplots and there was no other major detective story line developed yet, episode 2.09 (“Arbitrary Law”), in which Leland Palmer was arrested and killed, marked the beginning of the end for Twin Peaks.[1]

Here Twin Peaks would lend itself fittingly to a comparisonto the ABC drama Lost (2004 – 2010), in which the survivors of a plane crash are stranded on a mysterious island. Just like in Twin Peaks, one question was at the centre of the series: instead of asking “Who killed Laura Palmer?”, Lost was trying to answer “Who is going to get off the island?” – the two shows’ MacGuffins respectively. The audience expected the answer to be revealed at the end of the series, but, again in a similar fashion to Twin Peaks, it was resolved around halfway through the show. In stark contrast to Twin Peaks, however, Lost kept performing well with audiences afterwards. How come?

The writers of Lost made sure to keep their storylines going, but more importantly, the show immediately posed new questions (“How did they get off the island? Why do they need to go back?”) that were as intriguing as the original one. There was no slump in tension in which the audience would opt out of the show, as had happened in the less engaging storylines after Leland Palmer had been killed off in Twin Peaks. Instead of vigorously pursuing BOB, the writers let Cooper become tangled up in the suspension from the FBI and the Jacques Renault storyline. Too much time passes until Windom Earle finally takes centre stage, and until then, the show more or less meanders aimlessly.


[1] Creator Mark Frost once even specifically mentioned that the lack of a major event to get the Windom Earle storyline going is what killed the show (Thompson 130).

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2 Gedanken zu “Twin Peaks‘ Demise (Teil 1)

  1. Pingback: Twin Peaks’ Demise (Teil 2) | Blamayers TV Kritiken

  2. Pingback: Twin Peaks’ Demise (Teil 3) | Blamayers TV Kritiken

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