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 1 ist hier, Teil 3 hier.
Hier ist Teil 2.
The “soap opera/detective story” -dilemma was not the only clash between expectations and reality. The further the investigation of special agent Dale Cooper continued, the more supernatural elements occurred in the story – including but not limited to messages from outer space, evil spirits, visions, giants and dwarfs, superhuman strength, and most prominently, the mystery of the white and black lodges. Some of these elements had already been in place in season one, but only in the second season were they put into the limelight – e.g. Major Briggs became an important player, and the fight for the lodges became a central plot point.
Back in 1990, supernatural elements in a drama show were not very common, and the mythology of Twin Peaks is extraordinarily confusing. Even watching the show within a few days and repeatedly on DVD leaves open plenty of space to discuss – watching Twin Peaks on a week-to-week basis required a lot of effort from the audience, to both watch it frequently and attentively. This proved to be yet another aspect that caused viewers to turn off their TVs: while a loyal fan base may have loved it to engage in prolonged discussions about Twin Peaks’ mythology, the casual viewer, who either watches just once in a while or randomly tunes in, is left with little clue to what is going on in the show. It should come to no surprise then that the show developed a devoted fan base on the one hand, but drove away the broad audience on the other hand.
All these reasons for the diminishing popularity of Twin Peaks that are mentioned above are on a purely conceptual level – i.e. the general direction the show was heading. These decisions had to be made while general outlines were being drawn, before a single word had been written on the writers’ drawing board. Twin Peaks, though, is certainly not flawless in terms of writing, and some critical decisions from the writing department may have indeed cost Twin Peaks dearly.
The writing team had a difficult task, especially since Lynch left the show in its second season to focus on Wild at Heart (Lynch 182). One of the most important tasks of the writers in the second season was to solve the main plot line about the identity of Laura Palmer’s murderer, pressured to do so by ABC, in a satisfying manner. David Lynch himself directed episode 2.07 (“Lonely Souls”), in which the audience finally learns that BOB is inhabiting Leland Palmer. The murder of Madeline is brutal and painful, a beautifully shot scene. As is the scene in episode 2.09 (“Arbitrary Law”) in which Leland dies – it is full of reveals and emotions, Leland’s story is a truly tragic one. However, while these two events got their deservedly epic scenes, the way the police found out that it had been Leland was extremely anticlimactic. After 17 episodes, not a single clue the police had found during the investigation ultimately proved useful. Instead, Cooper is being told in one of his visions, and instead of trying to find evidence, the police speculate on him blurting it out himself – which he does. Viewers must have felt truly cheated by this – why had they (both the audience and the police force of Twin Peaks) invested so much time and effort into this murder mystery when the solution was given by a deus ex machina?
Alfred Hitchcock once famously said that when there is a loaded gun in the background, it most definitely needs to be shot, because an expectation grows within the audience by simply seeing the gun. In Twin Peaks, the audience believed Agent Cooper when he said in the first season: “Break the code, solve the crime”. All the clues that were given up to this point were expected to fit into a bigger picture – but unfortunately, they all were red herrings, which even Cooper admits, in an almost self-reflexive moment of the show, to be “a fish [he doesn’t] particularly care for”. Twin Peaks ignored Hitchcock’s formula, the clues remained dead ends. The viewers lost faith in the show because the way the conviction of Leland played out, it showed that the writers were not planning ahead. Even worse, they could not even mask it. Jack Bender, a former staff member of Lost, once said that the writing team did not have a master plan, but he as a director had tried to connect and interweave loose ends to create the illusion that they did (Pearson 164). The writers of Twin Peaks did not, and as a consequence, the audience could often feel the disjointed nature of the series – in regard to both the useless clues for the murder investigation, and also to another pitfall the show fell victim to in its second season – the subplots.