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 2 hier.
Hier ist Teil 3.
The many subplots that the show writers introduced halfway through the second season was one of the chief reasons that was given by critics such as Ginny Holbert on why they disliked the second season. Indeed, while most of the story lines in the first season seemed connected with each other (especially so because back then there were still so many possible culprits for the murder of Laura Palmer, making everyone’s actions more intriguing), the subplots of season two tend to involve only a few people.
A prime example for that is the storyline about Leo’s incapacitation, largely occupying Shelly, Bobby and Leo, three main characters, throughout the first half of the second season. In the first season, Leo was beating on his wife, being cheated on by Bobby, dealing drugs with Laura, Bobby, Mike and the Renault brothers, employed by Benjamin Horne, threatened and beaten by Hank, and was a prime suspect for the murder of Laura Palmer. There were many people Leo was involved with, and many events that Leo had an influence on. Compare this to his interactions with other characters in season 2 – he only ever meets four people: Bobby, Shelley, Windom Earle and Major Briggs. While it is true that he was incapacitated for about half of the season, that is no excuse for his marginal influence on the events of the second season, considering his extensive screen time – after all, all he ever did was to free Major Briggs, and that could have easily been rewritten for the Major to do so on his own. Leo did serve as a person Windom Earle could talk to, but unfortunately, Leo kept being a sponge for screen time throughout the season.
Bobby and Shelley are also deprived of impactful things to do – especially Shelley, who even cuts off her strongest link to society, working in the RR Diner, during the first half of the season. Her social network was remarkably thinly woven during most of the second season, until the characters of Gordon Cole and Windom Earle started to interact with her. Bobby at least approaches few new characters already earlier, namely Ben and Audrey Horne. His chemistry with Audrey is intriguing – but alas, all he ever did in season was to “be there”, i.e. his actions never had any sort of impact or consequences, except for revealing Hank to be the assailant on Leo.
Season two of Twin Peaks feels less coherent because of the social network between the characters is knit less tightly. Apart from Bobby, Shelley and Leo, many other characters suffer from the same problem, such as Nadine (who had already been quite isolated in the first season) and Big Ed. His story line with Norma and Nadine may have been engaging, but his allegiance to the Bookhouse Boys was never revisited again, and other social interactions were limited.
This problem became especially apparent in the aftermath of Leland’s death and funeral in episode 2.11, “Masked Ball”. Left without focus, the show introduced several new storylines that seemed to push Twin Peaks even more towards the genre of the soap opera, but did not give the show a sense of direction. The characters of Evelyn, Dwayne (the mayor), Lana, Little Nikki, and the already established Dick Tremayne are, mildly put, controversial amongst fans. Especially Evelyn and Little Nikki suffer from the above mentioned lack of social interactions – after all, the Evelyn storyline went on for six episodes, only ever interacting with James and Donna. It is no surprise that viewers felt that the show was not heading anywhere – the writers were seemingly neither.
To the writers’ credit, not all characters introduced in the second season failed to connect. Again it is worthwhile to look at the character’s social interactions to see how well integrated they are in the story, thus having a far greater potential to create tension between characters. At the heart of the latter part of the second season is Windom Earle, who is not only the driving factor for suspense (seeing as he is the cause for almost all the cliffhangers) for about the last six episodes, he interacts with just about every other main character. Additionally, he perfectly worked as an illumination of Cooper’s past, thereby filling in a hole that was left open in season one – a satisfying reveal.
Another character that worked well had been set up in season one but was only introduced in season two – Andrew Packard. Even though he did not interact with too many people due to the fact that he is still believed to be dead by most by the end of the series, he probably knows most of the other villagers and thus had at least the potential to be used in several, possibly intertwining plotlines in the never-to-be third season – if he survives the bank explosion, that is.
On a more minute scale, I would argue that the writers also made mistakes during the writing process itself. As a consequence of Twin Peaks becoming more and more a soap opera, dialogues would inevitably become cheesier. It is difficult to evaluate the quality of such lines, especially because of the blurred boarder of genres that the show kept crossing, but some dialogues and scenes seem especially cringeworthy. A prime example for this is the silly way Donna and Madeline wanted to steal Laura’s diary from Harold Smith’s apartment – just by turning round Harold could see Madeline. The sheer dumbness that the two girls display is frustrating to watch.
More heavily, though, weigh quotes that are seemingly out of character: Audrey’s exclamation of “I’m a virgin” in episode 2.20 (“The Path to the Black Lodge”), for example, would have never been said by the dreamy girl that she was shown to be in season one, especially to someone other than agent Cooper – after all, the show spans only a few weeks of time in the town of Twin Peaks.
Most of the corny lines, though, were unquestionably delivered by the controversial character of James. It is legitimate to ask whether his character was intended to do so, selling these dialogues as comedy. Either way, however, even James’ credibility was put to a test when being confronted with Evelyn Marsh, who unconvincingly claims to never have loved a man like she loved James. After having professed his love to both Laura and Donna, James has no second thoughts about sleeping with Evelyn. Again, due to the very brief time that elapses between events, the audience can feel that the characters are not acting like they should be, thus creating a sense of disbelief.
At times, viewers of Twin Peaks also get a sense of embarrassment when watching the show due to such scenes. Sometimes feeling ashamed of the actions of characters was an intentional move by Lynch, Kristin Thompson points out (Thompson 124). Leland Palmer would often burst into a song or start dancing as a means of dealing with his sole daughter’s death. But while feeling embarrassed, the audience can also feel the emotional dissonance between Leland’s interior feelings and his actions. The embarrassment serves a purpose. In the latter part of the second season, though, the viewers feel ashamed of the character’s actions without an emotional background – leading to the “pathetic comic situations” that have often been criticized (Lavery 30). This may have already been in place in the first season, especially in regard to police officer Andy’s character, but was used much more frequently and with more characters in the second season, becoming tedious in the process.
The quality of television scripts is a difficult thing to evaluate – especially so of a show that is as polarizing and ground-breaking as Twin Peaks. However, when analysing the show-writers’ decisions minutely, a few choices seem to stand out that did not work particularly well to sustain the audience’s interest in the show. The less interactions between characters, the dilemma of what audience the show wanted to cater for (those expecting a soap opera or those expecting a detective story), the too complex mythology, the absence of a new hook after the resolution of the main plot line, and the frustrating lack of useful leads ultimately all contributed to a less engaging second season of Twin Peaks. By the time the Windom Earle storyline had gotten rolling and the show became more focused again, large parts of the audience had had enough already.
Despite this being a work about the flaws of Twin Peaks’ second season, the writers did by no means a bad job – after all, their show is still considered to be one of the most influential shows ever, spawning many books and film classes on the topic of Twin Peaks. In hindsight it is often easy to point out different avenues a show should have taken instead. It is no use to ask oneself “what if?” – but the plotting of Twin Peaks can most definitely serve television critics as a lesson in storytelling, showcasing some pitfalls that they might not want to fall into.
Creeber, Glen. Serial Television – Big Drama on the Small Screen. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. Print.
Douglas, Pamela. Writing the TV Drama Series. Studio City (CA): Michael Wiese Productions, 2007. Print.
Hammond, Michael, and Mazdon, Lucy, ed. The Contemporary Television Series. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005. Print.
Holbert, Ginny. “Twin Peaks Flops Towards Overdue Death”. Chicago Sun Times, 26 February 1991. Web. 27 September 2011.
Lavery, David, ed.Full of Secrets – Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995. Print.
Lynch, David, and Rodley, Chris. Lynch on Lynch. Revised ed. New York: Faber and Faber Limited, 2005. Print.
McCabe, Janet, and Akass, Kim, ed. Quality TV – Contemporary American Television and Beyond. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2007. Print.
Pearson, Roberta, ed. Reading Lost. New York: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2009. Print.
Thompson, Kristin. Storytelling in Film and Television. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard University Press, 2003. Print.