Nothing like David Lynch’s feature-length pilot for Twin Peaks had ever been seen on network TV. The premise was simple enough: popular small-town teen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is found murdered and wrapped in plastic, and her death draws the attention of FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). As in Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks is a town full of dark, squirmy secrets suppressed beneath a placid, all-American façade. Certainly, something is weirdly off in the dreamy, sleepwalking rhythms of town life.
Agent Cooper, for all his boyish enthusiasm over the local pie and coffee, is surprisingly open to the notion that there’s more to the mystery than forensic science can explain. (Even so, the pilot hardly hints at just how strange things are going to get, just how deep the rabbit hole goes.) Much of the focus, wisely, is on Laura’s fellow teens, who already live in a world of heightened drama, where every romance is Romeo and Juliet and every rivalry is a life-or-death game of chicken from Rebel Without a Cause.
But the sense of heightened drama extends to the adults, too. It’s rare for TV (or any medium) to plumb the depths of grief as thoroughly as Twin Peaks does with Laura’s parents. The combination of raw emotional melodrama and surreal murder mystery would make the series irresistible (at least as long as Laura’s killer remained at large).
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