In 1990, came out a show that redefined prime-time television viewing in the US. With its iconic dialogue: “She’s dead. Wrapped in plastic.”, mystery-thriller Twin Peaks traced the investigation of the murder of a teenage girl in the (fictional) quiet and peaceful hilly town of Twin Peaks on the US-Canada border. Well, so what’s so great about it? It was the first time that the themes of murder, multiple suspects in an idiosyncratic town and multi-layered investigations were explored in such vivid detail on prime time US television.
Although the first episode of the first season (pilot) was telecast in September 1989, the rest of the first season aired only in 1990. So, lets take a look at what made this show a cult classic- the reason why the US TV network Showtime (Homeland, Dexter) is coming out with a remake of the show early next year.
(Even if you haven’t seen the show, go ahead! There are no plot spoilers in the article.)
A small and isolated hilly town with a population of a mere 51,201. A host of sycamore trees and a calm, serene and perennial waterfall. A factory that provides timber and a large hotel that accommodates tourists and the occasional businessmen. A young and sincere sheriff who doesn’t have much work until the body of a teenage girl is washed ashore-wrapped in plastic. Add to this mix an equally idiosyncratic and charming FBI Agent who is sent in to investigate the case and tries to do so in his very own and at times, completely unusual way.
Twin Peaks was co-written and directed by multiple Oscar nominee David Lynch (Mulholl and Dr. and Blue Velvet et al.)- who has had a reputation of telling a story in the most non-linear fashion possible with a generous mixing of psychological and paranormal ingredients. Lynch along with co-writer Mark Frost (Fantastic Four) churned out a tale that wasn’t a “yet-another-murder mystery” but a murder mystery with a lot of crazy and twisted undercurrents. There are multiple layers not only in the mystery but also in each of the characters in the town- at no point can the viewer say that he/she knows the character on screen inside out. The judicious, yet regular, interspersing of the story line with fearful and creepy scenes became a trademark of Twin Peaks.
The characters that make up the population of the town are eerie and yet don’t seem unusual. Each one (it seems) has either a hidden truth or a mysterious past that is yet to come to the fore. At one instance you think you can relate to a particular character and then the very next instance you are gasping with surprise! What makes each character of Twin Peaks memorable is the spookiness and unpredictability that Lynch & Frost supply them with or without making the storyline unbelievable or the plot stretchy. The writing that backs up the characters is such that even with so many of them, the show doesn’t seem over-populated.
The cinematography and music were simply brilliant and great accompaniments to the story line, characters and the overall feel of the show. The iconic opening theme (music and picturisation) were as intriguing as the show itself and both received an Emmy nomination each for their efforts. The haunting title theme is a classic and is synonymous with the mystery, spookiness and “chill-down-your-spine” that you associate with Twin Peaks.
That’s about all I think I can narrate about the show without revealing plot spoilers! It’s a show from 1990- so don’t expect it to air on your favourite English entertainment channel. You know where to get shows that aren’t on air, don’t you? Believe me, if murder mysteries and thrillers are your thing, you do not want to miss out on this classic show.
(P.S. Twin Peaks is ranked 35th on the International Movie Database (IMDb) list of Top 250 TV shows- as voted by viewers.)
Shashi Shekhar Misra
Image Source: https://streamtvblogdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/twin-peaks-21.jpg