Directed by Various
Released by Paramount Home Video
Damn fine coffee. Cherry pie. Owls. A lady with a log. Wrapped in plastic.
These images and phrases have become part of the public consciousness thanks to “Twin Peaks”.
In the early nineties, a TV series created and conceived by David Lynch and Mark Frost took everyone by surprise and its impact on television and popular culture came to a surprise to everyone involved in the show. Launching with an incredible pilot with the hook of “Who killed Laura Palmer?” that drew viewers back each week, by the time the short series had run its course, ending on a hell of a multi faceted cliffhanger that left many characters in life threatening situations, “Twin Peaks” had indelibly left its mark.
A second season was not only ordered, but a full season of twenty two episodes (with a feature length first episode) was assigned and work began in earnest.No one predicted that the hottest TV show on television would be fighting to stay on TV and end up cancelled by the end of its second run.
The debates rage about what killed “Twin Peaks”. A move from Thursday nights to Saturday nights? The TV studio pressuring the creators to solve the mystery of Laura Palmer’s murder before they had really got their next main storyline off the ground? The weirdness of the show moving from the background to the foreground?
Whatever the reason, time has passed and like far too many shows that were cancelled early, “Twin Peak”’s stamp on television cannot be debated and its popularity remains strong. In fact as I write this, this very box set is creeping up the top 10 DVD charts on Amazon.
Watching the second season again, it’s hard not to reflect on how it lost its way … but I have to say that my favorite episodes of the show undoubtedly come from season two, even though my least favorites do too.
“Peaks” begins as it left off at the end of season one: Compelling and believable even as the weirdness ramps up. Early on we’re treated to a couple of Lynch-directed episodes, the first admittedly containing the worst moment of “Twin Peaks” involving a guitar and a pitch shifted James, but his second (episode seven), which finally reveals Laura Palmer’s killer is still one of the most shocking and downright scary moments from any television show I have personally seen.
From there the Laura Palmer storyline is quickly resolved leaving … Well, the next big plot line, the Windom Earle storyline, was still just being seeded into the show and all that is left are sub plots. Up to that point, “Twin Peaks” had had one central plot tying its huge cast of characters together, but without that, the show was reduced to a slightly weird soap opera. While the Windom Earle storyline slowly starts to build, it isn’t really until episode sixteen that it becomes the driving plot for the series and the show finally starts to pick up again.
On TV “Twin Peaks” was treading water for months, but watching the season again on DVD I’m surprised at how quickly that middle patch of episodes flies by and before you know it the cast is involved in a storyline as gripping as the murder of Laura Palmer. Things build and build to an incredible climax in the final episode, again directed by David Lynch, where the show dives head first into the kind of weird brilliance that Lynch is famous for.
That final episode does resolve the Windom Earle storyline, but leaves us with a huge cliffhanger. There’s no question watching that last episode that they were hoping for a third season, but it wasn’t to be, leaving many of our favorite characters in dark and uncertain territory, indefinitely in limbo.
Perhaps that is part of why “Twin Peaks” has endured, perhaps not, but while some may argue that season two killed “Twin Peaks”, the first third and the last third are as good as the landmark first season and deserve to be revisited again and again, however rough it got in the middle.
If you haven’t seen all of the second season, if you were one of the many people out there that lost interest midway through its run now is the perfect time to give it a second chance. However if you are reading this review, I’m going to presume that you, like me, have probably had Season One of “Twin Peaks” sat on your DVD shelf for years. Maybe like me you’ve had a set of bootlegs sat next to it, or the VHS tapes stacked high … but all the same you probably felt as I did that there was a big gap in your DVD collection. A Season Two of “Twin Peaks”-sized gap.
The first season of “Twin Peaks” may have been missing the pilot (and like me you’re probably still waiting on a DVD of the pilot up to standard) but it was an incredible box set. Great packaging, some interesting commentaries, a whole set of interviews, great menu design, and most importantly incredible picture and sound quality. With all that’s happened to the rights for the show since that successful release, I’ve always been concerned that when Season Two finally hit DVD that it wouldn’t have been done with nearly the same care that Season One was given. In fact when it was finally announced the first things my eyes noticed was that where Season One was labeled as a special edition, Season Two isn’t.
I’m a huge “Twin Peaks” fan, a multi-year attendee at the Twin Peaks Festival, and the Season Two discs have always been a hot topic of discussion. I remember having a chat with Josh Eisenstadt (featured on that Season One set), rightly considered the biggest “Twin Peaks” fan of them all, and he was dubious as to whether or not Season Two would see as much care taken with the transfers as Season One was.
Just glancing down the list of features on the box set it’s pretty obvious that this isn’t the definitive box set we were all hoping for. The packaging is just three small plastic cases in a cardboard box instead of the cardboard fold out. There are no commentaries. There’s no DTS sound tracks.
Having the DVD set in my hands finally after all these years, my initial reaction was one of disappointment; don’t get me wrong, I was glad they were finally here, but it still wasn’t what I was hoping.
Putting a disc in, the first impressions aren’t so good either. I think I know what they were going for with the menus, as they kind of remind me of a lot of promotional material for the show from the time it was airing, but the retro look is a bit basic and doesn’t come close to what was done for season one.
On each disc but the last one, you’ll find a list of episodes without chapter menus (though unlike some David Lynch films there are at least chapter points, set at the commercial breaks) and a slim extras menu featuring the log lady introductions (the quality of which is pretty awful) and an interview with someone involved in the making of the show.
But one thing that you can’t complain about is the price. The set is about the same price as the original series was when it came out, but you have to remember that the first season is seven episodes long, where as the second is twenty two; over three times the episodes. Heck, if you wanted to pick up the First Season now, used copies on Amazon start at more than $150.
So even though the set doesn’t feature as much extra goodies, it has a lot more stuff and it gets the most important thing of all right: Image and sound quality.
To say the sound quality of the set isn’t as good as the original is no sleight against it, as the original really went above and beyond what you’d expect from a TV show. While there is no DTS this time around, Paramount has still gone to the effort of remixing the shows into Dolby Digital 5.1 and I can’t complain about the sound quality of the mix. It’s a top drawer Dolby soundtrack with all the atmosphere and clarity that you could want from a show that you’ve been stuck watching on VHS or poor quality bootlegs for god knows how long.
So while it’s less of a revelation than the original set, it is still a revelation and the video quality, the one thing I thought they’d skimp on, the one thing I thought they wouldn’t match, I’d have to say they’ve at least equaled. While the episodes aren’t quite at the same bitrate as the originals (with four episodes per disc instead of two) the transfers are everything I hoped for, with the colors feeling even more alive and natural than they did on the first box set.
Watching the opening credits from both, I’d give season two the edge, and that’s saying a lot because I’ve always rated the first season as one of the best looking TV box sets and certainly the best looking TV box set of anything released before the mid nineties. You will still see the odd scratch or blemish, but it’s never anything more than minor and it doesn’t remotely detract from the experience.
What extras there are are certainly nice, too. The interviews spread out across the six discs (with a pretty substantial number on the last disc) are generally relevant to that part of the season and contain a lot of interesting information, a surprising amount of which was new even to someone like me who obsesses over the show.
It’s nice to have the log lady introductions, as bizarre as they may be, but as I mentioned before, the quality of them is pretty poor. You have to concentrate pretty hard to make out what she’s saying (not that it makes much sense anyway) which is a real shame.
Finally on the last disc you have an interview grid. Similar to what was found on the last disc of season one, but a bit less extensive and a lot easier to navigate.
I can’t commend the job that’s been done on the transfers enough and they are the reason that for anyone interested enough in “Twin Peaks”, that despite being a little short on extras and despite the presentation of the set not being on par with the first, that I whole heartedly recommend the set.
It may not offer as much insight into the behind the scenes experience as hoped, but the quality of the episodes themselves leaves nothing to be desired, and when it comes down to it, that’s really all that counts, especially when you look at the price tag the set has when a season of this length and reputation could easily have been around $100.
Anyone who owned the original set would be doing themselves an injustice not to pick up this solid box set, and I’d go as far to say that even if you don’t, try and find it for cheap and pick them both up.
“Twin Peaks” really did change television forever and was the most remarkable television show since probably “The Prisoner” in the sixties. Without it, shows like “Lost”, “Wild Palms”, “Carnivale”, “Northern Exposure”, “The X-Files” and many more would have probably never been commissioned, and at if they had, they’d have been a lot more run of the mill.
4 1/2 out of 5
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