Twin Peaks: “Pilot” Review

Twin Peaks is one of the most unique television shows to have ever aired. Created by avant-garde film director David Lynch and Hill Street Blue writer Mark Frost, the show quickly proved to be unlike anything ever seen before on the small screen, boasting a supernatural murder mystery/soap opera that blended horror, tragedy, comedy and surrealism while set in a town full of mysterious and interesting individuals. The show is considered by many to be one of the founders of the Golden Age of Television, even preceding The Sopranos in terms of showing what the medium of television is capable of.

The opening intro does a good job at establishing the overall tone of the series. We begin with a shot of a bird, before transitioning to the grinding of machinery throughout a factory, and eventually a shot of a waterfall. There’s no explanation, no indictation of the show’s main plot, simply shots of everyday life. The sequence does an exceptional job at communicating to the audience that this show will be unlike anything they’ve seen before on TV.

The following scene shatters the idyllic atmosphere the opening established, with the local fisherman Pete Martell discovering the corpse of a teenage girl and reporting his discovery to the police chief Harry Truman. “She’s dead. Wrapped in plastic.” Truman arrives on the scene to identify the body as that of Laura Palmer.

The following scenes jump back and forth between different characters, such as Laura’s adulterous boyfriend Bobby Briggs, her best friend Donna Hayward, and the daughter of a business magnate, Audrey Horne. The low-key, banal tone these scenes set all come crashing down once these characters learn about the death of their classmate.

It’s about one-third into the pilot before we’re introduced to our leading protagonist, Dale Cooper. Speaking into a recorder dubbed “Diane”, he marvels at the quality of the cherry pie he recently had at the local diner, as well as the trees surrounding the area (later to be identified as Douglas firs by Truman) . He immediately comes forward as an interesting character, and his investigational skills provide a strong foil when placed alongside Truman’s. These qualities are shown to be more than just amusing quirks after Cooper uncovers the letter R from under one of Laura’s fingertips.

The second half of the pilot jumps between several different characters. The most mysterious character is without a doubt Audrey, from her neutral reaction to the news of Laura’s murder to her casual sabotage of her father’s business meeting. Bobby is presented as an arrogant, snarky douchebag, while Donna’s (who perhaps receives the most focus out of all the characters that aren’t Dale and Truman), character is similar to that of the “Final Girl” in horror films.

Cooper and Truman eventually discover half of a locket at the murder area, thus deducing that the killer has the other half. The person with the other half happens to be Donna’s secret boyfriend (?) James, who tells Donna that Laura confided in him the night before her murder about Bobby killing a man. He and Donna bury the locket before the police arrive and arrest him. The episode’s final shot is that of a gloved hand digging up the locket as Laura’s mother wakes up screaming in terror.

All in all, this was a terrific opening for the series. It manages to craft a town full of interesting characters, a compelling mystery and an aesthetic that was unlike anything shown on TV. It’s easy to see why this show garnered so much attention.


* If I have one criticism, it’s that the acting of some of the cast comes off as hokey, particularly Bobby’s “I LOVED her… and she loved me.” to James’ “I changed my mind. I’m not sorry.” after kissing Donna. Then again, this was billed as a soap opera, though whether the melodrama of these lines was intentional on the parts of the actors is an interesting point to make.

* Other characters of note include:

Lucy, Truman’s receptionist who immediately endears herself to me with her accent and awkward guiding of Truman to the telephone.

Andy, the cop who weeps openly at the site of Laura’s corpse and later when the place where Laura was murdered is discovered comes across as both pathetic and pitiable.

Katherine, Pete’s wife who’s resentful of Jocelyn Packard (the owner of the saw mill and Truman’s girlfriend) demanding that the mill be shut down for the day in response to Laura’s death. The penultimate scene of the episode shows her talking to an unidentified man about Truman.

Mike “Snake” Nelson, Laura’s boyfriend and Bobby’s best friend who is quick to establish himself as a controlling, abusive asshole.

Shelly, Bobby’s secret girlfriend who is revealed to be married to a man Leo, who’s even worse than Snake, threatening to snap Shelly’s neck after confronting her with his suspicions of her affair regarding the brand of cigarettes she and Bobby smoke.

Big Ed, James’ uncle and the owner of a gas station, along with his wife Nadine, who wears an eyepatch for an undisclosed reason and communicates with Ed via her window shades.

Norma, Shelly’s coworker who is revealed to be having an affair with Big Ed.

Dr. Jacoby, Laura’s former doctor who has corks in both of his ears and gives off vibes of suspicion regarding his relationship with Laura, which her parents were unaware of.

Harriet, Donna’s younger sister who immediately gives off a creepy vibe when she asks Donna to choose between “the blossom of the evening” or the “full flower of the night, later announcing to an empty room that she prefers “the full blossom of the evening” with the air of a horror villain combined with a James Bond villain, (complete with a plush cat).

* Is “Diane” just one of Cooper’s many mannerisms, or an actual character? (I don’t want any actual answers please.)

* In terms of visuals and score, this pilot is a stunner, which includes an artful long shot of Cooper and Truman introducing themselves to each other down a hallway and the woozy, hypnotic aesthetic of the Roadhouse. Angelo Badalamenti’s score is magnificently varied, from the mournful tune of Laura’s body being discovered, to the mischievous beats that play during Audrey’s scenes. The Nightingale scene that takes place at the Roadhouse is hypnotically beautifully.

* It’s easy to interpret Audrey as a spoiled brat, given her casual tormenting of one of her dad’s workers via a punctured coffee cup to sabotaging his deal. Hopefully, there’ll be more to her in the episodes to come.

* Red is a recurring motif throughout the beginning of the episode. In a shot similar to the bathroom scene from The Shining, the Briggs’ kitchen is bathed almost entirely in red. There’s also the red shoes that Audrey discards her white/black ones for when she arrives at school, the red exterior of Laura’s empty seat, and the outline of the trophy case that contains her photo.

*If only more police stations had this kind of snack organization.

* The lady in the courthouse with a log in her hand

So, what did everyone else think?


One thought on “Twin Peaks: “Pilot” Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s