Twin Peaks Is a Murder Mystery Done Right

Kevin Mooseles | 30 Oct 2014 10:00
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Join us as we rewatch our favorite surreal TV murder mystery: Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks was an ABC series that was introduced in 1990 to rave reviews and high ratings. Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, it was several different types of shows rolled into one: part murder mystery, part soap opera, part nostalgia trip, and part psychedelic dream. At first the combination of ingredients worked remarkably well, but by midway through the second season a combination of factors led to decreased viewership and the show was not renewed for a third season (abruptly ending in a cliffhanger). A film was released in 1992 which was one part prequel and one part epilogue, called Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The series has inspired and influenced many other creative works ranging from The X-Files to Alan Wake.

Fans of the show know all of this, because they tend to embrace all things Twin Peaks with a religious fervor. I am a recent convert to the Twin Peaks community, since I started watching the show on Netflix about a week before the series return was announced by Showtime. In my view, the show is worth every bit of the praise it has gotten, and if you haven't seen it, you're in for a real treat. Whether you have already seen Twin Peaks, or you want to see what all the fuss is about, you are welcome to join as we explore the series together over the next several weeks, starting with the movie-length pilot.

However, it should be noted that the show has a large ensemble of actors. For the sake of convenience, a full list of who-played-who can be found on the show's IMDB page.

The first episode begins on the morning after the murder of homecoming queen, Laura Palmer, in the smallish Washington town of Twin Peaks (population 51,102). Viewers will first be struck by the beautiful mountain scenery, and the lush, down-tempo, jazzy score. The serenity of the opening credits is jarred by the discovery of the body of Laura Palmer by Pete Martell, who was going to the lake to do some fishing. He immediately calls the local sheriff to report the body, visibly shaken.

Sheriff Harry S. Truman then meets with Doc Hayward and Deputy Andy at the scene of the crime. Andy breaks down into tears, being the first of four male characters who cry over Laura in this pilot episode.

Next, the show introduces the sizeable ensemble of characters as they go through their morning routines, oblivious to the murder that has taken place. Laura's mother, Sarah, (who is later shown to be somewhat psychic) has a sense that something is wrong when she finds her daughter missing that morning. She uses an antiquated device known as a "house phone" to search for Laura. First she calls the house of Bobby (Laura's boyfriend), then the school, and finally her husband at work, all while getting more and more nervous. Laura's dad, Leland, works at a country club and is talking with his distraught wife on the phone when Sheriff Truman arrives with the news of Laura's death.

The way that these scenes unfold is incredibly powerful. Sarah Palmer is introduced as impatiently calling for her daughter to come downstairs in what must be a very familiar morning routine. The journey from that innocence to the realization of her worst fear as a parent is masterfully portrayed.

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