First things first, Twin Peaks kicks off with a real stylistic bang. Angelo Badalamenti's score, otherworldly and ethereal, plays over video showcasing the peculiar rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest intercut with industrial images of machines sharpening the teeth of other machines, with nary a human being in sight.
And as for the color scheme chosen for the titles... what even are those colors? An ugly, murky brown bordered by a vivid coniferous green, as best as I can make out. As Badalamenti’s score fades out it all makes for a rather intoxicating blend.
The sign on the outskirts of town, in the shadow of the titular (no pun intended) mountains, reads: “Welcome to Twin Peaks Population 31,201”.
With Laura Palmer dead, that brings the population to 31,200. 312 AD is the year Constantine converted to Christianity. In some esoteric traditions, 312 is considered to be an “angel number”, but I doubt this is of any meaningful significance in this case. Still, the idea that Laura is the town’s “plus one” sort of puts her outside of things. She stands, or stood, alone, not really part of the population, almost a vestigial member, wiggling away on the periphery, primed to fall away from the rest.
After a brief image of a waterside lodge, the first image we see is a close up of two stylized statuettes on sawmill owner Josie Packard’s desktop. They appear to be statues of Anubis, the Egyptian god of Mummification and the Afterlife.
Considering Laura's state upon being discovered by Pete Martell, mere moments later—wrapped like a mummy, in plastic, bringing the Ancient into the Modern—makes this seem like more than mere coincidence. Also, consider the idea that the whole series (and film) are essentially Laura's "afterlife" in more ways than one.
“Ghostwood” country club and estates certainly is an interesting name for (Laura’s father) Leland Palmer’s planned development project.
I have to say, the first 15 minutes of the Twin Peaks pilot are incredibly absorbing, affecting and disturbing. Grace Zabriskie is particularly arresting as Laura’s grieving mother. Also, knowing how the story plays out leads me to speculate as to whether it was significant that Leland knew that Laura was dead before being told by Sheriff Truman, but it’s probably not.
Shelly Johnson and Bobby Briggs’ terror at finding Shelly’s husband Leo’s long haul truck home early speaks to the character’s profound evil. Later on, the more we learn about how Leo lives, there’s a certain verisimilitude to the squalor, what with having the washing machine out back behind the house and other such accouterments. It’s almost too real, and is part and parcel with Lynch’s obsession with small town folks being capable of the most profound amorality and extravagant decadence.
Like Leland Palmer, classmates James Hurley and Donna Edwards also seem to know before being told that something awful has happened to Laura. The fact that they would assume the worst tells us, the viewer, that they will be key characters when it comes to understanding the lead-up to Laura’s murder.
The woman running screaming across the high school quad is a typically surreal Lynch touch.
The use of music is fantastic throughout the pilot. The smooth jazz finger-snapping music whenever sleazy football “hero” Bobby Briggs comes on, or the soaring, swelling, overwrought piano score fortifying moments, such as when Laura’s face is revealed, unwrapped like a rose, or when the principle asks for a moment of silence.
Hmmm… Leland doesn’t want the police to take Laura’s diary. Again, very interesting in hindsight.
Wow. Almost immediately upon learning about the fact that a saw mill worker named Pulaski’s daughter went missing along with Laura, we see her, raped and ghostly, crossing a train trestle barefoot in a shock image worthy of Gothic literature.
Our introduction to Agent Dale Cooper (and also his invisible friend/tape recorder, Diane) is striking. Lynch and McLaughlin create a magnificent character, fully formed from the get-go: odd, but strangely likable. Professional and capable, a no nonsense FBI agent with a paradoxical, almost childlike curiosity. My friend and erstwhile creative partner Matt Pollack suggests that this is Lynch paying homage, as he often does, to the kinds of characters found in the late noir works of Blake Edwards, such as An Experiment in Terror. In any case, it’s a character for the ages.
Ronnette Pulaski says: “Don’t go there”, twice. Meaning?
Creepy guy in the elevator with Cooper and Truman: Who is he?
With his ear plugs and his hula girl tie, Dr Jacobi is an absolute freak. And as if his sartorial sense and appearance weren’t weird enough, there’s his obvious creep factor in wanting to join Cooper and Truman in the morgue to examine Laura.
The morgue’s flickering lights (explained as bad transformers by an orderly) replicate the Universal horror movie, Gothic trope of lightning flashing in the dark. As if a scene that takes place in a morgue is in need of creeping up! Also, I love the fact that Lynch left in an obvious blooper, where Cooper has to repeat himself because the orderly misunderstands a request that he leave with a request for his name (“Jim”).
That digging under the fingernail scene is a seriously squirm-inducing bit of business. VERY hard to watch.
A letter R under the fingernail. I can’t recall what that means, of even if it ends up meaning anything at some point.
The place where Ronette and Laura were taken and tortured is a gruesome, hideous place. Andy’s right. It’s horrible.
Audrey Horne’s first words spoken, right before she uses her budding female charms and news of Laura’s murder to ruin her father’s business plans, are: “Okay Bob. Okay Bob! Okay.”
Spotting the reflection of James Hurley’s motorcycle in Laura Palmer’s eye on the videotape is an apparent homage to giallo master Dario Argento, who used the same plot point, in a decidedly more supernatural, pseudo-science manner, in his Four Flies on Grey Velvet.
The stag head at the bank is an interesting touch. There must be some meaning to it. The contents of Laura’s safety deposit box: 10,000$, a copy of Flesh World Magazine, a swinger’s ad book with an ad featuring Ronette Pulaski. In Polaroid grim high contrast black and white, it seems to foreshadow the sleazy evil that is about to inflict itself upon poor Ronette and Laura.
Cut from magazine image of Ronette to a different page, where we see Leo and his truck, looking even more grim and foreboding, like someone's last known photograph, then to Leo and Audrey at home...
Big Ed’s Gas Farm has an odd, archetypally Lynchian sign, complete with a goose... not to mention a huge, radiating egg! His one-eyed wife, the super-strong Nadine, is obsessed with curtains. What’s with her being a Cyclops? At a town meeting Sheriff Truman identifies Ben Horne, Log Lady, the Packard family, and mayor Millford to Agent Cooper, who introduces the story of the death of Theresa Banks, whom Cooper believes may be another victim of the killer stalking Twin Peaks.
Julie Cruise cuts a particularly Lynchian figure, playing her own music for some of the town's rowdier citizens. There’s an unrealistic bar fight, followed by James and Donna conspiring to hide the locket, which Laura had bequeathed to him before she died.
And the pilot ends as it began, with the lonely sound of a foghorn on Packard property, with Sheriff Truman and Josie Packard meeting in secret, and Ben Horne obviously conspiring with disgruntled Sister Packard, while Mother Palmer wakes from a terror-dream / psychic intuition, as some unidentified figure finds the half-heart locket.
IN SUMMARY: Even after 25 years, Twin Peaks stands up as one of the finest pieces of television ever produced, a perfect blend of beautiful and odd, mysterious and familiar, funny and frightening… just perfect. I doubt future entries in this project will be quite this long and image-filled, but I very much look forward to reviewing Episode One!