Nearly 15 years before Lost pushed television sharply back toward prime-time supernatural-mystery serials, the TV sensation Twin Peaks set the template for such shows, both in terms of marrying an irresistibly fresh vision with a series of compelling overarching questions, and in terms of losing the mission along the way. The long-overdue box set Twin Peaks: The Second Season showcases the lion's share of a series that at its best was transcendent television, but at its worst, was particularly frustrating because it so profligately wasted time that creators David Lynch and Mark Frost kept proving they could put to better use.
The series' short first season—a two-hour pilot and seven one-hour episodes—introduced the little Pacific Northwest town of Twin Peaks, where the homecoming queen had just been found dead, naked, and "wrapped in plastic." Quirky FBI agent Kyle MacLachlan tackled the case with crackerjack investigative techniques and a wide-eyed, practical mysticism suitable to a scenario full of prophetic dreams and otherworldly forces. The first season ended with MacLachlan shot by a masked assailant; the 22-episode second season begins with an excruciating 20 minutes in which he lies bleeding and half-conscious on the floor, at the mercy of a ghostly apparition, an ancient bellhop, and his own weird habit of spilling his guts to a tape recorder. The sequence is typical Peaks; it delves into Lynch's syrupy, alien rhythms at length, contrasting the stillness onscreen with Angelo Badalamenti's oppressive, urgent score to produce almost unbearable tension.
Such sequences guaranteed that in its heyday, Twin Peaks was like nothing else on television. Lush in every aspect—the score, the vivid colors and gorgeous cinematography, the intense character machinations, the hugely ambitious arthouse tone—it built a sense of gravity far beyond its soap-operatic content. Sometimes it played with that tone—as with Lynch's recurring cameo as a half-deaf, obliviously screamy FBI higher-up—but more often, the show's dreamy intensity worked to hold together all the bizarreries about backward-talking dwarves and otherdimensional crossings. But as season two progressed, the gravity dispersed through a series of increasingly ditzy subplots, and as with Lost, too many mysteries lay fallow amid episodes packed with filler. Audiences turned away, and the show was cancelled partway through this season, though Lynch and Frost had time to craft a staggering "screw you" series-ender packed with cliffhangers. Still, hard as it is to forget the ignominious ending, this set is essential viewing. The roots of half the ambitious TV serials of the past decade were planted here, in the best episodes of an intermittently breathtaking show.
Key features: The gratingly obscure "Log Lady" episode intros from the show's Bravo run; brief interview snippets with some episode directors and cast members.