Who Killed Dale Cooper?

During my childhood, I resolved early that I would grow up to be completely insane. Partly this was free will, but a small part of me believes it was predestination. Exhibit A in this was the fact that I electively watched Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks, for those that choose not to remember, was a completely ridiculous show created by the completely ridiculous David Lynch, who has fashioned a fairly notable career out of making movies that make no sense whatsoever. While he had some mainstream success with Blue Velvet and The Elephant Man, he was also at the helm for the ill-fated Dune and managed to cement his reputation as being batshit crazy in an industry known for its remarkably high tolerance for batshit craziness.

Unable to carve out funding for Hollywood projects, he tilted the scope downward, and Twin Peaks was born on network television. It was conceived as equal parts mystery, science fiction, serial drama (read: soap opera), and horror, with oddball characters doing oddball things on pretty much a constant basis, not unlike a sitcom or the World Bank. Of course, getting quirky characters to interact in unspeakable manners isn’t held in patent by the Coen brothers, and it was with this charm and wit and midgets talking backwards dancing to jazz in a red-curtained room that enchanted America for about three quarters of a season until they assumed everyone involved in the writing and production of the series was high on crack, and not in the good way.

Set in Washington State in the small town of Twin Peaks, a young girl by the name of Laura Palmer is found dead, wrapped in plastic. The FBI is called in, and Agent Dale Cooper—played by Kyle McLaughlin, who is contractually obligated by federal case law to appear in every David Lynch production regardless of outside factors, including each other’s deaths—attempts to find out who killed her.

Easier said than done, of course, since the road to solving this mystery was riddled with eccentric characters, drawn-out surreal dream sequences, and some strange metaphors about owls even David Lynch couldn’t figure out after a full day of colon cleansing and TM. Dale Cooper himself was a bit off, speaking to an unknown “Diane” when recording his notes and lusting after coffee and cherry pie. (K—I can actually understand that last part. That’s not so crazy.) There was the Log Lady, who was, well, a lady who had a log that talked to her. There was the sheriff, Harry S Truman. (Why not?) There was Lara Flynn Boyle, playing a girl that looks like she might have eaten a sandwich sometime in the last decade. This offbeat mix of elements was what made the show unique, and viewers flocked in droves, always eager to get one more piece of information about who, in fact, killed Laura Palmer.

Except that in the middle of the second season, they revealed who killed Laura Palmer. Under pressure from ABC, the network, the killer was revealed as the always-capitalized BOB, an entity that possessed people and caused them to do brutal, nasty things; namely, kill Laura Palmer. Why the network was so hard to remove the one thing that had made the show popular in the first place—a perpetual cliffhanger—is unknown, except of course for the fact that all network television executives hate with a passion anything that is creative and successful and will choke it to death it with their sweaty sausage-sized fingers.

And so, with a precipitous drop in ratings and a bewildered fan base wandering around the metaphorical woods, Twin Peaks died a lonely death after two glorious years.

However, as anyone can tell you, a prematurely cancelled cult-based television show is simply begging for a feature-length motion picture, and such was the case with Twin Peaks. Fire Walk With Me—the title of which has deep resonance with true fans and makes no sense to anyone else, though to be fair this actually applies to the entire movie itself—was released about a year after the cancellation of the series. Part prequel and part sequel, it sought to fill in a lot of the backstory as well as provide closure, and obviously Lynch decided that the proper way to do this is to have a scene in the middle of the movie where no one can be understood to the point of requiring subtitles even though the dialogue itself doesn’t make much sense anyway and everything on the screen is pretty much either flesh-colored or red, and then for added measure make this completely incomprehensible scene last somewhere upwards of eighteen hours. It was so bad even the French booed it. The French, who have not only tolerated but created both Gerard Depardieu and Amelie.

Thankfully, Twin Peaks has managed to weather cultural history, and routinely ranks on critics’ lists as one of the better shows of all time. Some theorize in today’s market, a basic cable station could have tolerated Lynch’s eccentrics and put up with long, complicated plots. Now, most fans will have to put up with a belatedly released subpar DVD box set and some glazed donuts. Or at least that’s what the owls tell me.

7 Responses to Who Killed Dale Cooper?

  1. wain says:

    Damn fine cup of coffee Steve. Damn fine.

  2. Eric says:

    Great review. “Batshit crazy” sums up David Lynch pretty well. I liked Twin Peaks a lot more than his creeped out movies. He seemed more accessible within the confines of network television.

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