Rather like the damn fine cups of coffee a certain Special Agent Dale Cooper finds so irresistible on the show, this boxset has taken a long time to percolate. Twin Peaks’ first season was released on DVD in 2001 but, thanks to tiresome legal wranglings, it’s taken nine whole years for the show’s second season to hit UK stores. The upshot of this delay is that many diehard fans fed up with the wait will have already purchased the second season on Region 1 or even splashed out on the R1 Twin Peaks Definitive Gold Box Edition, which contains every episode plus a wealth of extra material. They shouldn’t feel bad about caving in, however, as the extras on the Definitive edition are well worth the price: something to bear in mind if you haven’t yet spent a penny on David Lynch’s macabre, mist-soaked soap opera.
But if you’ve only bought season one and you’re excited to see year two on the shelves at last, what do you need to know? Does Twin Peaks’ 1990-91 run match up to its first? The answer is yes, but with some reservations. Opening with Kyle MacLachlan’s Agent Cooper lying on the floor of his hotel room after being shot in the last scene of the season one finale, the series then propels us through everything from bow-tie-wearing giants, alien kidnappings and lunatic ex-FBI serial-killers towards a final episode that’s nothing like you’ve ever seen on TV before or since. Season two starts on a high and ends with a literally smashing twist; it’s what comes between that’s the problem.
Lynch was only a semi-regular presence on the show, leaving the scripts to a writing team who found themselves hamstrung by their own weirdness, unsure whether they should ramp up the show’s famed surreal elements or the more down-to-earth soap opera aspects. There’s the deathly serious ‘Who killed Laura Palmer?’ plot arc, of course, which runs its course (many would say a little too quickly) with great style and some brilliant emotional welly – the reveal of the killer and the world of icky sexual implications behind it are surprisingly disturbing. But once that’s out of the way, there’s a mid-season reboot that leaves the show floundering for a good few episodes until the gears start turning towards the big finale. And the new villain, Kenneth Welsh’s gibbering, Jokeresque nutjob Windom Earle, is so comically over-the-top you’ll be tempted to skip past every scene he appears in.
There’s a hell of a lot of padding, too, with the lighter characters picking up the slack for the main duo of Cooper and Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean, conspicuous by his mysterious absence from the extras). Did anybody really enjoy the scenes with gormless cop Andy and love rival Dick trying to figure out if the kid they’re mentoring is the Antichrist? Thought not.
But all of that pales compared to the show’s standout episodes, which make up for any amount of limp plotting or wayward acting. “I feel that it’s endured because we’re starved for original work,” says Sherilyn Fenn in the extras, all grown up since she played sexpot Audrey Horne. And she has a point: Peaks was one of the most original shows ever to grace your telly screen, and remains so to this day. Any of the episodes written or directed by Lynch himself are priceless – particularly the finale, which pulls so many rugs from under your feet that you’ll end up on your arse – but there’s more to savour, from Angelo Badalamenti’s cream-jazz score to the richhued browns and reds of the town of Twin Peaks, all showing up so beautifully on DVD. This is still, despite some wobbles, one of the greatest and most influential TV shows ever made.
Its legacy is explored briefly in the interviews with cast and crew included in the extras, which are, sadly, a little disappointing. Unlike the Definitive edition, there are no featurettes, promos or MacLachlan’s famous appearance on Saturday Night Live; even the Log Lady intros are only half-there, from episode 19 onwards (not that they’re a great loss, being of terrible visual quality and virtually incomprehensible anyway). What you do get is a smattering of chats with writers, directors and actors which are often frustratingly short – why couldn’t we see the full interviews? You can’t help but feel as though there’s a lot more out there that we’re not privy to; Kimmy ‘Lucy’ Robertson, for one, looks as though she probably talked the hind legs off an army of donkeys filming her piece. The interviews are interesting, though, for all their brevity, and at least there’s an impressive range of both cast and crew interviewees.
The Definitive box is being released on the same day as this season, so if you fancy a better selection of extras (and don’t mind owning season one twice if you’ve already bought it), we’d recommend going for that. If you’re just out to complete your collection, however, this will do fine. Better than vanilla, but not quite as tasty as a cup of Coop’s coffee.
A classic cult series you just can’t miss, although extras-wise you should opt for the Gold Box.