TV Dungeon: Twin Peaks

(1990 – 1991, USA)

Creators: Mark Frost, David Lynch
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Lara Flynn Boyle, Sherilyn Fenn, James Marshall

2 Seasons (30 Episodes)


‘A town where everyone knows everyone and nothing is what it seems’

David Lynch, in collaboration with writer/producer Mark Frost, captured the imagination of audiences worldwide with one of the most legendary television series to emerge in the nineties: Twin Peaks. What starts as a slightly offbeat whodunit, evolves into a complex and superbly intriguing mystery thriller.

‘Who murdered the high school beauty queen Laura Palmer?’, is the original premise. But with all sorts of supernatural stuff going on, new and bigger questions arise. The mystery of the Black Lodge is one of the most fascinating ideas of the show, and though not all questions are answered in the end, the unexpected climax is still fulfilling in a strange Lynchian sort of way.

Every whodunit needs a mystery solver. In Twin Peaks, this is special FBI agent Dale Cooper, played with verve by Lynch’s favourite boy Kyle MacLachlan. This strange, donut loving detective employs quite unorthodox methods to crack the case. He has dreams and visions about dwarves and Tibet. He also knows stuff he cannot know and he is always one step ahead of the rest.

Besides McLaughlin’s strong central role, there are many supporting characters that are as real as they are fantastical. The cast is perfect and features many (television)stars to be. All the strange inhabitants of mountain town Twin Peaks lead a complex double life. It is up to Cooper and local sheriff Harry Truman (Ontkean) to unravel their many mysteries.

The plot in Twin Peaks often takes a backseat to just let the many bizarre characters interact with each other. The show often feels like a platform for all the crazy ideas that Lynch, Frost and other collaborators who have worked on the show could come up with.

What makes the final result so great is the seamless integration of genres. With delicious black humor and countless fantasy elements, such as dwarves, giants, aliens and demons, the viewer will get hooked in no time. It is constantly absorbing, even during long stretches in which basically nothing significant happens. Twin Peaks is an endlessly fascinating show that took dramatic television into an entirely new realm.

Followed two years later by a prequel/sequel movie called; Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and a new season of the show in 2017.

The Book of Boba Fett – a Postmodern Mashup

This week, the final episode aired of The Book of Boba Fett, an action bonanza featuring the biggest laser gun battle Star Wars has ever seen. It’s directed by Robert Rodriquez, who shows he is still a true action cannoneer.

The series initially got a luke(skywalker)warm reception, but during the second half the reviews improved. Not coincidentally, this was after the Mandalorian showed up and took central stage for an entire episode. And this reveals the show’s weakness, namely the title character. Who ever said Boba Fett, who barely had any lines in the original movies, was an interesting enough character to give his own television show? The Mandalorian on the other hand is great; he’s mysterious, a badass, can crack a joke once in a whole and follows a strict code of honor. Therefore his show is widely considered as the most successful Star Wars production under Disney since the acquisition from Lucasfilm in 2012.

The Mandalorian – like TBoBB developed by actor-director Jon Favreau – was loosely based on the classic Japanese manga Lone Wolf and Cub, about an assassin traveling through feudal Japan with his infant boy. The boy in The Mandalorian was Baby Yoda, an instant audience favorite. The Book of Boba Fett is based on another classic: The Godfather. Boba Fett, after surviving being swallowed by the Sarlacc and taken prisoner by the Tusken Raiders, moves to Tatooine to take over the crime syndicate previously ruled by Jabba the Hutt. Unfortunately, Boba is closer to Fredo than Vito, Michael or Sonny Corleone. He is just not particularly intelligent or cunning and it’s hard at times to figure out what’s even driving him at all. And frankly, Temuera Morrison is not the most versatile actor in the world. Why would he be suitable for a lead role?

So far the bad news, because TBoBB certainly has its merits. The supporting characters are excellent for one thing. The first one is called Fennec Shand (portrayed by Ming-Na Wen), a female assassin who partners up with Boba. She’s an interesting character and has good chemistry with Boba/Temuera. Second, the already mentioned Mandalorian shows up and the same applies for Baby Yoda (Grogu) and Luke Skywalker (the post Return of the Jedi-version). Finally, Cad Bane arrives in style in episode 6 and I can truthfully say that this one of those genuinely terrific bad guys Star Wars is known for. So thumbs up for that.

Another reason to watch: the amazing set pieces. This is pure Star Wars cinema quality. It’s incredible what they can do nowadays in cinema let alone television. It looks and smells and feels 100% like Star Wars. What might also persuade movie lovers is the tons of references, both visually and verbally, to classic cult movies. To Star Wars itself obviously (Wookies really do pull arms out of sockets), spaghetti westerns, Robert Rodriquez-references, The Godfather (‘it is the smart move’, ‘my offer is this: nothing’), The Untouchables, Lone Wolf and Cub, and probably many more I missed or forgot. You really get the feeling that you’re watching a show made by people who didn’t have an original concept to go on, but do love movies and had a huge budget to spend, so they threw in all this stuff from the classics.

Therefore, though obviously not as great as The Mandalorian, it still provides plenty of bang for your spacebucks.

Hoe goed is ‘Dexter: New Blood’?

— Bevat spoilers —

Er was een tijd dat Showtime’s ‘Dexter’ een van de beste shows van televisie was. Dat was voor een groot deel te danken aan acteur Michael C. Hall die van Dexter Morgan ‘s werelds meest geliefde seriemoordenaar wist te maken. Dexter heeft namelijk van zijn pleegvader geleerd alleen echte evil motherfuckers aan te pakken, zodat hij zijn interne woede voor iets ‘goeds’ kan inzetten.

En dit leidt tot een aantal geweldige seizoenen waarin Dexter het opneemt tegen allerlei smeerlappen; van een priester die kinderen doodt tot de meest ziekmakende seriemoordenaars, zoals de ‘Ice Truck Killer’ en ‘Trinity Killer’. Helaas zijn de makers veel te lang doorgegaan, waardoor de laatste twee seizoenen (7 en 8) tegenvielen. Het laatste seizoen was vooral afzien met een verschrikkelijk deprimerend einde. Hierin zet Dexter zijn eigen dood in scène, zelfs voor zijn eigen zoon.

Televisiekijkers konden het niet waarderen en de makers hebben besloten het sympathieke personage terug te halen. In ‘New Blood’, zoals de doorstart heet, heeft Dexter het bloedhete Miami ingeruild voor het bevroren Iron Lake. Hij werkt in een wapenwinkel, heeft de knappe lokale politiechef als vriendin en volgt een strikte routine. Hierdoor heeft hij al tien jaar geen moord gepleegd ondanks zijn sterke impulsen. Als mentor heeft hij pleegvader Harry ingeruild voor zijn charismatische zus Deborah, die het loodje legde in het laatste seizoen.

Dexter heeft geen voice-over meer in de eerste aflevering wat kan duiden op een stijlbreuk. Of zou er een reden voor zijn? De centrale vraag is natuurlijk of Dexter zijn ‘Dark Passenger’ kan weghouden? En de vraag stellen is hem beantwoorden. Aan het einde van de eerste aflevering heeft Dexter alweer een moord gepleegd, is zijn vertrouwde voice-over terug én is zijn zoon Harrison gearriveerd in Iron Lake. Dan blijkt er – big surprise – ook nog een seriemoordenaar actief te zijn in het gebied met 2.600 inwoners en blijkt Dexter’s zoon – die als baby een vergelijkbare traumatische ervaring als Dexter heeft meegemaakt (moeder bruut vermoord in zijn bijzijn) – dezelfde donkere neigingen als zijn vader te hebben. Kortom, alle elementen zijn aanwezig voor weer een super vermakelijk seizoen van ‘Dexter’.

Wat het zo goed werkt aan de serie is dat Dexter steeds betrapt dreigt te worden, maar dat hij iedereen steeds te slim af is. En zijn confrontatie met weer een ijskoude killer (gespeeld door Clancy Brown) is bloedspannend. Een goede toevoeging is de verhaallijn rond Dexter’s zoon Harrison die de verkeerde kant op blijft drijven. En de antisociale, maar toch sympathieke Dexter, die er met zijn hopeloze ouderschapsstijl niks tegen kan doen. Ook al is zijn leven al snel weer een puinhoop, blijft het dit keer allemaal wat lichter dan in de latere seizoenen van de originele serie.

Wel gaan de schrijvers een aantal keer wel erg lui te werk. Dat Dexter’s vriendin toevallig Angel Batista – Dexter’s oude collega ontmoet – is tot daar aan toe, maar dat hij zonder reden zijn overleden collega Dexter noemt en diens zoon Harrison is een erg zwakke move. Toch mag het de pret niet drukken en is ‘Dexter: New Blood’ een welkome terugkeer van een van televisies favoriete personages. En het einde? Dat is dit keer wel zeer bevredigend.

Rating:

The Sopranos – 100 Greatest Moments: 10-1

10. My Sad Heart

Episode: Long Term Parking (SE5, EP12)
Characters: Tony and Carmela

Tony and Carmela survey the land on which Carmela plans to build her spec house at the end of one of the most poignant episodes in the series. The ground coincidently looks similar to the woods where Adriana was murdered by Silvio a little earlier, as if Carmela is about to build her spec house on blood. Tony expresses sadness, most likely for his cousin. Things are really messed up now. There is the definite sense of impending doom as if the whole thing is about to collapse. This feels very much like the ending of The Godfather: Part II, when Michael Corleone is brooding after having his brother killed.

09. Hello FBI

Episode: Pax Soprana (SE1, EP6)
Characters: The New Jersey Soprano Family and members of New York Lupertazzi Family

The beautiful instrumental version of ‘Paparazzi’ by Xzibit plays when the FBI is introduced in the series. At Junior’s inauguration as the new boss of the family, a waiter is secretly making pictures. Then we see that at the FBI headquarters, the late boss Jackie Aprile’s picture is replaced by new boss Junior’s. The editing of this scene is done excellently, as we get a new perspective on the scope and structure of the Jersey mob hierarchy.

08. Gimme Shelter

Episode: I Dream of Jeannie Cusamano (SE1, EP13)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, A.J., Meadow, Artie, Charmaine, Christopher, Adriana, Paulie and Silvio

A storm moves through Jersey, literally, that changes all relations and shakes current positions. The Season 1 conclusion is a beautiful moment in The Sopranos saga. Tony and his family seek shelter from the storm in Nuevo Vesuvio where they also meet Tony’s close mob relations. It is a moment where everybody is still as happy as they can be. When looking into the future it is easy to see trouble ahead, but now the times are good. Later in the series, this will be indeed a good memory for the characters involved like Tony tells his son. The final song of the season is a genius choice; ‘State Trooper’ by Springsteen. ‘License, registration, I ain’t got none, but I got a clear conscience about the things that I’ve done.’ Problems are solved for now, Junior’s crew is finished and Tony is gonna be the new boss from next season onwards. Hurrah!

07. Tony’s True Face

Episode: College (SE1, EP5)
Characters: Tony and Fabian Petrulio/Fred Peters

The Hitchcock-like cat and mouse game in ‘College’ comes to a conclusion when Tony kills Mafia turncoat Fabian Petrulio by strangulation. With this murder – which is Tony’s first on the show – The Sopranos shows to be a truly uncompromising series. The audience comes to the realisation here that they are watching a cold-blooded murderer, a sociopath who enjoys the suffering of other people. It is therefore one of the most confronting moments in the series or television episodes in general. It is especially powerful because of its duality; the murder happens during a trip Tony is undertaking with his daughter Meadow to look for a college. After the murder, when Tony is at Bowdoin College, he is struck by a quote on display by Nathaniel Hawthorne. ‘No man… can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which one may be true.’ Very true in Tony’s case. No wonder he is in therapy.

06. Graduation Day

Episode: Funhouse (SE2, EP13)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, Meadow, A.J., Paulie, Silvio, Christopher, Furio, Uncle Junior, Artie, Adriana, Davey Scatino, Angie Bonpensiero, Hesh Rabkin, Carmela’s parents and Soprano Family associates

Season 2 of The Sopranos ends the way it started; with a beautiful montage. This concluding montage features happy images from Meadow’s graduation mixed with Soprano Family activities; garbage, porn, gambling, stock fraud, prostitution, et cetera. The very suitable ‘Thru and Thru’ from the Stones plays during the sequence, which is the perfect choice as the lyrics fill in the lack of dialogue and it helps to create the perfect atmosphere. The scene ends with a close-up of Tony smoking a cigar; he overcame all obstacles once again. Then we see the ocean where Big Pussy lies forever… This is a brilliant ending to an outstanding work of fiction.

05. The Last Ride

Episode: Long Term Parking (SE5, EP12)
Characters: Adriana and Silvio

After a long and heavy rollercoaster ride, this is finally it: the end of the line for Adriana. Her death at the hands of Silvio is a surprise during the first viewing because they left out the scene in which Christopher tells Tony about Adriana and the feds (as suggested by actors Drea de Matteo and Steve van Zandt). The way Silvio does it is very cold which makes the scene even more tragic. This is definitely one of the most iconic scenes in the entire series. Absolutely shattering. Adriana really is long term parking now and so is Christopher with Tony.

04. All Through the Night

Episode: Denial, Anger, Acceptance (SE1, EP3)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, Meadow, Hunter Scangarelo, Christopher, Brendan Filone, Mikey Palmice and Junior

In The Sopranos’ very own Baptism scene (from The Godfather) beauty is mixed with ugliness. The beautiful part is Tony and Carmella attending Meadow’s school choir performing ‘All Through the Night’ (while on speed, but they don’t know that). Simultaneously, the ugly part takes place in which Junior extracts his vengeance on Christopher and Brendan Filone for hijacking his trucks. Christopher gets a mock execution, while Brendan gets killed for real. Junior’s hitter Mikey Palmice puts one in his eye, because his eyes were bigger than his stomach (‘Hi Jack, Bye Jack’). There are few scenes in The Sopranos in which the contrast between the dark New Jersey underworld and Tony’s ‘normal’ family life are shown more effectively.

03. A Very Good Year

Episode: A Guy Walks Into a Psychiatrist’s Office… (SE2, EP1)
Characters: Tony, Carmela, Meadow, A.J., Paulie & prostitute, Silvio, Raymond Curto, Christopher, Dr. Melfi, Irina, Uncle Junior and Livia

Tony and his crew are back! The introduction sequence of the second season is a wonderful montage of all the major characters in their day to day activities. Tony is now boss and the money is flowing in. Livia is still in the hospital, while Junior is doing the perp walk in an orange jumpsuit. Christopher is watching gangster movies and snorting coke, Paulie is doing a Bada Bing girl and Silvio is out buying new shoes. Tony is also hiding his infidelity, while Carmela is baking one dish after the other. Dr. Melfi is practicing therapy from a bungalow home. A.J. is worrying about his hair and Meadow is taking her first driving lessons from her father. The audience is all up to date again. The Frank Sinatra song ‘A Very Good Year’ perfectly sets the moods for Season 2. This is how you tell a story without dialogue.

02. Bon Voyage

Episode: Funhouse (SE2, EP13)
Characters: Tony, Pussy, Silvio and Paulie

“They had me, Tony.” After being confronted during a boat ride by Tony, Paulie and Silvio, Pussy confesses he has been ratting for quite some time. He briefly panics, but then accepts the fact that he will not be coming back to shore. They have a round of tequila, a few final laughs and then his three former best friends take shots at him, but not in the face as he requested. This is the first time the guys have to take out one of their own. It’s a bittersweet moment, but in Mafia terms; what has to go down, has to go down. Goodbye Big Pussy Bonpensiero.

01. Pussy on the Brain

Episode: Funhouse (SE2, EP13)
Characters: Tony and Pussy (as fish)

In possibly the best episode of The Sopranos – Season’s 2 finale ‘Funhouse’ – Tony is having fever dreams while suffering from bad food poisoning. All dreams have certain elements in common; danger, cancer (destruction from the inside out) and Pussy. It all leads up to this final dream; the dream in which Pussy – in fish shape – reveals to Tony that he is working for the government. It is in moments like this that The Sopranos is at its most powerful; using a dream as a method to really push the plot forward. In the first season, when his mother wanted him whacked, Tony was in denial and started fantasising about a Madonna. But he didn’t acknowledge the truth until he heard his mother speak on the FBI tapes. Now, Tony has learned to listen to his subconscious. He has been having a strange feeling about Pussy for a long time and now he is open to the ultimate truth. When he wakes up he knows. The fish is also a brilliant find. In a macho gang like the Sopranos, it is considered unmanly to betray your friends. Therefore, it is Pussy – the guy with the feminine name – who’s a rat. There is also a pussy joke in there, pussy smells like… you get the picture. The reference is also to death, as in ‘sleeps with the fishes’, and it foreshadows Pussy’s ultimate resting place, the ocean. This dream is the perfect crossover between the series’ essentials; the mob and psychiatry.