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The book's greatest strength is its ability to structure all of this material as something not only coherent, but narrative: we move from the heady early days of Twin Peaks' breakneck first season and unexpected smash success to the troubled and still contentious drama behind season two, which failed to sustain the show's audience and resulted in the show's cancellation. At times assembling the various anecdotes to coalesce into a firm picture, at others allowing them to contradict one another as various participants recall circumstances in different fashion, Reflections creates just what its title suggests - an alluring yet fleeting examination of the rise and fall of a phenomenon. In all of this, Dukes casts a sensitive and sympathetic eye on the many elements of this wildly diverse show - exploring each character and storyline in turn. While I (like many) am not a big fan of the second half of season two (after the killer is revealed), I was nonetheless absorbed and even touched reading about the actors' excited explorations of their characters. At the same time, the actors and creators themselves don't hide their disappointment with the turn of events, even as they're not quite able to explain them. Turns out that in the eye of the storm, participants had even less of an idea what was going wrong than those on the outside. Reflections does not offer a grand reveal of what precisely killed Twin Peaks, only more clues.
Among the areas Dukes is able to explore more in-depth than I (at least) have seen before: the involvement of various writers and directors, most fascinatingly the contentious and autocratic presence of German director Uli Edel (whom Russ Tamblyn hated working for), the eccentric touch of Diane Keaton, and the disastrous blood-covered script submitted by heroin-addicted Jerry Stahl; the loving detail lavished on Badalamenti's scoring, with due attention paid to his numerous and usually-overlooked collaborators in the studio; Kyle MacLachlan's always-controversial decision to nix Cooper's romance with Audrey (supposedly because his girlfriend Lara Flynn Boyle was jealous of her attention), which is fleshed-out but not solidified - although Sherilyn Fenn entertainingly harbors no doubts about what went down; Harley Peyton's increased involvement with the series to the point where he was basically running it while Mark Frost and David Lynch were off working on other projects, leading to some pointed confrontations with Lynch in particular; the personalities of various actors shining through in new and unforeseen ways - veteran actor Michael Parks gets some hilarious anecdotes about his confrontation with "gal director" Lesli Linka Glatter (who seems to take his condescension in stride), and Michael Ontkean surprises us as a more offbeat, soulful fellow (with a penchant to refer to himself in the third person) than we might suspect from his performance as the stable, easygoing Sheriff Truman.
The most prominent figure Dukes was unable to interview is David Lynch, co-creator of the series and the most famous name attached to it. This is unsurprising - as Lynch is often loath to discuss his work - and also less unfortunate than it might seem, for that very reason: it's impossible to imagine the director letting down his guard enough to offer Dukes new information, or expose his reasons for apparently abandoning the series when it was at its most troubled (he would later return, but it was too late). That said, the absence of Lynch does create a bit of a void when it comes to his side of the story, compounded by the fact that his eventual ally Robert Engels (one of the show's head writers, who eventually joined Lynch in creating the prequel film after the series was cancelled) doesn't have nearly as much to say as Harley Peyton, another head writer and eventually the show's executive producer. Peyton butted heads with Lynch in season two and says frankly, "We didn't get along." The result is that Lynch comes off as rather enigmatic and even erratic, while Frost and Peyton appear more sympathetic.
This relates to another subtle preference on Dukes' part - he doesn't seem to consider Laura Palmer's character the key to Twin Peaks, except inasmuch as her murder mystery fuels the show's exploration of other stories and characters. This perspective is both (mostly) good and (somewhat) bad as far as the book is concerned. As already noted, Dukes' wideranging love of the show allows him to explore every facet with equal respect and curiosity, picking up on tidbits others might neglect. Twin Peaks was, after all, an entire world, populated with more characters than several other shows combined, a potpourri of different tones and themes and stories. Dukes delights in this and his delight is contagious. And yet by overlooking the centrality of Laura's evolution from object to subject (particularly important to Lynch, changing not just the tone of the show but the nature of his own film work), Dukes misses the role it plays in the series' declining popularity and thematic confusion. To be fair, he notices the importance of the show's reveal narratively (if not thematically) and to his credit the section devoted to the second murder which reveals the killer offers much insight into the unsettling subtext of Twin Peaks and the reactions this engenders (one technician turned to Lynch after running the footage and said, "I hate you!"). And it closes with a compelling and provocative quote from Sheryl Lee which brings home precisely why Twin Peaks remains troubling as well as alluring two decades later.
But after this point, with Lynch's absence largely unaccounted for, the fallout between him and Frost outlined only vaguely, and the development of the prequel film given short shrift, we lose sight of precisely WHY Lynch was alienated from the show and felt compelled to devote an entire movie to the character he'd become obsessed with. Dukes has stated elsewhere that he doesn't like Fire Walk With Me, and that he wanted the book to focus on the series which is fine. However, his brief presentation of the film as variously a disappointment, mistake, and afterthought is unfair and imbalanced - lacking any perspective from participants like Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and Robert Engels, who consider it their best work and the climax of the Peaks experience (as does, quite emphatically, David Lynch). This disinterest in the centrality of Laura's mystery, or perhaps a lack of information, means also that the importance of that mystery is underplayed in early chapters. Frost is frequently on record saying he and Lynch knew the perpetrator very early on, but you won't find that assertion anywhere in Reflections; on the contrary, numerous participants openly speculate that Lynch and Frost were making it up as they went along, having no master plan beyond the season one cliffhanger. This serves to undercut the notion that Laura's story matters (aside from being a MacGuffin) and overlooks its role in the series' shifting fortunes. Notably, audience and critics abandoned the show not after the reveal or subsequent decline, as many in the book imply, but rather after the slowly-paced and darkly-toned season two premiere which indicated the show's new direction under Lynch's heavier involvement. Anyway, despite my frustration with this oversight, it remains a minor quibble, mostly balanced by the insight the book offers into various corners of the Twin Peaks universe.
Ultimately, Reflections is not about the exact secrets of Twin Peaks' creation and wild ride, but about the texture of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, something Dukes captures beautifully. You won't find a book better at evoking all the moods of Twin Peaks or offering more insight into the nuts and bolts of how the magic was conjured. It's something I'm sure I'll return to in future years, the same way I return to the series itself. By allowing the participants to tell their own story, Dukes doesn't just relay facts but their flavor. And it's as tasty as - pardon the expression - a slice of cherry pie.
4.5 stars - Highly recommended for fans of the series and with caution for the simply curious - Dukes carefully and chronologically unveils spoilers, but you should still tread lightly (or just watch the show first).
I found that reading the book was much like watching the show for me. The first half of the book that covers the genesis of the show through the end of season one was fantastic and totally drew me in. As the book covered later episodes in season two, much of my interest waned. Just like the series finale, this book finished quite strongly.
Twin Peaks is one of my all time favorite TV shows. I can never get enough of it. I am grateful to have this fantastic book to reveal so many secrets of what went into making the show.
That's what Brad Dukes has done. He nestles you amongst cast and crew as he weaves the show's story from beginning to end. Somehow Dukes has compiled and edited countless interviews into what seems to be one amazing conversation. It's an impressive feat, weaving all these various voices into one cohesive whole. Even Frank Silva--who passed away in '95--is included in a respectful way.
This is not just another fan book (not that there's anything wrong with the work of fanboys/girls). It's a slice of television history that continues to fascinate with each read (I'm currently on my third). If you are interested in television history, get this book.