​Did Twin Peaks Solve Its Central Mystery Too Soon?

Twenty-five years after captivating (and confounding) a nation, the influence and effect of David Lynch's Twin Peaks runs deep. TV shows centered around a single mystery? Thank Twin Peaks for that. Small towns populated by eccentrics? Twin Peaks again. Dramas that mix absurdist humor with nightmare imagery? Yeah, you get it.

The series' most important legacy may actually be its enduring curse: a central mystery so compelling that audiences grew impatient with the wheel-spinning and demanded answers ASAP. Twin Peaks famously capitulated to those demands and answered the question of "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" midway through its second season. There was no third.

Created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Twin Peaks tells the tale of deceased teen Laura Palmer (Cheryl Lee) and the FBI agent (Kyle MacLachlan) tasked to unmask her killer. Far from a straightforward mystery, Twin Peaks' twisted charms derive mostly from its dense tapestry of supporting players, each of whom boasts unpredictable quirks and dark secrets. With its hypnotizing Angelo Badalamenti score and majestic scenery, Twin Peaks is the kind of cozy, escapist yarn where the central mystery often seems beside the point. Or was it the only point?

The Netflix Debate Club is a weekly Kinja where writers face off about the most polarizing aspects of their favorite shows — and want you to join in.

THIS WEEK'S TV SERIES: Twin Peaks (1990)

THE DEBATERS: Price Peterson (TV.com, Vulture) & Lily Sparks (TV.com)

Price: Okay let's be real: the post-reveal episodes of Twin Peaks' second season are not the favorite of many fans. Without the central driving force of Agent Cooper's investigation, things focus on meandering mysticism and arbitrary character turns. But let's be realer: even that stretch of Twin Peaks is superior to almost everything else on TV today. That being said, in retrospect Twin Peaks certainly should have drawn out the mystery for six seasons, Lost-style, by generating new questions for each one answered. Its triumph in revealing Laura's murderer in such a huge, grand Guignol set piece of abject horror was also its biggest error: where exactly could the show have gone from there? It's this shark-jumping issue that has haunted all of Twin Peaks' progeny: Lost, Desperate Housewives, The X-Files and especially The Killing. Audiences might demand answers, but that doesn't mean they actually need them.

Lily: Twin Peaks is maybe my favorite show of all time. But when I settle down for a rewatch, I start from the pilot and stop immediately after the killer is revealed and for a reason you might not expect: it's because the climax of that central arc also coincides with the dissolution of Audrey and Agent Cooper's relationship, effectively ending both of the most compelling threads at the same time. When Kyle MacLachlan vetoed the planned romance between the leads — admirably (as he explained in the 2007 DVD commentary for the show), he objected to sexualizing a high-school girl — both characters were hastily written into the arms of new characters. What was the rush with all that bad romance? I'd argue fans would have been happy with 18-year-old Audrey and Cooper sharing more screen time platonically. They had enough chemistry that they could have served as a pro-Mulder and Scully within the Twin Peaks universe and extended the small-town mystery-solving indefinitely.

What does everybody else think? Did Twin Peaks have an obligation to give its audience what it craved? Or could the producers have forced everyone to wait a little longer? Were there other mysteries to solve? Discuss all this — and where to get the best cherry pie and cup of coffee — in the comments.

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