The first season of Twin Peaks was too much of a glorious anomaly to be easily followed. One of the series' co-creators was a maverick genius -- that'd be David Lynch -- and it was his collaboration with much-more-conventional Hill Street Blues writer Mark Frost that made a show so twisted. Sometimes it felt like the rules of television were about to fall apart in the middle of broadcast.
But Lynch, like all visionaries, left Twin Peaks in order to go on a quest (that ended with him winning the Palme d'Or at Cannes for Wild at Heart). He returned to the series only intermittently during the second season, mainly as an actor in the role of FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole. Most of the directing work was relegated to a host of Hollywood artsies (Diane Keaton, Stephen Gyllenhaal) who came out of the woodwork to take a crack at the coolest thing in everyone's living room.
That wouldn't have been a problem if the writers hadn't run out of Lynchian ideas. Instead of lateral logic, the series started to move in the familiar soap opera circles of Dynasty and Dallas, albeit with a quirkier cast of characters.
A young Heather Graham appears, as does an earnest Billy Zane. David Duchovny does drag. None of them capture the lived-in weirdness of Lynch's original characters, though, and it's still the work of Kyle MacLachlan (Cooper), Michael Ontkean (Sheriff Harry S. Truman), Jack Nance (Pete Martell) and Sherilyn Fenn (Audrey Horne) that elevates the series into the strange stratosphere.
Lynch does take a few notable turns behind the camera, including the extremely violent revelation of Laura's killer and the overacted, overbaked season finale. Several times Lynch's mad genius shines through, but he also compromises it just as often with cheap television storytelling and an overemphasis on pie. Perhaps the second season of Twin Peaks should have lingered -- "like some haunting melody" -- more in memory than onscreen.