Zot!, I wouldn't say Lynch is the most reliable narrator, so to speak, concerning network interference. there may have been some light pressure, from both ABC and Frost, and my guess is that Lynch above all regrets caving.
"oh yeah," just wanted to say how much I appreciated your post. I think your observations of the ways that working to fit their ambitions for Twin Peaks
into the strictures of 1990s network TV actually benefited the show in many respects, and the comparatively unbridled freedom Lynch and Frost seemed to have had with S3 led to mixed results.
as for the infamous "powerhouse episode" you mention, I have a story about that. I was 12–13 when the show aired, so my best friend and I were probably two of its youngest dedicated viewers. we watched it together in the TV room in the attic of her parents' house. They were pretty oblivious to whatever we were up to, but the evening of the show in question, her mom decided to visit us (to bring some milk and cookies!) and stepped in just at the climactic moment when
BOB/Leland tortures and kills Maddie.
she howled "What are you watching
?!?!" and from then on took an unfortunately keener interest in her daughter's TV viewing habits.
Thanks whale - I always learn something or get something to chew on from your posts as well, so cheers. And yeah, absolutely - it's odd, but that 2017 premium-cable kind of freedom didn't do many favors to S3. Lynch unleashed isn't necessarily a good thing when his ideas and approach have, I think, declined steadily over the past 15-20 years.
So in retrospect, the ABC form of the show being so much more successful to my eyes I think is largely due less to something about being an ABC series in 1990 than to Lynch's style at the time, and how preferable I find that style to what he's been doing since Mulholland. I concur with J. Hoberman's assessment of Inland Empire a decade ago now, when he said something like, digital has opened Lynch's mental floodgates and the result is a mish-mash of unfiltered and often unrelated-seeming ideas both good and bad. And S3 of Peaks absolutely had that narratively digressive feel, the feeling that we're watching a thousand different scenes that function almost by themselves, often tenuously connected to the rest and more often just simply dull or uninteresting to sit through.
Anyhow, re: Episode 14, that's funny and it's funny also just how many similar stories I've read or heard from people who were often age 10-13 and recount vivid memories of just how insanely disturbing that scene was. It still is amazing that it got past the censors, that it aired... that THAT thing fucking aired on ABC, primetime network TV, for millions of people to possibly accidentally witness whilst flipping through channels. I think there was a minor controversy in the UK after it was aired on BBC or somesuch and complaints came in about how overly graphic it was, et al.
The thing though is that it's not even a very graphic sequence! There's a punch in the face (which is truly repulsive, with the sound and all, when it happens), and then there's not much else besides the final slamming of the poor victim's head into that painting. So it's really how Lynch shoots and edits it which makes it seem so much more graphic and/or disturbing, and by god is it disturbing. I was 19 when I first ran through the series and I watched that for the first time past midnight in my room. I was more astonished, speechless, drained and not knowing what to think or say, than anything else, but sleeping certainly wasn't an enticing proposition. It's a scene that really grabs a hold of you and makes you look at the reality of violence in reality vs. on screen. It shows how phony other films and series which show violence are.
Mainly, I guess, Lynch makes the scene disturbing by how LONG and NEVERENDING it truly seems. As we pivot back and forth from strobe-lit slow-motion mauling by this animalistic force, to a more ground-zero reality that reveals the plain truth of what this kind of violence looks like. The way the killer sadistically toys with the victim by dancing and weeping and projecting Laura onto them basically, it gives the scene another dimension.
I really would put Episode 14 up there with the best of Lynch - especially the ending sequence with the murder AND the Roadhouse characters all feeling something in the air and just nonsensically (from a rational point of view) crying and crying and looking into the distance in a kind of shock. It's transcendent, especially with the Julee Cruise song. It's like Lynch said, alright I'll slaughter that goose with the golden eggs, if I'm gonna kill it I'm gonna kill it good and give this episode my all. And he did.
And one last point on this - did you know that Mary Sweeney was the editor on Ep 14? That was her first editing job with Lynch, or with anyone else. And I think it's interesting that he chose her for that episode, which otherwise just would've been cut by Jon Shaw or Toni Morgan. Sweeney and Lynch of course became partners, and were partners in film as well as life from the early 90s til around the time Inland Empire came out. So that's my other thought - that Sweeney was very, very key in shaping Lynch's work, not just via editing, but all aspects of the craft. She wrote The Straight Story, after discovering the real-life story and after initial disinterest finally getting Lynch to take on the project.
She did a spectacular job editing all those peak-Lynch-era flicks, Lost Highway and FWWM and the rest. And I suspect that she reigned in Lynch's impulse to elongate everything and digress and make pictures longer than they need to be. If you compare the absurdly digressive and messy Wild at Heart to the Sweeney-edited films I think you see the difference between Lynch unleashed and Lynch working together with a great partner who also supposedly helped shape his work to be more female-centered or at least more sensitive to women, more interested in women than men even. So while LH is basically a man's film through and through, it doesn't objectify without thought the women in it. The Madonna-whore complex of Arquette's character(s), projected by Pullman, reflects only his twisted thoughts instead of Lynch's. And then FWWM and Mulholland, of course, revolve around their female protagonists - getting into their minds not out of some male desperation to know "what women want" etc but as a genuine effort, exploring a character like Diane Selwyn's dreams and desires and guilt and loathing and the rest.
So I can only wonder what Inland Empire or S3 of Peaks for that matter might look like if Sweeney had not only edited them but still been close enough to Lynch to persuade him away from some impulses. Even just to have someone like Mary to bounce ideas off of, someone close and someone who knows what they're talking about... that's worth more than anything money can buy. And I wonder as well, then, if Lynch's separation from Sweeney caused him to naturally revert back to practicing filmmaking without that other voice, and thus creating a lot of self-indulgent material, or material that simply needs to be tightened up or even excised, etc.
Anyway, I can only speculate... but I think it's not a coincidence that the period ranging from late 1990 to 2001, from Twin Peaks episode 2x07 to Mulholland Drive, is also my favorite period of Lynch's career by far, and the period where he shined the most because he became more humbled, more sensitive, more humane and compassionate. Just recall the wild shrieking "look at me!" antics of Wild at Heart, before Sweeney had any involvement, a film content to milk most sensitive subjects for pure wacky humor or unnecessarily graphic scenes. It's got a soft spot for its two main characters, but that's not enough... because literally everyone else in the world of the film is depicted as unseemly criminals, murderers, perverts, squares, mentally ill folks with tons of Wacky stories about them, other creeps you don't want to get near, mothers from hell, black hired assassins who get beaten to a blood pulp, etc.
Then recall Fire Walk With Me, and the difference (after just 2 years) is staggering. It's the work of a director who's completely matured and put away almost all of his questionable tendencies in favor of the most moving portrait of a doomed woman, herself both sinner and saint but with emphasis on the latter not the former, because it's not like Laura was a master criminal - she just needed cocaine to fill the void in her caused by the horrendous rape and abuse and the final realization of who is actually the perpetrator and the one who created that hole. Sheryl Lee almost deserves co-writer or co-director credit for that film, so much did her performance and opinions otherwise powerfully influence the film itself. I bet Sweeney would've had those Missing Pieces stay in a closet somewhere if there wasn't already a running time restriction. That kind of restriction really helped Lynch's work - he himself said that Lost Highway having to be about 135 - 140 minutes and no longer really helped him be more disciplined in his shaping and editing of a movie.
But then Inland Empire comes along at 3 hours, and Season 3 comes along with a staggering 18 hours of content - and all I can think is, they should have stayed with the original agreement of 9 or so episodes. Because, love it or hate it, Season 3 was not a tightly edited piece of work, not as a whole I mean but also just individual scenes and the pacing... oh God, the pacing of the dialogue too often seemed like almost a parody of Lynch's silent/paused-filled conversations. Duwayne Dunham edited all that and he's an old friend and collaborator of Lynch's who did great work directing 3 episodes for the ABC incarnation back in '90 or '91. But he probably was another yes-man who accepted whatever Lynch desired.
The problem with the auteur theory or rather the auteur worship that kind of results from it, is that you sometimes get situations like Lynch's, where they NEED restrictions instead of total freedom. Blue Velvet had to be 2 hours tops, and it was. And it's a masterpiece, a film that will continue to endure. As will Fire, Lost, Straight, and Mulholland.
Can't say I see the same thing being true for Season 3, though. As the fans who shrieked the loudest from May to September about how perfect the series was and how awful anyone who critiqued it at all was, start to fade away, I think the more critical appraisals of it will come into prominence. It's a grab-bag of great stuff and not-very-great stuff and I'm still astonished that with so much freedom and opportunity and money they decided to create this unwieldy mess. Where was Sweeney when we needed her most?
I just can't understand this hype of S3 as not just superb in every way from start to finish but also their lack of disappointment. Because I feel like the show could've gone SO MANY different directions, all of which would be more compelling than the 12 episode Dougie-limbo we got. It's perverse - bringing the original, "real" Cooper back and in full Good Coop mode, both cheery and strict, but even when more strict still always having that touch of compassion. So we get 15 minutes or whatever of the real Coop, then in the next episode Coop is just a witness, or a coach cheering Freddie on, to the awful awful awful BOB-ball "scene" (if you can call such a trivialization of the show's entire core mythos and bad-guy a scene at all instead of a bit of spitting on the Twin Peaks concept).
And then after that we have Coop going to a completely different world and different time, et al, and after that we never really see the "real" Coop again. It's fascinating and thrilling when "Richard"/Coop so expertly disarms and beats up those three lumbering cowboys at Judy's coffee shop. And it's interesting to see different elements of Coop all come out one by one, like Mr. C's coldness with the fight and gun disposal in Judy's, or the Dougie-like confused state that occurs a few times but most notably in the very final scene as he ambles in one direction with his hand tentatively outstretched - as if looking for some invisible door to open on this quiet suburban street with this evil house.
There's bits of the Original Formula Cooper in there, like his manner of speaking when Carrie Page opens her door. But even then it's got an odd veil over it, of social awkwardness or just some inexplicable lack of the full charm and friendliness that Coop exuded. So overall we get like 30 min or less of the real Cooper. I think that's part of the point, surely, the dissolving of boundaries between his different identities... But it's harder to appreciate fully when you remember this came about only after a dozen (!) episodes of Coop trapped in the body of a man with the mind of a 2 year-old kid.
All that said, I did think Part 18, that final hour, was the best one in Season 3 - partly because it's so interesting as a stand-alone thing, the trip to 431 miles or whatever it is and the subsequent switch to Coop and Diane having the most uncomfortable and disturbing sex scene in television history. And with Odessa, it became even more interesting - now that's how you add a new location into Twin Peaks. I'd take the "Odessa" part (probably shot in CA!) over the tired Vegas business with the same stock footage establishing shots (no really, Twitter detectives confirmed most or all of the big sky-scraping shots were borrowed from some Getty Images/whatever type company or photographer, tweaked in post a bit at least but still very recognizable.
I'll stop here, because I could go on forever about this... Season 3 is the most fascinating failure - I mean, a noble failure with plenty to love, but still I think fell flat on so many very basic levels of filmmaking.