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by Jason Mittell

p. 57-58:

As one of the early landmarks of complex television, Twin Peaks’ pilot provides an important template for the role of opening moments: it begins with two and a half minutes of opening credits combining languidly paced shots of a lumber mill with dreamy theme music, demanding our viewing patience and immediately setting a meditative tone. To viewers today, these credits are a striking anomaly, both in their length and placement, as most contemporary programs either forgo opening credit sequences entirely or precede shorter sequences with a teaser sequence to immerse viewers in the narrative. Twin Peaks’ pilot follows the credit sequence with an opening scene that both pays off and disrupts what preceded it: we open on Josie preparing for her day in a continuation of the initial languid tone. We then follow Pete to the shore, where he finds Laura Palmer’s dead body, iconically “wrapped in plastic,” and calls the sheriff’s office with a comedically clueless reply from receptionist Lucy. Within the episode’s first five minutes, we are taught to expect jarring juxtapositions in style, ironic undercutting of serious moments, and a dreamy tone leaving viewers unsure how to emotion- ally respond to the action—is Pete’s discovery played for laughs, melodrama, or both? These ambiguous tendencies are reinforced through- out the pilot, which also establishes more than a dozen characters, key plot points and relationships, and the intrinsic norm that each episode takes place within one day of story time. The program’s open-ended mystery and intriguing tone inspires viewers to want to keep watching, while the narrative form and style teaches us how to engage with the ongoing series.

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Other media by this contributor

TWIN PEAKS begins with a languid credit sequence, setting the mood for its celebrated tonal juxtapositions

The lengthy credit sequence focuses our attention before the narrative commences with an ambiguous tone.

from Twin Peaks pilot (1990)
Creator: ABC
Posted by Jason Mittell