“The Leftovers” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Eight: “The Book of Nora”

If your primary interest here is watching Nora navigate her journey to an alternate dimension, traverse the empty globe, track down her surviving family, change her mind when she sees that they’re happy without her and she’d just destroy that hard-earned happiness, turn around, cross the globe again to find the scientist who invented the Departure machine, wait for him to rebuild it, and travel back through, then yeah, you’re getting told rather than shown. You’d have needed, conservatively, an entire episode to see it all. If you really wanted to get the flavor and feeling of this all-new, all-different Leftovers world, you might have asked for an entire season. Maybe each episode could be split between the main branch of reality and, oh I dunno, let’s call it a sideways universe? You get the picture. I’m not here to tell you that following Carrie Coon through a depopulated planet that’s even more emotionally and physically scarred by the Sudden Departure than her own would be boring — it sounds amazing, frankly. But for all kinds of logistical and financial reasons, it clearly wasn’t in the cards.

What is The Leftovers showing us instead? Just Nora, herself, in one of the many sustained closeups that director Mimi Leder uses to drive this episode, the way another show might use action sequences. We stare at her face as she spells out the entire saga. You might expect the telling to break her all over again, but she’s had years to process what she experienced. So perhaps the most extraordinary thing that has ever happened to a human being in history gets boiled down to a story told over a kitchen table between two estranged lovers, in a calm but sad voice, with a placid but sad face. The Leftovers has the confidence in its camera and in its performers to convey the enormity of it all, and Nora’s lonesome acceptance of that enormity, just by watching and listening to Carrie Coon talk.

Tellingly, Nora starts breaking down only when she gets to the most recent development: Kevin’s return to her life forces her to face the fear that kept her away from him all this time, the fear that he wouldn’t believe her. Here’s where “show, don’t tell” comes into play again. As we’ve seen, Nora has long since come to terms with her astonishing journey to another world and back again, in search of a lost family she now chooses to leave behind after years of grief over having that decision taken out of her hands. That’s not really what this conversation is about, for her. It’s about whether she can ever get close to anyone again, or whether her peerless pain has rendered her separate from all of humanity basically forever. To find out, she has to face her fear of rejection by the human she once cared about most. She has to find out if Kevin Garvey believes her.

“I believe you,” he says, through a face so warped by emotion his skin seems to be sloughing off his skull on one side of his face. “You do?” she asks, stunned. “Why wouldn’t I believe you?” he replies. “You’re here.” “I’m here,” she confirms, to herself and to him, her hand in his, both of them smiling through tears.

It’s the final dialogue in the series, and it wouldn’t work nearly as well had we actually watched Nora’s trans-dimensional adventures. Here, we’re put in the same position as Kevin, whose own alternate-reality experiences the show has depicted in lovingly bizarre detail, enhancing the contrast with the finale’s approach to Nora’s. We’re presented with the same information and asked to make the same decision. That, not the trip from world to world, is what The Leftovers wanted to show: a desperate person asking to be believed, and another desperate person believing.

I reviewed the final episode of The Leftovers for Vulture. I’ll miss this show very much.

“Fargo” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Seven: “The Law of Inevitability”

“Under the present brutal and primitive conditions on this planet, every person you meet should be regarded as one of the walking wounded. We have never seen a man or woman not slightly deranged by either anxiety or grief. We have never seen a totally sane human being.”

—Robert Anton Wilson

“For Pete’s sake, hon, what’s wrong?”

“The world. The world is wrong. It looks like my world, but everything is different.”

—Esther and Sy Feltz

I don’t know about you, but over the past few years I’ve had this conversation with my loved ones almost verbatim, tears and all. The world is wrong, isn’t it? For almost all of us? Maybe it’s depression or anxiety or trauma or some other mental illness that makes it feel that way. Maybe it’s the neoliberal nightmare of late capitalism and the rapacious gangsters in suits who’ve seized the opportunity to milk us all dry. For me it’s both, but who’s counting? And who, really, can separate the two? Seven episodes deep, Fargo Season 3 remains a slippery thing, the shape of its final act unclear, a far cry from the escalation toward the preordained Sioux Falls Massacre that gave Season 2 its irresistible momentum. But man oh man, this part is as solid and heavy as a stone. This is a true story.

I reviewed last week’s Fargo for Decider.

The Boiled Leather Audio Hour Episode 63!

BLAH 63 | Our Favorite Fantasies

“What other fantasy books do you like?” It’s one of our most frequently asked questions, and in this month’s episode of the Boiled Leather Audio Hour, we’re answering it? Sean and Stefan tackle the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, R.A. Salvatore, Lloyd Alexander, Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Cooper, David Gemmell, and Robert E. Howard (with detours into Dungeons & Dragons and H.P. Lovecraft) in a wide-ranging discussion about the fantasy authors and series that they enjoyed as kids, as grown-ups, or both, and what (if anything) separates one from the other. This is a fun one, if we may be so bold. Enjoy!

DOWNLOAD EPISODE 63

Additional links:

Sean’s guest appearance on the Delete Your Account podcast with Kumars Salehi.

Our Patreon page at patreon.com/boiledleatheraudiohour.

Our PayPal donation page (also accessible via boiledleather.com).

Our iTunes page.

Mirror.

Previous episodes.

Podcast RSS feed.

Sean’s blog.

Stefan’s blog.

The Boiled Leather Audio Moment #6!

Moment 06: Renly Baratheon: Threat or Menace?

On this all-new installment of our subscriber-only mini-podcast, we’re examining the character of one Renly Baratheon, courtesy of listener John Spinella. Was his move to cut ahead of his older brother Stannis in the line to the Iron Throne the ethical and political disaster many observers have said, or has dying before we could learn how he would really rule earned him a bad rap? Subscribe, listen, and find out!

“The Americans” thoughts, Season Five, Episode Thirteen: “The Soviet Division”

SPOILER ALERT

“The Soviet Division,” as the finale is called, ends with Elizabeth insisting that they can’t return to the Soviet Union as planned. Philip’s intel about Kimmy’s father, who’s slated to take over the titular branch of the CIA, is too valuable for them to retire now. Philip himself seemed to realize this when he brought it to Elizabeth in the first place, instead of simply discarding the recording that revealed it as was his original instinct. People will see this as an enormous anticlimax, and they may even be right—I certainly double-checked the time stamp on the episode just to make sure this really was the end of the season. But never believe this season of The Americans had nothing to say. It may have been more discursive and elliptical than previous efforts, likely a result of its first-ever guaranteed subsequent season. But what a menacing statement it makes about how much we rely on our family, and how willing we are to distort and destroy it to get what we need and want.

I reviewed the unusual season finale of The Americans for the New York Observer.

“American Gods” thoughts, Season One, Episode Five: “Lemon Scented You”

“It isn’t our fault they found other ways to occupy their time,” says the Hollywood goddess Media, played by Gillian Anderson. “That’s all you do — occupy their time,” Wednesday retorts. “We gave back, we gave them meaning.”

There’s a self-defeating irony in this claim, for this episode in particular. If all these new gods do is help us kill time, nothing deeper, why bother dressing Gillian Anderson up as Marilyn Monroe in this scene and (cue Tumblr gifsets!) David Bowie in another? Doesn’t the mental depth charge that the appearance of those icons ignites in the viewer — an effect clearly intended by the show itself, or it wouldn’t have bothered casting Anderson, an icon in her own right thanks to her work on its weird-America antecedent The X-Files — depend precisely on them meaning more to us than mere distraction?

Then again, perhaps it’s better of American Gods really does take Wednesday’s position in this argument. Its incorporation of Monroe’s tragic death, here described by the woman herself as a CIA assassination, is easier to justify if the show fundamentally disregards her value to her fans. (Not for nothing, but another of American Gods’ antecedents, that little show called Twin Peaks, had a more humane outlook on the matter.) So too is its cringey Bowie scene, an act of revivification as creepy and gross in its own way as what Laura Moon is going through. With an egregious pastiche of his Scary Monsters period playing in the background courtesy of composer Brian Reitzell, whose tacky omnipresent bombast is one of the series’ most distracting elements, the Bowie-deity incorporates lyrical snippets from the musician’s actual songs into its conversation with fellow new god Technical Boy. Every one of the lyrics is so much better than the dialogue — every one of the songs is so much better than the show — that, again, it all becomes easier to swallow if Fuller and company regard the originals as the mental junk food Wednesday implies they are.

Now that I’ve beaten the shit out of the show for three indulgent paragraphs on this point, it’s important to note that it’s fallacious just to assume the show’s position and Wednesday’s are one and the same. Isn’t he something of an unreliable narrator, as Mad Sweeney asserts to Laura in this very episode? Isn’t the whole show about the power of belief, the same force behind both gods and superstars? Isn’t author Neil Gaiman’s entire schtick based on The Magic of Storytelling — a form of wizardry with which the former Norma Jean Baker and David Jones would be quite familiar, seeing how they used it to transform themselves first and foremost?

Yes, yes, and yes — which makes the story’s stacking of the deck against the new gods in favor of the old all the harder to parse.

I reviewed this week’s episode of American Gods, which, hoo boy, not good, for Decider. The Bowie scene in particular gave me the worst case of second-hand embarrassment for a show I’ve had in years. That said, Emily Browning is doing pretty extraordinary work here, and I write about that at length in the review as well.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episodes Three and Four

With four hours of the The Return under our belts, it’s getting a bit easier to understand its overall approach. Is it leaning hard on all of the original’s most esoteric and terrifying material? Yes. Is it still the kind of FBI/cop show that serves as the missing link between Hill Street Blues and The X-Files? Also yes. Is it going to make time for ridiculous comedy detours just like it did 25 years ago? Again, yes. Will it serve up the love and loss of soap opera and melodrama, with the emotional volume cranked so high that it could read as parody? Once more, yes. It’s just going to do all those things slowly, parceling them out a little bit at a time over the course of multiple hours, instead of whipsawing back and forth in every single outing. The comedy of part four, for example, provides a counterbalance for the black psychedelia of part three; you need to see both, however, to strike the balance.

In other words, as suspect as this kind of description has become in TV-watching circles, the new Twin Peaks really is an 18-hour movie. If you’ve ever seen Lynch’s epic-length Inland Empire, which is three full hours of his most experimental narrative work since Eraserhead, it’s not hard to imagine the director chomping at the bit for the chance to explore obsessions over an even larger canvas. For television this gutsy and this good, he can take all the time he needs.

Teach Me How to Dougie: I reviewed episodes three and four of Twin Peaks Season Three for Rolling Stone. I think people are starting to realize that all four episodes so far have been stone fucking classics. It’s basically a miracle.

“The Leftovers” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Seven: “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother)”

At the beginning of season two, The Leftovers’ theme song made its own sudden departure. The epically morose music by series composer Max Richter vanished, along with its Sistine Chapel–style imagery of people falling away from Earth to the anguish of the loved ones left behind. They were replaced by the jaunty country jangle of Iris DeMent’s “Let the Mystery Be” and a sort of reverse-Polaroid montage of family photos created by inescapable prestige-TV title designers Elastic. As of tonight, the circle is complete. “The Most Powerful Man in the World (and His Identical Twin Brother),” the series’ penultimate episode, combines the two opening sequences, using the soundtrack of the former to accompany the imagery of the latter.

Richter has done fine work for The Leftovers as time has gone by, but his original opening theme sounds hilariously dour and overwrought after the black-comic brilliance of seasons two and three. Or maybe I have that backward: Is it the ironically sunny pictures of everyday people smiling as their loved ones vanish and their world comes crashing to an end that’s inappropriate, given the gravity of the situation as conveyed by Richter’s music? It’s a matter of perspective, I suppose. Which makes the use of the original theme song in this context just as predictive as every other opening theme has been during this wild final season. After all, the episode ends with Kevin Garvey, doomsday-cultist president of the United States of America in an alternate dimension, facing down Kevin Garvey, international assassin and the president’s identical twin, with the fate of the entire world at stake. Who ought to win depends on where you’re sitting.

I reviewed the second-to-last episode of The Leftovers ever for Vulture. This show sure seems to be going out on a high note!

“Game of Thrones” Season 7: Everything We Know

At long last, Game of Thrones is reaching the endgame. Based on the sweeping trailer for the show’s seventh and penultimate season, HBO’s colossal fantasy series is playing for keeps in a way we’ve never seen before. In just 90 seconds, we see hordes of Daenerys Targaryen’s Dothraki horsemen riding into battle, led by a dragon on the wing; the Mad Queen Cersei Lannister striding across a map of Westeros the size of an entire room, ready to take on enemies coming from every direction; and Jon Snow, the born-again King in the North and possible messiah, proclaiming “The Great War is here.” The culmination of over a year of news tidbits, rumors, leaks, and tantalizing promos, it promises big things to come – and we don’t just mean the size of the dragons.

Now that the official trailer for Season 7 is out, I rounded up all the info and inferences we’ve got about Game of Thrones’ coming season for Rolling Stone.

“Fargo” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Six: “The Lord of No Mercy”

My working theory at this point is that V.M. Varga is a clear and present danger primarily to the weak and stupid and easily cowed — to the Rays and Nikkis of the world, who can’t shoot straight (or at all; think of what might have been avoided had Nikki not come up with the oh so brilliant idea of not letting Ray shoot Varga and his minions to death when he had the chance); or to the Emmits and Sy Feltzes of the world, so comfortable and successful living according to their own code of conduct that the introduction of someone playing by entirely different rules catches them completely flat-footed. But in the person of Gloria Burgle, he may have encountered an enemy too dogged and determined and just plain lucky to give this wolf a run for his mutton. What else do they have in common besides their mutual interest in the Stussy brothers, after all? Like Varga, Gloria is a ghost in the machine.

I reviewed this week’s episode of Fargo for Decider.

“The Americans” thoughts, Season Five, Episode Twelve: “The World Council of Churches”

Elizabeth Jennings can quit anytime she wants. No, really, she means it this time. She’s had enough of the lying and fucking and killing, nevermind that the last bit wouldn’t even have happened had she not voluntarily stepped in and pulled the trigger last time around. She’s ready to quit the spy game go home, honest. Any day now. Until then, though, there’s appearances that have to be maintained. She’s got to fish her daughter Paige’s discarded crucifix out of the trash and give it back to her—not because she worries the kid is rejecting something important to her just to please her atheist parents, but because her Christian mentor Pastor Tim hasn’t quite been shipped out of the country by their paymasters yet and until that happens the lie must be maintained. She’s not a spy. She’s an addict.

I reviewed this week’s tense penultimate episode of The Americans Season Five for the New York Observer.

“Better Call Saul” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Seven: “Expenses”

If there’s a defining image for “Expenses,” this week’s episode of Better Call Saul, it’s of a mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially exhausted Jimmy McGill, disheartened by the failure of his latest scheme, just sitting there alone on the sidewalk, collecting himself. Everyone needs a breather now and then, including this show.

The slow pace obscures it somewhat, but season three of BCS has seen a whole lot of excitement go down from the return of Gus Fring and other figures from Breaking Bad’s drug wars to the courtroom showdown between Jimmy and his brother Chuck. The seeds of both were planted in the finale of Season Two, with Mike’s Gus-aborted assassination attempt on Hector Salamanca and Jimmy’s felony confession at Chuck’s house. The resulting sense of momentum was powerful, no matter how long it took Mike Ehrmantraut to reassemble the bug in his gas cap.

But Mike’s dealings with his future boss Gus reached a head in episode four, the courtroom drama occupied episode five, and its aftermath ate up the half of episode six not occupied by the reintroduction of the soft-spoken gangster Nacho Varga as a major player. The task of episode seven, then, seems to be to relax, regroup, and reboot. It’s the first installment of the season that doesn’t feel like a drift downward into an inexorable hell.

I reviewed Monday’s Better Call Saul for the New York Observer.

“American Gods” thoughts, Season One, Episode Four: “Git Gone”

I’m never sure whether to be pleased or annoyed when a mediocre show finally airs an episode that warrants the praise it’s been getting from the start. On one hand, as a critic — and no one believes me when I say this, but it’s true — I’m in the liking-things business, and getting to experience art I enjoy is the delight that drives my whole career. On the other, climbing aboard an already-in-full-swing bandwagon for a show that I sincerely believed to be bad makes me feel dirty, at least until its future trajectory can be determined.

And one episode is definitely not enough to make that determination. Take Noah Hawley’s Legion, about as apples-to-apples a comparison with Bryan Fuller’s American Gods as you can get. Like American Gods, Legion was a new project from a television visionary fresh from a stunningly successful and unique adaptation of outside source material, with Fargo standing in for Hannibal. Like American Gods, Legion was itself an adaptation, of work by influential comic-book creators, with Neil Gaiman standing in for Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz (themselves working off concepts created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee). Like American Gods, Legion saw the artifice and spectacle present in the showrunners’ previous work cranked up to astronomical new heights. And like American Gods, Legion waited until its fourth episode to do something worth the extravagant praise that had been heaped upon it already.

I reviewed this past weekend’s episode of American Gods, which was quite good, for Decider. That was a heck of a Sunday night for TV, all things considered.

“The Leftovers” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Six: “Certified”

SPOILER ALERT

Then we get to the final scene. Laurie has had heart-to-hearts with her husband John, her ex-husband Kevin, and her frenemy Nora, and seems unburdened by it all, though she’s decided not to stick around to see if Kevin is the messiah. (“Is Nora gone?” he asks her as she leaves. “We’re all gone,” she replies, not unkindly.) The whole wide world is open to her, and sure enough she seems to be taking advantage of it. We pick up with Laurie as she rides a boat out into the ocean, wearing scuba gear, and … oh God, scuba gear. That’s my third and final “oh, no” moment: the realization Laurie intends to kill herself, just as Nora described. Then she gets a phone call, from her daughter Jill, with her son Tommy laughing along in the background. They’re calling to clear up an argument about a kids’ show Jill used to watch on a tape salvaged from a garage sale — the old Nickelodeon show Today’s Special about a mannequin who comes to life, that’s got a real earworm of a theme song. Grinning from ear to ear, Laurie clears up the question for her kids, tells them she loves them, and hangs up.
“It’s now or never, miss,” the captain tells her. A storm’s been coming since the day before, as Kevin Sr. pointed out earlier with evident satisfaction, so if she’s going to dive she’d better go before it hits. She puts on her mask and mouthpiece, breathes, breathes, breathes, breathes, breathes, and falls backwards into the sea. The camera just sits there, filming the emptiness she’s left behind. The sound of the storm approaches. The scene cuts to black. Laurie’s love for her children, for her husbands, for Nora, for everyone — it’s all real, and it’s still not enough to stop her. Everyone involved, from Brenneman to episode writers Patrick Somerville and Carly Wray to director Carl Franklin, seems determined to drive both points home. Love is real, and love is not enough. The episode ends as it begins: with a woman giving up.
What an extraordinary show.

Oh yeah, The Leftovers aired last night too, and it was excellent. I reviewed it for Vulture.

“Twin Peaks” thoughts, Season Three, Episodes One and Two

It’s the first time we’ve see the Twin Peaks logo and heard the opening notes of Angelo Badalamenti’s unforgettable theme song in 25 years. When it happens, we’re looking right at the face of Laura Palmer. Director David Lynch and his co-creator and co-writer Mark Frost could have chosen pretty much any image to pair with the kick-off of the show’s almost manically anticipated return. But after a cold-open flashback that recycled footage from the original series – the sequence from the series finale in which she informs Agent Dale Cooper that she’ll see him again “in 25 years” – it’s the high-school girl whose horrific murder set the whole story in motion to whom they give the honor.

Whether in its two seasons on TV in the early 1990s or in the 1992 prequel film Fire Walk With Me, Twin Peaks has always placed Laura front and center, treating her not as a fetish object or an excuse for male characters to sleuth and mourn, but as a person deserving of our empathy and respect. All these years later, that has not changed.

Much else about the show, however, has changed. The rest of the opening credit sequence traces the progress of roaring water as it cascades down the falls, and then shows the black-and-white zig-zag floor and billowing red curtains of the Black Lodge, the nightmarish source of the story’s supernatural evil. That’s the other half of the equation for Showtime’s new Twin Peaks season, which bears the subtitle “The Return”:  a plunge into magic and madness.

Words I never thought I’d type: I reviewed the season premiere of Twin Peaks for Rolling Stone.

“Fargo” thoughts, Season Three, Episode Five: “The House of Special Purpose”

If “The House of Special Purpose” demonstrates anything it’s how bad things are getting, and how fast they’re getting there. God bless the silence, restraint, and deliberately painstaking pacing of crime shows like Better Call Saul and The Americans, but there’s something cathartic about watching everything collapse as quickly as possible. In this episode alone, Emmit loses his wife over a fake sex tape Ray and Nikki record in a failed blackmail attempt; he blows up at Sy and risks their friendship; Ray realizes the cops are on to his involvement in Ennis Stussy’s murder; Emmit learns the IRS is investigating him due to Ray’s “withdrawal” from Emmit’s personal account while in disguise;  Varga goes apeshit on Sy in his oily way; and Varga’s hired muscle beat Nikki to a pulp. The best thing that happens to anybody is that Sy’s meeting with the Widow Goldfarb, a potential buyer and thus lifeline from Varga’s depredations, isn’t a total fiasco.  “You’re supposed to be a fixer!” Emmit barks at Sy in the middle of all this. “Nothing’s fixed. Everything’s broken.” That’s about the size of it.

I reviewed this week’s episode of Fargo for Decider. In the review spend a bunch of time writing about Nikki Swango, a curveball of a character.

The Indulgence of an Anthology of Erotic and Horror Comics

Great horror is the pursuit of meaning through defilement, a conscious and inquisitive violation of the mind, the body, the beloved, the home; the concentric circles of security that comprise our lives. Great porn proceeds from a similar root, grappling with that which delights and with that which abases in the context of their inextricability. There is no division between the shame that ignites desire and the desire itself, just as there is no division between love and the fear of death.

So begins Gretchen Alice Felker-Martin’s foreword to Mirror Mirror II, the second annual collection of horror and erotic comics from indie publisher 2dcloud. In this volume, editors Sean T. Collins and Julia Gfrörer curate a murderer’s row of alt-comic talent. Anthologies tend to wobble in quality from one story to the next, but the work here bottoms out at vivid and frequently reaches greatness. Empowered to grasp as deeply as they please into the darkest possibilities of their imaginations, these artists merge Felker-Martin’s ideas of great horror and great porn into a chimera of hideousness so lovingly detailed that it becomes beautiful.

[…]

Though plenty of the stories delve into explicit violence or sex (or both), or into outright body horror, others instead seek to insinuate anxiety in the reader’s gut — that floating chill you get when you sense that something is off, even if you can’t articulate what it is. It’s the instinctual reaction to the slime and drip from wounds and orifices, juxtaposed with the allure of naked bodies and pleasured genitals. This book is like a porn stash you’d find in the cupboard of a medieval demon. It feels truly forbidden, and reading it induces an exquisite sense of deviance.

Dan Schindel wrote a rave review for Mirror Mirror II, the comics anthology Julia Gfrörer and I co-edited and contributed to, for Hyperallergic. You can pre-order it from Amazon or directly from our publisher 2dcloud, which also has an extensive preview up. We can’t wait for you to see it!

‘Dreaming the Beatles’ Author Rob Sheffield on the Fab Four’s Unstoppable Pop

I wonder if that longevity has something to do with another key element of the book — that The Beatles were “a pop group” and “a rock band,” and you talk about them as both.

Sheffield: The fact that they play in both of those leagues is one of the really weird things about them. There’s something utopian about the way they float over that distinction. Their original concept of “rock and roll,” which is what they called it when they were just starting out — it’s amazing how expansive it was. They were really into playing blues, R&B, country, American rockabilly, corny cheesy show tunes, upscale New York professional-songcraft stuff like Goffin and King, girl-group stuff.

It was controversial, even at the time when they were playing in Liverpool. Paul has this funny story in his book about how the other Liverpool bands thought The Beatles were good at playing blues covers, and that it was lame that they wanted to play pop stuff. Mick Jagger was saying, “We were blues purists. We like pop stuff, but we would never do it onstage.” But [Motörhead singer and bassist] Lemmy talked about seeing The Beatles at the Cavern Club, and he was like, “That’s the most ferocious live band I’ve ever seen.” The idea of a 16-year-old Lemmy going to the Cavern for the lunchtime show, and all these office girls who are there with their hair in rollers, dancing around their handbags.

It’s funny that the definitions of rock and pop became more exclusive and narrow-minded since then. The Beatles were beyond that from the beginning. Their conception of rock and roll was so wide-ranging and so imaginative that there was something revolutionary about it. They would try playing anything new: Motown, Carl Perkins, The Music Man, all on the same record or in the same set. They were very self-consciously provocative about that. Even [girl groups like] the Marvelettes or the Shirelles or the Chiffons. [The Beatles] liked singing in that girl-group style of vocals together. Like, no, The Rolling Stones did not do that.

It’s my great pleasure to make my MTV News debut by interviewing Rob Sheffield about his tremendous new book Dreaming the Beatles, the best thing about the band I’ve ever read. It sidesteps the canonicity argument completely and talks about how the Beatles’ presence in pop culture didn’t just end with their amazing eight-year run, but continued to grow and change and get even bigger among different groups of kids and musicians every decade since. Absolutely stellar work, and I’m so glad I got to pick Rob’s brain about it.

‘Twin Peaks’: Your A to Z Guide

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT

A: Angelo Badalamenti
“Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.”
That music – as indispensable to to the series as Dale Cooper or donuts and coffee – is the work of Lynch’s longtime musical collaborator Angelo Badalamenti, whose suite of lush leitmotifs made the show sound like a world all its own. Twin Peaks without the composer’s sumptuous synths is like Psycho without Bernard Herrman’s screeching strings, or Jaws without John Williams’s menacing “dun-DUN-dun-DUNs.” This clip of the composer explaining how he and Lynch came up with “Laura Palmer’s Theme” shows how much heart and soul he poured into every note.

B: Bob
Lynch was filming a scene for the pilot in which the late Laura Palmer’s mother sits bolt upright and screams. Then he noticed a face in the mirror behind her – the same face he himself saw when its owner, an actor turned set dresser named Frank Silva, crouched behind Laura’s bed to dodge the camera for a different shot. From this sinister coincidence was born Bob, the demonic rapist and murder from the otherworldly Black Lodge who began the series by killing Laura Palmer and ended it by possessing Agent Dale Cooper. Thanks to his malevolent presence, no show has ever been scarier.

I wrote about the many-faceted magic of Twin Peaks, from Angelo Badalamenti to Grace Zabriskie, for Rolling Stone.