“The Missing Pieces” is in many ways the halfway point between “Fire Walk With Me” as a film and “Twin Peaks” as a television series. Where “Fire Walk With Me” is extraordinary for subverting so many of the tropes of the series and of ones like it – a dead girl serving as the plot device, the prop really, for getting the actual stories started, with detectives and judging townsfolk and whatnot, sex and violence as titillation, and so on – “The Missing Pieces” is a synthesis between that approach and that of the series.
[This will address spoilers for the show’s two seasons and for “Fire Walk With Me”.]
It’s easy to see why the deleted and extended scenes that make up “The Missing Pieces” were cut. Many are clearly overlong, but that’s the point. They take the whole concept of “Fire Walk With Me”, the way it hones in so sharply onto Laura’s life that it becomes deeply disturbing and exposes the bedrock of the series as tragedy in a horrifically visceral way, then apply it to the regular character of “Twin Peaks”. Norma’s complicated love life transforms from parody of soap operas to something terribly sad and pitiful. Bobby’s antics shift from high school intrigue to a scared boy not knowing what to do. The two-by-four scene show’s the general business of the mill, rather than reducing it just to a toy for the soap opera plots of the show. Shelly’s meals-on-wheels scene shows what Laura’s complications were like for the bystanders, before she died and they all became part of a story. The charming Palmer dinner scene plays so well with the goofy Leland from the first season of the show, before exposure to his terrible truth, and makes the events depicted in the film even more unsettling, if that’s possible. And so on and on, nearly every scene in “The Missing Pieces” works in this way.
The opening scenes, set in Deer Meadow, don’t just underline the same point made in “Fire Walk With Me” itself (Deer Meadow is not Twin Peaks, and Twin Peaks’ folksy nature is unique rather than inherent) but also reframe it, positioning Twin Peaks as just another town with just another set of people, with all their own traumas, mistakes, problems, and petty grievances.
Even the form itself plays into this purpose. “The Missing Pieces” isn’t truly a film, it’s a collection of deleted and extended scenes that ends up lasting for ninety minutes. The home media release doesn’t even present it as a film, just as a list of scenes one can select “play all” on, notable for the fact Lynch dislikes chapter markers in actual films (as they apparently encourage zipping around in a film rather than treating it as a complete feature). They’ve been colour-corrected, touched-up, scored, and so on, so they certainly don’t feel like just special features, but they’re not a film either. They’re a fragmented and incomplete work exposing character’s lives as fragmented and incomplete rather than perfect little television archetypes.
Both “Fire Walk With Me” and “The Missing Pieces” recontextualise the series in adding narrative purpose behind so many early plot points – Bobby “killing a guy”, Harold and the secret diary, even Cooper mentioning tying the case to Albert instead of a “Sam”. It’s a credit to the scripts of the films that this works so well, when showrunners Lynch and Mark Frost didn’t even have Laura’s killer planned when they began the series. Retroactively, the films smooth the plot of the series, which is surprising considering Frost had minimal involvement with the films, but was generally the man with a plan making the narrative development of the series truck along nicely.
“Fire Walk With Me” was a perfect ending for “Twin Peaks” in that it wasn’t an ending, it left the brilliant ending of the second (at the time, final) season of the show stand, and instead zoomed out to expand the show’s depth, finally giving Laura Palmer the time, the attention, the story she deserved. Cooper was an instrument for her story, rather than Laura for his, as in the series, and the ending of the film unifies the two in a moment as close to a triumph as could be had without invalidating the end of the second season. “The Missing Pieces” undone this to an extent, but actually extending past the show’s finale, but the news of a new season of the show was announced the same year as the release of “The Missing Pieces”, and so opening up the wound of Cooper’s predicament makes sense as a harbinger for the new series to come. Without the extension of the very last scene from the second season finale, “The Missing Pieces” would have just been an exclamation mark to how “Fire Walk With Me” suggested the show was in some ways free of time, in a narrative sense, with Cooper and Laura in the lodge regardless of time, expanded on by the time-loop scenes, and out-of-time too, with the show’s influence and status).
“The Missing Pieces” does to the town and townsfolk of Twin Peaks what “Fire Walk With Me” did to Laura Palmer. I give it four fingernails and a blue rose.