The high point of the new television season thus far was the moment during the Oct. 6 episode of Twin Peaks when, ever so briefly, there were no giants mumbling about owls, no tuxedoed boy-magicians making creamed corn disappear. It was the moment when James, Donna, and Madeleine sat on the floor and, with James strumming an acoustic guitar, sang a gently off-key, shiveringly beautiful tune. The music summoned up the spirit of another two-girl-and-one- boy high-school trio, this one real: the Fleetwoods. The Peaks threesome's song sounded like a variation on the Fleetwoods' 1959 classic ''Come Softly to Me'' in fact, they sounded as if they were trying to get the spirit of the famously dead Laura Palmer to come softly to them.
As a pop-culture event, Twin Peaks is over; the knee-jerk media hoopla surrounding the show's first season has, inevitably, led to a knee-jerk backlash. But now, cocreators David Lynch and Mark Frost seem to understand, the art can begin in earnest. And so the pace of the series has become at once slower (that song; that old man in the season premiere who kept coming back to Agent Cooper's room as Cooper lay, shot and bleeding, on the floor) and faster (all those subplots that move along briskly each week).
Kyle MacLachlan has, against all odds, kept Agent Cooper from becoming a tiresomely obsessive eccentric; he always remembers to wince when he sits down, reminding us of that bullet he took in the ribs. Lara Flynn Boyle's Donna has made the transition from good girl to bad seem like the most exciting, terrifying journey imaginable.
Who killed Laura Palmer? Many viewers, tired of the hype, are saying, Who cares? I say it too, but as praise. Plot is irrelevant; moments are everything. Lynch and Frost have mastered a way to make a weekly series endlessly interesting. A