Welcome back to TV Timewarp, in which we spend Wednesdays revisiting each episode of a late, beloved series. Join us as we journey back in TV time to examine Twin Peaks, the wonderfully weird, cerebral murder mystery and quirky townie exercise from David Lynch and Mark Frost. Twin Peaks aired on ABC from 1990-91. You can follow our recently completed Firefly TV Timewarp here.
Brian Collins, Evan Saathoff (aka Sam Strange) and I are discussing the eighth episode in the series this week, the Season One finale. Next week we're going to take a break before resuming with the premiere of Season Two on August 29. Follow along the entire series here. You can watch with us by streaming Twin Peaks on Netflix or Amazon Instant Watch. We're going to keep this baby spoiler-free, so if you're watching Twin Peaks for the first time, fear not.
And I'd like to start every installment with some crucial information...
What Special Agent Dale Cooper Ate This Week:
Hardly anything! I hope he's feeling okay. He had a couple of scotch on the rocks at One-Eyed Jacks and he was planning on drinking some warm milk before he got shot. So yeah, come to think of it, he's probably not feeling okay.
"24 hour room service must be one of the premier achievements of modern civilization."
It’s the finale! Shit goes down!
Here are the characters that could be dead, are dead or just barely escaped death after this week’s events:
* Dr. Jacoby, clobbered over the head by someone in black gloves (Leland, presumably, as the same black gloves smother Jacques later). He then suffers a heart attack after seeing Maddy disguised as Laura
* Jacques Renault, smothered by Leland (but first shot by Andy the unlikely hero!)
* Leo Johnson, shot by Hank
* Bobby Briggs, axed a question by Leo
* Shelly Johnson, nearly burned alive by Leo, possibly saved by Catherine
* Catherine Martell, still in burning mill with Shelly
* Pete Martell, runs into burning mill to save Catherine (aww)
* Nadine Hurley, overdosed of her own accord
* Special Agent Dale Cooper, shot by ??
There isn’t much time for symbolism or quirk in this episode; it’s all non-stop action and cliffhangers on top of cliffhangers. The first season finale is a jam-packed episode filled with death and near-deaths, but it also has some other stuff. For instance, Jacques admits to everything we basically already know: he and Leo were having sex with Ronette and Laura at the cabin in the woods and taking their pictures for Flesh World magazine. He and Leo fought, which is why there was blood on Leo’s shirt. When Jacques awoke, Leo and the girls were missing. Jacques also informs us that his parrot Waldo, like every other male in town, was in love with Laura Palmer.
Andy responds like a boss when Harry’s life is on the line, but he responds like a jerk when he learns Lucy is pregnant. Their brief makeout makeup session in the break room was charming, however.
Audrey dons the truly ghastly lingerie known to all One-Eyed Jacks girls, which we learn is sewn by a silent (blind?) hunchback. Audrey is then inadvertently courted by her father who celebrates his successful business venture by meeting “the new girl.”
Coop is as good at blackjack as he is at everything else. Furthermore, Coop and Truman are too smart to get fussed by the ol' booger sugar in the gas tank trick Bobby tried to pull on James. Poor Bobby’s plans always go awry.
Shelly Johnson washes her hair in the sink like she’s Honey Boo Boo.
Hank and Josie continue to bore the tar out of me. Even hiring a hitman to kill her husband and wearing lipstick made of blood can’t make Josie Packard interesting. They should really stop trying to outsmart Catherine. Nobody outsmarts Catherine. Also, significantly - Pete and Catherine are nice to each other!!
And my poor, sweet Coop, shot in the gut-parts of that dapper tuxedo. Who will survive? Who will disappear? What will Season Two bring to the inhabitants of Twin Peaks, Washington?
You’re right, this episode is pretty action packed. Nearly every scene involves someone being attacked, and the few that don’t tend to have some big revelations, like Jacques’ story about the night Laura died. The only ones that don't fit this description pretty much involve Hank, telling Norma about his uncomfortable prison mattress, or talking to Josie about whatever their stupid arrangement was. As I said last week, I like Chris Mulkey, but so far Hank appears to be another boring character, and his contributions to the plot seem like they could have been assigned to other characters. Not only would this help the overcrowded populace, but it would help make the Norma-Ed-Nadine triangle more interesting, especially with this new development of Nadine's suicide (attempt?).
In fact, so much is going on that the episode forgets to be weird or funny. Hell, there's barely even a coffee presence! Apart from the idea that a bird was in love with Laura (and Mark Frost seemingly intentionally frames Hank in a way that makes him look like he has antlers), everything here is pretty much what I'd expect from a typical thriller/mystery show season finale, except for the fact that it looks like One-Eyed Jacks employs the evil queen in her "farmer's wife" disguise from Snow White as the in-house seamstress. I mean, yeah, it's certainly not a boring episode, but I wish it found the time to be a bit more surreal and quirky.
On the plus side, it's nice to see Ray Wise have something to do besides cry and dance, especially when it involves killing Jacques, a repulsive looking character whom I will not miss at all (he reminded me of the perv neighbor from Hardware). And as a fan of Andy, it was great seeing him spring into action, and his (brief) reconciliation with Lucy was a delight as well. Even if they forgot the oddness, the episode found time for just about everyone of note (I guess Jerry was off eating a sandwich or something), which is a frequent problem with season finales - certain characters get thankless appearances just to "check in," but it seems like Frost made efforts to give everyone a memorable moment that will play into the second season.
On that note - it must have sucked for 1990 audiences to have to wait months to find out who shot Coop. I think I can manage a couple of weeks though. I hope it was Andy, now gun-crazy and mad at him for his poor advice about women.
EVAN / SAM / BIG BABY JESUS / FELLA GaGa:
Here’s part of my problem with Twin Peaks (and I’ll allow that it might just be my problem rather than a problem with the show itself): just last week I watched a couple episodes of season two, and I still have no idea who beat up Jacoby. They might not have spilled it yet, or maybe the show told me and I missed it, or maybe Meredith told me above and I already forgot. Events just don’t stick in my head with this show. I should know who shot Cooper because it’s a big incident, and I’ve been through this show before. But I cannot for the life of me remember. It’s not like LOST where so many mysteries add up that I’m dizzy with the frenzy of possibilities. Instead, mysteries add up and I forget they’re even mysteries.
Symptomatic of this problem, I don’t care of Jacoby dies. Don’t care if Shelly dies. Don’t care if Leo dies. Kind of care if Catherine dies. Not really worried about Cooper not pulling through. This season finale left me not really salivating for more hot Twin Peaks action but ready to call it quits. I kind of understand why many stopped watching this show before it ended.
Twin Peaks has few characters who pose serious threats. Otherworldly BOB and MIKE are pretty creepy, but on this celestial plane you don’t have many scary guys to watch out for, just a bunch of posing greasers and teens. Bobby is a twirp. And while Leo scared Brian, I kind of think he’s silly. Benjamin is suitably greedy and evil, but he’s also somewhat buffoonish and nerdy. And Hank... Senior Sad Eyes looks like a stay at home dad on his first day of owning a motorcycle.
Which is why I will always be bummed out how early the show got rid of Jacques Renault. I’m not certain he genuinely scared me, but his was truly an abject disgusting presence on a show that sometimes feels a little too clean for its subject matter. Nasty French Canadians are this show’s hidden gift, and yet they keep offing them like they have a never ending supply or something.
And I’m with Brian. What’s with Hank and the antlers?
Yep, I told you above who beat up Jacoby. It was Leland! (This isn’t a spoiler guys; I believe we are supposed to know by this point that it’s him, as he’s wearing the same puffy black leather gloves when he’s smothering Jacques. If the gloves fit, you can’t acquit!)
I’m with Evan. Don’t kill off Jacques! His sleazy accent (“Bite de bulleet, babeee”) and general lack of hygiene are a creepy boon to this show, even if the man never took the time to learn what the FBI agent investigating his case looks like. (Unless Coop’s glasses just so fully disguised him?) I only wish more of the boring characters would die. We can’t even get ONE scene alluding to the potential death of Hank or Josie? I’m okay with losing Leo, but so help me God if Catherine dies, I will CARE. (Okay, I know if she dies or not.)
I’m definitely not suffering from any Peaks Fatigue - I’m psyched to dive into Season Two. Like Brian, I’m glad we only have to wait a couple of weeks instead of three months. I love the first season, and while S2 has its flaws, it certainly never suffers from a lack of weirdness.
EVAN / SAM / MADEA / SPECIAL AGENT DALE POOPER:
It’s very difficult to remember how I felt about this show when I was watching it for the first time. It’s even more confusing now that I realize how little of it I remember. Technically this is a rewatch, yet I seem to be discovering everything all over again, only without any suspense (if there was much suspense for me to begin with -- all I remember for certain is being scared to death of BOB). It’s weirdly the worst of both worlds.
I’m actually looking forward to season two, in a way. When I try to remember it, a lot of awful things come to mind, but a lot of great stuff rises to the surface as well. Many elements I had expected to see at this point haven’t even shown up yet. Frankly, I thought the Laura Palmer mystery would have been more wrapped up (in plastic) by this point, but it remains as ongoing as ever. We still have a police investigation that matters and a teenage sleuths investigation that wastes our time and Audrey’s One-Eyed Jacks investigation, however you'd like to define that.
And, Meredith, even though you just told me yet again who beat up Jacoby, I still can’t remember. Was it Bobby? I hope he’s dead. Like you, I wish this show would kill off more characters. I suppose that’s antithetical to Twin Peaks’ faux Soap Opera aesthetic. I know all kinds of crazy things happen on those shows, but offing characters like Game of Thrones isn’t one of them. Or is it? I was always under the impression that soap opera characters hang around for years, but I could easily not know what I’m talking about because I’ve never watched a soap opera.
Which may be why Twin Peaks often fails to deliver the show I want. As a soap opera, romance and infidelity and dual identities and a bunch of other plot devices I rarely care about kind of come with the package. Perhaps going into season two, I’ll keep that caveat close by while watching.
I too feel that the cast should be whittled down some. I assume I would have heard by now if Cooper or Harry were killed, and there’s gotta be a reason for the actors who are in the main cast as opposed to the “Also Starring” list (which includes Leo and Jacoby), so the folks in the latter could/should be reduced thanks to the Grim Reaper.
It’s weird that the first season only lasted eight episodes. I assume that the pilot counted as two, which would make nine hours produced - it’s like some backwards deal where they had a commitment for nine and if ratings were good they’d get the back thirteen? But the ratings WERE good? I looked at the Wikipedia entry but couldn’t find any solid reason for it, and I’m afraid to dig too deep for fear of spoilers. I only bring it up because this episode (while all in one night, if I’m not mistaken) feels a bit rushed, and I can’t help but wonder how it would be with a more typical thirteen episode season. Then again I don’t recall much about season lengths in 1990; maybe this was pretty common and those other shows haven’t lived on. (I just looked at the TV schedule for that season on Wikipedia - didn’t get an answer to that question but was amazed to discover that two of the year’s top 10 rated shows aired on Saturday night! And were on NBC!)
But if anything that just makes me more hungry for S2. Other than knowing who Laura’s killer is (but only the identity, not the motive) I know absolutely nothing about it, and the fact that it’s a complete season - plus Meredith’s assertion that it stays weird - makes me think we’ll have a lot to discuss down the line. Also, even though this first season aired in the spring/early summer, it feels like a great show to watch in the fall, especially with all the coffee drinking. It’s currently around 90 degrees in my living room - how can Cooper want hot coffee so much when I can’t raise my arm to hit a button on the remote without breaking a sweat?
Oh it stays weird, my friend. In fact, I'd hazard to say that it gets much, much weirder.
Some questions to leave you with, dear readers:
1) Which characters do you want to live?
2) Which characters do you want to die?
3) How do you feel about the quality consistency of the first season as a whole?
4) Newbies: theories? Spill 'em!
NEXT WEEK: We're taking a week hiatus in between seasons, but we'll be back with the first two episodes of Season Two in two weeks!
Some comment etiquette: many people are visiting Twin Peaks for the first time with us, so please mark all series-spoilery comments appropriately.