TV Timewarp: TWIN PEAKS Season Two Premiere
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 Season Two premiere after a weeklong hiatus following the Season One finale. 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:
Jelly donuts and a cup of coffee. Jeez, Coop, I’m going to have to start devoting this section to Jerry Horne if you don’t spice it up a bit. He ate some crazy French delicacy including the whole head of something or other baked in a blancmange pudding, rolled in oats, stuffed full with walnuts, hot rocks and a spice bouquet, wrapped in papillote, sealed with a sugar glaze and baked under glass. And you ate another fucking jelly donut.
Twin Peaks Season Two starts out with a bang in an episode that’s entertaining, beautifully directed and sometimes even scary. Why is the S2 premiere so fun, I ask myself? Why, it’s because there’s no Josie Packard in this episode! And only a few minutes of Hank - which is a few minutes of Hank too much, to be sure. As much as I missed Catherine Martell this week, the episodes always suffer when they try to stuff in every single character, and it was nice to have a bit of a breather from Leo and some other folks.
The episode, later titled “May the Giant Be With You,” is co-written by Lynch and Frost and directed by Lynch, and it just snaps along at a breezy pace despite the doubled runtime. Twenty minutes in, Lucy gives us (and Coop) a quick recap of the events of the first season finale: “Leo Johnson was shot, Jacques Reno was strangled, the mill burned, Shelly and Pete got smoke inhalation, Catherine and Josie are missing, Nadine is in a coma from taking sleeping pills.” Leo is also in a coma - not dead, unfortunately - along with the long-forgotten Ronette Polaski, who finally gets some screentime in this episode. If there was ever any doubt whether Twin Peaks can be considered a soap opera, the prodigious number of comas should settle that dispute with a quickness.
But first! We meet The Giant, who looms above the bleeding, recently shot Coop and offers no more practical help than that daft room service guy. Here’s what the tall drinka water has to say:
I will tell you three things. If I tell you, and they come true, then will you believe me?...Think of me as a friend...The first thing I will tell you is: There’s a man in a smiling bag. The second thing is: The owls are not what they seem. The third thing is: Without chemicals, he points.
The Giant tells us that is all he is permitted to say, but permitted by whom? Who the hell is in charge here, I want to know! The Man From Another Place, perhaps? He seems like a bossy little guy. As mind-melting music reverberates, The Giant takes Coop’s ring and says he will return it once these three things prove to be true. Then:
“We want to help you. One last thing: Leo locked inside a hungry horse. By the way, you will need medical attention.”
Well, no shit, Giant. Thanks for the not help. However, by the end of the episode, Coop sees a smiling bag: the body bag that once held Jacques Reno as it hangs in an arc on the wall, drying. (Gross.) (Also, Lucy: “What’s there to smile about?”) And he learns that Leo Johnson was in prison in Hungry Horse, Montana the night that Teresa Palmer - the first victim of Ronette and Laura’s attacker - died, thereby giving Leo an alibi for that murder.
As useful as these clues seem at first, let’s not get too excited. Midway through the episode, Cooper reiterates all of the points of the mystery we learned last season: Laura met up with Leo, Jacques and Ronette for some consensually rough sex, she was attacked by Waldo the bird, Jacques passed out, Leo took off, and Ronette and Laura were taken to the train car by a third man (BOB, we understand, although Coop isn’t there yet). But here’s the deal: all of the hints gathered in Coop’s first dream - the birds sing a pretty song, there’s always music in the air, etc - led Cooper to Jacques’ cabin in the woods. But that doesn’t solve Laura’s murder! She was murdered afterward, by someone else. Why is The Man From Another Place so keen to teach Cooper whom Laura willingly banged before she was abducted and murdered? Why didn’t the clues guide him to BOB? Oh, they sort of did, but not in any useful, tangible way. Maybe The Giant will be more helpful, but I rather doubt it.
At any rate, we also learn that the blood on the “Fire Walk With Me” note isn’t Laura’s, Leo’s, Ronette’s or Jacques’, so it must belong to the third man. Coop points out: “Laura and Jacques are dead. Leo and Ronette are in a coma. Waldo the bird is dead. That leaves only the third man.” BOB! BOB! BOB!
I believe the mystery of Laura Palmer was initially supposed to be resolved by the end of the first season, and those dream-clues would have helped Coop solve it, until network powers decided a two-season mystery would bring in more viewers. I still think the show would have been stronger if Laura’s mystery had been solved by the Season One finale, and a new mystery (still related, so Cooper would remain involved) kicked off the second season.
What else, what else? Albert returns just in time to scornfully observe as Andy gets his bell rung something fierce by a wayward board that uncovers a new pair of boots and a boatload of cocaine outside Leo’s house. Albert investigates Cooper’s bullet wound and reveals that he was shot by a right-handed person, 5’6 to 5’10 tall at a distance of three feet.
Leland’s hair has gone entirely white, and I replace my “Leland sobs, dances” keyboard shortcut with “Leland sings, laughs.” He sings the song “Mares Eat Oats” and it makes me happy because my family still calls me Meresidotes after that song.
Donna’s a stone cold dame all of a sudden, wearing tight sweaters and shades, smoking cigarettes and vamping all over town. She’s investigating Meals on Wheels based on an anonymous note someone sent her, taking Laura’s place in the operation. She’s all “Get the picture?” and it’s hilarious.
Audrey is scarred for life by her father trying to have sex with her (without realizing it’s her) at One Eyed Jacks. She is in over her head and wants to escape, so she prays to Special Agent Dale Cooper, as should we all.
Jacoby...ugh. Who cares? He says some stuff we already know and I hate him. Also he smelled scorched engine oil the night Jacques was smothered (by Leland, except only the audience knows that at this point).
Shelly and Bobby are adorable together. Bobby is altogether lovely in this episode, doting on the hospitalized Shelly and responding so sweetly to his dad when he learns in a heartwarming exchange at the diner that Major Briggs had an optimistic vision of Bobby’s future. So, so cute.
We learn the backstory between Ed, Nadine, Norma and Hank. Ed and Norma were high school sweeties, Norma ran off with Hank one weekend, Ed married Nadine to get back at Norma and then accidentally shot out Nadine’s eye, so now he’s stuck with her forever. He feels guilty she tried to kill herself, and Norma is jealous he cares that Nadine is in a coma, which isn’t a very good color on the normally sublime Norma.
The Calhoun Memorial Hospital in Twin Peaks serves stinky wet paint as food to their patients.
There is a very weird Hayward Supper Club in which all of a sudden Donna has a new younger sister played by Alicia Witt. She plays the piano; the other sister bums everyone out with a poem about Laura; Leland sings, laughs, passes out.
And the episode nears its end when The Giant returns to Cooper as he drifts off in his hotel room at The Great Northern.
Don’t search for all the answers at once. A path is formed by laying one stone at a time. One person saw the third man. Three have seen him, yes, but not his body. One only. Known to you. Ready now to speak. One more thing. You forgot something.
He disappears as Cooper wonders what it is he forgot, but we know it’s a note from Audrey under his bed, telling him she’s going to One Eyed Jacks.
And then we close on a truly horrific vision of BOB and Laura seen by Ronette as she thrashes in her hospital bed. It is legit scary.
Great episode! Full of information but without ever feeling like an info dump. Stylish, fun - what do you guys think?
Meredith, I think you’re totally spot on with your assessment of this episode. I don’t know if it’s the week we had off, the summer Twin Peaks took off, or just David Lynch’s extra involvement, but this strikes me as one of the very best Twin Peaks episodes so far, right up there with “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer.”
Part of the fun is how right off the bat, Season Two feels much more Twin Peaks-ey than I’m used to. We jump right into the deep end with the old man/giant scene which introduces new mythos to the show, yet delivers Twin Peaks weirdness so typical it approaches farce. Since I prefer the show more as weird comedy pastiche than pathos-heavy mystery about human duplicity and the loss of innocence (or whatever), I am totally on board with that.
I realized while watching this episode that Season Two really might hold the show I remember more so than Season One did. You can sense a concentration and slight recalibration of the show’s methodology, like before it was Twin Peaks? and now it’s Twin-Fucking-Peaks. My memory tells me Season Two is underrated the same way I found Season One overrated. Absolutely no part of Twin Peaks managed to be okay-rated, I guess.
Check out suddenly grown up Donna (even my nerdy yet surprisingly freaky GF Maddy seems to have put on some college years). Gone is the small town girl flirting with the local bad boy. In her place we have a four-alarm fire of dangerous sexuality. You can take this smoldering (literally and figuratively) teenager as the joke she would be in real life, or you can play along with Lynch’s (and John Waters’, kind of) fetishized image of innocent juvenile delinquency. She’s absurd. And yet, I’ve never liked her more. We’re on the eve of hating James even more than we ever have before, but this is a series high for him simply because of the way Donna nibbles his knuckle.
And like you said, less characters makes a better show. One good thing about Twin Peaks is it offers plenty of opportunities to see many characters all at once, so it feels populated even though only a couple of them may actually speak per scene. The big Palmer/Hayward dinner sequence is one example of this. Policework scenes provide more. This episode has a couple such cop scenes, but almost no showcase for Harry Truman or Hawk. Instead it’s all about Andy and Albert this week.
Even stuff I normally hate, I love in this episode. Unlike you, Meredith, I had no problems with Jacoby this week. Stripped of his stupid 3D glasses and clown clothes, I don’t mind the character nearly as much, and was actually impressed with Russ Tamblyn’s performance for the first time yet.
I still don’t like Hank, but he’s used well here. From his “Bitches, amiright?” shrug at Bobby to his knowing antagonism of that weasel Jerry Horne, he almost seems as cool as the show pretends he looks. Maybe he’ll die soon and can ride out on this high point (that’s not a spoiler; I honestly have no memory of what happens to this character).
Does anyone else get a series finale vibe from Major Briggs and Bobby’s interaction at the diner? I absolutely love the scene. Bobby’s not my favorite character, but I’m always excited to see Major Briggs. This emotional moment between them was a huge, pleasant surprise but has a nerve wracking finality to it. I’m used to Twin Peaks undercutting stuff like this with humor, like we see when Ed tells Coop the sweet story of how he married Nadine, then admits to shooting out her eye. If the moment’s casual abruptness doesn’t bring forth laughter all by itself, Albert’s reaction finishes the job. Now THAT’S how Twin Peaks deals with emotion.
Your rundown of Coop’s dream clue validity is also apt. Part of the reason I’m excited to be done with all this Laura Palmer business is that I’m tired of supernatural forces supposedly being interested in helping the FBI solve a simple murder. The backwards talking guy knows who killed her, right? And the giant, too? Is it fun for them to lead Coop all over so they can see Andy Sideshow Bob himself on a wooden plank (afterwhich he Zoidbergs himself)? Does the giant really care that Audrey is about to get porked by her dad at One Eyed Jacks? (Is it me or does this Audrey/Ben scene feel incredibly tacked-on?)
The show leaves issues dangling so long, they cease to matter (there’s your LOST inspiration right there). Am I dreaming or did Mike, the One Armed Man, show up at the police station for no reason? Did Coop really begin this episode with three bullets in his tummy? Because it seems like he ends it achy and tired, but more or less healthy and unconcerned with discovering who tried to take his life. It’s already too late for me to care, because the show kind of spent the whole episode negating its importance, other than the vision it facilitates.
But I’d rather have fun asking these questions than assuming the soundness of the show’s superiority. I’ve been reading comments from people who think I judge Twin Peaks based on story erroneously because the show isn’t about narrative. I infer from this that Twin Peaks should instead be graded as an abstract mood piece or something in between. The show occasionally engages this kind of aesthetic, but overt weirdness really occupies a small percentage of what Twin Peaks offers us. Given its soap opera roots, nearly all of Twin Peaks is narrative based. As a pastiche, we can perhaps identify its narrative failures with failures inherent to the genre, but negating any of the show’s problems by claiming abstraction gives too much of a pass. I think I might like the show more now that we’re entering a downward slope of quality upon which we can mostly agree.
Well good, you guys have covered everything important, so I can just talk about minor things of no consequence!
- I am so happy Kimmy Robertson (Lucy) has been added to the main cast for Season Two.
- I am equally happy to have Albert back. His expression when Ed gets to the part of his story where he shoots Nadine’s eye out is priceless. I also wonder how much David Shore was inspired by Albert when he came up with House MD.
- We have another example of dickery at the diner. Unless he paid up front, Major Briggs just gets up and exits, leaving Bobby to cover his tab.
- Few things in montage history have been as brilliant as the fact that the long row of donuts is included when Coop is summing up the main events of the night Laura was murdered.
- There’s finally a new music cue, near the beginning of the episode.
- The food at the hospital is a bit too silly, even for this show. I felt the same about the old man asking a dying Cooper to sign for a tip in the opening sequence, but you guys have talked me out of being put off by that. Now do the same for the paint-food!
- Speaking of health care, I love how pissed off the doc is at Coop for being up and about instead of resting in bed.
- And hurrah for Ray Wise! He’s much happier and his white hair is fantastic. I also love that Ben and Jerry barely hesitate before joining him in a dance when he bursts into the office.
As good as the episode was, I was a bit put off by Donna’s changed appearance and demeanor. Again, it’s been months in between production, but it’s only been a couple days since she was a perfectly sweet small town girl. I also have trouble buying that a man couldn’t recognize his daughter just because she had a mask on, but I guess the psychological aspect (that he wouldn’t even THINK that she’d ever be there) could explain that away.
And you’re right, it’s a lot of info but it’s still fun, and thus gets the series back on track in my eyes after the somewhat dull seventh episode and the nonstop barrage of exposition and development of the S1 finale. Plus it adds a young Alicia Witt for good measure. Seven years later, I’d be completely smitten with her thanks to Urban Legend, so that was a nice surprise.
It doesn’t feel like a season premiere, however (other than the extended length), because we’re still in the same mystery, there aren’t any major new characters or plotlines (other than the Giant) and no one ended up dying. I figured the multiple people with ambiguous fates at the end of S1 would result in a death or two, as the actors opted not to come back or whatever, but it seems everyone’s just in a coma. Anyone agree?
Well, I’d at least hoped Leo would be dead, but one whole episode without his scowly posturing is a beautiful gift, so I won’t be greedy. As I said above, the superabundance of comas on this show is pure soap opera gold, as is the inability to ever let any character truly die. Laura Palmer can’t even really die without resurrecting herself in Coop’s dreams and as Evan’s girlfriend Maddy.
The paint-food is too silly, agreed. If they’d only shown it once, on one of the characters’ trays, it would have been a goofy little joke I would have quite enjoyed. But instead they linger on it with multiple shots and multiple characters’ reactions to it, and we even get a throwaway scene of a doctor scolding the nurse to talk to the cafeteria about their output. Twin Peaks is all, “What is the deal with hospital food, right folks? Get it? GET IT?!”
Yeah, Evan, Dale’s supreme lack of concern with discovering who shot him is disconcerting. He barely listens when Albert gives him viable information that could lead him to a suspect. But Brian, I too love how affronted Dr. Hayward is at the negligence Coop shows his bullet wound. It’s so believably small-town-doctor of him.
I like to give Season Two a hard time for reasons that will soon become apparent (although the premiere does not fall to these flaws), but it’s totally goofy and fun and doesn’t take itself quite so seriously as Season One. I’m looking forward to it.
As am I. The hospital food stuff would be funny if it didn’t revolve around piles of different colored paint. Next Twin Peaks will tell us how expensive things are in airports, and we’ll roll on the floor laughing as Shelly goes to the supermarket only to get stuck with the one cart that doesn’t roll correctly. And Ed will say, “Take my wife” but then at the last moment he’ll add: “please!”
It’s kind of worth it though, for Jack Nance’s reaction to the food’s pungent odor. In fact, I could watch a whole show revolving around all the funny faces Jack Nance makes while breathing. Thanks to his smoke inhalation, we get two of these scenes in this episode, and they’re both hilarious/nauseating.
Plus, the quieter joke hidden within this running gag is how many Twin Peaks residents are in the hospital at this point. We hear so much about the food simply because the whole town had an overnight stay. And those who aren’t hurt are visiting those who are. That season finale really knocked some people around, I guess.
In any case, I’m looking forward to the future. Even though I probably shouldn’t. White-haired Ray Wise is a thing of beauty, so at least I’ll get some more of that.
Well, assuming the whole thing doesn’t take place in the hospital, I am looking forward to S2, as other than one or two key bits of info, I really don’t know anything about it. New mystery? No idea. How David Duchovny fits in? No clue. And most importantly, WILL LUCY FORGIVE ANDY????
(Don’t tell me.)
Oh, David Duchovny. I cannot WAIT.
And one more aside that I meant to bring up earlier: I love how Andy gets Albert's name wrong when he's telling him off. Subtly hilarious.
Some questions to leave you with, dear readers!
1) What do you think about Cooper's dream clues? Useful? Annoying? Cool? They didn't lead him to Laura's killer, but they've still told him a lot.
2) What's your level of anticipation for Season Two?
3) Newbies, who do you think shot Coop?
NEXT WEEK! We tackle Episodes 2.02 and 2.03, in which we learn of the infamous Windom Earle and SOMEONE awakes from their coma!
Some comment etiquette: many people are visiting Twin Peaks for the first time with us, so please mark all series-spoilery comments appropriately.