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 second and third episodes of Season Two after a terrific S2 premiere. 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:
Pancakes, bacon, a glass of orange juice, half a grapefruit, some danish and a cup of coffee during a remarkably pleasant-looking breakfast with Albert. But more importantly...
What Jerry Horne Ate This Week:
A smoked cheese pig. I really like that guy.
Ouch. These two Twin Peaks episodes did not do the trick for me. Well, the first (later titled “Coma,” although “Hella Comas” might be a more appropriate title on this show) has some fun stuff, but “The Man Behind Glass” is so entirely abysmal that it negates any entertainment value of the previous episode.
First, let’s talk a bit about something positive: the credits. We’re seven weeks into the Twin Peaks TV Timewarp project, and these credits and the accompanying theme song by Angelo Badalamenti are still affecting me. Every single episode, I feel stirred. Absolutely beautiful. But also - the population of Twin Peaks is over 51,000 people? I always think of Twin Peaks as a tiny town, but the town I grew up in had 30,000 people - in the ‘90s. 51,000 is a decent sized population.
And in more positivity, these two episodes feature lots of Miguel Ferrer’s wonderful Albert, with the first episode opening on a Great Northern conversation between Albert and Coop with a random barbershop quartet and an equally random, menacing Asian man in the background. Albert makes a joke, to which Coop responds with gentle pride: “Albert. You made a joke!” He’s so pleased! I dig this whole scene and Albert’s later “strange and difficult path” - but it’s mostly downhill from here. We hear a bit about Coop’s former partner Windom Earle who has vanished, but the gentlemen don’t get much into it. “Your former partner has flown the coop, Coop.”
Another moment I enjoyed from the episode concerns Donna’s investigation into the Meals on Wheels program, where she meets that creepy old lady who plays the creepy old lady in everything (or Happy Gilmore’s grandmother), and a little boy who looks exactly like David Lynch. “Miss, sometimes things can happen just like THIS.” *snaps* FIST FULL OF CREAMED CORN!
The Log Lady meets with Major Briggs, and her log tells him to pass on the message to Cooper that he found while collecting top secret space garbage for his totally mysterious job. “The owls are not what they seem” is the message, so we’re still tracking all The Giant’s enigmatic clues. Major Briggs is the shit, furthermore.
And finally, we get to see my favorite bad scene of the entire series, as Maddy, Donna and James “sing” with an invisible band and it’s so hilariously, insanely weird and bad that I just LOVE IT. Although Brian threatened to quit if James’ singing career is taken any further in the series.
The next episode is so terrible I can scarcely stand to discuss it. Dr. Jacoby: UGH. But he fingers Leland as the smotherer of Jacques, so at least something happens at the end of the episode, and Evan gets a new greasy French Canadian Renault brother after the death of the other two, but mostly it’s just awful, awful inanity.
Other stuff from both episodes:
Lots of BOB. Some Mike, but mostly BOB. Everyone’s seeing him lately, and Leland remembers him from his childhood vacation home, where BOB used to flick matches at him and ask him if he wants to play with fire like a creepy old weirdo.
We also learn that Hank used to be a Bookhouse Boy and Truman’s best friend, but now he’s just annoying and smug.
Audrey is missing, and Coop is the only person who cares, and he cares a lot at first, and then seems to forget all about it. He discusses the content of her smile, by which we’ll all pretend he doesn’t mean the content of her sweater. Stupid, stupid things are happening at One Eyed Jacks, and Audrey’s now being dosed with random drugs and it’s stupid.
Cooper was shot by the same gun James Bond uses. He still doesn’t seem to particularly care who did the shooting.
Lucy spends lots of time being hilarious while transferring calls at the Sheriff’s Department again, so that’s good, but she’s also now wrapped up in a Love Triangle Baby Daddy mystery with Andy and this dandy from Horne’s Department Store (played by forever soap actor Ian Buchanan), and that part is not good. At all.
In other love triangle/rhombus news, Maddy’s really moving in on James after their swoon-worthy singing session. (I mean swoon-worthy like it’s so bad I almost fainted.) James is less interested in Donna now that she’s sexy because James is the worst. Donna retaliates by flirting with the horticulturist shut-in who used to bang Laura. A less charitable person might ask if Donna will only ever chase Laura’s leftovers, but that’s unfair because Laura fucked literally every man in Twin Peaks, so that only leaves leftovers for Donna.
Also Evan, a question for you - now that Maddy’s smashed her glasses and is slightly less bug-eyed and weird looking, do you still have a crush on her?
Finally, Nadine is crazy strong and thinks she’s 18. (I actually like this storyline once it gets going.) Ed has a nice singing voice. And Madchen Amick continues to be criminally underused as Shelly. That girl can really act, and she’s a total fox. Quit relegating her to the sidelines.
Gah! I can barely stand to keep thinking about that last episode. It was truly, wholly disheartening. Brian, although people like to say the show just gets worse, I believe 2.03 might be the worst episode of the entire series - meaning that it actually gets better. Evan, do you agree?
I don’t know, Meredith. My memory of this show isn’t the greatest, but a couple awful elements introduced in 2.03 do stick in my memory as ongoing season two irritations. If this truly is the worst episode of Twin Peaks, it probably doesn’t win that title by a landslide.
And you’re totally right about Twin Peaks’ massive population. I thought I made that point previously, but it may have just been me complaining to myself while watching (something that happens with great frequency). I grew up in a town of 2,500 people. To me, a place with a pop. of 50,000 would seem a metropolis.
As for Maddy, we’re totally in love, and ours is a union too deep for such physical concerns. Having said that, she’s not as cute without her nerdy glasses and I sense a divorce in our future.
I’d like to reiterate that I enjoy Twin Peaks more as a maddeningly mediocre soap opera parody than as a genuinely good drama. Therefore, these truly shitty episodes don’t bother me that much. I kind of enjoy hating on them.
But before I get angry and freak out, I would also like to point out some likable things going on in these two episodes, whether by accident or design. More Albert’s always good, especially with his declaration of love to Harry. The mention of Windom Earle opens a new mystery only to close it by dollying over to an eerie eavesdropping Asian who MUST be Windom Earle right? That’s the only reason they’d do that, right?
I love the old lady and young David Lynch and can’t wait to never fully understand the whole creamed corn thing. I like Harry and Cooper’s inability to work the hospital chairs when visiting Ronette. The joke actually goes on so long it ceases to be funny then gets funny all over again. The acting in these two episodes stands out for me as well. I’m especially fond of the Ben and Jerry smoked cheese scene and pretty much everything involving Leland Palmer (particularly the hilarious bit where moody James sweeps everything off a table before running out of the Palmer house and Leland pops in the frame just long enough to look lost and confused). And of course, more Major Briggs is always a good idea. What a surprise that it’s this rational military man rather than spiritually sensitive Cooper who treats the Log Lady with open respect. I would gladly watch a Major Briggs television show.
Plus, MICHAEL FUCKING PARKS. The guy has always kind of scared the shit out of me, and here he is with a French Canadian accent, the nastiest accent in all history. (Once again, I apologize to all you Froggy Canucks out there. You have my deepest sympathy.)
Then there are some things that bug me, but not too much. Shelly and Bobby have nothing going on here. They’re going to take care of veggie-Leo? Fine. I look forward to barely paying attention to those scenes. Andy can’t unroll tape? Whatever. Audrey is a ball-busting femme fatale in one scene and a helpless high school girl the next? I’m not too worried about it. At least it gives me Michael Parks and I got to witness probably the strangest assortment of fetishes I’ll ever see on television (Let’s inventory: the perv likes being tied up with painted toenails while listening to a vacuum cleaner and doing something with “frosty” ice. What kind of dumbass brothel is One Eyed Jacks, anyway?)
Now the gloves are off. As the resident Tyler Perry fan here, I have a fondness for the James singing scene for its sheer arrogant stupidity. It takes brains to think up something that awful, and once you do, I guess you have a responsibility to go all the way. That fucking James, man. I just want him to drown in his own sensitivity. The guy gets more tail than a toilet seat, and all he does is look sad about it. Plus his song is boring and repetitive. That is not how a rebellious biker is supposed to sound while singing. (It also looks like Donna’s all done pretending to act like Laura now.)
Two new Twin Peaks elements get introduced here that I cannot abide, however. One: stupid Harry Smith. And two, stupid Dick Tremain.
Let’s start with Harold Smith. I despise this guy with every fiber of my being, like he’s a robot specifically designed to raise my ire. It’s in the details. It’s the way he offers Donna awful irritating crap to eat like saltines and apple butter. Sure, they’re both good to eat, but anyone who points to a kitchen and offers only these items with the visually wavering confidence of a puppy who just pissed on your homework is an asshole. If I were him, I’d be afraid to go outside too.
In addition to his hyper obnoxious demeanor, it’s just way too late in the game to offer up another red herring (maybe?) Laura Palmer killer/sleeper wither, especially this proto-David Schwimmer, self-pitying asshat.
Then there’s Dick Tremayne. He’s a little better as far as characters I hate simply because his obnoxiousness seems intentional. At least I hope so after his slightly racist interpretation of Hawk’s bad attitude at the police station. His whole thing with the fork (Question: Do you find it odd that I don’t switch my fork when I eat? Answer: Oh my god, go fuck yourself.) also goes beyond quirkiness into full on asshole territory.
The real problem with Tremayne is what he says about Lucy. She fucked this guy? While dating Andy? I’m all for free love and I’m glad Lucy’s infantile cuteness doesn’t keep her from getting her swerve on, but she could be a better judge of character. She acts mad Dick never called her back, but at the same time, she acts bored by his dumb rambling and irritated by his condescending attitude. So why sleep with the guy?
Many portents regarding the future of this season appear in these two episodes, more so than in the season premier, I’d wager. They’re about half awesome and half horrible, so it’s not all b...
Oh wait. Nadine awoke from her coma and thinks she’s eighteen. That pushes the omens into the negative. Good luck to us.
Apart from James’ singing, I liked 2.02 just fine. Lots of info, some random weirdness, the young David Lynch kid, Albert being Albert... felt like a pretty typical episode to me, if not a particularly memorable one. Then again, it had what may be the scariest BOB scene yet, and the great hospital bed gag. “What’s everyone talking about?”, I thought. “Season 2 seems pretty good to me!”
But man, 2.03 certainly answered my question. I’m glad you told me it gets better, because this is the sort of thing that would make me start letting a show build up on my DVR if it was new. And with the new fall season and lots of festivals coming up, I’d have a lot of trouble finding the time for something that got worse.
The main problem with this episode, for me, is that there was almost no connective tissue between the scenes.It was like watching a deleted scenes compilation on a full season DVD where they don’t bother telling you where the scene would have gone in the episode (or even what episode it belonged in). The passage of time also seems skewed; in S1 I was really impressed with how each episode tracked one day in the life of the town, but that seems hazy now (maybe because so much of each episode is in a hospital). And it’s a shame, because it starts out so good, with Albert’s amazing speech to Truman that ends with “I love you." I mean, holy shit - that is GOLD.
Unfortunately, everything else. Jacoby is at his most grating, the Ed/Nadine scene comes out of nowhere and seemingly involves superpowers, and there's way too much Maddy/Donna, who grow less interesting by the day for me. We’re also introduced to two new, insufferable characters; apart from Albert’s scenes, the only entertainment I got out of this episode was trying to decide which one I hated more. The foppish dandy that Lucy is seeing makes my crush on her die a little, so that is unforgivable. But at least we don’t have to come BACK to him like we do with the florist, and it seems he will play a more important part in future episodes. I know we don’t do spoilers, but can someone tell me if he dies in the first scene of 2.04? I’d be okay with that.
But Lucy’s orange lipstick helps, right? Because I kind of love it.
Oh Evan, you made me laugh so hard with your description of Harold Smith’s paltry pantry. You are so fucking right on: his offer of saltines and apple butter makes me want to punch him. And I actually LIKE saltines and apple butter (well, separately. I've never tried them together), but his simpering overture is so grating.
Donna has the worst taste in sensitive men. So did Laura, obviously, but since Laura’s taste ran to “all men,” the fact that a few wimps like James and Harold slipped in with all the greasy French Canadians and terrifying set designers and Benjamin Hornes (gotta give it to her there, the man has a nice head of hair) isn’t as disheartening.
I’m really looking forward to Fire Walk With Me, because the thing is that Laura is so much more interesting than Donna or Maddy or Shelly (as written, not as performed because Madchen Amick > Sheryl Lee any day of the week and twice on Sundays). Audrey usually has plenty of interesting stuff going on, but lately she’s become a little Damsel in Distressy for my liking.
But I’m glad we can all agree on one thing: the Albert and Major Briggs spin-off series would have been amazing. And also: MICHAEL FUCKING PARKS.
Right on, Meredith. Brian, I’m sorry to inform you that the sappy sad sack shut-in probably doesn’t die in the next episode. He does, however, run out of apple butter and will soon offer Donna some graham crackers and lukewarm nacho cheese.
I feel like the moment we wrap up this Laura Palmer stuff a great weight will be lifted off this show. The plots may grow even worse, but at least they’ll feel a bit fresh. The introduction of Dick Tremayne bugs me, but not so much as Harold Smith if only because Tremayne kicks off a new plot. Harold, on the other hand, is not only fucking annoying, but directly involved with Laura’s now-tired murder investigation. And not even the interesting cop part. He’s specifically stuck as part of Donna’s irritating Scooby-Doo investigation which has never once been interesting (well, maybe that moment with the old lady and young David Lynch). Harold is a shitty character pretty much from every perspective possible.
But you guys are right. 2.02 isn’t that awful. Nearly all this offensive stuff comes from 2.03. Between the two of them, though, I’d kind of rather rewatch 2.03. Either way, I’m looking forward to next week a great deal. I have no idea why, but there it is.
It’s interesting (to me anyway) that I did this wrap-up alongside one for the Breaking Bad finale, and how I had so much more to say about that one episode than I do for these two. I think that I’d prefer the mystery to be less complicated, with the time spent learning more about everyone’s actual lives instead of constantly revealing how they were involved with Laura in some way. It’s like Lynch and Frost (or ABC) didn’t trust in the audience to care about the characters’ lives unless they were part of Laura’s history. At this point I’d perfectly enjoy a procedural about the police station (with Coop staying there indefinitely) featuring occasional turns by folks like Ed and Nadine (sans superpowers), maybe Shelly and Bobby, and of course Major Briggs. Maybe it’s because I know the identity of her killer and thus the mystery doesn’t really carry a lot of weight for me, but I’m starting to lose interest in other things as well (One Eyed Jacks/the Hornes, for example). Just give us Coop and Harry (and Albert) solving other crimes!
Also: no on the orange lipstick. I don’t like noticeable makeup!
Questions to leave you with, dear readers:
1) Who's worse, Dick Tremayne or Harold Smith?
2) Who would you like to see more of on this show: Albert or Major Briggs?
3) Can you ever forgive us for encouraging you to watch "The Man Behind Glass"?
4) Saltines and apple butter - wtf, right?
If you're still with us (stay with us!), we're going to cover Episodes 2.04 and 2.05 next week, in which we deal with the after-effects of Leland's arrest for the murder of Jacques Renault, we learn the identity of the mysterious Asian man and more Harold Smith happens (sorry).