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 fourth and fifth episodes of Season Two. 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.
NEXT WEEK: we're taking two weeks off because we'll all be at Fantastic Fest! We'll return Wednesday, October 3.
And I'd like to start every installment with some crucial information...
What Special Agent Dale Cooper Ate This Week:
Not a goddamn thing. I give up.
Boy we’re in the shit now, aren’t we? This week’s double dose of boring centered mostly around three things, two of which I couldn’t care less about. First off, we’re finally moving along on the Audrey front. As I’ve noted before, the relationship between Cooper and Audrey just doesn’t convince me, especially on Cooper’s part. I just don’t buy his law-be-damned concern for her.
But then again, we’re stuck with a remarkably weak and watered down version of Cooper here. Nowhere is this more apparent than in his inability to see through Lucy’s relationship problems. This is a guy whose deductive powers make everyone swoon (especially when it comes to relationships), yet he can’t figure out what’s going on between the two least deceitful citizens in Twin Peaks. Andy’s semen hijinks happen in the same office yet Cooper remains completely clueless. We also find out that Cooper had no idea the one armed man had been to the station recently to sell the TPSD footwear. Seriously, bad brains on Cooper this week. It’s fitting he only finds Audrey’s letter on accident while standing on his head.
On the brightside, Leland’s arrest takes up a lot of time, so we get plenty of awesome Ray Wise moments. His confession in particular haunts and displays an actor performing at all cylinders. I just love me some white haired Leland Palmer.
Unfortunately, we can only bask in the sunlight so long. Eventually we must return to the dank, sweaty domicile of Harold Fucking Smith. What a sleazy jackass. This week we have to deal with his stupid life book stuff. From what I can tell, Harold Fucking Smith’s whole deal is that he makes underage ladies feel sorry for him, wins them over with his wounded sensitivity, disarms them with wine, then has them spill their life story, which he pretends to write down (unless it’s really sensual, in which case he just stares slackjawed as his pants tighten).
Good on Donna for setting this jerk up. If she’s going to go around acting like a third rate femme fatale (yes, she’s doing that again) she might as well be seducing weak men to their doom. In this case, she wins Harold’s trust only to distract him while my wife Maddy steals Laura’s diary. Harold responds by cutting his face up with a gardening tool.
Once more: Harold cuts his face up with a gardening too. Best episode ever.
You might think that’s the best scene of the week, but there’s actually a better one earlier where Donna tricks Harold into coming outside and he crumbles like someone just pulled out his Matrix plug. The sun did that to him. I also noticed Harold wears hiking boots. Why the fuck does an agoraphobic need shoes? This guy sucks.
To battle all this Harold Fucking Smith, a potential bright spot arrives to Twin Peaks in the form of Judge Sternwood. It’s always a tenuous position to claim to know more than the creative forces behind your favorite entertainment, but Judge Sternwood strikes me a clear-cut miscast. As written, he perfectly matches the fun weirdness held within Twin Peaks, yet something about his physical presence does not match the kind of character they seemed to have been going for. Having said that, his dialogue provides a high point to this low week. And his assistant is awesome.
But this minor bright spot does nothing to assuage the damage done by Josie Packard’s return. Even when her scenes are mostly limited to hot leg flashing action, I’d still rather she stay shopping in Seattle for the remainder of the series. We also find out that the creepy Asian guy leering at everyone lately is her brother.
Oh, god. The M.T. Wentz stuff. I hate it for a number of reasons, but mostly because it brings out nice guy Hank, and nice guy Hank is way worse than fake tough guy Hank. At least he gets his ass handed to him.
Still, I have a lot of fun with this show, especially since it’s increasingly silly now (you have to love the moment when they put Leo Johnson’s photo on trial). At least we got a good explanation this week as to why Lucy would hook up with a wiener like Dick Tremayne.
I’m glad I go later on these things, because even as I read your parts I’m having trouble remembering what happened in these two chores. Folks like to tell you to think of the first season and the first half of S2 as one season, which would put these episodes roughly around ⅔ of the way through a full season - i.e. when just about any show starts to lose momentum. The initial, viewer-grabbing luster has worn off, and the creators need to save stuff for their two- or three-part finales. It happens on every serialized show I’ve ever watched, and I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it happened here.
But this ISN’T the late middle of a season - this is just a few episodes into its second. No one was saying “think of it as one season” back when it aired, and even discounting a sophomore slump, this stuff is just dull as dirt. I got all excited with 2.04 when I saw that it was written by Jerry Stahl and directed by Todd Holland - two creative guys who are comfortable working on TV (well, Stahl had some issues I guess, but you know what I mean - he’s not an anonymous staff writer, in other words). But all it really managed to be is slightly better than the episode before it and a lot better than the one after it.
Like you said, Evan, most of these episodes focus on the more boring characters/subplots - Harold and Donna, Hank and his stupid idea to make their perfectly charming diner into some elitist asshole place, anything involving One Eyed Jacks at this point - so even those fleeting moments of greatness feel like a waste of effort. Sure, it’s hilarious seeing Cooper casually take down a would-be assassin, but look at the rest of that “rescue” scene - it’s incredibly flat and unexciting, with the wild card (Hank) inexplicably kept out of it entirely until Coop and Truman are already on their way home. And was One Eyed Jacks closed for the evening? They could have milked this sequence for comedy AND action, but opted for neither.
Andy also seems to be getting more mentally challenged with each episode. I mean, this guy IS a cop, right? He had to have passed some tests, kept in shape, etc. So why is he so increasingly stupid? I ignored his inexplicable adventures with the invisible tape last week, but now he’s sitting there with Post-It notes all over himself as a receptionist curiously uses the plot of Jaws as a metaphor for his sperm count. Worse, they don’t even pay it off in-episode! You’d think the next logical scene would be his telling Lucy the good (?) news, but no. They save that for the next episode, I guess. Might be part of that “soap opera” thing you’ve mentioned, but it just seems like plain ol’ heel-dragging.
Stuff like this also hurts in retrospective terms, because I know how many episodes are left and when the big mystery will be solved, two things 1991 audiences did not. Maybe all of this was fine as part of a show that will run forever and ever, but with such a short lifespan and 20 years of adulation, I think I’m finding it harder to accept how lazy and dull the show can get at times. If this was a show that ran for 9 years and 200 episodes, sure - I’d expect a handful of total rubbish episodes. But not this early in the run.
And where did Albert go???
I actually like the first episode this week and don’t mind the second, despite the very fair complaints made by you two. Evan, I especially agree with Coop’s diminished brain power when it comes to Lucy and Andy and the Audrey subplots. Maybe he needs to enjoy some more Tibetan exercises, because I miss the Coop who misses nothing. Not the Coop who DOESN’T EVEN CARE TO DISCOVER WHO SHOT HIM. Although I really quite enjoyed the scene in which Harry meets Coop at the Roadhouse, when Coop was expecting another Bookhouse Boy. Aww, these two guys. Adorable.
But I love the interrogation scene with Leland, and I love every time something horrible happens to Harold (I rewatched the scene where he was crumpled by sunlight twice - hilarity!!), and I loooove the stupid fake Asian scene (I can’t WAIT for you guys to find out who that is - I say “you guys” because Brian’s never seen it and I bet Evan has already forgotten). This show has weird, weird issues about Asians. But I really don’t mind Josie now that we’re not supposed to believe she’s some sweet, innocent FOB and is instead a full-blown evil seductress.
But back to Harold - WHY must he read aloud from Laura’s diary like a fucking creep? Why does he always insist on reading it aloud? I hate him so very much. He is skin-crawling. And although Donna’s great for being all fake-fatale and setting him up, she also sucks because she’s clearly attracted to this worm. But the scene of Donna recalling a night she and Laura went into the woods with some guys (a scene I remember reading from Laura’s perspective in the Secret Diary of Laura Palmer that was published by Jennifer Lynch) is actually pretty powerful stuff, Harold’s namby-pampy presence notwithstanding.
I also like all the dark-and-stormy-night stuff, the pines whipping in the wind. It adds a nice atmosphere to the goofiness, and I’m back to being invested in Andy and Lucy’s dumb storyline just because it’s at least going somewhere and because Lucy telling off Dick Tremayne as the heavens thunder around them is just compelling television.
I don’t know, it’s definitely getting increasingly silly, as Evan says, and I’m digging that. But yeah, Brian - I miss Albert, too. We all do, buddy.
I’m glad you liked the episodes, Meredith. Like I said, I kind of like them too, despite all my bitching. I think I remember what’s going on with all the fake Asian action here, and I can tell you that I look forward to very little of its eventual resolution. One thing I can’t remember is whether or not Jacoby ever returns.
And you’re right, Donna does have the hots for Harold Smith. Therefore, we can no longer like Donna. James is out, too after hearing that awful song he wrote. So of Twin Peaks’ Scooby gang, only my lovely Maddy remains. When it comes to nerds posing as cool kids, I know how to pick ‘em.
I suppose we’ll be on this rollercoaster ride with Cooper’s intelligence until the end of the series. That’s not a spoiler since I can’t really remember. But the signs don’t look good.
Remember when this show was about a police investigation? I don’t mind it moving onto other things, but it seems like they should have tied up that loose end before we started spending more screentime on who did or didn’t knock up Lucy. Coop says he’s only been in Twin Peaks for 12 days. If you say so, Coop. Feels like months to me. It often seems like everyone on the show has moved on, yet the show itself refuses to catch up. This goes into what Brian’s saying a bit. The show just doesn’t have normal season pacing. And it’s not simply a matter of weird television growing pains. I kind of don’t care how Twin Peaks fares relative to other shows at the time. It’s a poorly told narrative regardless of what they were doing on Matlock or whatever.
Then again, it’s still fun to watch at two episodes a week for those increasingly rare moments of surreal comedy. I don’t think this is a show I could marathon, though.
For sure. These last few I couldn’t even do back to back like I was for S1. Only so much Harold I can take in a 24 hour period.
And James is really hurting lately - first his atrocious song, now his whiny diner scene where he grills Maddy until she’s finally like “Look, just sod off. Go kill Willie Santiago or something, I have more important things to do.” Then you got Ed acting like a buffoon around his newly superpowered wife, Coop being uncharacteristically clueless (and barely eating or talking to Diane - maybe that’s why? Does his diet make him more intuitive?), and Lucy just being frustratingly bitchy.... what happened, here?!? The people I love have changed, the people I never liked much anyway are in the foreground... at least they shipped Jacoby off for a while.
But yes, I am curious to see what the deal is with these new Asian characters. Certainly more than I am the results of the diner’s review in Seattle Magazine.
I still like the show, but I’m a bit worried at how often I seem to be thinking “Okay, this one’s filler, the next one will get things back on track” lately. Shame, the season premiere was so good...
It's definitely a solid point, Brian, that with so few episodes, far too many are wasted on wheel-spinning. But I don't know, as long as the wheel-spinning is charmingly goofy, I enjoy it. If only Coop would go back to waxing rhapsodic about food. I fucking miss that.
Questions to leave you with, dear readers:
1) The focus of Twin Peaks has inarguably changed. How do you feel about that?
2) What do you think is up with Cooper lately? WHY WON'T HE EAT?!
3) Which of the storylines do you still find compelling? Are you still with us?
Tune in when we return on Wednesday, October 3 - it's a GOOD week! We meet Evan's favorite non-Maddy character Gordon Cole and and AND learn the identity of Laura Palmer's killer!
Some comment etiquette: many people are visiting Twin Peaks for the first time with us, so please mark all series-spoilery comments appropriately.