We took two weeks off for Fantastic Fest, and now we're back to it! 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.
Brian Collins, Evan Saathoff (aka Sam Strange) and I are discussing the sixth and seventh 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.
Now we’re cooking with gas! I don’t know if it was the two-week hiatus or if these two episodes were truly Season One levels of fun, but I had a great time with Twin Peaks this week. Let’s review!
Harold Smith hanged himself! In the most insufferable manner possible, having written his suicide note IN FRENCH. J'ai une âme solitaire - I am a lonely soul. You are a fucking terrible soul and I am glad you are dead. Let’s all take a moment of silence to loathe Harold a little extra this week, shall we?
Audrey’s home and subdued and a badass, confronting her dad for sleeping with Laura and then coolly turning him into the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department for being a bona fide letch and a possible murderer. He gets arrested and it’s great because he’s smug.
Shelly and Bobby (in whom I’m suddenly quite invested) are up to all sorts of mean-spiritedness with VegetabLeo, including cake face-planting him, going through his pockets for loose change and having sex on his lap. It’s all a bit distasteful, sure, but let’s not forget that Leo Johnson is cruel, abusive and also, as Evan so rightfully coined him, a wimp. So fuck him. I might suggest that Shelly and Bobby stop poking the sleeping bear (or whatever the wimpier version of a bear that you still wouldn’t want to wake up is - a rabid squirrel?), but I’m enjoying Leo’s misfortune too much for that yet.
Also, ladies! Isn’t Shelly’s preppy little outfit she wears for the social services guy the cutest? I would wear that today, with the tidy plaid blazer and lace blouse and her prim little ponytail. Anyway. Sorry. Back to the murderin’.
We meet Gordon Cole, Evan’s favorite peripheral character! And he’s played by David Lynch, who should have maybe spent a little more S2 time directing and a little less time acting, even though he’s actually delightful in his scenes. He’s deaf, he’s pompadoured, he’s adorable. But still - we need your directorial focus, David Lynch. Quit screwing around.
Nadine is still wacky-strong and hyper and thinking she’s in high school, a storyline I have long since ascertained that I am the only living human who enjoys. It’s fun, right? With the...hijinks?
CATHERINE IS FAKE ASIAN MAN!!! More utter stupidity that I love love love from S2. Her reunion with Pete is my favorite. It’s good that she’s back, because Twin Peaks isn’t quite as crowded as usual lately. The show’s still doing a great job of using its ensemble cast sparingly. Lucy’s out of commission (sorry Brian!), Leo’s mostly shut up, Jerry’s gone, Josie’s supposedly going and Maddy...well. My condolences, Evan.
Because yes, in the biggest development of this week’s episodes, we learn that Laura’s killer, Theresa’s killer, Ronnette’s attacker and now Maddy’s killer is Leland Palmer, inhabited by the demon parasite BOB, who is the familiar of the demon Mike, inhabiting the one-armed shoe salesman Phillip Michael Gerard. It’s all very complicated and creepy. Let’s let Mike break it down for us.
Who are you?
My name is Mike.
What are you?
I am an inhabiting spirit.
Who is Phillip Gerard?
He is host to me.
You spoke to me in my dream. Do you remember?
Do you know BOB?
He was my familiar.
Where does BOB come from?
There are indications that we come from another world.
What does BOB want?
He is BOB, eager for fun. He wears a smile, everybody
Do you understand the parasite? It attaches itself to a life
form and feeds. BOB requires a human host. He feeds on
fear and life force. I am like BOB. I was once his partner.
"Through the darkness of future past the magician longs
to see ..."
"... one chants out between two worlds, fire, walk with
But then I saw the Face of God and was purified. I cut
off my arm. And remained close to this vessel.
Inhabiting from time to time for a single purpose.
To find BOB.
To stop him.
This is his true face. Few can see it. The gifted and the
Is he near? Is BOB near us now?
For nearly forty years.
A large house made of wood. Surrounded by trees. The
house is filled with many rooms, each alike. But they are
occupied by different souls. Night after night.
The Great Northern Hotel.
Yeah! And it’s Leland! The scene where he attacks Maddy, swooping her around the room and gobbling her chin as sometimes himself, sometimes BOB is truly terrifying stuff. I love it! It’s a great near-finale to this damned circuitous mystery (although not nearly the finale to the show - we have loads more episodes left, so get cozy.)
Some other stuff happened but mattered less: Stupid Josie Subplot, James and Donna’s slightly less stupid reunion, more Windom Earle murmurings, a crazy scene with a bunch of sailors bouncing rubber balls in the Great Northern lobby, a lovely scene with Norma and Shelly at the RR Diner, an even lovelier scene with James and Maddy sitting at a glassy lake, Coop finally taking the Log Lady seriously, and the return of Julee Cruise, the elfin woman with the impossibly beautiful voice who sings at the Roadhouse as Bobby, Cooper and Donna all separately wig and I well up with tears for some reason.
But all in all, the ratio of Stuff That Matters to Stuff That Doesn’t Matter is pretty solid in these two eps. Is it all downhill from here? I suspect so, but I can’t remember because this is where I usually quit watching!
I kind of feel bad because this is likely as good as Twin Peaks will get until the very last episode, and I cared for it a little less than I thought I would. Here’s my problem (and I’ll hold that it’s my problem, not the show’s): When I know some serious shit is going to go down, I have way less patience for Josie crap and crap of its ilk. To be honest, there wasn’t as much of that going around as usual, but every little bit hurts.
Pretty much everything you said is spot on, Meredith. I’ve even kind of with you on the Ed and Nadine bit. But because I’m a big pervy jerk, I find myself a bit too distracted pondering their sex life. Furthermore, there’s only so much puppy dog looks I can take from Ed and Norma. Speaking of which, no Hank this week! I don’t believe I could handle his cross-eyed fake Fonzie bullshit in a week with so much Josie pouting.
Ah! The death of Harold Smith. Meredith’s right. If a character ever wanted to solidify their place on my shitlist, have them write their suicide note in French. I wish we could resurrect him just to tie him to a chair and dump him in a Walmart parking lot all day. Even when he’s hanging there, mere moments from never bugging me again, I’m cursing his stupid button up shirt. What a thoroughly detestable character. It’s rather brilliant, really.
I believe I’m beginning to talk myself into loving these episodes. Let’s see... Harold dies, no Hank, no Dick Tremayne, James says a bunch of shit so stupid it boomerangs back and gets hilarious, Leo sits in a chair and spits a lot. On top of all that, Gordon Cole, my favorite Twin Peaks character, finally shows up. Yep. Two perfect episodes of --
Holy shit! Maddy! The light of my life. You died. You died big time. I mean, your death was no quick TV job. You went through some R-rated intensity-level shit. There are many awful deaths in this world. Being pawed to death by your Uncle who is also an evil otherworldly carnival worker ranks among the worst. It’s not about bloodshed; it’s about brutality. And those punches looked like they hurt. Why, oh why, couldn’t BOB have a crush on Harold instead? I will miss you. Who will be my Twin Peaks love between now and whenever Heather Graham shows up?
The whole thing where Leland Palmer gets revealed as Laura’s killer always seems sort of iffy to me since he’s not really the guy who killed her. Right? He was just possessed. Right? I read the damn diary, and I still don’t really know how complicit Leland is supposed to be in all this bullshit. When he was raping Laura all over the place, did she see Leland or BOB? Does Leland even know what he did? How does all this parasite/host stuff work? Either way, was it a letdown to audiences back then that the guy who killed Laura was the guy who we knew killed her all along? The burning question is Who Killed Laura Palmer, not Who Was BOB Possessing When he Killed Laura Palmer.
I guess it doesn’t matter. This era of the show is over, and we can finally start paying attention to the upcoming Windom Earl stuff. I’m looking forward to this show growing increasingly stupid, especially now that it murdered my girlfriend.
Oh and one more thing: We’ve already touched on this, but what good is a metaphysical, riddle-speaking giant if he’s only going to tell you stuff when it’s way too late to matter? What a tall jerk.
I definitely liked these two more than the last couple pairs. Yes, Lucy is MIA, but she’s been kind of annoying lately anyway so maybe the time off can do us both some good. And Donna has largely dropped her Femme Fatale act, and even though it’s mean-spirited as all hell Shelly banging her fella on the side ON THE LAP of her not-quite-yet-an-ex is HOT. So I’m still satisfied in the “Why didn’t I watch this when I was at that age of starting to notice girls?” department. I think we can all agree that rarely has any genre show had such a full roster of attractive ladies in the cast. Look at X-Files; it took all nine seasons to give us as many as Peaks offers in a single episode.
Prurient interests aside, everything just seems to get back on track here, to the extent that it’s almost a shame that they identify the killer at the end. Maddy’s death doesn’t affect me one way or the other, but it seems they could have milked the mystery for a few more episodes by having Ben arrested and then had an unknown assailant (or just BOB the entire time, now that we know he’s a parasite or whatever) kill her, so we’d know that Ben wasn’t really the killer and he’s still out there. I had heard that the reason they got to the reveal earlier than expected was because of declining ratings, but this was only the seventh episode of the season - usually TV works six episodes ahead, so did ABC make that call after the season premiere? Maybe one episode after? I figured it would be around the tenth or eleventh episode that we got the answer - I didn’t realize that this was it until I saw it on the Netflix description. We picked a bad place to leave off! This would have been a cool place to end, chew on things and then come back. Oh well.
As for Gordon, I like him so far, though not nearly as much as Albert, whom I hope he’s not replacing for good. The deaf stuff is fine; these episodes don’t have a lot of the outlandish silliness that the first season dove headfirst into, so again it helps the “seems like old times” feeling. Plus we get some backstory about Coop and (sigh) a chess based riddle for future episodes, so I like that they’re not rebooting just because we know who killed Laura Palmer - the stuff for the next wave is already woven into the narrative. One thing that drives me nuts about a lot of serialized shows is that each season is almost a total reset - 24 was a huge offender. There would be an out of nowhere cliffhanger for the season finale (Jack gets kidnapped!) and it would be resolved in the first episode of the next (Jack gets out!) before we return to CTU, with a whole new cast of agents, half of whom would be moles because CTU never bothered to do background checks on their staff. So while I’m sure some folks will come and go, the second mystery should feel more organic than I’ve seen on modern serials.
See, I think Twin Peaks would have benefited from a total reboot in the second season. I always wish the first season had lasted longer and had been resolved with the resolution of Laura’s mystery, with a second mystery (for instance WHO SHOT COOP WHY AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO CARES?) kicking off in the S1 finale or S2 premiere. You know, like Veronica Mars. Which totally borrowed a lot of stuff from Twin Peaks but then improved on it.
But we still have some Laura mystery stuff to wade through, as ol’ Coop hasn’t cottoned on yet to the fact that Leland did it. Or sort of did it. Evan, I think the scene with Leland and Maddy solidifies that he knew what he was doing at least somewhat - he kept crying for Laura as himself while switching back and forth from BOB to Leland. I think part of him knew, part of him was complicit. And that is so entirely fucked up! I applaud this show for that.
Yes, there are lots of pretty ladies on Twin Peaks, and more than a few handsome gents. And more are coming - Heather Graham, David Duchovny (!!). This was a remarkably attractive show, especially for the ‘80s when everyone looked like Harry Dean Stanton.
I’m looking forward to Windom Earle, I’m looking forward to Heather Graham, I’m looking forward to David Duchovny. I dunno, guys. I’m into it! Let’s do this!
If what you say is true, then you do have to applaud the show. Even if you’re full of shit, you have to stand up and shout for a show with such a disturbing murder in it. We have violence galore these days, but truly terrifying stuff like this appears rarely (I say speaking as someone who watches maybe three shows a year, one of them being It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).
The fact of the matter is, no matter how many times I watch it, Twin Peaks will never be the show I want it to be, but rather a flawed experience with occasional moments of all out genius. I’m happy Gordon showed up, but except for a couple physical David Lynch quirks, his deaf jokes aren’t as awesome as I remember. And regardless of how worked up I get about this or that plot development, I’ll still have to deal with the Bobby, Shelly, Leo situation which feels as full of potential now as life did back when I was still young and stupid.
What I want more than anything is some of that good ol’ fashioned Cooper action. I believe we’ll be getting some next week, but not nearly enough. When the fuck do we find out who shot him? It’s already way too late to care.
And one last time, goodbye forever Harold Fucking Smith.
Yeah, I didn’t mention it earlier but a huge part of my enjoying these episodes was the death and subsequent lack of Harold. Though he couldn’t help but lash out one last time, like the dragon taking out Gandalf, when James and Donna have to talk about his death at the diner. Can’t he be like Scott on 90210, where he died and no one ever mentioned him again?
And back to what you said about it not being the show you want (and I swear, if some asshole does a parody of that goddamn Dark Knight line in the talkback, I’ll never read our talkbacks again), I find that to be something I wrestle with every week (at least since the first few episodes, which totally live up to the show’s reputation). Especially as a newcomer, I’ve had twenty years of people telling me how insane and great the show is, and most weeks I watch the episodes and think “Huh, maybe next week we will get to those amazing bits.” Because it’s good, and I’m certainly entertained, but nowhere near as much as I was by Lost for its first few seasons, or even Fringe today. Especially for the former, where I’d go online and read the theories and trivia about each episode (for Fringe I usually just settle for Noel Murray’s terrific writeups on AVClub), but I don’t have that drive for Peaks. But I have to remember that A. there was no “legacy” to live up to when the show originally aired, and B. there was nothing else like it at the time. Much like Black Christmas did a lot of the stuff Halloween did but just not as well (IMO), Peaks’ true power lies in what it inspired others to do and (again, IMO) improve upon.
I could also use M. Night Shyamalan’s character from Lady In The Water for this comparison, if I wanted to be an asshole.
That said, I’m still excited about what lies ahead; while I’ve known that Leland was the killer for years, I am completely in the dark as to who or what Windom Earle is, or how David Duchovny factors into things. Less excited about Heather Graham, however.
I'm glad you said that, Brian, because I was about to jump in and say the exact same thing: Twin Peaks had no road map. Everything it was doing was brand new. It did it imperfectly, but it also did it first. We have Twin Peaks to thank for X-Files, Fringe, Lost, Veronica Mars, The Killing and so many other shows. Large parts of the show may not hold up, but I'll never stop loving it for its audacity.
Questions to leave you with, dear readers:
1) Do you believe Leland was complicit in the murders he committed while possessed by BOB?
2) Did you see it coming? (Whether you're watching this for the first time, or when you did watch it for the first time?)
3) Are we okay with Shelly and Bobby's lap sex on a nearly-comatose Leo? How do we feel about that?
4) Gordon Cole - yay or nay?
Tune in next Wednesday as we take on Episodes 2.08 and 2.09, including: Ben's legal defense, Norma's mean mom, more Albert and more Fake Asian Catherine!