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 seventh and eighth 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.
Where the fuck is the Agent Cooper of yore? Evan touched on this last week, and it’s never more apparent than in the wrap-up of the Laura Palmer mystery, in which we get two episodes of Cooper standing around with his hands in his pockets, staring off befuddledly. Most of this season has offered a Coop who reacts instead of acts, floating around aimlessly until something happens and he gets a call from Truman or Hawk or Andy, and he hustles off to do more pocket-standing until something else happens. Missing shit that’s right in front of his eyes. Never giving himself that daily gift - in one scene we’re actually forced to watch him sit next to an UNTOUCHED PIECE OF PIE in his hotel room. The goddamn nerve of these people.
And then. AND THEN. How does he solve the mystery of Laura Palmer, the crux of this entire show? Is it through the Tibetan method of deduction? Is it through any other method of deduction? Is it through hard work and clue-gathering? NO. Not-So-Special Agent Dale Cooper solves his white whale of a case by FINALLY REMEMBERING WHAT SOMEONE TOLD HIM IN A DREAM SEVERAL WEEKS AGO.
This “resolution” to the mystery has always bothered me, but I’ve never watched Twin Peaks’ episodes so back-to-back before, so Cooper’s decline into mediocrity and ineffectuality always seemed more subtle instead of this abrupt frittering away of what was once great. I miss old Coop. I miss my boyfriend. I miss his mammoth breakfasts so precisely ordered and his inverted exercise routines and his poignant insights and his deep affection for life and those around him. Twin Peaks had a gem of a character in Dale Cooper - such a gem that my love for him in a mere ten or so episodes has eclipsed the entire rest of the series - and it squandered him.
But anyway. Other stuff happened. We got a lawman slow walk. A kickass speech from Albert. Maddy Ferguson, wrapped in plastic. BOB’s an owl now. Leland Palmer has been revealed to all as the killer of Maddy and Laura, and I guess we learned that he did NOT know he was doing it at the time, which is a wimpy old cop-out for the show. Let the man murder his daughter, for godssakes! That said, every moment with Leland was damnably creepy in these eps. Ray Wise gave a spectacular finale for his character, contorting his face in unknowable ways and legitimately scaring the shit out of me while he danced all up on Donna. That echo thing was cool, too, if sort of arbitrary. And now he’s dead because he has a hole in him and Cooper guided him to the light, or something.
Oh! Something great: the flashlight flashback scene with Jerry and Ben Horne. That was just a brief moment of wonder, watching those little bespectacled boys gazing at some young girl named Louise as she dances around in the dark, swinging a flashlight back and forth. Really good, random stuff. I wish I could have seen more of Jerry as Ben’s lawyer, because that was pretty solid comedy. Cooper: “Do you know what this is?” Jerry whispers to Ben: “A book.” Ben: “It’s a book.” Also, Jerry’s laundry list of judicial deficiencies made me chuckle. “I’m not on trial here!”
Can we talk about how perfect the casting of Kathleen Wilhoite as Lucy’s sister is? Too bad we never see her or her prodigiously-craniumed baby ever again (spoiler alert!). We get plenty more of the Lucy-Andy-Dick baby daddy stuff, and it’s all okay, I guess, if massively pointless. We get two episodes without Josie but Harry and Pete are making noises about rescuing her from mysterious Asian man (the real mysterious Asian man. Not Catherine.), so I don’t think we should get too comfortable without her. And how weird is it that all Asians on this show are just called “Asians”? Joan Chen, who plays Josie, is Chinese. Mak Takano, who plays...Asian Man (really? That’s his credit on IMDb.), is Japanese. Piper Laurie, who plays Fumio Yamaguchi, is Catherine, and she is hilarious. I love the scene with her and Ben in jail. Her throaty, diabolical laugh is to die for.
While we’re talking about racism, one of my favorite moments of these two episodes is when Lucy’s sister calls Hawk a native person and apologies for white people, and Hawk gravely replies, “Some of my best friends are white people.” Hawk! I love you. You are underused.
Norma’s mom is here and she’s a bitch. (Although to be fair, that omelette did look gross.) That’s about all there is to say about that plotline. Talk about squandering - you have PEGGY LIPTON here, people! Give her more to do than stare mournfully around the diner! When she was telling off Hank, it was awesome, but then she instantly forgave him and stared mournfully some more.
Donna and James, lordy. If a boy proposed to me when I was in high school, I would have fled so fast. There would have been a little Meredith-shaped hole in the door and a whiff of smoke where I once sat. But don’t worry, Donna, he’ll break up with you immediately after you put the ring on your finger because somehow it’s your fault that Maddy’s dead, so you’re free!
At any rate, one thing I can still and always say for Twin Peaks is that it’s shot with overwhelming beauty - the shots of the diner with the mountains behind it, the waterfall, the trees as Coop and Co. stand quietly discussing Leland’s death - this show looks good.
Meredith, can I just say that whenever Twin Peaks stinks up the place, I can at least look forward to your awesome angry write ups. They’re totally worth it. Bonus laughs go to the fact that I found the babysitter’s flashlight dance hilarious and immediately wondered what your reaction would be. It’s such a strange moment, made worse by the length of time we stay on it. Flashback humor has really changed a lot since Twin Peaks.
Shockingly, these episodes have a reputation for being the last great hours of Twin Peaks until the finale. That’s what I remember as well. Amazingly, though, I managed to forget how not great these Leland episodes are. And it’s too bad. Ray Wise fucking kills it here. That’s actually part of the problem. By raising the villainous standards - finally giving us a manifestation of BOB’s evil with whom everyone can interact - Twin Peaks drops the ball completely, offering instead a quickly resolved conclusion that utilizes a particularly neutered and uninteresting Cooper. Meredith, you are so correct: Cooper solving the crime by finally remembering his dream is laughably bad. I admit, the whole scene is well-constructed and exciting, but what the fuck.
It also really sucks to go from this heightened stuff to plots like the one involving Norma’s mom and her goofball ex-con husband. It is physically impossible for me to give any less of a shit about this whole thing. Not only are the mom and new husband annoying, but it calls for more Hank (both the petulant and sneaky versions). On top of that: Norma pouting. I hate it.
The Andy-Lucy stuff works pretty well here, even though any and all Dick Tremayne appearances exacerbate the kind of nonsense found all over season two. Kathleen Wilhoite must have signed a deal with the devil demanding she appear in every show ever. I’m not her biggest fan, but she’s well utilized here, especially when both Andy and Lucy order her to shut up.
Leo. I don’t have any energy to talk about Leo. Or the Donna and James stuff. Wait, maybe I do. I hate James, and Donna is quickly becoming a bungled character. There. Now I’m out of energy.
I assume Brian will discuss this further, but what was up with Albert? These FBI guys really have a problem with stamina -- they shift personalities the more you hang out with them. Suddenly Albert’s this quiet sad sack and Cooper’s an oblivious priest. I don’t get it.
At least we have Hawk, the secret Kato both to this show and this show’s narrative. I like to think maybe I could someday be one of his white best friends.
Hawk’s line made me temporarily hopeful that these episodes would live up to the last ones, but alas, we’re back to two hours filled with stuff I don’t care about, unnecessary subplots and more bungling of characters. Albert might as well have been a new character here; Evan you made a point over IM that maybe his “I love you” speech changed him, but apart from one minor sarcastic remark he’s completely devoid of anything that made the character great, and worse, his new self is the worst of things: a boring Twin Peaks character. According to IMDb he’s only in two more episodes (plus the movie) - hopefully he’s back to his old self when he returns.
I also came to a realization this week, right around where Norma’s new potential stepdad reveals his past with Hank - this stuff annoys me because I know the end is in sight. In fact we’re past the halfway point, so every new plot they bring into it now is time that, in retrospect, is wasted on pointless things like this instead of satisfyingly wrapping up what’s already there. Obviously the showrunners didn’t know that they only had thirteen episodes left after this, but WE do, and I think that’s what makes it harder for me to enjoy these as much as Meredith (or the 58,000 people who have told me how great the show is over the past 20 years). I think this is the first time I’ve watched a canceled serialized show after it aired; everything else had a chance to finish properly, or I just gave up before I got deeper into it and thus left with blue balls (Deadwood comes to mind). Obviously they have the movie to resolve the bigger things, but all these subplots, I suspect, will never go anywhere.
On that note: seriously? The goddamn food critic still hasn’t shown up?
Another thing I think that doesn’t help the show, and maybe this was even true when it aired, is the repetitive music. It’s GREAT music, don’t get me wrong - but there’s so little of it, so we hear the same three or four cues over and over, and worse, we can instantly detect how a scene is about to play out. The second we hear the first few notes of that jazzy bass riff, we know we’re in for a strange/silly scene, and since those don’t measure up to the first few episodes anymore, it’s like “Oh, great. More forced nonsense. Do I have any new Twitter mentions?” And since this is Twin Peaks it’s not unreasonable to think someone had that exact thought in 1991, because I’m starting to suspect its fans are just as crazy as its residents.
As always, a few moments save them from being total wastes of time. As mentioned, Ray Wise is fantastic (love the bit with the golf clubs), and Andy telling off Dick was delightful. Jerry’s advice of “As your attorney I advise you to get a better attorney” was amazing, and I quite enjoyed the big barroom scene because it assembled pretty much every male character on the show for the first time in ages (the pilot?). It’s an ensemble show that doesn’t give nearly enough time to the characters interacting; there are some characters I’m still pretty sure have never even met (has Jerry been to the diner? Was this the first time Donna ever spoke to Andy?).
But now all that’s over, and we can get to the stuff that even the show’s fans have warned me about: the post Laura Palmer episodes! Yay?
Yeah, the post-Palmer stuff is just entirely ridiculous, but I dunno. I'm sort of into entirely ridiculous. Maybe I'm only stubbornly hanging on to a dream here, the dream of how I once loved Twin Peaks, or maybe it's because I know we have to finish this show so I'm making the best of it, but I'm looking forward to all the silliness.
Questions for you, dear readers:
1) Are you looking forward to all the silliness?
2) The way Coop solves the case - unforgivable writing or a satisfying conclusion?
3) Who do you think is more underused/misused in S2: Norma, Hawk or Coop?
Tune in next Wednesday as we take on Episodes 2.10 and 2.11, including some Mounties, lots of Nadine cheerleading hijinks and the revelation of the mysterious food critic's identity! I know you've been waiting with bated breath. Oh yeah, and a little so-and-so named DAVID DUCHOVNY drops by!