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 tenth and eleventh episodes of Season Two. Follow along the entire series here.
These two episodes of Twin Peaks offer glimpses of the very highs and lows of post-Laura Palmer Peaks.
Among the highs, we have Leland Palmer’s wake, a small scene that reminds me of what Twin Peaks should be - little but significant character interactions, small town gossip and huge, delicious-looking buffet tables. The same with that random’s wedding. Sure, new characters brought into the fold at this late date rankle, but I love any excuse for a good townie gathering.
Cooper’s camping trip with Colonel Briggs. Why these two haven’t exchanged friendship bracelets long ago is a mystery to me, as I can’t imagine two more ideally suited men. Their manners are so similar - a quirky, polite way of speaking that adds levity to their deep inner gravitas. Briggs’ disappearance is a mystery I can get behind - namely, because I actually like him and care what happens to him. This is a first on Twin Peaks.
Catherine Martell’s finishing attire. More Catherine, please. More Catherine WITHOUT Josie, as I don’t recall especially loving the upcoming slave scenes, mostly because we’re meant to empathize with Josie as Catherine bosses her around, when I’d much rather watch those scenes directed with Catherine as the protagonist and Josie as the villain. I mean, Josie did murder Catherine’s brother (oops! she screwed that up too, apparently) and try to murder Catherine and steal her property and all sorts of other things I only vaguely remember because I always tune out when Josie’s onscreen. No way am I supposed to keep rooting for Josie over Catherine here, am I?
Nadine’s cheerleader tryouts and her steely-eyed focus on winning over Mike Nelson. (Wait, Mike Nelson? Like the MST3K guy? Just realized that.) Again, I know this storyline isn’t for everyone, but dammit, I love it. Wendy Robie is so terrific in these scenes, cracking me up over and over. I love her kick-ass shiny patent leather Mary Janes. I love her perky ponytail and her terrifying bench pressing abilities. I’m a Nadine and Mike ‘shipper.
Coop’s preemptive goodbyes to the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department staff. I teared up a little there and wish that had lasted longer before he was interrupted by that Mountie. And I love his scenes with Audrey, when they dance at the wedding and when she comes to tell him goodbye and he tells her the story of Windom Earle and the woman he once loved. He treats Audrey like a grown-up, and I can’t fault her for telling him that he’s perfect. But I CAN fault her for her giant shoulder pads.
Coop’s framed by Windom Earle, making it look like he stole the cocaine from the One Eyed Jacks bust, and he's temporarily suspended from the FBI. Although he’s still not waxing rhapsodic over huckleberry pies, I feel we have something of a return of the old Coop here, no longer only reacting but initiating, moving about with purpose. We still have NO IDEA who shot him and he still seems not to care, but he cares about being framed and having his honor questioned. Cooper has direction again, thank god.
And finally, FINALLY we have David Duchovny as Denise Bryson, here investigating Cooper’s case. Duchovny is so great here, not playing Denise for laughs but with wide-eyed sincerity. My Coop crush returns with a vengeance when I see how tolerantly and openly he accepts the big change in his former colleague. My respective crushes on Sheriff Truman and Deputy Hawk sink a good deal when they get all Gay Panic! on Denise. And my lifelong irritation at Deputy Andy evaporates when he dances with Agent Bryson, although I’m not entirely convinced Andy actually realizes Denise used to be Dennis.
And despite Hawk’s unsavory reaction to Denise, he still gets a pretty cool moment this week when he explains the concepts of the White and Black Lodges to Cooper:
Cooper, you may be fearless in this world, but there are other worlds. My people believe that the White Lodge is the place where the spirits that rule man and nature here reside. There is also legend of the place called the Black Lodge, the shadow self of the White Lodge. Legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There you will meet your own shadow self. My people call it the dweller on the threshold. But it is said if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.
Pretty cool. Among the lows in this week’s episodes, we have:
Josie being Josie, Hank being Hank. Ben Horne being all nutty and disheveled. The return of Andrew Packard because Josie is incompetent at everything. While Dan O’Herlihy is generally a welcome sight, anything indicating more Josie Packard screen time bums me out. She is such a Merry Sue.
Andy, Dick and Dennis the Menace. This storyline is barely tolerable when we have the adorable Lucy around. Without her, it’s execrable.
Norma pouting at her mom. Evan, you’ve made it so I can scarcely stand to look at Peggy Lipton anymore, and that is a tragedy. Ugh, at least the interminable MT Wentz bullshit is over.
And finally and especially, the long sequences of James on his motorcycle and his out-of-nowhere affair with a sexy older lady who wears a coat as a dress. This shit is miserable, not least because it occurs to me for the very first time that we’re all supposed to accept that James Hurley is hot. When it was just small town girls throwing themselves at James, I could imagine that their options were limited and they’d know better once they got to college. We all dated some duds in high school. But Evelyn Marsh is a stone cold fox who seems like she’s lived a little, and the way she looks at James like he’s Dean instead of Hurley just gives me a sad.
Okay fellas - your turn! David Duchovny - pretty amazing, am I right?
Yes, Meredith, David Duchovny is great as yet another wacky FBI agent (I don’t mean wacky because he dresses like a woman but because he keeps gabbing with Coop when he’s supposed to be investigating the guy). I’m kind of disappointed to see him so soon, though. Despite your promise last week, I was still under the impression he came later. His appearance is pretty much the only bright spot I can remember until the end (except some of the Windom Earl stuff), and having it come and go so soon just makes the remainder of this rewatch that much more of a slog.
But you’re right. There are some bright spots. Frankly, this is the new Twin Peaks, so I might as well get my kicks from Nadine throwing a guy across a football field or... well, I like the Nadine story anyway.
I also have to agree with you on Cooper. This does seem like a return to our Special Agent of old. From his promise to Duchovny that the food at the Great Northern would surprise him, to his talk with Hawk, to his account of Major Briggs’ disappearance, an air of warm familiarity returned to Coop for this pair of episodes.
Major Briggs is big favorite of mine, so it’s a bummer that he’s gone now and likely won’t be coming back anytime soon (not a spoiler as I really don’t remember). With his departure, precious few intriguing Twin Peaks characters remain. I don’t like Audrey or Catherine as much as you, Meredith, especially now that Catherine’s doing this whole Josie slave thing. I’m all for characters being mean to Josie, but that doesn’t mean I don’t get personally offended when I have to waste time watching it. Has anyone in the history of faces had a sadder face than Josie? Even sad clowns have more cheer.
As for Audrey, I feel kind of sorry for her. She falls in love with Cooper. He refuses her advances, yet still dances with her at the wedding. That guy’s a total cock tease.
Jacoby is back. Fart. Hey, maybe he shot Coop! Fart fart.
And then there’s James! He fartfartfartfartfart.
Seriously though. Twin Peaks is quickly becoming very difficult to sit through. When more than half the stories going on annoy me, it’s hard to avoid outright anger at some of this stuff, particularly the infamous James femme fatale storyline. What I want from Twin Peaks is not even mystery but just some fun mythology stuff. I have to keep reminding myself it’s not actually that kind of show at all. It’s a soap opera pastiche with weird elements. But now we’re entering a period where it’s hardly even pastiche. Who really cares about veggie Leo? Why are Shelly and Bobby even on this show anymore?
Oh well. This is what we signed up for. It could be worse. We could be talking about an actual soap opera. Every day. For the rest of our lives. We could also be dead. So stop complaining so much, Brian.
TV Timewarp: Days of our Lives - FROM THE BEGINNING!
(Actually, less jokey - the gold box deal on Amazon the other day was the complete Dark Shadows...)
I’m honestly starting to question the sanity of everyone who has ever told me how amazing this show is. It started off great, but come on, so did Heroes. No one defends Heroes - a show needs to stick the landing or at least operate on a success/fail ratio of like 2:1, and we’re about even at this point (and from what I gather from you guys, it never really gets good again, so that means there will be more bad episodes than good!). Hell, I’d take yet another Sylar resurrection over pretty much anything that happened in these two episodes.
That said, there ARE some promising signs here and there - Briggs’ disappearance is interesting, for the reasons stated above (I also enjoy the acting of the late Don Davis), and I’m even starting to shine to the Nadine subplot, though I wish it could find room for more Ed since he’s one of my favorite characters and has been completely wasted this season so far. And Windom Earle has promise, as does Dan O’Herlihy, who knows about small town weirdness from Halloween III. Plus: Duchovny! I’ll never understand why he never became a bigger movie star, but then again neither did MacLachlan so I guess he fits right in on this show. Interesting that both went on to be on shows that owe a debt of gratitude to Peaks: Duchovny on X-Files (duh), and MacLachlan had a number of seasons on Desperate Housewives, another ABC serialized comi-drama about a murder-happy town (and another one that never topped its first season, though it had seven goddamn chances to try as opposed to one).
And there’s no way it was intentional, but the bit where Ben was looking all frumpy and watching home movies featuring a cigar chomping dad reminded me of Christmas Vacation, when Chevy’s stuck in the attic (also: both scored by Angelo Badalementi). In fact I spent most of that second episode just daydreaming about the superior things it was reminding me of - James’ new love interest reminded me of Kim Basinger’s character from Wayne’s World 2, and his hilariously stupid line “Sometimes... riding at night, I punch off the headlights and roll on the throttle and just rocket blind into the dark” had a delivery that recalled the same film’s “I knew a girl on Gordon Street.” Hey, Gordon came back (via the phone), and Coop actually left a message for Diane for what seems like the first time in ages.
But the problem is, the show is no longer using its nonsense the way it used to. Before you could strip away the silliness and it would just be a solid drama/mystery about a small town. Now the nonsense IS the story - Nadine the superhero, Andy and Dick taking a kid out for a shake, Leo the vegetable being “cared for” by Bobby and Shelly... it’s like the show forgot how to do random properly. I actually love Clarence Williams III’s character, because not only does he still appreciate pie, he actually says (to Coop) “What the HELL are you TALKING about?”, which is a line that should be uttered with some frequency since just about everyone in this town sounds like the guy on the subway you try to ignore.
But hey, we’re halfway through Season 2! OPTIMISM.
Hey! Evan told you to stop complaining so much, Brian. Gah! No look, I know. This is bad. But c'mon, Heroes?! The difference is that the highs of Twin Peaks are entire universes above Heroes. Yeah, the lows may be lower (I dunno. I doubt it.), but those of us who have heralded the genius of Twin Peaks for years often conveniently forget that most of Season Two even happened. We're all in post-pie food comas, okay? Leave us alone! *wuss-runs away, crying*
Questions for you, dear readers:
1) Is David Duchovny this show's best guest star, or do you have another in mind?
2) Are the bad parts of Twin Peaks really worse than Heroes? HEROES?!
3) Who has the sadder sadface - Norma, Josie or James?
Tune in next Wednesday as we take on Episodes 2.12 and 2.13