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 14th and 15th episodes of Season Two. Follow along the entire series here.
During these episodes, I kept thinking back to what Brian said last week, that Twin Peaks Season Two would have been greatly benefited by the following scenario: after Cooper’s suspension from the FBI, he joined the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department and every week they had a new goofy case to solve, with some mytharc stuff happening on sweeps week. And you know, I think they’re actually trying to do some of that now, but of course it’s too little, too late. While Coop’s been cleared of all charges with Denise’s help (and I don’t think David Duchovny returns, to my great displeasure), he’s still suspended and still acting as Harry’s deputy. If only the showrunners had approached this strategy earlier!
For instance, as dumb as the Black Widow shit is, I like the way Cooper resolves it, putting her in a room with her late husband’s brother for five minutes and letting her work her random seductive magic. The “case” is solved with a wacky ending and they can move on to something else. Done and done.
And in the meantime, the overarching case of Windom Earle is hitting its stride, with the long johns-wearing lunatic (played to hot and cold effect by the sometimes great, sometimes grating Kenneth Welsh) absorbing Leo into his menacing den and fucking with him a bunch while he continues to fuck with Coop. I can get behind this storyline. We hear a little more of Cooper and Earle’s backstory: that woman Cooper and Earle were protecting, with whom Cooper fell in love and then failed to protect? That was Earle’s wife. Which is weird, because I’m pretty sure the FBI wouldn’t assign an agent to protect his own wife as a material witness. Especially when, according to Coop, the crime she witnessed was probably committed by Earle.
Okay, so this plot doesn’t hold up to prolonged scrutiny, but I still enjoy it. It engages Cooper, it tortures Leo, it offers us a new villain who isn’t Hank or the Femme Fatale. It gives Cooper amazing things to say, such as “Windom Earle’s mind is like a diamond. It’s cold and hard and brilliant.” It also offers Kyle MacLachlan the chance to prove that he is the only living actor who can deliver that tired old line “You don’t know what he’s [or I’m or she’s or they’re] capable of” with some convincing pep.
Oh, the two Storylines Of Which We Do Not Speak are still sort of happening, and without the benefit of any particularly delightful outfits from Dick Tremayne. I will say three things about the stupid, endless James and Evelyn stuff:
1) I can’t believe James proposed to Donna and then immediately left town and made out with a married lady. He is the worst. And I hate his face.
2) Also “I wanted you here for the good and honest way that you taste.” “Well, I like the way that you taste too” are two of the most odious lines ever uttered on this or any other show. I bet James tastes like motorcycle oil, hair gel and tears. Wait, why am I speculating about this?!
3) And finally, Evelyn’s lover Malcolm has major seven-head and that hot, stupid lady has the most tragically dubious taste in men.
I would be inclined to add one more storyline to the Unspeakables list, although thankfully it’s over now: Benjamin Horne’s Civil War-colored psychotic break. Although I do rather enjoy the creepily jovial Wizard of Oz ending to that particular scenario, and Audrey looks quite fetching in her antebellum attire. And as God as my witness, that’s the last thing I have to say about that.
I’ve been enjoying watching Audrey play Bobby, as he’s quite suddenly back to the gum-popping greaser dipshit he was in Season One. I hope he continues sucking up to her in the somewhat vague hope of getting rich somehow, although now that Leo’s sort of out of the picture, he might start paying more attention to Shelly. Shelly drives me crazy as she’s being attacked by Leo this week, just lying on the ground waiting to be victimized as he slowly shuffles his way toward her to axe her a question. But later, as she reunites with Norma in the diner, I remember why I like her. Madchen Amick and Peggy Lipton are never better than when they’re in scenes together.
It’s nice to see Ed and Norma acting like a real couple instead of staring moonily at each other over the space of a counter for actual decades. It’s fucking awesome that she once bought him a turquoise and onyx bolo tie. And don’t worry, guys: Nadine is “completely cool with all of this.” Like, jump in bed with them to talk about her wrestling trophy levels of cool. Just so you know, I, too, am completely cool with all of this. Team Nadine! You go get that high school student, Nadine! You grab on to him with your terrifying superhuman strength and you never let him go!
Albert pops back in too briefly this week, just long enough to give us some more info on Windom Earle (he’s been sending items from his wife Caroline’s trousseau to various law enforcement agencies) and to make it clear that he’s over his beef with Truman. Oh yeah, and to solve that case that we all stopped giving a shit about several months ago: Josie shot Cooper!
In other Josie stuff, Andrew Packard has shown his face and reminded us all that he’s still alive because Josie’s bad at everything, and his former associate Thomas Eckhardt arrives in order to sound rich, complicate things for everyone in some way that I find entirely tedious, and throw himself onto the ever growing pile of men who are inexplicably in love with motherfucking Josie Packard.
Finally, Major Briggs White Lodge something something.
Did I miss anything, gentlemen?
You missed THE GREATEST MAN HUG IN HISTORY. At first I didn’t care for Albert’s sudden personality change, and I admit I still kind of miss his acerbic wit, but seeing him greet Truman with a hearty hello and then exchange a huge bear hug was the most I’ve enjoyed this show in weeks. I also loved his assessment of Coop’s new wardrobe: “About the uniform, Coop. Replacing the elegance of the dark suit and tie with the casual indifference of a mouse brown work outfit is a form of fashion suicide, but, call me crazy, I like it.” Of all the characters who have completely changed their demeanor on this show, this is the rare one that I find equally amusing. Power of hugs.
That said, it’s a bummer that he’s mainly around to do what Coop didn’t seem to want to do, which is figure out who shot him. Worse, it’s Josie, which means she’ll be given more to do in upcoming episodes, instead of being unceremoniously removed from the show entirely with little to no explanation (a Poochie style “I have to go back to my home planet” would be great). I also hate that it might cause friction between Coop and Truman - and WHAT SIDE WILL ALBERT BE ON??
But overall, these two episodes are definitely a bit back on track. Not Season One good, but certainly not a chore to get through. The conclusion of the Robin Lively subplot was nice to see, as I was afraid that would drag on forever, and the Windom Earle stuff is coming together (sans his goofy disguises - is he a genius mastermind, or Harry Crumb?). I’d say half of each episode was worth watching, which is a much better ratio than we’ve gotten lately. In fact, all it would take is the removal of the James/Evelyn horseshit to make these worthy of the show’s old days - there have ALWAYS been boring subplots (usually centered around Josie), and when you factor in the lack of the original central mystery, it’s almost impressive that they’ve improved that much since the last four or five groaners.
However, the James stuff is there, and more grating than ever. “I like the way you taste, too”? FUCK THE FUCK YOU. Even if this stuff was meant to be goofy and annoying, it doesn’t work. I’d rather listen to Dick Tremayne for 20 minutes (and yes, part of my enjoyment of this second episode is the complete lack of the Lucy/Andy/Dick story), and the weird dips into slo-mo during what passes for this storyline’s “action scenes” certainly don’t do it any favors.
But it’s getting back on track. Any episode with a newspaper featuring the headline “ASIAN MAN KILLED” is automatically worth some respect. Thanks, director Diane Keaton (possibly the weirdest thing I’ve seen on this show yet, by the way)!
I’m glad I’m not the only one to thoroughly love these episodes and call them the greatest pair of Twin Peaks episodes we’ve seen yet (this political season has taught me that history can be rewritten by whoever has the last word and sounds the most confident). I don’t love the James stuff as much as you guys, but I do think Twin Peaks really soared this week.
Why? Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s very simple: Both episodes this week have multiple instances of people doing random things in unison. That’s it. Coop, Truman, and Dr. Jabroni all drinking water for no reason. The three dumb cops exiting Femme Fatale lady’s house. A bunch of cops turning their heads at the same time in a musky bar. I’m not sure if it’s that old Twin Peaks magic, but it’s a kind of happy quirkiness, at least. These episodes were fun.
In a weird way, I kind of like the Windom Earl stuff even more than the Laura Palmer storyline. It’s cool to see Cooper go head to head with a tangible and aggressive villain like this. Peaks will fuck it up (the aforementioned disguise angle proves this), but so far I find Earl extremely threatening. BOB’s scary and all, but I still don’t know what the fuck he even is.
The show both succeeds and fails at incorporating other characters in with this Windom Earl stuff, too. I absolutely love that the gang appeals to Pete as the resident chess wizard. That shit’s brilliant. I also love that Earl has something up his sleeve for the until now useless trio of Audrey, Shelly and Donna. I’m less excited, however, by even more incapacitated Leo action. It would be okay if I don’t see nasty stuff going into or out of Leo’s mouth for the rest of my life.
And, just to give credit where credit is due, I found the shadow Leo stuff with Shelly quite effective, though I agree with Meredith that Shelly’s on the floor crying really sucks once the lights go on and Leo has that axe. I also must credit Twin Peaks for maybe (?) getting rid of not only stupid Hank but the stupid Ben Horne Civil War stuff (Jerry’s back!) as well as the stupid Who Shot Coop? non-mystery. Also: David Warner? Okay! He be villainous good.
And on top of that, we have Ed nailing Norma. Finally. And speaking of Ed, it’s hard to hate a show with an exchange like this:
Dr. Hayward (asking about Nadine): Is she sexually active?
Ed: Active? Doc, I wake up every morning feeling like I been hit with a timber truck.
Actually, my favorite line this week, and maybe of the whole series is when Doc Hayward sits Dick and Andy down to disprove their theory about Little Nicky, which had me laughing so hard I had to pause the episode:
“Nicky entered this world through the backdoor...”
Yep, Nicky entered this world through the backdoor, all right. I think James probably tastes like the backdoor. Josie’s whole face is a backdoor.
Questions to leave you with this week, dear readers!
1) So much better right? Help us out, because we can't remember - does it stay better? Or does it get terrible again?
2) What's the best scene: the man hug between Albert and Truman, the Ménage à WTF with Ed, Norma and Nadine or Doc Hayward's unfortunate phrasing for Little Nicky?
3) Whoa! Am I seriously the only person who's never noticed that Diane Keaton directed this episode of Twin Peaks?
Next week! Tune back in as the Windom Earle case gets twistier, Audrey finds herself a new beau (sorry Coop!), awesome stuff happens with Josie and James (really!) and Heather Graham drops by!