TV Timewarp: TWIN PEAKS Episodes 2.16 And 2.17

Revisit every episode of TWIN PEAKS with us. This week: two loathed characters are replaced by Heather Graham and Billy Zane.

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 16th and 17th episodes of Season Two. Follow along the entire series here

MEREDITH:

So, Josie’s dead and James is gone. And what does Twin Peaks do with those paths to would-be glory and freedom? Deliver two of the shittiest episodes we’ve seen yet.

Both of these episodes are the Josie Show. Her mournful interactions with Eckhardt and Packard take up much of the first episode, which ends when she DIES FROM LITERALLY NOTHING. And then turns into a drawer knob. That is so like her. What a fucking drama queen.

And the next episode opens with slow motion, rose-colored Josie memories set to sad bastard saxophone music. If Josie’s face were a song, I imagine it would be this generic, endless, sad bastard saxophone solo.

Her death leads us to acknowledge what an insufficient performer Michael Ontkean really is when he’s not playing the affable straight man. Sheriff Truman, go back to your genial donut face-stuffing, because you’re not really pulling off enraged, drunken grief.

To be fair, we really don’t get any more James bullshit, so at least his departure is actually worth something. But holy lord, these episodes were such a slog. I know the show will get better again in the last few episodes, and we’re nearing that light at the end of this tunnel. But dammit, hurry.

Some good stuff happened. Ed and Norma are engaged, which means we got to see the equally satisfying scenes where they attempt to extricate themselves from their respective matrimonial bonds. Nadine was charmingly nonchalant (only dismayed when she suddenly realized she’s blind in one eye), and Hank was all impotent wrath. “I’d rather be his whore than your wife.” BOOM! That’s the Norma I knew was hiding behind that sad face somewhere! And Hank got to hear this gem while he pouted and raged behind bars. I’ll say this for Twin Peaks - the characters we hate most all get theirs.

And later we get to see Nadine and Mike try to Muppet Man their way into a love nest at the Great Northern, and oh, how I cheered. MORE OF THIS PLEASE.

Leo continues to be silent and occasionally abused by Windom Earle, which had to have been such a fully unsatisfying turn for actor Eric DaRae. You know he had to be calling his agent to bitch every day after filming. The Windom Earle case isn’t really getting anywhere, but I don’t mind. His disguises are hilariously bad, his supposed mind-fuck scenarios aren’t terribly annoying and I like Pete’s elevated importance as the town chess whiz. 

Newbies Heather Graham and Billy Zane are in town, arriving simultaneously to break up the long simmering Coop-Audrey flirtation. I don’t particularly care about Billy Zane and Audrey, but I don’t hate it. Even when he sings, I don’t hate it. It’s okay. It’s not like when James sings. And recent convent exile Heather Graham (playing Annie, Norma’s sister) actually elicits an old school Coop response: he holds his hand in the air as he tastes the coffee she made before dubbing it perfect! So I’m for it.

Some stuff is happening with the Haywards that I don’t entirely get. Major Briggs and the Log Lady stop by for a scene that is useless yet pleasant and shot from some very cool angles. There’s a new dick concierge at the Great Northern that I sort of enjoy. Brenda Strong shows up as Eckhardt’s assistant who clubs some guy and then gets into bed with Ben Horne. And it all happens like that, too, just random things happening in no particular order with no thematic or plot-centric transitions.

Also, there’s a fashion show that was almost amazing and then went on way too long and got boring and then got a tiny bit cool again when Dick Tremayne was face-attacked by a weasel. I love fashion shows in movies and television! “With a look that always says ‘Hey world. I’m here.’”

Anyway, there were maybe seven minutes of cool in the ninety minutes of these two episodes and the rest was utter tedium. Fellas?

EVAN:

Holy shit. My patience with this show has hit an all time low. The episodes bored the hell out of me this week, but I kind of forgot about them, too. Now, reading your recap, I’m just mad as hell all over again.

I suppose it does win a unique amount of stupidity points, though. Josie’s transformation into a wooden knob is the kind of thing that’s been haunting me since I first watched Twin Peaks a decade ago. I thought for certain it was all just a bad dream I had. But no, she actually dies suddenly for no reason and becomes a knob. Then we see BOB and the backwards little guy. Guess who has two thumbs and no longer cares?

Harry’s plan to mourn Josie is to drink a lot and scream a lot and brandish his gun for no reason. It’s hard to feel for him, largely because it’s hard to empathize with anyone who loves Josie, whom we’re now supposed to see as this hard boiled killer rather than a sad faced ewe everyone trounces upon with ease.

So James is gone for good. I must have missed that. The last thing I remember is he and Donna having a picnic. Did he turn into a knob too? No wait, James turned into a screw. I like that better.

I’m usually inzane for Billy Zane, but this is Twin Peaks and a story involving Audrey Horne, so I’m less interested. This is the love of her life. He dresses like a cowboy and sings western songs to her at verrrrrry slow tempos (even Johnny Cash sings this song faster). I have a feeling this will amount to very little. I am glad Ben Horne is back to his old ways, though.

I’m sitting here thinking about the fashion show thing, and it makes me suddenly realize that maybe we’re all done with the Little Nicky storyline? Is Lucy still pregnant? Did her body get tired of both these assholes and shut it down? Is this even the same show anymore?

Honestly, at this point it comes down to only one thing. Just one. Ed and Nadine. Like you, Meredith, I really enjoy this story. That this is the only pleasure I can scrape from a show with Twin Peaks’ reputation is utterly bizarre. I can’t imagine David Lynch even watching this, much less putting his name on it.

Even the bit where Cooper does his little hand gesture rubbed me the wrong way, indicating either the show’s stasis, my impatience or both. Coop’s Cooperisms are no longer charming but irritating. The character may eventually come back but his mistreatment this season has tarnished him greatly in my eyes.

This is further exacerbated by Windom Earle, a character whose menace abandons him with each goofy outfit and mustache twirling scene with man-dog Leo. I realize with this stuff, along with memories of the Laura Palmer mystery, that Coop may have great powers of deduction, but he’s actually an extremely shitty detective. All he does is sit around drinking coffee. Look at how long it took them to figure out who shot him. Look at how little he cared.

So, in summation: I hate Twin Peaks. Also, congratulations Barack.

BRIAN:

Wait, does she actually say “I’d rather be his whore than your wife”?  If so I missed it, but that line was in Titanic, said to this week’s newest “Oh look, it’s a young _____” Twin Peaks cast member, Billy Zane. Look, I just made a connection between two things, which is more than I can say about either of these terrible episodes. Meredith hit the nail on the head - it’s just stuff happening; it often felt like I was watching the deleted scenes collection on disc 3 of some TV show, where they just string them all together without any context. 

And the forced attempts at being random are just that, forced. There is NOTHING worse than forced randomness - I always think of the amazing “Doctor Poop” sketch on SNL, where Will Ferrell played a rather insane doctor who tells a couple (Molly Shannon and Chris Parnell) that their son is a witch, amongst other things. The sketch had an improvised, “making it up as it goes along” feel (which I’m pretty sure it was - Ferrell says “I couldn’t think of anything good” at one point, causing Shannon to break), and it was completely hilarious. Later that season (possibly the next), they did it again, but it didn’t work at all - they were trying too hard to be as out of nowhere random, as opposed to just letting it happen. That’s what these episodes are like. When Andy, a sworn officer of the law who must possess SOME intelligence, takes 60 seconds of an episode to ponder whether or not the knight in chess always has to move the same way, I can practically HEAR the screenwriter drumming his fingers on his desk, wondering how he could spruce up a rather boring scene (Pete’s newfound abilities notwithstanding) by being “funny."

Not to mention Josie dying of (?????) (Profit!) and turning into a piece of wood, which I’d like to think was the writer’s way of letting us know that he found her just as dull as we did, but I can’t give them that much credit in an otherwise creatively-starved pair of episodes. And I thought I’d be happy to see her go, but as a result I had to discover WHY Michael Ontkean hasn’t been in much since the show went off the air - dude simply has no ability to act legitimately angry or emotional. It’s a shame; I quite like his amiable demeanor, and even his “I’m going to calmly threaten you” attitude worked well, but when he had to scream at Coop, I couldn’t even feel sad about the damage to their friendship (the show’s strongest asset) - I was too busy snickering at the delivery.

James is also gone, is that for good?  I don’t mind being spoiled about this, I could use the motivation to keep watching, especially since Windom Earle, once a promising and slightly creepy new element, has become such a wash.  His disguises are worse than Fletch Lives’ (another example of how not to try and replicate what you thought people liked), and with each one I feel less threatened by him, not to mention less interested. Can’t he and Pete just go off and play chess and let some other uber-villain take a crack at getting this show back in my good graces?

Oh well, at least there’s only five more episodes (and the movie) to go.  

MEREDITH:

Are you guys still with us? We have three weeks more to go (we'll cover three episodes next week, then the final two episodes the week after, and wrap up with Fire Walk With Me the final week), so stick around. It actually does get better! Slight spoiler alert in order to entice you - James Hurley is really, truly gone!

Next Week! Truman gets back to work - also, apparently he was the one clobbered by Brenda Strong, I just realized from the IMDb summary? Oh. Gordon Cole returns, some stuff happens with Briggs and Log Lady and Windom, and we get to watch my other favorite fictional thing besides a fashion show - a beauty pageant!

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