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 17th, 18th and 19th episodes of Season Two. Follow along the entire series here.
What Special Agent Dale Cooper Ate This Week:
Yes! I know! HE ATE! He ate donuts and pie and a “turkey sandwich, whole wheat, lettuce, dollop of mayonnaise.” And plenty of coffee and satisfied faces and MY BELOVED COOP IS BACK, YOU GUYS.
As we near the end of Twin Peaks’ run, the episodes grow beautifully, majestically, gloriously haphazard. We get random shots of slow-dripping coffee and airborne disembodied hands and stuffed yaks and hilariously fake looking owls and and slowly rocking chess corpses and humongous bowls of peas. We get these montages of nightmare imagery and extreme close-ups of totally insignificant background actors’ faces. It’s really good. I’m seriously into it.
I’m also totally into the Miss Twin Peaks pageant. I’ve already mentioned this, but I love the fictional beauty pageant plot device. It’s so corny yet so revealing! And it results in bathing suit modeling and ‘80s puffy-sleeved ball gowns and terrible interview answers!
Damn near literally every woman in town is entering, except Norma who would obviously win because Peggy Lipton is a goddess. Who’s going to win, you guys?! I can’t stand the suspense. Will the Black Widow succeed in defrauding the contest? Will the competition fracture the fragile, newfound friendship between Donna, Audrey and Shelley? WILL NADINE WIN? Dammit man, tell me if Nadine wins!
Not that she’s sweatin’ it. Love has dawned in Twin Peaks and Nadine and Mike are among the many couples flourishing in romantic bliss. “Do you have any idea what the combination of sexual maturity and superhuman strength can result in?” Mike asks Bobby. Get it, Mike. Get you some.
Shelley and Cole share a flirtation, to my intense delight and Bobby’s chagrin. I could watch Gordon Cole flirt with Shelley every day for the rest of my life, but because she seems to like Bobby for some godforsaken reason, I can be happy for her that they’ve reunited. Lucy and Andy are almost entirely adorable together, although the mere fact that she’s even considering Dick Tremayne after the weasel riot (I can’t even) causes me to lose a tremendous amount of respect for her.
Audrey has well and truly vanquished her Coop crush, losing her virginity to Billy Zane in his private jet like a fucking baller. I don’t care so much about this story (and I’ll leave the commentary about Billy Zane’s sweater to an incredulous Brian), but that’s a solid virginity loss, girlfriend. You get yours. I miss rebellious Audrey, but I’m happy she’s happy, you know?
And finally in the romance department, we have Cooper and Annie. Listen, I feel like the easy thing to do here is to point out that Heather Graham’s acting leaves something to be desired, but that’s true of many people on Twin Peaks. Don’t give her a hard time just because we recognize her from later projects. And I love these two together. Annie’s as wide-eyed and full of life as Coop, and the two share a love of words and nature that I find touching. And Annie’s arrival marked the Return Of My Beloved Coop, so I thank her for that. He does wonderful things like inviting her on a nature study and calling a dance “a walking embrace.” He makes me swoon and squee once more, and for that, I tip my hat to you, Heather Graham. But seriously, don’t listen to that bartender. Women do NOT enjoy rum and tonics.
Of course, Twin Peaks is still a town of mystery, too. Coop’s back in the FBI to Cole’s great pleasure and mine, since that means less flannel and more suits. Windom Earle is still annoying but shit, man, I love his stupid disguises. The fucking horse costume? GOLD. He’s on a search for the Black Lodge, the true reason he found himself in Twin Peaks. Fucking with Cooper and giving everyone in town the shakes is just a bonus.
Coop, Andy, Hawk, Harry and Briggs work together to find the Owl Cave, which includes an intricate painting that Earle (who has been spying and eavesdropping on the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department) deduces is a map to the Black Lodge. Oh, here’s what Windom Earle says about the White Lodge and Black Lodge, so you can get that all sorted in your mind.
Once upon a time, there was a place of great goodness, called the White Lodge. Gentle fawns gamboled there amidst happy, laughing spirits. The sounds of innocence and joy filled the air. And when it rained, it rained sweet nectar that infused one's heart with a desire to live life in truth and beauty. Generally speaking, a ghastly place, reeking of virtue's sour smell. Engorged with the whispered prayers of kneeling mothers, mewling newborns, and fools, young and old, compelled to do good without reason ... But, I am happy to point out that our story does not end in this wretched place of saccharine excess. For there's another place, its opposite: A place of almost unimaginable power, chock full of dark forces and vicious secrets. No prayers dare enter this frightful maw. The spirits there care not for good deeds or priestly invocations, they're as likely to rip the flesh from your bone as greet you with a happy ‘good day.’ And if harnessed, these spirits in this hidden land of unmuffled screams and broken hearts would offer up a power so vast that its bearer might reorder the Earth itself to his liking.
I’m sorry, that is awesome writing. "Gamboled"? I am so totally for it.
So as we near the last two episodes of the series (followed by Fire Walk With Me, obviously), things are getting pretty good. There’s still some shit I don’t care about (Ben is Donna’s father, probably, and Eckhardt sent Andrew and Catherine a silver box from beyond the grave or something), but all in all, this is pretty fully rad.
I kind of wish I could sit back and just comment on all your comments without actually having to think about the show, Meredith. Reading your run through of this week’s events, I’m almost ready to concede that I liked these three episodes by virtue of your enthusiasm, even for stuff you hated.
But I didn’t like this week’s episodes. There was definitely an upswing from last week’s atrocities, but I still found myself more often than not bored by what was going on. Coop’s love for Annie, one of our biggest, most important developments, doesn’t work for me. Even though Heather Graham will go on to be a superhot sex pot (you can see this side of her coming out near the end - her sexual sweet talk to Coop when they’re dancing is only convincing bit of acting she’s done yet on the show), here she’s a wide-eyed bore. As with another television Annie (or Anne, anyway) I think about all the ladies Coop could have ended up with and ask, “Her?”
I also don’t agree that Coop’s back. Or more specifically, I’m even less certain now that there ever was a solid Coop for us to define. He’s kind of more chirpy than normal here, but his abilities as an agent of law enforcement remain laughable, and his quirky traits are increasingly becoming meaningless tics rather than manifestations of his inner character. This week Coop manages to unite two puzzle piece tattoos. That’s it. It’s Truman who recognizes their significance and Andy who accidentally reveals the larger hieroglyph in Owl Cave, something that remains a mystery to Cooper while Windom Earl figures it out right away.
I have been watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine a lot this week (oh, be quiet -- both shows feature Richard Beymer, so there). Jumping from that show back to Twin Peaks provided a revealing contrast. From episode to episode, Twin Peaks almost completely lacks narrative focus or unity. We could easily take on the themes and story of each DS9 episode in a way Twin Peaks almost totally resists.
But as a deeply serialized show, Twin Peaks flounders when making us care about its mysteries, perhaps because its origin as Soap Opera pastiche indicates a built in number of narratives we’re supposed to more recognize as parody than actually care for. On top of that, season two has left us with all these superfluous characters no longer united by Laura’s death. James’ season two woes represent a perfect manifestation of both these problems. But there are so many now. It has affected my ability to care even about the big stuff.
Nadine and Mike’s romance is nice, but why is it here? I love that Audrey fell in love with Billy Zane and went for it in his plane. But why is that a part of this show, really? Rarely do events on this show, even the big ones, matter to the show itself. Stuff goes on, and we get to pick and choose which stories we like and which we despise. But it’s not really coming together in any meaningful way. Getting into a different television show has really highlighted what a weird slog Twin Peaks is, and makes me see how even at its best it wasn’t a very well constructed or thought through endeavour.
So the deep excitement I may have felt from Major Briggs’ contributions to this week’s episodes means a lot less to me than it might have a month ago. That doesn’t mean I hate Briggs now or disliked those scenes. I just don’t spend any excitement or curiosity on his revelations. I have no suspense built up for the upcoming beauty pageant. It looks like Annie’s going to join even though The Giant made it hilariously clear to Cooper what a bad idea that was. That probably doesn’t bode well, since Cooper’s not likely to understand what that was supposed to mean.
Everyone’s shaky hands provides another good example. I don’t even have an interest because I can already tell there’s not going to be a good answer (this is aided slightly by my hazy memories of the next two episodes). According to The Who this should mean everyone’s wacking off, but I doubt that’s it. Likely it has more to do with BOB’s sudden return (think about how there was no one around to actually be creeped out by his weird hand dance, and it suddenly becomes very funny).
Oh. I’m tired of this show. Brian?
I thought each episode of this trio was better than the one before it, but maybe it’s partially my excitement about its ending soon. As the resident horror guy, there was some right creepiness revolving around Windom Earle’s murder of the metalhead dude (Ted Raimi!), and finding a corpse in a gazebo is always a sure sign of a proper murder mystery, if you ask me. And his later ranting and raving as he puts the map of Twin Peaks against the sketch of the cave painting is a fine bit of batshittery that you don’t see often enough on network television.
When the show first began (and I’m not sure if I ever made a comment on it), I was sort of charmed by how there seemed to be a chain of affairs going on: Horne was sleeping with Catherine who is married to Pete who seemed to have something going on with Josie who was with Truman... that sort of thing. But now everyone has more or less turned monogamous, and the show is the poorer for it. Not that I am a champion of infidelity, but we lost part of the show’s devious nature and in its place got a bunch of disconnected romance scenes of little to no interest to me. I have never and probably never will care much for Heather Graham, so seeing her be courted by Coop in two or three scenes per episode is not something worth my time, frankly (that said, I did like that unnerving slow pull back during the diner scene, as if they were going to reveal Earle or maybe Michael Myers watching them from the door).
And then, yes, Billy Zane and his sweater. Seriously, what the asschristing fuck WAS that goddamn thing? I’ve seen/worn some truly ugly sweaters in my day (in fact Dan O’Herlihy sports another one at the end of Episode 2.20) but that one truly takes the cake. It’s a wonder sweaters even survived. Anyway, he takes Audrey Horne’s virginity, seemingly to make sure no one else does (seriously, that’s how the conversation plays out: “I have to go.” “I’m a virgin.” “Oh shit, OK, quick - to the back of my handsome man jet!”), as if you, I, or anyone else in the world was actually invested in the state of her hymen. It’s the closest thing to a satisfyingly resolved storyline we’ve had in a while and it wasn’t even on my radar.
I also struggled to find any reason why we should care about the awful Dick Tremayne leading a wine tasting. What did it accomplish? Tremayne once again belittles Lucy. Andy once again says something that makes me wonder if he’s actually mentally handicapped instead of just sweetly dim. It’s bad enough that none of this shit is necessary; it’s unforgivable that we’ve actually seen it all before. Time is running out for Tremayne to be viciously killed, or at least shipped off to star on Invitation To Love (another dropped element of the show). And wasn’t there an evil kid subplot a few episodes ago? Did they wrap that up? My brain protects itself from storing too much of Twin Peaks in its memory warehouse.
Do we know when ABC made the decision to can the show? I’d look it up but I’m spoilerphobic. It does seem like they’re getting more focused, but I can’t tell if that’s just the end of the season necessity, or if they realized that they had to wrap EVERYTHING up in a few short hours. A lot of it does seem to have a finality to it, like Lucy declaring that she’ll choose the baby’s father tomorrow, and a few characters seemingly taking off for good (where the hell are Ed and Norma, anyway?), and it doesn’t seem to be introducing any ideas for a third season, unless random hand shaking is supposed to be a major plot thread.
Two to go! So excited. No amount of hideous sweaters can undo the joy I’ll feel in two weeks when I never have to hear that grating “this is a quirky scene!” jazzy riff ever again.
Next week! The FINAL TWO episodes of Twin Peaks! Brian and Evan are so relieved! And then we'll wrap up with Fire Walk With Me, which should be super fucking weird for everyone. See you then!