The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

Twin Peaks: Episode One

Posted by therebelprince on July 16, 2009

We join season 1 of Twin Peaks as it hits the ground running, on the heels of the magnificent pilot episode. “Episode One” (known in Europe as “Traces to Nowhere”) is another winner.

“It’s like I’m having the most beautiful dream and the most terrible nightmare all at once.”

– Donna Hayward, summing up the entire series.

(Right: Grace Zabriskie as Sarah Palmer)

The plot:

After breakfast with Audrey at the Great Northern, Cooper joins Doc Hayward, Sheriff Truman and Deputy Hawk in investigating Laura Palmer’s murder. Preliminary autopsy results show that Laura had sex with three men on the night of her death. James Hurley explains that he was secretly seeing Laura, but she had begun to drift apart from him and back to her cocaine addiction. Hawk discovers that Ronnette Pulaski worked at the Horne’s department store perfume counter, much as Laura had done. And Sarah Palmer has a terrifying vision of a denim-clad grey-haired man. It all leaves Cooper no closer to answers than before – but the Log Lady claims her log saw something, if only they could speak to it.

Elsewhere around town, Mike and Bobby fret over how to pay back their drug supplier Leo, since the money is in Laura’s safety deposit box. At their home, Shelley finds a bloodied shirt in Leo’s things, and later cops a beating for it; James dines with the Hayward family for a pleasant meal and some longing glances at Donna; Bobby’s family have a tense evening; Catherine and Ben are plotting Josie’s demise in some kind of fire;  and Dr. Jacoby listens to tapes his favourite patient, Laura, had made him in the days before his death.

It’s a beguiling and atmospheric second installment once again full of startling moments. Cooper’s first scene – his morning ritual at the Great Northern and his pondering of life’s great questions (“What really happened with Marilyn Monroe, and who really pulled the trigger on JFK?”) followed by his breakfast conversation with waitress Trudy (Jill Rogosheske-Engels) – is pure gold. His arrival at the Sheriff’s station, with everyone eating as they talk at him and Michael Ontkean downing an entire bagel? Classic. Later, as Coop and Truman bond over Coop’s sixth sense regarding the relationship with Josie, it’s truly touching to see these two men connect. Even in the show’s darkest moments, when they’re a poor man’s Holmes and Watson investigating the ravings of a “Master of Disguise” wannabe, Cooper and Truman’s friendship will ring through.

(Below: Warren Frost as Doc Hayward. And yes, I do geekily display my Twin Peaks collector’s cards on my mantel.)

Other pitch-perfect scenes: Sarah’s meltdown in Donna’s presence is pulled off neatly by Grace Zabriskie. And Donna’s scene with her mother (although hampered by Mary Jo Deschanel who is not at her best here) has a beautifully innocent vibe to it, one of many 1950s-inspired scenes which Lynch peppers throughout his entire ouevre. And Warren Frost gets his best material here as Doc Hayward delivers the painful details of Laura’s autopsy: an act he couldn’t even bring himself to perform. It’s such a pity that Doc Hayward would receive so little to do in season two (other than an ill-advised storyline featuring Donna’s paternity), because he really is a sympathetic and moving character. (And his great, heart-breaking scene in Fire Walk With Me was cut: yet another reason to petition for the uncut release).

There are only a couple of cringe-worthy moments: the flashback between Laura and James is trite and shoddily written. Sheryl Lee can’t manage to rise above the crappy material she’s working with… or the writing. (*Bam!* Yes, I do apologise but this is only the first of many James Marshall jokes you may have to suffer through in my reviews).

Elsewhere, Shelley’s statement of “Blood!” when she notices (would you believe it?) blood on Leo’s shirt is… unfortunate, and I assume dubbed in at a later date. It’s a move lacking any pretence of subtlety, sadly, and I’m surprised that of all the confusing moments in the episode, this was the one they felt needed clarity.

Other than that, Twin Peaks is moving along nicely in its second full day of the timeline. We don’t yet know what most of the character’s motivations are, but they’re all richly drawn and the series is intriguing in its mystery. We so far haven’t yet reached many of the aspects that will define the series – the Red Room, One-Eyed Jack’s, BOB or Albert Rosenfield – but every shot here is a mini-Lynchian masterwork.

(Incidentally, all this mention of James’ mother is evidence of the show’s biggest scrapped plot, dropped sometime during production. James’ mother was apparently an alcoholic who added to the women burdening him during his tortured existence. Ah well, the directors saved us some pain there clearly, as we’ll get enough of James Marshall emoting when he meets Evelyn Marsh).

Next time: Jerry Horne comes home; Lucy and Truman throw some rocks; and Cooper has the dream to out-dream even Pamela Ewing.

While you’re waiting: check out The A.V. Club reviews, and a more snarky take on the show at Television Without Pity.


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