The Blog Formerly Known as Rebel Prince

Cult TV, Gen Y rants, and endless opera.

Twin Peaks: Episode Two Review

Posted by therebelprince on July 17, 2009

Welcome back to the next installment of our Twin Peaks reviews: “Episode Two”, or “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer” if you believe in these faux European titles!

Where to begin? Well, for starters: forget the dream sequence! This episode’s opening dinner scene is possibly my favourite. The four Hornes (with Johnny now played by Robert Bauer) sit in strained silence around the dinner table for the entire duration of the opening credits, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Ben’s brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly), who is met with mixed reactions. (Disgruntled silence from his niece, a cold “Benjamin!” from his sister-in-law, and annoyance turning to childish glee on the part of his beloved brother).

Ben: Leland’s daughter was murdered, and the Norwegians left.
Jerry: Did they sign?
Ben: No.
Jerry: We had those Vikings by the horns!… What happened?
Ben: We’r enot 100% sure; they took their translator with them.
Jerry: Did you say Leland’s daughter was murdered?
Ben: Yes.
Jerry: I’m depressed.

Ben: Leland’s daughter was murdered, and the Norwegians left.

Jerry: Did they sign?

Ben: No.

Jerry: We had those Vikings by the horns!… What happened?

Ben: We’re not 100% sure; they took their translator with them.

Jerry: Did you say Leland’s daughter was murdered?

Ben: Yes.

Jerry: I’m depressed.

This is a clever start to one of the show’s most memorable episodes – and certainly the episode which lives on in pop culture history – written and directed by the series co-creators, and there isn’t a misstep in sight.

Here, so many of the iconic elements are touched upon. Jerry and Ben visit One-Eyed Jack’s, the brothel run by Blackie O’Reilly (Victoria Catlin) and her gang of mysteriously skilled escorts. This storyline will end in travesty in season two, but Blackie’s parlour of delights is exquisitely designed.

The relationship between Donna and James is handled nicely, with a touching confession scene after dinner with her parents. Josie, with Pete’s help, discovers that Catherine has a second financial ledger with radically different numbers. Leo is hunting for the man Shelley is sleeping with, while Bobby is trying to save his girl. And Nadine is showing a few signs of superhuman strength.

Above: Heartthrob Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook)

But all these plot progressions are window dressing for the important central aspect of “Episode Two”: Cooper’s unique deductive methods. As Sunday dawns, Cooper and the Sheriff’s department head to the woods, where they learn about Tibet, the plight of its people, and the power of the Buddhist method of thinking. Does this sound unlikely for the third episode of a murder mystery series? Apparently not if you’re David Lynch. The investigation begins with rocks thrown at a bottle as names are read out. Laura had written “nervous about meeting ‘J’ tonight” in her diary, so anyone with a “J” name is mentioned. Dr. Jacoby and Leo’s names are the closet, while Norma and Shelley don’t even come close. Is this a sane deductive technique? Only time will tell.

But later that night, even the rock-throwing seems logical. As Cooper falls asleep, he is subject to an astonishing dream: a one-armed man chants a poem; a denim-clad grey-haired man (Frank Silva), seen first in Sarah Palmer’s vision, speaks of his life as a demon. Cooper – suddenly 25 years older – sits in a red room with a little man (Michael J. Anderson) who speaks in a jittery style, and a woman who he says is his cousin, but who looks exactly like Laura Palmer. There are various clues scattered throughout this sequence (clues only in the sense that they will later make sense to us, and to Cooper’s unravelling mind; not in the sense that they provide any jumping-off place to solve the mystery).

It’s an episode full of humour (the arrival of cynical Agent Albert Rosenfield, as played by Miguel Ferrer, is hysterical) but also darkness: Leland and Sarah continue to struggle along on their lonesome.

This duality is echoed in every aspect of the series. Mike and BOB, the demons in Cooper’s dream, share their names with highschool jocks Mike and Bobby. Is this a thematic reference to Bobby as one of the negative influences in Laura’s bipolar life? An in-joke in the same sense as popular Twin Peaks soap opera “Invitation to Love”, whose melodramatic plots so entrance Shelley and Lucy, and are only outshone by those on Twin Peaks itself? Or a reference to the fact that everyone in Twin Peaks – and for that matter, the world – has an evil twin, a doppelganger, in the Black Lodge? Well, we’ll explore that more in the future.

Of course one of the biggest problems the show suffered was how to treat the timeline. One of the show’s biggest criticisms as it reached the middle of the second season was how long the investigation was taking. In fact, the first episode spans a week and by the time the series ends, we’re only just past one month. It doesn’t feel like there’s any padding here though: with the vast mosaic of characters, every scene at this point is adding to our knowledge of character or plot.

(Above: A little man with a dream… to dance!)

The dream of course ends in a schadenfreude moment when Cooper, having woken with the knowledge of the muderer’s identity, opens the next episode  unable  to remember anymore who killed Laura Palmer. It won’t be all lost though: at least two of the clues will come to fruition almost immediately. But that’s a discussion for next time…

As usual, check out the TWoP recaps and The AV Club . And an extra special shout to the Twin Peaks Archive, maybe the most informed Twin Peaks blog currently in operation?

Next time: the funeral of the decade!


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