Twin Peaks: Episode Five Review
Posted by therebelprince on July 24, 2009
Welcome back to the Twin Peaks Retrospective reviews.
“It’ll take them a day or so to reset their biological clocks.”
“Hope the herring holds out.”
– Cooper and Trudy, the waitress
With this episode, all the pieces are in place for the remainder of the season, and we neatly divide our time between Twin Peaks residents’ subplots and the diverging investigations into Laura Palmer’s death.
On an official level, Cooper, Truman, Hawk and Doc Hayward follow evidence found in Jacques Renault’s home to a cabin in the nearby woods. It becomes evident that both Laura and Ronnette Pulaski advertised their sexual services in the magazine “Fleshworld”, to which both Leo Johnson and Jacques subscribed. Their journey ends with the discovery of Waldo the mynah bird, and the cabin, which is one of the pitstops Laura made on her last evening. But their detour on the way there includes tea with the Log Lady, who gives them many clues they can’t possibly be aware of.
Audrey’s illicit investigation sees her blackmail her way into a job at the Horne’s perfume counter, and Donna and James rope Laura’s cousin Maddy into their search.
Elsewhere, Bobby and Shelley plot to free themselves of Leo, and Ben Horne prepares for his Ghostwood development… while laying the kindling for a grand fire which will get him his way.
There’s a lot to talk about this week that I don’t even know where to start, but let’s begin with the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson, below). Tea in her cabin is one of those iconic scenes, filled with quotable quotes which make little sense out of context. She hides away from the owls, and speaks things like “Shut your eyes and you’ll burst into flames”. To Truman, this is just Margaret being Margaret. To Cooper and us, Margaret speaks truths that sometimes she is not even aware of. Most importantly, she (or rather, her log) gives us a depiction of what happened that night: Laura, Ronnette, Leo and Jacques journeyed to the cabin, but they were being pursued by a third man. While their discoveries only add to the confusion, the events of Laura’s last night are beginning to come together – and we will actually know a great deal of it by the end of Episode Seven.
Cooper uses the red drapes from his dream to find Laura’s ad in Fleshworld, the first successful conclusion of his Tibetan methods. With this, the mythology of the show begins to come together. One of the main arguments I’m going to make about the show’s sudden decline is that audiences simply weren’t prepared for the supernatural element. Much like the inferior Harper’s Island this summer, Twin Peaks was marketed as a straight-out murder mystery, and this is what had the world talking over that summer of 1990. As the elements of supernatural crept in, many audience members felt cheated, or at least out of their comfort zone. So far, though, all of these can be explained away: perhaps Margaret is just crazy. Perhaps Cooper’s dreams are just coincidences. There are so many realistic possibilities – Hank Jennings (Chris Mulkey) is thrown into the mix this episode, and spends every shot looking devious and scheming – that we can’t write those off just yet.
Meanwhile, James, Donna and Maddy begin their investigative trio that will provide us with a couple of highs – and several of the lows – of the series. It’s believable that these three would try and find out what was hurting their friend, but the scenes with the three of them (none among Twin Peaks’ brightest citizens) trying to deduce things is painfully over-written, and further hindered by Sheryl Lee. I really like Lee’s portrayal of Laura, but I find some of her work as Maddy – particularly this season – to be uninteresting at best.
The Icelandic delegation led by developer Einar Thorson (Brian Straub) arrives in town with Jerry, and Ben sets plans in motion for the Ghostwood development deal. At last, through a series of clandestine meetings, we come to understand the whole truth of his plans. Using Hank – and Hank’s henchman Leo – Ben plans to burn down the Packard mill. He is working with Catherine’s consent to claim the insurance money, but in reality is betraying her with Josie: Catherine will die in the mill fire, Josie will collect the insurance money, and Ben will buy the mill out from under her for his development. It is a complicated, soap opera-esque plan, made bearable primarily by Piper Laurie – who gets in some of her best bitch scenes at the party – and the fact that we know this is going down “tomorrow night” (that would be Thursday, the one-week anniversary of Laura’s demise).
A couple of other subplots continue to simmer: Norma realises that Ed isn’t ready to break his wife’s heart yet, leading to the realisation that they’ve given up their dreams to avoid hurting anyone, and have only hurt themselves. Peggy Lipton is heartbreaking as usual, and I love Everett McGill’s quiet intensity. And the Briggs family attend a counselling session with Dr. Jacoby. Here, Jacoby taunts Bobby into confessing that he cried after making love with Laura, and that the darkness within her scared him to his very soul. I find Bobby one of the best characters of season one (although wasted in season two), and this is one of those fascinating psychological moments that put Twin Peaks on the cultural map.
The developers subplot leads to one of Twin Peaks‘ funniest moments, when Leland Palmer has one of his trademark breakdowns at a party in the Icelanders’ honour. To save face, Catherine joins him on the dance floor where she mimics every one of his tragic spasms as a dance move, and soon has the foreigners following. Behind them, Audrey is crying. In the shooting script, she was crying after overhearing an extended conversation in which Catherine and Ben lay bare their plans. That sequence is edited down to almost nothing in the finished product, which removes the obvious motivation for Audrey’s tears. In its place, however, is a beautiful display of the light and dark at work in everything in Twin Peaks. Here, the mournful boogie of Leland is the confused-but-exuberant jive of Catherine. Margaret’s rustic cabin is a wooden refuge from the terrifying owls (why terrifying? This is a question we’ll answer next season). Sweet little Audrey’s new job is going to be a gateway to true fear for her. And Laura, the homecoming queen and community volunteer, led a depraved life filled with sex, drugs and horror.
Director Lesli Linka Glatter does a pretty good job delivering the emotional and procedural elements of this episode, although the only truly Lynchian scenes are those in the woods. A few of her directorial conceits fail though: notably an attempt at a classic four-adventurers-standing-in-a-row shot. The men jump into the frame so quickly, and then stand so still, that the effect is unfortunately laughable. There are a few supposedly arty moments which add to the confusion. Glatter tosses aside the script’s arrival of Josie at the party, to instead show her sitting in Ben’s office. Only then she’s not there when Catherine comes in. But hey, in the next scene she’s back again! It’s needlessly confusing, and not in a Man From Another Place kind of way.
It’s also interesting to watch from the perspective of one who has seen Laura’s killer revealed. Leo, for instance, is still scary even though he didn’t kill Laura. On the other hand, a lot of the Hank business in this episode seems redundant, since his evil looks while eavesdropping on James and Donna’s conversation has absolutely no rhyme nor reason.
Anyway, it still feels very much like classic Twin Peaks, with every character progressing slowly along their chosen plot path, and the episode ending with Cooper finding a very naked Audrey in his bed…
* Pete calls Catherine “Cathy” at the party, which he’ll never do again.
* James’ entire mother subplot is summed up in one awkward exposition scene at the gazebo with Donna. I’m not sure if this was just a rare bad scene from season one, or if it was a way for them to cover the storyline since they kept deleting it during production. Either way, it opens up a few questions that we’ll never get answered. One for the fast-forward button.
* We meet slimy Horne’s Department store manager Emory Battis (Don Amendolia) and Jerry’s Icelandic love Heba (Mary Stavin).
* And eek! Shelley and Norma get their much-hyped makeovers… and somehow wear those things out in public (see below). Braver than I, clearly.
Next time: The life and death of a mynah bird named Waldo.