Twin Peaks: Episode Eight Review
Posted by therebelprince on August 6, 2009
“It’s not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind.”
– Dale Cooper, echoing the series.
Well, well, well. It was nineteen years ago – September 30, 1990 – when, after the arduous hiatus, the world finally returned to Twin Peaks with the second season premiere. Mark Frost and David Lynch held us all in the palm of their hand and they could do whatever they wanted. As it turned out, they did just that – and within months the watercooler show of the decade was languishing at the very bottom of the Nielsen ratings. How they achieved this dubious honour is something we’ll explore in the next few weeks.
But Episode Eight, or “May The Giant Be With You”, is as hypnotic as the first season (if not quite the pilot episode). We open on Cooper, lying helpless from a gunshot wound in his hotel room. In a moment almost designed to test audience patience, an elderly room service waiter (Hank Worden) arrives, offers Cooper milk, hangs up the phone, collects his gratuity, gives the thumbs off, and then amiably wanders away. Upon which, Cooper is visited by a giant (Carel Struycken), who gives him some “clues”:
* There’s a man in a smiling bag.
* The owls are not what they seem.
* Without chemicals, he points.
* Leo locked in Hungry Horse.
(To this, he’ll later add “you forgot something”. Gee thanks, giant).
Two of these come true immediately – Leo was locked in a jail cell in Hungry Horse the night Teresa Banks (the first victim) died, and Jacques Renault’s body bag later appears to smile as it dries in the morgue. The other two await their moment of revelation.
Coop’s fate is, thankfully, not kept a mystery much longer, and he’s quickly back on the investigation. It proceeds at a snail’s pace, due to the need to showcase every single primary and secondary character this week, just in case anyone forgot what show they were watching. Among them: a very cute Bobby and Shelley; beautiful moments for Russ Tamblyn – when Jacoby suggests Laura allowed herself to be killed – and Jack Nance – worrying over the missing Catherine; lame cameos by the Log Lady and Ronnette Pulaski; and a marvellous monologue by Major Briggs. Don S. Davis was simply a luminous man and Briggs is possibly the greatest secondary character on the show. His soliloquy to Bobby, recalling a dream in which warmth and satisfaction filled his son’s life, is one of the most pure and touching moments in the series, capped though it may be by an odd moment of unlikely camaraderie between Briggs and Hank “Domino” Jennings.
Probably the most painful plot this week is the Laura Palmer investigation itself. Primarily it is used as a recap for the viewers, with Coop giving a very straightforward exposition of everything we know so far, and tying it all back to the “third man”. As we all know by now, Frost and Lynch had never seen the killer’s identity as the show’s raison d’etre. Laura’s murder was merely a catalyst for the events of the show, which was going to explore the delicate layers of Twin Peaks. Unfortunately when the show took off, the viewers became demanding (and the critics began crying foul), so ABC pushed for the killer to be revealed. It was a smart move on one level; in a pre–Lost world, viewers weren’t ready for a never-ending serialised mystery. But it also shattered the interest of both the show’s creators, and decimated the viewership.
Here, though, there are few signs that we’re getting close. Andy’s “physical” “comedy” is quite painful to watch. Albert still rocks but he feels overused here, presumably after becoming popular in season one. And there’s something really stupid about Lucy and Andy, two grown people, awkwardly looking at adult classifieds. I mean, did they not have sex? I’m aware that someone somewhere found these two funny, but their screentime will increase this season parallel to my seething hatred. There is at least one clue: boots found at Leo’s home link back to the One-Armed Man (Al Strobel) who was temporarily linked to BOB (Frank Silva) – the creepy, grey-haired man from Sarah Palmer’s vision last season.
Ed’s rendition of how he and Norma fell apart, and how he married Nadine, is touching and further explains to us the pain he feels in ever having to leave her. Albert’s amused reaction to this is, I think, a great Lynchian reminder that every drama is a soap opera, and vice versa. Lynch loves to say that he parodies soap opera, particularly in Twin Peaks, but I feel like his treatment is more of an homage. Lynch doesn’t have the subtlety for parody nor the straightforwardness for satire. Instead, he devotes himself to what he loves, and creates works that tread the line between love letter and stark warning.
Over at One Eyed Jack’s, meanwhile, Ben’s near rape of his own daughter is quite effective (not to mention thematically consistent with this show). Audrey’s escape is inevitable, but it does set in place the father/daughter dynamic for the rest of the season. On the other hand, Blackie and Jerry suddenly appear to be different characters altogether from their first scene together in which a suddenly aggressive Jerry appears to be withholding drugs from junkie Blackie. I mean, we don’t know these characters all that well yet, but this just seems… so sudden. It gets even weirder in a later scene, when Blackie develops sudden lesbian vibes and, for a couple of lines, a stark Southern accent. Perhaps no one was supposed to notice a sudden change of mood brought by these two, but it’s painfully evident on DVD.
Donna gets laden with some tripe this week. First, she takes Laura’s sunglasses and – through, it appears, the transitive properties of possession – adopts part of Laura’s bad-girl personality. Then, she visits James in his cell where Mark Frost has the audacity to write this sequence:
James: When did you start smoking?
Donna: I smoke every once in a while. Helps relieve tension.
James: When did you get so tense?
Donna: When I started smoking.
Although, that beats Sheryl Lee‘s belated reading of “Uncle Leland’s hair turned white!”
Yes, indeed. Leland Palmer takes centre stage this week in the aftermath of his revenge killing of Jacques Renault. Is his hair an indication that he’s now a bit more BOB, a little less Leland? Very possibly. Sarah seems only mildly concerned, but what’s new?
It all leads to my personal favourite Twin Peaks scene: the dinner at the Hayward home. It’s a Lynchian mini-masterpiece as every moment in this casual get-together is fraught with tension and an underlying eerieness. Every comment, every glance, every response: there’s a sense of unease that reflects the paint cracking on every facade in town. It’s the only time we’ll see the talented Alicia Witt as youngest Hayward, Gersten, here accompanying Leland in his manic performance of “Get Happy”. It’s the last we’ll see of Harriet Hayward (Jessica Wallenfels) who reads an inane but nonetheless effecting poem about Laura glowing in the woods. Ray Wise always gives his all to the role of Leland, and he’ll be called upon more in more in the coming weeks. As Leland breaks down mid-song, a profound sadness settles over everyone in the room. These kind of moments will just about vanish altogether the minute Laura’s killer does, but until then there’s some great stuff still to come.
* I love how Coop quickly gives up once he realises the waiter isn’t going to help him. It’s a hilarious bemused look from Kyle MacLachlan, tinged with a genuine concern that this old guy’s service is rewarded.
* Speaking of Coop, I’m sure he’s attended dozens of FBI teamwork seminars, but sometimes his response of “good work” to co-workers strikes me as condescending.
* We meet creepy Jonathan (Mak Takano), who is hunting for Josie – absent and apparently in Seattle for some retail therapy.
* I think having watched the series since childhood, the Laura Palmer theme awakens a kind of Pavlovian instinct in me. It’s an objectively mournful piece of music, but even at its most overused it still haunts me.
* And, although I doubt David Lynch would ever admit this, on some level I think he shares some qualities with Seinfeld creator Larry David. Partly, he probably doesn’t want a lot of people to like him – or at least to understand his work. (How else can one explain the ballsy move to spend 10 long minutes with the main character lying on the floor?) I’m a bit surprised that a mind so fickle stayed with the show as long as he did, but I also suspect that even if the killer hadn’t been revealed mid-season, Lynch would’ve wandered off sooner rather than later.
Next week: more new suspects! And creamed corn, of course.
And for a quick laugh, check out recasting Star Trek: TNG with Twin Peaks.