Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Revisiting the Episodes: Twin Peaks comment collection #4 (winter 2015)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Revisiting the Episodes: Twin Peaks comment collection #4 (winter 2015)


These comments contain spoilers for all of the first two seasons of Twin Peaks.

A couple years ago, I highlighted forum comments (mostly from dugpa's World of Blue) in which I explored various Twin Peaks comments and reacted to phenomena like the The Missing Pieces and the announcement of a new series. Recently, re-visiting my Twin Peaks "Out of Order" series, I was reminded that some of my coverage of Twin Peaks episodes had never been published on the site, so I decided to revive this practice but with particular posts in mind. Just a week after completing my Journey Through Twin Peaks video essays in February 2015, I began rewatching the series. Having concluded a broad overview, I had a fresh perspective on this individual units and often dug in quite deeply. Some of these observations will be familiar to those who've read my other responses to these episodes but many still feel fresh, gleaned from a very particular time in my engagement with the series. I didn't comment on every episode, just the ones that I felt compelled to respond to; ten in all. A more thorough re-sharing of old comments, however, is coming soon.

Next Monday, once an hour for thirty-four hours until it's complete, I will reconfigure my comments from a Reddit rewatch in 2016 as a "First Time Viewer's Companion to Twin Peaks." See you then, but first...



Pilot (written February 11, 2015)

I just watched the pilot for the first time in close to six months. That doesn't seem like a lot but considering all the work I did on the videos in between, it really feels like a long time. So many thoughts occurred to me as I watched this that I started to worry I would forget them before the episode was over!

First off, I watched Fire Walk With Me and the European Pilot (the whole thing) back-to-back, in that order. As might be expected, they did not flow AT ALL, even though the events are (roughly) chronological. If anything this approach highlighted the differences between them, and instead of offering a new perspective on the pilot it mostly just hammered home how Laura was essentially an inscrutable plot device at this early point. (One of my favorite facts about the pilot is that Sheryl Lee's name is buried between bit players like Joey Paulson and the high school principal in the end credits, even as her face fills the screen - although other notables, like the Log Lady, are similarly treated as footnotes; I seemed to remember Kimmy Robertson was relegated to the end credits too - but the blu-ray version I watched had her name in the opening...weird).

Most obvious to me, though, was the difference in style. Honestly, the pilot and the feature film feel like the work of different directors. The pilot really feels of a piece with Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, and Blue Velvet: there's a cool, aloof restraint to it which is totally gone by FWWM (I'd say it starts to evaporate as soon as Wild at Heart, Lynch's very next project). But while it's pretty commonplace to note the differences between the film and pilot, what struck me most on this viewing was how different the pilot feels from the rest of the series, even the first season. Something about the pilot holds you at a bit of a distance, which is no doubt a big part of its success: the viewer leans in eagerly, trying to figure out what's going on. Again, it's not just a matter of plot, it's everything - the camerawork, the editing, the pacing of the performances, even the soundscape/score (which is at once more stylized and more naturalistic than later episodes). There's a kind of quiet, "dead air" quality to the proceedings which is present, to varying degrees, in all the Lynch episodes (and totally absent from FWWM). And the pilot has a palpable, sensuous gloom - the way I'd describe it is that it's almost like you can "smell" what's onscreen.

Also, the pilot feels so much more "realistic" than the rest of the show. The film is realistic too, but in a completely different way - realistic in terms of internal psychology while the pilot feels realistic in terms of external behavior/gesture. Compared to what follows, as soon as ep. 1, this is very documentary-like, very observational with a little offbeat stylization layered on top. Watching it next to something like, say, ep. 16 would feel extremely jarring. This only adds to the slightly distancing quality already inherent in Lynch's early cool/aloof visual style (which is not usually "documentary"-like). But also the fundamental narrative elements of Twin Peaks - Cooper, the town, and Laura - have a bit a remove to them. Cooper, as AudreyHorne noted in another thread, isn't quite as approachable here as he will be later. He's fascinating to watch but, arguably, we don't totally identify with him yet (although his entry into the story does provide something of a way in for viewers & a relief from the air of dread and melancholy). The town is equally fascinating, but we don't really have our bearings yet and because everyone is a potential suspect we aren't sure who we can trust. And Laura, obviously, is at this point very much dead: a complete question mark, with every new fact only making her seem less knowable.

There's a rich feeling of almost feverish what's-really-going-on-here/what's-happening-beneath-the-surface which I don't think the series will ever match (or possibly even attempt to match) again. This is true even having seen the series and knowing everything that's going to happen - I still get a sense from the pilot that I'm not seeing the full picture, that I'm only peeking into a world. I like to think there's an alternate universe out there where no series was ever commissioned and the pilot became a cult classic, with endless speculation about whether or not there is a real killer to be deduced (the pilot actually does have many subtle hints that it could be Leland) or whether it's just a postmodern exercise in open-ended, inconclusive mystery to which no solution actually exists. Sort of like the debates that did take place during the first season, but without any eventual resolution on the horizon.

I think I had more to say but, as feared, I forgot it already.

One other note, about the "European" ending: it seems that originally Lynch wanted to tack the entire 22-minute sequence onto episode 2. The script indicates as much, episode 3 refers to much more than was in the actual dream, and Lynch supposedly went to the network to ask for another 2-hour episode. With that in mind I have a hunch that the show was going to play it "straight," only revealing that Cooper was dreaming in the final minutes of episode 2. What a twist that would have been! (And, one imagines, what an infuriating tease!) The script for episode 2 even sets this up because there's a scene where Sarah goes downstairs right before Cooper goes to bed, which would imply that her couch scream is not part of his dream but actually happening across town. Plus the fact that the alternate ending has Cooper already in bed would have integrated perfectly with the idea that he was waking up in reality, rather than from a dream. That said, the bulk of the alternate ending is so clumsy and goofy that making the entire thing into a dream sequence (let alone one we're initially supposed to believe is real) might have backfired as a stunt.

Read the thread on dugpa



Episode 1 (written February 10, 2015)

I really enjoy watching this episode; everything is still so fresh and it's fascinating to see the writers and actors adapt what by all rights should have been one-off experimental "pilot" into something ongoing. Watching this episode is like catching a whiff of when we first fell in love with Twin Peaks ourselves. That said, it's also probably the weakest season 1 episode (I used to feel that way about ep. 3 but it's grown on me).

It coasts quite a bit on the pilot without truly busting open any new doors, the way the next episode will. And as mentioned in the ep. 18 thread, Duwayne Dunham just isn't great with atmosphere. There are some striking shots - like the one-armed man entering the blue room - but, other than that sizzling long take of Audrey dancing and maybe that first pan across Cooper's room, nothing much interesting in the way of camerawork. This is definitely the least stylish episode of season 1 (by comparison, Rathborne's and especially Deschanel's episodes have very lush lighting/colors, Hunter is far more adventurous with lens and composition, and Glatter and Frost craft striking scene transitions/openings). Most of these scenes are just characters talking, without much going on visually.

That said, what the episode has going for it is precisely that: character. Many of the people just barely established in pilot really get fleshed out in this installment. We barely glimpse Leo - I think he had one 90-second scene - in the pilot whereas he emerges as the major villain in episode 1, and Audrey also transforms from a purely vixenish sex kitten (with almost no dialogue) to a more deeply developed individual (her relationship with her father and romance with Cooper emerge only in this episode). This is true across the cast but those are the two most notable examples. Of course this episode also has more quotable dialogue than any other. I do find myself wondering how much Lynch really contributed to the script, even though he's equally credited with Frost. It feels much more like a Frost episode, as does the next one (whose most Lynchian qualities - the dream sequence, Audrey in the diner - were improvised and not in the script).

The transition from the pilot to this episode fascinates me for a number of reasons but they can all essentially boiled down to the idea that Twin Peaks is now officially becoming a TV series with one foot in the strange, moody world of the pilot, the other in the demands of ongoing serialized storytelling. This is honestly one of the things that keeps me coming back to Twin Peaks over and over again, that both excites and, at times (especially in the second season), frustrates me: that Twin Peaks is divided in this way. I love stuff that's hard to pin down and that Twin Peaks can be at once a genuine nineties soap opera, an absorbing mystery yarn, an eccentric postmodern pastiche, a surreal experiment in mood and atmosphere, AND a truly deep and thematically profound work of art makes it more fascinating to me than if it was just any one of those things.

Episode 1 is where we see the humor emerge in a much more casual, engaging way than the pilot (where it is more aloof/tricky, we always kind of catch ourselves while we're laughing). Cooper seems more relaxed and personable, cementing his status as our beloved hero. And we also start to get the sense that maybe everyone in town isn't totally suspicious: we're beginning to trust certain characters (although not TOO much, there's still a thrilling intangibility/possibility to the whodunit).

Additional thoughts:

- It doesn't seem like they've figured out how to incorporate Laura as an actual screen presence. James' flashback feels jarring in the full context of the show, which usually emphasizes intangible memories of Laura, just out of reach, rather than easily recalling her. (If I'm not mistaken, this is the ONLY flashback in the entire series, unless you count Cooper's dream re-emerging in ep. 3 & 16 - and it's certainly the only time we go back to witness something we didn't see the first time around.) And of course the gauzy, goofy quality of the flashback feels somewhat dissonant though many have interpreted this as James' own dopey take on "reality." It's kind of jolting to realize that Sheryl Lee actually played pre-murder Laura this long before Fire Walk With Me. If nothing else, I'm glad this scene exists just because it makes such a fascinating juxtaposition.

- On that same note, the whole "Help me" (Laura's slo-mo voice over the video flashback) thing feels unusually on-the-nose and further evidence that Lynch/Frost (and Dunham himself) really wanted to keep Laura "alive" in some sense but hadn't figured out how yet. I wonder when they came up with Maddy. Her appearance in ep. 3 does seem somewhat last-minute. Plus, the story goes that Lynch called Sheryl Lee in Seattle and said come on down, and she said I'm dead, and he said we'll figure something out. It seems like maybe they had committed to her before Maddy was fully developed? Dunno.

- If the girl in the window behind Ronette's parents was supposed to be Ronette, then it looks like they re-cast her as well as her dad (and Johnny Horne, if we want to jump families). Which I guess makes more sense than flying an actress down from Seattle for background extra work. This hammers home the idea that they thought they were done with her character. I knew that our glimpse of Phoebe Augustine in ep. 8 was our first in a while, but I never realized that she had ONLY appeared in the pilot up to that point! It really emphasizes how important it was for Lynch to continually touch base with the pilot; it seems like he always gets a lot of flack for being "random" but not enough credit for keeping his eye on that ball in a way that others did not. It's also interesting to me because I consider Ronette to be an immensely important element in Laura's - and ultimately Twin Peaks' - narrative arc.

- Leland is really, really low-key in this episode. I've sometimes wondered if Lynch/Frost didn't solidify the idea of him being the killer until after the dancing-with-Laura's-portrait scene in ep. 2 (maybe even after it was shot, although this would mean they actually didn't know until season 1 had been completed, since Lynch shot ep. 2 out-of-sequence near the end of production). He really does seem like the conventional/sturdy husband figure here, the anchor for his hysterical wife, and not even in a sly bait-and-switch sort of way. Then again, notice how Leland rushes in IMMEDIATELY after Sarah has seen Bob...

- I've been speculating about how the rest of season 1 was charted out when this episode was written (I know that Frost has said the story arc was really tight going into production, but I wonder to what extent everything was outlined before the actual scriptwork began, especially since Lynch's timeframe was limited by Wild at Heart). But it's definitely clear that they are setting the groundwork for Cooper's dream already, what with the appearance of BOTH the one-armed man and Bob. How fascinating that even at this early stage, Mike is established a person in the real world while Bob only appears in visions. Which definitely suggests they had the whole Leland/Bob-killer thing already established in their minds.

- I wonder if/when it the Cooper/Josie romance was nixed. In this episode Cooper does not seem to be into her the way he was in the pilot (at least I didn't catch it) plus he's already flirting with Audrey. I know it was supposedly because MacLachlan and Chen didn't have chemistry but when/how was that determined?

- Many have noted that Laura's tape at the end is different from ep. 7 (in performance, if not actual dialogue). I like this version better - the other feels too campy. Not only is her delivery more convincing than the later one, we get to cut off before those godawful lines near the end of the tape: "You'd be history, man!" and "really lights my F-I-R-E..." I like that this episode pushes Leo so hard as a suspect, and then twists to consider Jacoby right at the end.

Read the thread on dugpa



Episode 4 (written February 9, 2015)

I've heard a lot of people remark that it feels like a "filler" episode, marking time between the dramatic first arc (leading up to Laura's funeral, in which Cooper gets to know the town) and the second (in which, Laura in the ground, the individual investigations and storylines hit full blast and we zoom toward the finish). I wouldn't say that - to me it belongs to the second arc pretty tightly (Donna/James invite Maddy in, Cooper investigates the one-armed man, Audrey hatches her OEJ plan) but even so, that quieter quality is something I kind of like about it. There's a nice sense of relaxation in which we're really able to sink into Twin Peaks' world while slowly moving forward into the mystery instead of just gazing at it impenetrably (though that can be fun too - but by the end of ep. 3, I always feel this itch of "c'mon, let's start looking for clues!" which is of course what they're going for with all the build-up of grief/guilt/malaise).

I love Tim Hunter's stylistic touches here too, which feel wonderfully "cinematic." This may be my favorite direction of season 1 next to Lynch - it's got a pronounced style without going too far over-the-top. Funny thing is, I don't care much for his work in season 2 even though ep. 16 & 28 are fan favorites (well, 16 anyway, although I've heard 28 praised too). I think he's better at handling a moody, relaxed story like this than attempting to build up to some grand climax. I also like Engels' work on the script - it has a very Howard Hawksian feel to it, and like Hawks he pulls off a relaxed camaraderie with both the guys and the gals: the shooting range scene and the high school bathroom are both gems. I particularly love Donna's and Audrey's tense repartee and wish they had more scenes together though the reasons they didn't seem obvious enough.

It's a pity - and kind of odd - that whenever he is interviewed (at least that I've read) Engels talks mostly about the goofy sci-fi stuff like planets of creamed corn. He has a really nice touch with the human drama (and comedy) on his TP outings. I remember when I aligned which episodes he wrote with the fact that he'd co-written FWWM, it made sense to me: Engels episodes always seem to dig into the high school characters' relationship with Laura. I always wonder if these sort of things are coincidental or if different writers got different episodes/characters/stories based on their strengths (Brad mentioned that Peyton and Engels were probably assigned different parts of the scripts they co-wrote; that said, they were obviously both adept at picking up different threads).

Anyway, I've been writing these episode responses after watching the episodes in question, but this one has been extemporaneous because my ep. 4 disc is having trouble at the moment. Maybe I'll go back and watch the parts I can; this discussion has certainly whet my appetite.

Read the thread on dugpa



Episode 5 (written February 7, 2015)

I really like this episode - in some ways, it seems the quintessence of season 1 (second only, maybe, to episode 2). You've got all the subplots ratcheting up the tension/drama - Shelly shoots Leo, Audrey gets her job at Horne's, Catherine confronts Ben, Ben has his secret meeting with Josie, Maddy joins James & Donna's mystery team, Hank returns to the RR and confronts Leo. We're building up to the climax of the season, but the episode also stands on its own (whereas the following one feels very much like set-up).

And this episode has some of the best moments in the whole Laura mystery/mystique: the investigation of Jacques' apartment which keeps yielding clue after clue (amidst many donuts), the visit to the Log Lady, Jacoby confronting Bobby with Laura's dark side, Leland's breakdown on the Great Northern dance floor (with Audrey crying as she watches), and my personal favorite, the discovery of Jacques' cabin. I love the eerie sound of "Into the Night" playing through the woods (the only time we hear Julee Cruise on the show without Julee Cruise actually present) with Lesli Linka Glatter's memorable shots of the crow (raven? blackbird? what's the difference?) and the crew trekking through the woods beforehand.

The cabin itself feels like a kind of threshold for Cooper: as close as he can get, at present, to Laura's world. Although Frost obviously intended it to have a haunting echo of the Red Room (hence the red drapes, which Lynch pointedly removed in the film), for those of us who've seen Fire Walk With Me it has a different, haunting resonance. All the stuff that is spookily suggestive onscreen we've witnessed in more raw detail - I love scenes like this that feel like a "missing link" between the series and film.

Interesting too that this is one of only two episodes that Frost wrote solo, without Lynch directing. I feel like it gives us a more direct window into his sensibility in a way the more collaborative episodes can't. Most obvious point is that Cooper is more flawed/uncertain in this episode than we've seen him before - the Icelanders have him unusually ruffled and he doesn't quite know how to deal with the Log Lady. Of course he's still on-fire as an investigator, pulling clues seemingly out of thin air (or off the ceiling) in Jacques' apartment.

It's also worth noting that Frost goes out of his way to provide links to Cooper's dream: not only that the cabin has red drapes, but also Cooper's line "there's always music in the air" when he shuts off the record player, and something I only noticed on this viewing (or else didn't remember): Maddy tells James & Donna she didn't know Laura well but that "I feel like I knew her" an obvious callback to Laura/Little Man's cousin in the dream sequence. Arguably, even Leland dancing could be an attempted callback to the Little Man (since he's dancing alone this time, rather than with Laura's portrait, and even moving his hands in a somewhat similar way).

The episode also gives us a great sense of how the show could balance the community-wide storytelling with a sense of Laura's mystery lying at the center, something Frost willfully (and mistakenly) tried to move past in season 2 when he encouraged the subplots to sever from that core mystery.

I think if I had to pick a favorite stretch of episodes - "stretch" meaning like a grouping of 3-5 that are similar in style/story - it would be episode 4-7. Other stretches have greater heights but none feel as consistently entertaining/engrossing. This is also where the show works best as a TV show, rather than just a collection of great moments or a short-form near-movie. Maybe the best analogy would be a miniseries: you feel like you're definitely heading somewhere, but you don't quite know where; meanwhile the characters, moments, and sense of excitement keep you tuning in or, nowadays, popping in the next disc.

Read the thread on dugpa



Episode 6 (written February 9, 2015)

I really like this episode, maybe as much (in a different way) as the previous one. I've said before it's a lot of set-up, but that kind of shortchanges all the classic, iconic scenes that are their own payoff. So many of the show's most memorable moments are here: Audrey spying in the closet, Maddy-as-Laura, Waldo getting shot, and of course the infamous cherry stem. And it's such a great-looking episode, with such a sumptuous, soft, rich glow to the color and lighting. You can really see that Caleb Deschanel was a cinematographer. I don't know why exactly, but I particularly love that shot of Jacoby watching TV and getting the phone call. There's also a rich soundscape: one of my favorite subtle touches on the series is the plastic rippling at Shelly's house as she sobs. I also think this might be my favorite Harley Peyton script (ep. 9 is my favorite episode he wrote, but more because of Lynch's direction, including things he added himself). There's a really joyous sense of everything clicking into place and steaming ahead here.

At times in the second season Twin Peaks "feels like a TV show" in the worst sense - like it's just marking time week by week, and has no higher ambitions than to fill its hourlong slot. But episodes like this "feel like a TV show" in the very best sense: we feel like we're part of some ongoing, ever-unfolding story with characters whose personalities and situations fuel the action. It isn't a "standalone" like the pilot (or even ep. 14 and 29 which, despite touching on many subplots, build toward setpieces that speak for themselves) it's a part of something bigger, and that's a wonderful feeling. I even find myself invested/excited in Josie's shenanigans, which I couldn't care the least about in early s2. I love that sense that everything is part of something bigger, which season one really delivers even on rewatches. I had an "all roads lead to Rome" conception of the show when I first watched it (on alt.tv.twin-peaks I think they called this the "G.U.T." - Grand Unifying Theory) with the idea that everything - the mill plot, the drug deals, Laura's murder, Cooper's dream - was connected, and would lead to startling, thrilling revelations about the corruption of the town and the darkness of the woods. The mystery seemed all-encompassing. Episodes like this really play into that sense.

There are some very enjoyable one-off bit parts in this episode. How cool would it be to see mini-callbacks in 2016? I love the Catherine/Neff Double Indemnity scene - maybe she'll finally call on his services after 25 years? And maybe young Jenny from Horne's Department Store has taken Blackie's place across the border. Speaking of later callbacks, the whole "mysterious Asian gentleman in the hallway" moment with Audrey is interesting because the Tojamura plot couldn't have been hatched yet (since Piper Laurie supposedly came up with her nationality herself in season 2) - so it must just have been a "moment" that can serve either as a red herring or to cultivate the sense of atmosphere, or both.

Ed's and Blackie's banter is hilariously awful.

Read the thread on dugpa



Episode 12 (written February 7 2015)

I've often said this is one of the most underrated episodes - I feel like it generally gets shoved in with episode 11 as part of a "lull" in season two before the mystery comes to a climax. But in its quiet, subtle way it's one of the second season episodes that most gets the mood of Twin Peaks, all the more surprising when you consider it was written and directed by people totally new to this world - Graeme Clifford, in his only TP outing, and Barry Pullman in his first go (he'd later write episode 18, generally considered one of the worst of the whole series, as it introduces both Little Nicky & Evelyn/James - but maybe that's unfair since it also introduces the details of the Lodge mythology for the first time, including the only mention of the Dweller on the Threshold).

It does exhibit some of the drawbacks of season two: the Pinkle scene feels a bit too goofy to me (though some like it) and the Nadine scene is one of her worst (that stupid refrigerator door "effect"), at least until she goes back to high school. Sometimes the episode has a listless quality to it, especially compared to the one that follows. Nonetheless, the meandering subplots are generally relegated to a few scenes and the episode has a stronger narrative backbone than the previous ones: first, the Leo/Leland courthouse stuff and than the simultaneous raids on Harold's and One Eyed Jack's.

The courtroom scenes are interesting to me as a kind of misdirect. Everything - the Judge's homespun wisdom, the ambiably down-home community-oriented vibe at the Road House, the prosecutor's blustery manner, Truman's vouching for Leland's character (including the not particularly relevant detail that his family goes way back), Sarah's and Maddy's relief (how poignant on the latter count) when Leland is released - suggests that we should root for Leland to get off the hook. But little details suggest otherwise: Cooper's discomfort primarily, but also that humorous sketch that Andy draws of the back of Leland's head. Are we REALLY seeing Leland in this scene - or any other? I have no idea if that detail was intended to be foreboding (if conceived by Pullman, probably not - since he wouldn't have known where this storyline was heading). But it works quite well that way.

The Jack's raid is fun although I found my mind wandering this time around. The Donna-Harold scenes are my favorites in this episode and what put it a notch above the rest, in my opinion. This is Lara Flynn Boyle's best acting of the series and Donna has never been as compelling as a character. Most importantly, as the show allows itself to get distracted from a central core, these scenes remind us of the importance of this dark, mysterious, sad pulse beneath the town's surface.

I feel like the Laura mystery operates like the flame on a stove burner. Sometimes it's barely active, at others it's roaring, eventually it is extinguished (for a time). Most often it is simmering just enough to have a subtle, almost invisible effect but in certain moments the knob is turned just enough for us to become slightly more aware of its heat. Harold showing Donna the orchids, and then kissing her, is one of those moments (helped by Badalamenti's wonderful "Harold's Theme" which is easily one of my favorite pieces of music from the show and evokes its mood instantly for me in a way nothing else from season two does).

The Laura mystery isn't just about Laura, at least not on the show, it's about a mood, a feeling, a sense of sweet, sad melancholy yearning underpinning everything. This scene really gets at that wonderfully.

Of course the last moment of the show breaks that mood somewhat with the over-the-top canted angles and the ridiculous face-scratching stunt; it's bad enough that the red marks don't seem to arise from Harold's cheek and that if we look closely we can see the fake blood already on the claws of the trowel - the fact that Harold bumps his face with it beforehand, clearly not cutting anything but leaving a spot nonetheless, only makes it worse.

On the other hand, Harold running out of his greenhouse as Donna screams, "Maddy!" with concern is another foreboding hint of what's to come. Sheryl Lee's quite good in this episode as well (it seems like she was getting a hang on the "new" Maddy in the last few episodes before her death; the changes in ep. 8 almost make her feel like a different character from the more initially confident, adult-seeming Maddy of season 1 with her very different appearance & it can take a while to get our bearings). I like how she comes off as kind of pathetic, almost goober-ish with Donna (her confused, almost whiny "I thought you liked this guy?" next to Donna's cool, confident, ambivalent "I do" - although Donna is the younger character you wouldn't know it from this scene) but also more assertive/independent with James in the diner scene, which everyone loves to see.

Read the thread on dugpa



Episode 13 (written February 10, 2015)

I've often called this my favorite non-Lynch episode. In truth, it's tricky. It's like a microcosm of early season 2, containing both the strengths and flaws of this part of the show. On the one hand, its high points are arguably higher than anything in season 1, as the show gets stranger and more intense and we get to know the characters even better. In this particular episode, Mike's transformation is the obvious highlight (it's probably my favorite non-Lynch scene, period) but there are many other great moments: everything with Audrey in the Book House (I remembered her creepy encounter with her father, but had forgotten the really great scene with Cooper immediately following the opening credits), Maddy's talk with James by the lake (which should by all rights be corny nonsense, and maybe it is - at least James' soliloquy - but I've always just loved this scene: the color, the sunlight, the fact that the paperback romance/soap opera quality is basically embraced wholeheartedly and made sweetly sincere), all the stuff with Leland whose mania is slowly gaining a sinister edge. And of course we get our first visit from Gordon Cole, which is just a sheer delight. I love Lara Flynn Boyle trying not to laugh when David Lynch first pops in.

On the other hand, as with the rest of early season 2, its low points are lower than season 1's. An episode like #6 is virtually perfect, with no weak scenes. The same cannot be said here: the Shelly/Bobby/Leo story and Super Nadine's antics simply aren't as interesting as even the least compelling storyline in the first season. Nonetheless, this episode handles all of these subplots better than #10, 11 or 12, and it's only in comparison to the flawless s1 episodes that it suffers. Nadine's scene is mercifully short and more playful than ridiculous, the party scene with Leo has a certain charming energy to it, and even the Josie stuff was more absorbing than I remembered. Most of all, Glatter is adept at engaging the actors and keeping the show moving at an entertaining clip. This may actually be her least visually stylish episode, with fewer overt camera/editing flourishes than #5 or #10 but it is always colorful and interesting and the fondness for mediums services the performances well. I particularly like the opening - while I think ep. 12 is very underrated, its ending falls flat to me. Here the Harold antics are slightly ridiculous and exaggerated but there's a certain elegance and moodiness to it that was lacking when he was scratching his face in a canted angle.

Ultimately, whether this is my favorite non-Lynch episode depends on what mood I'm in (though it's very enjoyable in any mood). If I'm looking for a gripping, polished entertainment that flows smoothly from start to finish, I'll probably lean more towards something like ep. 6. If I'm looking for individual moments that give me what I'm most looking for from the show (be it a supernatural aura, a soapy sense of emotional investment, a dark psychological undertow, or absurdist hilarity) I will probably go more for this. Although both episode 6 and 13 are building toward climaxes, there's a difference: episode 6 is what you get when the mystery could go on forever, episode 13 is what you get when you know it's about to come to a powerful conclusion. In that sense it's more like the late second/early third act of a movie than a tightly-packed entry in an ongoing serial.

Additional thoughts:

- Audrey/Ben is really astute set-up for ep. 14. On the one hand, it's a good red herring as it brings Ben back into the fold of prime suspects after he's sort of been off on his own adventures for a while - knowing that ultimately he was behind his daughter's suffering in some sense gives him an "ominous figure pulling all the strings" vibe. But this is also good psychological preparation for the REAL reveal: the vaguely-sensed dirty secret between father & daughter, Ben's possible ignorance of what he's actually responsible for (as with Leland), and Audrey's fearful inability to actually tell Cooper what's going on (Fenn just NAILS her wincing, working-up-her-courage expression when Ben says it's time to go and she's turned away from Cooper in bed). I think this is one of the reasons - along with stuff like Leland's shady behavior in Ben's office - that when the true killer is revealed next time we have a sense of "Oh, that's right - I didn't see it coming yet I knew it all along."

- Maddy & James by the lake is definitely Sheryl Lee's finest moment on the show (next to the murder, I suppose, though that's very apples/oranges). You get a great sense of the character's maturity but also her vulnerability (which isn't immediately apparent from the script - the ambiguity is in the performance). Acting aside, it's also very good writing. It's the best sense we've ever had of her individual character, gives us a feeling for why she changed so drastically between ep. 7 & 8, and connects up nicely with the larger community's ambivalent relationship to Laura and her memory. Of course she does seem to contradict her statement in ep. 3 that she didn't really know Laura well. Maybe the connection was always more psychic than anything else, something she wouldn't have felt comfortable admitting to her acquaintances at their first meeting.

- Even as the episode is setting up the big reveal, it's also working overtime to plant seeds for arcs later in the season: Truman IDs Jean Renault, Cooper alludes to his dark past ("Harry, this isn't the first time..."), Cole talks about both Cooper's shooter and Windom Earle (even introducing a chess move!), and Josie's Hong Kong tormenters are fleshed out. Oddly enough, these tangents feel pretty well-integrated into the overall sense of anticipation and plot momentum. Episode 13 is one of the few season 2 episodes in which the disparate threads seem to belong together/cohere, in mood if not in direct narrative links (whereas in episodes 15 and 16 they already feel like annoying distractions from the conclusion of the Laura Palmer investigation).

- There are definitely ways that the One Armed Man's speech at the end seems to contradict Fire Walk With Me, and they've been discussed in other threads. But there are also interesting alignments with FWWM. For one, Mike describes Bob as a "parasite." This is actually closer to the film's conception of Bob than episode 16's, in which Bob seems to really be controlling Leland rather than feeding off what's already there.

- For another, Mike's thing with the arm is more ambiguous than I remembered. He mentions that he severed his arm "but remained close to this vessel." Why "but" - which suggests that upon severing the arm he could or even should have left Phillip behind? Why "remained close" rather than fully remained? And the whole "arm" thing doesn't really make sense if we take Mike as saying he cut off his own (Mike's) arm. Mike himself has no arm, but Phillip certainly does, and it's quite clearly missing. The arm that Mike is talking about cutting off has to be Phillip's (I know we usually refer to him by last name but somehow first feels more natural, maybe because it parallels Leland/Bob vs. Palmer/Bob). This contributes to my sense that when Phillip's arm was severed, his connection to Mike became more tenuous and perhaps even that the "Mike" we are seeing in ep. 13 is a slightly unstable/unaware mixture of Mike & Phillip. It's just a hunch, really, but it feels more "right" to me than anything else. Maybe we'll see in 2016 if Al Strobel comes out of retirement.

- Worth noting that, as per the discussion in the garmonbozia thread, this is the episode where Mike says that Bob feeds on "fear and the pleasures" (I don't think he repeats this line again, although maybe it recurs in ep. 16). The debate has been whether Bob feeds on this RATHER than on pain and sorrow. I think he does. Another interesting question, though: WHOSE fear, and WHOSE pleasures, does Bob have access to? The parasite metaphor implies that the spirit is feeding off the host. And Leland's fearful denial/repression, and the pleasure he gains from his abusive, controlling behavior would certainly provide Bob ample food. On the other hand, Bob also seems to be getting this sustenance from the victims of his host. Think his behavior in the following episode, when he is clearly savoring Maddy's terror. He certainly feeds off Laura's fear, and cultivates a twisted sense of "pleasure" in her but is this because she is his host's victim or a potential host herself? I'm not really sure: it seems like his feeding is not limited to one person, at any rate.

- This pertains more to the next episode, but relates to the last point so I'll briefly mention it here. Someone on another thread mentioned that maybe when Mike "points" at Bob in ep. 14 he actually IS identifying Bob - in other words, Ben has a bit of Bob in him too. Leland is probably more fully inhabited by Bob than anyone else in the community, but we know that Bob can torment Laura even outside of Leland and later episodes of the series imply that he is more generally infecting/affecting the entire community. I have to confess I like this idea though I know others would feel it ruins the power of the Leland-Bob link (and I'm not sure what implications it would have for the spirit Mike).

Ok, enough is enough - we already have threads for these other topics haha. But episode 13 is great.

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Episode 18 (written February 9, 2015)

This is an episode I had only ever viewed as part of an overall series rewatch (and sometimes, not even then). But I decided to give it a go in isolation because it contains some of the best moments of the mid-season, even though the episode itself is often considered one of the worst of that already-bad stretch.

First off, even in this lackluster stretch, there's plenty to single out and criticize. Many of the scenes have a plodding, draggy feel to them (that dread-inducing nothing-is-happening motorcycle opening is certainly a signal of what's to come). Duwayne Dunham's directorial style is pretty plain, which can be refreshing at times, especially compared to the overly baroque meanderings of certain other directors who shall remain nameless (la-di-da...). But atmosphere is generally not his strong suit, and his approach works best when paired with scripts that have a lot of enjoyable dialogue and character interactions. Certainly not the case here.

Speaking of scripts, it's hard to believe Barry Pullman - who wrote the god-awful James-Evelyn exchanges in this episode - also penned the very memorable Harold-Donna scenes in ep. 12. It just goes to show you...something, I guess.

That said, as I recalled, the episode does have several high points. The Denise introduction is great. On page, this could seem like just another silly, sappy season 2 storyline/character but David Duchovny really nails the part and makes Denise feel like a real person rather than a cartoon. It's rare to see a comedic part artfully underplayed in this stretch and her first scene with the uncomfortable Hawk, timid Truman, and confused Cooper has a great dynamic to it. This is one of the few parts of the episode (and mid-season) that doesn't need to be graded on a curve.

I also really like Ben's home movie sequence. I said Dunham isn't great with atmosphere, and generally he isn't, but this is a notable exception and it's nice to be reminded of that magical, romantic, nostalgic quality of Twin Peaks which generally gets buried under sitcom/soap tropes at this point in the show. The music and Richard Beymer help immensely, too. Once Hank enters into the room the scene's not on the same level for me, though.

Probably the most notable part of this episode is Hawk's Lodge speech. It's really the only time on the show that its spiritual ethos are laid out so clearly and it's blink-and-you'll-miss-it. Buried in a patch of bad episodes, assigned to a freelance writer, and quickly upstaged by Duchovny's appearance, this seemingly throwaway little exchange is like the hidden key to Twin Peaks. I find that fascinating. Who would think that in the bowels of ep. 18 you'd be getting set up for the finale and Fire Walk With Me? Certainly not Lynch, whom I doubt had any interest in ideas like the Lodges or the dweller in the threshold, and yet he delivers on them perfectly in his own endeavors.

Anyway, these are probably three of my favorite moments in all of mid-season 2 and they elevate the episode for me.

Some additional thoughts:

- Gordon Cole's brief vocal cameo is David Lynch's only credited involvement during an 9-episode stretch (from 15 to 24). He doesn't even try to hide his boredom & it ends up sounding like someone else doing a bad Gordon Cole impression.

- The headline and Ben's side reference are the last times anyone will mention Leland Palmer on the show. Ever! (Of course, better than a mention is his actual re-appearance, or his doppelganger's anyway, improvised by Lynch 12 episodes later, in the finale.) I would love to read the article that goes with that headline since the bizarre ep. 17 wake leaves me scratching my head as to the community's reaction.

- Speaking of the Palmers, Laura gets her only screentime until the finale when Ben holds up her picture in his office. Interestingly, this episode is also the only time until the finale when her portrait does not appear under the end credits (it is replaced by Ben's home movies). I wonder if there were house rules on this. The only other director to put something else under the credits is Lynch himself and of course, he always makes sure to include Laura within his episodes.

- I'm reading Greg Olson's book on Lynch now and he mentions that ex-spouses Catherine Coulson and Jack Nance get their only scene together in the finale. Not true. They sit together at Dougie's wedding and have an appropriately awkward interaction. The Log Lady's line about "I love Dougie Milford's weddings!" is terribly dubbed; not only does it not sound like Coulson, it doesn't sound like something the Log Lady would even say!

- Usually the James-Evelyn scenes are terribly written, but at least attempt visual interest. The garage scene in this episode is so uninteresting to look at. A nothing composition, all in one take with a slight push - I think Dunham is trying to echo his technique in ep. 1 when he shoots Audrey & Ben this same way, but for reasons that don't need enumerating it does not have the same effect here.

- Cooper's love/fear speech to Roger is another bit of seeding for later in the season, or so it seems. It makes it all the more a pity that they cut down Cooper's & Briggs' scripted exchange from the previous episode, in which Briggs presents fear as the opposite of love, they discuss loving oneself, and suggest that Leland did not. If left intact, it could've been the best bit of dialogue in this entire run of episodes (as well as one of the few times the show actually dug into Leland's core issues). Oh well. It wouldn't be the mid-season if it didn't flub one of its best moments...

- Nice to see Betty Briggs in action. It's all a bit goofy, but nice nonetheless; her delivery is pretty humorous.

- The Andrew Packard ending has got to be the worst cliffhanger ending so far, especially considering it came before a long holiday hiatus when viewers were already bound to fall away. It's not very interesting even in theory, but how it's handled makes it even worse. Andrew just strolls out, spouts some cliches, and then (practically shrugging himself) looks offscreen and we cut to black. Gee, I wonder why people weren't itching to tune in a month later...

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Episode 19 (written February 11, 2015)

On a recent rewatch, I decided that this might be the worst episode. Yet tonight I felt an urge to watch it again, mostly for two scenes: Audrey & Denise in Cooper's hotel room, and the visit to Dead Dog Farm.

The first scene was discussed in another thread and I realized that in addition to providing some great Denise banter, it's essentially the last hurrah for the Audrey-Cooper romance. It feels like the writers are even having a bit of fun with MacLachlan's discomfort since he basically tries to kick her out of the room and then she smooches him (unless I'm forgetting something, the only time they kiss in the whole show). It's sad to know this is curtains for their flirtation but I really like this moment as low-key send-off. Much more than his dismissal of her in ep. 17. It feels like it leaves the door open, especially since she also expresses excitement about becoming an FBI (or, technically, DEA) agent. This may be Audrey's last good episode until the finale. She gets to manipulate Bobby and help out Cooper and I love her discomfort when Denise first arrives and she thinks she has a new threat. From here on, she is Ben's dolled-up sidekick and JJW's lackluster lover.

As for Dead Dog Farm, I'm not sure why but just like Cooper I'm really drawn to this location. I love its rundown vibe and iconic title - it feels like one of the few times the show really establishes a new location in the second season. There's also something vaguely Lynchian about it, from its grungy decor to the dog name and the real estate agent's crypic parable. And I'm fascinated by how it seems to link up with the "above the convenience store" room in Fire Walk With Me where a very different underworld connects its own behind-the-scenes transactions.

Another very good scene I'd forgotten about is the final one (although Maj. Briggs dressed in WWI pilot gear is kind of silly). This may actually be Charlotte Stewart's finest moment in the show; too bad she didn't get to do more. And it's nice to see Bobby with his parents again - his character has wandered so far away from what he was in season one. I also love the lightning shot over the rolling clouds with the Executive Producers credit over it. Although the following credits sequence, with Laura's portrait as always, reminds us that this is the first episode of the entire series in which Laura is never mentioned once.

So is this episode the worst? It is almost comically dumb, and in a way that "comically" is a redeeming point because the cheesiness at least keeps it from being dull. But my God, between the absurd ogling over Lana (that music!), Nadine wrestling Mike, and of course the infamous Little Nicky thought bubble. Hawk comes off like a goofball, which is all wrong for him, and there are frequent familiar music cues that only remind us of how far we've fallen: the slow part of Laura's Theme as Molly Shannon discusses "persistent random misfortunes", the Little Man's dance theme as a coin flips, Harold's Theme when the mayor's brother dies (although I do kind of enjoy Mayor Milford's performance in this and a later scene).

Another random thought...ok, I'm sort of embarrassed to admit this, but I actually have no idea if James purposefully "fixes" Jeffrey's car so that he will crash. I always assumed he was a complete patsy, but now I'm realizing that maybe James takes his own initiative, based on their encouragement. I guess it speaks to how un-engaging this story is but given that I specifically criticized James' inactivity in my video I have to cringe if I got that wrong. Anyway, there's a podcast that refers to Malcolm as "Exposition Malcolm." And it's so true. He wanders into James' room and, unprompted, just starts blabbing as if he's reading from cue cards. The lines are so terrible (I think this is the episode where he says, as if he's sharing some great witticism, "That's the thing about...things.") And his delivery is so peculiar that half the time you can't even hear what he's saying (not that you'd want to). I'm chuckling just writing about it.

All in all, this is episode is pretty terrible yet I find it curiously watchable (more so than some solid but deadly-dull mid-season episodes). It's also a real wake-up call in the sense that it was written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels, and directed by Caleb Deschanel (set this up side-by-side with ep. 6 and just...wow). So there's really no excuse anymore for the poor quality and it's clear something has gone fundamentally wrong with the show itself. I think it also demonstrates something Peyton said once in an interview, that they let the absurdist humor get out-of-hand after Laura's mystery ended. You really do get a sense from this episode that Peyton & Engels were just goofing around, like kids left in the classroom too long by an absent teacher.

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Episode 24 (written February 10, 2015)

I really like this episode - most of it anyway. For all the flaws, something about it just seems fresh and appealing to me and I can't exactly put my finger on why although I can point out some things I like about it.

In Brad's book, Kimmy Robertson mentions feeling relieved when James Foley got on set, like he really "got" Twin Peaks in a way some of the previous directors hadn't. This quality really shows onscreen: there's a confidence and energy to the proceedings that has been absent for the longest time. I love the way he shoots every scene, usually moving the camera in subtle ways and hardly cutting at all. It's smooth and efficient, while feeling very cinematic.

There seems to be some controversy over which episode is the "comeback." A case could be made for 23, 24, or 25 (some would also argue 22 but I'm not going to go there).

23
PRO: Bob & the Little Man appear for the first time since Leland's death, the drawer pull is the most Lynchian touch since he's directed, the conclusion of Josie's story provides narrative momentum that has been lacking, Josie's & James' goodbyes signal that tired old storylines are ending, the first mention of Annie, the arrival of JJW, "good Ben" & Windom's note signal that new storylines are beginning - although one could argue these are not the most promising stories (especially JJW) they are still narrative turning points, Windom begins threatening townspeople instead of just Cooper, bringing the town of Twin Peaks back as a character and drawing together different storylines.
CON: Despite all of that, we haven't ended Josie's story and that more than anything suggests that this belongs to the previous patch of episodes and not some new one; plus there is arguably a plodding, tying-up-loose-ends feel to the episode as a result, and let's be honest: Bob/Little Man are more reminders of what we're missing than they are effective callbacks.

24
PRO: The Log Lady & Maj. Briggs' tattoos launch a stretch in which the mythology will actually come into play, Windom starts actually visiting townspeople, Annie's romance with Cooper begins & Miss Twin Peaks is introduced - whatever one thinks of these storylines they are the major arcs of late season 2 suggesting that we've turned over a new leaf, meanwhile ALL of the mid-season story arcs (except for the chess game and Coop's suspension/flannel) have officially ended, Foley brings a freshness and energy to the proceedings that has been absent for a while, plus the fact that this episode came after the hiatus makes it feel like a natural new start (although that is probably just a coincidence of timing).
CON: Coop's still in flannel! Aside from narrative turning points, in terms of quality the pine weasel riot and JJW's serenade suggest that we aren't out of the woods yet.

25
PRO: Gordon Cole/David Lynch is back! Cooper is in a suit and out of flannel! His romance with Annie begins in earnest, Windom finally fuses with the mythological plot & Miss Twin Peaks (threads are really coming together now), Owl Cave cements the new mythological direction - did I mention Cooper's not in flannel anymore?
CON: By this point, we've either turned a corner, or we aren't going to (some would argue the latter, not counting Lynch's finale). But the turning point may have come already, meaning this belongs to late season 2 but isn't the "beginning" of it.

Laid out like this, ep. 24 theoretically seems like the least likely turning point. Yet for me, every time I rewatch the show or even just this episode in isolation, it just intuitively feels like a breath of fresh air. It really seems like we're out from under something. That said, once we get into the fashion show the episode sinks and that old obligatory, we're-doing-this-even-though-we-don't-want-to vibe returns (although at least in this case it's for a one-off event rather than an ongoing story). But the earlier cheesy stuff somehow works for me, or at least I don't mind it.

Truman's grief is ridiculous but sort of enjoyably so (in general, I think Michael Ontkean's fine as Truman, but when he starts shouting - especially "That's the good thing about the law IT DOESN'T BREATHE YOU CAN'T KILL IT!" - I start laughing uncontrollably). Nadine & Mike's "Graduate" scene with the hotel clerk (Mike's buttoned-up middle-aged 50s outfit clashing with his 80s teenage classmate) I actually find genuinely amusing, the bleary early 90s whiskey glass montage is a guilty pleasure (reminds me a bit of the atmosphere of Foley's Glengarry Glen Ross), even the picnic scene with Audrey & JJW has some interest, not just the nice locale but her own expression of insecurity (as well as hints that Cooper is still on her mind, which I love).

And of course who can resist the Log Lady & Maj. Briggs linking up again and pushing the mythology further than it's ever gone up to this point (it's a nice unexpected surprise). I also really like the Donna/Windom scene for some reason. It's deceptively casual, allowing the creepiness to sneak up on you - it really feels like an old family friend is visiting, even though it's clearly Windom, because it's played so straight. It also helps that this is the same angle from which we saw Bob climb over the couch to attack Maddy (I like that Foley holds the shot, pushing in ever so slightly). And there's even a suggestion that maybe he is leaving a bomb with Donna. I also love that shot of Donna with the coke bottle later on. Somehow it captures the whole "springtime in Twin Peaks" vibe of this episode to me, and has a nice 50s iconographic quality to it.

Yeah, this is an episode I just like instinctively even though I can see why others would fault it. It definitely feels like the turning point to me.

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