Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S1E3 "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer"

Monday, September 10, 2018

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S1E3 "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer"


These short Twin Peaks episode responses are spoiler-free for upcoming episodes, presented here for first-time viewers who want to read a veteran viewer's perspective on each entry while remaining in the dark about what's to come. They were first published as comments on a Reddit rewatch in 2016. (This is referred to as "Episode 2" in some places, including the DVD/blu-ray, but is "S1E3" on Netflix.)

Wow, what an episode! There's no piece of Twin Peaks more archetypal, and there's probably no episode I've seen more times yet each time seems just as fresh. It's such an overload of good stuff - this could be "the one where they introduce One Eyed Jacks" or "the one where they introduce Albert" or "the one where Audrey dances in the diner" or "the one where Cooper throws the rocks at the bottles" but instead it's all of the above and so much more. I mean to have all of that and then throw in the Red Room dream, maybe the most iconic imagery of Lynch's whole career...wow!

If Bob's brief appearance in the previous episode was the first moment that hooked me, this was the first episode to really hook me as a whole. I saw both before the pilot (after this I stopped to wait until I could see the whole thing properly from the beginning). But even if I hadn't, I think that might still be true: the pilot is a thing of polished beauty, efficient and evocative, but it doesn't quite connect with me the way this one does. Here is where you can really see Lynch lifting off into outer space. It's amazing how different the same sets and actors look in his hands: like a master painter who sees things that no one else does in their angles and decorations (or expressions and gestures), Lynch crafts a completely different aura from the same material.

If the pilot is the most "Blue Velvet" of Lynch's Twin Peaks work, this is the most "Wild at Heart" he will get. It's got the same zany energy to its pace and delivery, the same sense of loose, gaudy, but totally natural sexiness, the same roving, cheerful curiosity and experimentation. That makes sense, since this episode was shot immediately after Lynch finished production on Wild at Heart (don't believe those, including Lynch, who tell you the film was shot during season two - the historical record is 100% clear on it being shot during season one). Well, one scene was shot (backwards!) beforehand: the Red Room was originally part of an alternate ending to the pilot, scripted on a spontaneous impulse by Lynch. It was so riveting it was then worked into the series itself. I always tell people that if they aren't into Twin Peaks, "give it till the dream sequence." This is the episode that really kicks open the doors.


Next: "Rest in Pain" • Previous: "Traces to Nowhere"


Want more? Here's my other coverage of the episode:


More for first-time viewers (SPOILER-FREE)

+ My original episode guide for this episode, from 2008

For those who've already seen the full series & film
(SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING LINKS)

My essay accompanying my ranking of this episode (#3), from 2015

The comments section below may contain spoilers.

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