Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S2E20 "The Path to the Black Lodge"

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S2E20 "The Path to the Black Lodge"


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.

As the series draws to a close, in some ways this episode feels like a new beginning. Although Twin Peaks has the understandable reputation of being top-heavy there is a real sense in which it is bottom-heavy too. Let me put it this way: the pilot is the most polished and self-contained part, the first season as a whole is the most consistent, and the entire Laura Palmer mystery is the heart of the show. But if Twin Peaks was limited to a two-hour premiere, an eight-episode season or even a fifteen-episode mystery arc...it wouldn't be coming back next year. No, it's the tail end of Twin Peaks that opens it up wide, keeps us talking about it decades later, and paves the avenue for a return which promises to top even the classic original.

The bulk of this work is done in the Lynch-directed final three hours of Twin Peaks (that is to say the finale and the feature film). I'm not kidding when I say more than half the mythology we are still contemplating springs from that tiny sliver of the story, roughly 10% of the total runtime. But this is the episode that really positions us for that final push. Sure, the supernatural Lynch iconography made its debut as early as Cooper's dream; sure, the resolution of Laura's mystery raised all sorts of questions; sure, the Lodges have been under discussion for ten episodes and for the past three there have been attempts to fuse the Windom and Lodge plots into one exciting race to the finish.

However, the pieces really begin to come together right here, where we get a sense of an imminent climax, and where - most importantly - the Lynch iconography of the show's first half and the Frost-inspired Lodge lore finally start to come together. Aside from that brief tease after Josie's death we've neither seen nor heard much from any of the spirits that haunted those first seventeen episodes. Ever since talk of Project Blue Book, a White and Black Lodge, and Owl Cave tattoos took over from the questions of where is Bob and what is the meaning of Cooper's dream we've avoided the uncanny faces Twin Peaks made so memorable. But now we see the giant and Bob again (and the Red Room's curtains!), and more importantly (unlike in the Josie episode), there is an implication that they are linked to the rest of the show's cosmology. Things are coming together.

Ok, that's a lot about this episode's significance without really discussing this episode! As I'm sure others will point out, the direction is very fresh and creative in the hands of Stephen Gyllenhaal (yes, that Gyllenhaal - he's their dad, just as Jacoby/Russ Tamblyn is Amber Tamblyn's dad, Norma/Peggy Lipton is Rashida Jones' mom, and multi-episode director Caleb Deschanel fathered Zooey and Emily - and married Donna Hayward's mom! But I digress).

I didn't even mind the JJW-Audrey affair this time, though the "I must return to my home planet" gimmick to get Jack out of town feels ridiculously transparent and half-baked (not helped by the abrupt cutaway as he reveals his friend's murder to Ben, almost as if the show itself was embarrassed to stoop so low). I think one of the reasons I find JJW so irritating is that Billy Zane really seems to be trying to deliver a casual, naturalistic performance. It's a game attempt but somehow it only serves to draw more attention to how thin this character is. I can totally see how some would find the schtick charming but personally it just makes me roll my eyes all the harder. By the way, keep your ears tuned for an (I think) unintentionally hilarious statement from post-deflowerment Audrey early next episode.

Back to the good stuff, I think Windom is at his best, despite the horse costume (only in the James Foley-directed episode did he appear this dangerous). His all-black get-up is infinitely preferable to the long johns, sweaters, and smocks he's been sporting. I do get a kick out of him sweeping aside the chess board to replace it with some Blue Book/Owl Cave paraphernalia: an admission that after all that hullabaloo Twin Peaks is completely bored with the motif it spent half the show trying to utilize. One more reason many viewers tend to dismiss the mid-season: I think, other than Nadine, every single plot line emphasized in those episodes has already disappeared, many without a proper or satisfactory resolution.

Next up, Miss Twin Peaks! Are you guys excited? Full confession (read no further if you consider quality assessments of upcoming episodes to be spoilers): I've found the next episode more and more disappointing every time I rewatch the series, to the point where it became my least-favorite episode, the one that most felt like a drag. But I'm actually looking forward to it now, for the same reason I've enjoyed almost all the weaker aspects of the show more this time. Our leisurely pace gets me more in tune to with the series rhythm, and builds eager anticipation for each new installment. And the next episode certainly does follow through all the plot points that have been building up...and paves the way for the explosive (yet completely unpredictable) conclusion. That said, THIS episode is the one that feels most worthy of what's to come.




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


More for first-time viewers (SPOILER-FREE)
(but be careful of video recommendations at the end of YouTube videos and image/link recommendations at the end of Tumblr posts)

+ My "Journey Through Twin Peaks" chapter on this episode, from 2014:



The comments section below may contain spoilers.

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