Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S2E21 "Miss Twin Peaks"

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S2E21 "Miss Twin Peaks"


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 episode is nothing if not diligent: I don't think there's a single plot point missed as it marches towards the climax. Although intended as a standalone when it was written, shot, and edited, it ended up being reconfigured as the first part of a 2-hour TV movie. That Monday movie of the week (which came in a distant third in the ratings, beaten by reruns of lighter fare on the other two networks) aired in June when the previous episode was a distant memory (having aired in mid-April), sweeps month was safely past, and the show itself had been officially cancelled several weeks earlier. As such the catching-up feel, the dutiful clearing of a path for the final hour, may serve a purpose but it's a bit uninspiring to revisit.

I was ready to give this one another chance and while I tolerated it more than usual on this viewing, it still strikes me as one of the weakest episode. It's not weak because it's irrelevant - far from it, as already noted (in that sense, this is the opposite of those controversial mid-season episodes). It's weak because there is so little energy. Tim Hunter, returning to direct for the first time since Leland's death, was eager to revisit the cast and crew he'd relished collaborating with twice before. To his surprise, he found a listless, dispirited ensemble, resigned to the series' cancellation and angry about how it had gotten there. (It's worth noting that given when Lynch shot the finale, Hunter must have been working during the earlier February/March hiatus, when it was possible ABC wouldn't even air this episode.)

Hunter has observed in particular that the cameraman was working at a snail's pace, forcing him to scrap many of his planned shots, and that MacLachlan was particularly bitter about where the show had gone. There are some wonderful bits, like Windom's white face and blue teeth (inspired by Mizoguchi films, though the look also ties in to early Lynch shorts like The Alphabet and The Grandmother and was later adopted/modified by Lynch himself for Twin Peaks). But the lack of enthusiasm can be felt onscreen most of the time, in a way that hasn't been true for a long time, maybe ever.

The biggest issue with the episode is the Miss Twin Peaks pageant. It's been a focal point for four episodes now, and has served its purpose well, drawing characters together and creating a sense of anticipation. Now that it has finally arrived it feels corny and forced, and there's a complete lack of suspense given how frequently Annie's kidnap (and this victory) has been foreshadowed. I enjoy Lucy's dance quite a bit, but boy does Lana's shimmy do nothing for me. How exactly we wound up here from the naturalistic, moody pilot is the story of the show's unwinding, and for the most part it's a fascinating if troubling tale: but now this terminal point is interminable. There are many plot points that make no sense except in a must-get-from-A-to-B way, but I've described those elsewhere so I'll be brief. For the record, Coop and Truman can't prevent the crowning to stop Windom's plan, and Andy can't find Cooper in the Road House? Really??

Still, the episode does the trick and positions us for an explosive finale...albeit not the one the writers had planned. Really, the most enjoyable thing about the episode on first watch is the knowledge that we are approaching a big conclusion; on rewatch it's the anticipation of revisiting a conclusion that feels like night and day with this "part one".

This is the last piece of Twin Peaks in existence (including the new series, which has already been completely shot) that is not directed by Lynch, and it is almost certain to remain that way forever. As such, there's a poignancy upon reflection. Twin Peaks was many things, but for the bulk of its original run it attempted to hew to a conventional TV format even as it experimented and pushed boundaries. It told a story week to week, hitting necessary character and plot moments, making room for regular commercial breaks, responding to the pace of production and outside influences. A collaborative team scrambled to get it done on time. It belonged to the same cultural tradition as everything from The Honeymooners to Law & Order: a creative effort, but also an industrial product. This necessary duality was part of its charm and part of its limitation despite occasional moments of utter transcendence (like Cooper's dream or Maddy's murder).

Those days are now over. Like Pandora's mystery box opened up in Mulholland Dr, Twin Peaks is about to explode outside the boundaries imposed upon it.

*NOTE: It occurs to me that when Nadine snaps Mike's left hand, she's injuring him in the same way the OTHER Mike (the spirit Mike) was injured. If that seems a bit far-out, get ready; that's the sort of theorizing the remaining four and a half hours (including the Missing Pieces) will inspire.




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 the mythology up to this episode, from 2014 (includes discussion of the original scripted climax for the next episode, which was thrown out):



The comments section below may contain spoilers.

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