Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S2E5 "The Orchid's Curse"

Monday, September 10, 2018

TWIN PEAKS First Time Viewer Companion: S2E5 "The Orchid's Curse"


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 probably gets my vote for the most underrated episode of Twin Peaks. It has its flaws, mostly the flaws of early season two in general, although it's also at times a little more stylistically flat than the last two (a quality I'd argue it makes up for in the climactic sequences - especially the mesmerizing wide-lensed Steadicam shots in the deep-red bordello). But it's pretty light on the distracting subplots and actually has a few very strong narrative throughlines: the court date at the Road House and the dangerous, intertwining missions to Harold's house and One-Eyed Jack's. This not only gives the episode a sense of cohesion (those two raids consume a full third of the screentime), it retroactively lends focus to the sometimes scattered storytelling of previous entries. Seems it was all leading somewhere after all.

This time around, I took particular notice of how many characters go ethically and/or legally astray. Obviously Jean is a murderer/kidnapper and Ben and Hank are sleazy and avaricious. But I'm talking about the "good guys" here. Let's go down the list: Coop and Harry, an FBI agent and a sheriff, conduct a vigilante raid across a national border in which a man is killed by one of Harry's off-duty deputies; Donna and Maddy stage a home invasion predicated on the seduction on a troubled shut-in; Harold himself is no prize, flirting and playing romantic-sexual games with a minor, using her dead friend's words as bait; and even the supposed arbiter of justice himself, Judge Sternwood, makes some legally protected but nonetheless questionable judgments about holding violent criminals accountable. Now, in many cases, we can explain these actions away: Audrey's life is in the balance, Harold may be holding crucial evidence, and Sternwood knows Leland as an old friend driven mad by grief (while Leo doesn't look like he's in any condition to harm anyone - though sending him back home with Shelly remains iffy). Indeed, I didn't even really observe the extent of this pattern till this viewing, so the show itself encourages us to look the other way. Furthermore, much of this behavior falls well within genre tropes we are conditioned not to question.

However, without spoiling anything, I think it's fair to say that even well-intentioned actions have consequences in Twin Peaks, some of which we can already see in this episode itself. In a show that's all about crossing boundaries, and the confusion and occasional clarity these transgressions unleash, it seems fair to point out this muddying of the waters. This is maybe most prominent in the story Donna tells, shot and performed with exquisite panache, although its problematic aspects are stated right at the outset: Laura and Donna were only 13, and the men were 20. This monologue heavily echoes Ingmar Bergman's Persona, in which one character relays an intense sexual experience to a quiet listener. In that case, however, the outcome is more graphic, and the gender roles are reversed: the adult, female speaker describes how she seduced two young boys.

One final observation: Jennifer Lynch is in many ways a silent partner in these episodes, since during the summer she wrote and published Laura's "secret diary". The excerpt from the previous episode was verbatim from her text, and Donna's swimming anecdote paraphrases another story from the book (in that case, naturally, told from Laura's point of view). When you read the book while watching these episodes, you get a real sense of Laura haunting the proceedings - and perhaps a sense that her impenetrable mystery introduced in the pilot isn't so impenetrable after all.


Next: "Demons" • Previous: "Laura's Secret Diary"


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)

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




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


The comments section below may contain spoilers.

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