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A Strange Presence Roams Twin Peaks

Before we start the review, I will beg the indulgence to say two things. Number one: in my previous review, I mistakenly said Big Ed Hurley was James’ dad. My error was spotted by commenter Ivana Cvetanovic (Thank you!). Big Ed is actually James’ uncle, not his dad. Number two: one serialisation of this series’ episodes actually considers those in season two as part of a single list. For convenience’s sake, I will use that serialisation as well, so no ‘Episode nine, season two’ here, nope nope. All needed be said has been said; let’s start the show.

“Now before we get started, have you two fellas got your stories straight?”

The pilot left a pretty wholesome aftertaste. We got a notion of characters’ arcs, ambience and the gist of the show. However, both the pilot and the two following episodes were unique in a way. The three were penned by the series’s creators before Lynch took a backseat for most of the first season. The series’s daddies used these episodes to further nuance what they wanted for the show, which is a big deal. Laura’s murder and her link to Ronette’s activities set the genre as crime drama. This is a solid conflict for a series still in the process of outlining its own personality.

However, ensuing episodes would subvert the cold logic approach and opt for a far more esoteric flavour. There was also a great deal of improvisation involved in developing the conflict on a grander scope. Furthermore, director Duwayne Dunham opted to focus some more on character interactions. This means the narrative would occasionally drop the murder theme in favour of romance and intrigue. In terms of pacing, this allowed for the mystery to span the whole of a season. It also allowed for the show to look a bit like a soap opera at times, further defining it.

And that is the keyword to follow on this review: define. Twin Peaks’ reputation as a genre breaking experience is known; let’s start observing precisely how.

“Diane, it struck me again earlier this morning, there are two things that continue to trouble me. And I’m speaking now not only as an agent of the Bureau but also as a human being. What really went on between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys and who really pulled the trigger on JFK?”

The episode kicks off with Agent Cooper starting his day at the Great Northern Hotel. There’s some hanging from the ceiling involved and breakfast with coffee, as you do. Almost immediately, we are given a sample of Dunham’s contribution to the series by way of Audrey’s glance. The first interaction between these characters is brimming with affability, to say the least. Back in the pilot, we saw Audrey as wealthy, eccentric and whimsical. Now we see her as a young woman with a crush. However, this is not gratuitous, as Cooper’s status and presence as outsider will kickstart character developments. As a result, we actually get a more honest Audrey than we’d have expected.

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Now at the Sheriff’s department, breakfast goes on. Cooper lays the tasks for the day on his own because everyone else is too busy chewing donuts. Follow their example: breakfast is important, never skip it. The tone changes upon undertaking the tasks. Starting with Dr. Hayward’s analysis results on Laura, we get a disturbing collection of injuries on the night of her death. It is also confirmed that she had sex with at least three men on that night. Her link to Ronette Pulaski is confirmed as she presents similar traces. However, she cannot be questioned, as she remains comatose.

At the station, Trooper question James, a harmless-looking character, though still somehow involved. His answers reveal that he was seeing Laura in secret, at her own insistence. She also regularly used cocaine, which James tried to stop with moderate success. However, she resumed use because of some unknown event that greatly distressed her. She completely stopped seeing James until one night when she snuck out to meet with him. This was the last time he saw her; it was the night of her death. She rode with him, but she ran away without a word when he stopped for gas.

Prior to that moment, she was very secretive on her reasons not to see him anymore. When asked on the significance of February the 5th, James’ expression becomes even heavier with grief. He acknowledges the golden half-heart necklace, and a flashback ensues on how he got it. It was given to him by Laura herself at her conviction of his feelings being true. This flashback is important for two reasons. One: we get to see her alive and not as a cluster of impressions from other characters. Two: In spite of the mirthful moment, she appears a girl full of sadness, thus subverting these impressions. Deconstructing Laura reveals both her vices and her humanity.

“You do not know Leo Johnson”

Meanwhile, let’s take a look at Leo Johnson, who shall henceforth be known as Mr. Plausibility. Being the ever ‘delightful’ husband, he menacingly urges his wife to do his laundry. However, he doesn’t expect her to find a shirt amongst his rags with a large blood stain on it. Fearful about the implications, she hides the shirt. Meanwhile, a cell conversation between Bobby and Mike unveils some unsavoury business deal with him. Bobby gave “half of the money” to him already; the other half turns out to be in Laura’s safe deposit box.

So far, a nasty noose seems to be tightening around their necks. Is Mr. Plausibility a druglord hangman? Did he kill Laura for some drug-related yet unknown reason? Regardless of the answer, illicit substances undoubtedly run through the veins of the town. Big Ed further alludes to this when talking to Sheriff Truman about the fight on the night before. He believes his drink may have been drugged by bartender Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz). The ramifications of this become disturbing when considering how popular a hangout the Roadhouse is.

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Bobby and Mike are let off the hook without much further questioning. However, Cooper warns them not to harm James, lest they face a suspecting Agent coming for them. Will they heed their warning? Time will tell.

“It’s like I’m having the most beautiful dream and the most terrible nightmare at once.”

A change in tone follows as the narrative explores other characters in terms of relationships. Donna, who still grieves her friend, finds solace in her budding attraction to James. This allure stems from much the same view of him Laura had: a kind young man with a heart. Hence, the foreseeable undermining of her relationship with jock, possible pusher, asshole Mike begins pretty sweetly. On the other hand, Nadine exhibits a fairly territorial demeanour when seeing Norma. Whether or not she knows of their nights together at the Roadhouse, it matters little. She already sees her as a foreign presence in the bond between husband and wife.

Later on, Trooper head to the mill to inquire on Laura’s activities. The young woman often met owner Josie Packard to help her improve her handle on English. Cooper and Truman learn that Laura expressed a sorrowful empathy with her on the last time she visited. Truman also learns that the FBI Agent is deft at reading the body language between the sheriff and Josie. Their relationship has been kept under wraps because of how quickly they started dating.

Josie them receives a call from Catherine, who reprimands her about the losses the mill suffered from shutting down the day before. On her side of the line, Catherine shares a hotel room with a man who is definitely not her husband: Ben Horne. Good Pete is too busy washing the fish taste off the percolator, from which he accidentally served coffee for Cooper and Truman, as you do.

These interactions definitely ring with a soap opera-ish tone. However, beyond the scandalous flavour of unfaithfulness shines a stronger theme: the pursuit of happiness. As we will learn from Cooper’s quotable sayings, this series constantly speaks miles about love and happiness. Sometimes, the circumstances make this pursuit an uphill climb, whether by abusive boyfriends or loveless marriages. The characters’ desperate ways start off as an escape from unhappiness, as the case is (understandably) with Shelly. As the stories progress, some of these ways evolve into a proper search of happiness.

Still, Catherine’s unfaithfulness strikes quite differently. She is not actually pursuing anything but the fulfilment of her own agenda, which can also be said about Ben. This subversion of the theme mentioned above gives us two more characters to see under a villainous light. Their goal is the destruction of the mill to pave the way for another project.

“Black as midnight on a moonless night.”

Things are getting pretty murky now with the villainous personages creeping in. We’re absolutely not done, as we got one more to trump them all. Before describing his arrival, let’s take a step back into the meta. The culprit behind Laura’s murder had been decided from the beginning. However, some shenanigans involving Frank Silva, a set dresser, sowed the idea in David Lynch’s head. Thusly, he literally became an ‘ascended extra’, and oh dear, to what a monstrous degree. The image of Silva that so haunted Lynch is what we’re given as viewers as a presence aside from Laura’s murderer.

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Donna visits Sarah, still broken about her daughter’s death. In her grief delirium, she sees Donna’s face as if it were Laura’s. She embraces Donna in necessity and desperation, and it is then that she ‘sees’ an alien presence. An unknown, dishevelled man in Laura’s room looks unblinkingly at Sarah and the viewer. This episode triggers a screaming fit in horror, which breaks Sarah even further. At this point, nobody knows this man’s intentions, but Sarah’s response instantly marks him as a vile character. His location and the esoteric nature of his introduction imbue him with a different dread than Leo or Catherine.

Maintaining the dark mood, we return to the hospital. Deputy Tommy “Hawk” Hill (Michael Horse), Native American heartthrob talks to Ronette’s parents about their daughter. Playing to the commonly associated tropes to Native American characters, this man has a peculiar eye for the uncanny. Hawk is quick to spot a strange one-armed man walking towards the morgue and he follows suit. Although he doesn’t actually stop the man, his sense for the strange has been struck. The viewer may recognise the same man from the pilot when he rode he elevator with Trooper on the way to the morgue. Much like with the previous strange man, the ambience tells us that he is a character to watch out for.

“One day, my log will have something to say about this. My log saw something that night”

The soap-opera tone has subverted the link this show has to the genre of crime-drama. The strange sights described above weaken the genre distinction even further. Now, we’re left with a murder case to which there may be much, MUCH, more than we initially thought. The strangeness is about to permeate the feel of the series to the point of reaching other characters. Audrey’s taste for a very peculiar kind of jazz is the most evidently harmless of instances.

Trooper’s stop at the diner delves deeper into strange territory. Agent Cooper learns from Norma that Laura helped organise and work at the diner’s food delivery program. The names of the people in her route will serve as the next set of leads. Truman remarks on Cooper’s frankly amazing metabolism as the Log Lady approaches them at the counter. The woman tells the pair that her log knows something about Laura Palmer’s disappearance and death. It could be easy and even sensible to disregard her words as mere lunacy in face of the circumstances. But, would it really? Is she merely one of the strange inoffensive local quirks or is there truth to her log’s knowledge?

The episode closes at Dr. Jacoby’s heavily Hawaiian-themed office. We hear Laura’s voice through a recorded session, which one again gives us insight into her character. Her voice starts out charming and slowly decays into distress. Turns out that Laura thinks James is as dumb as he is sweet (a whole fucking lot). She thinks she is going to “get lost in those woods again”. As her voice disappears before describing some “mystery man”, Dr. Jacoby opens a coconut where he stores something precious. He is in possession of the other half of the necklace, representing Laura’s heart. His ambiguous reaction to it shed greater mystery upon the relation with his patient.

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Images courtesy of CBS

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Devotee of coffee, whiskey and baleful sentiment. I also write a lot of things.

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