Friday, July 7, 2017

It has been a pleasure speaking to you (Twin Peaks Episode 29)

Beyond Life and Death- Twin Peaks Episode 29 (Airdate July 10 1991)

Until "Twin peaks: The Return", I'd almost would have said this episode was possibly the most artistically ambitious hour of Television since the final episode of "The Prisoner". If I had been able to finish this series of posts before the new series premier, the first line of this post probably would have been that. Instead, the final episode of the troubled second season of Twin peaks is a clear sign post of the path ahead for the franchise. Not only do we get Coopers strange journey into the "Black Lodge", but we also get a series of rather dark endings for many of our characters...

It is as if, as soon as Windom takes Annie across that red curtained threshold, the whole series changes. To recap; Ben confronts the Haywoods on Donna's real parentage in an effort to "do good", and has his head bashed into the Haywood mantle piece during a struggle with Doc Haywood. Nadine is struck on the head during the chaos at the roadhouse, and recovers her memories becoming the old Nadine and dooming the chances of an Ed and Norma marriage. Leo is still tied up to a spider cage in the woods. Audrey, Pete and Andrew Packard are exploded by the bomb left in a safety deposit box by Thomas Eckhart. (Audrey whilst performing a peaceful protest at the Bank, another Horne felled by the impulse to do good) Annie and Cooper are left in an uncertain state just after their romance started, with THAT ending putting a darker tinge on the whole affair.

Cooper's journey into he Red Room, often referred to as the Black Lodge although it is unclear if it is or not, is a reflection of the series itself. It is a microcosm of the 28 episodes proceeding it, we see a dream (Cooper Dream from Episode 2) become a real, nightmarish place. We meet Laura, Lealand, The Giant, the Man from another place, Maddy and BOB once again. Laura transforms from the ethereal unknown she starts the series as, and into a terrifying Doppelganger, a mirror of the dual lives she lived. I always found the "evil" reflection of Laura utterly terrifying, from the stillness of her normal dream appearance to a shrieking phantom. While backwards laughter is unnerving at best, backwards screaming is moreso. Cooper finds himself moving from identical room to identical room, with the Man from another place introducing lost characters to him and warning him of Dopplegangers. As Hawk described when the Black Lodge is first mentioned, it is the place where a soul is tested before advancing to a "higher place" the White lodge. If your courage is not pure, you will be utterly destroyed.

So after a TV sensation, 2 years, 29 episodes we are left with this. Cooper escapes with Annie but as he goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth, he looks in the mirror and sees BOB. Ramming his head into the glass, the series ends on his mocking laughter as he says "How's Annie?"
The title says it all, this episode is an ending like death but it is also a crossing. We cross over from the cute, nostalgic, slightly comedic world of Twin Peaks into the deeps shadows that have been hinted at all the way through the series. We follow Cooper into the lodge and like our protagonist, we do not escape. Fire walk with me, and Twin Peaks: The Return are both entities that exist within this shadow realm. Lynch and Frost are almost telling us, the viewers, that our courage was imperfect and we cannot dwell in the perfect Americana that the town of Twin Peaks represents. No cherry pie, cute brunettes and 50's cars for us; we have shadows, fear and ashes.

Laura very much represents this episode, this message and the series, perfectly. When Cooper first sees her in the Lodge she is the Laura he met in his dream. Elegant, she finishes her conversation with him enigmatically. "See you in 25years. Meanwhile..." And she strikes a pose, freezing just like the prom photograph of her that is so famous to not only the characters but the viewers. Later Cooper encounters Laura's "Doppleganger" who starts from the same pose, but her "meanwhile" is a threat. The "good" Laura gives us an image of her alive, the "evil" Laura screams and looks like she wants to eat our souls. She makes no mention of a time period either we are stuck with this Laura till, and if, we find our way out of the shadows.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

You just lost me (Twin Peaks Episode 28)

Miss Twin Peaks - Episode 28 (Airdate June10 1991)

Like many of the great episodes of the show's original run, the penultimate episode of Twin Peaks is formed around a single set piece, the Miss Twin Peaks pageant. It's a much lighter event than lets say, the Mill fire or the raid on One Eyed Jacks, but it has no less of an ability to pull multiple strands of story together. Andy and Lucy, Cooper and Annie, Lana's manipulation of Dick, Bobby stage managing Shelly and discovering what she means to him, Audrey and Ben wanting to make the environmental case to stop Ghostwood, Nadine reliving her teen years, all come together in this event. The event itself is fun as well, with just the right amount of hokiness that a small town beauty pageant should have. We haven't quite gotten to the point in TV where every song and dance number is inexplicably Broadway quality for no good reason...

Meanwhile in the woods, Leo helps Major Briggs escape Windom Earle in an effort to save Shelly. I'm pretty unconvinced by good guy Leo, he was a pretty despicable individual as I have previously discussed. Drug dealer, violent criminal, domestic abuser, arsonist and attempted murderer; his post coma softness for Shelly isn't enough to solicit any sympathy. His final predicament, which ends up being the final thing we see of the character, is torturous. He is strung up by the tooth to a cage full of spiders, should he let the cage drop and break he could be done for, a convoluted trap by Earle to say the least. But I'm not sure anyone can think "poor Leo" in light of who the character is.

Of course it is Andy who works out that the Owl Cave painting is a map, allowing Cooper to make the leap that it is a map to the Black Lodge and finally work out Earle's scheme. Annie naturally wins the pageant and is kidnapped by Earle in a pretty cool strobe lit scene of confusion and chaos. Naturally Earle is dressed up as the Log lady, in the last of his crazy disguises to feature. We also have some small scenes to cap off certain plots, Lucy picks Andy to be Dad to her baby, Big Ed finally breaks it to Nadine that he is marrying Norma, Donna confronts Ben Horne about her parentage etc.

This is a solid plot motivating episode, no Frost or Lynch in sight either; although I am sure they were guiding the direction of things. Next up, the bizarre Lynch fuelled finale to the original series. Don't miss it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Q: Garland, what do you fear most... in the world? A:The possibility that love is not enough. (Twin Peaks Episode 27)

The Path to the Black Lodge - Twin Peaks Episode 27 (Airdate-April 18 1991)

So yeah I lost that race and got a little ill so there has been a gap in coverage. I do apologise.
So yes I have seen the new series so far, and I like it! More on that soon as I don't want to spoil...

So Episode 27 continues to push towards the series finale at a startling pace, it's hard to believe that only a few episodes ago this series was in plot hibernation. (Apologies to any James and Evelyn fans out there) Miss Twin Peaks and the identity of Donna's biological feature amongst the B plots, and unlike the mid season drought they weave in with the main story well. (Even the Super Nadine story and Good Guy Ben fit in well here) As far as our heroes are concerned everything is leading up to Miss Twin Peaks, where Windom will attempt to kidnap/kill the winner, taking Cooper's Queen so to speak. The giant even appears to warn Cooper away from Annie entering the contest...

But what this episode really comes down to is establishing Windom's motivation and his actual goal as well as dig into the mythology around the Black Lodge a bit. It is revealed that Major Briggs and Windom worked together on Project Blue Book,  and in that time Windom became obsessed with The Black Lodge and sorcerers known as dugpas. (It is odd, I think this Episode is the only time that term is used) Cooper becomes convinced that Windom's true goal is to access the Black Lodge.

Realising via the bugged Bonsai that Major Briggs knows more than he is letting on, Windom kidnaps him while the Major is taking a walk in the woods. (In a bizarre pantomime horse costume) He drugs and interrogates the Major gaining key pieces of information about the doorway and the times it can be accessed. Windom has realised more about the glyphs at Owl Cave than Cooper and is just one step ahead of him. The race is very much on.

Monday, May 22, 2017

I have no idea where this will lead us. But I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange. (Twin Peaks episodes 25/26)

On the wings of love/Variations on Relations - Twin Peaks episodes 25-26 (Air Dates April 4, April 11 1991)

So with the premier almost here looks like I will not get the whole of the series covered beforehand. But anyway, we are so close to the end here now I will complete and then look at the new series; with luck before episode 2 airs.

Harry and Catherine deal with Eckhardt's legacy, for Harry it is Ms Jones attempting to kill him in bed over "sexual jealousy" of his relationship with Josie. For Catherine it is the mysterious box sent to Blue Pine Lodge. I can't help but think that if Eckhardt was a better established character these plot threads may have had more oomph to them. He appears kind of out of the blue in Season 2 and with little background outside being the man Josie was on the run from.

But the good news is the series at this point really starts to find itself again, we gain a real idea of where things are going. With a destination, the other elements all snap into place. Windom Earle is our antagonist, and he wants to get to the Black Lodge as well as kill the winner of the Miss Twin Peaks contest. Our heroes, naturally, move to prevent this. Windom takes some more pieces, Cooper goes to Owl Cave to see the mysterious petroglyphs. Lots of good stuff here. Even the B plots slot in and are fun asides, sometimes funny and sometimes dramatic but never distracting us from the main plot. Dick for example, is comic relief for a few scenes, Gordon becoming infatuated with Shelly is cute and fun to watch. We don't have drawn out scenes of James on the road, or little Nicky...

Cooper and Annie get closer, an obvious replacement for the Audrey romance especially as Audrey basically does the same thing with Jack in a much less plot eventful romance.
I do like the pre-x-files UFO stuff here as well, suggesting that what Major Briggs (and Earle) were investigating was akin to encounters with extraterrestrials which turned to the woods around twin peaks. The implication is that the people from "another place" maybe what we think of as aliens, and that opens some interesting doors. What it fixes the series on sharply is the Black Lodge as an end point of the current story arc, something the series needed after the Laura Palmer mystery was solved..

Saturday, May 20, 2017

How many drawer pulls exist in this world? (Twin Peaks Episode 23/24)

The Condemned woman/Wounds and Scars- Twin Peaks episodes 23/24 (Air dates Feb 16, March 28 1991)

So close to the deadline...
I even forgot at the time how long this "slump" in Season 2 goes for, like a broken down car going up a steep hill. In a metaphor appropriate for the series it is almost like you are driving from the top of one Peak to the other, the easy downward slope of the first season, going fine in the middle and then the massive climb to the top of the second. (And the nostalgia driven ride down for the third)
These two episode also sit each side of a mid season gap, over a month between episodes.

Earle continues his "public" scheme, he chess game with Cooper in which he declares he will take Cooper's Queen. Earle targets Shelly, Donna and Audrey by sending them 1/3 of a poem and arranging them to meet each other at the Roadhouse. He vows to Leo that he will take Cooper's queen, assumed to be payback for his wife Caroline. (Something I am unsure Earle is actually worried about by the end of all this) Cooper employs chess protege Pete Martel to play Earle's game to a stalemate whilst loosing a few pieces as possible. I do adore that Pete is chess genius, it just seems perfect for the character for reasons I can't put my finger on and gives us some great Jack Nance scenes.

Even this late in the series we manage to squeeze in a couple of extra characters, in particular Billy Zane as "Keep Audrey busy cause we got nothin for Sherilyn Fenn to do" Jack and Heather Graham and Norma's sister Annie.

This break in season 2 is marked by a series of break ups in the show, Audrey gets interested in Jack breaking her interest in Cooper. Big Ed and Nadine push towards divorce, Nadine and Mike are dating finishing off the almost non existent Mike/Donna thing. James and Donna take a break, with James riding off into the sunset never to be seen in this season again. Ben breaks with his beloved Ghostwood project, now recovered from his nervous breakdown he has become an insufferable goodguy. Ben is now an environmentalist, he exercises, dresses casual rather than a suit and eats healthy. I do like this Ben, as you are never really ever sure if this is all a scam to get everything he lost to the Packards back or if he really did turn over a new leaf after a mental crisis. (I also am unsure of Dr Jacoby's skills as a therapist at this point)

We also have the untimely end to Josie and the moving of the Eckhardt/Packard game to the next stage. Josie realises she has been found out by Cooper, that she is not only on the hook for shooting him but also killing her "cousin" Jonathan/Mr Lee. Eckhardt and Andrew have a confrontation in the elevator at the Great Northern and Josie heads there to perform the final act in her tragedy. Cooper heads to Eckhardt's suit after a tip from Catherine, when he gets their Josie has shot Eckhardt and she aims her gun at Cooper before collapsing as Harry enters. As he watches Harry rush to Josie, Cooper sees BOB gloating over the events. At the episode end we are shown Josie's soul becoming part of the bedside table in some 90s CGI which didn't age too bad. (it's still not fantastic)
These events drive Harry into a deep depression, drinking himself to sleep whilst held up in the Bookhouse. We end episode 24 with Cooper and Hawk talking down a violently depressed Harry and putting him to bed where he is later joined by Eckhardt's assistant Ms Jones.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Leo. Well, Leo... you can call me Windom. Windom Earle.- Twin Peaks 21/22

Double Play/Slaves and Masters - Twin Peaks Episodes 21/22 (Air dates Feb 2/Feb 9 1991)

Rewatches are fun, especially when you discover something you totally forgot about. In this case is just how amazing the Leo stalking around his house after Shelly, it's tense and terrifying. This series is really at it's best when it is expressing emotion/sensation in this manner , be it fear or confusion or dread, and this scene is a great example of that. Shelly gropes around in the dark trying to fend Leo off with a knife until Bobby arrives and distracts him, allowing her to slash her violent spouse with a knife; sending him fleeing.

Here we are getting to peak Season 2, Nadine at Highschool, Ben thinks he is reliving the civil war, more little Nicky and yes more James. We do get some important B plot shifts though with the long thought dead Andrew Packard revealed as being alive. This is a huge revelation as one of the important world building bits of the series is based around the death of Andrew Packard; Josie, Hank, Ben, Catherine all revolve around that pre series event. Now we learn it didn't actually happen, and was all part of a game between Andrew and his long time rival Eckhardt.

The main 2nd arc also starts to heat up with Leo stumbling upon a cabin the woods while fleeing his home, here we have the first glimpse of Cooper's Moriarty, Windom Earle. Earle starts to take a much less abstract role in the show from here, first in his chess game that results in real people being killed as pieces are taken and second with his manipulation of the townspeople. Earle is a fun character, he does stray a little bit across the line and becomes too whacky from time to time but he is shown to be a genuine threat to Cooper. (Unlike Jean) His disguises are probably the big thing I'd tone down, they tend to be a little too whacky and he still comes across as an odd stranger to the characters who encounter him which make him stick out in their mind. (Which kind of defeats the purpose of a disguise?) At his high points he plays the sinister Puck very well, and the two level nature (Seeking revenge on Cooper and seeking the Black Lodge) of his scheme mostly works.

Don't thank me. Thank Sheriff Truman. It was his idea. - Twin Peaks Episode 19/20

The Black Widow/Checkmate Twin Peaks Episodes 19/20 (Air dates Jan 12, Jan 13 1991)

This six or so episode stretch is full of faux quirkiness, so many of the B plots border on comedy it is easy to see how people were switching off. James is still being seduced by Evelyn, Ben is slowly going mad, Nadine joins the mens wrestling team and little Nicky is still.. well little Nicky.

There are chunks of B plot here that are fun though, I really like Dwayne and Dougie Milford; the feuding siblings who basically run the town. Dwayne is the antediluvian Mayor of the town and Dougie is the owner of the Town newspaper with multiple marriages under his belt. Ultimately it goes nowhere, but it's a fun bit of quirky world building and I loves me some world building. Episode 19 also sets Lana (Dougie's widow) up to be a much bigger deal than she ends up being, showing her to be some kind of siren able to capture the hearts of men. (Afterwards she is just a gold digger trying to get Dwayne to use his power as Mayor to win her a beauty pageant)
One of the highlights of the ep 17-20 run is of course pre-Xfiles David Duchovny as DEA Agent Denise Bryson. Now there is a little bit of unenlightened snickering in the script, quirky lines etc but on the whole the depiction of a Transgender woman here in 1991 is a very positive one. Denise is an agent that is fully capable and in control at all times, with her set to reappear in Season 3 there has been some more writing on the portrayal which I would direct people to read here and here. Denise is of course involved in the Jean Renault plot line which sadly kind of fizzles out here in Ep 20. The biggest issue is we quickly shit from the scheming and dangerous Jean Renault of the start of the season, to a pretty thick small time crook here. Cooper finds his hide out (A place ominously called Dead Dog Farm) at random while looking into buying a house in Twin Peaks. Not only that, rather than use the border to protect him from Law Enforcement he has meeting here with Hank Jennings and Norma's dodgy step father AS WELL AS THE MOUNTIE WHO IS CONSPIRING WITH HIM. You'd think leaving cocaine residue in the sink of a house for sale that screams "junkie den" would be the worst place to do you secret deals, then well you'd be right. Jean is undone by some clever thinking for Truman and Denise, as well as being about as dim as his two brothers ultimately. All this is a pretty sad end to a promising villain, while the bait and switch with Denise is cool and shows her to be a capable field agent, Jean ends up as a bit of a fizzer after a promising start. (One Eyed Jacks, such an iconic part of Season one is also now gone from the show)

Major Briggs comes back, and we get some nice and some somewhat dated bits of Alien abduction stuff including him returning dressed in an old timey aviators uniform for some reason. Some of the video effects date quite poorly but this is full of cool images as well, like the monks against the stars or the Major seated in a chair of vines. This combined with the Windom Earle teases sets up for the actual second arc of the series, the Black Lodge arc. This stuff is not as elegantly surreal as Season 1's BOB/MIKE or the red room, but its still a good little idea that ramps up slowly. It just needs to be packed in with better B plots...

Josie becomes Catherine's maid, having escaped her employer Thomas Eckhardt and returned to be with Harry. Josie's plot is another of these mid season plots that needed a little more development to become A+ material. We see hints at Josie's tragic past and her drive to keep her head above water whilst surrounded by terrible people who will use her or kill her. She is a scam artists, elevated from the streets to be a play thing between millionaires, is she playing Harry? It's hard to tell, she needed a little more meat on her as a character in my opinion but the moral ambiguity of her actions are intriguing if not underdeveloped. She is accessory in the murder of Andrew Packard, she is an accessory in the attempted murder of Catherine Martel, she is an accessory to the insurance fraud being carried out by Ben Horne, she murders Mr Lee and she is soon to be found out to be the person who shot a Federal Agent. That is a bigger wrap sheet than most people in this show. You get the feeling that she is constantly running from scam to scam, trying to get free of Eckhardt's control in the only way she knows how. (Eckhardt is also David Warner, who gets criminally little screen time)

What isn't underdeveloped is the constant tease in Season 2 of Leo waking up. Leo is a horrible character, and one shown in great effect in the first season. Even as a coma patient in a wheel chair they manage to make him threatening, each move or convulsion could have him awake and a threat to Shelly again. What I think makes this plot very effective is the two characters involved's totally divergent reactions. Shelly clearly sees Leo as still a threat to her life and freedom, even comatose he is able to keep her in the house and terrify her by twitching or mumbling or spitting up. For Bobby, he is what he always had been, a potential for making Money. At first Bobby made money off the Drugs Leo brought into town, next Bobby hoped to use the insurance money to make life easy for Shelly and he, finally Bobby decides to use Leo to blackmail Ben Horne. Leo is in Shelly's house still because of Bobby's greed, and yes Bobby is scared of Leo but not in the same way as Shelly is. At the end of Episode 20 we get the pay off as Leo finally awakens in a pretty scary scene that is continued very well next week...