Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"She's filled with secrets" - Twin Peaks Episode 2

Episode 2 or "Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer" 

(April 19 1990)

Aside from the Pilot and possibly Episode 14 (More due to the Simpsons than anything else), this is the episode that is conjured in peoples minds when you say "Twin Peaks". From Zen rock throwing, to Leland Dancing to the Red Room Scene, it's all here. This Episode perhaps also marks the point where the series turns from a whodunit mystery into a a psycho-spiritual drama. That is not to say that Twin Peaks does not have police procedural/mystery elements, it does, but the "mystery" is played out through character experience as opposed to a strict line of evidence.

I'm unsure anything like the rock throwing scene has been attempted in a "mystery" TV series before or since. I am already writing these reviews with the express idea that my readers have seen the series, so rather than go into detail about the events that occur I am talking about the themes evoked and elements that remain strong (or otherwise) 25 year later. I remember thinking at the time, what does this all mean? If the rock knocking the bottle off the stump was important, surly the one that strikes Andy is as well? But above all, is Cooper crazy? Or a mystic genius? Of the "results", the two strikes end up being relevant to the case. Jacoby was connected tangentially (hit, does not break) and Leo (hits and breaks) directly, Johnny Horne (hits Andy) not at all. Is Cooper's method correct or is it all just a wild coincidence? Did this technique fail only because Cooper failed to ask the right question?

We also see two minor but memorable characters introduced. Jerry Horne, Ben's brother played by David Patrick Kelly of "The Warriors" fame. Jerry is very much the devil sitting on Ben's shoulder, impish and impulsive he feeds his older brothers appetites. The other is Albert played by the late Miguel Ferrer also arrives, and plays the big city agent irritating the local authorities perfectly. It also shines a strange light on Cooper who seems to have up-most positivity and respect for the officious visitors. This also mirrors Agent Chet Desmond's dealings with local law enforcement from Fire Walk with Me, except this time we are looking at it from the "locals" perspective not the visiting agents...

The episode ends with the notorious "Red Room" dream sequence. This dream is in fact in two parts, the first is an edited version of the MIKE and BOB sequence from the extended pilot. All we see is MIKE talking to Cooper about BOB, and then BOB's taunting rhyme. We only learn of the context of these scenes from Cooper recanting them to Truman next episode, the Red Room sequence is still present in full though. I recall being pretty astounded at the time by the stylistic and visual design of the Red Room sequence, it really did feel like something pulled from a dream. Several aspects of the dream are broken reflections of things that occur later in the series, most obviously the references to Laura Palmer's Cousin and the secret name of the killer that she whispers in Cooper's ear.
The dream symbolism often confuses writers who comment on the series, many of Lynch's visual flourishes are often written off as merely stylistic or derided as so opaque that"even Lynch doesn't know what they mean". That reading implies that Lynch operates as a Hitchcock like genius encoding his meaning in the symbols he uses on screen. Lynch operates in a much more instinctive space than that, one very much drawn from his interest in the subconscious and interest in transcendental meditation. That is to say, these are not works to decode but to experience.
Much like in a dream, repeated symbols gain meaning by examination and reoccurance rather than being placed already imbued with potent symbolism. Much like the audience, Lynch is exploring these queues from his subconscious by visually expressing them. So in a way maybe even he does not understand what all of his symbolism means, but that also isn't the point as far as his film making is concerned.
The dream sequence ends with Cooper sitting up in bed, calling Truman and declaring he knows who killed Laura Palmer. A misleading ending? Maybe, but he was told who it was....