Friday, May 19, 2017

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...