Agent Cooper’s dreams aside, Twin Peaks hasn’t caught its killer quite yet… but it’s no less fun to watch for it.
This week’s episode of Twin Peaks opens up on the Hornes eating dinner in silence together. To recap, The Horne family consists of prominent businessman Ben Horne, his wife Sylvia (who barely speaks and is rarely seen), severely autistic son Johnny (who likes to wear a Native American feathered headdress at all times, and was being tutored by Laura Palmer before her death), and mischievous daughter Audrey (who is infatuated with Agent Cooper).
The dysfunction of this family is underlined when Ben’s brother Jerry bursts into the room with two baguette sandwiches, filling the awkward silence with oblivious chatter. He gives one sandwich to Ben, who starts devouring it as if he had been starving for days (and not actually in the middle of eating dinner). The brothers then leave the dining room, and Ben tells Jerry that Laura is dead, and the Norwegian investors who were going to buy into the Horne country club left town without making a deal. Jerry’s mood turns sour, and Ben suggests they uplift their spirits by paying a visit to One Eyed Jacks, a casino and brothel just across the Canadian border. He gives Jerry a coin-toss chance to have first dibs on the new girl working there.
Meanwhile, Donna’s parents are heading to bed after having James Hurley over for dinner. They say goodnight to James, who is sitting on the couch with their daughter and clearly not ready to leave yet. Donna’s father reminds her that they have church the next morning at 9am sharp before wishing them both a good night. The subtext of their exchange is perfect.
Next the show heads over to Bobby and Mike, who have a knife and are heading into the woods in the middle of the night. Are they going to Donna’s house to kill James Hurley? No, they are getting a new shipment of cocaine from their distributer Leo Johnson. They are $10,000 short on their payment because Laura had that money in her safety deposit box which was seized by law enforcement. There is lots of tension in those dark woods. Leo explains that he knows his wife is cheating on him, and Bobby tries to console him while finding out if Leo knows who Shelly is cheating on him with (because Shelly is in fact cheating on Leo with Bobby, and Leo is holding a shotgun). There are lots of scary flashlight shots in this scene; the tone is effectively unsettling.
Next is a scene with Nadine and Ed Hurley. Ed is a mechanic and is trying to wash his hands which are covered in grease when he trips over a collection of drape runners and cotton balls that his wife had laid out in the middle of the floor. This side story has been developing since the pilot and boils down to Nadine being a bit crazy and trying to invent a completely silent drape runner. The Ed/Nadine storyline doesn’t really have anything to do with the murder of Laura Palmer (unless it gets revealed later that Nadine killed Laura in the hopes that her death would lead to the invention of a completely silent drape runner…which is just as likely as some of the other possible scenarios presented in the show).
Twin Peaks is not just one story: it is lots and lots of stories woven together and explored a strand at a time. Certain characters may have only three minutes of screen time in the course of an episode, but there is a consistency in the writing that is maintained just as strongly as the variety of characters through the course of the series. In a 1997 Rolling Stone interview, David Lynch described the murder of Laura Palmer as the sun of a solar system. It is the main source of light and gravity in the system, but there are other planets, moons, comets and asteroids involved that operate within the sphere of that sun’s influence, and a sun without planets is not a solar system.
What still sets the show apart from others is the invitation it extends for viewers to settle in to their world and get comfortable. What works in Twin Peaks wouldn’t necessarily work in any other film or series under the helm of any other creative team. Part of the magic is in how it combines the subtle moments of facial expressions (like the look on the new girl at One Eyed Jacks when approached by Ben Horne) with soap opera melodrama and signature Lynch depictions of visions and dreams. Twin Peaks both screams and whispers to viewers, challenging us to absorb as much as we can the first time we watch, and almost guaranteeing that we will see even more if we watch a second time. This aspect of the show is why it was such a cult phenomenon, and why there are few (if any) casual fans of Twin Peaks.
The second half of the episode dives into the strange methods of Agent Cooper in solving the mystery. At first he gathers the whole police department with him outside to explain the plight of the Tibetan people, and then demonstrates a Zen method he devised through a dream of throwing rocks at a glass bottle. He assigns a suspect with “J” in their name to each rock, and assures the team that the one that smashes the bottle is the “J” name that Laura discussed in her final diary entry (“Nervous about meeting J tonight”).
This is followed by several other snapshot scenes, one of which introduces a new FBI analyst character named Albert. But the last scene is one of the most memorable from the entire series: Agent Cooper’s dream. This introduces Mike (a one-armed man) and Bob (the killer), followed by a noticeably older Dale Cooper sitting in a red room with Laura Palmer and a short man (who both speak backwards). Laura Palmer whispers the name of the killer to Agent Cooper, and the short man starts dancing right before Agent Cooper wakes up. The episode ends with Cooper calling Sheriff Truman to let him know that he has discovered the killer’s identity. The dream takes place 25 years in the future, which fits nicely with the series revival timeline.
Bottom Line: This episode ends up challenging viewers in ways that few other shows ever have. By constantly skipping between stories, and ramping up the weird factor considerably, it becomes impossible for casual viewers to tolerate, while sinking the hook into fans who are still on board.
Recommendation: The dream sequence at the end of this episode alone is reason enough to watch.[rating=5.0]
Kevin Mooseles knows (but won’t tell yet) who killed Laura Palmer. He enjoys a damn fine cup of coffee, and has been craving doughnuts every day since he started watching Twin Peaks.