For as long as I’ve been watching things, Twin Peaks has somehow always managed to stay under the radar for me. I’d heard it was about the murder of a young teenager on the northwest coast, and that it turned to complete shit in its second season, but that was pretty much it. Who killed Laura Palmer? I have no idea (well, maybe SOME idea – I’ll get to that later). What is the rest of the show about? Not sure, maybe kids smoking pot in some rainy woods?
Before I get too much more into Twin Peaks, I just want to put out there that I don’t have a super strong opinion on David Lynch either way. I think the only movie of his I’ve watched is Mulholland Drive, which I was fascinated and utterly confused by. After watching it, I dove into a very deep tunnel of internet speculation, theories, and clue-connecting that eventually led me to a realization of what the movie was ACTUALLY about (that’s a subject for another post). What I discovered was heartbreaking and I’ve never been able to watch that movie again. I bring this up because the only impression I had of Lynch before sitting down to watch this series is that he apparently enjoys presenting a facade or veneer over everything, and only hinting at some underlying menace and trauma.
Back to Twin Peaks: a few weeks ago, when the third season premiere was imminent, my wife casually dropped that we’d be watching it since the show had been one of her favorites in college. She was shocked that I hadn’t watched it, and I was shocked that she hadn’t told me about it, especially given her proclivity for telling me every detail about her coworkers’ stupidity and dating mishaps. I was “offered” a goal: watch everything from the first two seasons, including the movie Fire Walk With Me, and she’d wait for me so we could watch season 3 together. I have until episode 6 drops (June 11). So what’s a good husband to do? Binge, of course.
I attempted to watch the premiere twice and wasn’t able to make it past the first 15 minutes or so. I was REALLY annoyed by the cheesy, over the top acting (especially the constant screeching wail of Sarah Palmer, Laura’s mother).
I also felt that the score was borderline garbage, threatening to lull me to sleep each time it came on (which was most of the time). At one point, however, I became firm with myself and said, “Okay, you bastard, you need to at least watch the entire premiere before deciding to force your wife to watch it alone.” So I did it. And as soon as I was introduced to a certain FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, more than 30 minutes into the episode, I was hooked.
I gradually felt myself acclimating to the “Lynchian” world being built; the way things appeared to be “normal”, with thick veins of violence running under the surface of everything. I especially liked how scenes would amble along very slowly and calmly, and then a terrifying shot would strike, loud and sudden, making me jump out of my skin. A great example of this is Laura Palmer’s mother, lying back on her couch lazily sedated at the end of the pilot, and then she suddenly sits up, screaming at the vision of someone picking up that rock and taking Laura’s necklace.
It was so jarring! I remember later that night, I had to turn around in bed so I wouldn’t have to look at the crack of the bedroom door left ajar, offering me a peek into the dark hallway beyond and whatever wanted to hide in the shadows there. I felt like a kid again. Incredible.
After watching the premiere, I started shamefully binging as much as I could, to the detriment of my dogs’ walking needs and some actual work that needed to be done for my employer. I even turned down the invitation to go kayaking in Colorado with some friends! For a tv show that hasn’t aired in more than 25 years! Kayaking!
Anyway, I’ve watched through the first third or so of season 2 and here are some random thoughts and musings:
- Watching this show reminded me of a very strange experience my wife and I had some years ago. Without going into a lengthy rant, let’s just say that we discovered that a very good friend of ours secretly filmed a bunch of our female-friends with a hidden camera and also photoshopped their faces onto hundreds of pornographic pictures. It was extremely disturbing and shocking to us, especially since there had been literally NOTHING to indicate this guy was that much of a pervert and creep. Sometimes I had even been impressed with how he wouldn’t look at passing women in short skirts or shorts, even when his wife wasn’t there. It just went to show you that you may never really know who someone is. A few days ago I reminded my wife about that incident and how the show seemed to agree with the sentiment. After making disgusted expressions and sounds, she said, “Yep, that sick asshole is totally a Lynchian character.” I rubbed my chin, squinted my eyes, and murmured, “Hmm, yes. . .” The whole “Lynchian” vibe has been pretty strong throughout my viewing so far.
- Miguel Ferrer is amazing as FBI agent Albert Rosenfeld. Virtually all of his lines, dripping with sarcasm, made me laugh out loud. It was an excellent combination of being an audience surrogate and just plain asshole.
- There are so many weird moments on this show: Cooper tweaking Sheriff Truman’s nose after describing what a dick Rosenfeld is. The way Shelly and Bobby ruffle each other’s hair in the hospital room (that one was really sweet), the way the Horne brothers practically have an orgasm over those sandwiches. Eesh.
- Cooper’s dream at the end of episode 3: Holy shit. I have so many thoughts about this.
- Why do they speak as if their voices are being played back in reverse, but not really? And going back to my initial “Lynchian” point of things not being what they seem, does the red room represent hell? The little man shivering in the corner before he begins to talk creeped me the hell out, but I still don’t have a clue of what that was about. And if the red room is hell, and Laura is there, is it because she corrupted others and took pleasure in it, so she’s a “bad” person? And given Cooper’s old age in the scene, is this where he ends up after he dies? But why would he end up there, given what a good person he is? Or does the red room represent Laura’s own personal “hell” she was in while alive, thanks to whatever corrupted her in the first place? And Cooper is there because his own failure to ever find the killer’s identity becomes his personal hell throughout the rest of his life, only to finally have the name whispered to him at the end but still not comprehending? Or is the red room something entirely different?
- This show has SO MANY damn plot points that there were bound to be some that I was completely bored by or totally hated. Among them is the whole stupid Book House Boys club. If this had been 4 or 5 kids, like in Stranger Things or IT, okay, now you’re talking. But grown men whose membership will have real world implications? Like James being one of them but at the same time a murder suspect? How does that conflict of interests affect the way he’s viewed? And what’s with their code of fighting some evil presence in the woods? I really hope this show doesn’t go off into some mystical shit that winds up with a deux ex machina ending where ghosts come in and fix everything. And WHY THE HELL WAS THE MILL PLOT EVER A PART OF THIS DAMN SHOW? I feel I
shouldcould have fast forwarded through everything having to do with the stupid mill: Josie, that old bitch who wants to burn it down, and all the double- and triple-crossing going on. At this point, I don’t know whose side anyone is on, but I really couldn’t give a flying shit about it. And WHO THE HELL CARES ABOUT THE MEALS ON WHEELS THING AND THE CREEPY DISABLED TEENAGER WHO LIKES TO HEAR STORIES FROM THE MEALS ON WHEELS DELIVERY GIRLS!!! Enough already!
- Lucy is amazing. That is all.
- Just what is Donna playing at? She was Laura’s best friend but doesn’t really seem that crushed by her loss. She decides to try and find out who killed Laura, but at the same time is sucking face with Laura’s boyfriend and acting like a little girl who found her mother’s lipstick when she walks around wearing Laura’s sunglasses with a cigarette in her mouth. The whole detective thing between her and James seems very childish. And in the fifth episode of season 1, when Audrey enlists her help in finding out who killed Laura and leaves Donna in the high school bathroom by herself, Donna smirks as she turns on the faucet. Why? What is her end game? Does she already know who killed her friend and is just hiding the fact from everyone, pretending to want to find out the solution to the mystery? That would explain the whole childish-pranks method of tricking Dr. Jacoby with a fake Laura and rummaging through his Hawaiian kitsch shit.
- Speaking of Audrey, holy hell is she wonderful. I think she’s my favorite character besides Cooper. Unlike anyone else, she seems to be who she projects herself to be. There’s not much hidden with her. She takes a mature and logical (although dangerous) approach to finding Laura’s killer. She obviously suspects her father, which automatically makes him the least likely culprit, but she goes about it in a way that makes sense. Getting the same job and position that Laura had, going to the same whore house Laura worked at, and not forgetting to leave a note for Cooper in case she gets in over her head. Her tearful breakdown at watching Leland flail around on the dance floor while everyone else either laughed or danced with him to cover up his insanity was fantastic. She has a lot of depth.
- I had to throw up my hands at the first season finale when Cooper gets shot at his hotel room door. I know this show has this faux soap opera feel to it, but really? Add that to the list as Plot Point #1,873.
- Who is Diane, and how is Cooper getting these tapes to her? She is obviously receiving them, since he mentions getting the ear plugs he requested from her on an earlier tape. Is he just FedExing these to her? Why not just call her?
- The second season’s premiere opened immediately after Cooper’s shooting. I really loved the whole wood-tick-on-the-end-of-a-bullet gag, but that old room service waiter: just what the fuck? Like the first season’s premiere, I could barely stomach the first few minutes. Make that the first 10 minutes of this dumb bastard shuffling in and out of the hotel room, seemingly oblivious to Cooper’s impending death in a puddle of blood, only to offer a thumbs-up and a smiling wink. Come on already! What the hell is this supposed to be satirizing, the practice of hiring old people out of a sense of responsibility and guilt despite their total uselessness in the service industry? The indifference of the older generation when it comes to the problems of younger people? Whatever it was, it went on for 5 minutes too long. Although (argh!) I have to admit that I’d probably love watching this sequence again with someone who’s never seen it. Ha ha!
- The character of Bobby irritated the hell out of me in the first episode or two, but then grew on me with a vengeance, much like the show’s musical score. His scene with his father, Major Briggs, in the diner during the second season premiere was stellar. As his father describes to him his vision of Bobby’s future, the look on the kid’s face tells you he’s mocking his dad’s sentimentality, that he’s just about to break out into hysterical laughter, spitting all over his dad’s face, driving him to slink away in shame. Only his rapt face bursts into tears, not laughter. Which made my own eyes leak a little bit. Just heartbreaking. I love this character.
- The way Lynch managed to splice together both ridiculing laughter and emotional discovery is amazing. Take, as an example, when Big Ed is in the hospital hallway telling Cooper how he drunkenly married Nadine in a moment of insanity (it was sort of a revenge move against Norma, his real love), planned to admit to her that he’d been wrong and wanted a divorce or annulment but changed his mind when he saw how happy she was to be with him, and then how he managed to shoot out her eye with stray buckshot on their honeymoon. The account is so preposterous and fits perfectly with a typical country song about how the-hick-messed-up-his-life, that Albert Rosenfeld, the urban outsider, can barely restrain himself from bursting out into hysterical laughter. His reaction was the same as mine. And yet, if you give yourself about a minute to think about it, the story totally explains why Nadine was so nuts about inventing those silent drapes: she knows Ed didn’t want to marry her but was too good a man to go back on his word. How would that make a woman feel? Would it drive her to try and make it up to him, perhaps by inventing something that would make them filthy rich? And it makes sense why Ed can’t find it in himself to leave her despite his affair with the love of his life, Norma. Masterful storytelling, even if it’s presented in a self-aware soap opera parody style.
- I really like Shelly. She is such a sweet, sympathetic character. I know most of that is deliberate manipulation; who wouldn’t root for a young housewife who’s mercilessly beaten by her psycho husband with a bar of soap in a sock? But her trembling bravery when she shoots Leo and is then tormented by guilt, the way she lets herself be pressured by Bobby into keeping Leo at home for the insurance money – it’s great. I especially loved the whole underneath-the-surface view of her we get when we see her laughing as she recounts the way Leland jumped on top of Laura’s casket and caused the lowering mechanism to malfunction. She is such a sweet girl and yet delights in poking fun at someone’s unimaginable grief.
- Agent Cooper, obviously, is the shining beacon of the show. Remember, I couldn’t get through the premiere episode until his appearance. I loved the scene where he threw rocks at a bottle to determine which person he should investigate. Is this making fun of the notion of instinct or intuition in cop shows? Again, we see the shiny veneer argument at play. Superficially, Dale Cooper is a genius, a borderline Sherlockian detective. But if only people knew his methods! How would you feel if your friend or family member was under intense scrutiny from the FBI in a murder investigation because someone called out his name and threw a rock that happened to smash a bottle?
- Okay, what is it with the birds? I get it that the owls probably are leading to something major, given how they are repeatedly shown on screen and the giant said something about how they’re not what they seem (just like everybody else in Twin Peaks). And that damn myna bird, repeating what it heard on the night of Laura’s murder, in that high pitched voice – I almost pissed myself hearing that. Talk about creeeeepy!!!
- And what’s with the constant cuts to a yellow light turning red? Is this just some batshit crazy art stuff, or is it leading to something?
- The end of the second season premiere, when we get the coma girl’s flashback to Laura’s murder – I just can’t. Look at this!
That’s the face of a woman who is getting beaten to death. And the sounds, fuck, the sounds! That scream, that totally animalistic and RAW scream, as she dies! Look, I’m not someone that is usually scared by horror stuff. When I finished watching The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity, and The Blair Witch Project, I just went, “That’s it?” But this shit, I just couldn’t handle it. I honestly had nightmares all night after watching this scene. I’d close my eyes and see that image burned into my corneas. I was afraid to walk in the dark from my bed to the kitchen to get something to drink at 2 in the morning and just went “fuck it, I’ll die of thirst instead”. This was horrifying.
- My thoughts on Bob, the killer: I think there’s way more to this than what we’re presented with. He’s older and has long gray hair. He’s obviously a psychopath. Unlike the one-armed man, nobody has seen him except for in visions, with one exception. And that exception is Leland Palmer, Laura’s father. After seeing the police sketch of the man’s face from Sarah Palmer’s vision, Leland claims the same man lived in the house next to him as a kid and that he’d flick matches at him, saying “You want to play with fire, little boy?”. And Leland, the only person to supposedly know this man on sight, says this as he flicks a burning match. And this quote of his, it reminded me of some story told by someone, Bobby I think, about how Laura said this or quoted this from someone. So we have Leland and Laura quoting the same thing. Does this mean that the Palmer family’s propensity for psychic ability goes beyond Sarah Palmer and Madeleine, the Laura-lookalike cousin? Maybe, but Leland hasn’t been shown to have visions up to this point. Do the facts that Bob’s hair is gray and Leland’s hair turned gray overnight have anything to do with each other?
Part of me thinks Bob is a symbol for Leland, or perhaps someone else that I haven’t yet thought of.
EDIT: I ran this by my wife and she just smirked and reminded me that the one-armed man also knows Bob on sight, so Bob has to be a real person. Consider that a solid wrench in my theory. I’m totally at a loss about the central mystery of Laura’s death. I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be someone that nobody in town knows. This show is all about how people aren’t what they appear to be. I hardly think introducing a very seldom-seen and unknown killer would work. Then again, maybe that’s exactly it, and that’s why everyone thinks season 2 is a shit show. I guess I’ll see.
All in all, I’m really digging this show and I’ll continue with it through the end of season 2, Fire Walk With Me, and into the current 2017 return-season. My wife has suggested I also read a book called “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer”, which was released between season 1 and season 2. But fuck that. A guy has to draw the line somewhere, and I’ve decided my line is drawn at having to read a probably-soapy-and-trashy YA diary.
Like I said, I’ve been told that season 2 takes a nosedive, but so far it’s still maintaining a high standard of storytelling and creepy vibes. I guess I’ll know the pointless-shit phase when I see it.
Right now, all I know is that I need me some more Twin Peaks, a myna bird, and a donut. Just not together.