Re-watching Twin Peaks from my least favorite to favorite episode...
Previously: Episode 9 (http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=44273#p44273
It is no exaggeration to say that this is THE
episode of Twin Peaks. Episode 2 is iconic with a capital "I". The Red Room. The Hornes talking with their mouths full. The introduction of One-Eyed Jack's. Coop throwing rocks at bottles. Audrey dancing alone in the diner! Albert's grand entrance. The drug deal in the woods, lit only by flashlight. Leland dancing with, smashing, and rubbing blood all over Laura’s portrait (the first time we've seen him act crazy and, I like to imagine, possibly the moment when Lynch and Frost realized they had their killer). Nadine's silent drape runners. Coop toots the whistle. Pete's intonation of "I didn't want to get mink oil on my
bedspread!” And did I mention the Red Room? In a way, it's easy to take this episode for granted. When I sorted out my rankings, I wondered if maybe I should bump up the distinguished pilot or eerie episode 9 but I'm so glad that I didn't. Episode 2 is just perfect. The only conceivable false note, for some, might be the James-Donna sequence but, me being me, I like that too. This teen couple might not be up to the standard of Jeffrey-Sandy in Blue Velvet but they serve a similar purpose. Their aw-shucks naivete offsets the more corrupt elements in the narrative (their doe-eyed sofa make-out session is brilliantly juxtaposed with Ben and Jerry leering at the new girl in their woodland whorehouse). And Lynch shoots it all so well, with that awkward wide-lensed "goodnight" at the start - it seems like Doc Hayward is waiting for James to take the hint and leave, but the dopey suitor never does. This is followed by the close-ups isolated in black, presenting the nighttime as warmth and comfort in this little corner of Twin Peaks’ dark world. Yup, everything is on point in 2 and the Lynch/Frost collaboration is firing on all cylinders. The wacky Tibet speech/"J" test were supposedly penned by Frost himself, and Lynch and the cast are clearly having a ball bringing it to life. My favorite non-dream sequence, however, wasn't in the script at all. Audrey and Donna's tense, teasing repartee at the counter, followed by Audrey's jazzy sway, is too cool for words. And then there’s that dream sequence. For some reason whenever I write about episode 2 (something I've done several times by now) I build up to this scene and then brush over it. Perhaps it doesn't feel right to talk about the magic? Well, let's take a moment to talk about the magic. The Red Room immediately carves out a space where anything is possible. The scenario is pretty simple compared to what comes (much) later but in context this is a staggeringly bold swerve - introducing a character who seems to have arrived from another universe entirely, bringing the dead girl back to life (or is it her cousin?), and creating "another place" that somehow complements but exists outside of Twin Peaks. The Red Room is the perfect way to expand upon the microcosm of the small town without losing its sense of contained definition. When I first heard about Twin Peaks, I think the only thing I knew was "there is a dwarf who talks backwards." I pictured a bearded gnome in a cave in the forest, delivering mysterious and medieval-sounding messages in code. Well, not quite, and when I finally saw this scene I knew I was going to love
Twin Peaks and also that I would have absolutely no idea what to expect from it, which only made me love it more. As most people reading this will know, the scene was originally an alternate ending to the pilot, but it works so much better in episode 2's context. Not only because Lynch slices and dices the lengthy hospital sequence into a lean, efficient mindfucking machine but because - rather perversely - the strangeness of the Red Room somehow seems stranger when it isn't
just dropped in out of nowhere like a goof-off non sequitur. That said, one advantage to seeing it as the end of the pilot is realizing how perfectly it serves as a zany parody of the whole mystery genre: questions posed, clues offered, a victim whose secret is revealed to the detective. But the premise - and the execution - of this “sleuthing” is so absurd that these tried-and-true conventions dissolve into pure surrealism. Had the show never gone forward, had the pilot ended on this note, this would have been the perfect Lynchian mockery of what we expect from a murder mystery but can never quite get in real life. Reconfigured into the existing series as a dream, the Red Room becomes something more concrete, something that can be analyzed and broken down and eventually made sensible. But it's also still pregnant with that original intention, to defy and skewer rational inquiry. The next two episodes on the list toy with the limits and rewards of that approach. One will take Lynch to a place where answers are a necessity, bringing out his best work to date by forcing him to confront the ugly reality of the beautifully-kept secret. The other will allow Lynch to combine that
grave knowledge with this
respect for the irrational, crafting a synthesis that will serve him for the rest of his career. Unlike every other Lynch episode of Twin Peaks, 2 feels more joyful than melancholy, more celebratory than mournful. It's an absolute classic, the quintessence of the show's appeal, and yet when looking at Lynch's work as a whole, or even just his work on the show, this is very much the outlier rather than the archetype.
Next: Episode 14 (http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=44338#p44338