Re-watching Twin Peaks from my least favorite to favorite episode...
Previously: Episode 2 (http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=44279#p44279
In response to my previous write-up, commentator David Locke wrote "Just as Episode 14 was Lynch's summation of Season 2 ... [episode] 2 is his summation of the more lighthearted Season 1." Watching the two episodes back to back really highlights this point. What 2 captures perfectly is the first season's sense of excitement and wonder, with characters intersecting to form a tapestry larger than themselves. Episode 14, like the second season it belongs to, is colored more by sadness and separation. If season one was characterized by a vibrant, explosive sense of possibility then season two is defined by limits. The townspeople are all separated from one another, isolated in little pockets of the narrative that no longer seem connected to a bigger picture. And 14 takes this process of removal even further: Harold Smith kills himself, Maddy tells the Palmers she's going home (to, not accidentally, Lynch's birthplace of Missoula, Montana), and Shelly quits her job with an unexpectedly poignant farewell. I have always wondered why this little moment is so moving, why it feels like such a palate cleanser and preparatory note for the violent reveal to come. Tonight, I realized one of the reasons: as Shelly hesitantly and apologetically tells Norma she can't work at the RR anymore, Norma is completely accepting. She has often behaved like a mother figure to her employee and in this situation she acts lovingly and supportively, letting Shelly go and assuring her that she can come back whenever she wants. This is the exact opposite of the situation with Maddy and Leland. Oh sure, he mouths the same words to his niece, but his polished delivery conceals the tremor of anxiety coursing through the living room and motivating the ominous camera movement. In the work of David Lynch, words can be deceiving but images seldom lie...we just have to open ourselves up to whatever reality they are conveying. When Leland sees Bob in the mirror, does this mean that Leland is Bob? That the lovable, eccentric small-town lawyer, loving husband and father, is actually inhabited by a demon from the woods? Or does it mean that Bob is Leland, that the specter of darkness flitting along the town's periphery is in fact a tumor growing within the Palmer home, that deep down inside Laura's grief-stricken dad is rage, jealousy and maniacal pleasure in the power that killed her and now her cousin. This is truly a reveal that poses as many questions as it answers, particularly given Mary Sweeney's masterful cutting of the sequence - dissolving between Bob, drowned in terrifying oversaturation, and Leland, conveyed in sickeningly naturalistic photography. This is the only episode of Twin Peaks that Sweeney edited, and she has attributed her and Lynch's deep bond to the experience of cutting between the horror of the Palmer living room and the deep sadness of the Road House (Sweeney went on to edit and produce most of Lynch’s subsequent films, giving birth to his son and living with him for 15 years - the director’s longest romantic relationship). This is also the last episode that Mark Frost would write solo for Twin Peaks (he collaborated on three more scripts). Compared to the more colorful Harley Peyton, Frost's teleplays tend to have a certain plainspoken efficiency to them. Like the pilot, episode 14 carefully weaves together several plot strands while complementing the main action with side stories that feel thematically linked. And in a way, despite his increasingly avant-garde flourishes (there's nothing like the ball-bouncing sailors or Sarah's vision of the horse in the pilot), Lynch's direction is also very matter-of-fact. Shelly's and Bobby's situation no longer seems cartoonish and soap-operatic, playing instead like a slice-of-life. Bills pile up as their exhausted demeanor betrays how far they are in over their heads. The Mike-possessed Phillip Gerard, commanding the camera magnificently at the end of ep. 13, now seems slightly disheveled, more like a street-corner prophet. He might be mad, he might be brilliant, he might be both - but you can't quite tell just by looking at or listening to him. Meanwhile, the real Nadine can be glimpsed beneath her adolescent delusions, as flimsy a cover as her eyepatch, desperate self-deception played for pathos as much as comedy. Like all the other delusions and attempts at escape, this can’t end well, and the violent sexual explosion of that red cherry foreshadows Maddy's own bloody demise at the episode's end. Despite its reputation for fantastical exaggeration, Twin Peaks has always had a streak of uber-realism as well. When it premiered the critics spilled as much ink on the dead air, subtle gestures and casually naturalistic decor as they did counting Lynch's visual quirks. The depiction of Maddy's murder may be the logical culmination of this duality. Several viewers have observed that 14 (which takes us to the exact midpoint of the series) feels like it should be the end of Twin Peaks. Tony Dayoub writes, "Had the show ended with this episode, especially with the end credits roll over Cooper's face half-dissolved into the red curtains, it would have been almost a perfect TV series. The end is so poignant because of the previously superheroic Coop's utter failure to catch the right guy." And on the Log Ladies podcast, the hosts (who are both watching the series for the first time), remark to one another, "This feels so much like a series finale." The reason isn't simply that the question posed by the pilot has been answered. It's that the scene at the Road House essentially sums up the core experience of the show: an overwhelmed sense of the darkness existing in this world, an inability to accurately locate and overcome this darkness, and a cocoon safe enough to keep most of its inhabitants unharmed but thin enough for them to hear, as the Log Lady says, "the night wind ... the magic rustling that brings on the dark dream. The dream of suffering and pain." This is what Laura whispered to Cooper in the episode I discussed last night, and if he was smiling then, he isn't smiling now. He will
, however, be smiling at the end of the next and final episode of this rewatch: a sinister smile because he has come to know the darkness all too well.
Next: Episode 29 http://www.dugpa.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=44355#p44355