John Bruni reviews TWIN PEAKS: season 1, episodes 2-5

Twin PeaksEpisode 1: “Traces to Nowhere”
Originally broadcast April 12, 1990
Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by Duwayne Dunham

Episode 2: “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer”
Originally broadcast April 19, 1990
Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch

Episode 3: “Rest in Pain”
Originally broadcast April 26, 1990
Written by Harley Peyton
Directed by Tina Rathbone

Episode 4: “The One-Armed Man”
Originally broadcast May 3, 1990
Written by Robert Engels
Directed by Tim Hunter

My rating: ★★★
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There was a fish in the percolator.

We start out with Special Agent Dale Cooper hanging upside down in his room at the Great Northern, talking into his recorder to Diane about fucking NOTHING. The thing that really has his attention this morning? “What really went on between Marilyn and the Kennedys, and who really pulled the trigger on JFK?” This is one of the true moments of genius on this show: taking important time out of the story for a completely throwaway moment. Sure, it can be construed as character development, but we already know how fucked up Cooper is. What’s genius about this? Well, it’s one of the earliest moments in TWIN PEAKS history where it becomes apparent that the writers are fucking with their viewers, that’s why. If you get pissed off, they got you, buddy. Sorry, but we think you’re funny.

Audrey Horne starts her seduction of Cooper, not just because she wants his secrets (like she does with everyone else), but it would seem that she views him as her ticket out of Twin Peaks.

We discover that in the 12 hours before Laura Palmer’s death, she had sex with at least three different men. Meanwhile, Shelly finds blood on Leo’s shirt and wonders if maybe he might have done the deed.

James is the prime suspect for killing Laura because he was her secret boyfriend, and he saw her the night she was killed. He swears he never did cocaine with her, and actually tried to get her to quit doing drugs. She was clearly afraid of someone, but no one knows who.

Funny thing: Bobby also saw her the night she died.

Ben Horne and Catherine Martell decide to burn down Josie’s mill, preferably with her in it. Hey, it’s just business, and Josie’s not from around here, anyway.

Dr. Jacoby listens to his private tapes of Laura, and it’s very intimate stuff. He apparently has the other half of Laura’s love necklace. It also seems that he gets pleasure from listening to her most private thoughts, like maybe he’s the type to jerk off while listening to other people have sex.

Ben’s life-loving, crazy brother Jer has come back from distant lands with a bag full of sandwiches, and in a pure Lynchian moment, all action grinds to a halt so that everyone can enjoy these culinary masterpieces. Here’s another stroke of genius this show will continue to employ: when there should be action, there will be inaction.

Bobby owes Leo drug money, but he can’t pay it because Laura took it from him and put it in a safety deposit box. Leo starts suspecting that Bobby is fucking Shelly.

Cooper unveils his most unusual investigative tactic yet: he starts chucking rocks at a bottle while Lucy reads off a list of the suspects. Leo is the name she reads when Cooper breaks the bottle, so Leo is now the prime suspect. The locals find his methods unusual, but they decide to go with it, maybe because Cooper’s a city boy, or maybe because he’s such a nice, earnest guy.

Cooper’s FBI friend, Albert (played with perfect assholishness by Miguel Ferrer), shows up to do a real autopsy on Laura before she’s buried. He’s intent on doing everything the right way, and he does not tolerate what he thinks of as small town amateur hour. He is the anti-Cooper, who can’t wait until he can get back to civilization.

Leland Palmer starts freaking out uncontrollably when he hears music being played. He dances with himself as he moans and weeps. Ray Wise is possibly the creepiest actor since Klaus Kinski.

And finally . . . finally! We get to some of the strangeness that made this show’s reputation. Cooper dreams of being in a room surrounded by red drapes, where he is much older, and a dwarf dances and shakes. He sees Laura Palmer there, and she whispers a secret to him, but he doesn’t remember what it is. He sees visions of a one-armed man named Mike and his opposite, a killer named Bob. This leads him to believe that he knows who killed Laura Palmer, provided he can decipher the dream and who Bob is in the real world. You should see the look on Harry’s face when Cooper tells him this. Michael Ontkean is perfect when he shows how Harry wants to believe in Cooper, but he knows exactly how crazy he can be. Yet he’s always too polite to ever express his doubt.

Albert battles with Dr. Hayward over Laura’s corpse. He still needs to finish the autopsy, but it’s time for the funeral. Harry punches his lights out, and Albert falls on the corpse.

Laura helped Josie with her English. She also helped Johnny Horne with his mental problems. Johnny takes off his headdress in order to go to her funeral, where Bobby explodes and claims that everyone in town killed Laura Palmer because she was in trouble, and “all these good people did nothing.” Bobby and James face off. Leland jumps on the coffin as it lowers into the ground. After the funeral, Leland begs just about everyone in town to dance with him as he weeps.

Cooper learns Big Ed is fucking Norma on the side. Harry and Hawk tell Cooper that there are drugs being run into Twin Peaks through One Eyed Jack’s on the border, masterminded by the bartender, Jacques Renault. Big Ed has been working undercover for them. Not for the police, though; for the Bookhouse Boys. It turns out that there has always been an evil out in these woods, since before people made it out here, and there is a secret society that fights it. Harry, Hawk, Big Ed and James are all members. Ah yes. More of that beloved strangeness. Nothing solidly supernatural, but this show has a slow build when it comes to that.

Sarah Palmer has seen a vision of Bob, and Deputy Andy does a sketch of him. Later, Cooper recognizes him from his dream, just as he knew he would. (He didn’t want to go along for the sketch because he considers himself a “strong sender” and didn’t want to influence Sarah.)

Albert’s gone, but Cooper’s supervisor, Gordon Cole, calls and says that Albert wants Harry’s badge for that punch. Cooper defends Harry to the best of his ability.

They find the one-armed man, who looks like Mike from Cooper’s dream. However, he claims his name is Philip Gerard. He doesn’t offer much information. In fact, he seems unrelated to the story. In the dream, he claimed to have cut his own arm off to avoid Bob’s evil, but now he says that he lost it in a car accident. He’s a door-to-door shoe salesman. While at his hotel room, Hawk notices Josie spying on Ben Horne and Catherine Martell.

Norma’s husband Hank is released from prison on parole. He doesn’t know what she’s been doing with Big Ed and thinks he’s going to win his wife back.

Maddy, Laura Palmer’s lookalike cousin (both are played by Sheryl Lee), arrives in Twin Peaks.

Bobby stashes Leo’s bloody shirt at Jacques’s place, where Cooper finds it. Leo kills his partner, Bernard Renault. Ben Horne hires Leo to burn down Josie’s mill. Hank has a double-3 domino, and Josie receives an illustration of it, suggesting that the two of them are connected.

Wow. For all the inaction of the pilot episode, there is a lot happening in the following episodes. Things keep getting complicated, and we keep learning more about Laura Palmer, showing that she was a lot stranger than most people would have taken her for, that her secret life might have been one as a total stranger. The mystery continues, but it seems like Cooper should be thinking more about who Laura Palmer was and why she died, rather than who killed her.

And for all the weirdness of his dream, it’s barely edging into horror territory. The only true connection we have is the mystery of Bob. Why is he appearing to Sarah Palmer? Why is he in Cooper’s dream? Is he the evil in the woods that Harry mentioned? Yes, here is a really interesting mystery, something much more attractive than a simple murder tale. Who is Mike/Gerard, really? Did he lie? Because he seems to be Bob’s opposing force.

Here is where the complexity of the story and the quirkiness of the characters come together to find their perfect tread. All the clunkiness of the pilot smooths out and becomes a bit more streamlined. It’s more of a story than a mishmash of lunacy. It truly sets the stage for what comes next as the mystery thickens and the evil comes out to play. Stay tuned for more.

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About John Bruni

John Bruni is the author of DONG OF FRANKENSTEIN (New Kink), POOR BASTARDS AND RICH FUCKS and TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE (StrangeHouse) and STRIP (Riot Forge). His short work has appeared in anthologies like A HACKED-UP HOLIDAY MASSACRE (Pill Hill), ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! BRAIN BANG! (StrangeHouse) and the critically acclaimed VILE THINGS (Comet). He edited STRANGE SEX 3 for StrangeHouse, and he was the editor and publisher of TABARD INN: TALES OF QUESTIONABLE TASTE. Find out more at www.talesofquestionabletaste.com and www.talesofunspeakabletaste.blogspot.com.
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