John Bruni reviews TWIN PEAKS: season 2, episodes 12-15

Twin PeaksEpisode 19: “The Black Widow”
Originally broadcast January 12, 1991
Written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels
Directed by Caleb Deschanel

Episode 20: “Checkmate”
Originally broadcast January 19, 1991
Written by Harley Peyton
Directed by Todd Holland

Episode 21: “Double Play”
Originally broadcast February 2, 1991
Written by Scott Frost
Directed by Uli Edel

Episode 22: “Slaves and Masters”
Originally broadcast February 9, 1991
Written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels
Directed by Diane Keaton (yes, THAT Diane Keaton)

My rating: ★★★
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I’ll be in the shadows if you need me.

Balance has become all important to Ben Horne. His office has been reorganized in an incredibly weird way, with furniture stacked up on his desk. He hires Bobby to keep an eye on Jean.

Nadine makes the wrestling team. She trounces Bobby’s friend, Mike Nelson, mercilessly in front of the entire team.

James meets Evelyn’s brother Malcolm, who tells him that her husband beats her.

Cooper has taken to dressing in flannel, and he is looking for a home to buy in Twin Peaks. The realtor shows him a fixer-upper that happens to have traces of cocaine in it.

The Air Force investigates Maj. Briggs’s disappearance. They ask Cooper if he noticed any wildlife in the area when the major vanished, thinking mostly of birds. Owls? Cooper is notified that the message the major told him about actually did NOT come from space. It came from the woods, directed TO space. To where in particular? Who knows?

Ben suddenly becomes obsessed with the Civil War. His office becomes a model battleground, and he starts wearing a Confederate uniform. Bobby gives him pictures of Jean and Ernie at Cooper’s fixer-upper.

Cooper responds to Windom Earle’s latest chess move by taking an ad out in the local paper.

Audrey steals Bobby’s pictures and brings them to Cooper. Delighted, he now knows how he can save his reputation.

Hank starts to suspect something is going on between Norma and Big Ed.

Denise puts the squeeze on Ernie, using Bobby’s photos. He confesses, which more or less translates to throwing Jean under the bus.

Maj. Briggs materializes in his own home, dressed mysteriously as a World War I flying ace.

The next day, the major goes to Harry to be questioned about his own disappearance. Maj. Briggs daydreams about stars, a voice whispering Cooper’s name, intense flames and the image of himself sitting in a very fecund garden throne as he is questioned. This is oddly one of the more beautiful images from this series. The set is just marvelous, and to place such an unromantic character in the middle of it is just astonishing. Anyway, he starts thinking that the U.S. might not be pure in its search for the White Lodge, but he is taken away by the Air Force before he can be questioned further.

Ernie agrees to work with Denise against Jean.

Big Ed and Norma start sleeping with each other again.

Bobby, drunk with power, decides to abandon Shelly to the hell of caring for Leo.

James decides not to go back to Twin Peaks. He’s going to stick it out with Evelyn and see if he can make it work. They start fucking.

Mike Nelson tells Nadine off. She doesn’t get the message.

Ben is starting to have conversations between toy soldiers.

Denise goes undercover as Dennis with Ernie to take down Jean.

Donna begins her search for James.

Hank busts Norma and Big Ed. He attacks Big Ed, but Nadine comes to the rescue, kicking the ever-loving shit out of Hank.

Catherine visits Ben. Could it be that they’re getting back together? It certainly doesn’t help cure him of his Civil War obsession.

Ernie does an awful job of working for Denise. He accidentally tips Jean off, and Jean takes him and Dennis captive. Cooper gives up his gun to confront Jean. He switches places with the captives.

We discover that Malcolm is not actually Evelyn’s brother. He’s her lover, and they’re setting James up for something. But what?

Jean explores his options, wondering if it might be best to just kill Cooper. After all, before Cooper came to Twin Peaks, everything was peaches. When he showed up, things started getting weird and difficult, and now Jean’s brothers are dead. “Maybe the nightmare dies with you,” Jean says.

Michael Parks deserves special mention here. He’s an amazing actor, and he brings his A-game to Jean. He’s such a snake that he waits in the shadows, thinking about what he should do. He’s got to be cold-blooded on some level to play a maniac like Jean.

Dennis dresses back up as Denise and brings a tray of food to Jean. She also brings a gun for Cooper on her garter. And someone has to say it: David Duchovny really does have nice legs. He could be a cross-dresser for real, if he wanted to be.

Cooper takes the gun and shoots Jean, killing him.

Leo has regained consciousness and the ability to stand. He is now back to terrorizing Shelly.

Windom Earle delivers his latest chess move . . . to Harry’s office, complete with a corpse. It would seem that every time a piece is taken, someone must die. Cooper can still feel Windom’s presence in Harry’s office.

Bobby, feeling guilty about abandoning Shelly, comes back to her only to be attacked by Leo. He and Shelly double team Leo, and Leo, injured, wanders off into the woods.

Cooper is cleared of all criminal charges, but he still waits to hear about his suspension.

Hank is found over the border, beaten and broken. He is then arrested for parole violation.

We learn that the girl from Pittsburgh, the one Cooper fell in love with, was Windom Earle’s wife. Cooper secretly believes that his former partner might have actually killed her, but he doesn’t know for certain.

James is getting sick of Evelyn and her husband, and he threatens to leave. In the meantime, Evelyn runs into Donna at a bar and tells her that James left for Mexico.

Jacoby is now caring for Ben. Jer returns, and Ben thinks he’s J.E.B. Stuart. Ben’s mission? To reverse the South’s loss in order to symbolically fix his own loss. His Confederate models march on Washington.

Maj. Briggs thinks he might have been brought to the White Lodge when he was gone, but he has no memory of it. He just knows that there is great trouble ahead.

James is about to leave when he hears that Evelyn’s husband has died in the car James was fixing up. Malcolm had to have cut the brakes. They set James up for the husband’s murder. He flees, and Donna tries to help him.

Leo, wandering through the woods like Frankenstein’s monster, comes upon a cabin. He can hear the music of a flute coming from within. He wanders in only to meet . . . WINDOM FUCKING EARLE hisownself.

Evelyn sells James out to the police for the murder of her husband.

Bobby and Shelly go to see Harry about Leo. During this moment, Cooper asks Bobby where he was the night the mill burned down. Bobby is smart enough to think Cooper might believe he’d shot Leo. Almost offhandedly, he says that he was there that night, but Leo tried to kill him with an axe. It was Hank who shot him through the window.

Albert the asshole is back! And he’s somehow on good terms with Harry now? Has their enmity been completely forgotten? You should see the hug they give each other when Albert makes his appearance. They’re like long-lost brothers. Albert is here to help Cooper with Windom Earle.

Speaking of Windom, he heals Leo and then proceeds to beat him in an attempt to mold Leo into a loyal servant. He goes as far as putting a shock collar around Leo’s neck. Kenneth Welsh, who plays Windom, is a fiend. He really is. In the first place, it’s hard to juxtapose an unlikable guy like Leo as the Frankenstein monster, but it takes tremendous balls to put him up against a guy like Windom Earle, who is such a crazy bastard that he makes one feel sorry for Leo.

Nadine catches Big Ed and Norma in bed, but she’s more bummed out about coming in second in the wrestling tournament. At first it seems she doesn’t even notice the two of them, but then she says she doesn’t mind. It makes her feel better about lusting after Mike Nelson.

Johnny, dressed in his headdress again, has joined in Ben’s fantasy. Jer thinks the whole thing is funny, but he also wants to take it as an opportunity to take over more of the business. Audrey dissuades him from this by saying she inherits everything, and if she does, Jer is out.

After several medical tests, Albert comes to the conclusion that Josie shot Cooper back at the end of season one. It’s not 100%, but it’s close enough for Albert. Cooper begs him not to say anything to Harry until they are certain.

It turns out that Pete is a chess genius. Cooper enlists his aid in the battle against Windom Earle. He wants to get Windom into a stalemate while losing the least amount of pieces on the board. Pete thinks he can help.

Jacoby, as U.S. Grant, surrenders to Ben, thus ending the Civil War in the South’s favor. Ben collapses and returns to himself. Back to normal. He thought it was all a dream.

Windom Earle looks at pictures of Donna, Shelly and Audrey, and he ponders with Leo, who will be his queen?

Evelyn saves James by shooting Malcolm, who is about to kill James.

Windom Earle, in disguise, passes Cooper up at the Great Northern, and Cooper doesn’t recognize him. Windom leaves an envelope for Audrey at the desk. Cooper returns to his room and discovers the death mask of his beloved.

Pay attention to the blow-by-blow this time. A lot of it doesn’t seem like much, does it? That’s because the mystery of Bob has not just taken a back seat, it’s gotten out of the car. Sure, there are references to the White Lodge, but that’s just a drop in the bucket. The story has moved on from the mystery to the everyday doings of the townsfolk, with a bit of Windom Earle sprinkled in.

As mentioned last time, there is a major drop-off after the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death is solved. It’s good to know that Cooper’s name has been cleared, but what about Bob? Why has he been abandoned by the story? He is easily the most interesting thing about the show at this point.

All right, it is interesting to find out what Big Ed and Nadine and James and all of them are up to, but there’s no life to it. They’re just filling up time and space. It’s almost like the writers are just wondering what they should do with these rich characters they have at their disposal. Even Cooper has lost a lot of the strangeness that makes him such a fun character.

There are only two characters at this point that are keeping things interesting right now: Maj. Briggs and Windom Earle. The major is the last connection we have to the sheer lunacy of the early half of the show. He’s the one with information about the White Lodge. He might even know what Bob is and how to find him. And as for Windom, he’s exactly the kind of maniac you want him to be. He’s frenetic. He’s violent. He’s unpredictable. And yet he can be cold and calculating at the same time. He has the potential to be a great villain, one of the greatest killers in fiction.

Can he live up to something like that? 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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