So I decided to undertake a re-watch of Twin Peaks a few weeks ago, starting with the 1991 pilot episode and moving forward through the recent season three. Most people did this in preparation for the new season, of course, but I never quite got around to it. I loved season three so much, however, that when it was over, I felt a great urge to fill the Twin-Peaks-shaped hole in my life. Plus, that new season was so… DENSE …that a return to the original seems necessary to a better understanding of it.
I’ve seen it all before, of course, multiple times. But Twin Peaks is among my favorite television series of all time. So it’s not like watching it again is a hardship or anything. Of course, by the same token, I’m in no great rush to get through this. The weekly pace of the new season taught me the value in having some time to reflect between episodes. So I’m taking my time, watching one or two a week. Or none, if I’m busy. Like I said, there’s no rush.
But I’ve been doing this thing on my social media, where I post “Ten Random Observations” about each episode, and since I just finished watching Season One, it occurred to me that I could share those with a wider audience (plus, I’ve been pulling overtime at the day job, and having a blog entry already mostly-written was a nice bonus). There’s not much structure to these things, no larger point being made. It’s just ten things that stood out to me as I watched. Sometimes I’m making a serious point, but sometimes it’s just a favorite moment being celebrated for no other reason than that it makes me happy.
I have tarted it up a little for the blog format. Expanded my thinking or replaced an inside joke that would only make sense to friends. But for the most part, it’s just the random crap that went through my head as I watched. If that sounds like fun to you, read on. If not… Ah, well. I’ll be back with something more organized soon enough…
(Note: The Twin Peaks Pilot is always listed as exactly that: the pilot. Episode one is the first weekly episode, and the numbering continues on from there. Which is confusing. But by far not the most confusing thing about this show…)
1. Cooper’s enthusiasm is almost ghoulish here, especially after that long introduction to the town. Speaking of which…
2. The grief over Laura’s death is a lot more poignant to me at 49 than it was at 22. Leland and Sarah’s anguish, in particular. But the whole town goes a little bit mad with grief in the first half of this episode, and it’s a great portrait of tragedy in a small town.
3. Andy is SKINNY.
4. Bobby never calls Mike anything but “Snake,” which is my new favorite thing.
5. Jack Nance is freaking brilliant as Pete.
6. Out by the water where they find the body, that’s not a huge boulder. It’s a gigantic log. How did I never notice that before?
7. The Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department employs a lot more deputies than I remember. Soon, budget will dictate that we won’t be seeing most of these guys anymore. But the size of the department in the new season is no longer shocking to me.
8. James really IS cool, actually (THIS WILL CHANGE).
9. I’d forgotten that Philip Gerard is in the pilot.
10. Dr. Jacoby is wearing a hula girl tie, with an actual tiny grass skirt on it. I noticed this because, when he tells Cooper that Laura was seeing him secretly, he absent-mindedly runs a finger up under the skirt, and starts rubbing. Screw the giant log! How did I never notice THAT before?!
11. (BONUS Observation!) Andy calls Lucy from the field on a 1990-era mobile phone. Which is hysterical, considering her cell phone confusion in the new season.
1. Cooper is quite obviously attracted to Audrey Horne. Understandably, but also… A bit creepily. He’s still got some of that ghoulishness from the pilot about him.
2. For such a ridiculous pretty boy, Leo Johnson still somehow manages to conjure up an awful lot of menace.
3. Bobby still exclusively calls Mike “Snake.” He’s the only one. That’s adorable.
4. COTTON BALLS. Nadine is the BEST.
5. Iconic Moments Department: “Fellas, don’t drink that coffee…”
6. If any kid ever deserved to get slapped, it’s Bobby Briggs.
7. The Log Lady’s first speaking scene is perfect.
Cooper: “What did your log see?”
Log Lady: “Ask it.”
Log Lady (contemptuous): “I thought so!”
8. Soap in the sock. Still awful. Leo deserves everything that happens to him later.
9. Yep. It’s official: James is no longer cool.
10. Lots of weird expository dialogue in this one. It’s funny coming from Cooper (“I understand that Laura Palmer helped you with the meals on wheels, delivering hot food to elderly shut-ins.”) but when Laura explains the psychiatric tapes to Jacoby, who asked her to make them in the first place, it’s just too much.
1. JERRY HORNE!! AND THE SANDWICH!! This scene ranks among the greatest things ever on television.
2. James is still no longer cool.
3. And with two toots on the whistle he carved himself, Coop becomes Coop.
4. Wet, desperate tongue kisses in close-up, and the creak of leather jackets.
5. Iconic Moments Department: “DAMN good coffee! And HOT!”
6. “Isn’t it too dreamy?” Words that will come back to haunt Audrey in Season Three.
7. We’re obviously supposed to doubt Audrey’s sanity at this point. She tells Cooper insanity runs in her family, and when she starts dancing in the RR, the entire Hayward family looks at her the way most people look at the Log Lady.
8. “Welcome to amateur hour.” God love Albert Rosenfield.
9. I forgot that it took this long for Leland’s irrational grief to show. It’s like he’s been holding it together for Sarah, but finally cracks. It’s one of those almost comically disturbing moments, but once Laura’s picture is shattered, and he breaks down over the blood he’s smeared over it, it’s genuinely affecting. Especially considering what we know now.
10. Cooper’s dream is even weirder than I remembered it being. The amount of time the Little Man From Another Place spends quivering with his back to the camera is downright disturbing. But it’s probably wise that they didn’t give BOB any more dialogue, because WOW he’s cheesy.
11. (BONUS Observation!) After this episode, I went back and watched the ending of the “international version” of the pilot, which was intended to wrap up the mystery for audiences seeing it in movie theaters. It’s where much of the dream footage originally came from. Great atmosphere, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense, even in a David Lynch context. I’d forgotten that Mike shoots BOB in that version, too. Makes sense, considering Mike’s story of turning away from “the devilish one” after he “saw the face of God.” Don’t think they really stuck with that story in the final televised version, though.
1. I forgot how very much they were developing the attraction between Cooper and Audrey. She’s trying to create this air of sexy mystery about herself, but she’s too nervous to really pull it off. And because of that, Cooper’s continued flirting makes him seem a bit like a cat toying with a particularly delectable and naive mouse.
2. More entertaining bluster from Albert. He’s got, like, three scenes, but he looms large. He also helps develop Cooper, who’s amused by his bad manners when he arrives, but winds up chastising him for them before he leaves. More evidence of the changes happening inside Our Hero.
3. Nadine’s madness isn’t often given a sympathetic presentation, but here she gets so lost in the past that she forgets who James is, and that goes a long way toward showing us how deeply troubled she really is. And why Ed won’t divorce her.
4. Laura’s funeral is fascinating. A great portrait of the cast and their problems, and a final boiling-over of all the despair that swept the town in the pilot. It’s almost like Bobby and James do everybody a favor when they attack each other at the end of the service.
5. Bobby overacts like a madman here, but it feels right. He’s sad and angry, and so self-centered that he doesn’t understand his own emotional response to Laura’s death until he’s yelling at the town for not helping her, and realizing that he’s actually pissed at himself. Ironically, that’s exactly what his dad tells him funerals are for beforehand, only for Bobby blow him off.
6. Leland leaping onto Laura’s coffin is another one of those amazing tragicomic moments the show pulls off so well. You can’t help but laugh, but oh my god it’s so sad.
7. Shelly telling the story of Leland’s plunge to the old-timers at the RR is another great character moment. It’s funny, but it’s also kind of shitty. It’s a surprising thing to see from a character we also feel sympathy for. That’s more nuance than you see from most television shows, even now.
8. The introduction of the Bookhouse Boys and the “evil in the woods” is a letter-perfect nerd moment. That Cooper goes along with it all so happily is yet another sign of how much he’s going native.
9. Harry is obviously besotted with Josie to a dangerous degree. He’s just too good. Though we won’t know that for a while yet.
10. Russ Tamblyn gives Dr. Jacoby some fine shading in this one. More than I remember him having. Funny how the broad strokes stick so well while the little touches fade. This is why we revisit the good stuff.
11. (BONUS Observation!) Looking at some behind the scenes photos on the special features of this disc, I found myself taken aback at a picture from the morgue set with Sheryl Lee sitting up in the deadface make-up talking to Michael Ontkean. I’ve bought so much into Laura being dead that it’s jarring to see her alive.
1. I had forgotten the extent of Sarah’s psychic visions at this early stage. She literally saw Jacoby digging up Laura’s heart necklace in the pilot, rather than it being just a scene transition. Also, when Coop says he didn’t go to talk to her because he’s “a powerful sender,” I laughed out loud.
2. After last episode’s nuanced treatment of Jacoby, this time around he’s back to the shallow weirdo I remember him being.
3. Gordon sounds amazingly normal on the phone. Obviously, they hadn’t hit on the hard of hearing gag yet.
4. Bob Lydecker Veterinary Clinic’s slogan is, “Aid to the beast incarnate.” UHM…
5. I know Andy’s supposed to be the comedy relief, but man… Hawk is never anything less than hysterical with his neo-mystical manliness. Plus… His name is Hawk.
6. Hank Jennings and his smarmy vague menace. Maybe the first subplot I don’t find compelling.
7. Maddy Ferguson! James is poleaxed by her, and it’s one of the more convincing acting jobs in the episode. And I’m struck again by how good Sheryl Lee really is. She simultaneously pulls off Maddy’s wholesomeness, and the awkwardness of the situation as James just won’t stop staring at her.
8. Owl spying on Donna and James. I hear they’re not what they seem…
9. First inklings that Josie’s not what she seems. Oh, Harry. You poor schmuck.
10. A really soapy episode this time around, and the first one I haven’t been completely enthralled with. I enjoyed it, you understand. But after the excellence that preceded it, this one feels more like regular TV, and that’s slightly disappointing.
1. After last episode’s soapy ballooning of plot, this one pays off on it all with developments that make me care, handled in an entertaining manner. Nice to see the show back to form. Written by Mark Frost. Explains a lot.
2. “A group of insane men are staying on my floor.” Gotta love them Icelanders.
3. Ben and Jerry’s relationship really isn’t that different in the old series than it is in the new one. Ben’s oilier, but ultimately he’s still the respectable planner to Jerry’s force of nature.
4. What the–?! All of a sudden, James is cool again! He talks about his alcoholic mom, and suddenly he’s the vulnerable tough guy instead of just Fucking James! I’m sure it’ll pass, of course…
5. It strikes me that Major Briggs is a very different character here than the one he becomes later on. Stiffer. More emotional. Less wise.
6. The first really good insight into Laura’s dark side comes from Jacoby’s counseling session with Bobby. Her drive to corrupt is fascinating.
7. Log Lady! “Close your eyes and you’ll burst into flame!” “The Owls can’t see us in here.” “Fire is the devil hiding like a coward in the smoke.” Slapping Coop’s hand when he reaches for a cookie before the tea is ready. This scene is everything.
8. “Let me get this straight. Your whole country is ABOVE the timber line?!” God love Jack Nance.
9. Leland at the party, dancing and crying while Catherine makes it look like a new dance craze, and Audrey weeps in the corner for… I dunno. The sins of man?
10. “Please don’t make me leave.” This is the beginning of the end for the Cooper/Audrey thing, but they worked it right up til they didn’t, with Coop asking her how old she is, and seeming rather pleased when she answers, “Eighteen.”
11. (BONUS Observation!) I’d forgotten how much the imagery of Coop’s dream plays into the case. Even the red curtains in the Lodge are a clue. That puts an intriguing spin on the Lodge’s appearance later on, especially in season three: it really is all about Laura, and it always has been.
1. Coop lets Audrey down easy, and it makes her love him all the more. He admits to his attraction while still denying it, which is more nuanced than I remembered. His exact line, in fact, is “What I want and what I need are two different things.” Which is an interesting contrast to Evil Coop’s “I don’t need anything. I want things.” Which is, in turn, cribbed from BOB in the Secret Diary of Laura Palmer.
2. Cooper is always late for work. Seriously. Everybody else is ALWAYS at the station before him. Even Lucy beats him there!
3. “Why is it so easy to make men like me? I don’t even have to try very hard. Maybe, if it was harder…” Laura Palmer is a magnificent character, defined almost entirely by her absence, and the flotsam she leaves behind.
4. Department of Jokes I Never Noticed Before: Horne’s Department Store carries a line of “Invitation to Love” fragrances at the perfume counter. HEH.
5. I don’t generally think that Joan Chen’s much of an actress, but when Harry confronts Josie about spying on Ben and Catherine, she conveys this weird awkward shame that doesn’t seem real, exactly, but does make her seem alien and vulnerable in a way that plays directly to Harry’s attraction to her.
6. Leland gives Maddy the BOB-stare from the shadows, and it’s creepy as all hell. First sign that he’s anything other than a deeply grieving father.
7. Nadine stares at her wrists. “REJECTED.” So damn sad.
8. Maddy dresses as Laura. James stares at Maddy. Donna stares at James. Nobody says anything.
9. Audrey and the cherry stem. Sherilyn Fenn continues to pull off this mix of cocky forwardness and schoolgirl innocence that constantly gets her in over her head, and it is utterly charming. No WONDER I was so in love with her.
10. Someone watching Bobby watching Maddy-as-Laura. Then just watching Maddy. In retrospect, it’s obviously Leland. But they did a really nice job making it seem like it could be Leo. It’s impressive how much heat they put on that guy. He’s out prowling the streets with a bullet wound and vengeance on his mind, acting every bit like a guilty man. Which he is. Just not of the thing they want you to think.
11. (BONUS Observation!) Hot DAMN this episode is tight! Multiple strands of seemingly-unconnected story come together without seeming forced, due in part to the complex web of relationships they’ve spent the previous five episodes developing. But they also manage plot twists and major character revelations while getting more subtle about character development and still finding time for the quirky weirdness the show is known for.
1. “Bite the bullet, baby.” So vile. And not just because of the extreme close-up on Jacques’ mouth.
2. “Shelly, you broke my HEART!” Leo is hysterically awful.
3. Nadine’s suicide attempt. Beautifully-filmed, and so very sad.
4. Hey! All the extra Deputies from the Pilot are back! I guess the apprehension of a dangerous fugitive like Jacques calls for a larger casting budget…
5. So much Hank in this episode. Hank sucks so hard.
6. The nurses’ uniforms at the hospital actually match the one we see on the nurse who steals the Owl Cave Ring from Annie in the Missing Pieces. Nice attention to detail.
7. I wonder if they’d decided that Leland was the killer before they had him kill Jacques? It certainly throws suspicion off him, at this point.
8. Department of What The Fuck Moments: The medieval-style hunchbacked seamstress at One-Eyed Jack’s! Complete with rope belt!
9. Is this the first time we see Cooper’s hubris? He gets over-confident and enjoys himself a little too much going undercover at One-Eyed Jack’s, and in doing so misses Audrey’s message, leaving her in the lurch. He also misses all the action going on in town, and winds up getting shot. And later, he almost loses his badge over it. It is, all in all, a colossal blunder.
10. So Ben Horne actually owns One-Eyed Jacks? I guess they kind of established that in the earlier episode, when he and Jerry flipped to see who would get “the new girl.” But it hadn’t really clicked for me. That’s one hell of a business profile he’s got there: Department Store, Resort Hotel, Real Estate Development… and Whore House?
11. (BONUS Observation!) Overall, this episode isn’t as gripping as the one before it. Which is weird, considering that it’s the season one closer. Written AND directed by Mark Frost, too, which made me expect better. There are some really interesting directorial choices in the mix: Jacques’ mouth, Nadine’s suicide attempt, a weird shot-from-ground-level shot that gives Hank a big rack of deer horns for some reason (symbolically, that would make him a cuckold, which I suppose he is, but why emphasize that in a shot where he’s supposed to be menacing?). And, of course, it ends on several pretty choice cliffhangers, including this one:
So that’s Twin Peaks, Season One! I notice that I became a lot more concerned with how they were developing the mystery as the episodes wore on. Which I think is a testament to how well they handled that aspect of the show in these early days. They put a lot of heat on Leo in the last couple of episodes, and I remember a lot of people thinking he was the killer in-between seasons. But that seems unlikely from a dramatic perspective, considering that he gets taken out by as dull a character as Hank Jennings. Also, you’d think that the killer is whoever attacked Dr. Jacoby in the park, and Leo was too busy setting the mill on fire with Shelly inside to have done that.
But they cast doubt on a lot of their prime suspects in the end. Even James and Donna decide that Dr. Jacoby couldn’t be the killer, and Jacques Renault tells Cooper he never made it to the train car that night. I doubt anyone suspected Leland at this point, but if they did, him killing Jacques makes him seem a less likely suspect. He seems to be the grieving father taking revenge on the man he thinks killed his little girl. And I do think that’s what’s happening there. It’s not BOB smothering Jacques with that pillow. It’s Leland.
But getting back to the man that attacked Jacoby in the park… I’m assuming that’s also Leland, but this time acting as BOB. I think he followed Maddy after giving her the death stare in the house, and watched the whole weird scene unfold. Why attack Jacoby, though? Was he protecting Maddy, somehow? Or merely staking his claim? I suspect the latter.
Another wrinkle here: Cooper’s assailant is dressed an awful lot like Jacoby’s, so I wonder if they were trying to make us think it was the same person? Or, hell, if they had planned for it to BE the same person? Hmm. I don’t recall if they ever solved the mystery of who shot Cooper. In fact, I’ve forgotten a lot of what happens between here and the final reveal of the killer. But I’m looking forward to being reminded. Bring on Season Two!
But in the meantime… You can to play “Spot the Reference” with this SB Whitehead illustration that (I believe) appeared in Entertainment Weekly in-between the first two seasons.