Cooper’s Dreams & Realization Time (S1, eps. 5 & 6)

“Maybe we all have in us a secret pond where evil and ugly things germinate and grow strong. But this culture is fenced, and the swimming brood climbs up only to fall back. Might it not be that in the dark pools of some men the evil grows strong enough to wriggle over the fence and swim free? Would not such a man be our monster, and are we not related to him in our hidden water?” – John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Cooper: “Secrets are dangerous things, Audrey.”

Oh, Twin Peaks! How you play with my affections! One minute you’re coy and beguiling, a virtual Shelly Johnson: all handguns and enticing lingerie. The next you’re prickly and off-putting, a virtual Nadine Hurley: all wonky eye-patches and creepy figurines. I’m genuinely enjoying my return to this town with all of you, but my critical faculties (such as they are) are starting to awaken as I delve further into the show each week. One of the best things about Twin Peaks as an overall entity lies in its “throw it to the wall and see what sticks” mentality. One of the worst things about it is the exact same thing. Some of this stuff isn’t sticking for me. And I’m pretty sure some of it isn’t sticking for you either. To say that I don’t care about James and Donna is to understate things significantly. It would be more accurate and honest to say that I’m hoping they are both obliterated in the continually-promised Mill fire. Josie Packard, Leo Johnson, Catherine Martell, and Hank Jennings can all join the barbeque as far as I’m concerned. While I don’t typically advocate for violence, and while I’m a fan of large casts when their stories are handled well and juggled effectively (see: Lost), I’m unmoved by these fictional characters, and Twin Peaks as a whole would benefit from their unceremonious departure.

Those irks aside, this week’s episodes were a lot of fun for me. We got what felt like solid forward movement on the Laura Palmer case, a sense of deepening mystery to the show’s mythology, and enough of the good quirky stuff to far outweigh the bad quirky stuff. Besides, the “bad” stuff here is still entertaining in a weird way. It’s a  nearly-enjoyable pain – the strange sensation of experiencing discomfort but kinda reveling in it. Sure, I hate James and Donna, but I’m sort of…liking the way that I hate James and Donna. Does that make sense? It’s oddly fun to watch their now-lifeless, airless, joyless scenes and then write about that here. Now, you get to read about it. Lucky you!

You also get to vote. Renew or Cancel? I’m still solidly onboard this locomotive and I hope that most of you are too. We’re getting closer to the answer for the question of Who Killed Laura Palmer, and I feel very confident in assuring you that the way it all plays out is worth your time. Cast your ballots in the comments or in the Lost & Found thread. Celebrate democracy, David Lynch, and the virtues of damn fine coffee by exercising your God-given, Chud-enhanced right to freedom of expression. My sincere thanks for reading, for participating, and for your thoughtful/kind emails.

Thoughts on Cooper’s Dreams:

• The Great Northern is one of those enjoyably preposterous locales that make no real sense, but who cares when it possesses such natural atmosphere and presence? How on earth do you keep a (seemingly large) luxury hotel running in a logging town? Just how many “business junkets” are held there? And why is it that the hotel seems to attract such large numbers of Nordic people? On a thematic level, The Great Northern is interesting because it’s essentially a giant Lodge. Those of you who’ve watched the show before, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this comparison in the spoiler-friendly thread on Chud’s board. Thanks to all of you for keeping the comments here and in the Lost & Found thread so wonderfully spoiler-free.

Jerry: “You see what she gave me? An entire leg of lamb. Is that beautiful?…”

• Jerry Horne pops up again for the first time since episode 1, and I’m damn glad to see him. He always injects an extra measure of madness into his scenes, and he makes Ben Horne a more interesting character simply by existing. Also popping up again: The Ghostwood development project. The Horne Brothers are pushing the Ghostwood idea hard, seemingly solely to Nordic investors. This is a supremely small, bizarre detail. Why Iceland and Norway? It’s probably just one of those quirky touches this show loves so much. But there’s some interesting stuff to be gleaned from this quirky touch. More below.

Ben: “Leland will you take some time off for god’s sake. Fly somewhere and take Sarah.”
Leland: “I’m afraid to, Ben. I’m afraid.”

• The further that Leland unravels, the more effective his frayed emotional/psychological state becomes. Ray Wise does a genuinely admirable job on this show of grounding his character in such a way as to evoke constant pity and sorrow from us as an audience. Sure, it’s darkly funny when he dances like a freakin’ loon, or rides a malfunctioning coffin, but it’s never just funny. It’s also always at least a little bit heartbreaking. The emotional disintegration that Leland Palmer is undergoing is, I think, the show’s strongest and most consistent character-based undercurrent in the first season. Whenever we start to think of Laura and her murder in the abstract, whenever the goofball-G-Man aesthetic of Cooper threatens to overshadow the human inhumanity of Laura’s death, Leland pops up to remind us that behind the farce and artifice, the madness and the mysticism, is a broken family.

• We return to Cooper, Truman, Andy and Dr. Hayward (why is Dr. Hayward there?…), who’ve broken in to Jacques Renault’s apartment and found Leo Johnson’s blood-soaked shirt. Things get complicated when it’s revealed that the blood on the shirt isn’t Laura’s, and Cooper effortlessly intuits that it must be Renault’s blood instead. And speaking of intuition, that seems to be what leads Cooper to the copy of Fleshworld magazine that’s found hidden in the overhead light fixture. Inside they find a Polaroid of a bearded dude in lingerie (do I need to point out that this was…exceedingly uncommon in 1991?) and some provocative ads for “personal connections” (an advertisement hoping to connect with a “TS” was DEFINITELY uncommon on Primetime TV at that point in time). The magazine and the PO Box associated with Ronette Pulaski that Cooper and Co. identify in this scene all tie Laura and Ronette back to Jacques Renault, the portly bartender from the town’s roadhouse, whom we last saw escaping in the night after seeing that the “warning” light had been lit above the bar. The shirt in Renault’s apartment, and the picture in Fleshworld, also tie Renault to Leo Johnson, who’s so far been the show’s primary suspect. There’s a sense that Cooper and Co. are closing in tighter on the mysteries behind Laura’s demise, and that makes me wonder how Lynch and Frost expected to keep extending the mystery behind it indefinitely. I admire their at-the-time intention to keep this central mystery open-ended, but the execution so far has me understanding why that position was ultimately untenable. We’re spending too much time circling Laura’s murder to be distracted by much else, and this mystery is easily the most compelling one the show has presented us with.

• Bobby and Shelly are still enjoying some extra-marital afternoon delight with one another, and Bobby’s still an arrogant, laughable jerk. He play-acts as a tough guy for his lover, the both of them clearly excited (in more ways than one! YOWZA YOWZA!) by it all until the slam of a car door returns them to their real lives as scared adulterers. Still, they manage to put the frame on Leo a little further by telling a visiting Deputy Andy that Leo and Jacques were seen arguing and we’ll see a different side to Bobby by the end of the episode that gives me sympathy toward the character for the first time.

Norma: “Maybe that’s our trouble Ed. We never want to hurt anyone. We never just take what we want. There’s a part of me that’s beginning to think that … this is how it is when you get to the end of your life – and that you don’t have anything to show for it.”

• I’m not big on all the love triangles/quadrangles/dodecahedrons in this town, but I genuinely like the cautious, secretive love between Big Ed and Norma. I like that Ed is clearly miserable with The Mad Pirate Nadine, and that Norma is clearly dreading the return of Domino Man, but that they both continue to hew close to that which stokes their misery. It’s larger-than-life, yet it’s also true to life as well. The kind of yearning that these two display, and the open sense of burgeoning regret that

• Here’s a weird bit of trivia for you: Wendy Robie (Nadine) and Everett McGill (Ed) teamed up again to play a bizarro married couple in Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs.

Audrey: “…May I speak frankly?
Emory: “Oh, please do.”

• Thanks to Audrey’s Betty Page-meets-Nancy Drew sleuthing, she lands herself a job at the Horne Department Store Perfume Counter, where Laura and Ronette both worked, and which seems to operate as a Durham Bulls-level farm team for the Major League that is Blackie’s One Eyed Jack’s. Audrey continues to impress, and it’s not Fenn’s preternatural beauty that’s responsible. Her shifts from breathy schoolgirl to tough cookie are genuinely interesting, and convey a depth of character that, to pick two obvious-and-soon-to-appear-candidates, James and Donna simply don’t convey. There’s a two-dimensionality to some of Peaks’ residents (and this is sometimes, in my humble opinion, a good thing – I’m still intrigued by Nadine, who’s pretty much one-dimensional at this point) and that can work against the seriousness of some of the subject matter, making it feel soapier than is arguably good for it as a drama. Audrey doesn’t have that problem. I don’t feel like I’m watching some jokey film noir riff when I watch Audrey shake down jowly ol’ Emory for a position at the Perfume Counter (and is it me, or does Emory seem all too aware of where that position tends to lead?), though there’s an element of that at work here. Her character gives this scene life and spark, unlike the two wet blankets that subsequently pop up to be total f’in buzzkills. Enter Donna and James.

James: “She’s out there wandering like a restless spirit.”

• Oh, for Pete’s sake.

I mean…just LOOK at them. I realize the point of some of this is to act as pointed commentary on Soap Opera as a convention, but there are points, like this one here, where it doesn’t feel that deliberate. It just feels soapy, man. Like, middle-of-the-cycle-and-sudsy-as-all-get-out soapy. All this stuff about James and his drunk mom and their pain and….I just….don’t… Idon’tcare. I just want them to stop.

• …WTF?

Cooper: “Red drapes, Harry. From my dream.”

• Cooper’s Red Room dream floats to the surface again here as he associates the red drapes of Jacques Renault’s cabin with the red curtains seen in that mysterious/ominous, subconscious place. One of the things I enjoy most about the way that these particular clues play out over the course of the show is that, as previously mentioned, they don’t operate as proper clues. They don’t lead Cooper anywhere, really (there’s no way that these men weren’t going to check out Renault’s cabin anyway, given the shirt and the blood and the fact that he’s increasingly looking like he was involved in Laura’s murder. Instead, the clues act as signposts, signaling for Cooper and the audience that he and we are headed in the right direction (Or is it?… More on this the further we get into the woods).

• It’s got to be enormously tricky to try and balance the desire/need for an ongoing, open-ended story with the audience’s need/desire for information, answers, closure. Lost dealt with this admirably for its first two seasons, but its creators have been honest in saying that they didn’t know how much longer they could have tread water in place, keeping the urgency and secrecy in place while also simultaneously deferring any real answers. Imagine how much more difficult that feat must have been for a show like this one, arriving twenty years earlier. Peaks doesn’t pull this trick off consistently, but its hard to hold that against them – they were figuring all of this out as they went, and while the strain sometimes shows the effort is genuinely admirable.

Madeleine: “My folks were always telling us how much alike we were.”

• Donna and James, aka The Most Boring Couple In Washington State, enlist Madeleine’s help in locating Laura’s apparent “secret hiding place,” in an attempt to pull a Scooby Doo and solve the crime for the police. Donna tells Maddy that Laura was in “terrible trouble before she died. Worse than any of us can imagine.” That sounds bad. It is bad. Later in the episode, Bobby will confirm this explicitly again, banishing the symbol of Laura as Perfect Homecoming Queen completely for us as viewers. In Twin Peaks, no one is a symbol. No one is simple. Every person has two faces – sometimes literally, as with Maddy and Laura’s freakishly identical features, and sometimes figuratively, in how people like Norma and Ed and ben and Catherine and Josie and Truman lead one life, but have a second, shadow-life that’s arguably more real to most of them.

• Shelly and Norma get the makeovers they promised themselves. I find said-makeovers amusing. I kept waiting for Frankie Avalon to pop out and warble “Beauty School Dropout.” If these two had been on Summerisle, Nic Cage wouldn’t have had to wear a beard of bees to bring back the honey. Insert your own Beehive hairdo joke here!

• When I watched this season a year ago, I noted that Hank is basically Leo, v2.0, just older and more soap-y looking. His return does instigate that nicely-poignant exchange between Norma and Big Ed, where they both reveal a self-damaging capacity to put others before themselves and Norma tells Ed that she loves him – only to have Ed’s response be silence. Still, Hank’s not real welcome ‘round here. Die in a Mill fire, Hank!

• Invitation to Love gets stranger and more interesting as we see more of it. As hilarious as this soap-within-a-“soap?” is, there’s also something to the way Mullet-Montana rears back and yells after pushing Nebbishy Chet to the ground that’s discomfiting and primal. As mentioned before, there’s a conflict going on in this show between animalistic and civilized behavior that’s pervasive enough and creepy enough to deserve noting. Evil – even mulleted-evil – doesn’t shout or yell on this show. It roars. Some of the imagery in this clip will repeat itself in the “real” world of the show before the season is out – remember the gag in the mouth.

Dr. Jacoby: “Did she tell you there was no goodness in the world?”
Bobby: “She said…people try to be good but they’re really sick and rotten. Her most of all. And every time she tried to make the world a better place, something terrible came up inside her and pulled her back down into hell; took her deeper and deeper into the blackest nightmare. Every time it got harder to go back up to the light.”

• Bobby’s therapy session is disturbing, and not in the Lynchian “show a dwarf groovin’ to bizzaro-Jazz” way. There’s a sense of violation to these proceedings, in the way that Jacoby initially bullies the truth from Bobby about Laura, forcing himself into Bobby’s roiling guilt, anger and fear, and in the way that Laura appears to have violated Bobby’s very innocence. We learn a lot about Laura in this conversation – about the “real” Laura Palmer that existed outside of airbrushed photos and airbrushed memories. That sense of suicidal despair resurfaces here and becomes explicit. The revelation that Laura’s soul-sickness drove her to corrupt others gets into some troubling territory and paints Laura in continually darker colors the more that we think about what all of this means. We also learn a lot (or so I like to think – your interpretations are welcomed and appreciated) about the show’s view of human nature and the world. From the very beginning, Twin Peaks has focused on the despoiling of the supposedly-sacred. Laura’s murdered body on a pristine beach made this fascination literal. There’s a question here, rising to the surface: What secrets did Laura keep? What could be so terrible that it would spur her toward her own destruction – morally and spiritually and physically? To lash out at the world and attempt to drag it down with her? To spoil the very things she loved? One of the best things about this show is that it gives us an answer to this question that doesn’t cop out. Take the show at its word: Laura was, in fact, harboring some terrible secrets.

• The actor playing Bobby does his best work so far on Jacoby’s couch as he expresses some of the emotion behind that active corruption. We get the feeling that Laura has fundamentally ‘rotted’ some portion, if not all of, Bobby’s innocence and that changes my perspective on this show and this investigation. Suddenly, it’s not simple justice for the life of an innocent girl that I want. The justice I want has expanded. In the final moments of the scene we get a glimpse of the Bobby that might have been, had Laura not worked her sad black magic on him. I want that boy’s innocence back, dammit.

But what Twin Peaks says to me is this: that innocence is gone. It’s Camelot, friend.

• You may have noticed that birds are beginning to pop up more in the narrative on a few levels. In the last episode, to name one instance, we watched as an owl in turn watched Donna and James from a perch high in the air. We return to that imagery again in this episode as a raven alights on a branch and looks down on Cooper, Truman and the boys. As mentioned last week, in many cultures (such as, for instance, the Blackfoot tribe that Deputy Hawk may belong to) birds are symbolic of the soul, or of spirits. Something to continue to keep in the back o’ yo’ head.

Log Lady: “The owls won’t see us in here.”

• The Log Lady steps up here for the first time to share a significant scene with the other regulars, and she does not disappoint. She’s odd (BIG surprise there), but like Cooper, she’s odd in such a specific way that the oddness feels more like a gift than some social deficiency. In terms of mythic archetypes, The Log Lady (aka Margaret, but what’s the fun in calling her Margaret?) resembles the wise witch in the woods – the seer, the Oracle, the woman that the questing hero/knight must visit as he pursues his task. And that impression is cemented in this scene through obtuse-and-baffling dialogue like “you’re two days late,” “the owls won’t see us here,” and “Fire is the devil hiding like a coward in the smoke.” We’re back in the land of Dreams/Magic, where things don’t make logical “sense” but still make sense in ways that defy logic and are no less true for that.

• We get the indefinable sense here that, like a majority of the characters on this show, The Log Lady has been deeply damaged by something. What’s unclear is whether her apparently-oracular abilities manifested as a result of that damage, or existed prior to it. Whatever the case, it’s clear that the good ol’ Log Lady isn’t simply/solely batshit insane. She’s channeling some aspect of the “truth” here, albeit in a nonsense way. Again, this is not dissimilar to the way that Cooper channeled the “truth” in his dream about the Red Room. While some of this stuff veers too close to cutesy for me, most of it feels enjoyably off-kilter in just the right way. And the Log Lady’s “translation” of what her log saw that night is genuinely disturbing: “Dark…Laughing. The owls were flying. Many things were blocked. Laughing. Two men, two girls. Flashlights pass by in the woods over the ridge. The owls were near. The dark was-was pressing in on her. Quiet then…Later, footsteps. One man passes by. Screams far away. Terrible, terrible. One voice.”

• Owls again rear their proverbial heads and we get the increasingly uneasy sensation that there’s something about the owls in Twin Peaks…something we need to start paying attention to. And as if to remind us of this fact we get the following, disquieting shot of a bird’s eye:

Did you notice this moment? The Raven’s eye going from black to milky, creepy white? I hadn’t. Now I wish I hadn’t. This moment is weird, but it has arguable “meaning,” if I’m remembering things correctly. Anyone who’s seen the show before and wants to confirm this for me, please do so in the spoiler thread.

• Some things to remember for later: Log Lady’s husband was, of course, a logging man. The wood holds many spirits.

• After leaving Log Lady’s Swingin’ Pad, Cooper Truman and the trusty Deps make their way to Renault’s cabin at last, where “there’s always music in the air, and the birds sing a pretty song,” sighting more of the Red Room’s dreamy signposts as they pursue the killer. They’re now sure that Laura and Ronette were the two girls in the Log Lady’s story (or is it the Log’s story?) and they’re sure of Renault being one of the men that Log Lady speaks of. In Renault’s cabin the men also discover a roll of twine (“sometimes my arms bend back”), blood, and a film canister. In the world of Twin Peaks, the discovery of a film canister at the scene of a crime does not bode well. Finally, they find a One Eyed Jack’s poker chip that’s missing a J – the very J, we can assume, that was found partially digested in Laura’s stomach.

Major Briggs: “Of course the modern age has changed forever the way your people live, Mr. Thorson. It would be my guess that there still remains a tremendous vestigial of interest in the legends and folklore of ancient Iceland.”

• Legends and folklore being brought up so prominently here is not a happy accident.

• I love that we never learn what Jerry’s talking about when he refers to an “American figure of speech,” but we can assume that it was smutty.

• Ben Horne asks his Icelandic guest, Thor, if he’s familiar with the work of Knut Hamsun. This is the sort of sly detail that usually skates right by me when I watch TV. But putting my thoughts to paper on a show each week seems to make me curious about these little details, and I’m increasingly glad of it. Do you know who Knut Hamsun is? Neither did I. The winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, he was referred to as “Norway’s soul” by King Haakon VII and according to Wikipedia: “Hamsun’s prose often contains rapturous depictions of the natural world, with intimate reflections on the Norwegian woodlands and coastline. For this reason, he has been linked with the spiritual movement known as pantheism. Hamsun saw mankind and nature united in a strong, sometimes mystical bond.” That’s certainly relevant to the show. I have to assume that for the writers to have pulled that name out for use in this episode, that they were at least marginally aware of Hamsun’s work. And because I’m assuming this I also think it’s interesting to point out that Hamsun was also, just FYI, a vehement supporter of the Nazi party, even following Norway’s occupation by Nazi Germany. Which makes this reference double-plus-good as far as I’m concerned. The fact that Horne name checks a famous Norwegian author while speaking to his Icelandic guest indicates that Horne had boned up on his Norwegian smalltalk, but maybe not so much on his Icelandic literature. It also indicates that Horne didn’t learn much about Hamsun’s life – just enough to seem like he knows what he’s talking about. I mean, maybe Hamsun’s literature is so good that contemporary Icelandic people have no problem separating his NAZI-loving side and his Nobel-winning side. Human nature being what it is, however, I suspect that’s not the case.

• Catherine and Ben engage in some sadism and masochism with their ooky illicit affair. As if getting a glimpse of “Little Elvis” wasn’t bad enough…

• Leland is officially insane by way of grief. How many times has he done this whole ‘dancing with myself’ thing, now? It’s at least the third iteration and it hasn’t gotten old for me yet, thanks to Wise’s performance. What’s interesting to me is how the people around him react to each of these episodes. His wife screams at him the first time, and seems frightened by his dancing with Laura’s picture. His second solo-dance was brief, public, and concluded with warm understanding and sympathy from the onlookers. This time, he’s an embarrassment to be swept under the rug as everyone around him pretends really hard to normalcy. Catherine’s dance with him, where she turns his unsettling habit of crying with his hands poised like antlers into a kind of party joke, is genuinely upsetting in its coldness. If it’s intentionally a commentary on how human beings tend to deal with real, raw grief, it’s pretty compelling, uncomfortable stuff. If it’s not, it works as one anyway. Audrey’s reaction to all of this is priceless, and again a little heartbreaking.

• Madeleine discovers a tape hidden in Laura’s bedpost. WTF? How big are the bedposts in Twin Peaks?

• It’s revealed that Horne and Josie have some sort of understanding behind Catherine’s back, and that Horne has led Josie to Catherine’s concealed book. Is this because Horne is laying a trap for Josie? Is he playing both sides? Are he and Josie sleeping together? Why do I sound like a fifty year old housewife with too many cats as I ask these questions?

• Just as I’m about to start griping about Hank again he goes and does something interesting – he beats the momentary spit out of Leo Johnson (effectively hitting himself, since they’re practically soul-brothers as far as I’m concerned). We learn that Hank was the one running drugs into Twin Peaks before he got sent away, and that Leo’s been “minding the store” for him, and apparently getting too big for his britches in the process. Shelly pulling the gun on Leo was still unexpected for me, even after having seen it before. I anticipated her being convinced to slowly lower the gun. Of note: When she shoots him, we get another spooky shot of an overhead light and a repeat of that skin-crawling drone on the soundtrack from Bob’s first appearance. Signifying Shelly’s act as evil? Signifying Bob/Evil’s presence? Signifying nothing?

Audrey: “Don’t make me leave. Please, don’t make me leave.”

• Oh, good God.