Albert: “We sent the portrait of our long haired man to every agency from NASA to DEA and came up empty. This cat is in nobody’s data base.”
Thoughts on The Man Behind Glass:
• This one, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. I liked it fine – very much in fact -up until the three-quarter mark or so. But then things got…uneven. It felt a little like someone had plotted things out nice and entertainingly for the majority of the episode, then ran out of time and had to throw in a bunch of leaden exposition to pad things out. Even the stuff I enjoyed reveals some weird holes in the narrative (why does Cooper wait ‘til the halfway point if the episode to bring up the frantic call from Audrey the night before?). That said, this one was mostly-strong for me. Let’s talk about the majority of stuff that worked before we talk about what didn’t work, and who was unintentionally hilarious (James! My new favorite character!).
Cooper: “He’s been here.”
Truman: “We had a twenty-four hour guard.”
• The Man Behind Glass gets off to a crackerjack start with the revelation that someone has managed to sneak into Ronette’s hospital room to attempt to poison her IV feed. The idea that this man was able to get past Truman’s men may elicit no surprise from someone like Albert Rosenfeld, but it’s nonetheless unsettling. Then we discover that another letter has been wedged beneath Ronette’s finger, and the chill increases. Bob has been here.
• Cooper takes both Truman and Albert into his confidence and informs them that he was visited by a Giant. I enjoy that the characters around Cooper don’t ever seriously question him when he offers this kind of stuff up for straight-faced consumption. On any other show there’d be a de rigueur subplot with one of the characters constantly at odds over Cooper’s “unconventional methods.” For proof, look no further than The X-Files. Mulder’s clearly inspired, to whatever degree, by Cooper’s character. And who does Carter team him with? A dyed in the wool skeptic. There’s nothing wrong with this when done well (Mulder and Scully were done very well), but far more often than not it isn’t done well.
• We’re introduced to Harold Smith, the young recluse who was visited by Laura on her Meals on Wheels route. I found myself enormously distracted every time that Harold was on screen, due to the fact that he looks like the reincarnation of young Martin Short, if young Martin Short had hit the gym a lot. Harold can’t go outside for some reason, and so he joins the swelling ranks of townspeople in Twin Peaks who seem deeply damaged in highly-specific, quirky ways. It’s not even that he’s a recluse, he’s also gotta be a horticulturist who raises hybrid orchids.
Cooper: “The path is a psychic link that will lead us to this man.”
• See what I mean? Any other show and there’d be a whole bit between Cooper and his skeptical partner/antagonist about Cooper’s unorthodox ways. It’s easy to understand why that dynamic pops up so often, even if it has become a little lazy. I mean a psychic link? Riiiiiiiiiiiiight. And yet, Truman has nothing but quiet faith in Cooper, and while Albert cracks jokes about all this he never questions Coop.
Great Albert Line: “While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchet man in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and would gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman.”
• And I love you, Albert Roserfelson. This is such a perfectly calibrated, perfectly strange, perfectly funny/sincere moment – whoever’s responsible for coming up with it deserves extra dessert. As one of Chud’s illustrious commenters noted after the first episode: it’s strange in this day and age to see a portrayal of authority that, for all the tics and foibles present, is so overwhelmingly positive. The FBI is portrayed here as a group of ostensible weirdoes, but they’re weirdoes who are damned good at what they do, and damned determined to do good in the world. Most entertainment gives us a much more ambiguous portrait of authority these days and while that’s overall a good thing there’s something to be said for the sort of mythmaking that Lynch engages in here. Just because the reality of the world means that authority will almost always be corrupt/compromised/human in ways that disappoint us does not mean that our fiction must reflect that reality. I like that Lynch spins an idealized vision of authority for the same reason I like Grant Morrison’s idealized vision of Superman – it inspires on a level that’s arguably culturally and individually important.
Okay, enough windy pontification. Onward!
• New character Richard Tremayne enters the scene as Lucy’s previously-never-spoken-of fling. I don’t remember this guy at all, and I kind of love him. He seems plucked from another point in the timestream – Carnaby Street circa 1958 perhaps – in a way that’s both fun and funny. He makes no sense in this environment, yet he’s hyper-specific enough to feel a part of the general weave of the show. Seems that Lucy’s baby is his, which is going to complicate things even further between her and Andy. I can see this plotline going wildly, painfully off the rails in the future, and I hope that’s not the case. In small doses, Tremayne could be a lot of fun to watch.
Leland: “He used to shoot matches at me. He’d say, “Do you want to play with fire, little boy?”
• In last week’s column I asked you to remember these words. We first heard them from James, who was recounting a night that he’d spent in the woods with Laura. She spoke those words to him then. Here, Leland recounts meeting a man who looks like Bob, and who recited the same exact words. We’re not sure what this means, or why two generations of the Palmer family have seen Bob in their lives, but the connection between father and daughter on this detail is (to me) inherently creepy.
• Cooper’s moment blowing out a match evokes the “match cut” in Lawrence of Arabia.
• Blackie has effectively kidnapped Audrey at this point, holding her against her will, tying her to a chair, videotaping her (kinky and unwise, as anyone in the internet age could tell them now) and shooting her up with what he can assume is heroin in an effort to get her hooked the same way, apparently, that Ben Horne hooked Blackie. Audrey’s story gets darker and darker as the show rolls on, and while I’m enjoying the overall sense of deepening shadows on this show I’m also reminded once again of the show’s predilection for putting young woman in disproportionate peril, and that makes me uncomfortable in a different sort of way. There’s something interesting here, however, in the way that the sins of the father are visited upon the daughter. That’s something we’ll return to here as we keep watching.
James: “You look great. Cool dress.”
Maddie: “It’s one of Laura’s. It was just hanging there in her room. Funny… I hardly remember putting it on.
James: “It looks good on you. It looks…I don’t know…right.”
• There’s a weird sense of psychological transubstantiation happening here over the course of these episodes, as Maddie sinks further into life in Twin Peaks (just how long is she planning on hanging around?) and simultaneously seems to subconsciously be assuming certain of Laura’s attributes and affectations. It’s nifty, and troubling, but the ways in which this sense have been built up over these installments will be undercut by this episode’s ham-handedness in the final stretch – not enough to destroy what’s been built, but enough to make me groan over it.
James: I don’t know, Maddie. I don’t know anything anymore. Sometimes I feel like I should just take off. Just get on my bike and ride.”
• This is the best idea that James has ever had. Get on your bike and ride, James. Ride into the sunset. Much as I dislike this character though, something interesting happened over the course of this episode – James became immensely amusing. The way that he delivers lines like “She acted like she wanted to do it with me through the bars. She didn’t care if anybody saw us. It was weird.” is laugh out loud funny. Funnier still will be his “tortured” cries as Donna roars away from him at the end of the episode. I’m okay with James hanging around if he’ll be the source of this much unintentional comedy from now on.
Mike: “Bob? I know you’re near….I’m after you now!”
• The mythology of the show gets a sharp, swift kick in the pants courtesy of one-armed Philip Michael Gerard, who apparently really did have an appointment with Truman to sell him shoes. But Gerard’s got a secret – he takes some form of medication that appears to repress the “other Mike,” whom Cooper saw in his first season vision. Here is the Giant’s third signpost revealed – without chemicals, Mike will point the way to Bob. Why would gerard want to repress the Mike personality/spirit/force that resides inside him? I honestly don’t know. But I can guess. I’d guess that having one’s body overwhelmed by a strange new mind would be a frightening, impotent feeling, and that Gerard would want to regain control of himself as quickly as possible. I’d also guess that Gerard has perhaps served as Mike’s vessel for a while – possibly from before Mike had his conversion experience and “saw the face of God.” Given that Mike was ostensibly “Evil” at that point one can understand why Gerard would want to restrain him.
• Nadine and Ed are revisited, and we learn that Nadine’s arms have been heavily cuffed because, in a comatose state, she managed to rip through more traditional restraints. This is the second hint we’ve had so far of Nadine possessing superhuman strength (the first, if you remember, occurred on her rowing machine, where she bent the arm of it back (“Sometimes my arms bend back”?) despite it being made of metal. Here, the second hint is followed up by a display of that strength, as Ed’s Mad Pirate (Mutant) wife rips her heavier, chain-augmented cuffs free and reawakens, acting and sounding like a regressed teenager. Weiiiiird. Something potentially interesting: We’ve seen Cooper receive a “gift” of sorts from the Giant – a ball of light that entered Cooper’s body and vanished at the throat – the location of a chakra. Nadine is pumping out wild amounts of adrenaline, according to Dr. Hayward, and the adrenal glands correspond with another chakra.
• Jacoby reappears as Cooper and Truman hypnotize him in order to question him, discovering from him the identity of Jacques Renault’s killer – which equals bad news for Leland Palmer.
• And it’s at this point, more or less, that the whole enterprise proceeds slowly downhill. Donna’s graveside soliloquy is overwrought and undercooked, affected and affectless. It’s kind of agonizing in a smack-you-over-the-head-with-the-already-obvious sort of way, a classic case of telling, not showing. I get the purpose behind this scene, but the writing and execution just feels way off to me. Everything Donna says here we already know, and the stuff that could work (“I can’t help you anymore. I love you but I can’t.”) is essentially overwhelmed by all the stuff that doesn’t work (“It’s like they didn’t bury you deep enough!!”). I’d like to be more entertainingly unkind and lash this moment with a bunch of witty criticism, but its not really worth the effort. This sums things up pretty nicely for me.
• Apparently, one speech to a dead girl per episode just isn’t cutting it anymore. Maddie launches into her own short rant, seemingly directed at Laura’s picture, and gets all upset over the idea that people can’t distinguish her from Laura. Except, that’s not really fair/true. I mean, no one forced Maddie to pretend to BE Laura, she did that all by herself. And, best as I can recall, only Sarah Palmer ever confuses the two. Here’s my real issue: We’ve been talking about how, subtextually, Maddie serves as a “twin” to Laura, and how this reinforces certain thematic aspects of the show, and allows Lynch and Co. to indulge in a Vertigo-style homage. The problem with forcing subtext to suddenly become text is that, at least for me, doing that saps the subtext of its power. Having a character just state everything that the show has been suggesting is (a) boring, (b) intelligence-insulting, (c) silly. It’s this last part that bothers me most. Donna and Maddie’s words feel, ultimately, kinda silly – and silly (as opposed to surreal, or baffling) is the last thing that a drama as finely-balanced as Twin Peaks needs to be in what are, one assumes, straightforward emotional moments. All that said: I really like the way that Ray Wise plays this scene as Leland. There’s something both comforting and unsettling about his interaction with Maddie in this scene. We all wish we could return to the idyllic summers of our youth when we age, and yet we’ve just learned that it was during those Pearl Lake summers that Leland first met Bob – and Bob is anything but simple and sweet.
• The episode ends with a return to Harold’s house, still looking like he’s auditioning for a biography of Martin Short: The Early Years, as Donna goes to a total stranger (one who never leaves his own house) for comfort in the wake of James and Maddie’s betrayal. Sure. Why the hell not. And it’s there that Donna spots something truly unexpected just before the credits roll – a small red book with the words “This is the diary of Laura Palmer” written inside. And with that, we’re done ‘til next week.
This week’s Twin Peaks Ephemera
Each week I’ll link to a bit of pop culture ephemera that was created around the time of Twin Peaks’ airing, or that was created due to the show’s influence/inspiration, or is otherwise related to the show. This week’s offering is The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, another companion book published while the show was on the air. Written by Lynch’s daughter (she of “Boxing Helena” fame), the Diary chronicles Laura’s life growing up in Twin Peaks and explores Laura’s evolving and darkening psychology as she gets older. I’ll be honest: I don’t think much of this book. For one, it feels creepy and exploitative in a way that the show itself has not, yet. If you want to read about a twelve year-old girl’s sex thoughts, this book is for you. Roman Polanski’s probably got multiple copies. Another reason for my dislike of the book is that, stylistically-speaking, its poor. No twelve year old girl writes the way that Laura writes in this book. Granted, you could make the same essential statement about the early sections of Cooper’s “autobiography,” but Cooper’s been established as such a distinctly peculiar character that, overall, a more “adult” voice befits him in a way. A third reason for my dislike: It is kinda unintentionally goofy. There are sections in which Bob and Laura alternate “speaking,” and it just serves (for me) to take away some of Bob’s mystique and overall fright. You may feel otherwise, which is why I’m linking to it here.
That said, there are interesting/spooky sections to the text, and I think it’s interesting to note here that Laura’s cat was named Jupiter – a detail that may remind you of the quote I posted in last week’s column about that planet.
Catch up on Lost & Found!
• Lost & Found: An Introduction, A Proposition, A Preponderance of Purpled Prose
• Lost & Found: And The Winner Is…
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (S1, Pilot)
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (Eps. 1 & 2)
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (Eps. 3 & 4)
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (Eps. 5 & 6)
• Lost & Found: Twin Peaks (S1, Ep. 7 & S2, Ep. 1)