Major Briggs: “Have you ever heard of…the White Lodge?”

Thoughts on Dispute Between Brothers:

Things I don’t care enough about to comment on at length in this episode include:

• The revelation that Norma’s mother is the mysterious restaurant critic, “M.T. Wentz.” Really? Okay. Now let’s never speak of this again.
• Norma’s completely awful speech to her mother (“The hurt I feel is my hurt”?…Jeeeeeeeeeez)
• Josie’s inevitable, boring return.

Sarah Palmer: “Leland always found the other earring.”

Dispute Between Brothers picks up three days after the events of Arbitrary Law, and we watch as Cooper and Doc Hayward attempt to comfort Sarah in the wake of Leland’s death. Their conversation lends some degree of grace to the darkest of days. As Sarah notes, there’s only “a little bit of grass” on Laura’s grave, and now her husband has joined their daughter in the cold ground. Grace Zabriskie does typically-stellar work, completely selling us on the shock and agony she’s experienced and is experiencing, as well as the moment of clarity and partial peace she seems to achieve as Cooper tells her of Leland’s “redemption” before death. I’m sure that many of you have noticed how Cooper’s chipper zeal has been ebbing away over the past few episodes – here that zeal is replaced with a quiet strength that’s inspiring, helping to anchor a woman who is totally adrift.

Then we cut away, to a table being laden with foodstuff as ominous music drones over the imagery and we’re reminded again of the Appetites that have brought us all to this place in the show’s narrative – hungers that can seemingly never be sated. But the music shifts midway through this long panning shot, lightens into something almost choral as hands and voices make themselves known within the frame, and suddenly this overindulgent display becomes a display of sympathy and of communal solidarity – people coming together in a time of sadness to support one another. Nothing changes here but the music, and it’s a testament to Angelo Badlamenti’s abilities as a composer that he’s able to effect this change so subtly and smoothly.

The power of community to combat individual depravity is all but triple-underlined here in the way this home-based wake is shot and in the dialogue that follows – a woman in a wheelchair that I don’t remember ever seeing before remarks to Sarah and Audrey that in times like this, people come together in a kind of collective “reaching out.” I like this sentiment (as if that isn’t obvious from what’s come before) and I like that the show is emphasizing it. Too much darkness without light and it’s easy to forget that there’s something worth fighting for, as opposed to something worth fighting against.

I also love that Dr. Jacoby seems to have made his way back to town after a (very long) period of convalescence in Ha-vai-ii. I’m more ambivalent about the Statler and Waldorf impersonators who babble bizarrely about changing diapers and whether or not “she” feeds them during the course of the post-funeral sit-in. I like the idea of feuding brothers who’ve forgotten why they’re fighting – it’s the sort of quirky that appeals to me. That said, coming directly on the heels of Arbitrary Law, their addition feels pretty, well, arbitrary. Still, the idea’s a fun one. I look forward to seeing what they do with it. Less exciting is the prospect of a ramped-up Mad Pirate Superman Nadine storyline. Sending her back to High School might result in some fun/funny moments. Or it might be an excruciating bore. I genuinely enjoy Wendy Robie’s commitment to the character – she’s batty in the best way – but I don’t feel as though the writing always supports her the way it should. She’s willing to throw herself out there for us; there ought to be a sturdier trapeze. That said, the scene where she tries out for cheerleading made me grin.

Audrey: “Someone must’ve hurt you once, really badly.”
Cooper: “No, someone was hurt by me. And I’ll never let it happen again.”

Much as I’d have enjoyed seeing the natural chemistry between Cooper and Audrey develop beyond their lightly flirty banter, I like that Cooper’s past (and his commitment to his code) keep him from seriously entertaining the idea. There aren’t enough men of chivalry and regret on TV. Through this conversation we get more elaboration on Cooper’s past and the mysterious figure of Windom Earle (details you already know if you’ve chosen to read Cooper’s autobiography). We learn that the woman he loved was a material witness in an investigation, that Cooper’s job was to protect her, that he failed, leaving her dead in his arms and leaving his partner, Earle, insane. From the hints that we’ve picked up so far its possible to assume that this was the Pittsburgh case where Cooper went “down the chute,” the same case that a snarling Bob referred to in the previous episode. All of this has clearly left a deep and lasting scar, one that Audrey’s unable to come close to healing. But I like her hopefulness – her declaration that someday she’ll be “all grown up” and on her own, that Cooper had better watch out.

Bobby and Shelly continue to behave like teenagers and while I’m growing bored with their go-nowhere storyline I’m intrigued by the boredom that Shelly’s barely concealing at this point. I’m also weirdly looking forward to Leo’s inevitable return to consciousness, if only so it can shake things up a little. The scene shot from the height of one of Leo’s wheelchair wheels, where we realize that he’s slowly moving forward, is genuinely creepy stuff.

Catherine: “I think an Angel saved my life.”

Catherine makes her first post-Japanese-man-suit appearance to Truman and claims that she “has nothing to hide” (an obvious lie). It’s difficult to trust anything Catherine says, given how manipulative she’s been (and probably continues to be) but I found her speech about being guided to her old childhood haunts to be intriguing regardless of whether she herself believes the story she’s telling, for larger thematic reasons. The notion of Guardian Angels is one that the show has been nosing around for a little while now. The Giant seems to represent some form of potentially-benevolent spirit – one not unlike a Guardian Angel in his essential function as a supernatural prophet of ill omens. Audrey refers to Cooper as her Guardian Angel and prays to him when she’s held captive at One Eyed Jack’s. Now Catherine invokes that metaphysical imagery and describes being led to a place of natural beauty and childhood innocence by what she considers to be a Guardian of some sort. This kind of Edenic tale resembles (to my addled brain) Major Briggs’ vision, recounted to his son. And I absolutely love Catherine’s response to Truman when asked what finally made her come back: “I ran out of tuna fish.”

Cooper: “A Green Butt Skunk!”

Truman and Cooper’s farewell is nicely emotional in an understated way, with Harry’s gift of a Green Butt Skunk summer steelhead fly symbolizing the continuity of community and family. For all the examples of overt and aggressive Evil on this show, it’s the small moments of grace and giving that best sum up the patient Goodness that resides alongside the darkness in Twin Peaks. And as if to confirm this for us, Truman’s second gift cements Cooper as a fellow Knight in the struggle against darkness – a Bookhouse Boy patch that symbolically makes him one of them. Great stuff, well played.

But in a well-played twist, just as Cooper is saying his goodbyes to the rest of the Sherriff’s Department, FBI Agent Roger Hardy appears accompanied by a Canadian Mountie (is it me, or does the Mountie look a lot like William Atherton?) to inform Cooper that he has been suspended from the Bureau – effective immediately and without pay. Hardy is played by Clarence Williams, who starred alongside Peggy Lipton (Norma) in the Mod Squad – another instance where two actors from a past project have been recombined in this show (See: Russ Tamblyn and Richard Beymer). Putting Cooper in the hot seat for his “motives and his methods” is a great way to keep him relevant on the show now that the murder of Laura Palmer has been solved and the sorts of questions being asked about his actions are the sorts of questions that your average, non-Tibetan-method type law enforcement would ask of him. All of this flows pretty naturally from what’s occurred, and it feels like a natural, organic extension to this particular storyline – something I was admittedly worried about. And how great is Truman’s stalwart loyalty to Cooper?

Hank: “Ernie, meet Jean Renault. I met him in the woods one night when he stuck his pistol in my ear.”

Insert your own sex joke here.

Even better than the threatened prosecution and humiliation of Agent Cooper is the end-of-episode revelation that the Canadian Mountie who accompanied Agent Hardy in questioning Cooper and Truman is working for Jean Renault and One Eyed Jack’s. That’s a great touch, and it ramps up the danger for Cooper and keeps Renault in play. This makes me happy, because Renault is a much, much better villain than Blackie was, and Horne is even more interesting as a sleazeball behind the eight ball and/or a man losing his marbles than he is as a scheming “master of the universe.” And speaking of which: Ben Horne is losing it. He’s disheveled, uncaring about the incriminating tape that Bobby is attempting to blackmail him with, and has apparently developed a taste for Civil War-era jackets. I’m looking forward to where this storyline takes us, since Horne is one of my favorite characters and Beymer is a lot of fun to watch in the role.

Major Briggs: “There are powerful forces of Evil. It is some men’s fate to face great darkness. We each choose how to react. If the choice is fear, then we become vulnerable to darkness. There are ways to resist. You, sir, were blessed with certain gifts. In this respect you’re not alone. Have you ever heard of…the White Lodge?”

Cooper and the Major finally have their fishing trip (although there’s no fishing to be seen), and they discuss again the possible “reality” of Bob. Their conversation reveals to us that the Major seems to know quite a bit about what may be happening in Twin Peaks, and about the mythology that Cooper – and the audience – are only slowly piecing together. With the Major’s remark regarding fear and darkness, and the mention of the White Lodge, another mammoth piece of mythology is offered up to us. We get no information on what the White Lodge might be; before the Major can illuminate Cooper further he’s seemingly taken away in a blast of blinding white light as a mysterious figure looks on from the shadows. This sudden abduction is highly reminiscent of the reports of alien abductions throughout recent history, and that resemblance might help to explain why it is that the Major studies deep space communications as a part of his classified Intelligence work. But all is not as it seems in Twin Peaks, as we’ve already learned, and will continue to learn. I’m familiar with this aspect of Twin Peaks’ mythology, but not overly so, and I won’t go spoiling future revelations for those of you watching for the first time. Suffice it to say that I look forward to exploring it along with all of you as more is revealed to us, and to discussing some of the mythic and legendary aspects that are beginning to seep more deeply into the fabric of the show.

Have a great holiday weekend!

This Week’s Twin Peaks Ephemera

With each column I’ve been linking 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.

This week’s selection is for those of you who enjoy peeking behind the scenes a little. In Twin Peaks is a fantastic site containing episode screencaps, photos, articles…it’s a treasure trove for fans and I’ve been using their screencaps from the beginning. Included on the site are pictures of Twin Peaks “then and now,” both the Washington and California filming locations, and it’s fun to see how things have or haven’t changed. Twin Peaks has been off the air for 20 years and yet sites like In Twin Peaks still exist to champion its oddball charms. It’s strangely comforting.