Thoughts on The Condemned Woman:
• We rejoin Cooper, now at the Sheriff’s Station with Truman, as they listen to the full recording that Windom Earle has left for Cooper. We’re reminded of Earle’s danger and insanity, and we’re reminded of Cooper’s great love for Caroline who was once Earle’s wife.
Earle: “I’ve noticed a certain tentative quality in your thinking as if your mind were occupied with issues other then those on the board before you.”
• That’s a nice line, because it ties back into an earlier episode where Cooper talked about “seeing beyond the board.” All of this, believe it or not, is leading up to something pretty major in the Twin Peaks universe. I may not have much foreknowledge of the show at this point, but I do know this for certain. Part of what’s interesting about the Earle storyline involves both Earle and Cooper’s preoccupation with “issues other than those on the board.” This will become clearer soon, or so I hope.
• I’m not so sure that I “get” Andrew, or his place in the scheme of things. He’s shown allied with Catherine – a woman of dubious, rarely-straightforward morality – and yet he’s shown in this episode to have the same skewed humor as good ol’ Pete. The two of them crack up over the “breakfast face” that Pete assembles on Andrew’s plate. What’s his deal? What are his motives?
• Albert confirms for us that the same bullets were used in the shooting of Cooper and the killing of “Jonathan,” the creepy Asian dude who pretended to be Josie’s cousin, letting us know for certain that Josie did the dirty deed. This represents still-more forward movement for the show, and the faster that Twin Peaks can usher Josie off the stage the better, as far as I’m concerned. At one point in this episode, Andrew Packard muses on whether Josie does “twisted things” deliberately. That’s an interesting notion, and its one that I wish had been better dramatized on Twin Peaks.
John Justice Wheeler: “Hiya. I just checked into room 215.”
• Welcome to Twin Peaks, Billy Zane (aka The Ghost Who Walks, aka The Collector)! Zane pops up in this episode as “John Justice Wheeler,” and its evident from the get-go that he’s meant to serve as Audrey’s new potential love interest. This pleases me to no end. I consider Zane a fairly underrated actor and I’m pleased to see him here. He brings a certain understated humor to much of his work and I’m hopeful that he’ll flex those particular figurative muscles on the show.
Tangent!: I’m an unabashed fan of The Phantom – an agreeably corny film that, like another charming “period” adventurer flick – The Rocketeer – never found an audience substantial enough to justify a sequel. Zane is pretty great in the title role; he brings his wry way with a line reading, a ridiculously pumped physique, and a certain indefinable-but-unmistakable sincerity to the part and it’s wholly winning. On top of Zane’s performance, Treat Williams (star of Chud-favorite Deep Rising) brings the goods as Xander Drax, the villain of the piece, and he is, similarly, pretty fantastic (“Have you heard the exciting news?! We’re going to the Devil’s Vortex!”). If you enjoyed The Rocketeer/The Shadow; if you’re a person capable of enjoying films that harken back to an earlier time in Hollywood/history, that aren’t afraid to be goofy/charming, and you’re not the sort of disappointingly-dull individual that “can’t take a guy in a purple suit seriously,” may I recommend that you Netflix that puppy? Don’t just take my word for it – Ebert agrees. So does Vern. Drop me a line at WhatIsWater@gmail.com and let me know what you thought.
Audrey (reading): “Save the one you love. Please attend gathering of angels tonight at the Roadhouse 9:30.”
• Audrey receives a letter from Windom Earle (though obviously anonymous from her perspective) containing a third of the poem that Earle made Leo painstakingly (emphasis on ‘pain’) copy for him in the last episode. Throughout the episode, both Shelly and Donna also receive similar letters with identical invitations, along with the other 2/3’s of the poem. Earle is gathering his potential queens. This will acquire more mythic/thematic relevance as we go on.
Ben: “Alright, suffice to say, Horne Industries Incorporated have fallen on hard times. The mill, the Ghostwood lands are now solely owned by Catherine Martell. I don’t begrudge her, the mill was and is after all her’s. So, in spite of these reversals and uh stripped of all the trappings of success, what are we left with? …The human spirit.”
• Ben Horne is back and kickin’ it in a snazzy sweat suit. Ah, the early 90’s. Ben’s dementia appears to have passed completely, which makes me question the point of having had him demented to begin with. Nonetheless, it’s good to have the old scheming Ben Horne back in business. Ben has arranged for John Justice Wheeler to join the board of Horne Industries, and we learn that thanks to a small investment that Ben made years ago, Wheeler is now a self-made success. Ben’s plan involves fighting for the preservation of the nearly-extinct “Pine Weasel” (an animal that apparently actually exists. In a testament to the wonder and weirdness of the internet there is also a Facebook page devoted, apparently, to stopping the fictional destruction of the majestic Pine Weasel in the fictional Ghostwood Forest near the fictional town of Twin Peaks. If you’d like to join this Facebook group – hey, you’ve got your reasons I’m sure – you can do so right here) in an apparent attempt to stop Catherine Martell from developing the Ghostwood forest. It’s a fairly ingenious solution to Horne’s problem, whacktastic as it sounds. What’s intriguing about this scene is how it leaves Ben’s motivations fairly ambiguous (at least as far as I’m concerned). Jerry makes the connection between saving the Pine Weasel and stopping Catherine’s plans, but Ben never indicates whether his brother is correct in that assessment. It could very well be that Ben’s still “crazy,” just in a different way. This is highlighted by Ben’s announced plan to possibly run for the Senate.
I also like the way in which Ben’s speech underlines what is probably the show’s defining thesis: the struggle of the human spirit.
Ben: “Found only in our tri-country area it is nearly extinct.”
Great Jerry Line: “They’re incredible roasted.”
• We return to Shelly and Norma at the diner, where Shelly receives her Windom Earle invitation, and we learn that Norma’s sister is coming to town. Her name is Annie, and she’s been in a convent, presumably serving as a nun. We’ll meet Annie soon, but you should remember this about her: she is arriving from a convent. That’s important, thematically-speaking. Very important, or so I’ll be arguing shortly.
Windom Earle: “Nature is cruel. This is also a lesson.”
• That might be one of the defining lines of the series, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve talked often about the clash between civilization and savagery on this show, and “nature” has fairly consistently been portrayed as the savage portion of that equation. The woods are not a place of contemplation and peace, at least not as Twin Peaks has shown them to us. The woods is the demarcating line where civilization ends, and the rule of cruel nature begins. This idea of nature as savage enemy is ancient, rooted deeply in our species’ development and history, our myths and our legends. The forest is where Red Riding Hood meets her Wolf. It’s where Hansel and Gretel develop diabetes and/or come close to being cooked alive. The Ghostwood forest continues this mythic tradition, being the place where Laura Palmer felt her innocence ebb, the place where Twin Peaks’ dark heart appears to thrive, a place where men are abducted in flashes of white light and owls haunt the trees contemplating murder.
• Most of the soapiness surrounding the Norma/Hank marriage is mitigated by Norma’s indisputably bad@$$ retort to her jailbird hubbie: “I’d rather be his whore than your wife.” F*ck yeah, Norma. That’s the kind of spirit I want to see in an ex-Mod Squad-er.
Sheriff Truman: I never heard of a man who murdered by the rules.
• That’s because most of them exist in television shows and movies, I’d imagine. I’m not someone who’s fascinated by gore/serial killers/murder/mayhem as a general rule. That said, I’m a sucker for the “calculating killer with a twisted sense of honor” trope. Earle scratches that particular itch fairly well so far. I like the notion of his killing being stymied by a particularly effective Chess move. It’s the sort of oddly-ornate detail that appeals to me, personally.
• Can it be that, as of this episode, we’ve seen the last of James Hurley? Hot diggety dog.
Shelly (reading): “See the mountains kiss high heaven and the waves clasps one another. No sister flower would be forgiven if it disdained its brother. And the sun light clasps the Earth and the moon beams kiss the sea. What is all this sweet work worth if thou kiss not me?”
• Windom Earle is apparently a fan of the classics. That poem comes to us courtesy of Percy Bysshe Shelley, and it’s read, if you’re the sort of person to notice these sorts of things, by the character of Shelly – a quirky and ironic, admirably subtle grace note. It’s floridly romantic in exactly the style that Twin Peaks enjoys employing. What’s most interesting about this choice is what we don’t see (at least as far as I’m concerned); namely, the first portion of the poem. Specifically this section: “Nothing in the world is single/All things by a law divine/In one another’s being mingle/Why not I with thine?” That section of the poem seems applicable to Twin Peaks on at least two levels, one light, one dark. We’ve already seen how Bob’s spirit “mingled” with Leland’s and dwelt within him. We’ve also seen how this show is obsessed with Twins and twinning, doubles and dopplegangers, recalling that first line: “Nothing in the world is single.”
We get a glimpse of this poem because Shelly, Donna and Audrey have arrived at the Roadhouse for the “gathering of angels” they were invited to by Mr. Earle. It appears that he’s primarily interested in scouting this trinity of femininity, seeking out his Queen while dressed as an unfortunate trucker. Because, y’know, why the hell not.
• And speaking of “why the hell not,” let’s talk about this episode’s ending. Because this is some weird sh*t.
Cooper and Truman go to arrest Josie for being The Most Boring Murderer Of All Time, find her in Eckhardt’s room at the Great Northern where she has just shot and killed Eckhardt (off-screen of course, because that’s boring), and watch as she pleads to them both before basically just collapsing and dying for no reason whatsoever.
I mean, maybe I missed something here but there’s no cause of death. At all. Which means one of two things:
That’s possible. The writers this season have pulled some weird, inexplicable stuff that’s both dull and lazy on several occasions. I’m thinking specifically of the Mayor’s wife, who apparently bewitches any man she talks to, seemed potentially important to the story for about a minute there, and now seems totally irrelevant. But given what happens immediately after Josie’s sudden death I’m inclined to think there’s more going on here. So, option two:
I don’t think it is. I think Josie’s fear somehow triggered her demise. But Josie’s death isn’t really what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about the aftermath – the vision, and that last, bizarre shot.
After Josie slumps over like a bag of (boring) potatoes, Cooper receives a vision. In it, Bob comes crawling over the bed and the Little Man we saw in the Red Room does a dance on the bedspread. I wish I could say that this vision contains the same spark of madness that I’ve so enjoyed throughout the show, but the whole thing’s pretty pedestrian if I’m being honest. It feels obligatory to some extent – “Here’s Bob, doing his famous couch crawl! Oh, and here’s that Little Man you liked! Look! He’s dancing!” That aside I do find it interesting that, visually at least, the show seems to be linking Bob and the Little Man together. Are they both denizens of the Black Lodge? As I’ve written before, we still have no idea what “side” the Little Man is on. It’s just as possible that he represents the shadow-self of the Black Lodge as it is that he’s an agent of the White (or something in between). I like that this ambiguity continues unabated, and that we exit the episode with no clearer sense of this particular “higher power.”
But not as much as I like that final shot. That is some weeeeeeeeeeeeeeird television, man. Josie’s spirit is now, apparently, trapped in a wooden knob. WTF? I’m assuming that the show’s writers were smoking some truly excellent stuff on the day that they wrote this. And honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this particular development. On the one hand, I can see how a LOT of people would have thrown their remotes at their televisions after seeing the end of this episode. I mean, the woman is trapped in a wooden knob. No matter how you slice it, that’s beyond bizarre.
And yet. Isn’t it all too fitting to condemn one of the show’s most boring characters to a fate that involves literally becoming a “block of wood.” The only way this could be more fitting is if James Hurley turned into a bureau also. Also: Remember the Log Lady? It’s been a while since we’ve seen her hanging around the Double-R but she’s still around. Carrying her log. That she speaks to. It strikes me that these two separate things are now interconnected, however tenuously. What if there’s a spirit trapped in her log? And even as I type that out and recognize how utterly ridiculous that is, I’m still excited by the notion, because it suggests that the show’s blue collar mysticism has a point, a purpose, a method behind the madness (however bizarro that might be). It suggests that there’s a larger story lurking around the edges here – something that will tie these events together and possibly link the notion of trapped souls with the Ghostwood forest (and now that name makes so much more sense, no?). What if the Ghostwood forest is populated by spirits? Spirits that use early-90’s CGI to manifest themselves?
We’ll find out soon enough, or we won’t, because Twin Peaks is swiftly coming to a close. I have to say, as much of a slog as these past episodes have been I’m both sad to see the show concluding and looking forward to completing the journey with all of you. Where will this show end up? I hope you’ll stick around to find out with me.