Truman: “I don’t understand. There’s a whole lot I don’t understand.”
Cooper: “We’re all like that.”
We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re close. Following this installment there are only five episodes of Twin Peaks left to go, including the two-hour finale, “Beyond Life and Death”. I’m excited to get there, excited to see David Lynch finally return to the show and restore its previous glory, and I’m looking forward to finally talking in more detail about the strange mythology of this show.
But in order to get there it’s necessary to push our way through an episode like Wounds and Scars. Wounds and Scars isn’t a bad episode of Twin Peaks. There’s nothing that inspires the urge to stab one’s eardrums, as with the Evelyn Marsh storyline, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about the episode as a whole. It feels, for lack of a better word, mundane.
And that’s the overall-criticism I’d level at this stretch of the show in general. It’s mundane. The spark of madness that Lynch and Frost injected into Twin Peaks has dwindled away. The charged atmosphere built up over a season-and-change has dissipated in the wake of Leland Palmer’s death, leaving behind a show that moves with a languid, sleepy-lidded gait and no discernable purpose.
Plenty of stuff happens on Twin Peaks during this stretch of television, but little of it feels as though it matters. Even Cooper’s storyline has dragged, presenting us with a lawman drained of much of his former electric eccentricity and a nemesis who seems content to dash around in goofy disguises and play his flutes in between chess moves.
Where are the wonder and the terror?
The answer to that question lies with Lynch. Without his unifying, disorienting vision – without his singular ability to evoke existential dread and profound bemusement – the show has slowly been foundering. Nowhere in this stretch of post-Leland episodes do we find a single image as awful and powerful as the image of a demonic-looking Laura Palmer. Nowhere in this stretch do we find evidence of the spiritual evil that so effectively infected the show and its viewers.
I’d hoped that the Conventional Wisdom regarding the “fallow period” of Twin Peaks was wrong. Instead, I was wrong. Twin Peaks went from magnetically-compelling to partially-interesting in a handful of episodes. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: Lynch is returning in just a few weeks, and he is going to BLOW YOUR MIND.
Thoughts on Wounds and Scars:
We rejoin Sherriff Truman as he mourns the totally-baffling death of Josie Packard – in which she abruptly collapsed and was then revealed to have been spiritually-confined to…a wooden knob. Television has changed a lot since Twin Peaks aired on network primetime, but even today it’s not often that you see a supporting character end up as a piece of bedroom furniture.
Of course, Truman doesn’t know that Josie is all knobby now. He just knows that her body is dead. And so he drinks. A lot. Because this is what stoic woodsy lawmen do. Michael Ontkean continues to be this show’s Secret MVP in the role, selling us on his grief here even as most of us are just really, really glad to see Josie leave the show/enter the furniture. In a town full of oddballs and nutjobs, Truman is a rock of normalcy. So it’s sorta disconcerting to see him out of sorts here. It’s also, by episode’s end, a bit much. Angelo Badlamenti’s score during Truman’s scenes is something of an overbearing mess, and it’s sort of difficult for me to take it seriously. Ontkean’s sadness/rage/drunkenness feels over-amped and overplayed eventually, since it seems as though the entirety of his memories of Josie consist of gauzy Red Shoe Diary-esque snippets, and since their on-screen relationship basically amounted to the two of them occasionally making out.
Welcome to Twin Peaks, Annie Blackburn – aka disconcertingly-young-looking Heather Graham. Prior to playing this role, Graham was known mostly for her puberty-igniting role as Mercedes Lane in the two-headed Corey movie/paean to day-glo 80’s materialism (Mercedes – just like the car!) “License to Drive,” and as a drippy junkie in Gus Van Sant’s Drugstore Cowboy. Graham’s since carved out a steady, solid career playing a variety of bubbly/airheaded gals. Here she’s playing something a little less typical for her – a former resident of a convent. I’ve only really warmed to Graham in two roles: as Lorraine in Swingers, and as Rollergirl in Boogie Nights. Outside those two characters she’s an obviously beautiful, distressingly ‘adequate’ actress. No matter the role, Graham usually manages to bring a stiff, not-quite-convincing quality to her work, and this episode suggests that Twin Peaks will be no exception. Graham’s abilities aside, the character of Annie is an interesting one so far. I’m intrigued by her stint in a convent, and by the scars she bears on her wrists.
I’m also continually intrigued by Major Briggs. His storyline has been the one consistently-involving portion of this stretch of episodes. It’s always nice to see the Log Lady pop up, and their (possible) connectedness provides this episode’s only truly interesting element.
While Truman’s busy getting his drink on, Cooper’s taken over as interim lawman-in-charge and it’s through his conversation with Hawk that we learn Josie’s death is just as mysterious to these characters as it is for us audience members. According to Doc Hayward, a cause of death could not be determined. Given this information, I’m sticking with the theory I posited last week: Josie died of fear. But what to make of the other fact we learn here: that Josie’s body apparently only weighed 65 lbs. at autopsy? According to one well-respected physician, as well as the title of one overly-ponderous indie film, the body loses twenty-one grams at death – the “weight” of the human soul. Is Twin Peaks implying here that the soul is, or can be, much heavier than that? I don’t think so. I believe instead that Peaks is equating Josie’s lost weight with the fear and the pleasures that we’ve been told Bob feeds on. I suspect that Josie’s lost weight can be accounted for in terms of devoured fear. It makes me wonder how much Maddie weighed, once they found her.
Windom Earle: “You know Leo, you can’t really appreciate how tonic country life is until you’re actually right here living it.”
As if to make sure that we’re paying attention, the show’s writers have Cooper’s doppelganger/evil twin/shadow self, aka Windom Earle, comment on the rejuvenating qualities of “country life,” and so highlighting and triple-underlining for us the notion of Earle as a dark reflection of Cooper. In addition to this we also see that Earle is wearing a ring, just as Cooper does. Recall that Cooper’s ring has a kind of mystic/symbolic importance on this show (Bob and Mike’s relationship was a “perfect circle,” the group of people assembled upon the revelation of Bob’s identity forms a circle, Cooper’s ring – a circle – is taken by the Giant and returned on the eve of Cooper cracking the case, etc. etc.). Does Earle’s ring have a similar, negative mystic/symbolic importance? Signs point to “sure, why the hell not.”
Mr. Pinkle – last seen selling Bobby and Shelly on a suspect piece of equipment for a then-catatonic Leo – pops up again in this episode to give a talk on “the majestic Pine Weasel.” One gets the feeling that Mr. Pinkle (portrayed again by Squiggy, of Laverne and Shirley fame) has a lot of disparate, less-than-stable jobs in and around Twin Peaks.
Audrey and John Justice Wheeler are getting all lovey-dovey now. They imitate the whole “James and Donna have a boring picnic” thing, and it’s pretty much as boring as the Donna/James one. Both Sherilyn Fenn and Billy Zane deserve a better plotline than this. According to reports, Kyle McLachlan put the kibosh on what seemed like a firmly-laid-from-the-beginning romantic story between Cooper and Audrey because he didn’t think it was appropriate for a straight-laced G-Man to woo a high school girl. He’s not wrong about the creepy factor there, but he was wrong to deny the audience the chemistry between himself and Fenn. This is, frankly, a poor substitute. Still, it ain’t James and Donna/James and Evelyn, and I think we can all be grateful for that.
Cooper: “Harry, eventually it’s going to help to know that she was a hardened criminal, a killer.”
Uhhh…yeah, maybe. But I’m pretty sure that you don’t want to be waving that stuff in his face just now, Coop. Of course, he does anyway, telling Truman that Josie was involved in all sorts of pleasant, innocent occupations like, say, prostitution (a very prominent, recurring theme on this show involves prostitution; the girls of One Eyed Jack’s, Audrey’s brush with the life, Laura’s habit of selling her body, and now Josie’s past. I don’t know that I’d make the argument that Twin Peaks is misogynistic, but at the least it’s certainly fascinated by the notion of women as seductresses/victims, sometimes all at once). This gives Truman an excuse to act surly and yell drunkenly. Ontkean does his best, but this self-pity’s getting sillier.
In other news, Catherine Martell gets a visit from Thomas Eckhardt’s mysterious female associate, and receives a present in the form of a black box; a black box that seems to make Catherine very nervous. The way that this woman wishes Catherine “good luck” makes me want to know what’s inside that box, but the way this season has been unfolding lately I’d almost rather not know.
I may think that most of Windom Earle’s disguises are silly, but I rather liked him showing up at the Hayward house pretending to be an old friend of Donna’s father. There’s none of the creeping menace here that Ray Wise brought to his final scene with Donna, but the characters do get a delayed suckerpunch when it’s revealed that Dr. Gerald Craig died years ago, and the number that was given to Donna turns out to belong to a cemetery. That’s a nicely gruesome, overly-elaborate touch. Granted, I still think that Donna’s acting waaaaay too normal for a young girl who was nearly assaulted by her best friend’s father (what are the chances that, weeks after those events ended, she’d be willing to let a total stranger into the house while she was alone?).
It’s fitting that Chess should come to play such a significant role in the latter half of the second season. Recall the zig-zagging black and white pattern in the Red Room of Cooper’s dream, and the stories we’ve heard about the White and Black Lodges. This pattern of alternating white and black is present throughout the series and it underlines the notion of good and evil existing side by side, perhaps even dependent on the other, in the sort of symbolically-symbiotic fashion represented in the Yin Yang symbol.
Major Briggs: “We all three recall the light.”
Log Lady: “And also the call of the owl.”
Major Briggs and the Log Lady pay a visit to Cooper and reveal that the Log Lady has a mark that’s eerily like the mark that the Major received during his abduction. The Log Lady’s marking looks like the titular Twin Peaks, whereas the Major’s mark resembles the symbol for radiation. Intriguing. We also learn that the Log Lady had an experience that may be similar to the Major’s – she experienced a flash of bright light, heard the call of an owl, and vanished for a period of time before reappearing without any memory of where she’d been.
Ben Horne pays a visit to Donna’s mother and its shot in such a way as to suggest that these two are carrying a secret between them. What’s the deal with Horne and Mrs. Hayward? Is it possible that they were secret lovers? I don’t particularly care whether or not they were, but the question’s there to be asked.
This is actually one of Windom Earle’s more convincing disguises.
Cooper: “You must be Norma’s sister.”
Annie: “I’m Annie. How’d you know?”
Cooper: “Dale Cooper, local law enforcement.”
And so it is that Dale Cooper meets his new love interest. She’s no Audrey Horne, but she’ll do. It’s ominous indeed to see Windom Earle watching over the both of them. Earle was responsible for destroying Cooper’s Great Love. We can only assume he’ll be similarly inclined this time around.
Hey, so Nadine and Mike check into the Great Northern for some surreptitious nookie. And also, Nadine and Ed are getting a divorce. That’s it.
Ben Horne: “A first scrubbing on one of the dirtiest consciences in the entire Northwest. And hopefully, it will happen to you.”
I’m still suspicious of Ben Horne’s motivations regarding his sudden transformation from eager raper of the land to environmental crusader, but I like the notion of him attempting to atone for his past misdeeds. Message Board member “Glisten” commented this week that the Civil War fantasies of Ben Horne can be seen as a stand-in for the battle over his soul/conscience. That’s a nifty way of looking at those scenes.
The moment where the majestic Pine Weasel takes a bite outta Dick Tremayne’s nose made me laugh. But all of the business that follows (ah! Pine Weasel on the loose!) just made me roll my eyes. Remember how this show used to feel like slow, strange molasses being poured hypnotically before our eyes? I do. I remember it fondly. This stuff, on the other hand, feels like an Americanized Benny Hill skit.
The episode ends with the inexplicable – Eckhardt’s assistant enters the Book House, strips down to some admirable lingerie, and climbs into bed with Truman. Just what is that all about?
….Not that I care. I am growing steadily more impatient to see this show return to its sinister/off-kilter roots, less and less inclined to think kindly on this stretch of televisual tarmac. I’m told that things start improving from here on out. I remain, as always, optimistic and I hope you’ll continue to read along as we get closer and closer to what is perhaps the single finest “finale” of television I’ve ever witnessed.