Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Jill Duffy, Girl Reporter, on Twin Peaks, Season 1, Episode 3

[Jill Duffy, girl reporter, continues her episode by episode look at Twin Peaks, which she is watching for the first time. For more in this series click the label at the bottom of this post.]

Episode 3 of season 1 of Twin Peaks was not my favorite. Too many new plots are introduced, one involving Norma Jennings, who is having an affair with Big Ed, and her husband, who is currently in prison but is trying to get paroled; and another about the Bookhouse and the Bookhouse Boys, the town’s secret society of cavaliers. There’s also some stuff pertaining to Bernard and Jacques, which seems to be in its early stages as well. Josie confides in Truman that she thinks Catherine and Horne are plotting against her, and that her husband’s (Andrew) accidental death might not have been so accidental after all. Oh yeah, and Madeline, Laura’s cousin who just happens to look just like her only with dark hair and glasses, arrives in town.

At the heart of episode 3, has two parts as well: Laura’s funeral and a visiting FBI agent named Albert.

Albert is a confrontational snob, pooh-poohing Twin Peaks for being so backward. At one point, while addressing Truman, he says, “You chowder head yokel, you blithering hay seed.” He’s just awful, but he gets his comeuppance: Truman clocks him, right in the morgue.

Laura’s funeral is comi-tragic. A priest giving a eulogy says Laura was impatient and wanted her life to catch up to her. Bobby erupts and calls everyone a hypocrite: “Everybody knew she was in trouble, but we didn’t do anything -- all you good people. You wanna know who killed Laura? You did! We all did.” Bobby and James, who was heretofore lurking in the periphery (earlier in the episode he declares he won’t be going to the funeral), suddenly run at each other and break into a brawl, and in slow motion, Bobby screams at James, “You are dead! You are a dead man! You’re dead!”

All this occurs quite literally around the dug grave into which Laura’s coffin is waiting to be lowered. Out of nowhere, Laura’s father Leland jumps on top of the casket, sobbing. The machine used to lower the casket into the ground goes haywire, rising and lowering over and over, with Leland on top, bobbing in and out of the frame, crying for his dead little girl.

Between the funeral and the morgue, there are two fights that take place literally over Laura’s dead body.

For me as a viewer, there is already a clear distinction between the characters and plot lines I care about and the ones that take a back seat. With so much going on and so many characters -- not to mention what’s newly introduced in each episode -- it’s hard to care about all of it. The scenes with Josie and Catherine I see as taking time away from learning more about those horrid animal bite marks on Laura’s body. I do want to know what exactly is up Audrey’s sleeve when convinces her father to let her work in the department store “at the cosmetic counter or something” (Laura and the Pulaski girl both worked at the perfume counter at Horne’s), but I really don’t care about whatever drug trafficking was going on between Jacque, Bernard, Bobby, Mike, and Leo. I do want the show to further explore the relationships between the high school-aged girls and their fathers, especially because One-Eyed Jack’s (the brothel over the border) employees these very same girls and the fathers are the patrons. But I don’t really want to know why Leo is such a jackass (he is Twin Peaks’ most one-dimensional character so far, and perhaps there is no “why” behind his brutality). I do want to know more about the “evil” in the woods, the “darkness,” and what’s happened in the last 20 years as the Bookhouse Boys have been fighting it, but I don’t really care that there is a secret society.

In the closing scene, Hawk (the police officer who is also a tracker) and Cooper are talking about souls. People are dancing in the background. Leland is there, looking distraught. He starts stammering and whining and begging people to dance with him. It’s totally pathetic and yet comi-tragic. I think this scene captures something I like about the show. Leland makes the viewer very uncomfortable. It’s painful to watch him in this scene, as it was when he leapt onto the casket at Laura’s funeral. But I am willing to suffer through it to see where it’s going. I’m also willing to keep my attention focused because of the supernatural philosophical conversation between Hawk and Cooper. I want to know where that’s going, too, and how their ideas contribute to my understanding of this place called Twin Peaks.

[Are there shades of Hamlet in the fight at Laura's grave?]

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