Friday, July 17, 2009

Twin Peaks, Season 2 Episode 11 (or episode 18)

By Jill Duffy

[Jill Duffy continues her episode by episode look at Twin Peaks.]

Now well into Season 2, with Laura Palmer’s murder solved and Twin Peaks chugging steadily forward, some of the action moves into the local high school.

It feels funny (and doesn’t last too long), and not just because Nadine—the adult woman with the eye patch who is suffering from some kind of amnesia and thinks she is 16 years old again, and has superhuman strength, too (oh, that Nadine…)—is plopped back into the academic halls. It also feels funny to see Donna closing her locker and listening to gossip. We accept that she is a high school aged young woman, but we hadn’t before seen her in school. It kind of reminds me of Beverly Hills 90201, how all the actors are just way too old to be in school.

Another thing that feels odd are the1950s themes throughout the show now. Nadine’s school clothes include patent leather Mary-Janes, party skirts that flare and rise like a helicopter when twirled, and ribbons tied in her ponytail. James plays an old-fashioned juke box. Dick Tremane mentions going to have “a malted.” I can’t make much sense of them. Are they there to make Twin Peaks seem weird? Dated? Different? As if it were a place ungoverned by time?

On the other hand, modern audiences might pay more attention than is necessary to something that I’m going to guess is unintentionally dated: a huge portable computer that the FBI Internal Affairs investigators bring with them while they are investigating Agent Cooper. The thing looks like a desktop printer. I get as much of a kick out of seeing this behemoth as I do when Jerry Seinfeld answers his machete-sized cordless phone.

The real kicker in this episode, the pure entertainment that makes me keep watching, is David Duchovny, who shows up as Denise, a cool, confident, and extremely self-aware transvestite.

Elsewhere, the plot begins to sprawl uncontrollable, like Los Angeles, seeping out into hills and valley and infecting other places that are not really Twin Peaks at all. For example, James runs away to somewhere that is not all that far, but is not Twin Peaks, and meets an older woman, who is obviously trying to seduce him. The relationship is flat, clichéd, and ill fitted to the better themes of the show, like supernatural evil, the dark underbelly of common people and common places, and all that lies beyond our knowing.

There’s a new focus on storytelling within the show. Josie is back in the picture, and she tells Truman a story about a man in Hong Kong named Thomas Eckhart, and how she worked for him as a young girl. Then she married Andrew Packard, whom we already know died a year or so ago in suspicious circumstances. Eckhart, she says, thinks Josie is his property and wants her back, and when Andrew died, she was left without his protection. She says she thinks Eckhart was responsible for Andrew’s death. It’s backstory and storytelling rolled into one. But Josie is whiny and a little pathetic—a put-on to further seduce Truman. Seduction, again here as with James’ plotline, is trite and kind of annoying.

Horne, disheveled and alone, is watching old home movies of when The Great Northern first opened, when he and his brother Jerry were little boys. The storytelling here is visual, and I like it, especially as it taps into a lost era rather than “that topsy-turvy plotline that happened last year, that’s still alive and well and will greatly inform what’s to come in the show.”

As much as the conspiracies and transgressions are, for the most part, dry and paltry, it is neat that they are all intertwined. Catherine is a good example of that. She basically enslaves Josie, telling a story as she does it. I like how Catherine is a villainous character who we feel more empathy toward over time. In a way, we don’t blame her for enslaving Josie. It’s a smart decision, politically, and it also seems very businesslike.

Just as Josie leaves, Andrew, whom we were told is dead, appears: “… and now dear sister we wait for Thomas Eckhart to come looking for his one true lover, and when he does…”

Catherine: “We’ll be waiting for him.”

A welcomed relief is that for the end credits, there’s new music and new footage, and the photo of Laura is gone! Yay.


Joe Gualtieri said...

Huh, you seemed to have mostly enjoyed the episode, so I was kind of surprised by the description of the end credits as "a welcomed relief."

The James plot is far and away the worst part of Twin Peaks, full stop, anyone who tells you otherwise is demonstrably wrong.

Well, other than maybe Lynch complaining about Cooper's wardrobe in later episodes, that's almost as bad.

Jill Duffy said...

A clarification on the end credits: It was a relief to see something other than Laura Palmer's photo and the same old music in the end credits. I did not mean, "oh what a relief that this episode is over."