By Jill Duffy, girl reporter
[Jill Duffy continues her episode by episode look at Twin Peaks]
I used to have a literature professor who, before discussing a new work that the class had read, would start the class by asking, “What happened?” meaning, “Let’s recap the thing we all just read.” We’d talk about “what happened” in only a few minutes. It’s such a basic question, but it oriented everyone. It also made us understand what other people in the class saw as the most important or most striking features of the text. (It’s also an unintimidating question that gets people talking.)
After we had answered that question, the professor would say, “Okay. So, what’d ya think?”
We were allowed to answer that question generally at first (“I liked it”), but she’d eventually press and ask, “What part did you like?” “What character did you like?” And finally: “Why did you like it?”
I feel like this is my approach to watching Twin Peaks. I think about what happened in each episode, what sequences stand out to me as being the most significant. Then I think about what I liked and didn’t like. And finally, I ask myself why and try to peel back the layers of it to deepen by understanding.
I don’t like Windom Earl, so I don’t like the episodes with him so much. He disrupts the show. Why do I think he disrupts the show? Because he is the villain of a major movement of the show in season 2, a movement —plotting his revenge on Cooper because he believes Cooper is responsible for his wife’s death—that I feel is so far against the major movement of season 1: solving the death of Laura Palmer. Okay, but why did I like “solving Laura Palmer’s death” better than “watching Windom Earl plot against Coop?” I guess I liked Cooper better when he was investigating the details of this horrible thing that happened in a mysterious and remote village where he was apart from the people and the place, slowly figuring out how the town ticked. I liked Cooper as the outside man. I liked the idea that Twin Peaks was a thing unto itself that could not easily be understood, that held mysteries that were somehow so much apart of the town itself, that everyone who lived there stopped questioning them and just accepted that there was a strange and dark force in the woods.
Now that Cooper has ingrained himself as a Twin Peaksian, he’s now with the people, rather than trying to make sense of them.
What happens is Windom Earl tries to get close to Donna, Audrey, and Shelly, in order to choose one of them to murder and figure out how he’ll do it, and that this would be an appropriate revenge on Cooper, or at least the first major step in causing him agony. And that’s the rub: that Cooper is so close to these women in this town that it would pain him deeply were Earl to kill one of them.
[Jill Duffy, you had a good literature professor. Not enough people ask those questions in that way.]