Friday, October 23, 2009

Twin Peaks, Season 2 Episode 22: THE END

By Jill Duffy, girl reporter [completing her episode by episode look at Twin Peaks. I make a brief comment below.]

“And now, an ending. Where there was once one, there are now two. Or were there always two? What is a reflection? A chance to see two? When there are chances for reflections, there can always be two or more. Only when we are everywhere will there be just one. It has been a pleasure speaking to you.” –The Log Lady

When the Log Lady speaks her parting words about duplicity, sameness, and reflection to introduce this final episode of Twin Peaks, I honestly wonder what she wants us to think about.

There is no obvious answer, but the two “twos” that come to mind first are Bob and his “host” (Leland, for example), and Laura and Maddy.

Let’s start with Bob. We haven’t seen much of Bob lately at all. Then there’s Leland, who came apart at the seams and finally died a few episodes back. Maddy has been dead for quite some time, and Laura was never seen alive on the show ever.

I never really thought about that until now. Laura Palmer isn’t really on the show.

I guess for Laura at though, her absence was her presence. Her whole role in the show was that she was dead at the start of it.

But in this final episode, directed by David Lynch, many of these people come back.

What Happens

The show gets off on a roll. There’s some turmoil in the beginning about Pete and a stolen truck—just enough to establish a conspiracy and pick up some momentum. Pete thinks Margaret, The Log Lady, stole his truck, but it was actually Windom Earle disguised as Margaret. (More Bugs Bunny stuff for you right there!)

Earle has kidnapped Annie and is taking her to the woods in the stolen truck. His plan is to invoke fear in her, because he needs fear in order to open the gateway to the Black Lodge and the other side.

I feel like it’s strange to watch Annie at first in this scene because she’s almost cold. But something else about her seems strong, like she is deliberately trying to not show fear so that Earle can’t get what he’s after. None of that is explicit, and maybe it wasn’t even intended, but that’s how I felt about her performance.

Annie at first repeats prayer (she used to be in a convent, if you recall) and talks to her captor rationally. But aggressively, Earle makes her submit and forces into a circle of sycamore tree. The moment she steps into the circle, she becomes totally washed over.

A flashlight shines on Annie in the darkness, with high contrast, and she looks a little like Laura at a glance. Then she and Windom walk behind a red curtain that appears in the backdrop. They just slip behind it and disappear in the woods. I can’t imagine what that moment must have been like to see on television when this episode first aired.

Meanwhile. . .

Nadine and Mike suffer head trauma, which causes Nadine to come back to full consciousness and adulthood again. She back in reality, but she’s also back to her frail and crazy self.

I don’t like the Nadine thing ending this way. It’s sad to see her acting like a hysterical woman, screaming about drape runners again, when she had become such a strong and fearless young woman.

It’s strange that this scene is butted up against the one with Annie, as two women who were momentarily strong are not anymore.

As for Donna, she has learned that Ben Horne is her biological father. There’s a confrontation, and Doc Hayward goes berserk, punching Horne hard and causing him to spin, stumble, and crack his head open on the fireplace. Doc Hayward falls to his knees, shaking his fists and head in anger, or in frustration at being overcome by emotion or darkness enough to knock another man out cold. That was totally unexpected. Doc Hayward is the last person you’d ever suspect to lose his cool, or worse, be overtaken by Bob—and there’s a hint from the music cues and the level of gore in this scene that maybe that’s what’s about to happen.

Back In The Woods. . .

Cooper goes to the woods, in pursuit of Windom Earle and Annie, with Harry, but says he has to go forward alone. The lighting uses a lot of flashlights, and there’s a lot of handheld camera work. It’s very Blair Witch Project, only less nauseating.

Cooper finds the circle of 12 sycamore trees, sees a pool of oil, and just like that, slips behind the same red curtains where Earle and Annie disappeared.

Harry seems to look on. Can Harry see the curtain? When the camera is from his perspective, it’s there, though I’m not 100 percent convinced he can see it. Maybe he sees Coop just disappear into a little strike of light.

Behind the Curtain. . .

Behind the curtain, the dim spot-flashlight lighting changes and we get strobe instead. There’s an old singer with an old-fashioned mic with heavy reverb. The little man is there.

We see the little stage area of two couches and a statue where Laura once appeared with the Little Man in Cooper’s dream.

The red room is what’s memorable about Twin Peaks, so I understand why Lynch and Frost want to end the series here. But it is odd that so much time has passed since Twin Peaks took place in the red room. This is riveting for television, and what I think makes it riveting is returning to this magical and special place that was never explained to us. We get to return to this place that we wanted to know more about.

Seriously, riveting! The characters in this show go into another dimension, where there are strobe lights, murdered high school girls, a midget—and!—this isn’t even the first time they go to this place! There are people on the outside, namely Harry now, waiting for the characters to return to the normal world. Usually if this kind of alternate universe were taking place in a television show or movie, no one but the character experiencing it would know so that we, the audience, would always have to wonder if the entire experience were only some allusion or delusion.

In Twin Peaks, though, we have Harry, Hawk, Margaret, and Briggs to back up the story. We had the one-armed man Mike. We had the little boy who made the creamed corn disappear. All the corroborated stories tell us, “This is really happening!” This place really exists.

At daylight, Andy and Harry are waiting for Cooper to reemerge. It’s been about 10 hours, they say.

Again, Meanwhile. . .

Audrey goes into a bank and handcuffs herself to the local Savings and Loan to protest its investment in Ghostwood.

There’s an excruciatingly old man working at the bank. I like the old geezer cameos, like the one in Cooper’s hotel room after he has been shot. They walk as if they need a walker or cane, but can manage to take just a few steps on their own... just a few more… just a few more. They limp along at a hilariously slow pace.

In the bank vault, we get a lot of Lynchian shots, where we watch, in one continuous shot, the old man walk way down a hallway, fetch a glass of water, and then walk all the way back to Audrey, and then walk another stretch to put the glass down, and then pace around some more.

This long distance shot, which is still in effect when Andrew and Pete show up, puts a huge amount of distance between us and them. It also, though, tells us that the action is due to move back our way any moment now.

Andrew has come to the bank because he has a key from Eckhart that is, apparently, for a safety deposit box. Andrew finds the box, opens it, and inside there is a note—“Got you, Andrew”—and a bomb that immediately blows the whole place to smithereens. We can only assume everyone is dead.

At the R&R Diner, Shelly and Bobby are hanging out. Sarah, Laura’s mother, and Dr. Jacoby enter looking for Briggs and his wife, telling them they have an urgent message. Sarah sits down and tells Briggs, in a crazy demonic whisper, “I’m in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper.”

Who is channeling Sarah to say this? Is it Bob? Windom Earle? The midget? Laura? Suddenly, there is a shot of the red room hallway, and voice saying, “I’ve waited for you.”

We are now 31 minutes into this 49-minute show, if you can believe it. I can’t. That’s why I made a note of it.

In the red room, Laura arrives. The elderly hotel porter arrives. The giant arrives and says, “One and the same,” as people continue to appear and disappear or turn into someone else.

One unique thing about Twin Peaks that I’ve harped on before is how explicit the show is in getting across some of its messages. When Bob inhabited Leland, nothing was left up to interpretation. We saw and heard several times how Bob took over Leland’s body. There was never any doubt in anyone’s mind about what was happening.

Now, however, what the hell is going on?

It’s kind of great. What could be creepier? And again, I can’t believe this was ever on prime time.

Cooper picks up a cup of coffee. It’s fake and the liquid is fake, and doesn’t pour. He rights it, tips again, and now it pours like normal. He rights it again, pours again, and now it pours like molasses. Cooper is experimenting in the world, I think, testing things out to see what happens. The problem is, objects do not seem to have fixed properties, much like how people morphed into one another only moments before.

The Little Man says, “Wow Bob, wow,” and “Fire walk with me.” Then more strobes.

Cooper exits to the hallway, through the curtains, and parts the curtains on the other side only to find a replica of the room he was just in, except devoid of people. He returns to the first room, and the Little Man yells at him, “Wrong way.”

He exits again, goes back to the second room again, and finds the Little Man there this time, yelling and gyrating. He says, “Another friend,” and we see a silhouette coming from behind the curtains. It’s Maddy. She says, “Watch out for my cousin.”

Cooper goes to the first room.

It’s empty.

Then the Little Man appears, but his eyes are messed up. He says, “Doppleganger.”

Laura appears, also with messed up vampire eyes. She screeches and screams, blood curdling, for a long time. Cooper runs away. Now he’s bleeding. He goes back and forth between the two rooms so much that I lose track of which was the first room and which was the second. Where are people good, and where are they bad?

He enters one again. Each time it’s different. Now he sees Caroline dead on the floor lying next to his own body double. She rises and it becomes Annie, with a bloody and punctured throat.

He exits, reenters. Annie is there. “I saw the face of the man who killed me. It was my husband.” Then Annie becomes Caroline, then Annie again, then Laura, then Windom. He says, “If you give me your soul, then I’ll let Annie live.” And Windom seems to take his soul. Then fire. Then Bob tortures Windom.

Bob tells Cooper to go, that Earle is “wrong.” “He can’t ask for your soul. I will take his.” As Bob laughs like crazy, Cooper flees the room, toward the camera. Then there is a shadowy figure behind the curtain at the opposite end of the room, and in through the curtains comes Cooper, now with messed up eyes, and he joins Bob in laughing.

We are 45 minutes in. I can’t believe how much happens in this episode in only 45 minutes.
Leland appears with the cataract eyes, and colored hair again (remember his hair went white). He says, “I did not kill anybody."

Another Cooper appears in the same shot. Cooper 1 leaves. Cooper 2 approaches Leland. Cooper 2 has an evil grin. Cooper 2 goes after Cooper 1.

The two Coopers run in circles, as much as where they are can be said to put them in circles. The evil Coop catches up with the good one just as we cut to the woods and see Harry waking, and yelling out to Cooper, who is now in the ground in the sycamore circle. Annie is there as well, knocked out, with a bloody face.

This is the 47 minute mark.

Cooper wakes up in the hotel room. Harry and Doc Hayward are there. He says several times that he needs to brush his teeth and goes alone into the bathroom. Something is off about him. Obviously, he’s upset, and that’s an understatement.
Once in the bathroom, he squeezes toothpaste into the sink, then raises his head at the mirror and smashes it into it, bloodying his face, cracking the mirror. As he lifts his face, it’s Bob’s reflection. In a maniac’s mocking voice, he repeats, “How’s Annie? How’s Annie? How’s Annie?” and laughs at himself. And that’s how it ends, at 49 minutes: Bob takes over Cooper.

Last Rites

I don’t know what to make of it. I’m glad the show is over because I wouldn’t have wanted a season three in which Bob manifests as Cooper. What would have been the plot? Waiting for Cooper to kill Annie or Audrey or some other young girl? That would have been too dark, too grim, and too much of a stretch with Cooper’s character.

I think Cooper already became someone that I wasn’t as crazy about in season two when he fully became a community member of Twin Peaks. In season one, he is an outsider, hanging upside down in his hotel as part of his daily exercises, making voice recordings to Diane, his secretary back at home base, in short, a kooky guy who has brought his kooky ways to this small town, which he then learns has its own kooky ways.

Knowing that at the end of this episode, there is no more Twin Peaks the television program, I think it works to end it this way. Having Cooper be overtaken by Bob works only if it isn’t explained or followed through on. It works because we don’t know what will happen next.

[I kind of disagree about not knowing what will happen next, but I am in the minority on this. I think that just like in Lost Highway the whole thing comes full circle. Next up: a beautiful young girl is murdered, and the person who did it is the person you would least expect: someone who loved her very much. I think this is partly why when Lynch does the Fire Walk With Me movie it does not really advance anything -- it just acts as a prequel, not really revealing much.]

[Also: Thank you very much Jill Duffy!]


Patrick said...

Are you going to cover FWWM? I kind of disagree that it doesn't advance things. Even though the narrative backtracks, it gives a sense of closure and fulfillment that I didn't feel from the series. I also think it's one of the best, and most misunderstood, movies of all time.

It functions as a great hinge for Lynch's work, blending the subverted creepy 50s cross of good and evil style of Blue Velvet/Twin Peaks/Wild at Heart with the more subjective and psychological character studies of Lost Highway, Mulholland Dr. or Inland Empire.

Joe Gualtieri said...

I have to second Patrick, FWWM is really the fulcrum for Lynch's two major phases as a filmmaker.

It should also be noted that film isn't really a prequel, which would have been more explicit with some of the deleted scenes included. The film acts a moebius-strip like capstone on the series, a film-long equivalent of Bill Pullman's "Dick Laurent is dead" from Lost highway.

Pallas said...

I seem to recall that season 3 would have focused more on Major Briggs, which seems to make sense, if they were going to set up a Cooper/Bob versus Briggs situation. The message Briggs gets in the final episode would seem to begin to set that up.

There's actually a hint of how the situation would have resolved itself in Fire Walk With Me.

Laura sees a vision of Annie, where Annie says something like "Agent Cooper is trapped with me in the Black Lodge! Write it in your diary, Laura. Write it in your diary!"

Presumably Briggs or Harry would have found yet another lost section of Laura Palmer's diary, cluing them in on what was happening.

Marc Caputo said...

This may have been covered before, but at the end of FWWM, isn't it at least hinted that Cooper eventually wins, returns from the Black Lodge and redeems Laura Palmer into "heaven" - the very last scene of the film (with some of the best scoring I'll ever hear - "The Voice of Love") is Cooper and Laura, who is crying tears of joy, as an angel descends on the two of them?

Joe Gualtier said...

Marc, not in the released version, at least. Harry and co. figure out what's going on in the scripted version, and they may have managed to free Cooper (it's been almost 10 years since I've read it), but as-is Cooper is trapped in the lodge, and there's no hint of salvation for him. Laura's saved, yes, but Cooper's role there is one requiring a lot of interpretation.

rob said...

I would also agree that Cooper wins to a degree, just by being with Laura and helping her transition into the afterlife, in whatever shape that it ends up taking for her. I love the ambiguity though - that beautiful final scene, like the creamed corn kid, the connection between the Giant and the old waiter, and so much more, is left up to viewer interpretation.

In a similar way, you may feel like the show made the Leland/Bob situation overly clear, but the movie adds a lot of ambiguity to Leland's actions and character and Laura's view of Bob. For me, the situation ends up with Bob being a mix of an evil spirit from another dimension, a figment of Laura's imagination to accept the rape and incest in her family, and a representation of 'the evil that men do' (as Albert so perfectly put it in Leland's death episode). The beauty of the situation is that it's left up to the viewer to interpret.

There's also tons of other great stuff in this finale not mentioned here - Bobby and Shelley finally getting a happy ending, the great opening close-up on Andy and Lucy, the chilling horror of Windom leading Annie into the woods, a crushing shot of Norma when she realizes her new life with Ed is over, seeing fear in Cooper's eyes for the first time. And so much more.

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