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Reviews

Twin Peaks: Season One

Twin Peaks: Season One

David Lynch, et al.

USA, 1990

Credits

Review by Leo Goldsmith, Jenny Jediny, and Rumsey Taylor

Posted on 20 April 2006

Source Artisan Films DVD

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Features: A Guide to Twin Peaks

Reviews: Twin Peaks: Pilot

Reviews: Twin Peaks: Season 2

Reviews: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me


Episode 1

Nonsense, mischief. Often a deceitful or treacherous trick.

In a single pan across his room at the Great Northern, Special Agent Dale Cooper is introduced upside-down, suspended from a pair of gravity boots. Near the floor, he speaks to the unseen Diane in a mini-cassette recorder, describing the amenities of his stay with clinical precision; as his colloquial habits will eventually spell, Cooper speaks with the detached emotion of a dictionary entry. Dressed, and in the cafeteria, he remarks on his first provision, “This is a damn fine cup of coffee,” and proceeds to describe his breakfast to Diane.

Cooper is a caricature of perception and obsession. His investigative practice has no loopholes, nor, apparently, does his life (in Episode 5, he tells Audrey Horne he has no secrets). Drawn in to aid the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department in their investigation of the murder of Laura Palmer, Cooper’s precision will be challenged by the increasingly supernatural mystery. He is the most appropriate avatar for Twin Peaks, modulating continually between a peculiar humor and the plain peculiar (his Tibetan methodology for shortening his list of suspects in Episode 2), and relaying some idiosyncratic obsession—in this case, donuts and black coffee.

The threadwork is further established for the supporting suspects: Shelly finds blood on one of Leo’s shirts; Bobby and James — two of Laura’s affairs at the time of her death — are kept in close surveillance by the Sherriff’s department; and Dr. Jacoby is revealed to be the proprietor of the remaining half of the locket buried by James and Donna in the pilot. These connections are established with some clarity, but the characters’ motives remain ambiguous.

Although the viewer is privy to many clues the FBI is not, Episode 1 concludes with Jacoby’s discovery of a cassette tape, made for him by Laura and containing some of her confessions. As the final credits appear, her words become inaudible, and tears emerge from Jacoby’s eyes.

by Rumsey Taylor


Episode 2

Let’s Rock.

Episode 2 introduces another entry in Twin Peaks’ canon of obsessions with Jerry Horne arriving to meet his brother at the Great Northern, armed with a collection of baguettes from a recent trip. He shares the delicacy with his brother, who immediately inherits the same intense hunger. The scene culminates with the two speaking to each other with mouths full of bread.

Nadine Hurley, distinguished by an eye patch, remits to all she encounters her intention to produce a noiseless drape runner. In this episode, she succeeds, and demonstrates the invention to her husband, Ed, with an intense glee, delivered in smiling eyes (or eye) and a wide, toothy grin that characterizes those in Twin Peaks who receive a temporal fix: Jerry and the aforementioned baguettes, Leland and his prerequisite for clean hands, and predominantly Cooper and a cup of coffee, which he prefers “Black as midnight on a moonless night.”

The Horne brothers continue to celebrate their reunion in a trip to One-Eyed Jacks, a burlesque house near the Canadian border (and employer to the late Ronette Polaski and Laura Palmer); as it is also frequented by the Renault brothers — Jacques and Jean — the location is prefigured as a crucial determiner of those directly associated with Laura’s murder.

At the morgue, where Laura’s body is being autopsied, Hawk notices a strange character milling about in the adjacent hallways. The man is not located, but is memorable for having only one arm.

Twin Peaks’ first melodrama (the source for much of Angelo Badalamenti’s swooning synthesizer) is established in a blossoming romance between Donna and James, encouraged, oddly, by their shared sympathy in Laura’s fate—Donna was her best friend, and James her secret lover, whom she was noticeably more at-ease in the company of as opposed to Bobby, who founded not only a general unrest in Laura, but also her addiction to cocaine. Aptly, Bobby tends to his drug habit in a discreet hand-off in the woods with Leo. He hasn’t the total sum he owes; this is the first of a number of missteps that encourage Bobby’s rivalry with Leo.

The episode culminates in a dream sequence which has become the iconic mainstay of the Twin Peaks universe: Cooper envisions a future, a room strewn around the perimeter in red drapes that extend past the top of the frame, and a black-&-white zig-zag tile pattern for the floor. He sits facing Laura Palmer, between them is a well-dressed dwarf; the two, in the scene’s brief duration, tout a series of mystified clues in a recognizably English but disturbing manner of speech. Jazz begins to play, the dwarf begins to dance, and Laura whispers the name of her killer into Cooper’s ear.

Here is a scene with no logic, and draws more recognizably from Eraserhead than it does from the lexicon of television. It is frightening for its unfamiliarity and heedless, almost arbitrary mystification; up until this point, we are given clues that, although sometimes unusual — the newsprint letters wedged in the victims’ fingernails — have apparently some utility. (The aforementioned letters, you’re thinking, will spell something when anagrammatically rearranged.); even so, they are logical in comparison to the clues (mis)pronounced in this sequence: “The gum you like is going to come back in style.” “I feel like I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back.” It is obscenely surreal, and I don’t think it’s bold to state this not only lent the universe of Twin Peaks another dimension, but that of television as well.

by Rumsey Taylor


Episode 3

Harry, our job is simple. Break the code, solve the crime.

Following the incredible dream sequence ending episode two, there are no answers given in the third episode, but rather the tools to find them. As Lucy diligently records, “Break the code, solve the crime,” a phrase that will echo as the mystery of Laura Palmer’s death branches out and further into the lives of nearly each one of the inhabitants of Twin Peaks. Examining the codes thus far, the notion of doubling is rampant, from double lives to near doppelgangers. In Cooper’s dream, the One Armed Man calls himself Mike, and speaks of Bob, his former partner. We have already encountered Laura’s high school boyfriend Bobby and his friend Mike, Donna’s ex-boyfriend. Josie has found two ledgers, one genuine and the other created by Catherine to disguise the mill’s income. Even in the soap opera within Twin Peaks, Invitation to Love, there are twins, Jade and Emerald (the gemstone reference is obvious). However, Jade and Emerald are mentioned while Leland Palmer views the show, and is suddenly surprised by his niece, Madeline Ferguson. That reference alone should make any cinephile start. Madeline, or Maddy, as the nickname sticks in future episodes, wears glasses and has dark, almost midnight black hair, but still resembles her cousin Laura enough that the residents of Twin Peaks soon find themselves staring. The name alone references Hitchcock’s Vertigo, in which the main character Madeline, a haunted and possibly possessed woman, dies tragically, only to “reappear” when detective John Ferguson encounters a woman who resembles her a little too closely, and attempts to remake her as Madeline.

Film references abound in this episode, from the tongue-in-cheek manner in which Audrey spies on her family before Laura’s funeral (voyeuristically watching through a peephole à la Blue Velvet) and certainly in the funeral scene where the over-the-top events are beyond a standard soap opera, elevating to near Douglas Sirk status. From the saccharine eulogy to Leland’s leap onto the coffin (and certainly Sarah Palmer’s comment to Leland, “Don’t ruin this too!!” delivered through gritted teeth), the funeral is a spectacle, where the seemingly charming and quintessential small town folks of Twin Peaks are not only participants in their own hidden lives, but also in Laura’s life and now death. As over dramatized as Bobby’s outburst is, the revelations of Albert’s autopsy confirming Laura’s cocaine habit as well as further details of her grim murder, indicate that more than a few eyes turned away from the girl’s serious problems.

by Jenny Jediny


Episode 4

Laura had secrets… and around those secrets she built a fortress…

Both Cooper and Sarah Palmer are connected through their dreams and visions, as Cooper instantly recognizes the man in her sketch. Cooper continues to seek out tangible connections to his vision, and the conversation with the One-Armed Man, now identified as Phillip Michael Gerard, subtly reveals new clues in the investigation. Although in Cooper’s dream the One-Armed Man called himself Mike, Mr. Gerard denies knowing the man in the sketch, and states that the only Bob he knows is a Dr. Bob Lydecker, a veterinarian whose office is near the convenience store also mentioned in Cooper’s dream. The interview with Mr. Gerard turns out to be far from the eerie man in Cooper’s dream, as the One-Armed Man seems only confused by Cooper’s questions and references.

The astute film reference here is to the film noir Laura, and its character Waldo Lydecker, a combination of the name of the Twin Peaks vet and his patient, the mynah bird Waldo Andy discovers in the confiscated files. Waldo belongs to Jacques Renault, a lead that brings the detectives to Leo’s bloody shirt and connects both men to Laura the night of her death, while intrigue is planted with the discovery of the witness that caused Laura’s bite marks, but also a mynah bird in particular; knowing mynah birds mimic speech, the silent Waldo could hold as many secrets as Laura.

by Jenny Jediny


Episode 5

Shut your eyes and you’ll burst into flames

At around four in the morning Cooper is awakened by a group of Icelanders whom have just begun their stay at the Great Northern. He relays the nuisance to Diane, and is met by Audrey the next morning over a hasty cup of coffee. He joins Truman’s troupe at Jacques Renaut’s apartment, at which he verifies that Jacques’ blood was on Leo’s shirt, and a copy of Flesh World containing ads for both Ronette and Laura.

The team proceeds toward a log cabin seen in a photography found at Jacques apartment (seen from the outside, its windows are shrouded by red curtains). Instead, they come upon the Log Lady’s abode, and are promptly served sugar cookies and tea. (She has been expecting them, she says, for two days.) Cooper is allowed, for the first time, to question the log, for whom she translates, and they are directed to the proper cabin, a bethel of evidence, and home of Waldo, the only apprehensible witness to Laura’s murder.

At the Great Northern, Ben and Jerry Horne host a junket for the Icelanders; during it Ben sneaks of in a chain of conspiracies: one with Catherine, another with Josie, in a plot to profit off the destruction of Packard Saw Mill. Meanwhile, the always distraught Leland Palmer is roused by some music at the party, and begins dancing as the music inspires his tears, which he intermittently brushes away. The gesture results in participation and some odd choreography by most of those present. Audrey is also attendant, and sneaks off to spy on her father’s affairs, prior to entering Agent Cooper’s room, and his bed.

by Rumsey Taylor


Episode 6

Every day, once a day, give yourself a present.

Finding Audrey Horne naked in his bed, Cooper is confronted with a conflict of duty and desire. But as one would expect, the special agent’s probity is stalwart, and instead of giving in to his passions, he eulogizes the merits of strong values and innocent malts. In turn, Audrey resolves to help Cooper, not only in the more immediate sense of not pointing her sexpot charms in his direction, but also in more material ways as his deputy.

At the station the following morning, it’s business as usual. Lucy is still not speaking to Andy (a fact that may or may not have something to do with the mysterious and troubling phone call she receives), and Doc Hayward and Sheriff Truman prepare to “interrogate” Waldo with some research on the mimetic properties of myna birds. Cooper declines to approach the witness — “I don’t like birds,” he says with good reason — but offers his trusty voice-activated micro-cassette recorder to pick up any stray remarks from Waldo: a recorder for a recorder. Determined to locate and ensnare Jacques Renault, Cooper decides to pursue the bitten roulette chip (found in Laura’s stomach) to its source: One-Eyed Jack’s. And because the casino and gentleman’s club is beyond his jurisdiction, he enlists the assistance of the Bookhouse Boys.

Meanwhile, at the Hayward residence, James, Donna, and Madeleine Ferguson listen to the tapes Laura made for Dr. Jacoby and hatch a scheme to retrieve the last of these, made the night of her death, from the psychiatrist’s office. And at Horne’s department store, Audrey has begun some detective work of her own, uncovering the pipeline of shopgirls from the department store to the bordellos of One-Eyed Jack’s. Leaving Cooper a note along the way, she leaves for an appointment with Blackie, the club’s madame. In spite of an obviously fake resumé, she is hired easily, thanks to her unique ability to knot a cherry stem using her tongue alone.

Back at the station, Cooper and Ed prepare their own undercover sting on One-Eyed Jack’s with $10,000 of the Bureau’s money and a collection of ridiculous wigs and moustaches for Ed (Cooper is content with a pair of wire-framed glasses). But their trip is delayed when Leo assassinates Waldo with a hunting rifle. Fortunately, the recording devices (both bird and recorder) have achieved their task, and the voice of Ronette Pulanski can be heard on tape, in Waldo’s shriek, crying, “Laura… don’t go there… hurting me… Leo, no.”

Intent upon retrieving Laura’s last tape from Dr. Jacoby’s possession, Donna and James coax Madeleine into impersonating Laura on video, and use the video to lure Jacoby out of his den enough to ransack it. Jacoby, however, does not take the bait and instead tracks Madeleine to the video’s source: near the gazebo in Easter Park. But as Donna and James enter Jacoby’s office, Jacoby isn’t the only one to have found Madeleine there.

The sixth episode does not offer any major new pieces of evidence, but it does reinforce some long-simmering suspicions. Especially, Leo’s already patent menace is augmented by ornithocide and, to no surprise, his culpability is more definitely established. The significance of One-Eyed Jack’s, while still cloudy, is also more apparent. Nonetheless, a number of questions are left percolating for the subsequent season finale: who has taken out a life insurance policy for Catherine, with Josie as the beneficiary? What will be Audrey’s fate in the seedy backrooms of One-Eyed Jack’s? Why is Leland lurking in the shadows of his living room as Madeleine sneaks out of the house? And, of course, who is the figure, shot by director Caleb Deschanel in Halloween-like POV, shadowing Dr. Jacoby in Easter Park?

by Leo Goldsmith


Episode 7

Bite the bullet, baby. Bite the bullet.

In the cheesy Hawaiian junk shop that is Dr. Jacoby’s office, Donna and James succeed in their mission, finding not only Laura’s final cassette recording, but also, more surprisingly, James’ half of the broken-heart necklace, both hidden in a hollowed coconut. Back at Easter Park, Jacoby is spying on Madeleine when he is attacked from behind. Later, at the Haywards’, Donna, James, and Madeleine review Laura’s last cassette, in which she expresses revulsion at James’ sweet dumbness and preference for a “mystery man” in a red Corvette who “really lights my F-I-R-E” in spite (or because) of his previous attempts to kill her.

At One-Eyed Jack’s, Audrey is sent to work with the promise of a visit from the casino’s owner later in the evening, and Cooper finds Jacques Renault working as a croupier. Preying on Jacques’ dull wit and sharp greed, Cooper convinces Jacques that he (Cooper) is the financier of Leo’s smuggling operation and coaxes the burly French Canadian across the border with the offer of a job to be performed that night. First, however, the special agent quizzes Jacques about the provenance of the bitten poker chip, and Jacques, in a tight closeup on his porcine grin, relates that the chip was used as a bit during the torture, with Leo’s instructing Laura to “bite the bullet, baby.” Once across the border, Jacques is cornered by Harry and his men, and then shot and wounded (by Andy of all people) while attempting to fire on Truman.

Co-creator Mark Frost directs this finale to the first season, packing it with the sort of operatic cliffhangers characteristic of all such episodes. In the final act, Leo contrives to kill Shelly while also burning down the Packard Mill; Nadine, distraught over the denial of a patent for her curtain runners, overdoses on sleeping pills; Hank collects a pay-off from Josie for the murder of her husband; and Lucy reveals to Andy that she is pregnant (he is not pleased).

But in addition to these teasers, there are a great many setbacks and dead-ends, as Cooper and Truman’s interrogation of Jacques reveals only the sordid revelry in his cabin and nothing about Laura and Ronette’s visit to the railcar. Quite inexplicably, Hank Jennings later shoots Leo while the latter attempts to kill Bobby with an axe, and Leland, learning that the police have captured a suspect in his daughter’s murder, smothers Jacques with a pillow. As the season finale speeds thunderously, eventfully to its conclusion, with a half-dozen characters hospitalized, missing, or dead, a weary (and at this point, largely clueless) Agent Cooper returns to his hotel room at the Great Northern. And before he can sit down with a glass of warm milk from room service and Audrey’s letter, a knock comes at his door and, through it, three gunshots from a masked gunman.

by Leo Goldsmith | Continue to Season 2 →


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