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The pilot of Twin Peaks exposes us to its expansive cast with a feature length episode of bad hair and mediocre acting. It dives right into the premise, which is the murder of Laura Palmer, a resident of Twin Peaks, and homecoming queen. In typical soap opera fare, the first episode reveals many sordid relationships, all extra-marital (or just extra) in nature, with everyone connected to everyone else. Soon, another young girl, Ronette Polaski, is discovered roaming the streets, which brings in FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, who ties the murder of Palmer, and the attempted murder of Ronette Polaski, to another murder that happened almost a year ago, elsewhere. The murderer’s M.O. seems to be leaving tiny pieces of paper with letters on it buried under the fingernails. While the characters all fail to be particularly memorable, the show itself is particularly gripping, using the music and location to full effect –I, as a viewer, was never bored. I look forward to it settling into its high rating and cult status.
‘Pilot’ rating: C-
S01E02: Traces to Nowhere
The second episode improves on the pilot in many ways, with the actors settling more comfortably into their roles and making their way towards losing their cardboard behaviour and caricature personalities. A bit of the acting, like Leo and Mrs Palmer, are still cringe-worthy, but I blame it more on the writing than anything else. This is, after all, a show that first aired in 1990: a very different time.
Plot-wise, I can’t buy that zoomed-in camera shot of the reflection of the bike in Laura’s eye in that video. It’s so typical 90’s show – I mean, my phone camera still can’t do that (and it stands at a resolute 20 megapixels) – I’m supposed to believe that a video recorder in 1990 could? Setting that aside for now, though (because I could be wrong), the second episode answers a few questions regarding the girls. They were, in fact, tortured and raped. By three different men, no less. The show throws heavy suspicion towards Leo –husband of Shelley, who is having an affair with Bobby, who is Laura’s boyfriend, by showing a bloodstained shirt. Although, because of that, it’s quite blatantly obvious that he didn’t kill her.
The second episode also shows that Laura Palmer is a good soul (apart from the fact that she did cocaine), helping out almost every member in the community, one way or the other. She helped Mrs Packard, owner of the mill, with her English, and she helped the mentally challenged brother of wildcard Audrey Horne with his studies; and Norma Jennings (whose husband is in jail, and who’s having an affair with Ed), by organising a ‘Meals on Wheels’ program. Oh, and it’s possible that she sold cocaine with Bobby and Snake for Leo. Snake being the boyfriend of Donna, who is currently having a side relationship with James, who was the side-relationship of the one and only Laura Palmer.
It also reveals that when the crazy psychiatrist Dr Jacoby said that Laura was ‘seeing him’, he may not have meant it in a ‘doctor-patient’ way. Also, he now has the half-heart necklace.
The thick plottens.
‘Traces to Nowhere’ rating: C
S01E03: Zen or the Skill to Catch a Killer
Twin Peaks veers towards the surreal with this episode, with Special Agent Cooper having apparently mystical skills. Using said mystical skills, he deduces that the ‘J’ mentioned in Laura’s diary, the ‘J’ she’s nervous about meeting, is Leo Johnson, the drug dealer. Or Dr Jacoby. It’s still pretty unclear what the whole bottle smashing method was supposed to be. It even closes out with a dream sequence of Cooper’s with him awakening and supposedly knowing who the killer is. “No, it can wait till morning” cracked me up. So far, Agent Cooper seems to be the most nuanced of the characters, with most of the others playing larger-than-life versions of stereotypes. This is especially true for Leo, Billy and Snake –the trio has a scene that is especially painful to watch.
The writing is consistently getting better, though, with lesser cringe-worthy dialogue and acting, save for the Palmers, with Mrs Palmer, in particular, has only one emotion so far: hysterical.
A casino called ‘One-Eyed Jack’ (not very subtle) is introduced this episode. The casino also apparently doubles as a harem, with the Horne brothers apparently being frequent visitors. I assume this ties in with the book that was found in the safety deposit box and to the dead and dying girls of Twin Peaks.
‘Zen or the Skill to Catch a Killer’ rating: C
S01E04: Rest in Pain
The closing scene of the last episode, predictably enough, ended up being a fake-out, with Agent Cooper forgetting the name of the killer that Laura whispered to him in his dream. However, he remembers every other detail of the dream, word-for-word, and this sets him and his team on a path to hunt a one-armed man who is somehow tied to the murder of Laura Palmer. Also revealed is the fact that he’s lead to ‘One-Eyed Jack’ by none other than Audrey Horne herself, who has a degree of respect for Laura because she tutored her mentally challenged brother. It’s clear that Cooper is entranced by Audrey (and vice versa), but not so much that it dulls his senses – Cooper is still capable of figuring out that it was her who slipped him that note.
There are two pivotal scenes here in this episode. First, the one with Albert, who is basically just a huge asshole, getting in everyone’s faces because he’s smarter than everyone else. He confirms that Laura had a cocaine addiction and that the killer did in fact tie and rape her. Then, he tries to get Cooper to sign a report for assault (because the Sheriff socks him after a barrage of insults), to which Cooper reprimands him. Cooper being enamoured with Twin Peaks, from the trees to the ducks, is quite a joy to watch. He even seems to be considering settling down in Twin Peaks, as he tells Diane.
Also, who is Diane?
The second scene is the funeral, and putting Laura in the ground, where basically both Mr Palmer and Bobby go nuts. Mr Palmer throws himself on the coffin just as it’s being lowered, while Bobby accuses everyone in the town of being responsible for Laura’s death. He then proceeds to pick a fight with James, because he was seeing Laura behind his back. And Bobby felt betrayed. Bobby, the guy who is seeing someone else behind Laura’s back. A ‘someone’ who’s also married.
Jeez, Bobby. Get your shit together.
Lastly, there’s a secret society of men protecting Twin Peaks from ‘the darkness’, called ‘the Bookhouse Boys’, and they’ve discovered a cocaine smuggling ring –smuggled in from Canada?
‘Rest in Pain’ rating: C+
S01E05: The One-Armed Man
So, it turns out, Mrs Palmer is some sort of psychic, seeing visions I’d dismissed as shoddy camerawork in the pilot. She saw someone take the necklace, but of course didn’t see that someone as Dr Jacoby.
There’s a soap opera on Twin Peaks called ‘Invitation to Love’, which is obviously being used as a comparative device –yet, Twin Peaks somehow manages to match its absurdity. Everyone is in a relationship with everyone else. The weakest pairing, by far, is Donna and James –not because they lack chemistry, but because Donna seems to have to silliest lines when she’s around him. Next are Bobby and Shelley, who are marginally better. Then there’s Ed and Norma, whose husband is finally shown in this episode, by the end of which he is released, on parole. Then, on the outer fringe, plotting and scheming, are Catherine and Mr Horne, who intend to burn down the mill and pin it on Mrs Packard, who is currently seeing Sheriff Harry Truman.
The doctor gets interviewed this episode, adding more to the growing list of questions involving Laura Palmer, and Cooper finds his one-armed man, only to have it apparently be a bust. An alliance is formed between Donna and Audrey, as well as Shelley and Norma –the former bonding over their desire for answers, while the latter bond over their bad luck with men. The ones they’re married to, and the ones on the side.
The writing grows stronger with each episode, with even Bobby able to do something without it being cringe-worthy. Of course, it involved him breaking into the house of Jacques, the man peddling drugs with Leo. Even so, with all signs pointing towards Leo being the killer (I’m sure he isn’t), it’s only a matter of time before the showdown happens –either in the next episode or the one after that.
What was up with that last scene, though? A link between Norma’s husband and Mrs Packard? Literally, everyone seems to be connected to everyone else!
‘The One-Armed Man’ rating: B
S01E06: Cooper’s Dreams
Things start to come to a head in the sixth episode of season one, with the Horne brothers getting new investors for their Ghostwood Project (Seriously, who approved such a creepy name?), while Audrey learns a few secrets.
The blood on the shirt is a bust, turning out to be from Jacques (or his brother, I presume, whom Leo ‘took care of’), so the showdown I predicted turned out to be a no-down. However, they did find out that Laura had been advertised in the ‘Flesh World’ book, and it connects back to Cooper’s dream a la red drapes. They find clues that lead them to a cabin in the woods, where they’re met with Log Lady and then… talk to a log. Which then leads them to another cabin, which appears to be another crime scene, with blood, red drapes, and poker chips (a part of which was found in Laura’s stomach). Not to mention the fact that there weren’t two men and two women, but three men.
Bobby grows an imaginary pair this episode, having a mock confrontation with Leo in his living room, with Shelley on his lap. “I’m going to shoot your ugly face off, man,” he says, with as much bravado he can muster, before jumping out of his seat with fear as a vehicle pulls into the driveway. They set things up in a way that will have Leo either dead or in prison if he isn’t dead yet –shot by his wife at the end of the episode. However, Bobby unexpectedly crumbles before Dr Jacoby, in a scene that wasn’t very Bobby, who has been pretty one-note so far. It’s not that the scene doesn’t hold any relevance, but how he got to that point is done poorly.
Over on Norma’s side of the story, with the release of Hank (who, apparently, is a drug lord!) she finds herself at the end of the road with Ed, as they decide to stay with their respective spouses, rather than leave them for their side-pieces, as initially planned.
Audrey, on the other hand, has become an interesting character to watch, as she deftly convinces her father that she wants to be a part of the business, and then convinces the manager of the store to put her in perfume sales. She’s obviously smitten with Agent Cooper, and their scenes together are always fascinating to watch, but will it end poorly for her? She finds herself in a vulnerable place by the end of the episode, after she discovers her father and Catherine getting intimate, and watching a room full of people reduce Mr Palmer’s sorrow to a dance for their amusement.
Speaking of Mr Horne, he’s apparently double-crossing Catherine to some unknown end with Mrs Packard – I wonder what he hopes to gain at the end of it all. Are they having an affair as well?
Speaking of affairs, seems like Snake has been conveniently written off – he’s been absent since the funeral – I guess that he’s officially broken up with Donna? The scenes with Donna and James are still the weakest part of the episode, with the two of them simply lacking in meaningful dialogue which affects their chemistry. Still, maybe there’s redemption for them, yet. They team up with Brunette Laura (Madison, Laura’s cousin), to start their own investigation into the death of Laura Palmer. But why?
Many questions and more, that I hope start getting answered as we head into the penultimate episode of the first season.
‘Cooper’s Dreams’ rating: B
S01E07: Realisation Time
The penultimate episode of the season does a fine job setting everything up for the finale. All the pieces are falling together for the big showdown. (Also, on a side note, my guess is that Lucy is pregnant and for whatever reason, she can’t talk to Andy about it.)
Waldo gets shot, but not before revealing crucial information tied to Leo, which is kinda why Leo shot him in the first place… so that failed miserably. Good going, Leo. Killed a damn fine bird for nothing. Although, it took him seven episodes to finally figure out that Bobbie was his wife’s side piece, so he’s not exactly the shiniest apple in the bunch. Oh, also, he’s alive, because he only got shot in the arm. I should’ve seen that coming – after all, this is a pre-Game of Thrones world, where characters aren’t just killed off.
Speaking of Shelley, though, her boyfriend the Brave Bobby Briggs decided to take matters into his own hands, promising to take care of both Leo and James. Not sure how he plans on accomplishing the former, but the latter involved him putting something in James’ bike that, I assume, will make it go boom.
The trio of Donna, Madison and James hatch a plan to get their hands on the tape that the doctor has, the same tape that he was listening to at the end of episode two. In typical soap opera fare, they dress up Madison to look like Laura, complete with wig and everything, making it appear as if Laura is still alive, and very much in need of her doctor.
Meanwhile, Audrey continues her astounding detective work, getting herself hired as a ‘hospitality girl’ in One-Eyed Jack’s. On a side-note, is this where the tie-the-cherry-in-a-knot became an impressive feat or has it always been an impressive feat? Also, she’s the one I’m rooting for the most, so I really do hope she doesn’t die.
Speaking of ‘One-Eyed Jack’s’, the trio of Agent Cooper, Sheriff Truman and Big Ed i.e. the Bookhouse Boys, head out there to party, gamble and get some answers, especially from a certain Jacques, co-seller of cocaine with Leo.
There are many balls in the air – it remains to be seen whether or not they all land in a satisfying way.
‘Realization Time’ rating: B-
S01E08: The Last Evening
Lots of fire in this episode, from Andy shooting Jacques as he tried to escape (go Andy!) to Leo burning down the mill with his dear wife in it (two birds with one stone, eh? That’s three, if you count Waldo, too), to Leo himself getting shot by Hank (Norma’s husband, who is also responsible for the death of Andrew, Josie Packard’s husband – they had a deal, apparently). Not to mention Agent Cooper getting shot by an unknown assailant. Also, I guess he’s sending those tapes to Diane? Otherwise, I don’t see how he’s getting stuff he asks for.
James and Donna discover that the doctor has the final tape, and also the necklace. The tape reveals that Laura had a thing for bad boys, one bad boy in particular: Leo. However, turns out I was wrong in my last episode review – Bobby, in fact, planted a bag of cocaine in there. Jeez, Bobbydouchebagmuch?
So, to summarise, Laura was with Leo (married to Shelley), James (currently dating Donna), and Bobby (who is having an affair with Shelley). And Snake has just… vanished. Same goes for Mrs Palmer – while I don’t miss their presence (they were the weakest actors), their absence is both noticeable and jarring.
Audrey, on the other hand, got the shock of her life when she realised that her customer for the night is, in fact, her father (dun dun DUNN). I wonder how she’s going to work her way out of that one, and if her father will pay for the years of psychotherapy to follow.
Speaking of doctors, Mr Palmer made sure Jacques Renault never made it out of the hospital by killing him. For a character that’s been given almost zero focus, that came way out of the blue. It isn’t unreasonable to consider that he would do such a thing, but his character is weak, at best.
Catherine came to Shelley’s rescue in the nick of time, although it remains to be seen whether the two of them made it out alive –or, if, by some freak accident, Pete dies trying to save Catherine.
Is Pete still alive? Is Catherine? Is Cooper (yes, he is)? What happens to Audrey? What will happen to James?
All this and more, answered in season 2.
‘The Last Evening’ rating: A-
‘Twin Peaks’ introduces us to the rich, vibrant and soapy world of, well, Twin Peaks, a fictional city somewhere in Washington. The people are nice, but they all have secrets, and they’re all up to something or another. A murder brings in the fantastic character of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, a man who is enchanted by the way of life in Twin Peaks. It takes a while for the characters to settle into their roles, but the season overall is exciting and full of promise, setting up the world, its inhabitants, and season 2 as well.
Overall season rating: B-