Oof. What happened? This episode starts well enough, with Cooper hitting the alarm and immediately reaching for the tape recorder. Even if the show had never actually featured this scene it would be pretty easy to guess that that was how he started his day. It also has a neat little directorial flourish in the same scene, with Coop hanging upside down and finally spotting Audrey's letter. That kind of touch is why you bring in the director of Gleaming The Cube, isn't it?
Okay, that was a cheap shot at director Graeme Clifford who, prior to this episode (and Gleaming The Cube) directed the well-received Frances Farmer biopic Frances and provided the tricky editing for Robert Altman's Images and Nicholas Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth and Don't Look Now. Since then he's had an active career in TV movies.
But he's not really on his game here and neither is Barry Pullman's first script. (He penned three more in season two.) The climactic raid on One Eyed Jacks has all the intensity of watching actors walk through a cheap-looking set. (Really, it looks like they just slapped some wallpaper on a Great Northern hallway.) Nobody reigns in Lenny Van Dohlen, whose Harold Smith stops being creepily sympathetic and starts being creepily hammy. And the comedy is broader than broad. David L. Lander, "Squiggy" to most of us, shows up as a medical supplies peddler and while it's good to see him the scene seems to belong to another show. Deputy Andy finds out that Lucy might be having an abortion, and while playing that for laughs does get points for daring it doesn't really work. And the less said of Super Nadine the better, although that's not a problem limited to this episode.
That said, there are some nice moments. I like Andy's courtroom sketch and the Yukon Suckerpunch that Cooper can't quite bring himself to drink. And there's a great moment when Coop punches a woman, so you know he's pissed.
But the biggest problem is the absence of atmosphere. This is the first episode of Twin Peaks that doesn't feel like Twin Peaks. It looks too flat, plays too predictably, and moves too clunkily. It feels too much like television.
Now that's more like it. Dismissing the b-team, Harley Peyton and Robert Engels turn in a script that Lesli Linka Glatter directs in full Twin Peaks style. Super Nadine's still around and Van Dohlen's still overemoting but it all fits together much better. Could the set presence of the occasional character actor playing Gordon Cole have made a difference? Who's to say?
But there's definitely improvement between the last episode and this one, which wrings more drama from a muted confrontation between Cooper and Horne over Audrey's semi-conscious body than the last episode got out of some hardcore undercover police action and Blackie's unexpected murder. Cooper's scenes with Horne bristle with tension and MacLachlan is in particularly fine form this time out, whether lamenting past mistakes or helping to conduct the weird, episode-ending chemically induced séance.
More on that in a bit. But first, some farewells. Josie says goodbye to both Horne and Truman, showing her dark side in one scene and her good side in the next. Is she just posing when she's with Truman or has he unwittingly made her a better person? I've never really gotten a handle on the character and I'm not sure if that's my fault or the shows. Or if it's a fault at all. Meanwhile, Maddie says goodbye to James who, after rescuing Maddie and Donna from Harold Smith pledged his eternal devotion to Donna while reiterating the Lynchian position that true love can keep the evils of the world at bay. Meanwhile, a half-heartbroken Maddie looked on. She's gracious in the way she withdraws here but, sadly, it won't be her final exit.
Then there's Lynch, making his first appearance as the previously unseen Gordon Cole. A little of his yelling ought to go a long way but I really enjoy it whenever he turns up. No one can quite say "Mexican Chew-wah-wah" quite the same way and the Cole character provides comic relief without jarringly interrupting the story. It's fun to see Coop's mixture of respect and frustration and the story can still keep trucking along even when he has a scene, unlike, say Andy's sperm travails or almost anything involving Nadine, post-head injury.
Then there's that final scene, which ranks among the show's best moments. The always-reliable Al Strobel returns as the One Armed Man, a.k.a. Philip Michael Gerard, a.k.a. Mike. Cruelly refused some medication by his interrogators–but, hey, it's all in the name of justice–he starts channeling the "inhabiting spirit" who seems to have the goods on Bob. It's all spooky tension with a hint of release at the end as he cryptically directs Cooper to the Great Northern and the show again becomes every bit as unsettlingly compelling as it was before.
- I haven't talked about Mr. Tojamura yet because it didn't seem like the right time. But does anyone else think he has pretty much the same voice as Princess Leia when she disguises herself as a bounty hunter in Jedi?
- Creepiest line: "He is Bob. Eager for fun. He wears a smile. Everybody run."
- Windom Earle establishes communication via a chess move as the series starts to set up the back half of the season.
- The camera keeps lingering on Shelley and Bobby loving it up in front of a comatose Leo when it feels like it ought to cut away. But it works.
- In episode 12, that's Van Dyke Parks as the D.A. He was Brian Wilson's collaborator on the Smile project and a really interesting singer/songwriter in his own right. I can highly recommend the experimental 1968 album Song Cycle.
- Which is the better exclamation: Cole's "Great! Paydirt!" Or Pete's "The King And I!"
- The Yukon Suckerpunch: What's the recipe for something that looks black and sludgy on the bottom and foamy on top? I'm thinking Guinness, food coloring, and Alka Seltzer.