Ben Horne has gone insane. The series has been suggesting this development was in the making for several episodes now–even depicting his descent quite movingly as he broke down watching home movies–but now he's visibly crazy, building strange altars in his office and obsessing over the Civil War. He's undeniably, classically cuckoo and will be for at least a few episodes. And though Richard Beymer plays the part entertainingly, as always, I couldn't be less interested. Where Leland Palmer's madness and/or possession played into the series' overarching themes of good and evil, madness and reason, and the thin division between each, this is just silly.
There's not a lot in this episode that held my interest, though it is handsomely directed by Caleb Deschanel (father to Zooey and Emily, husband to Mary-Jo–who plays Mrs. Hayward–and a first-rate cinematographer). And like most episodes of the show, it's not without its moments. They're just too often undercut by some howlingly weak material. Ian Buchanan in delicately crafted camping garb is funny. Andy picturing little Nicky with devil horns: not funny.
I'm getting ahead of the episode but it almost can't be helped. This one's all over the place. The mayor's brother dies in flagrante delicto, leaving behind a widow that has everyone quoting Shakespeare or, in the case of the mayor, suspecting witchcraft. Is that a nod to Robyn Lively, the actress playing the cursed bride, who at this point was best known for her starring role in Teen Witch? Now that I think about it, she's probably still best known for Teen Witch. She's also the sister of Blake Lively of Gossip Girl fame. Hey, did anyone know that Molly Shannon had a part in this episode?
But I'm digressing again. Let's focus on the episode. After all it's got Nadine wrestling with Mike. That's fun, right? And James is getting in some pretty hot water down the road from Twin Peaks, isn't he? That's intriguing. And how about Josie working as Catherine's maid?
Okay, this really isn't such a good episode, is it? And I have a feeling we're going to stay mired in the not-so-good episode stretch for a while. But I really do like Major Briggs' dramatic return. Really, everything with the Briggs family works. Bobby's never as interesting as when interacting with his dad and the eerie calm Mrs. Briggs brings to her scenes, suggesting that whatever weirdness is about to present itself pales next to what she already knows. It's the one area of the series that's maintained an air of mystery.
This one's another jumble of elements that work and elements that make even the most hardened fan of the show ready to bail. Let's start with the latter. James popping champagne and making out with Femme Fatale brings the show even deeper into late-night cable erotic thriller turf. Even worse, Cooper behaves weirdly out of character here. Where the last episode confirmed his investigative skills, this one has him badly botching a sting operation and then shooting his nemesis Jean Renault in what hardly looks like self-defense. Was that bad staging or are we seeing a new, more Punisher-like Cooper? I'm guessing the former. Also, though Coop gives Truman a lot of credit for his resolution of the hostage crisis, I'm not sure that any plan that involves passing David Duchovny off as a woman deserves that much credit.
Still, there are far more signs of life in this episode. The opening dream sequence with Briggs plays quite arrestingly and the closing shocks–Leo's return and Windom Earle's grotesque revelation of his next move–are quite effective. Unseen Earle remains totally terrifying. Why do I have a feeling that's about to change?
It's good to see Norma and Ed's romance getting some attention, even if it does invite more action from Super Nadine. And I like that Donna is taking an active role. So many characters have kind of drifted to the background since the revelation of Laura's killer. Maybe Donna's not the most dynamic Peaks character but I would much rather spend time with her than Femme Fatale or her semi-incestuous lover. Or Lucy's sister. Or the Judge and his hot assistant. Or any of the parade of guest stars that have tromped in and out of the show without making a deep impression this season. The brief snippet of an unseen Invitation To Love episode reminded me how far we've drifted from where we started. But we do get to see Horne playing with toy soldiers because, as the show has with no great subtlety tried to convey, he's gone insane. I'm only surprised that nobody asked Badalementi to add some cuckoo sound effects to his score to make sure no one missed the point.