Note: The above image is the work of Houston-based artist Mark Lyons, whose work I found doing an image search for "black lodge." Lyons has a MySpace page here.
Oh, Twin Peaks: Why did you have to get good again? Couldn't we have just made a clean break? Why can't I just say, "Watch everything up until Laura's killer is unmasked and stop. The rest is mediocre"? These are both really strong episodes that make the Windom Earle plot work in part by revealing that he's more pawn than king in his own game.
"Episode 27" opens with Earle's latest victim, Ted Raimi's "Heavy Metal Youth," getting carted away and a surprisingly emotional exchange with Raimi's pal (a pre-Sex And The City Willie Garson.) The scene strikes a grave chord and most of what follows harmonizes with it. The tape of Earle raving a like a madman about Project Bluebook keeps that tone going as do weird touches like all the townspeople with the shaking hands. (Presumably they're anticipating the final scene's big reveal of Bob's return.) Much of the credit belongs to the direction from Stephen Gyllenhaal (father of Jake and Maggie) who comes the closest of to matching David Lynch's style. The scene between Coop and Annie at the diner starts as total cornball but when the camera does its slow pan back it takes on a spooky quality. And should Gyllenhaal get the credit for adding a new image–the slow-motion drip of syrup off pancakes–to a playbook of ominous transitions usually limited to waterfalls and the wind in the trees?
Still, it's not all spooky syrup this time out. Robyn Lively seems less convincing as an impossible-to-resist fatal beauty with each appearance. And I'll just trust that the Audrey/Billy Zane relationship would have gotten more interesting in Season 3. (Hey, who's going to prove me wrong?) Still, Audrey's urgency to get catch her man does give us the great, blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment of Pete entranced by the vision of Josie in the wood of the Great Northern. Would this have been developed in the third season? Who knows?
But mostly I'll remember this episode for moments like Briggs' near-crucifixion and the revelation of his perfectly in-character fear about, ""The possibility that love is not enough." And the way MacLachlan delivers the line, "What have you gleaned." And Andy crying, just out of focus, at a crime scene. And the way the camera moves through the empty high school hallway. It feels like we're getting back to basics just in time for the end.
Viewers excited by Peaks' recovery with that last episode back in 1991 were left hanging for months. Still underperforming in the ratings, it was yanked from ABC's schedule following that April 18th episode and would not return until June 10th, when the network burned off its two remaining episodes as a two-hour movie. We'll get to the final episode next week; I think it's going to need some space to unpack. Still, though planned as a separate episode, this hour mostly feels like stage-setting. Maybe that's why so much space is given to Lucy's tap dancing, which, while impressive, may not have been entirely necessary. Also pretty unnecessary: Annie's recitation of Chief Seattle's famous, not necessarily historically exact speech, and the whole subplot with Robyn Lively trying to steal the Miss Twin Peaks contest, which dead ends with the announcement of Annie's win and the subsequent panic.
But we'll get back to that. Let's return to the beginning for a second where, for at least one moment Windom Earle becomes as terrifying as he's made out to be. Filled with, I don't know, Black Lodge energy, he briefly has a whitened face–shades of Robert Blake in Lost Highway–and black teeth and he's terrifying. More terrifying, I'd argue, than when he dresses up in Log Lady drag. It's an unsettling moment in an episode that otherwise contains a lot of wheel-spinning.
Coop and Annie finally get it on. Here's a question: How can people as attractive as Kyle MacLachlan and Heather Graham create so few erotic sparks together? Donna confronts Ben Horne then runs away. (Does she know she had to draw the plot out for another week?) And Lucy finally chooses a father, prompting exactly the right response from both her suitors. (I've been watching On The Air during my lunch breaks this week so I'm feeling very pro-Ian Buchanan at the moment.)
Then: Strobelight chaos. Using a strobe is such a cheap effect but it works almost every time, whether in Alien or here. (Or Fire Walk With Me for that matter.) Here it lends some energy to Annie's abduction and builds the tension for the big season finale that at this point everyone involved must have known was going to be a series finale. Meet you next week in the Black Lodge.
A final note: We're near the end of this little venture, aren't we? Here's a schedule of what's to come:
Next week: "Episode 29," a.k.a. the end of the series.
In two weeks: On The Air and Industrial Symphony No. 1, (two Lynch projects from around the time of Peaks
In three weeks: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me