The biggest problem with Twin Peaks' third episode is that it's not the second episode, which ended with the famous Cooper-meets-the-dancing-dwarf finale. But then that's kind of the problem with the rest of the series. After pushing television to the limits of sanity there was nowhere to go but back. But it's only a slight retreat. Episode three opens on a light note–more sweet interaction between Cooper and Audrey–and ends with an image Leland Palmer in despair. It's not a return to the Red Room (or was that the Black Lodge?), but it's pretty far from Murder She Wrote, too.
Episode two ended with Cooper announcing that he knew who killed Laura Palmer. There's no way back from that apart from copping out, which this episode does by having Coop say he simply forgot. Lame? Absolutely. But they have to keep the story going somehow, don't you? And the next few episodes are about nothing so much as deepening the mystery. And, with the arrival of Laura doppelganger Maddie, identical cousins. (More on that below.)
Laura's body yields new clues despite Albert's work being cut short. That confrontation between Harry and Albert is pretty brutal, as is Albert falling on top of Laura's body. And it's not even the final indignity she'll suffer before getting put in the ground.
The real highlight here is the funeral, which three different characters use as an excuse to freak out. First Johnny Horne shouts his, "Amen." Then Bobby launches into his rant about the town's hypocrisy, how everybody knew Laura had problems and found it easier not to step in. It's one of the few moments that gives his character depth and it's ripe with hypocrisy as well. Finally Leland mounts the casket as it descends into, then ascends from, then descends into (and so on) the grave.
Seeming uncharacteristically callous, Shelley re-enacts the scene for some diner patrons later on. I used to be able to laugh with her. I remember thinking the funeral scene was pretty much straight comedy the first time I saw this, but I've spent too much time at funerals since then to feel the same. This show looks different, to me at least, as I get older. The balance between comedy and tragedy shifts a bit toward the tragic. And the final moment here is straight tragedy as Leland freaks out and tries to get somebody, anybody, to dance with him. His fixation on standards and show tunes is a nice touch. He's reaching out for the familiar in troubled times and in these scenes Twin Peaks doesn't seem like such a distant place after all.
With Laura in the ground we're settling down into what passes as a "normal" episode for the series. Much investigating, much mystery-deepening, some nice character moments, and sub-plots that are a bit less interesting than the central mystery. Or maybe only my interest flags a bit when the attention shifts to Ben and Catherine wanting to burn down the mill or Norma and Hank's troubled relationship. I remember those stories getting more interesting as they progressed. But now they're a lot of talk with not enough action.
Not that the main plot is neglected. We meet, for the first time outside of a dream and a brief encounter at the hospital, Philip Michael Gerard, the One-Armed Man. He's played by an actor named Al Strobel and it's a memorable performance. Strobel's only other film credit of note that I could find was for the 1998 film Ricochet River in which he played the part of "One Armed Man." I guess there just aren't a lot of roles out there for one-armed actors. Gerard's relationship with an ailing vet brings the gang to Jacques Renault's mynah bird. I forget the One-Armed Man's role in the large scheme of things, but I like the show's commitment to Cooper's investigation-by-coincidence technique.
Okay, back to identical cousins. Not only is Maddie a funny allusion to The Patty Duke Show she an embodiment of this series' obsession with duality. Here's an uncorrupted Laura fresh out of Missoula, Montana to remind everyone of what they've lost and, in some cases, the girl they spoiled. I feel bad for the character, not just because I remember her eventual fate but because she's dropped into a small town where some kind of grand struggle between good and evil it playing out and she doesn't know it yet. She's an innocent. And while Lynch idealizes innocence it also tends not to last too long in any world he creates.
This is a PSA Lynch directed for a campaign to clean up New York. I'm not sure when it's from, but it looks recent and it's brilliantly unsettling. It's also a neat encapsulation of some Lynch pet obsessions. And some of them, the ones that dovetail with what some perceives as a politically conservative streak in his work, make me a little uncomfortable. Here cleanliness isn't next to godliness, it practically is godliness. When that first guy throws down some litter, it's the clip's equivalent of original sin and it allows for vermin. Vermin! Maybe even human vermin. The clip alternates between humans and rats but is it reading too much into it to see the litter also paving the way for those hard partying bikers there? They sure don't look like the kind of solid citizens Lynch likes so much. (Remember, unless you're James Hurley, bikers = evil in the Lynch universe.)
- - The Bookhouse Boys secret society feels kind of half-baked to me and the speech about how Twin Peaks isn't like other places and that there's a darkness in the woods plays a bit too on-the-nose for this series.
- Ben and Catherine make a lovely couple. Well, maybe not, but was any other series so heavy on unabashed middle-aged horniness? Is any show that unabashed about it now?
- Re: "Episode 4" The owl. Holy crap I'd forgotten how creepy owls are in this series.
- Who knew Andy had such artistic skills? Here he delivers a perfect likeness of the dreaded Bob. (Superfan note: It was Hawk who did the sketching in the extended pilot, wasn't it?)
- Ben is pretty unflummoxed by Leo's murder of Bernard Renault. And not overly concerned with leaving evidence behind.
- Want to see a great comic take? Watch Kyle McLachlan respond to Andy dropping his gun.
** BIG SPOILER BELOW **
-- - Did Frost, Lynch, etc. know at this point who the killer was? I always wonder when the decision was made whenever Leland does anything crazy. I tend to think they didn't. These early episodes play as if just about anyone could be the killer. (Hey, maybe Donna's sister did it!) But I don't know if the place where the decision was made is easy to pin down.