In the interest of keeping the seasons separate I’m just going to deal with one episode today, Twin Peaks’ first season finale. But, hey, what an episode, right? If there was ever any doubt that Mark Frost and David Lynch knew how to make a television show that worked as a television show–and not just a weird-for-the-sake-of-it experiment–this puts it to rest. Frost writes and directs this episode, his only time assuming directing duties for the series. In my mind, if nowhere else, Frost seemed the partner most responsible for the series’ story architecture while Lynch brought the atmosphere and mythology. Again, that’s just my theory, but the fact that this episode chugs along like a well-oiled machine certainly supports it. We open on Dr. Jacoby’s office and, to my taste at least, we could stay there a little longer. It’s the living space of a man seeking total immersion in Hawaiiana, from the décor to the ambient noise. I can’t remember if we later find out the origin of Dr. J’s Hawaii fixation but I don’t know that we have to. He’s of the age where Hawaii would doubtlessly serve as a reminder of his youth. The post-war years saw an explosion of interest in the South Pacific, from James Michener’s fiction to the spread of Tiki bars to the popularization of Hawaiian music. For Jacoby, Hawaii wouldn’t just be a faraway place but an atmosphere that took him back to a time when life had possibilities beyond attending to the psychiatric needs of a bunch of small-town crazies. No wonder he marks major events in his life with cocktail umbrellas. And while we’re on the subject–of Dr. Jacoby, not Hawaii–we never do find out who conks him over the head, do we? I think we’re supposed to assume that it’s Laura’s killer (name withheld in case anyone’s going through the series for the first time) but I don’t know that this is ever really resolved. He certainly looks bulkier than [name withheld] but I’m guessing that it’s just some stuntman hired for the occasion. At any rate, Jacoby’s conking gives us one of the show’s best transitions, a graphic match between his unblinking eye and a spinning roulette wheel that brings us to One-Eyed Jacks, home to much of this episode’s action. Over the course of this evening Coop and the gang will entrap, arrest, and lose to murder the man they believe killed Laura Palmer, Jacques Renault. He didn’t. But TV veteran Walter Olkewicz plays him with such perfect sleaziness that it’s too bad the character couldn’t stick around longer. Is there a more chilling/disgusting moment in the episode than Olkewicz saying, “Bite the bullet bay-bee in slightly slow motion? (An aside: Olkewicz’s IMDB profile has an odd note attached to it: “Mr. Olkewicz’s son dropped out of high school to be a caregiver for him during his illnesses. His son Zach Olkewicz studied for the GED test and scored a perfect 4,000 on the test.” We wish Walter well and send our congratulations to Zach.) Regarding that arrest: Truman gets to look like a badass but sweet Andy gets to act like a badass. His moment of bravery even grants him a momentary reconciliation with the mysteriously aloof Lucy who’s been hiding her pregnancy. And, we’ll discover, other secrets as well. Elsewhere at Jack’s: Audrey chooses a card for herself for her lady of the evening adventures: The Queen Of Diamonds. Why? I don’t really have any theories but I love that the brothel has a hunchbacked seamstress on staff, seemingly at all hours. Audrey’s deception leads to an uncomfortable situation in which she’s assigned her father as her first client. (Mild spoiler coming.) There’s no consummation on its way, but it raises the question: What if her father hadn’t walked through the door? Would she have kept her cover and had sex with whoever was sent to her in the interest of keeping her cover? On the season one making-of doc included on the new(ish) Gold Box set, Frost says he wanted to throw every cliffhanger he could think of into this episode and, boy, did he. Every storyline gets taken to the brink here and it’s the show’s credit that it never feels like a parody. Nadine makes a very pretty suicide attempt. Leo burns down the mill, possibly killing Catherine, Shelley, and Pete in the process. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that the mill plot bored me a little but it really pays off here. You have to love the shot of Hank being given horns by a deer head in the background. And Catherine’s peevish tone when she tells a bound and gagged Shelley, “I can’t understand a word you’re saying. You have a thing in your mouth,” is priceless. There’s more: Hank shoots Leo while Leo menaces Bobby, leading to one of the show’s best moments of Invitation To Love parallelism. James gets set up as an “easy rider” after Bobby drops cocaine in his gas tank. Leland offs Jacques and the scene gives Ray Wise another great opportunity to act crazy. (Love the way his muted scream cuts off as the alarm goes silent.) And, finally, Cooper strolls through the Great Northern to wind down after a busy evening and enjoy a late dinner. (“24 hour room service must be one of the premier achievements of modern civilization.”) He’s just about to settle in when he gets the news that Leo’s been shot then hears a knock at the door and is soon greeted by an unseen assailant. Cue credits. That’s a season. Or half a season. And what a season it was. We’ve just finished up a near-perfect run of television. The pilot introduced the strange world of Twin Peaks. The subsequent episodes explored it, revealing depths beneath the characters’ quirks. And the central mystery of who killed Laura Palmer picked up ancillary mysteries the season went along before going out with a literal bang. It was a stretch of greatness that, for one reason or another, couldn’t be sustained. But it was terrific while it lasted. Grade: A Twin Peaks Miscellany: Twin Peaks Collectible CardArt Twin Peaks inspired its share of spin-off products and I want to take a look at a few of them in this space. (Maybe I’ll even dig up my copy of The Secret Diary Of Laura Palmer and reread that, as unpleasant as that prospect sounds.) Among the neater items: A collection of trading cards (sorry “Collectible CardArt”) produced by a company called Star Pics. I’m not sure when in 1991 they were released, but none of the information here dates beyond the middle of the second season. (The cards reveal Laura’s killer but there’s no talk of Windom Earle.) Each card features a character, a series of trivia questions, a key element from the show, or someone from the creative end of things. It’s a neat idea, especially for superfans, though it’s kind of a shame that they could only be bought as a set, not in packs. Then collectors could trade, say, a Tape Recorder card:
Next: We’re back to doing two episodes at once as we plunge into season two.