Peak peak Rumination 5: Biting the bullet

by Morgan Davie

Have you donned the #TwinPeaksRewatch saddle shoes? Check the schedule at the bottom of this post – episode seven is on the menu this week!

This week’s offering on episode 7 is by Craig Ranapia (@CMRanapia) who blogs on media and culture at Public Address.

Illustration by Grant Buist (@fitz_bunny), check out his strip Jitterati and his tweets about the episode, below the essay.

You’ll also find Paul Scoones’s info on the original NZ screening of this episode after Craig’s piece.

(Twin Peaks: Season One, Episode Seven)

Around half way through the season one finale of Twin Peaks (written and directed by co-creator Mark Frost) Nadine Hurley, the eye-patched curtain fetishist with a bellow like an enraged pine weasel being scraped down a blackboard, attempts suicide. It’s a disembodied scene unrelated to anything that happens around it, in an episode deliberately stuffed with plot resolution and new cliffs for people to hang off. But for me, it’s the perfect Twin Peaks moment.

Admit it, you rolled your eyes and snickered. It’s just too… much. We’re all too hip and knowing, media literate and wise to the ways of the world, to take any of this seriously. Right? Eventually, someone’s going to turn to the camera and wink. Right?

It took me twenty years and change to understand that the smirking air-quoted irony was never going to arrive and if you’re open to it it’s more unnerving than an enigmatic dancing dwarf will ever be.

Nadine isn’t the only one in town having a really bad night, so here’s some bullet points – with inevitable mild spoilers – even Donald Trump can digest without too much trouble.

* James Hurley and Donna Hayward are teenagers in love, so of course they come up with an astoundingly stupid plan to break into the office and Hawaiian-themed man cave of Dr. Jacoby, who they suspect of being involved in the brutal murder of their secret girlfriend/BFF. Surprise! It works much better than getting the murder victim’s doppelganger cousin to pull on a blonde wig and act as bait should. Except for the good doctor who sees a ghost, gets beaten down by a masked figure then has a heart attack.

* Audrey Horne is a not-so-bad girl who is continuing an astoundingly stupid plan of her own to investigate the brutal murder of someone she didn’t even like. If you’re trying to impress a man getting an after-school job in a brothel is a terrible idea. Especially when the owner is your father, and he likes to “try out” the new girls.

* Speaking of One Eye Jack’s – the Worst Little Whorehouse in Canada – Agent Cooper is still undercover in a tuxedo and a pair of glasses, possibly the most unconvincing disguise since Superman put on his first pair of NHS specs. There’s an awful lot of exposition being dumped, but thankfully it’s coming out of the mouth of Walter Olkewicz’s grotesquely sleazy Jacques Renault. You can tell Cooper is outraged because he scowls. But is he the killer of Laura Palmer?

* Shelly Johnson is a damn fine waitress. She’s damn terrible at making sure she really killed her abusive bastard of a husband. Thankfully, someone else has a crack but not before Leo tries his hand at multi-tasking.

* Honestly, I’ve lost track of who’s screwing who, literally and figuratively, over the Packard Sawmill. But it’s on fire, and Catherine Martell is more annoyed by the unclear diction of the woman tied to a post than the incendiary device blazing away in the background. As one does.

* Grieving father Leland Palmer hasn’t freaked out for a while. He makes up for lost time.

* After a long, busy and infuriatingly inconclusive night, Agent Cooper decides to head back to the Great Northern, order up some room service and call it a night. Before he can read the note Audrey pushed under the door, he’s shot three times in the chest.

Your eyes are still rolling, right? Mark Frost has said in interviews that the frantic and over-stuffed plot was a deliberate play to convince the network to order a second season. It worked. But even the most dedicated fans seem embarrassed to admit that Peaks is also an unapologetic and, at least in the first season, a remarkably consistent and effective soap opera.

In 1991, I was living in a small town surround by trees where it felt like everyone knew everyone else’s business or at least thought they did. It was also outside TV3’s transmission range. I wouldn’t recommend seeing the prequel Fire Walk With Me in a near empty theatre in Rotorua between a nasty breakup and an even nastier three week bender, but it was an experience. Eventually, I drifted into calmer waters, moved to Wellington, and managed to binge-watch the first season on VCR (ask your parents, kids) before binge-watching was cool.

What surprised me over and over again was how much I related to the very characters most often cited by the prosecution when arguing this is a show that’s “weird for the sake of being weird,” and ultimately a pair of Hollywood hipsters patronizing their characters and the audience.

It’s easy to dismiss Nadine as a comic relief weirdo. I’d argue that you have to look past the eye-patch and the drape runners to see someone trapped in a bad marriage. Her unfocused inarticulate rage, reducing all around her to bemused silence, is often supposed to be funny. It’s also desperately sad, and when the crash comes, as it always does, downright tragic. You just have to hang around and pay attention to how people behave. What eccentricities hide and reveal. How, sometimes, they’re all that right us when we’ve been knocked astray.

Twin Peaks follows many of the conventions of the soap opera and the police procedural, and in large part that’s Mark Frost’s influence. Much as I love David Lynch, his work always walks a fine line between the inexorable logic of dreams and a bore at a drinks party who insists on telling you his in excruciating detail. (My strongest memory of seeing the basically unwatchable Inland Empire was being prodded awake by Chris Knox because I was snoring too loud. He was very nice about it, all things considered.)

Before meeting Lynch, Frost was a story editor and writer on Hill Street Blues, another show that has its finger prints on so many shows, it’s easy to forget how radically innovative the clichés it created were – the large ensemble cast, the serialized storytelling, and ability to seamlessly shift from tragedy to farce in the space of a commercial break.

To make that work at all, let alone consistently, requires a keen sense of structure and tone. Then intuitive Lynch would come along and mess it all up. Like every generalization, I’m sure their working relationship isn’t that neat and tidy. At least for a little while, they managed to build a shared world worth spending time in, even without coffee and pie.


Enjoy Grant Buist’s livetweet of the episode: (click on the tweet and scroll down to read the whole sequence):


Listings for the original NZ screenings, courtesy of ace TV researcher Paul Scoones:
(See Paul’s full post for more information on Twin Peaks in New Zealand.)

Episode 7: ‘The Last Evening’
NZ: 14 May 1991; Tuesday 8:30-9:30 (US: 23 May 1990)

Cooper and Truman’s investigation moves towards a terrifying end, Dr Jacoby’s meeting with “Laura Palmer” has bizarre consequences and Hank Jennings’s evil spreads to Josie Packard.
(Notes: feature article ‘Miss American Pie’ by Milo Bilbrough, an interview with Peggy Lipton)


Rewatch Schedule:
Join the hashtag #TwinPeaksRewatch
15 Jan: Pilot: Starting at the start
22 Jan: Eps 1 and 2: Damn fine cup of coffee
27 Jan: Eps 3 and 4: Laughing at prayers
5 Feb: Eps 5 and 6: Invitation to Love
12 Feb: Ep 7*: Biting the bullet
19 Feb: Ep 8: We want to help you
26 Feb: Eps 9 and 10: Bury her deep enough
5 Mar: Eps 11 and 12: Sometimes the Can-Do Girls Can’t
12 Mar: Eps 13 and 14
19 Mar: Eps 15 and 16
26 Mar: Eps 17 and 18
2 Apr: Eps 19 and 20
9 Apr: Eps 21 and 22
16 Apr: Eps 23 and 24
23 Apr: Eps 25 and 26
30 Apr: Eps 27 and 28
7 May: Ep 29**
14 May: Fire Walk With Me***

* optional: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and The Autobiography of Dale Cooper books
** optional: The Secret History of Twin Peaks book
*** optional: The Missing Pieces


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1 comment

The Ruminator – Peak peak Rumination 11: Blessed with certain gifts March 28, 2017 - 9:10 am

[…] a more meta-level, in its mash-up of genre requirements and auteurism. As Morgan Davie observed in Peak peak rumination 5, Twin Peaks walks a tightrope between police procedural/crime drama, soap opera and surrealist […]


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