Thursday, 21 August 2014

TWIN PEAKS, 1.2 - 'Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer'

Thursday, 21 August 2014
THE ONE-ARMED MAN: Through the darkness of future past / the magician longs to see / one chance out between two worlds / Fire walk with me.
Until now, Twin Peaks hasn't really been as off the wall as its reputation would have you expect. Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is definitely eccentric, some of the townsfolk are oddballs, and there's a pervasive strangeness in its auburn aesthetic and droning soundtrack, but it's generally more quirky than wilfully bizarre. Maybe we've just become accustomed to peculiar TV since Twin Peaks first aired? However, "Zen, or the Skill to Catch A Killer" is undoubtedly the moment when Twin Peaks embraced its famous surrealism, creating diehard fans with a taste for the fantastical, while possibly losing those less receptive to a murder-mystery with supernatural overtones...

One of the most humourous sequences is when Cooper demonstrates to Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean), his deputies, and receptionist Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) his unique style of detective work, based on a dream he had about Tibet. Having gathered them in the woods and explained Tibetan history of the Dalai Lama being exiled from his country by the invading Chinese, Cooper has a bottle positioned on a tree stump many yards away. He then tries to smash said bottle by throwing rocks at it, each one representing a suspect who could be "J"—the person mentioned in Laura Palmer's final diary entry. A rock named for Dr. Jacoby strikes the bottle, but the bottle is only smashed by the rock evoking trucker Leo Johnson's name. The strange thing is, Truman and his men hardly bat an eyelid at this insane deductive method of Coop's! But will it be proven accurate?

At the Horne residence, local millionaire Benjamin (Richard Beymer), his daughter Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn), his wife Sylvia (Jan D'Arcy), and retarded son Johnny (Robert Bauer)—dressed as a native American Indian!—are having dinner together. The meal is quickly interrupted by the return of Ben's younger brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly), fresh back from France with delicious baguettes to share.

The bread exemplifies how incorrigible the Horne brothers are, as Ben becomes just as enthused by their taste as his sibling after just one bite. Or maybe they just have very similar tastes and a keen appreciation of the finer things? After Jerry is told about Laura Palmer's murder, the brothers decide to visit a riverside brothel over the Canadian border called "One Eyed Jacks", arriving at the club by speedboat to be entertained by alluring women in lingerie. Ben is obviously a regular patron of the club, judging from how he's treated by the One Eyed Jack's matriarch Blackie O'Reilly (Victoria Catlin). He may even be the owner?

As a series with an intention to parody Richard Sirk's infamously cheesy 1950s melodramas, that truly gets underway here between Donna and James, two youngsters brought together over their shared grief for Laura as her best friend and secret lover, respectively. It's no coincidence that Twin Peaks' show-within-a-show (tacky soap "Invitation To Love") is more prominently seen in this episode for the first time, either.

Elsewhere, Bobby (Laura's official boyfriend) and Mike (Gary Hershberger) go to the woods to pick up some cocaine in a deflated football, left by their dealer Leo (Shelly's violent trucker boyfriend whose jeans she discovered covered in blood); eye patch-wearing Nadine (Wendy Robie) finally manages to perfect her silent drape idea, when her husband Big Ed (Everett McGill) accidentally spills oil on the wooden runners; Josie Packard (Joan Chen) discovers two ledgers in a safe for the Saw Mill she inherited, one created to disguise the mill's income by her late-husband's sister Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie); and we're treated to the arrival of another outsider in forensic analyst Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), brought in by Cooper to search Laura Palmer's body for clues...

Albert's the antithesis of calm Cooper, taking an instant and vocal dislike to the backwater town he finds himself dragged out to, and getting up Sheriff Truman's nose within seconds of meeting him. Cooper appears used to Albert's abrasive nature, apparently finding his Federal colleague an amusing oddity. He won't apologise for Albert's rudeness to Truman, but gives him a childish thumbs-up when the Sheriff successful chews the city slicker out over his bad attitude.

By far the most memorable scene, and perhaps the most iconic moment of Twin Peaks itself, is the climactic dream Cooper has after retiring to bed. It features a Red Room with crimson curtains and a zigzag-patterned carpet, where he finds himself sat in an armchair, middle-aged, across from a sofa where a sharp-suited dwarf (Michael J. Anderson) and Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) are seated. Both talk in peculiar semi-coherent English, requiring subtitles, answering Cooper's simple questions with surreal phrases like "I feel like I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back." Eventually, jazz plays and the dwarf starts a stilted dance as Laura leans over to the wrinkled Cooper and whispers the name of her killer in his ear. Upon waking, Cooper (his gelled-back hair now stuck up, antennae-like from this "broadcast") immediately calls the Sheriff and reveals he knows who killed Laura Palmer...

But, it can wait till morning...

written by Mark Frost & David Lynch | directed by David Lynch | 12 April 1990

Notes from the Black Lodge:

  • Loved seeing Audrey Horne enter the diner and choose a disquieting record from the jukebox, swaying to the music by herself, as if in a trance. It's also mentioned that she fancies Agent Cooper and has noted his love of coffee, but I'm pretty sure they haven't even shared a scene together yet! Am I wrong? Did she just like the look of him when he gave his speech to the town in the Pilot?
  • David Lynch considers the Red Room sequence one of his finest pieces of work, having expropriated it from the European cut of the Pilot TVM. In case anyone's still unaware about this well-known trivia, the actors learned their lines backwards (phonetically) so that reversing the footage resulted in linear, vaguely coherent speech. A simple but exceedingly creepy effect.
  • Question: who was the man in black, seen lurking behind a tree over Leo's shoulder in the forest? He was mentioned in Laura Palmer's audio-tape to Dr. Jacoby.
  • Is Nadine's obsession with "silent curtains" inferring that she wants the ability to shut herself up from sight of everyone, indoors, without anyone noticing or even hearing her do it? A part of you can't help thinking the strangest members of Twin Peaks are those who have peeked behind the curtain of their small-town and consequently been blighted with mental problems (see also: the Log Lady?) And how did Nadine lose her eye?
Images from the Red Room:

(This review was originally posted 16 July 2009, and has been republished with new HD-sourced vidcaps and amendments to celebrate the release of the Twin Peaks - Entire Mystery Blu-ray box-set.)