Thursday, 25 September 2014

TWIN PEAKS, 1.7 - 'The Last Evening'

Thursday, 25 September 2014
TRUMAN: What are you getting at?
COOPER: The truth, Harry. Because that's my job.
It doesn't really deliver the cataclysmic, phantasmagorical shocks you may have expected to end this freshman season, but writer-director Mark Frost was always the more level-headed co-creator. "The Last Evening" is still a great finale that brought a few plot-strands together and left ample room for development in season 2...

Having lured hermit-like Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) out of his apartment, Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) and James (James Marshall) snoop around inside his Hawaii-themed abode and manage to find Laura Palmer's missing audio tape, together with the golden locket they buried in the woods days ago. Although there's still no plausible explanation for how Jacoby knew they'd buried it there, that I can see! Jacoby himself arrives at Easter Park to meet with Laura, unaware the blonde teenager hanging around the gazebo is actually her identical cousin Madeleine (Sheryl Lee). Regardless, the nutty shrink receives a blow to the head by an unseen assailant clad in black, and is swiftly hospitalised.

Across the border at One-Eyed Jack's casino/brothel, Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan) pretends to be Leo's (Eric Da Re) financier, and manages to gain Jacques Renault's (Walter Olkewicz) trust to hear his confession about sleeping with Laura on the night of her death—and, although the fat croupier claims he wasn't involved in her actual murder, it's confirmed that Leo and Ronette Pulaski were present. Cooper hands Jacques $5,000 to make a fake drug-run back into the US, where he's captured by Sheriff Truman's (Michael Ontkean) men and shot dead while resisting arrest by Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz).

In town, Leo is still planning to burn down the Packard saw mill for Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer), and decides to kill two birds with one stone by kidnapping his unfaithful girlfriend Shelly (Mädchen Amick) and tying her up inside the mill an hour before his detonation goes off. Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) is still trying to find her fake accounts ledger with husband Pete (Jack Nance), only to receive a phone call telling her it's at the mill—where she arrives to discover Shelly just as the fire starts. In two-minds about how to proceed, Catherine nevertheless releases Shelly and they both become trapped inside the burning building.

Elsewhere, Nadine (Wendy Robie) takes an overdose of sleeping pills in the wake of her silent drape innovation being refused by the patent attorney; Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) tells heroic Deputy Andy that she's pregnant, which he's not too pleased about; Leo attacks love-rival Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) with an axe, only to be shot himself by Hank (Chris Mulkey) from outside a window; Ben finally gets his Icelandic clients to sign the Ghostwood contract, then celebrates with a visit to One-Eyed Jack's, unaware the chosen hooker waiting in a bedroom for him is his own daughter; James gives Laura's final audio-tape to Cooper as evidence, only for the cops to find cocaine planted in his bike's fuel tank by Bobby; and the grieving Leland (Ray Wise) goes to the hospital and smothers Jacques to death in his hospital bed to avenge his daughter's death.

The overarching feeling you're left with in revisiting Twin Peaks' first season is how wide of the mark public perception is of the show, 25 years later. This was far from the maddening tangle of bizarre characters and semi-incomprehensible surrealism that David Lynch's presence suggests. Sure, there were moments of that (primarily the Red Room dream sequence that is continually clipped for Twin Peaks retrospectives), but a good 90% of these seven episodes are a densely-plotted and intelligent murder mystery, with a side-order of quirkiness to prevent it becoming a multi-part Murder, She Wrote.

The easygoing pace was very easy to adjust to, while the sheer number of characters and relationships deftly introduced and developed made every episode feel packed with incident and intrigue. For me, the stand-out performances have been Maclachlan's boyish Fed with his caffeine-obsession, the delightfully perky Fenn and her sleuthing aspirations, Laurie's stern calmness, Beymer's smarmy villain (anyone else reminded of Jeffrey Combs when watching him?), and Amick's sensitive portrayal of a lovely girl being abused (who's also incredible believable when weeping, I find.) It's a show full of subtle, intelligent, off-kilter acting from a fine television cast.

As tradition would have it, the season ends on a very soap-like cliffhanger, with Cooper shot three times in the torso by a man in black who came to his hotel room door. Was it the man who bludgeoned Jacoby at Easter Park, or Leland Palmer on some kind of crazed mission? Perhaps it's someone else entirely, like Laura's oft-mentioned "mystery man"? Anyway, while Coop's survival is never really in question, it's a good climax because it makes it clear we now have a villain taking a proactive role in what has, up until now, been a story all about piecing together the past.

written & directed by Mark Frost | 24 May 1990

Notes from the Black Lodge:

  • This episode was Emmy-nominated for Best Sound Editing and Best Actress (Piper Laurie). The season as a whole was nominated for a Soap Opera Digest Award for Best Hero (Michael Ontkean), Best Heroine (Lara Flynn Boyle), Best Actor (Kyle MacLachlan), Best Supporting Actor (Everett McGill), Best Supporting Actress (Mädchen Amick and Piper Laurie), Best Villain (Richard Beymer), Best Villainess (Piper Laurie), Best Prime Time Soap, and Best Storyline ("Who Killed Laura Palmer?") The season also received Emmy noms for Best Title Theme, Best Drama Series and Best Sound Editing. It won the Television Critics Association Award for Program Of The Year.
  • So, Hank murdered Andrew Packard for Josie (Joan Chen), so she could inherit the mill, then went to jail to cover his tracks and is now back for his $90,000 fee. It's quite amusing that Josie, who started out as the sympathetic victim of Catherine and Ben's machinations, has now been exposed as arguably a more sinister character.
Images from the Red House:

(This review was originally posted 3 September 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.)