1.3: Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer
Lynch is back in the director’s chair, in what will be his last megaphone lifting for the first season, and his last script credit on the show period. Of course, he will soon enough show up on the other side of the camera. This first smattering of episodes are pretty much note-perfect, although the “cliffhanger” for this one is as much of an enormous dangling cheat as those old Republic serials showing the hero escaping certain death in a hitherto impossible manner during the reprise.
The Man from Another Place: Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song, and there’s always music in the air.
It’s appropriate that Lynch should steer this one, since it recycles the end of the European pilot in more concise and digestible form. I hadn’t remembered there being this much of talking Bob here (although obviously I recalled the “death bag” and the promise to kill again), and his cachet as a figure of fear is definitely diminished by giving him voice.
The appearance of the Red Room, with Mike (touched by the devilish one, he “took the entire arm off”) and Bob, the diminutive backwards Man from Another Place and his cousin (Laura, who also has a cousin, Maddie), is a defining piece of the show’s mythology, running as it does into the construction of the forces of darkness and light, the Black and White Lodges.
Lynch and Frost gradually up the weirdness, the unexplained, supernatural and the exotic. To begin with, it’s only Sarah Palmer, demented with grief, who is witness to the strange and unusual. Now, the eccentric Coop introduces us to his beguiling spiritual outlook and extravagant philosophy, and we access other realms through his dreams (like Lynch, they are of crucial importance in shaping his understanding of the world). Coop is instinctive, holistic, but also precise and methodical. It’s an appealing combination. One who steers a dependably clear path of cause and effect, but who reaches his most important choices through intuitive leaps.
Coop’s revelatory dream concludes, as does the episode, when awakes with an impressive case of bed head, calls Harry and announces, “I know who killed Laura Palmer”. This is entirely bollocks, and one can only assume Lynch and Frost were consciously playing on audience and expectations of the genre by offering invisible candy.
Agent Cooper: Following a dream I had three years ago, I have become deeply moved by the plight of the Tibetan people, and have been filled with a desire to help them. I also awoke from the same dream realizing I had subconsciously gained knowledge of a deductive technique, involving mind-body co-ordination operating hand-in-hand with the deepest level of intuition.
The episode is infused with classic oddball comedy scenes, but probably my favourite is Coop’s method of narrowing suspects with the initial “J” through going out to the woods and throwing stones at a milk bottle. Like some kind of zen Sherlock Holmes, his deductive technique draws raised eyebrows from the accompanying sheriff department but wins them over through sheer cheerful conviction.
Lynch stages this with comic panache, Coop swivelling the blackboard to reveal a map, prefacing his unusual methodology in order to “tell you a little bit about the country of Tibet”. At which the assembled assistants sit forward in attentive unison. Harry’s slightly incredulous response (“Tell me Coop, the idea for this really came from a dream?”) will contrast with the next episode where he is sagely, and slightly unbelievably, holding forth about the evil out there in the old woods.
Coop’s method proves startlingly accurate of course. The two Js we have suspicions about yield the most definitive results. The Jacobi stone knocks the bottle from its tree stump but does not break. The Leo Johnson stone shatters it. One has the other half of the heart necklace, the other a shirt covered in blood. The other most extreme result comes from Coop testing the involvement of Shelley. The stone flies wide, rebounds off a tree and hits Andy in the head (“It just hurt, It just hurt a bit”) to which Harry jokes “Where there’s no sense, there’s no feeling, Andy”).
Albert: What the hell kind of two-bit operation are they running out of this tree house, Cooper?
The other comic highpoint of the episode is the introduction of toxically bad tempered and insulting fan-favourite forensics genius Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer). It would be very nice to think Ferrer might show up in next year’s continuation, although since he’s busy bringing bread to the table in NCIS: Los Angeles, that might be doubtful. This remains Ferrer’s signature character, along with Bob Morton in Robocop. Albert makes a big impression, even though he only shows up in eight episodes.
Albert: Welcome to amateur hour! Looks like an all-nighter, boys.
As Coop warns Harry, “Albert’s lacking in some of the social niceties” (Harry allows “Nobody’s perfect”, in response to which Coop tweaks his nose!) While Coop’s ever-present generosity of spirit is very welcome, it’s a huge pleasure to experience the flipside that is Albert (although, lest we forget, we will discover he too nurses deep spiritual beliefs). He has no time for daffy Lucy, who is reading a book on Tibet, and spells out his name and demands, “Are we going to have to stand around here all afternoon?”
It’s with Harry that the lines are really drawn, however, and this probably pushes the sheriff into less relatable territory. Once has been overtly mocked and ridiculed by Albert, it’s impossible to see him in any other way (although that scene comes next episode). Harry’s threatening response to Albert’s dismissiveness of facilities and expertise (if it wasn’t that Albert was really good at what he does, he’d be “looking for his teeth two blocks up on Queer Street”) gets a thumbs-up from Coop, but the viewers are instantly on abrasive Albert’s side.
Audrey: God, I love this music. Isn’t it too dreamy?
From the hilarious to the sublime, there’s Audrey’s jukebox jostle to a very non-diegetic Badalamenti, talking as if she’s stepped straight out of the 1950s. Audrey’s non-friendship with Laura Palmer has cropped up most times we’ve met her so far, but now Donna states it as “I didn’t even think you liked her”. Their thick-as-thieves discussion of Agent Cooper is a delight. Only Lynch would base a conversation on “Do you like coffee?”, which moves on to “Agent Cooper loves coffee”. And he does. He even spits Lucy’s out, but not through disgust (“Damn good coffee! And hot!”)
Audrey is attempting her own degree of imitative sleuthing (“Did Laura ever talk about my father?”) and is responsible for the Jack with One Eye clue (although Coop discerns that next time). On discovering this is Canadian brothel/casino One Eyed Jacks, Coop eliminates it from his milk bottle test.
We’ve already seen the particular establishment, as Ben Horne takes newly returned brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly, who also appeared in Wild at Heart) there. Lynch surely had fun with the scene, featuring as it does a coterie of lovelies in suspenders and sexy undergarments (and playing cards). Their madam is Blackie (Victoria Caitlin, who did little after this), a character no one can give anything interesting to do.
Jerry: We had those Vikings by the horns. What happened?
We’re granted a clear vision of the brotherly pecking order. Ben entices Jerry on the grounds there’s a new girl there, but as it turns out big brother gets first dibs.
As a running theme of the series, the episode also kicks off with eating. It’s the Horne family dinner table, and Johnny is in his headdress while Sylvia (Jan D’Arcy), Benjamin and Audrey eat in silence. We see very firmly what Sylvia thinks of her husband and his brother when Jerry disrupts the meal with baguettes (“This is the best damn sandwich I ever ate”). As with last week’s donuts, a conversation is conducted through mouthfuls of food. The Kubrick references (Lynch is a major fan) are in full effect in this scene. Not just with One Eyed Jacks (the Brando western Kubrick was originally pegged to direct) but also “All work and no play makes Jerry a dull boy”.
Elsewhere, characters engage in abundant silliness. Ed, covered in oil, steps on Nadine’s drape runner. She goes ballistic, showing off Hulk strength by bending the handle of her exercise bike. She runs the gamut of emotions, from “Ed, you make me sick!” to “Oh Ed, you big lug” when the oil proves vital to her silent drape runner creation. Ed very much is a big lug. As far as long-suffering husbands go, Pete is also put-upon here, and Nance’s delivery of “I had a problem with a fish. Took a liking to my per-colator” is absolutely definitive.
The youngsters’ plotlines range from the dull (James and Donna) to the pretty good (any scene with Leo in). I hadn’t realised quite how good Da Rae is before, managing to pull off both threatening and deadpan simultaneously. His encounter with Bobby and Mike in the woods, to discuss the drug money they owe, with unknown fourth party lurking behind a tree, finds him laying his suspicions before the kid who is cuckolding him. But the best of it is how he has started referring to himself in the third person (“You punks owe me ten grand. Leo needs a new pair of shoes”; doesn’t he just!)
In an episode stuffed with memorable moments, Leland’s mental deterioration, to the sound of jazz (Glen Miller’s Pennsylvania 65000, effectively up tempo for Leland’s fraught, hyper state), comes near the top. His desire to dance will continue into next week (“We have to dance, for Laura”). Wise relishes the opportunity to play it off the leash, and Zabriskie meets him right in the middle (“What is going on in his house? Leland! What is going on in this house?”) The bloodied picture of Laura held by Leland is an effective harbinger of his guilt.
In terms of a succession of great scenes, this might be the best of the series so far, providing strong material for the each and refusing to sag. The Invitation to Love mock-soap provides an effective counterpoint to the “real” hysterics and shenanigans (“Invitation to Love. Every day brings a new beginning, and every hour holds a promise of an Invitation to Love”). It will be a sign of trouble when Twin Peaks succumbs to Invitation’s heightened banality in the second season.