1.8: The Last Evening
The Season One finale was written and directed by Mark Frost. He’s rarely strayed into the latter camp, with only two other credits to his name (one being 1992’s Peaks-lite Storyville). Frost has clearly been studying some of cinema’s greats at times, and he throws some nice flourishes in the mix, but the episode as a whole continues the trend of the last half of this first run in being solid but unspectacular.
The first show of visual pizazz occurs near the beginning. Jacoby gets boshed on the head and lies prone. Frost tracks into his eyeball, which dissolves into the roulette wheel at One Eyed Jacks.
Coop’s undercover confidence and control over the situation speaks to his credentials as a smooth operator. He can Bond it with the best of them, is a master of Blackjack (“Mother always said I was born lucky”), and his pretence that he’s Mr Big (“I’m the bank”) enables him to ask Jacques about the chipped chip. We learn that Leo was “doing a number” on Laura and made her bite it (“Bite the bullet, baby. Bite the bullet”). Frost invokes Leone, offering a slow motion close up of Jacque’s lascivious mouth as he repeats the words.
Events at the casino culminate in Andy proving he’s a man after all when he shoots Jacques. It’s a tiresome development on a par with Al Powell in Die Hard, and we also have to contend with Lucy revealing she is pregnant.
Laura: Isn’t sex weird? This guy can really light my F-I-R-E… Here comes momma with milk and cookies.
As a result of trigger-happy Andy, it’s only later that Coop finishes up with Jacques. As it turns out, he isn’t much help. Jacques got boshed on the head with a whisky bottle by Leo (a lot of boshing going on), so Coop assumes Leo took the girls to the train car alone (as Fire Walk with Me shows, this was not the case). This plays into the revelations about Laura’s mystery man on the tape James and Donna have retrieved from Jacoby’s house. We have James sulking at hearing that Laura thinks he’s dumb. The truth hurts, which is why they only now realise Jacoby didn’t kill her he was trying to help her. Something we established three or four episodes ago.
The retrospective queasiness, knowing Leland’s involvement, includes an additional signposting in the one of the concluding elements of the episode. Audrey, bedecked as the Queen of Diamonds in some tasty lingerie (the playing card is sewn on by a hunchback!), is to be the new girl ripe for her father’s sampling.
Speaking of Leland, he sets up one of the main subplots of the first half of the next season when he smothers Jacques with a pillow, believing him responsible for Laura’s murder.
There are effective scenes, such as that one, dotted throughout. Another is the confrontation between Leo and Bobby. It concludes with Hank (who sports antlers at one point) shooting Leo through the window (very obliging of him). A bloody Leo is left slumped watching Invitation to Love on TV. In which the bullying biker is shot. The result is both tense and offbeat and the episode needed more of this sort of warped humour. Frost is less sure of himself at other times; the burning of the mill, where Catherine rescues Shelley, isn’t nearly as effective.
It is at least preceded by an engaging sliver of backstory relating how Catherine and Pete first met. She tempers her nostalgia of “the lumberjack who could scamper up the tree like a cat” with the cold rebuke that it was a summer’s indiscretion, and designed to infuriate her father. There’s a nice thematic meeting point when Pete ventures into the mill to rescue her, however (“She’s still my wife!”). It’s a counterpoint to Leo’s wrathful attempts to her immolate his unfaithful spouse (“You broke my heart!”)
Still, too much of the episode is preoccupied with minor cliffhangers relating to matters about which we don’t much care. Ed finding Nadine having OD’d on pills, the discovery of drugs in James’ bike (“James, what kind of dangerous game have you been playing?”) Fortunately, the climax properis worth it. Coop returns to his hotel room, then answers a knock at the door. At which point he takes three in the chest.
It’s been said that the relationship between Lynch and Frost grew strained during the course of the second season. It would probably be an exaggeration to posit Frost as the series’ George Markstein to Lynch’s Patrick McGoohan, but it is certainly the case up to this point (and with the season two opener also) that the more outré elements of the show have derived from Lynch’s input. Ideally, the show boasts a fine balance between the two, but one of the complaints cast members made of the second run was that the leading lights weren’t around nearly enough. At this point though, the show is still pregnant with potential, and it will start its second innings strongly.