2.3: The Man Behind Glass
The not-really episode titles identify this one with the unspeakably wet Harold Smith (Lenny von Dohlen), the shut-in with a hitherto unknown link to Laura Palmer. Harold only appears in four episodes (and Fire Walk with Me), but such is the inanity of his subplot it feels like longer. That’s not such a problem here, where there’s still some strong material elsewhere, but he becomes an increasing dead weight in subsequent episodes.
It’s not just Harold, however. There are a several other dubiously devised plotlines and characters introduced in 2.4. Their common feature is that they are “fake quirky”, broad strokes lacking the inimitable Lynch touch. They also go rather nowhere. Ultimate cad Dick Tremayne (Ian Buchanan) could have been a great addition if used effectively, but he’s thrown away in a tiresome subplot concerning the father of Lucy’s baby-to-be. Buchanan has been a regular in a number of long running US soaps (The Bold and the Beautiful, Days of Our Lives, General Hospital), and Lynch must have liked him as he shows up again in the short-lived On the Air.
Richard Tremayne: Did I do something to anger him? Not that native people don’t have enough to be angry about per se.
This episode is credited to Robert Engels (Lesli Linka Glater returning to direct), his second of ten for the series, and he furnishes the cast with some amusing lines. Tremayne, “designer menswear”, tries to dangle the prospect of a dress with a twenty-percent employees’ discount under Lucy’s nose like it’s a prize carrot, while simultaneously managing to show narcissistic awareness in respect of Native American heritage when Hawk gives him the brush off.
Also due to become interminable is the saga of Nadine and Big Ed. Everett McGill continues to provoke the occasional chuckle with his long-suffering deadpan responses – now to super strength Nadine – but this very much isn’t the show at its best. Shelly’s plan (at Bobby’s behest) to bring home Leo (“I’m not going to say anything against him”) will also have some less successful interludes until Leo becomes obsessed with footwear. The problem comes where the show’s indebtedness to soap only pursues the merely a whacky, rather than also with a weird twist.
Jean Renault: You get the money, I get Cooper. Everybody happy. Of course, we can’t let the girl live, now can we?
On the more serious plotline front, the introduction of Michael Parks as Jean Renault, out for revenge for his brother, at least adds a bit of weight to the One Eyed Jacks situation. And signals the resolution of the Audrey problem, finally. Parks is a Tarantino regular bit player, and he’s having a lot of fun playing the duplicitous Frenchman. Whether their scheme makes a whole lot of sense is questionable, however (killing Audrey is unlikely to result in a lack of reprisals, since Ben would doubtless find out eventually).
Special Agent Cooper: Audrey and I have struck up an acquaintance.
Audrey matters also lead to a rare scene with Coop on the back foot, where Ben undermines his statement that “I am here with only the best intentions”. Coop is told Audrey attracts men like ducks in a shooting gallery, and he’s left inwardly seething at Ben and with his feathers decidedly ruffled.
But back to Harold Smith, who dresses like a fugitive from a mid-80s boy band and has all the charisma of shop window dummy caught in car headlights. Von Dohlen plays him as shy and nervy, pained by interactions, but his performance is wholly annoying, as is the subplot generally. The reveal that he is the retainer of a second diary of Laura Palmer is, if one were to be charitable, a swipe at the kind of ludicrous invention from which soaps often suffer. On the other hand, it’s more likely indicative of a writers’ room out of ideas and trying to pluck magic from thin air. Another diary solves a few crucial problems, even if as a device it’s entirely ungainly.
Maddy: All I did was come back to her funeral and I fell into a dream.
The Donna/James/Maddy triangle continues apace, with Donna giving a brutal putdown of dim James (Harold is “bright, charming and intelligent. Completely unlike anyone I know”) and provided a fairly good scene at Laura’s graveside in which she opines that she spent all her time trying to solve her friend’s problems, when she was alive and still is now she’s dead.
Leland Palmer: If life could only be like those summers up at Pearl Lakes.
The fate of Maddy is also inextricably entwined with Leland’s alter ego. The big Leland reveal comes in 2.7 (Lynch returning to provide some oomph just when the show is faltering). Here recalls his childhood encounter with Bob and the name Robertson for the benefit of Coop and Harry (this matches to the letters R-B-T, a B most recently having been placed under Ronette’s nail while in hospital).
He tells them, “He use to flick matches at me. He’d say, ‘You want to play with fire, little boy?’” The seeds are sown here, in the show’s own offbeat way, for commentary on how abuse is perpetuated through generations. When Maddy tells her uncle of her unhappiness, he comforts her and wishes life could be like the marvellous summers he used to know. Which of course, had a dark and buried underside.
The episode’s dual ending finds Leland arrested for Jacques’ murder, after a hypnotised Jacobi locates the memory of that night. The scene includes the amusing touch of Harry about to drift into a trance state, as well as Jacobi’s hospital room turned into a Technicolor shrine, prepared with his wife Eolani.
Agent Cooper: Harry, we’ve got to find the one-armed man.
Two areas lift this episode. One is the goings-on pertaining to Phillip Michael Gerard, the One-Armed Man. Seen in succession, it has to be said this has been teased out with little discipline. It seems he’s going to become crucial every couple of episodes, but is then left hanging. In particular, Coop is beginning to look a little less brilliant by not following this up with full determination.
Now, Gerard has a fit in the police station toilet and speaks in his Mike voice with added reverb (“Bob, I know you’re here. I’m after you now”). Coop finally makes the connection with the third clue, as Gerard was off his Mike-suppressant meds (“Without chemicals, he points”).
Harry: You were visited by a giant?
Albert: Any relation to the dwarf?
The other element is the miraculous presence that is Albert Rosenfield. He’s as full of snark as ever, but unfortunately exits after the first ten minutes. This is not before he has delivered some peerless putdowns in response to Coop’s revelation of strange encounters (“It’s time I mentioned something. I’m not sure, but I believe I was visited by a giant twice, in my room”). Albert is entirely unconvinced by this, and even Harry is shaky.
Albert: And you gave him the beans you were supposed to use to buy a cow.
Cooper: No, Albert, I gave him my ring.
He is also entirely unconvinced by Cooper’s attempts to rationalise where to find Bob. Coop draws a diagram featuring Ronette, Leland, Maddy and himself, with Bob at the centre (“This path is a psychic link that will lead us straight to him”). Albert instructs that there is no one matching the description of Frank on the FBI database (“A man that four of us have seen here in Twin Peaks”, notes Coop; “Sure,” replies Albert, who wishes to “confine my conclusions to the planet Earth”).
In amongst the Albert merriment is his description of Leo’s vegetative state (“currently appearing at Cahoun Memorial Hospital as Mr Potato Head”) and appraisal of the latest Flesh World (“This particular edition features Swingers Clubs for Standard Poodle Enthusiasts”). The most memorable moment, however, is the resurgence of the bubbling antagonism between Albert and Harry.
Harry: Anything we should be working on?
Albert: Yeah, you might practice walking about without dragging your knuckles on the floor.
Harry: (gripping him by the collar) Albert, let’s talk about knuckles. The last time I knocked you down. I felt bad about it. The next time’s going to be a real pleasure.
Just as we are expecting a full-blown altercation, Engels pulls a revelation out of left field. Albert is an eccentric-Buddhist, albeit a particularly splenetic one. He sees the sanctity of life and peaceful ways as important above all else, and lives by a code of love. Ferrer is so level and direct, this could almost be another wind-up. Part of me thinks this is an unnecessary softening of a character who should be all hard edges and spikes, but the scene itself is quite brilliant, and leaves your jaw on the floor (yet again, Glatter shows her aptitude for humorous scenes).
Albert: (gripping Harry’s collar back) You listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is I’m a naysayer and hatchet man in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I’ll gladly take another because I choose to live my life in the company of Ghandi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method (adjust Harry’s shirt) is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman.
Agent Cooper: Albert’s path is a strange and difficult one.
This is Twin Peaks on the cusp of stepping fully into the second season, bereft of the nursing wing of Lynch. It’s an episode that just about flies, but it also carries dead weight that will further hamper the show over the next few instalments.