2.15: Slaves and Masters
One might point to the gregarious screen-hogging performance of Kenneth Welsh as Windom Earle as the reason Slaves and Masters goes down so well. It’s been getting on for a five-episode mid-season slump, and now the series’ second Big Bad has been fired up and is ready to go. But given director Diane Keaton’s visual flair, throwing sight gags and asides into scenes with infectious abandon, I wouldn’t have put it past her turning one of the previous also-rans feel like something special.
Don’t get me wrong; 2.15 isn’t quite first-tier Peaks. But it’s a lot better than viewers would have grown accustomed to in recent weeks. I don’t think there’s been a decent moment at Wallies… until now. This is also the last of the Wallies. The “proper” plot-based material is as snooze worthy as ever; James and Evelyn drippily talking about how they like the way each other tastes, and Evelyn shooting Malcolm at the last decisive moment.
Frank: Excuse me.
Men at Bar: (In unison) Hi Frank.
Before that, though, Keaton stages a sequence in the bar to the backdrop of six identically-uniformed men smoking cigars, sitting with their backs to the audience, responding in unison when police officer Frank enters. The point of the scene is ostensibly Donna and James discussing their next move (while continually interrupted by the bartender). Since that’s dull as dull, Keaton wonderfully diverts attention elsewhere.
She’s at it again with Ed and Norma. Post-coitus, they are joined in bed by Nadine. She pronounces, “I know about you guys”.
Later, Shelly (now released from perpetuity caring for Leo) joins Norma on the floor of the diner, suggestively cleaning a large phallic plastic ice cream while asking for her job back. Admittedly, you can’t stage every scene this way, but a couple of such offbeat moments an episode would have done wonders.
This is also the end of Ben’s trip into the past. Again, Keaton knows a good thing when she sees it. She wheels son Johnny back on, dressed in traditional Native American garb and laughing inanely (he hasn’t been seen since the fifth episode of the first season).
Then there’s Audrey dressed as Bo Peep and Ben riding a stuffed donkey – complete with sound effects – as if this is The Goodies’ Bunfight at the O.K. Tea Rooms. I also liked Jerry opportunistically thinking of the advantages of leaving Ben insane. Even Ben’s return to reality plays like a parody of such scenes from soaps (“I feel terrific. What are you doing in those clothes?”)
The Catherine/Josie/Eckhardt subplot can’t pass such easy muster, but even that features a scene in which Coop goes to help Pete with his dry-cleaning and their entire exchange is conducted behind a door swinging back and forth. Notably, Catherine has an owl chalk drawing on her wall; there’s also one on the bar in Wallies.
Special Agent Cooper: I hope it’s not Josie, for Harry’s sake.
Albert: Coop, as you know Sheriff Truman and I have had our differences in the past, but the big lug’s heart is in the right, if nothing else, and I’m not above feeling a little sympathy for the stalwart and the dull.
Special Agent Cooper: What’s your point, Albert?
Albert: Speaking frankly?
Special Agent Cooper: Feel free.
Albert: Our sheriff’s got a serious problem with his girlfriend.
I’m not entirely convinced by the revelation that Josie was Coop’s shooter. I mean, it’s nice and all that they bothered to pick up the dangling loose end (this is clearly not Stephen Moffatt or Damon Lindelof scripting) but did they plan it that way all along? It seems a little convenient.
Did I mention Miguel Ferrer is back? Miguel Ferrer is back! And he’s funny! He’s no longer antagonistic towards Harry (they engage in the most overblown hug imaginable when they reunite), but somehow his new sensitive side has been successfully melded with his cynicism to new productive effect.
Albert: As he so succinctly put it, I’M WORRIED ABOUT COOP!
His parting shot to Bobby, brushing past him, might be an all-time Albert classic (“Get a life, punk!”) (To be fair to Bobby, his reference to “Leostein” is also pretty funny). Ferrer also delivers an expert imitation of Gordon Cole and has nice things to say about Coop’s “fashion suicide” lumberjack attire (“Call me crazy, but on you it works”).
Windom Earle: I’ve made you some gruel.
Which leaves us with Windom Earle. Kenneth Welsh is a scenery-hogging delight (can they bring him back for the new run? Please, David). He’s a whirlwind of infectious energy, be it prancing about in long johns playing a pipe, launching into an impression of a cat that would put George Galloway to shame (“Meow. Yum, yum. Prr, prrr”), or electroshocking Leo Johnson (sporting a charged neck brace) and dubbing him “Leo the Lion”.
DaRae is his straight man and does a great job being genuinely fearful of this madman (quite a feat when Leo was the scary one a week hence). Earle’s benign sadism towards Leo is hilarious (“Concentrate. Earle shocks Leo. Leo for heaven’s sake!”) and we get the first inklings of his nefarious plan to ensnare the Twin Peaks beauties (“Pretty words for pretty girls. Which one shall be my queen?”) Leo is less than pleased that Shelly is on Windom’s hit list, although Earle is making for Audrey at the end of this episode (he leaves a mask on Coop’s pillow).
We also see Earle as a man of disguise (a fake moustache and an outrageous French accent); he passes Coop coming out of a lift in the Great Northern. Welsh generally has an effect of instantly invigorating the proceedings. I was a big fan of his work first time round, and this only goes to confirm that view. Admittedly, this is all very broad, but the White/Black Lodge aspect will carry the same kind of eerie baseline as the murder of Laura did in the first season.
Windom Earle: Now Dale, listen carefully. It’s your move.
The announcement of Pete as a closet chess grandmaster is a stroke of extreme convenience, but it’s just about believable that he could be a duffer and a chess buffer. It’s also a grand conceit, and an appealing one, that Coop has to combat Earle’s rules. Whenever a piece is taken from the board, someone dies. As such, Cooper employs Pete with the express intention of producing a stalemate through losing as few pieces as possible.
So Slaves and Masters is sterling stuff; on the strength of this, Diane Keaton was second only to Lynch in producing visuals to relish from nothing on the page (most probably; Peyton and Engels wrote this, solid workhorses but no more). It’s a shame this was a solo outing, but then her directing efforts generally have been nothing if not eclectic and selective.