2.16: The Condemned Woman
I was a little premature to mark out Season Two’s upward path as consistent from 2.14 onwards. This and the next episode are a bit of slip back. Tricia Block pens her second episode, but despite a few strong moments Lesli Link Glatter is unable to fashion gold from it. The Condemned Woman is most notable for closing off the underwhelming Josie saga (Harry’s long dark weekend of the soul aside), and doing so in the most deranged manner.
Special Agent Cooper: Why did you shoot me, Josie?
Josie: Because you came here. I knew this day was going to come. I’m not going to jail.
Josie was never most scintillating of characters, set up as a femme fatale but lacking the storylines to justify that status. Now, when we find out why she shot Coop… it’s nonsense. She’s not mad, or wasn’t, and she was quite a cool customer around the time Coop was shot, so the decision to pin the attempted murder on her cries foul.
Special Agent Cooper: Albert, I don’t take it personally.
The lead up to her demise isn’t especially rewarding either. Coop tries to delay the inevitable for Harry’s sake, but in the meantime, Catherine lets Josie have a gun so she can toodle off to see Eckhardt. Albert, in his least noteworthy appearance, doesn’t even get a good line. He’s hell-bent on nailing Josie (“Bust this bitch”) and absent his customary acid wit. The worst of it is, this is the last we see of him.
I have to admit, I hadn’t realised how small David Warner’s role in the show was. A little of him has a lot of impact, clearly. He gets a decent death scene, but he’d been doing those with aplomb for a good twenty years by this point. There’s also a nice scene between him and Dan O’Herlihy in a lift where the latter exclaims, “I’m aliiiiivve!” with some vim. Andrew also has a good guffaw when Pete makes a face out of his breakfast bacon and eggs, leading to Catherine making a Hardy Boys comparison.
Bob: Coop, what happened to dead Josie?
The reason this ep gets a just above mediocre rating is the ending. It’s downright weird. Mostly in random way, but still. Coop and then Harry confront Josie. She’s armed, having just shot Eckhardt. And then, just like that, she drops dead. Rather melodramatic and a bit convenient (Harry doesn’t have to kill her). And then Bob appears by the bed quizzing Coop on her fate, followed by the Man from Another Place doing a shoe shuffle across the covers.
It isn’t as if Josie’s world would intersect with the Lodges for any good reason, except for the expediency of sending the series generally in that direction. Weirdest of all, right at the end we see her face trapped in a wooden drawer nob, screaming and twisting and then freezing (the effect holds up very well, actually). What’s it all about?
We learn next episode that she weighed only 65 pounds at her autopsy, the suggestion being her soul was sucked into the fabric of the hotel. Why her in particular? Maybe her fear made good fodder for Bob and the Man from Another Place? It was apparently intended that she be glimpsed in the Black Lodge during the season finale. Effective as the scene is, I’m not convinced it was a plotline that merited merging with the main mythology of the show.
Of which, Windom Earle is on a bit of a back burner, requesting Coop makes a move “Or I will make it for you”. I hadn’t realised the mask on the bed was Caroline’s death mask. Aside from laying out his (rather redundant really; it leads to no real consequences, almost as the writers dropped something they had planned) meet for Donna, Audrey and Shelly (“Please attend a gathering of the angels”) with their pieces of poem, and dressing as a lumberjack, Windom has Leo sharpening sticks for arrows (to be used in an episode or three). It occurs to me that by this point Leo has spent comparable time in a dirty old dressing gown to Arthur Dent in The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Elsewhere, we see more owls (one in the jar in the first scene), Coop practices his casting in his hotel room, there’s the first mention of Norma’s sister Annie (the lovely Heather Graham) and James and Donna have a picnic (exactly as riveting as that sounds). It’s also the last appearance of Hank. One might have expected him to be shot by Harry. Instead, he screams at Norma from his cell that she’s a whore (“I’d rather be his whore than your wife”) as yet again Ed and Nadine agree to break up (we went through this last week).
There’s an increasing focus on Ben Horne, so it’s as well Richard Beymer is so watchable. He’s taken up prop eating. This week its celery, but carrots will become his Bugs Bunny food of choice. This is the point, post madness, where he decides to lead a righteous life/screw over Catherine (take your pick) and devote himself to saving “the little pine weasel” which will just happen to hamper Catherine’s plans to develop Ghostwood (he may also run for senate). Jerry’s on hand to make some off-colour remarks (“They’re incredible roasted” he comments of the pine weasel) and, in an unseen incident, “The Chef just tried to stab Jerry”.
Which just leaves saying that this episode’s major new character is your friend Billy Zane. He’s a cool dude. At this point McLachlan had nixed the Audrey relationship (because she was too young for Coop, or because Boyle had dictated how things had to be for BF Kyle), so Audrey gets paired with Zane’s John Justice Wheeler. He’s kind of a dullard, frankly. Livelier than James Hurley, but who isn’t? It’s also slightly creepy that he should wax lyrical about Audrey at ten-years-old dressed as Heidi, but I guess we should forgive him since he’s Billy Zane. As for Audrey, all that Season One promise seems to have ebbed away, as she is forced into a corporate straight jacket (and snarled at by a concierge).