2.22: Beyond Life and Death
So this is it. Until 2017. Well, let’s see them start filming before counting on it. The Season Two finale, until the new arrivals, has earned its place as one of TV’s iconic cliffhanger endings. Those are few and far between, of course: Blake’s 7, Angel, Sapphire and Steel. Notably, these are all in the fantasy genre. At the time, or thereabouts, the most annoying thing about where we were left was not the ending itself but that Lynch went and made a prequel that actively rubbed anyone wanting some form of continuation or closure’s nose in it. Regardless, this is iconic TV fare, lifted to such status by the mere presence of Lynch in the director’s chair and blessed with a final twenty minutes of craziness the like of which hasn’t been part of mainstream television since Patrick McGoohan confounded audiences with the conclusion to The Prisoner (with which this bears a few passing similarities).
The ever-useful Wikipedia informs that Lynch revised dialogue and scenes of the scripted credited to Frost, Peyton and Engles. That should come as no surprise, as they don’t have this kind of bonkers-ness in them. It also explains why entirely dropped characters, but ones Lynch co-conceived, are brought back for a final (red) curtain. It should come as even less surprise that the supremely deranged Red Room sequence is the one he rewrote top to bottom (which goes to explain the curiously limited role for Windom Earle; one wonders if Lynch didn’t take to the character).
As has been noted with his other efforts for the series, Lynch doesn’t just lift the main plotlines, but also the less essential supporting ones. As such, there are some particularly cruel and/or surprising twists of fate here.
Nadine: Where are my drape runners?
The harshest blow in this regard is surely the disintegration of Ed and Norma’s chances of happiness. Following her bop on the head, Nadine returns to her former antic state (so many to choose from). Lynch stages this absurdly at first – Nadine and Mike in huge head bandages decorated daubs of red paint and Mike professing love. But the despair of Norma realising Ed will do the honourable thing is palpable.
Doc Hayward: Leave my family alone!
Then there’s by far the best moment in the tiresome Donna-Ben saga. The latter shows up at the Hayward house professing his honest credentials. Donna bursts into tears, telling Doc Hayward, “You’re my daddy”. Then, in a classic (not in the original script) of Lynch domestic hysteria, Doc slams Ben’s head into the fireplace and he falls bloodied to the floor as Doc screams “Oargggghhhh!”
Eckhardt (from beyond the grave): Got you Andrew, love Thomas
The scripted demise of Andrew is quite sly; a bomb in a safety deposit box. But it too becomes typically warped, complete with signature slow-moving elderly folk and long shots extending the duration to hypnotic levels. For whatever reason, Catherine doesn’t go to the bank (as per the original script), Pete does. So Lynch blows up Andrew and Pete, and possibly Audrey who has chained herself to the vault door of the Savings and Loan. There’s also some amusing business here, Audrey asking Dell for a glass of water and obligingly making way for Andrew to get through to the vault. This is Lynch all over; Audrey’s left stranded for episodes on end, then he shows up and she’s a quirky, engaging character again.
Bobby: Shelly, Leo’s probably up in the woods having the time of his life.
Leo was originally discovered in Earle’s cabin by Hawk and Major Briggs, at which point he set off the spider trap. Instead, Lynch reduces his presence to a comedy punch line incorporating the previous week’s footage. I rather like this, and the idea that he’s still staring up at those spiders 25 years later. Whether Bobby and Shelly go on to tie the knot (“I think we should get married”), we’ll have to wait and see. We also revisit Lynch’s giggling waitress Heidi, tittering at Bobby’s jokes about jump-starting the old man.
Sarah Palmer: I’m in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper. I’m waiting for you.
Some of Lynch’s character insertions border on the random, which is exactly what you’d expect of him. Sarah Palmer hasn’t appeared since the fairly wretched 2.10. Now she’s visiting the diner with Jacobi (bringing some sterling cape action), bringing a psychic message from, presumably, Windom Earle. If not Earle, then whom? Since it’s delivered to Major Briggs, there doesn’t seem another likely correspondent.
Pete: The Log Lady stole my truck.
Special Agent Cooper: Pete, the Log Lady didn’t steal your truck. The Log Lady will be here in one minute.
The Log Lady and Ronette Pulaski didn’t appear in the original script either. This scene is less than elegant, truth be told, cramming in bits and pieces in an ungainly attempt to bend the trajectory back towards Lynch’s vision. There’s the scorched engine oil brought by Margaret, which satisfies Ronette’s sniff test. The oil opens the gateway to the Black Lodge, so I guess there’s at least an explanation there. Kind of.
Hawk: That’s where I found the bloody towel and the pages of the diary.
The exposition regarding the circle of twelve sycamores that surround Glastonbury Grove is the kind of “No shit!” dialogue that recalls the previous episode. This prime location of clues that has been ignored throughout just happens to be the same place where all the answers are to be found, only in a different dimension.
Special Agent Cooper: The legendary burial place of King Arthur.
Pete: King Arthur’s buried in England. Last I heard.
This element seems very much on the Frost spectrum, that with the connections between freemasonry and the Holy Grail (and the sword, or rather pickaxe, in the stone a few weeks before). And Glastonbury Grove has owls in common with Bohemian Grove. Make of that what you won’t.
Windom Earle: Take a look at that! Twelve rainbow trout.
There’s at least one line of Earle random humour, as he draws Annie’s attention to the contents of the back of Pete’s truck. Annie is turned into a zombie (not that kind) and in short order Coop follows her and Earle into the Black Lodge. The effect here is simple but evocative; the backdrop to the Grove becomes the drapes of the Red Room. Lynch also comes up trumps with the eerie and beautifully sung Under the Sycamore Trees (vocals from Jimmy Scott).
The Man from Another Place: This is the Waiting Room.
The strangeness inside is all present and correct. Red drapes, strobe lighting, screaming faces (Laura), The Man from Another Place, the reveal that the Giant is one and the same as the waiter (“Whoo! Hallelujah” x2), the 25 years comment, coffee (solid, liquid, gloop), Maddy (“Watch out for my cousin”), evil possessed twins effectively symbolised by whitened contact lens (“Doppelganger”). Although, even The Man from Another Place appears to have his own doppelganger, so I’m not sure quite how that works.
There’s also paying with time and identity. Coop relives the demise of Caroline (stabbed by Earle, recalling 2.11’s “You with your wounds, I with mine”), lying bloody on the floor, alternating with Annie (“I saw the face of the man who killed me”).
The Man from Another Place: Wow, Bob, wow.
Much frantic running down “corridors” ensues, including Coop pursuing “Coop” once his own doppelganger has assembled. This in particular suggests the end of The Prisoner. Lynch’s meanings work on a much more primordial level than McGoohan’s though.
Windom Earle: If you give me your soul, I’ll let Annie live.
Special Agent Cooper: I will.
The destruction of the antagonist by a force more powerful than he imagined isn’t anything new (it’s the climax to Raiders of the Lost Ark, for example), but it’s particularly cryptic and fractured here. Bob denies Windom Earle Coop’s soul (“He is wrong. He can’t ask for your soul. I will take his”). Why this entitles Bob to Coop’s soul too is immediately unclear. One might construe the deal passed with the de-souling of Earle (comedy flames spurt from his head; in the original he ends up in a dentist’s chair tortured by Bob); certainly, Annie gets released (“She’s going to be just fine. She’s over at the hospital”) and Coop’s mirror scene suggests a Leland Palmer-esque transaction has taken place.
More likely, and generally accepted, is that Coop succumbed to the fear that enables his doppelganger, Hawk’s “dweller on the threshold” to take his place, Coop having failed the test. It’s rumoured that Season Three would have seen Major Briggs rescuing Coop from the Black Lodge (as one who might well have passed unscathed through its confines with a pure heart). The eventual Season Three won’t be able to go quite that route, obviously (well, they could recast).
Andy: Do you want a thermos of coffee?
Andy: A plate special?
Andy: Pie? Harry? Harry?
The exchange between a distracted Harry and Andy is welcome bit of levity amid the lunacy (we also note the disjunctive time; they are out there for ten hours, much as Briggs felt he was wherever he was for a much shorter period than he was), but the hotel room scene that ends the episode, and the show, is legendary.
“Coop”, recovered from Glastonbury Grove, awakes in the Great Northern, with the need to brush his teeth. He squeezes his toothpaste into the sink and proceeds to head-butt the bathroom mirror, laughing maniacally along with the image of Bob. Particularly cruel is his mocking, “How’s Annie? How’s Annie?”, imitating his own “earnest” question moments earlier. Only Lynch and Frost know if Heather Graham will return. If not, we will likely discover that Doppelcooper topped her soon after the events of this episode.
There’s nothing in the Black Lodge phantasmagoria that is as palpably unnerving as the material that will follow in Fire Walk with Me, but this is the most undiluted stream of Lynch weirdness the series has seen. It’s entirely appropriate that it should cap the run.
One might argue Season Two would have been improved by cutting about a third of it away from the middle, but the problem is more systemic. When Lynch is back in the picture, it’s clear that those picking up the ball with his (and Frost’s) show are in the main pale imitators. Even when they invent a character or scene that is either weird and or funny/clever, it doesn’t have the singular edge of his work, the ability to really bend the expectations of narrative and network television. It will be interesting to see how his unexpurgated vision; all from him and Frost and (presumably/possibly) all directed by him will be. Eighteen episodes are a lot, but it appears he has a lot of material. Let’s hope it’s as damn fine as the third or so of the original run that made the show so innovative and enduring.
The Best of Twin Peaks:
Difficult to pick one, but the pilot (Northwest Passage), the subsequent three episodes (Traces to Nowhere, Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer, Rest in Pain), the first of Season Two (May the Giant Be with You), the seventh (Lonely Souls) and this finale are the crème de la crème.