This post will contain SPOILERS throughout.
This week’s Twin Peaks stuck to an emerging and somewhat frustrating template as the ongoing series revealed the extent of its chronological playfulness (glass half-full) or ineptitude (glass half-empty). Back in its initial two season run, the show fell almost immediately into the one episode = one day formula. With the exception of the two-part season one finale this was always the case. It’s a format that has worked elsewhere too (see HBO’s crowning achievement, Deadwood).
Season Three has dispensed with this. This became clear early on, but Part 13 confirmed what had been suspected for a few weeks now; that the assembled footage has been edited together in such a way that night doesn’t necessarily follow day. We are arbitrarily jumping backward and forward in time. Scenes are placed not to adhere to chronology, but for how they fit into the larger span of each part.
The evidence? Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook). Scenes from the last few installments have strongly suggested a progression of days in the town, but in Part 13 Bobby Briggs comes to the Double R diner and sits with Norma (Peggy Lipton) and Big Ed (Everett McGill). His talk with them reveals that it is still the same day as the events seen in Part 9; the day that he, Hawk and Sheriff Truman received the hidden evidence from his father Major Briggs. For those of us who have been waiting eagerly for two days to pass so that the law of Twin Peaks can visit the feted co-ordinates, this shuffling of time is something of a stutter to the show’s pacing. I get the suspicion, more and more, that it will always be two days away until we reach the season finale.
But the warping of time in Twin Peaks isn’t that much of a surprise. The town has always felt special. Far from the world. There’s a timeless quality to the fashions and the feelings of the town. Add to that the supernatural forces out in the woods, and this broken chronology almost seems fitting. On other shows it would seem like an almighty blunder. Here? It’s feasible.
So the day-by-day structure of the show is gone but, as intimated, a new structure is emerging. But it might not be good news. Like last week, Part 13 was typified by a strong first half that advanced the story, backed with dawdling and seemingly less necessary content. The pattern that is starting to emerge is one of front-loaded episodes that drift into despondency and loneliness. That loneliness seems to be markedly happening in the town of Twin Peaks.
Part 12 barely featured Kyle MacLachlan, so it was invigorating to see plenty of him this week, starting with an extensive amount of time with Evil Cooper. Evil Coop arrives in Ray’s garage, clearly out to seek vengeance on the man who tried to kill him back in Part 8. Ray (George Griffith) has a whole posse to back him up and we learn that this posse has a uniquely childish way of settling differences; arm-wrestling. Yes, Lynch is channeling long-forgotten Stallone arm-wrestling picture Over The Top. And indeed it is. So Evil Cooper agrees to an arm-wrestle with one of Ray’s tough henchmen. It’s an openly ridiculous display of masculine bravado. Here Lynch pokes fun at the testosterone-fuelled stupidity of male posturing; it’s an open joke. But is also doubles-down on the continuing insinuation running throughout the show that weak-willed men are most susceptible to evil. And look, Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) is there to witness it.
Evil Coop beats the henchman, toying with him before breaking his arm and seemingly head-butting him to death. Evil Coop is not a regular man; he is host to BOB, and so he views the match with the air of someone indulging an inferior species. Following his win, he is immediately and unquestioningly accepted as the new leader of the posse (despite making it clear that he doesn’t want to be). Then Evil Coop toys with Ray and we learn a few things. Ray was hired to kill Evil Coop by Phillip Jeffries, and Ray is in possession of the co-ordinates (the reason behind the Buckhorn murders) not to mention the mysterious ring that so occupied Fire Walk With Me. Ray gives Evil Coop the coordinates, despite saying he wouldn’t and sets him on a path to “The Dutchman’s”. I guess we’ll find out where that is soon enough. Evil Coop kills Ray the second he has what he wants (remember Evil Coop doesn’t need anything, he only wants).
Evil Coop slips the ring on Ray’s finger and it disappears. We then see it arrive at the Black Lodge. The One Armed Man returns it to the plinth (a shot that duplicates the one from FWWM). Whether this means that the inhabitants of the Lodge believe Evil Coop to be dead or not is not made clear.
Over in Las Vegas there are developments for Dougie as well, whether he’s aware of them or not. The Mitchum brothers are his new best friends, marching him into work following their night of celebrations (note how Dougie’s game of catch ‘yesterday’ is now a chronologically apocryphal). Duplicitous co-worker Anthony Sinclair (Tom Sizemore) calls Mr Todd (Patrick Fischler) to give him the bad news. In turn, Mr Todd charges Sinclair with the responsibility of getting rid of Dougie, allowing him one day to do it, not two as previously stated. Sinclair meets with shady cop Det. Hart (John Savage) who provides him with a poison to use on Dougie the next day.
With Dougie making progress (he answers a question this week!) but still far from ‘okay’ (he also walks into a glass door…), it seems once again as though he is doomed to die. But fortune favours him once again. This time there is no need for intervention from the Black Lodge. Dougie, lured away by cherry pie, starts massaging Sinclair’s damp shoulders, something Sinclair reads as an act of compassion. It moves him to tears and he throws the tainted coffee away. What’s more, he confesses everything to Dougie’s boss Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray). Meanwhile, Jayne-E (Naomi Watts) is delighted with the arrival of a new car and a jungle gym for Sonny Jim, courtesy of the Mitchums.
With that packed first half, Part 13 looked set to be a straight-out winner, but returning to Twin Peaks sees the urgency slow down and stop. Yet this shouldn’t necessarily be perceived as a failing of the show, more a realignment of focus. What the back half of this instalment seems eager to convey is the isolation in society. The loneliness.
We spend more time with Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriski), now quite clearly the sole inhabitant of the Palmer house. She watches a looped segment of boxing coverage on TV, the table in front of her covered in the remnants of her chronic alcoholism (and is that a plate of creamed corn?). Sarah gets up repeatedly to investigate a strange electronic sound that coincides with the looping on the television, but as far as we are shown, her efforts are fruitless. Elsewhere, closing out the instalment in thoughtful quietude is Big Ed, sat alone at his gas farm, without Norma, without Nadine (Wendy Robie). Both scenes are connected by the absence of development. In keeping with the episode’s time-keeping snafu, Part 13 manages to feel like a semi-realised comment on the plague of isolation in modern society.
Another focal point of the season (and something the show has been consistently interested in) is our relation to television. In Part 13 it tends to read as negative, between the above scene with Sarah and the way it is used as a vector for violence at Ray’s farm. But for better or worse (and its most certainly for better) Twin Peaks doesn’t even feel like television anymore and it hasn’t since that set was obliterated at the beginning of FWWM. In truth it doesn’t quite feel like film either. For now it exists in a unique mezzanine space between the two. And existing between two worlds is about as meta as Twin Peaks gets.
A few final thoughts:
– it’s taken me this long to notice that the Rancho Rosa ident at the top of each episode is a different colour. Could there be a code to break?
– it seems as though Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) might actually be ward of Charlie (Clark Middleton), rather than his wife.
– seems like James Hurley (James Marshall) draws the same size crowd as Nine Inch Nails.
‘Til next time!