“The mind revealing itself to itself.”
Even though the viewership for Twin Peaks dropped off fairly quickly in the second season, this episode—and many that follow it—are more tonally consistent with the lasting impression I have of Twin Peaks than many of the first season episodes are. This premiere is slow, meandering, so offbeat that it’s practically experimental atonal jazz, and filled with surreal moments, only some of which are relevant to the plot.
This episode’s opening sequence is one long joke: You want answers? You want resolution? Too bad. We’re going to take 18 minutes to get Cooper off the floor and into the hospital. Like any joke that depends on delay, though (I’m thinking of the clown joke), it wears out its welcome fairly quickly. This must have been the most maddening Season Two opener, back in the day.
In addition to the cheeky nod to this season’s narrative plan, though, the opening sequence also introduces to a key character in the Twin Peaks symbolic prosopography: the Giant. Like any guardian of the path to justice and knowledge, he speaks in riddles:
• There’s a man in a smiling bag. (The body bag that held Jacques Renault.)
• The owls are not what they seem.
• Without chemicals, he points.
• Leo locked inside a hungry horse. (He was in a jail cell in Hungry Horse, Montana the night Teresa Banks was killed.)
• One person saw the third man. Three have seen him, but not his body. One only, known to [Cooper].
• Cooper forgot something.
The riddles, like the protracted opening, is a meta-joke poking fun at the impulse in Season One to analyze every little bit of information. Twin Peaks is flaunting its impenetrable ambiguities while reminding us that we simply can’t know the answers until we’ve gotten more information.
Despite that meta-play, though, the mystery is still fascinating, and the Giant’s role in mythos of the show is deeply important. Right now, though, all we can dos is wonder: what is his relationship to the dwarf in the red room? Is the world’s oldest, tallest bellboy sort of an avatar of this more mystical being? Does the Giant speak truth, or is he trying to confuse Cooper? The Giant took Cooper’s ring, and promised to return it when he saw that the Giant was speaking truly. But do the answers to the riddles matter as answers themselves, or are they just the Giant’s proof of his own knowledge?
When speaking to Diane, Cooper said: “It’s not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind.” Cooper’s attempts to resist fear—real fear—and meet the challenges that life throws his way with courage is the main tension of this season, and once you’ve seen the show’s final episode, that line has a truly ominous tone.
Equally ominous: the one-armed man has come to the sheriff’s department to…sell some shoes? His smile was weirdly evocative of Leland’s bizarre happiness. James revealed a key memory about Laura: in the middle of one of her “nutty” ramblings, she asked him, “Would you like to play with fire, little boy? Would you like to play with Bob?” What’s the connection between Bob and the one-armed man? That’s never really been made clear.
At the Palmer house, life has become even more bizarre. Not only has Leland’s hair turned completely white, he seems to have spent some portion of time hiding behind the screen in the living room. And he’s taken his love of music to the next level. (He does have a nice singing voice.) While Sarah seems to have calmed down a bit, Maddie is starting to hallucinate a strange stain on the carpet. Did Leland’s singing set off her hallucination, or is the brewing evil just becoming more apparent?
Just as Maddie seems to be changing somehow, Donna has gone all noir-crazy. Laura’s glasses, the smoking, the delightfully hardboiled speech with her locked-away lover—“When did you start smoking?” “I smoke every once in a while. It helps relieve tension.” “When did you get so tense?” “When I started smoking.”—are so affected that they’re utterly delightful from the perspective of a Hammett and Chandler fan. Does it make sense, for Donna to have changed overnight into a vamp? Maybe. She might be overreacting to what she sees as James’s interest in Maddie from the night before.
Bobby, too, seems to have changed. He’s a sort of incompetent, cruel teenager, but he obviously loves Shelley, even if he’s not great at consistently treating her well. His talk with his father was wonderful, and seems to have been a transformative experience for Bobby. Like almost everything Major Briggs says, his dream is worth reproducing in full:
“A vision I had in my sleep last night—as distinguished from a dream, which is mere sorting and cataloguing of the day’s events by the subconscious. This was a vision, fresh and clear as a mountain stream. The mind revealing itself to itself. In my vision, I was on the veranda of a vast estate, a palazzo of some fantastic proportion. There seemed to emanate from it a light from within this gleaming, radiant marble. I’d known this place. I’d, in fact, been born and raised there. This was my first return, a reunion with the deepest wellsprings of my being. Wandering about, I noticed happily that the house had been immaculately maintained. There had been added a number of additional rooms, but in a way that blended so seamlessly with the original construction that one would never detect any difference. Returning to the house’s grand foyer, there came a knock at the door. My son was standing there. He was happy and carefree. Clearly living a life of deep harmony and joy. We embraced. A warm and loving embrace, nothing withheld. We were, in this moment, one. My vision ended, and I awoke with a tremendous feeling of optimism and confidence in you and your future. That was my vision of you.”
We can interpret the while house in the major’s dream as heaven: his heaven is clean, well-designed, and contains his contented and fulfilled son. But this isn’t just the major’s place: the gleaming white palace might relate to the red room that Cooper dreamt of in Season One. There was a lot of talk about dreams in this episode, too—could there be a suggestion that Cooper is unconscious and dreaming all of this madness? Or, are dreams the only way we can access the metaphysical? The only way the mind can reveal itself to itself?
Clues, Questions, and Answers:
• Who shot Coop?
• Do Mattie’s hallucinations have significance for figuring out who killed Laura Palmer?
• What’s the connection with Meals on Wheels?
• Dr. Jacoby smelled burned engine oil when Jacques Renault was killed.
• Shelley and Pete survived the mill’s fire, but Catherine has gone missing.
• Audrey’s attempts to play girl-detective have led her into a Freudian hornet’s nest: she only narrowly averted sleeping with her father, or revealing to him that she was at One-Eyed Jack’s. Cooper had dropped her note under his bed—when will he remember what it says?
• Dr. Jacoby told his version of the events from the pilot, and how he came to have Laura’s necklace. He also theorized that Laura had wanted to die. Did she “allow herself to be killed”? Does that make her murderer any less guilty? No.
• Cooper and Albert outlined Laura’s movements on the night she died very clearly. The most important part: a third man (neither Leo nor Jacques) took Laura and Ronette to the train car and killed Laura there.
Bits and Pieces:
• Cooper: “Fortunately, I was wearing a bulletproof vest last night, as per Bureau regulations when working undercover. I remember folding the vest up, trying to chase down a wood tick.” Nature isn’t fate, but just like fate, it works against the civilizing influences that are here represented by the FBI, especially Cooper himself.
• Cooper: “I would like to climb a tall hill (not too tall) and sit in the cool grass (not too cool) and feel the sun on my face…I would very much like to make love to a beautiful woman who I had genuine affection for.”
• Albert: “You tell me: vigilante justice or just plain country living?”
• Cooper: “I don’t want any baloney, magic tricks, or psychological mumbo-jumbo.”
• Albert: “It’s what we call a three-hanky crime.”
• I love Albert, but I wish he hadn’t laughed at Big Ed, because I love Big Ed, too.
• The dish that Jerry Horne was describing. What on earth is it?
Despite its slow start, this is a great episode. The detection and revelations are neatly balanced by the surreal aspects that makes Twin Peaks so much cooler than most TV, and the montage as Ronette woke up at the end is horribly frightening. We’ve got a lot of great episodes to look forward to before the really bad patch starts. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
Four out of four trays of poisoned hospital food. It’ll kill ya quicker than most diseases.
Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)