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Twin Peaks: Traces to Nowhere

“Who has the other half of this heart?”

The focus of this episode is, quite reasonably, the people closest to Laura. James Hurley, Bobby and Mike, Donna, even Josie: these are the most logical people for Cooper to be interested in, as the average teenager is likely closest to the people in her peer group. They’re also the people most likely for us to be interested in, as armchair detectives—which is why this episode reveals more to us about these kiddos than even Cooper discovers.

I had forgotten this element Twin Peaks: it’s a well written detective story. It effectively negotiates the problem of knowledge: we sometimes know more than the authorities, which creates tension, but Special Agent Dale Cooper does interview the right people at the right time, deals with evidence as he finds it, and eliminate the unlikely suspects. He is generally a very good cop, which means he’s usually one step ahead of the viewers.

In addition to interviews and hard evidence, Cooper relies on his intuition. He knows James didn’t kill Laura because he senses James’s inner sweetness and honesty. That intuition will frequently serve him well, especially as it frequently prevents Cooper and Harry from disagreeing: Harry knows James probably didn’t kill Laura, either, because he has known James for quite a while. The Harry/Cooper relationship is still being established, but so far they seem to be in accord. (Doc Hayward, despite not knowing James, also seems to be a fan: whereas in the pilot he didn’t let Mike into the house, here he invited James to dinner. That tells us something about both Doc and James.)

Cooper’s intuition and Harry’s prior knowledge also point to Bobby and Mike as general nogoodniks—an assessment it’s hard to disagree with. Here the show indulges in some taunting: we know more about Bobby’s and Mike’s relationship with Leo and drug-running than Coop and Harry do. And if the kindly Major Briggs can slap Bobby—well, that’s sort of the reverse of Doc Hayward inviting James to dinner.

While the investigative focus might be the teenagers, Laura’s death isn’t forgotten—and neither are the wacky folks who populate Twin Peaks itself. We got a glimpse of what life with Nadine must be like for Big Ed, Pete Martell’s relationship with Josie his sister-in-law (complete with fish coffee!), Shelly Johnson’s daily domestic struggles, and Catherine Martell’s schemes with Ben Horne.

However, the most fascinating wacky townsperson is, for me, Major Briggs. Don S. Davis played Scully’s father on the X-Files (where he is just as wonderful), and was also in SG-1. Here, his distinct manner of speaking and general reasonable combine perfectly with his philosophizing. I’ve quoted nearly his entire monologue below, and a long monologue it is.

Cooper also met the Log Lady, whose…um…mysterious ways have become something of a byword for Twin Peak’s wackiness. Cooper doesn’t succeed with the Log Lady here: she has something to say, but Cooper’s reticence to fully embrace the weirdness prevents her (and her log) from being completely open and honest.

Doc Hayward’s autopsy report near the episode’s beginning keeps Laura’s death in the back of our minds. He delivered Laura and then had to watch her dissected, and to learn the slow, painful way that she died—a way so painful that it may have helped Ronnette slip into a coma. Twin Peaks doesn’t mince words when it comes to cruelty, but this doesn’t feel like the voyeuristic sadism of some more recent detective shows or even some later episodes. This feels like an awareness that Laura’s murder was a terrible, prolonged crime; that Laura suffered as no person should ever suffer; and that the people who are aware of the details and knew Laura are deeply troubled.

The reactions of the Palmers and the Polaskis were effectively contrasted. The Polaskis seem to be subdued in their grief, more beaten down than crazy. Sarah Palmer, however, seems to have either gone mad or turned psychic: she sees Laura’s face (cheaply) transposed over Donna’s, and hallucinates? sees? has a vision? of an impossibly creepy long-haired guy hiding behind the living-room furniture. That scene gave me shivers the first time and during my re-watch even though I knew it was coming. I kept checking behind me to see if he’d miraculously appeared behind my couch. Cats, protect me!

Meanwhile, Cooper met Audrey Horne, and certainly fell—at least a few feet—for her. It’s fascinating to see him turned on and then reining himself in as he realizes she violates two of his rules: she’s in high school, and she’s associated with his case. But the allure is certainly there. How can I blame him? Sherilyn Fenn is gorgeous, and Audrey was throwing herself at him. Cooper may be a wonderful detective, but he’s got a weakness for the ladies.

Bits and Pieces:

• Cooper: “Diane, it struck me again this morning. There are two things that continue to trouble, and I’m speaking now not just as an agent of the Bureau but also as a human being: What really went on between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys? And who really pulled the trigger on JFK?”

• Cooper: “I’d like two eggs over hard. I know, don’t tell me: hard on the arteries. But old habits die hard. Just about as hard as I want those eggs.”

• Major Briggs: “Rebellion in a young man of your age is a necessary fact of life. Candidly, a sign of strength. In other words, Robert, I respect your rebellious nature. However, being your father, I am obligated to contain that fire of contrariness within the bounds established by society, as well as those within our own family structure. Robert, I note your reluctance to enter into a dialogue with me, your father. There are times when silence is golden. Silence can be taken many ways—as a sign of intelligence. The quieter we become, the more we hear. [Slap] Now, I am a tolerant man. My patience has its limits. To have his path made clear is the aspiration of every human being in our beclouded and tempestuous existence. Robert, you and I are going to work to make yours real clear.”

• Laura: “I just know I’m gonna get lost in the woods again tonight.” I’ll bring up this quote in my review of episode 3, “Rest in Pain.”

• Nadine has discovered the secret to a completely silent drape runner. Cotton balls, with an emphasis on the balls.

• Laura used to tutor Josie Packard, too. How did Laura have all this time on her hands? She must have been the busiest teenager ever.

Clues and Questions

• Shelly found blood on Leo’s shirt.

• Leo had told Shelly that he was in Butte, Montana on the night Laura died, but Bobby told Mike that he saw Leo that night, so we know he was lying.

• Big Ed told Harry that Jacques Renault was tending bar the previous night, and might have slipped Big Ed a mickey. Significant?

• Hawk and Big Ed both rubbed fingers next to their eyes in the sheriff’s station. What’s up with that?

• Who is the one-armed man, where did he go, and what does he want? Perhaps Dr. Richard Kimble can help.

• Laura made tapes for Dr. Jacoby, who seems to really, really enjoy listening to her troubles. And he’s the one who found the necklace and took it—why? How?

Second episodes are always tricky. On a formulaic show, the second episode is typically an example of what the average standalone will be like. On a show like Twin Peaks, there really are no standalones, but this episode does reinforce that, despite the marketing campaign of “Who killed Laura Palmer?” this is a show that lives up to its name: it is about a town as well as a murder investigation. It’s not the most cohesive episode, as some scenes are about investigation, others are just about the tragedy’s impact, and others are about townspeople who don’t mention Laura at all. But it’s snappy, fast-paced, and filled with even more great dialogue than the long quotes I’ve included here.

Three and a half out of four damn fine cups of coffee.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


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