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Twin Peaks: Zen, or The Skill to Catch a Killer

“The idea for all this really came from a dream?”

The final scene of this episode is so iconic that even if you’ve never seen Twin Peaks, you will probably recognize it. In fact, it is so iconic that before I began my re-watch, I’d thought we returned to the red-curtained room in nearly every episode. That scene is the show, for me and likely for many other people.

That scene is incredibly significant in many ways that we can’t talk about yet. But most importantly (for now), it emphasizes Cooper’s ability to use supernatural methods to arrive at empirically valid conclusions: not just any detective would have this dream. Cooper is special, and because of that, he has discovered Laura Palmer’s murderer in just the third episode (!).

The room itself is intentionally disturbing: no wall, just curtains—what is behind them? Who is the little person and what is his role? Why are they speaking so oddly? (See below.) Why is Cooper old in his dream? Why does the little person dance? Who are Mike and Bob—and are they related to Mike and Bobby the teenagers? Why was the one-armed man from the hospital in Cooper’s dream? Does the dream infiltrate reality—is that why Cooper snaps his fingers when he wakes up and calls Harry? What on earth is going on?

The red room also contains the most frightening line in the whole series, at least for me: “Sometimes my arms bend back.” When Laura says this, referring to how she was bound in the train-car, she seems so distraught, and “sometimes” seems to imply that her arms are habitually bound—as though being tied up is a natural state for her body, a thing that just happens regularly. A lifetime of abuse is encapsulated in that line, as well as Laura’s own complicated relationship with the agents of that abuse. It breaks my heart.

Of course, the red room isn’t our first introduction to the bizarreness of Twin Peaks. Cooper’s Tibetan Method is unorthodox, to say the least, but it does have its own non-rational logic: Cooper is deeply intuitive, and Tibetan Method brings order to the potential sloppiness of that intuition. It’s played straight, which means it is also played for laughs: Harry, Hawk, Lucy, and Andy take it as it comes. Perhaps they’re just good folks, perhaps they’re used to the unusual (they do live in Twin Peaks, after all), perhaps they’ll all have a good chuckle at Coop’s expense later. I doubt it, though. Cooper’s offbeat methods seem to appeal to their sense of the world. And, really, is Tibetan Method any more fantastic than the magic that the CSI type shows pretend happens in laboratories?

In addition to the revelations of Tibetan Method, we also got intimations that there might be a connection between Ben and Jerry Horne, One-Eyed Jack’s, and Ronnette Polaski—and possibly Laura. Some connections are merely implicit, like the pink curtains that surround the “new girl” and seem like a faint echo of the red curtains in the room. Others are more overt: Cooper received an anonymous note directing him to “Jack with one eye”; prostitution might be an explanation for why Laura had sex with at least three men on the night she died.

Leo, Bobby, and Mike—it’s hard for me to care too, too much about this story, because I find all three characters so repellant. (Especially Leo. I worked, briefly, with a guy who looked just like him, and wound up requesting a schedule change. He makes my skin crawl.) The drug economy seems to indicate a weird piece of evidence. How deeply involved was Laura in the coke and heroin trade? Could the answer to the mystery be as pedestrian as drugs?

Donna, on the other hand, is a surprisingly interesting character for such a good girl. She’s incredibly sweet and extremely non-judgmental. She genuinely seems to take Audrey as she comes, even when Audrey dials the crazy up to 11. Audrey, for all her self-centered attention-grabbing, does have a heart: she liked Laura a little bit, and went to church to honor her memory. And then danced to what sounds like an Angelo Badalamenti song on the jukebox at the RR Diner. The score to the show infiltrated reality, just like Cooper’s dream.

Speaking of non-judgmental: Cooper takes Albert’s fast-paced insults completely in stride, and seems to take a particular pleasure in the crisp speedy tones of the harangues. Albert is one of my favorite tertiary characters for the same reason: he’s just plain fun to listen to, although Harry of course doesn’t think so. Luckily, Harry doesn’t judge a bird by its flock—he and Cooper seem to be getting closer and closer. Cooper pinched his nose. I assume there’s Harry/Cooper fanfic, right?

Bits and Pieces:

• Jerry: “Sweetheart, I would like to order two drinks. One double scotch on the rocks. And my brother would like a double scotch on the rocks.”
Bartender: “That’s two double scotch on the rocks.”
Jerry: “Next stop, rocket science!” Jerk.

• Cooper: “Following a dream I had three years ago, I have become deeply moved by the plight of the Tibetan people, and filled with a desire to help them. I also awoke from the same dream realizing that I had subconsciously gained knowledge of a deductive technique involving mind/body coordination operating hand-in-hand with the deepest level of intuition.”

• Albert: “What the hell kind of a two-bit operation are they running out of this tree-house, Cooper?...I have seen some slipshod, backwater burgs, but this places takes the cake. What are you waiting for, Christmas? We’ve got work to do, damn it!”

• Harry: “Normally, if a stranger walked into a station talking this kind of crap, he’d be looking for his teeth two blocks up on Queer Street.”

• Michael Anderson, who plays the little person in the red room, can speak backwards, and he taught Sheryl Lee to do so. They were taped reading the dialogue backwards, and that tape was then reversed, which is why their words sound so odd.

• Ben Horne quoted Shakespeare at One-Eyed Jack’s. He’ll quote Shakespeare again.

• The girls at Jack’s wear playing-card corsets.

• Meta-moment: we got a glimpse of Invitation to Love, a soap opera that, we will see later, bears hilarious resemblances to Twin Peaks itself.

• Hawk in oven mitts. Is it weird I think that’s sexy?

• The most important development of all: Nadine perfected the silent drape runners. Big Ed is great, but it’s a pity we have to put up with Nadine to see anything of him.

• Leland has taken up dancing as a way to channel his grief. He’s got a thing for the oldies. And he got his blood all over Laura’s picture.

• The one-armed man (Mike) said that he used to live with Bob, the man that Sarah Palmer saw at the end of the last episode. Mike saw the face of God and cut off his arm to sever his connection with Bob, who wants to kill again.

Clues and Questions:

• Who was lurking behind Leo in the woods?

• Leo implies that he knows Laura better than Bobby realizes.

• Cooper knocked over the bottle, but did not break it, for Dr. Jacoby’s name. It did break for Leo Johnson’s.

• We don’t know if One-Eyed Jack’s is significant, because Cooper choose to remove it from the list of Js.

• Pete gave Josie the key to safe with the two sets of books for the mill. What are those crazy kids planning?

• Impenetrable quotes: “That gum you like is going to come back in style.” “She’s my cousin. But doesn’t she look exactly like Laura Palmer?” “She’s filled with secrets.” “Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song, and there’s always music in the air.”

• Who is Bob?

This episode is wonderful. The investigation continues, we get to meet the wonderful Albert and learn about Tibetan Method, and we get the insane creepiness of the red room, Mike, and Bob. The dialogue is delightful. The pacing is perfect. I was utterly, sublimely confused the first time I watched this episode, and it only gets better on re-watch.

Four out of four slices of huckleberry pie.

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


  1. I was utterly confused with this episode also, especially with that ending. It just creeped me out and I thought I was watching a different show or had missed something! I need to watch this episode again. I hope this gets explained! I am holding out!!!

  2. Like everyone else, I will remember the red room as the most defining moment of the series. "Sometimes my arms bend back"


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