In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
Countless TV shows have started with wonderful pilots but quickly went downhill from each episode on, but so far, Twin Peaks has surprised me in that it has pretty much maintained the promise of its premiere episode. Unlike the somewhat disappointing second episode, “Zen, Or The Skill To Catch a Killer” is much more successful in balancing the overarching murder plot with the quirkier elements established in the pilot.
This episode still focuses heavily on Donna and James’ budding romance, which was one of the weaker aspects of “Traces To Nowhere,” and while this is still my least favorite plotline in the show so far, I did like the way Donna’s much-older parents avoided the usual parental cliches and accepted James right off the bat. In the interactions we’ve seen so far between Donna and her parents, they seem to be unusually trusting and open with her in a way that you don’t see much on most TV shows. A far more complicated relationship exists between Bobby and his old man, Major Garland Briggs (played wonderfully by Don S. Davis). In my favorite scene of the entire episode, Major Briggs tries his best to communicate with his troubled son in an open and honest way, while Bobby just glares at him with a bemused, “Rebel Without a Clue” look on his face. The scene plays out almost like a parody of old teen rebel films from the fifties, where the misunderstood protagonist is constantly berated by his square parents, but in this episode, Bobby’s defiant attitude is hilariously contrasted with his dad’s cool, reasonable demeanor.
In only three episodes so far of Twin Peaks, there have been many reoccurring themes and motifs, but the one that stands out the most in “Zen” is the use of dancing to convey a character’s inner thoughts and emotions. At least three scenes in this episode feature a dance of some sort, from Audrey’s somnambulant swaying in the Double R coffee shop to Leland Palmer’s tearful two-step with the picture of his late daughter. And then there’s the dance performed by the mysterious dwarf in Agent Cooper’s dream that comprises the climactic scene of the episode. While the show had provided a handful of strange and quirky moments, this scene is where the show finally delves into all-out weirdness. The dream occurs almost completely in a room surrounded by red drapes and features a brief cutaway to the same freaky-looking dude from Sarah Palmer’s vision, who recites a poem that ends with the phrase “Fire Walk With Me,” which is the very phrase written on a slip of paper found at the site of Laura’s murder. The dream ends when a young woman who looks exactly like Laura whispers something in Cooper’s ear, and when he wakes up, he immediately calls the sheriff’s office to tell Truman that he is on the verge of solving Laura’s murder. Each episode of Twin Peaks so far has managed to provide excellent cliffhanger endings, but the ending to “Zen” was the first to truly hook me into the series and made me a true fan. This episode was a near perfect blending of all the things that make this show so unique and earns 4.5 out of 5 Meatloaf Ashtrays.
After that awesome installment, I feared that Episode 4 would fail to continue the momentum, much like the second episode did. Luckily, “Rest In Pain” manages to build on the strengths of its previous episode and establish new and exciting plot twists of its own. The episode starts with Cooper sharing the memory of his dream to Truman, who seems strangely open to the idea of finding clues through dreams. Cooper states that Laura’s doppleganger in his dream whispered the identity of the killer in his ear but admits that he forgot the dream as soon as he woke up. He is able to pull enough clues from what he does remember to put Truman’s men on the path of the Renault brothers, who work at the town’s hole-in-the-wall bar known as The Roadhouse. It is revealed later that the Renaults are in cahoots with Leo, which puts him back on the cops’ radar.
This episode shows more than any previous one just how much Laura’s death is disrupting the illusory tranquility of the town. This is shown explicitly during Laura’s funeral, which is interrupted in a narrowly-averted fist fight between James and Bobby and ends with the inconsolable Leland Palmer jumping into Laura’s grave. This sequence pushed my tolerance for melodrama to its limit, but it worked within the overall larger-than-life tone of the show.
There are some major changes that occur in this episode, the biggest of which is the unveiling to Cooper of a secret society of local do-gooders known as the Bookhouse Boys, which includes Truman and James, among others. They reveal to Cooper that they have captured the younger Renault brother Bernard and intend to use him to break up a local cocaine ring that may lead to more clues behind Laura’s death. Meanwhile, the lovestruck Audrey enlists herself as a spy for Cooper within the Great Northern Hotel. We also discover a rather unsavory deal made between Leo and Ben Horne involving the destruction of the local mill. It’s always a risk for a show to juggle more than a handful of plot threads at a time so early on, but “Rest In Pain” manages to pack in a lot of information without making any of the plot threads feel rushed or slighted in any way. While it never reaches the blissful weirdness of the third episode, this installment still provides forty-six minutes of great entertainment and earns 4 out of 5 Casket Rides. With just four episodes remaining in this first season, I remain eager to delve even deeper into these mysteries, and like Agent Cooper, I am enjoying nearly every minute spent in this town.