How’s Annie? How’s Annie? How’s Annie? How’s Annie? How’s Annie? How’s Annie?
Twin Peaks is a show that’s fascinated with the female form. The pilot episode of the series is literally all about the female body, the wrapped-in-plastic form of Laura Palmer and whatever secrets surround this sad sight. And from there it only escalates. The seductive swaying of Audrey Horne to music only she can hear. Norma and Shelly hiding adultery behind their demure waitress outfits. The girls of One-Eyed Jack’s, dressed up and dealt to customers like hand of poker. The near-identical figures of Laura and her cousin Maddie. The unknown motivations and alluring figures of Josie Packard, Lana Budding Milford, Ms. Jones, even Evelyn Marsh. So many of the show’s plots place women front and center, relying on both their physical allure and their hidden depths to drive the story forward.
The long-awaited revival of Twin Peaks returned from its own horrific limbo in the Black Lodge earlier this month, when David Lynch announced on Twitter that he’d worked out a deal with Showtime to honor his original commitment to direct the third season—only six weeks after he’d walked away from the project in a similarly public fashion. The news was met with universal acclaim and relief, because after being told this unique show was coming back, it felt wrong that the auteur from whose mind it sprang had to be involved to usher his creation into its next stage of life. They wanted to see it so much, in fact, that the show’s original actors even took to social media to offer character-specific similes on what losing him would mean to the show.
Audiences should consider themselves warned that “SOS”, the two-part season 2 finale of Agents of SHIELD, does not mess around. Five named characters (plus two very unlucky SHIELD redshirts) die, Coulson loses his forearm like Ash from Evil Dead, and Simmons is dragged off Drag Me to Hell-style by that mysterious Kree stone. (Did the writers have a Sam Raimi marathon just before writing this episode?) A few storylines get resolution, like the May-Dr. Garner relationship and Cal protecting Skye, but there is also a lot of set-up for season 3 in the midst of this epic showdown between SHIELD and Jiaying. For everything it is setting up, however, the episode never loses steam for an exposition dump, nor does it rush to resolve season 2’s story arcs. It easily tops the season 1 finale “Beginning of the End”, and really, “SOS Part 1 & 2” are the best two episodes that Agents of SHIELD has produced so far.
“The Frenemy of My Enemy” is an episode with a whole lot going on, probably a little too much going on. The return of Ward, Hydra seeking out super-humans, and Cal’s day out with Skye all come to a head in a big showdown in Milwaukee. Plus, Simmons and May are clashing over Gonzalez’s SHIELD, and one of Jiaying’s super-humans goes missing on a camping trip. As a result, everything except for Skye and Cal’s father-daughter date feels rushed, but thanks mostly in part to Kyle Maclachlan’s performance, the episode is still very entertaining despite its minor flaws.
Dale Cooper belongs in Twin Peaks. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it appears to be a more complicated issue in this episode. As the writers struggled to figure out where to go from here, they realized that Cooper had no real reason to stay in town anymore. About half our time is spent watching him say goodbye to everyone and prepare to head out, only to be interrupted as he finds out that he is being suspended from the FBI and must stay put. Clearly, the writers just needed a reason, any reason, to keep him in Twin Peaks.
“One Of Us” is an episode that improves on repeat viewings. Like “Who You Really Are”, this is not a perfect episode, and has one really bothersome plot hole, but some enjoyable characters get a chance to shine. May gets substantial back-story with her ex-husband Dr. Andrew Garner, played by Blair Underwood. Cal is back with a vengeance, and some powerful psychos at his side. Bobbi kicks butt all over the place. Plot hole or not, “One Of Us” is still a really fun episode, with a lot to recommend.
The question of who killed Laura Palmer holds a particular and acute power. Not only did it captivate millions of people in 1990, but it has continued to have the same effect on millions more in the decades since thanks to home video and, most importantly, Netflix. When I first started watching Twin Peaks as a teenager some years ago, I wasn’t as familiar with the phenomenon, having only been told by many about how powerful the show’s legacy has become. The first season of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s series immediately gripped me, not only with that central question but (more importantly) with the remarkable world and its characters that these men had carefully crafted.
With the sheer breadth of stories being told on an average episode of Twin Peaks, it’s startling to take a step back and realize that each episode only covers a period of 24 hours. While not as slavishly devoted to calling attention to its timeframe in the way The Killing or 24 was, Twin Peaks is a show focused on the day-to-day of the town, beginning each episode with the prerequisite cup of coffee and ending on the wind blowing through the deserted streets and forest. The basic nature of that structure only makes it more remarkable to consider how much happens in a single day, and how good the writers are at keeping the momentum of each plot going as the season progresses.
The best way to sum up “The Things We Bury” is Grant’s observation that, “Nothing stays buried forever,” and wow, this episode finds some dark stuff buried in the past. Hydra’s human experimentation in Nazi Germany, Grant’s troubled family history, and what exactly happened to Skye’s mother is all revealed in full, gory detail. Agents of SHIELD is generally a family-friendly show, but “The Things We Bury” is violent and disturbing in a way that audiences have not seen before. It also might be the best episode of season two.
When the viewer enters the world of Twin Peaks, they do it at close to the exact same time Laura Palmer leaves it. Whoever she was is gone entirely, departed off to heaven, hell, the darkness in the woods, the strange red room in Cooper’s dream, or perhaps to nowhere at all. Cooper and the Twin Peaks police department can overturn every stone in town until they find the killer, but nothing they do is going to bring her back. The only thing that’s left behind is a body growing colder by the minute, and the memories of a town that loved her without truly understanding anything about her.
Throughout his career, David Lynch has always paid tribute to the role of dreams in his art and storytelling. He once described his appreciation of the form as such: “Waking dreams are the ones that are important, the ones that come when I’m quietly sitting in a chair, letting my mind wander. When you sleep, you don’t control your dream. I like to dive into a dream world that I’ve made or discovered; a world I choose … right there is the power of cinema.” Lynch’s best works are the pieces that exist perfectly in an elusive feeling, where you’re unsure if you’re awake or still dreaming. Blue Velvet is a walking nightmare for poor Jeffrey Beaumont that shows him the worst of life, while Mulholland Drive’s narrative defies categorization on what is reality and what is a dream.
In the nearly 25 years since Twin Peaks debuted on ABC, the show has achieved an almost mythic status in the canon of television. Not only has it influenced a legion of other shows, but its various elements and images have become indelible parts of pop culture. Appreciation of cherry pie and damn good coffee. A lady with a log that she treats like a beloved pet. A dwarf dancing in a room with red curtains and a zig-zag carpet. When people think of Twin Peaks, they think of its oddities, and with good reason: the surreality is so distinct that it lingers long after the details surrounding it have faded.
“A Hen in the Wolf House” steps back the amount of action from “Face My Enemy” but makes up for it with more Kyle MacLachlan, Simmons’ undercover work at Hydra, and the reveal of Mockingbird. The writers also squeeze in Skye discovering Coulson’s two big secrets, Fitz and Simmons reuniting, and another Skye-Ward interrogation scene. With so much going on, “A Hen in the Wolf House” should feel rushed and over-stuffed, but everything dovetails so neatly that none of the action or plot points feel forced.
“Heavy Is the Head” picks up right where “Shadows” left off, with Carl Creel on the run from SHIELD and Hartley presumed dead in the car accident. Hunter, Hartley’s right-hand man (pun unintentional), is picked up by Talbott, who tries to convince Hunter to sell out Coulson in exchange for two million dollars and a proper funeral for Hartley. Hunter decides that Coulson’s team has a better chance of finding Creel, however, and after getting away from Talbott, he rejoins Coulson and the team’s hunt for Creel. Creel has more to worry about than SHIELD agents, though, as he is facing some nasty side effects from touching the dangerous artifact from “Shadows.”