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.
As season two of Twin Peaks winds down, it has narrowed its focus and it is on love, and the likelihood that it may not be enough to conquer evil. Indeed, when Major Briggs is given some kind of truth serum by Windom Earle and Earle asks what he fears most in the world, Briggs responds, “The possibility that love is not enough.” Not for anything specific, just not enough.
At first, Harry’s hangover is a funny running gag in this episode, as several different characters give their opinions as to the best cure for one, from Cooper’s attempt to make Harry throw up to Annie’s “teetotaling and prayer”. It becomes such a plot point, however, repeatedly brought up and emphasized with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, that it takes on a deeper meaning.
One of the most successful things about Twin Peaks was its uniquely seamless ability to balance the dark and the light. Thanks largely to the competent handling of David Lynch, the series has become known for both its horrifying and surreal moments as well as its goofy humour, and for the unparalleled way (at least for a time) it could flit between them, combine them, and manipulate them. One single scene could be simultaneously terrifying and chuckle-inducing, and it became up to you to determine how you were supposed to feel about that. It was challenging, but remarkably and consistently effective.
One of the early ideas behind Twin Peaks was that the murder of Laura Palmer was never intend to be the central focus of the show for long—in fact, David Lynch and Mark Frost are often cited that if they’d had their way the murderer would never be revealed. Instead, it was meant as a mechanism to introduce us an audience into the world of Twin Peaks, meeting the various eccentrics and peeling back the curtain—red or otherwise—hanging over their secrets. The town would generate stories on its own, and eventually questions of Laura and her death would fade away into the ether.
Twin Peaks without David Lynch is certainly not the same, but it’s impossible to completely lose the magic. Watching these season two episodes can sometimes feel like you are consistently making excuses, forgiving this scene and that scene and placing it within the proper context for it to go down a little easier. The truth is that so much of the series still works, even as it tries to work against all that has been built by, say, giving James his own storyline.
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.
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.
A lot happens this week. Usually, Twin Peaks is a series that follows its own pace, setting its own rules and moving forward slowly but surely. Last week felt like something of a bizarre stasis as Leland continued to roam free and everyone else mourns, investigates, meanders. Here, the truth is revealed to everyone, not just us. It comes to Cooper first, of course, in a dream. But this is an overstuffed episode, absolutely fascinating in what it tries to pull off and in its relative failures.
Have you ever begged a secret out of someone? They let a tiny piece slip, and suddenly finding out the whole truth is the only thing that matters. You plead that they just tell you. You pick away at them, breaking them down, again and again until it goes on too long for either of you and you can’t take it anymore, you just need to know and they need to tell you, right now. They sigh, dramatically. They pause. They tell you truth. It isn’t at all what you expected, but now you know, you finally know. Now what?
And finally, the truth. Leave it to David Lynch and Mark Frost, though, to offer something less than comforting. The pair may have been bitter from the pressure to reveal the killer, which they never intended to do, but regardless, this is a brutal hour of television. It’s difficult to imagine that many viewers, so wrapped up in the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, were all that satisfied with the answer once it came, not that an answer could ever have been as satisfying as the question. The truth is more horrifying than any of us could have imagined.
So much of the time, the care we have for other people brings us pain. Allowing yourself to have love for someone else puts you in a state of vulnerability, a scary place where it becomes far easier to wound. Sometimes, it’s from outside sources, but it can also come from within. The problem is that we can’t help ourselves. There is nothing more powerful than the love and care we have for others, even if we know pain will come. But especially if we don’t.