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Twin Peaks, Ep. 1.04, “Rest In Pain” buries Laura Palmer and unearths cryptic facts

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Twin Peaks, Season 1, Episode 4, “Rest In Pain”
Written by Harley Peyton
Directed by Tina Rathborne
Aired April 26, 1990 on ABC

Twin Peaks is different, a long way from the world. You’ve noticed that. That’s exactly the way we like it, but there’s a… back end to that that’s kind of different too. Maybe that’s the price we pay for all the good things. There’s a sort of evil out there. Something very, very strange in these old woods. Call it what you want. A darkness, a presence. It takes many forms but… it’s been out there for as long as anyone can remember and we’ve always been here to fight it.” – Sheriff Harry S. Truman

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.

The void that Laura’s passing leaves on that town’s residents is the focus of “Rest In Pain,” as they dig a literal void in the ground and ready themselves for her funeral. As the first episode of Twin Peaks not credited to David Lynch and Mark Frost, “Rest In Pain” is a more grounded episode than any of the first three installments, serving as a microcosm of the town’s loss and their different ways of handling it. At the same time however, it’s a key episode for how it pushes many of the characters to a point of acceptance, and does so in a way that propels the overall narrative of the show past that sense of loss.

Much of the episode focuses on how the town is bracing itself for the funeral proceedings, and in all cases their preparations are in keeping with behaviors previously established. The episode smartly focuses its scenes on the different households, exposing how still intact families are dealing with the shattering of the Palmers, and it’s a revealing look into how these families are barely holding themselves together. The Hornes can’t stop fighting long enough to mourn, leaving Audrey to stick to the hallways and secret passages of the Great Northern in lieu of comfort. The Hurleys are on entirely opposite sides: Big Ed and James practice ultimate stoicism or refuse to attend, while Nadine is seemingly unaware someone has died. And the Briggs household remains Lynch’s greatest satirical suburban creation between Bobby’s crucifix pantomime, Major Briggs’s beyond careful diction, and the placid demeanor of Mrs. Briggs right down to the smiley-face button on her jacket.

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Surprisingly, of the mix it’s Bobby who’s the MVP of the funeral—the degree of emotion to the priest’s eulogy is such that that it’s almost a relief when Bobby keeps his promise to his father to turn it upside down. Dana Ashbrook’s over-the-top performance is hard to take seriously in the first few installments, but here’s the first instance where it feels entirely appropriate to the situation, as he tears into the mourners for their hypocrisy. The talk that the world was “impatient” to catch up with her is just talk, ignoring the cocaine addiction and affairs and emotional problems that were under the surface. If everyone didn’t know all of this, they at least knew that something was wrong, and the yelling pulls the cork out of the bottled-up tensions, sending Bobby and James into a brawl and leaving Leland falling on the coffin desperately grasping for anything.

And in this wash of grief that covers the town mourning Laura’s loss, it’s interesting to observe the reactions of the FBI outsiders. To Albert Rosenfeld she’s nothing more than a cadaver with a checkered past, a puzzle to be cut apart and put back together in a series of tests that may yield her murderer’s name. Yet to Dale Cooper she’s a symbol of the “decency, honor, and dignity” that covers the entire town of Twin Peaks, someone who may have been troubled but whose death has united the fractured town even for a moment. Their final interactions with the body are total opposites that show the split between the two of them, and also the gap between Laura the body and Laura the person. Albert barely spares Laura a glance after a right cross from Sheriff Truman leaves him practically straddling the cadaver, while Cooper takes the time to gently place her skewed arm back on her chest in as close to peaceful as she can get.

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That level of care—and his keen eye for the town’s various affairs—is enough for Truman, Hawk, and Big Ed to confide in Cooper that there is far more beneath the surface of Twin Peaks, filling him in on the previously cryptic mentions of Jacques Renault and the Bookhouse from “Traces to Nowhere.” While the disclosure of a secret society requires a not inconsiderable leap of faith from the viewer, it’s a welcome move in terms of character development. For the past three installments, Truman has been willing to go along with all of Cooper’s leaps of faith in a way that doesn’t mesh with his practical bearing, to the point that he runs the risk of appearing the lummox Albert brands him as. Seeing that he’s run a six-month sting operation on the Renaud brothers, and that he and others are aware that there’s a force of supernatural origins linked to the town, makes him and the others seem far more competent and the oddities easier to swallow. The scene in the Bookhouse with Bernard furthers this impression, as they  engage in interrogations that are entirely off the record in service of a greater good.

Truthfully, it’s easier to take Truman’s claim seriously than it is Cooper’s belief that his dream holds the key to Laura’s death: “Crack the code, solve the crime” as he puts to Truman and Lucy over his latest cup of damn good coffee. The dream sequence was originally produced by Lynch as an ending to the Twin Peaks pilot so it could be sold as a movie internationally, and some of the stitching to tie it into the main narrative is clearly visible. Kyle MacLachlan’s dictation of the dream to Truman and Lucy—the latter transcribing faithfully—lessens some of the effect it had when we first saw it, as well as forcefully calling attention to its subtleties. (His mention that Sarah Palmer and he both saw BOB in visions is particularly explicit, given how vague those early scenes were in the first go-around.) More effective are the quieter beats, the way Cooper whispers, “Sometimes my arms bend back” in response to Albert’s forensic report as he makes the first connection.

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Little details like that are also what allows “Rest In Pain” to prove the show has life outside of the Palmer murder investigation, as it continues to lay groundwork for other parts of the story. The Josie/Martell intrigue continues to grow as she tells Harry that she thinks her late husband may have been the victim of foul play, Shelly purchases a gun and hides it along with Leo’s bloody shirt, Norma agrees to help her husband get parole when her tone and expression indicate she’d rather do anything but. The degree of it gives the show more of a soap opera feel than it’s had in previous weeks—not terribly removed from Invitation To Love—but the level of surreality established by Lynch and Lynch-inspired framing and the Angelo Badalamenti score keep it from seeming cheesy. The work has been done to set up these characters, now it’s a matter of keeping them on a trajectory.

In terms of new characters, Laura Palmer has departed the show but Sheryl Lee has not, as we’re introduced to Madeline “Maddy” Ferguson: a cousin of Laura’s who’s in town to help Leland and Sarah through their grief. Her thick black hair and oversized red glasses aren’t enough to obscure her resemblance to her cousin, a resemblance so noteworthy that it renders the lightly sedated Leland speechless for a moment. The move may have been made for reasons beyond storytelling—Lynch was so taken with Lee’s performance that he wanted to keep using her here—but it functions marvelously to underline the sense of loss surrounding Laura’s death. Her body is in the ground and her soul has gone where none can follow, but the echoes of her memory never leave the world of Twin Peaks.

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Pie crusts and coffee grounds:

  • Log Lady intro: “There is a sadness in this world, for we are ignorant of many things. Yes, we are ignorant of many beautiful things: things like the truth. So sadness, in our ignorance, is very real. The tears are real. What is this thing called a tear? There are even tiny ducts—tear ducts—to produce these tears should the sadness occur. Then the day when the sadness comes, then we ask: ‘Will this sadness which makes me cry, will this sadness that makes me cry my heart out—will it ever end?’ The answer, of course, is yes. One day the sadness will end.”
  • Who Killed Laura Palmer?: According to Bobby Briggs, YOU DID! We all did. And while the usual suspects remain suspect—Leo’s connections to the cocaine smuggling become more apparent, Ben Horne spends a lot of time staring at Laura’s dead face, Dr. Jacoby can’t bring himself to pay his respects at the funeral—the framing of everyone’s conflicted features keeps that accusation in the realm of possibility.
  • This Week on Invitation To Love: We meet the cast. Marvin Padley as Chet, Selina Swift as Emerald and Jade, Evan St. Vincent as Jared Lancaster, and Jason Denbo as Montana. Turns out that Mr. Lancaster’s having financial difficulties and plans to end his life, unbeknownst to his daughters Jade and Emerald.
  • The color red runs through “Rest In Pain” considerably: The satin finish of Laura’s coffin, Leo’s convertible in the background when Cooper questions him (immediately after being charmed by a school of ducks), Audrey’s matching dress and heels when she waits in the hallway for Cooper to go to breakfast, and the haunting closing shot of the traffic light swaying in the midnight wind.
  • Shelly’s reenactment of Leland’s funeral breakdown is simultaneously appalling and hilarious, as is his dance-inspired breakdown in the Great Northern’s restaurant.
  • “Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup collides with ham.”
  • “That’s enough! The sheriff didn’t mean anything by it.” “He hit me!” “Well, I’m sure he meant to do that.”
  • “Laura’s in the ground, Agent Cooper. That’s the only thing I’m sure of.”

Next week: Cooper hunts for the mysterious MIKE and BOB of his dreams in “The One-Armed Man,” while another menacing figure enters the picture as Norma’s ex-husband Hank comes up for parole.


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