Twin Peaks, Season 2, Episode 12, “The Black Widow”
Written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels
Directed by Caleb Deschanel
Originally aired January 12, 1991 on ABC
“Wine comes in at the mouth, love comes in at the eye;
I hold my glass to my lips, I look at you and sigh …”
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 one is consistently making excuses, forgiving this scene and that scene and placing them 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 it has built by, say, giving James his own storyline.
There’s an intensification of some of the things introduced in the last couple of episodes, as the James storyline spins further into ridiculous soap opera territory and Ben Horne delves further into his madness, starting to construct his Civil War. As Les mentioned last week, it’s rather interesting that Ben is the one out of the cast to actually snap and lose it. Up to this point, he has been one of the town’s biggest schemers, perhaps the biggest, as well as a smart businessman and a clever backstabber. So much strangeness happens in Twin Peaks, and so much darkness and trauma confronts its people, it can seem awfully surprising that no one level-headed has truly snapped before now, let alone that it is Ben who finally does. But he’s been beaten, both in a business and personal sense, and reduced to someone with power that he finds is dwindling. As with many of Twin Peaks’ broader storylines, there is a real darkness to be found if one looks hard enough.
That may not be true elsewhere, however. The Dwayne/Dougie/Lana fiasco remains decidedly uncompelling, especially once the episode begins spending time on cheap jokes about how much of a seductress Lana is when the entire police station, except Lucy, is fully captivated by her. Nadine’s super-strength and pining after Mike Nelson reappears, just as unwelcome. Andy, Dick, and Lucy are visited by Molly Shannon to talk about the orphan Little Nicky (Andy: “Really, what happened, did his parents die?”), but the reason this love triangle never really works is because Andy and Lucy are way too perfect for each other, and way too adorable together for anything to suggest otherwise, for the triangle ever be at all convincing.
David Duchovny’s portrayal of Denise continues to work, as the character capably assists Cooper in clearing his name, and helps show Audrey a possible future career. “They have women agents?” Audrey exclaims when Denise walks in. “More or less.” Denise replies. It’s absolutely worth noting, as people often do on Tumblr and elsewhere, that this is a remarkably well-considered representation of a trans woman on broadcast television in 1991. Audrey’s reaction is a sincere excitement at the fact that there is a female DEA agent (not to mention a trans one), and she seems thrilled at the possibility. It may say something that you have to find yourself in a place like Twin Peaks to find true and unquestioning acceptance.
Speaking of Duchovny, the Air Force colonel that visits Truman and Cooper acts like the government in The X-Files by explaining that the messages they intercepted from deep space about Cooper originated in the Twin Peaks woods. When Cooper asks whether this has anything to do with the White Lodge, well, “that’s classified.” The government’s knowledge of Twin Peaks and what goes on within it and its woods is not something that gets explored much beyond small scenes like this one, and it certainly seems like something the new episodes in 2016 may engage in, particularly since Lynch has said in the past that he wanted to look into the character of Major Briggs more closely. Briggs, for his part, returns home at the end of the episode, telling his family that everything is not alright.
The show also does get closer to Cooper being reinstated, as he visits Dead Dog Farm and sets up a way to get closer to Jean Renault and take him down. This storyline is only a couple of episodes old, but it already feels tired, because even though viewers don’t know the specifics, it’s clear how it will end. And drug deals feel like something out of a different, lesser show, one that is less interested in the metaphysical and more so in banal cop-show intrigue. But watching Cooper do real detective work is enjoyable, and it makes one wonder how much power goodwill has. This series built up so much goodwill in its first, say, 14 episodes (up to when Laura’s killer was revealed) that everything else is, in a sense, just gravy. When viewers criticize these later episodes but remain so in love, are they being too forgiving?
Pie crusts and coffee grounds
- Log Lady intro: “Is a dog man’s best friend? I had a dog. The dog was large. It ate my garden, all the plants, and much earth. The dog ate so much earth it died. Its body went back to the earth. I have a memory of this dog. The memory is all that I have left of my dog. He was black – and white.”
- I love small touches like the one above, that the Briggs household has an owl lamp.
- “Only those with the purest of heart can feel its pain, and somewhere in between, the rest of us struggle.”
- Cooper looks great in plaid. Maybe he should stay suspended a little longer so we can see him in some other colours.
- “Coop, I may be wearing a dress, but I still put my panties on one leg at a time if you know what I mean.” “Not really.”
- “It’s Keats. He’s a poet.” “Yes. I know.”
- “Admiration is for poets and dairy cows, Bobby.”