Twin Peaks, Season 2, Episode 16, “The Condemned Woman”
Written by Tricia Brock
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Aired February 16th, 1991 on ABC
I have dreamed so much of you
Walked so much, spoken, lain with your phantom…
That all I have to do now perhaps is to be a phantom
among phantoms and a ghost, hundred times…
More than the ghost who walks gaily over the sun-dial of
“To beginnings…and endings. And the wisdom to know the difference.” Andrew Packard says this to Josie, pertinent words considering Josie’s unusual fate this episode, but they also apply to several dissolving relationships that occur. First, the romance between Harry and Josie has come to end with her demise, though whether they could have kept going had she survived is equally unclear. Nadine and Mike have fallen in love, so she breaks up with Ed once and for all, which drives Norma to actively seek out divorce with Hank so that she and Ed can finally be together for real. And most importantly, James decides to leave Twin Peaks, effectively ending his relationship with Donna, and with us. He will not be missed.
James has never been a captivating character and he will always be best remembered by fans of the show for the torturous soap opera subplot we were just forced through with him and Evelyn. When Donna tells him at their picturesque picnic to go and “take all the time you need”, I can’t help but react like this. If this is the last we are to see of him, life can only be better from here on out.
On the other hand, it feels like a significant loss to have Josie removed from the show, forever (or at least until 2016) entombed within that drawer knob. It also feels like a cheap resolution, as if the writers wanted to wrap this storyline up but didn’t have any ideas. This becomes clear when Bob and the Man from Another Place show up, with Bob asking Cooper, “What happened to Josie?” before we see her trapped. Josie dies after killing Eckhardt so this can be over, but for her to simply collapse would be too nonsensical, so they justify it by making her death supernatural, letting themselves off the narrative hook. Those elements of the series should not be used as a crutch as they are here, as a way to get away with whatever bad writing they want. It’s doubly unfortunate because the many machinations of Josie’s plot, with the return of Andrew and the evil promise of Eckhardt, were actually decently interesting, or at least showed sustainable promise. Instead, this storyline is discarded and we see Bob again for no reason. Unacceptable. We do, however, get to hear Michael Ontkean’s gloriously terrible line reading of “PUT IT DOWN!”, which he screams at Josie in a moment of extreme emotion. It’s wonderfully over the top.
We get some small steps forward for Windom Earle, who sends a mysterious note (“Save the one you love”) to his queen candidates: Audrey, Shelly, and Donna. Earle continues Twin Peaks’ obsession with making a young woman (or women) the object of the villain’s desire, putting them in peril, for they know the impact it has. Earle is not unlike the countless antagonists that have come before or since, dovetailing toward the white and beautiful female forms and threatening to take them away from their community. Though all three continue with their lives, the air of danger surrounds them, further solidifying the white female body as the most precious, the most worthy of saving and protecting. Tragically, the drama works.
Meanwhile, Pete uses his chess mastery to make Cooper’s next move good enough to keep Earle from killing anyone else for at least five or six more moves, though Harry wonders whether he’ll just kill anyway. “Earle has a perverse sense of honor about these things,” Cooper says to assuage him, but he doesn’t elaborate. As Les pointed out last week, it’s high time for Earle to show his true and clever colours if we’re supposed to take him seriously. There is a severe dichotomy between the stuff we hear about him from other people and the behaviour we actually see him engage in, and though he is a threat to the three girls this episode, he still feels like a mildly scary clown lumbering around acting silly. Something needs to move.
Audrey spends the episode encountering Jack Wheeler, a wealthy and handsome guy who has traveled to the “far corners of the Earth”, who introduces himself by creepily describing an “unforgettable” picture of Audrey when she was 10 that he fondly recalls as he closes his eyes. Sure, he’s handsome, but the reason why a romance between Audrey and Cooper was never fully explored was the age difference, and yet the love interest for her that they introduce is still someone older. She even tells him, “I’m only 18”, and he says, “What exactly does that have to do with the price of eggs?” It’s an uncomfortable moment, made all the more so because at least the relationship with Cooper had honest chemistry and substance.
Ed and Norma, as usual, are a shining light among the murkiness. Their romance is the easiest to root for, as it always has been, and it pays off splendidly when things seem to finally work out for them, as Nadine gives Ed the out he’s been waiting for, which drives Norma to finally ask Hank for divorce – or force it out of him. Ed acts rashly, asking Norma to marry him, but when you’ve kept these feelings bottled up for so long, it only makes sense to let them all out. There’s nothing more purely satisfying than a love that no longer has to be hidden, and their warm embrace is genuinely electrifying on an emotional level. It’s the highlight of another messy episode, a promise that this is still a show capable of remarkable things.
Pie crusts and coffee grounds
- Log Lady intro: A hotel. A nightstand. A drawer pull on the drawer. A drawer pull of a nightstand in the room of a hotel. What could possibly be happening on or in this drawer pull? How many drawer pulls exist in this world? Thousands, maybe millions. What is a drawer pull? This drawer pull – why is it featured so prominently in a life or in a death of one woman who was caught in a web of power? Can a victim of power end in any way connected to a drawer pull? How can this be?
- The owls that keep popping up are even less subtle now, as the episode begins with one front and centre, above.
- Horne Industries have fallen on hard times and Ben’s back to his normal scheming ways. “In spite of these reversals and stripped of all the trappings of success, what are we left with? The human spirit. What is the greatest gift that one human being can give to another? The future. I give you: the little pine weasel.” His plan is to stop the Ghostwood development by campaigning to save the weasel, which will become extinct if Ghostwood goes ahead. It is, honestly, pretty clever.
- And after that? “I am considering a run for the Senate!”
- Also, holy shit this whole thing:
- The Audrey/Jack stuff is full of horrible moments, like when Ben says, “Think of me as an open book upon whose virgin pages you shall scrawl,” and Audrey starts coughing. Yeesh.
- “I’d rather be his whore than your wife.”
- “My father’s friends are rarer than the pine weasel.”
- “PUT. IT. DOOOOOOOWWWWWNNNNNN!”