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Twin Peaks, Ep. 2.02, “Coma”: The mystification of Laura Palmer

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Twin Peaks, Season 2, Episode 2, “Coma”
Written by Harley Peyton
Directed by David Lynch
Originally aired October 6, 1990 on ABC

J’ai une âme solitaire.

The dualities of Lynchian art are always interesting and always compelling in their simplicity. They reveal something, in their best moments, that is not typically talked about or openly acknowledged. Binaries are so easy to use, good versus evil, but when David Lynch manipulates them, he is uniquely capable of showing us the phoniness and feebleness of these structures.

This is what’s at the heart of the story of Laura Palmer, popular high school student with plenty of secrets. At this point in the series, we are still putting together scattered details, desperately trying to put together a full characterization of this girl who is so captivating despite her absence. Countless crime dramas use a dead teen girl as their narrative catalyst, and it has become a cheap cliché that usually never bothers to give the character much depth (or any, in some cases, such as in True Detective). The difference with Twin Peaks, and it is a significant one, is that Laura hovers above the entire series, an enigma, but a layered and nuanced presence that gives distinct power to the actions of every other character. Name another crime drama that can say the same.

Part of Laura’s particular force comes from the binary that Lynch, Mark Frost and the other writers deliberately deconstruct, using the trope of the dead pretty teen girl (which was tired even then) to expose something sinister and something complex. It goes deeper than the pure young girl having dark secrets, and it intentionally skewers the perplexing reality that nothing holds the attention of Western audiences like a dead girl’s body. Usually these women do not get to tell their own story — they are told by the (usually white and male) detectives and the show’s writers through ciphers and clues. This is also true of Laura, but Lynch and Frost do what they can to put us in Laura’s head and truly understand her, which became all the more clear with the prequel film, Fire Walk With Me.

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I’m Audrey Horne and I get what I want, understand?

All this to say that Audrey’s discoveries in One Eyed Jacks this episode, about Laura’s double life there, are the latest, and in some ways most potentially scandalous ones yet. Laura was initially introduced to us as the town’s golden girl, with everyone breaking down at her school when they find out, and the mill being shut down in her honour. The beauty of Laura Palmer, though, is that as we discover more of her secrets, from her affairs to her drug use, we discover more about the town and its eccentric inhabitants. In many ways, Laura is Twin Peaks (woah), and her secrets double as the town’s. Everyone in this small town is connected, an aspect the first couple of episodes of the series played up (Harry and Josie?!), and Laura is the most wide-reaching of all. Her tentacles extend everywhere.

That’s why it was so easy to mourn her, for both the audience and the characters. She touched everyone in some way, and as the golden girl, there was a tidy narrative to be made. With each new revelation about who Laura actually was, however, we realize how much more complicated it is to actually get to know her and understand her. It was easier when all we knew about her was her cold, blue lips and the screech of Sarah Palmer, because Laura was all concept, no substance. She is still very much a “concept”, a puzzle and a symbol, but she was also a very troubled and complex young woman, which is more difficult to navigate. As she becomes less straightforwardly likeable, the audience must confront some uncomfortable realities (which will crystallize a little later on in the season).

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Tomorrow, Donna. I will show you what Laura gave me.

Just as we learn more about Laura and what she did at One Eyed Jacks with Ben Horne, Lynch (who directed this episode, and only two more in the series after this) deepens the mythology, with Major Briggs delivering a message to Cooper from the stars, so to speak. “THE OWLS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM” appears among the space junk, as does Cooper’s name, repeatedly. More concerning, however, is the dominating presence BOB has this episode. Lynch puts his poster all over the place to hint at him, beginning with Cooper showing it to Ronette, but then it’s on the door beside Andy, and then in Ben’s office. This ultimately leads to a terrifying scene of Maddy in the Hayward living room, who seemingly feels a chill run down her spine before BOB rounds the corner and climbs menacingly across the furniture to get to her. The more of the mystery around Laura Palmer we uncover, the closer we get to BOB. Strap in.

Pie crusts and coffee grounds

  • Log Lady intro: As above, so below. The human being finds himself, or herself, in the middle. There is as much space outside the human, proportionately, as inside. Stars, moons, and planets remind us of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Is there a bigger being walking with all the stars within? Does our thinking affect what goes on outside us, and what goes on inside us? I think it does. Where does creamed corn figure into the workings of the universe? What really *is* creamed corn? Is it a symbol for something else?
  • Who Killed Laura Palmer?: BOB is one scary guy, but we’re still no clearer on who or what he is.
  • We need to talk about the song. You know the one. I swear, this scene is legitimately the most bizarre of the entire series. It comes out of nowhere, without context (have they been practicing this in their downtime?), and seems to serve only to show the jealousy Donna is feeling about Maddy. I really still can’t wrap my head around it, no matter how many times I watch it. Whose idea was this? Why?! Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 11
  • Windom Earle’s escape is first mentioned this episode. Now this is a slow burn storyline.
  • “Your former partner flew the coop, Coop.”
  • David Lynch’s son really looks like him. Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 10
  • I really can’t get enough of cringe-worthy Lynchian scenes like Cooper and Truman figuring out the stools in front of Ronette.
  • “Marshmallows? Ben, where are those hickory sticks?!”
  • Sound wisdom from Major Briggs: “Achievement is its own reward. Pride obscures it.”
  • Donna is looking hella Velma Dinkley in this sweater, and I am into itScreen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12

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