Twin Peaks, Season 2, Episode 3, “The Man Behind Glass”
Written by Robert Engels
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter
Originally aired on October 13, 1990
You listen to me. While I will admit to a certain cynicism, the fact is that I am a naysayer and hatchet man in the fight against violence. I pride myself in taking a punch and I’ll gladly take another, because I choose to live my life in the company of Gandhi and King. My concerns are global. I reject absolutely revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method…is love. I love you, Sheriff Truman.
“The Man Behind Glass” gives us our first real indication of the bizarre and broad lengths that Twin Peaks’ writers would explore in the show’s second season. I’m talking, of course, about Nadine, who wakes up from her coma with some new abilities. These aspects of the series, which only pile up in the coming episodes, are generally treated with a shaking head, as the show seems to be asking its audience, “What about this? Huh? Is this what you want?”, though those that defend these odd explorations consider them to be admirable eccentricities, fun and (occasionally) insightful. Full disclosure: I tend to agree with the latter.
That being said, Super Nadine is a storyline that usually leaves me cold. Previously, she was not characterized much beyond nagging at Ed and being a nightmare that keeps him away from Norma, his ostensible true love — more caricature than anything. We only get a brief hint here of what she is to become, breaking her leather restraints and cuffs and believing she is 18 again, and from the get-go it is ridiculous. My perception now is inevitably colored by my knowledge of what this storyline becomes and the places it reaches, but even without that knowledge these scenes are immediately telling of the writers’ beginning struggle with what kind of show Twin Peaks is “supposed” to be early on in its second season.
Laura liked to think of me as… a mystery in her life.
This anxiety also manifests itself in the growing jealousy between Donna, James, and Maddy. As discussed previously, the romance between Donna and James is a plotline that determinedly engages in the soap opera elements of Peaks but is rarely particularly compelling. Donna catches James holding Maddy’s hand in the Double R and storms out, then later catches them kissing and holding each other. James smashes stuff and runs after her, yelling into the night, “DONNA!!! WHY?!?!” For those who haven’t seen the episode in a while, it is just as bad as you remember.
To be clear, I am only being hard on the series because A.) it can take it, and B.) I adore it and it’s one that’s easy to watch without truly critically examining it. It is the kind of show with such an aura that twenty-five years on, it can seem above reproach, that nitpicking the places where it fails isn’t worthwhile. The truth is that Twin Peaks season two is flawed, sometimes in rather severe ways, but it is also better for these flaws. They are part of the show’s legend and character and just when the series started to learn from them, it was cancelled, making the promise of more Peaks next year all the more enticing.
There is a lot of heavy lifting this episode in terms of character introductions, as Harold Smith, Dick Tremaine, and Jean Renault enter the picture. These are all major characters and introducing them all at once is a risk that mostly pays off. Renault is properly menacing, like all French Canadians, though there’s already a sense of just how convoluted his plot will become. He’s seeking revenge on Cooper, whom he blames for his brother’s death, and plans to use Audrey as bait. For now, this is all eerie and grim exposition, but it promises to blow up soon enough. Tremaine has a lower-key entrance, a suitor for Lucy from the recent past and the potential father of her baby. This revelation is big, but it feels wrong to not see Andy’s reaction here as well. Harold is the most intriguing of the new characters, a mysterious figure (no wonder Laura liked him) who knows more than he initially lets on. The fact that he is in possession of Laura’s secret diary is appropriately treated with much significance, the cliffhanging teaser for the next episode.
I wanted so much to be like you, Laura.
BOB continues to haunt this episode. Leland tells Coop and Harry that he knows him, that he was his neighbour at his grandfather’s summer home. He thinks his name was Robertson (a name that includes the R, B and T from under the fingernails of Laura, Ronette and Teresa Banks), and that he’d flick matches at him saying, “Do you wanna play with fire, little boy?” Creepy. Mike, the one-armed man, sees BOB’s poster, freaks out, and says to no one in particular, “BOB, I know you’re near. I’m after you now.” Surely aware that the reveal of Laura’s true killer would be coming very soon, the writers worm BOB in wherever they can, a creeping presence that is inescapable and all around.
Donna gets a nice moment, at least, at Laura’s grave (unless I’m mistaken, she is the first to visit the grave onscreen). It is a difficult scene, a little showy, but Lara Flynn Boyle sells it better than any scene she shares with James. “Most of the time we were trying to solve your problems, and you know what? We still are. You’re dead, Laura, but your problems keep hanging around.” Laura is like that friend who always makes everything about them. Donna is frustrated that even in death, Laura continues to haunt her and the entire town. She’s been trying to act like Laura, whether to claim some of that space for herself or just to figure out how she managed it, but it hasn’t gotten her anything. Laura was one of a kind, and goddamn if that isn’t maddening.
- Albert is on fire this episode. His best moment, perhaps in the entire series, is his rant to Harry that leads this review. It is absolutely glorious.
- Harry, to Coop: “You were visited by a giant?” Albert: “Any relation to the dwarf?”
- I could make this entire section Albert quotes: “This particular edition [of Flesh World] features swingers clubs for standard poodle enthusiasts. No comment.”
- The episode begins with a great wraparound shot that scans Ronette’s hospital room and contains other fancy maneuvers, such as when it watches Mike from above in the stall then ventures to the other side as he opens the door. Lesli Linka Glatter, always killing it.
- I really, really love the signature Peaks dissolves.
- “Sometimes I just think I should get on my bike…and go.”
- Jacoby’s Hawaiian hypnosis scene is pretty great, as he reveals to Coop and Harry that it was Leland who killed Jacques (“I know him,” he says, just as Leland said about BOB).
- “I’m afraid I’m going to end up losing both of you.” Oh, Donna, you’d be so much better off (as would we).
- “Men fall under the spell of Audrey’s charms like ducks in a shooting gallery.”
- “And you gave him the beans you were supposed to use to buy a cow?”