Twin Peaks, Season 2, Episode 7, “Lonely Souls”
Written by Mark Frost
Directed by David Lynch
Originally aired November 10, 1990 on ABC
“It is happening again.”
And finally, the truth. Leave it to David Lynch and Mark Frost, though, to offer something less than comforting. The pair may have been bitter from the pressure to reveal the killer, which they never intended to do, but regardless, this is a brutal hour of television. It’s difficult to imagine that many viewers, so wrapped up in the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer, were all that satisfied with the answer once it came, not that an answer could ever have been as satisfying as the question. The truth is more horrifying than any of us could have imagined.
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The majority of the episode attempts to paint Ben Horne as the culprit, as he reveals to Audrey that he loved Laura and had slept with her. Reading from Laura’s diary, Cooper also finds that she once wrote, “Someday I’m gonna tell the world about Ben Horne.” It’s enough to bring him in, and he is arrested, resisting and repeating “no” like a child. This only serves to make the reveal all the more shocking and earth-shattering, as we watch Leland Palmer looking into the mirror. Then, a shot of him and his reflection, only it is BOB in the mirror. There is no crashing or dramatic music. The moment sits there, with only the scratching turntable in the background, and we wrestle to come to terms with this awful revelation. But there’s no accepting this.
Laura also wrote in her diary, in which she often referenced BOB, about many intonations of abuse and molestation occurring on a regular basis. She refers to him as a “friend of her father’s,” a tragic self-delusion. The audience in 1990 could not have been properly prepared to confront the fact that Twin Peaks is, in essence, about incest abuse. Of course, it is hidden underneath the supernatural elements of the series, which are compelling enough on their own, but dealing with this is more difficult and more horrifying. Fantastical evil blurs with real evil. That horror is made explicit with Leland’s vicious attack on Maddy, which is done with some brutal violence, as he punches her repeatedly in the face and smashes her head into the wall. It is remarkably uncomfortable, but Lynch’s direction forces you to watch. It is an evil spell.
“J’ai une âme solitaire.”
Whether or not it is the result of his direct influence, the use of sound in this episode is distinctly Lynchian, and one of the most significant elements therein (this was the last episode he would direct, or reportedly be very involved at all with, until the finale). Early on, we hear this domineering sound as Mike sits in the Great Northern, attempting to figure out who BOB is (in a rather hilarious strategy). The annoying sound rules the soundtrack, but we have no idea what it is until we pan out and realize that the hotel has been overrun by sailors who are all bouncing balls. A small mystery solved, but the biggest one is still to come.
The sound of the scratching turntable later in the Palmer home is creepy and ominous, especially when compounded with Angelo Badalamenti’s monotone score. We are immediately in a state of unease. We then have the shot of a hand reaching down the staircase, and we realize something horrible is happening here. Sarah crawls down the stairs, calling for Leland. It is an exceedingly chilling image, with only more equally discomforting images to come. It’s the kind of simmering fear that Lynch conveys so well in his films, and it is followed up by the less characteristic savage violence Leland exerts on Maddy. This has an increased impact simply based on how unexpected it is, how barbaric and tangible those punches feel (the mind reels thinking about how this got past the censors in 1990). And the haunted dance the pair share, as we switch between Leland and BOB and into slow-motion, is one of the most painfully lasting images from the entire series. It is perhaps the most emotionally devastating sequence ever aired on television.
“I loved her.”
That gripping mood of foreboding suffocates the entire hour. That gruesome murder is the dark climax, but the scenes taking place at The Road House are stunning in the beauty of the musical performance giving way to a claustrophobic melancholy that descends upon the place, as everyone feels the overwhelming sadness envelope them, from Donna to Bobby to Cooper. “It is happening again,” the Giant tells Cooper, and it’s unclear whether this is a warning or a distraction. They are all helpless, unable to change anything, forced to sit in their vague reflection. There is so much pain here, with the realization that the greatest monster was in plain sight all along, bumbling and dancing and grieving. BOB, the classic metaphor for the evil lurking under your nose, made manifest.
The structure and pace of the episode, leading up to the truth, are exquisitely crafted. Scenes last longer than they have any right to, quiet and bizarre, in a state of strained stasis, anticipating the final fifteen minutes. That the truth is ultimately almost unwatchable is our punishment, the punishment for our insatiable need for answers. Well, here it is, Lynch and Frost seem to insist. One imagines the audience sitting in a similar state of sad stasis in their living rooms, feeling it deeply but unsure what to do about it, just like everyone sitting in The Road House. It may be impossible for the citizens of Twin Peaks to accept the idea that Leland was at all complicit in his actions, for it is much easier to accept (at least in this world) that he was completely under BOB’s control. Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury. The choice to show us the truth for the first time with Leland looking at his reflection suggests an awful complicity, the turntable going round and round, an acceptance that all this has happened before and it will happen again.
“Somebody help me.”
The look on Cooper’s face, given great nuance by Kyle MacLachlan, in The Road House as he realizes he has failed and cannot do anything about it is heartbreaking in an episode overflowing in heartbreak. Our most trusted FBI agent was so confident in Ben Horne, but there is that satisfying, more comfortable truth. Lynch and Frost are not interested in that. The reality is far more ugly. Demons lurk inside us all. Cooper is just as helpless as everyone else under the spell, choosing the wrong narrative to follow. This is a nightmare, a real one, with nothing to hide behind.
Earlier, when Maddy sits with Sarah and Leland in that living room, Laura’s picture is in focus, placed right in front of Maddy in the frame, predicting her fate. A white horse appears to Sarah before she passes out, its meaning unclear. And during the attack, the lighting and the camera keep us in a constant state of helpless fear, switching between normal motion and slow, a spotlight on Leland/BOB, the nightmare made all the more terrifying for how real it is, how domestic, how plausible. We can be trapped in this circle, happening again and again, unable to free ourselves from fear and stasis. It seems obvious, but Leland Palmer is much more horrifying than BOB could ever be.
Pie crusts and coffee grounds
- Log Lady intro: A poem as lovely as a tree: As the night wind blows, the boughs move to and fro. The rustling, the magic rustling that brings on the dark dream. The dream of suffering and pain. Pain for the victim, pain for the inflicter of pain. A circle of pain, a circle of suffering. Woe to the ones who behold the pale horse.
- Harold Smith commits suicide in this episode as well, adding another layer of melancholy to its dark proceedings. He was remarkably troubled, and one hopes in a less painful place.
- Mr. Tojamura is revealed to have been Catherine all along, which is relatively uninteresting, but the scene of her embracing Pete is a small moment of warmth to cherish here.
- Still not going to touch Super Nadine. It’s coming.
- The first time I watched through the series, it seemed rather clear that Ben Horne was too obvious a choice. In fact, I recall being disappointed by the clunky quickness of it, the overly-logical explanations. Just wait, young Jake.
- I still do wonder whether the Giant is truly sympathetic to Cooper and perhaps was attempting to warn him, or whether he was in fact trying to distract him and give BOB time.
- “I’m so sorry.”