Grasping in the Dark
Now that all of yesterday’s disparate plot points are out of the way, we can get back to some good old fashioned Twin Peaks episodes. Lesli Linka Glatter is an unsung hero in the television world. Her first short film received an academy award nomination for Best Live Action Short, and, over the course of her career, she has been nominated for an Emmy on four separate occasions. She seems to be the consummate plug-in director, having filled in for series with disparate styles from The O.C. to Mad Men to House M.D. to True Blood and even Homeland. Here, in Twin Peaks land, Ms. Glatter found the connecting tissues of the stories and weaved those themes through each emphasized beat. She also has a great taste for iconic imagery that makes it hard to pick and choose frames for this episode.
Dale Cooper desperately wants sleep. Jerry’s group of Icelandic investors have arrived into The Great Northern, chanting drinking songs at the top of their lungs at 4am, waking up all of the hotel guests and disrupting the order of the town. They sing songs of cheer at the top of their lungs, disrupting the woodland spirits who demand the somber tranquility of the Pacific Northwest. By the end, even those spirits try to wreck the sale for the Ghostwood Development Project. Some things are best left alone; others require ear plugs.
Audrey desperately wants validation from an older male figure in her life. Her father denied her his love for the better part of her formative years. Now, she’s moved on to seek Cooper’s validation by helping him out with Laura Palmer’s investigation by going to work at Horne’s Department Store. Even though Ben ignored her throughout her childhood, she has spent so much time idolizing him that she can’t help but turn into him. When the Department Store manager tells her that they want her in the perfume department, she manipulates the situation by threatening him with a false rape charge and then calmly asks for the paperwork.
Ben Horne desperately wants everything, and he wants it without rocking the boat. He disrupts life all around him through his business dealings, and tries to cover it all up through his sexual activities. The new Icelandic investors are disrupting the whole hotel, and Ben’s solution is to take them to One Eyed Jacks so they can work off their energy, so to speak. His plans for the Ghostwood project include burning down the mill and wrecking Catherine’s life, but he covers over all the negative energies of that project by screwing her on her desk (the best kind of metaphor), especially since he is double crossing her with Josie who has been hiding in the dark and is given a demure kiss on the hand for her trusting him to double cross Catherine.
Meanwhile, Leland Palmer desperately wants a peace of mind. He stumbles into the office as Ben and Jerry are figuring out how to best appease the Icelandic investors. But, Leland is a wreck…miles away from the clean-cut suit-wearing lawyer who greeted the Norwegian investors five days ago. He’s actually a liability to the Hornes, as he emotionally breaks down at the drop of a hat. He says he needs something to occupy his mind, to distract him from the horrors of home and self so that he can be himself. Despite being told to stay away, he nevertheless shows up at that evening’s gala for the Icelandic investors and begins crying and dancing when the electronics (Remember the electricity from the pilot?) go awry, and an album suddenly plays an old big band staple. Instead of helping Leland, Catherine comes over to start dancing with him as if they were doing some silly new type of American dance; yet another way that Twin Peaks cover over its dark underbelly.
Laura Palmer was desperately seeking peace of mind through sex and drugs. Yesterday, Doc Hayward said that she was doing coke as a form of self-medication to calm her mind after being terrorized by BOB for years. In the same fashion, she was seeking to drown her misery through a life of aberrant sexuality. A search of Jacques Renaud’s apartment comes up with the same copy of Flesh World that was in Laura Palmer’s safety deposit box, as well as a bunch of letters addressed to both Ronnette and a second ad number…Laura’s. Those men desperately wanted to be adored, desired, or loved. Note that the only response we have is a man with a beard posing in a light blue nightgown. He poses as a manly lumberjack type by day that masks his secret unrealized feminine desires.
And, finally, we get to The Log Lady. On a search for Jacques Renaud’s cabin deep in the woods, the police (and Doc Hayward) stumble upon Margaret Lanteman’s own isolated cabin in the woods. They’re late. Margaret and her log have been waiting for two days – “They move so slowly when they’re not afraid” – and have vital information to tell them. But, first tea and cookies. No cake. Wait for the tea.
Margaret is, rightfully, the most celebrated of Twin Peaks‘ side characters; she’s also the most tragic. She’s one of the earliest victims of the woods to be featured in Twin Peaks. Margaret was once engaged to a lumberjack. The day after they were married, he was killed in a fire; fire is the devil hiding like a coward in the smoke. The log she carries, cradled like a swaddled or trapped baby, is her shield to horror after her husband passed; it may be her husband’s spirit, or it may be her own mental separation, but it’s a symbol of her tragic history.
Margaret was in her cabin the night Laura Palmer was murdered. Her retelling of the sounds are haunting and can never be improved upon:
Dark. Laughing. The owls were flying. Many things were blocked. Laughing. Two men. Two girls. Flashlights pass by in the woods over the ridge. The owls were near. The dark was pressing in on her. Quiet then. Later, footsteps. One man passed by. Screams far away. Terrible. Terrible. One voice. Girl. Further up. Over the ridge. The owls were silent.
It’s easy to imaging Margaret helplessly lying in the dark hearing Leo, Jacques, Ronnette, and a hysterical Laura as they made their way to Jacques’ cabin for a night of drugs and kinky sex…only to hear a fifth person pass by. It’s easy to imagine somebody cowering as they heard faint distant echoes of screams as Laura and Ronnette were brutally assaulted through the woods and taken to the train car where Laura was murdered. It’s easy to understand why she compartmentalized it in her log.
And now we make it to Jacques’ mysterious red curtain-covered cabin. It’s not the Black Lodge, but it might as well be. Julee Cruise’s haunting Into the Night plays on a repeating record player filling the air with constant music. Waldo, the myna bird, is a poor man’s substitute for the owls that fly overhead in the forest. The owls hold the spirits of the forest, watching and preying on anything that happens under the cover of night. Waldo, holds spirits and memories too, but he repeats them when he’s happy even if the memories are miserable. Inside a broken cuckoo clock, they find chips from One Eyed Jacks, including one missing a chunk found in Laura Palmer’s stomach. Oddly, Leo Johnson’s blood-covered shirt didn’t have Laura’s blood on it, but Jacques Renaud’s blood. Who was that fifth man?
Bobby desperately wants to be a sensitive provider, even if he pretends to be a manly man. While Leo is hiding out with Jacques Renaud, Bobby is canoodling with Shelly and playing with her…gun. She makes him breakfast, and he stages an erotic fantasy where he cuckolds Leo after making Leo make them breakfast, threatening him with a gun. It all falls apart the moment they hear a car door and Bobby scrambles into the back room to hide. Bobby isn’t cut out for this shit. He almost fell to pieces when he shot the cop in Fire Walk With Me. His tough guy act is just an act that he developed through social engineering, but it’s a fragile act.
During Bobby’s therapy session with Dr. Jacoby, he takes a defensive protective macho stance in front of his parents. Remember, his dad was a macho tough guy who slapped him when he smoked at the dinner table. But, when they get alone, Dr. J breaks him down by exposing his inner weakness. “What happened when you first made love to Laura? Did you Cry? And then what did Laura do? Did she laugh at you?” Laura’s abuse turned her into an unconscious predator of her own, breaking down people through their weakness and forcing them to create shells of their own. Common wisdom holds that schoolyard bullies were bullied at home; cycles of abuse tend to manifest in public ways; Laura was becoming the abuser that she never wanted to become. Bobby cries at the end of his session.
James desperately wants love, but always looks for it in the wrong places. His father, some sort of musician, left James and his mom when James was a baby. Now, his mom is an alcoholic who occasionally dumps James off with Big Ed and goes out of town to have extended drunken orgies. He doesn’t tell us what abuse cycles were in his mother’s past, but she was having the same personality traits as Laura, who would go off on coke binges to have drug-induced orgies with strange men she picked up in a bar. Later, the Worst Story Line completes this cycle by having James bike out of town to get picked up by a strange rich woman he meets in a bar. Good lord, he’s a wreck.
Donna desperately wants peace. She can feel Laura’s spirit milling about, and it isn’t just Cousin Maddy who is still hanging around. Incidentally, she and James meet Maddy at the diner, who, despite having met both characters in the two previous days, has the compulsion to reintroduce herself as Madeline Ferguson and Cousin Maddy. They enlist her to help them uncover Laura’s secrets in the Palmer house, and she finds a cassette in a bedpost. At night, while Maddy is talking to Donna, poor Sarah is left all alone with nobody telling her what’s happening. She cries out into the night, “Leland? Where did you go? LELAND?!” He’s out dancing and crying at the big Icelandic gala.
Norma and Big Ed desperately want each other. Now that Hank’s free, Norma can’t quite let go of him after he seemed so needy during his parole hearing. Big Ed can’t quite leave Nadine since she fell back in love with him after he solved her drape runners. Neither wants to hurt anybody, and neither of them get what they want. Alternately, I can’t understand why Nadine would want the beehive hairdo.
Leo Johnson gets shafted repeatedly throughout this series. By the end, he probably gets it the worst of any of Twin Peaks‘ denizens. Not that he doesn’t deserve it; he’s a serial woman abuser, drug dealer, and otherwise no-gooder who operates as a tool and puppet for the evil within the woods. This episode starts his bad luck when he returns home in a pickup truck, only to be assaulted by the now-freed Hank Jennings for going off on his own. Once he makes it inside the house, Shelly defends herself with the gun and shoots him, causing him to scream like an animal and run off into the night.
Which brings us back to Audrey. She had a big night tonight. She overheard Ben and Catherine plotting to burn down the mill. She witnessed Leland Palmer sobbing with distress on the dance floor at the gala, and interpreted it as distress over Laura’s death. Ben would never do that. Ben would probably ignore her as he continued fucking everything that moved. So she seeks comfort in the arms of another man: Dale Cooper. Cooper comes back to his room to find it open and unlocked. Audrey is in naked in his bed, covered by a sheet, desperate for somebody to love her. She’s just grasping in the dark for her desires to be fulfilled.
- The most prominent Icelandic song in this episode is Nú er Frost á Fróni, a tongue-twisting Icelandic song about the harshness of Iceland winter weather (every episode opens with a Wren) as a winter storm causes a harsh ocean wave that crashes around the coast, causing the fishermen to lose everything they were working for. There are so many ways this song fits everything in this show and in this episode. Laura Palmer’s death has kicked off a nightmare series of events that threatens to destroy the best laid plans of mice and men. And the malicious woodland spirits threaten everything.
- In the pilot episode, the Flesh World advertisements featuring Ronnette and Leo Johnson were in Black and White, but here they’re in color.
- Montana finally makes his appearance on Invitation to Love, beating up Poor Chet. “Don’t you ever cross me.” Incidentally, Montana is played by Mark Frost’s then-brother-in-law Rick Giolito, who had a brief stint on As The World Turns. Rick’s son, Lucas, is now a pitcher for the Chicago White Sox.
- Hank Jennings is out of jail and still playing with his 3/3 domino.
- Norma Jennings and Shelly Johnson get makeovers, which turns their hair into 1950s beehives. Lynch’s fetishization of 1950s hairstyles always amuses me.
- When Cousin Maddy comes in, James gets her a Cherry Coke, which she doesn’t drink. At all. The scene doesn’t cut away while they’re eating. They get up and leave, and that full glass of Cherry Coke is still there. After they leave, the camera swoops in on their unfinished food to focus on Hank playing with his goddamned domino.