Among fans of the series, the second season of Twin Peaks is a sore point. Almost everyone agrees that it was a let down and that it never matched the brilliance of the first season. The only question is why.
Was it because the first season started as a mid-season replacement and only had to come up with eight episodes worth of story? If the first season had been a full, 22-episode season would it have eventually become as uneven as the second season?
Was it because, as some ABC executives have suggested, David Lynch and Mark Frost were making up their complex story as they went along and, when the second season did not immediately reveal who killed Laura Palmer, they ended up alienating the audience through their self-indulgence?
Was it because, as supporters of Lynch and Frost often argue, ABC demanded more control over the series during the second season? One reason that it was such a shock to hear that Lynch would be bringing Twin Peaks back was because he swore, after the show’s first cancellation and the failure of the Mulholland Drive pilot, that he would never deal with television executives ever again.
It may be that all of the above is true but one thing is for sure. If the first season of Twin Peaks showed how far the medium of television could be pushed, the second season showed just how hard television can push back.
The second episode of the second season, Coma, was directed by Lynch himself. It opens with Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Albert (Miguel Ferrer) eating breakfast at the Great Northern. For some reason, members of a Barbershop quarter, all wearing red striped jackets, are standing behind them. Cooper talks about the Happy Generations of Tibet. Albert is not happy about anything, not even Ronette Pulaski waking up. Albert also warns Cooper that his former partner, Windom Earle, has escaped from a mental asylum.
(Windom will be, after BOB, this season’s Big Bad.)
Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) is doing Laura’s Meals on Wheels route. When she brought a meal to Mrs. Tremond, a coughing woman who is confined to her bed, it took me a few minutes to realize why Mrs. Tremond looked so familiar. Mrs. Tremond was played by Frances Bay, who appeared on a classic episode of Seinfeld as a woman who is mugged for her marble rye. (Bay also appeared in Blue Velvet.)
Mrs. Tremond has a grandson (Austin Jack Lynch, the real-life son of David Lynch and Mary Fisk). He wears a tuxdeo, sits in a corner, and says, “Sometimes things can happen just like this,” before snapping his fingers. When Mrs. Tremond sees creamed corn on her meals on wheel plate, says that she asked for no creamed corn and suddenly, the creamed corn appears in her grandson’s hands.
“My grandson is studying magic,” Mrs. Tremond says.
“That’s nice,” Donna says, while the grandson stares at her without the slightest hint of a smile.
Mrs. Tremond tells Donna that she did not know Laura but she recommends that Donna ask “Mr. Smith” next door. “He was Laura’s friend.”
“J’ai une ame soilitaire,” Mrs. Tremond’s grandson adds.
(Deliberately surreal scenes like this might be why ABC executives felt that they needed to step in and assert some control over the show. Fans of David Lynch love this stuff and the scene may not seem that unusual now that we are living in a world where almost every show owes some sort of debt to Twin Peaks but, in 1990, viewers, many of whom were unfamiliar with Lynch’s films, were probably saying, “This is too weird for me,” and changing the channel.)
Donna goes next door and, when Mr. Smith fails to respond to her knocking, she slips a note under his door.
At the hospital, Cooper and Harry (Michael Ontkean) drop in on Ronette (Phoebe Augustine). After some lengthy business about Cooper and Harry trying to figure out how set up a stool so that they can sit next to Ronette’s bed, Cooper shows Ronette sketches of both BOB and Leo. Though Ronette cannot speak, she still shakes her head no when Cooper asks her if Leo is the man who hurt her. However, the sketch of BOB causes Ronette to freak out. “Trrr…trrr…” Ronette says, which Cooper interprets as meaning, “Train.”
At the Great Northern, Ben (Richard Beymer) and Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) sit on the floor and stare at two ledgers. The real ledger shows the Packard Mill slowly sinking into bankruptcy. The fake ledger shows the mill turning a profit. Ben and Jerry are trying to decide which ledger to burn. Since they can’t make up their mind, they decide to roast marshmallows instead.
(Meanwhile, in 1990, a housewife in Michigan says, “This is too weird,” and changes the channel over to Beverly Hills 90210 on Fox.)
At the Double R Diner, Andy (Harry Goaz) has been taping up pictures of BOB and now his hands are covered in tape. The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) enters and sits down next to Major Briggs (Don S. Davis). Her log has something to tell Maj. Briggs.
“Can you hear it?” The Log Lady asks.
“No, ma’m, I cannot,” Maj. Briggs says.
“I will translate…deliver the message…do you understand?”
“Yes, ma’m, I do.”
At the police station, Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) kills a buzzing fly. Andy, who still has a piece of tape attached to his forehead, comes in and tells Lucy that, when he last donated to the sperm bank, he was told that he was sterile. So, if Lucy’s pregnant, it is not with his child. Lucy pulls the tape off his forehead and refuses to speak to him.
Hank (Chris Mulkey) comes by and signs in with Harry. Cooper watches as Harry and Hank have another tense conversation and, after Hank leaves, he asks Harry how long the two of them were friends. Harry says that Hank used to be a Bookhouse Boy. “Back then, he was one of the best of us,” Harry says.
Before Harry can continue, Ben Horne calls. He tells Harry that Audrey has been missing for two days. Then Jerry comes into Ben’s office and reveals that Catherine never signed the life insurance policy. “Win a few, lose a few,” Ben says.
Suddenly, the newly energized and white-haired Leland (Ray Wise) comes walking into the office. He says that Ben should call Thor Einer in Iceland, just to discover that Ben is already calling Thor Einer. Einer reveals that Leland already called him to tell him about the fire at the mill. Ben assures Einer that the fire is nothing to worry about, all the while glaring at Leland.
Leland sees a sketch of BOB in the corner of Ben’s office. Leland picks it up and says, “I know him.” Leland says that BOB used to live next door to his grandfather’s vacation home. Leland runs out of the office.
“Jerry,” Ben says, “please kill Leland.”
“Is this real, Ben,” Jerry says, “or just some strange and twisted dream?”
(Meanwhile, in 1990, a farmer in Iowa shakes his head, switches over to CBS, and watches Doctor, Doctor, a sitcom starring Matt Frewer.)
At the hospital, Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) updates Shelley (Madchen Amick) on Leo’s (Eric Da Re) condition. The bullet lodged in Leo’s spine. He lost a lot of blood and suffered brain damage. Shelly asks if Leo’s going to be a vegetable. Shelly cries but does not seem to be that upset.
At the police station, someone calls for Sheriff Truman but refuses to reveal their name. Lucy hangs up on them.
At One-Eyed Jack’s, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) brings a bucket of ice to a room where her boss at Horne’s Department Store, Emory Battis (Don Amendolia), is tied up, blindfolded, and listening to a vacuum cleaner. Emory gets upset with the vacuum cleaner is turned off but is even more upset when Audrey wraps a cord around his throat, rips off his blindfold, and demands to know everything that he knows.
“I work for the owner of One-Eyed Jacks!” Emory says.
“WHO IS!?” Audrey demands, tightening the cord.
“Your father! He owns everything!” Emory goes on to say that Ben know Laura worked at One-Eyed Jack’s and then says, “Laura always got her way! Just like you!”
At night, Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Shelly sit in his car and listen to the generic rock station. They talk about ways to torture comatose Leo. Bobby has a plan. Shelly can bring Leo home and then collect his disability checks.
At the Great Northern, Dale records a message to Diane, telling her that Windom Earle has vanished. Unfortunately, as someone who has sat through all of season 2, I already know how long the show is going to draw out the Window Earle storyline. Before I can spend too much time dwelling on that, Maj. Briggs shows up at Dale’s hotel room. Is he delivering the log’s message?
Yes, he is! Maj. Briggs says that he can not reveal the nature of his work or the identity of the message sender but Briggs does reveal that, as a part of his work for the federal government, Maj. Briggs keeps an eye on transmission’s received by deep-space monitors, “aimed at galaxies beyond our own.” Most of the time, the transmissions are just gibberish but, on Thursday night/Friday morning, the following transmission came in:
“The owls are not what they seem.”
This was followed, hours later, by another transmission: “Cooper. Cooper. Cooper.”
(Meanwhile, in 1990, a man in Florida says, “I can’t follow this,” and changes the channel to CBS so he can watch the last few minutes of the first attempt to bring The Flash to network television.)
We now reach one of the most derided scenes in the history of Twin Peaks. At the Hayward House, James (James Marshall) plays guitar while Maddy (Sheryl Lee) and Donna sing a song into a microphone. Supposedly, the inspiration for this scene came after David Lynch walked by James Marshall’s dressing room and heard Marshall playing a blues riff.
Musical interludes are actually one of Lynch’s trademarks. Remember Dean Stockwell and Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet? Or Bill Pullman at the jazz club in Lost Highway? Or the Llorando scene in Mulholland Drive? Even the pilot for Twin Peaks had Julie Cruise singing at the Road House. The problem with the scene in Coma is that the song is boring and that the performance seems to drag on forever. Whatever genius that Lynch thought he heard coming from Marshall’s dressing room is not present in the Hayward House.
(In 1990, a Montana rancher gives up once the song reaches the second verse. He switches over to NBC, just in time to catch the final punchline in that night’s episode of a new sitcom called Wings.)
Finally, Donna gets jealous of the way that James is looking at Maddy and runs over to a corner of the house. When James walks up to her, she kisses him.
Way to Go, James!
“Donna,” James asks, “what’s going on?”
Dude, don’t ask questions! Just go with it!
“I’m trembling, James,” Donna says, “You made me.”
The phone rings. Donna ignores it but Doc Hayward answers and yells downstairs, “Donna, there’s a telephone call for you from a Harold Smith.”
Donna takes the call and asks Harold if they can meet.
Meanwhile, Maddy sits in front of the microphone with a “What did I do?” look on her face. Suddenly, she sees BOB (Frank Silva) walking through the living room. She screams as he climbs over the couch. James and eventually Donna run over to her. Bob has vanished.
At the Great Northern, Cooper has a dream. He sees the Giant. He hears Maj. Briggs saying, “The owls are not what they seem.” BOB appears. His face morphs into the face of an owl and then back again.
Cooper is woken up by the sound of his telephone ringing. It’s Audrey. She’s crying. “Why aren’t you here?” she says. Cooper tells her that she needs to come home.
Suddenly, the call is cut off. Audrey has been discovered by Blackie (Victoria Catlin) and Emory. “Trouble, Ms. Horne?” Blackie says. “You don’t know what trouble is.”
But do not worry. Cooper, Audrey, Lucy, and all your favorites will return in the next episode, The Man Behind the Glass, which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow.
Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:
- Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson