Who killed Laura Palmer?
That was the question that made Twin Peaks famous and it was also the question that proved to be the show’s undoing. It is easy to forget that each episode of Twin Peaks only covered a day in the investigation of Laura’s murder. On Twin Peaks, it only took two weeks for Cooper and Harry to solve the mystery. But, in the real world, it took David Lynch and Mark Frost seven months to finally reveal the identity of Laura’s murderer. Today, audiences take serialization for granted and even appreciate shows that take their time to tell a complex story but that was not the case in 1990. In 1990, most television dramas still featured mysteries and plots that could easily by resolved in an hour. Viewers were intrigued by Twin Peaks but, when it became apparent that neither Lynch nor Frost were in any hurry to provide a solution to its central mystery, the ratings started to fall.
Laura’s killer was finally revealed on October 10th, 1990, during the seventh episode of the second season. Mark Frost wrote the episode. David Lynch directed it. It is an episode that nobody who has seen it will ever be able to forget.
The episode starts with Harry (Michael Ontkean), Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), Cole (David Lynch), MIKE (Al Strobel), Andy (Harry Goaz), and Hawk (Michael Horse) standing in the lobby of the sheriff’s station and drinking coffee. Since Cole is nearly deaf, he politely yells at everyone before leaving.
At the Great Northern, all of the guests have been led into the lobby so that MIKE can look at them and try to determine whether or not they are possessed by BOB. For some reason, half of the guests are in the Navy. MIKE does not see BOB in any of them. Ben (Richard Beymer) walks into the lobby and MIKE starts to have a seizure.
At Harold Smith’s house, Hawk arrives and discovers that the house has been trashed and that Harold has hung himself in his greenhouse.
At the Palmer house, Maddy (Sheryl Lee) is drinking coffee with Leland (Ray Wise) and Sarah (Grace Zabriskie) while Louis Armstrong’s haunting What a Beautiful World plays on the phonograph. Maddy tells them that, tomorrow, she is going to go back home. Leland and Sarah tell her that they understand and that they appreciate all of her help. This scene is shot as if from the point of view of someone (BOB?) hiding in the room and eavesdropping on the conversation.
Back at Harold’s house, Harry and Cooper are heading up the investigation into his apparent suicide. While Hawk comes across the secret diary of Laura Palmer in the debris of Harold’s house, Cooper and Harry discover a note pinned to Harold’s body. “J’ai un homme solitaire,” it reads. I’m a lonely soul.
At the Johnson House, Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Shelly (Madchen Amick) discover that, after paying bills and even with the insurance money, Shelly is only going to have $42 left over for the month. Bobby and Shelly argue while Leo (Eric Da Re) sits at the table with oatmeal on his chin. Leo suddenly starts yells. “He’s alive!” Shelly screams. “New shoes,” Leo says.
At the Great Northern, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) tells Ben that she knows all about One-Eyed Jack’s. She tells Ben that she saw him there. “Remember Prudence? I wore a little white mask.” After trying to play dumb, Ben admits that he owned One-Eyed Jack’s for five years but he denies ever encouraging Laura to work there. Audrey also gets Ben to admit that he had an affair with Laura.
“Did you kill her?” Audrey asks.
“I loved her,” Ben replies.
At the diner, Shelly tells Norma (Peggy Lipton) that she’s going to have to quit her job so that she can take care of Leo. Norma tells Shelly that it’s okay and that her job will still be there whenever Shelly is able to return. They have a sweet moment, that it is ruined when Ed (Everett McGill) and Nadine (Wendy Robie) enter the diner. Nadine still thinks that she is a teenager and Ed is supporting her delusion by telling her that her parents are in Europe and that Norma has only been working at the diner for six months.
At the Johnson house, Bobby and the other Mike (Gary Hershberger) taunt Leo. Bobby has figured out that “new shoes” refers to Leo’s boots so he and Mike rip them apart, searching for drugs. Instead, they find a small audio tape hidden under the sole.
At the sheriff’s department, Cooper goes through the shredded remains of Laura’s diary. He tells “Diane” that he has found repeated references to BOB, littered throughout the diary. Laura wrote that BOB was a friend of her father’s and, two days before death, Laura wrote, “Someday, I am going to tell the world about Ben Horne.”
At that exact moment, Audrey steps into the conference room. She tells Cooper about her conversation with her father, revealing that Ben and Laura were having an affair and that Ben owned One-Eyed Jack’s. Cooper tells her not to say a word about this to anyone and sends her home. Obviously, Cooper feels that he may have just discovered the identity of Laura’s killer. Cooper tells Harry that they need a warrant. “A warrant for the arrest of Benjamin Horne.”
That night, at the Great Northern, Ben is talking to Mr. Tojamura and happily agreeing to accept Tojamura’s proposal to invest in the Ghostwood Development. Just as Tojamura hands over a contract for Ben’s signature, Harry, Cooper, Hawk, and Andy enter the office. Harry orders Ben to come with them. He’s wanted for questioning in the murder of Laura Palmer. When Ben tells them to leave, Hawk and Andy grab him and drag him out of the office.
Handcuffed but defiant, Ben is taken to the station and deposited in a holding cell. As Harry and Cooper watch Ben being led off, the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) appears behind them.
“We don’t know what will happen or when,” the Log Lady says, “but there are owls in the Roadhouse.”
At the Martell house, Mr. Tojamura meets with Pete (Jack Nance) and it is revealed, just as Lisa Marie predicted three episodes ago, that Mr. Tojamura is actually Catherine (Piper Laurie) in disguise!
At this point, there’s only 15 minutes left in this episode. These 15 minutes are some of the most intense in the history of television. Suffused in dread and danger, these 15 minutes constitute David Lynch at his absolute best.
At the Palmer house, Sarah crawls down the stairs, in the throes of another vision. Lying on the floor, Sarah sees a white horse standing in the middle of the living room. The horse vanishes and Sarah passes out. Suddenly, Leland is standing in the living room, staring at himself in the mirror. He ignores Sarah.
At this point, everyone watching the show says, “Oh shit, something terrible is going to happen.”
At the Roadhouse, Julee Cruise sings an upbeat song. Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) meets with James (James Marshall). Donna is feeling guilty over Harold’s suicide. James says that it wasn’t anyone’s fault. He says that Harold was a sick man.
“Everybody’s hurt inside,” James said and I’d make the obvious REM joke but, right now, I’m too worried about what is about to happen at the Palmer house.
Cooper, Harry, and the Log Lady step into the Roadhouse, searching for the owls. They grab a table and watch Julee Cruise.
“Tell your heart, don’t let me die,” Julee sings.
There’s a shot of the dead Harold Smith (Lenny von Dohlen) bartending. It’s such a quick shot that I had to go back and make sure that it was actually him.
Suddenly, everyone but Cooper freezes. Julee Cruise disappears. The Giant stands on stage and looks directly out at Cooper.
“It is happening again,” the Giant says.
Everyone watching the show says, “Oh, shit!”
At the Palmer house, Leland stares at himself in the mirror but — HOLY SHIT! — it is BOB (Frank Silva) who he sees reflected back at him. Leland smiles. His face turns into the laughing BOB and then transforms back into smiling Leland.
Leland looks towards the front door. He reaches into his suit and pulls out rubber gloves.
Maddy runs downstairs, shouting that it smells like something’s burning. She sees Sarah lying on the floor and Leland staring at her. Leland turns into BOB and then turns back into Leland. Maddy runs screaming from the room and Leland chases after her.
The next four minutes of this episode, in which Maddy is murdered by Leland/BOB, are among the most nightmarish that I have ever seen. Even by the standards of 2017, it is a shocking scene and I can only imagine how people in 1990 reacted. While attacking and killing Maddy, Leland and Bob constantly switch places. Leland sobs while Bob laughs. While Maddy struggles to breathe, Leland holds her body and dances in a circle with her. “Laura,” he moans. The BOB who Laura wrote was molesting her was never a friend of her father. Instead, BOB was her father. Even though I knew it was coming and what was going to happen, rewatching this scene for this recap still left me feeling emotionally drained.
Sheryl Lee, Frank Silva, and Ray Wise are all amazing in this scene. Three version of this scene were filmed. One featured BOB chasing Maddy while another featured Leland attacking her. The final scene was created by editing those two scenes together. The third version, which was filmed just as a decoy, featured Ben attacking Maddy. According to David Lynch, Richard Beymer was relieved to later discover that he was not actually playing the murderer but Ray Wise was very upset by both what he had to do in the scene and the revelation that Leland had been a child molester.
After killing her by smashing her into a picture frame, Leland places an O underneath Maddy’s fingernail.
At the Roadhouse, the Giant still stares at Cooper. Finally, he vanishes. Julee Cruise is back and singing a much more somber song.
The same elderly waiter (Hank Worden) from the Great Northern approaches Cooper’s table. “I’m so sorry,” he says.
Sitting at the bar, the previously unseen Bobby starts to cry. At her table, Donna starts to cry. On stage, Julee Cruise cries. Everyone knows that it has happened again, even if they do not know what it is.
Cooper stares into the distance as the scene fades into a shot of the red drapes.
It has been nearly 27 years since this episode was originally broadcast. It is Twin Peaks at both its best and most disturbing.
Tomorrow, Lisa will review the 8th episode of season 2, Drive With A Dead Girl.
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
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
- TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson