Skip to main content

When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry we must always pay strict attention.

Twin Peaks
1.5: The One-Armed Man

With the waves left in Albert’s wake subsiding (Gordon Cole, like Albert, is first encountered on the phone, and Coop apologises to Truman over the trouble the insulting forensics expert has caused; ”Harry, the last thing I want you to worry about while I’m here is some city slicker I brought into your town relieving himself upstream”), the series steps down a register for the first time. This is a less essential episode than those previously, concentrating on establishing on-going character and plot interactions at the expense of the strange and unusual. As such, it sets the tone for the rest of this short first season.


The first of 10 episodes penned by Robert Engels (who would co-script Fire Walk with Me with Lynch, and then reunite with him for On the Air), this also sees the first “star” director on the show in the form of Tim Hunter. Hunter is a director (like Michael Lehman) who hit the ground running but whose subsequent career has rather disappointed. River’s Edge, a twisted teenage murder yarn that announced Kean Reeves’ career and contributed, with Blue Velvet, to the second coming of Dennis Hopper, may well have attracted Lynch’s attention due to the latter’s crazed turn with a blow up doll. Or it could just have been recognition of kinship with the atmosphere of queasy unease and decay in a small town setting.


Since then, Hunter has made a go of it as (mostly) a TV gun for hire, marking out territory in projects such as Eerie, Indiana, Carnivale, Mad Men and Hannibal. One might see him as leading the charge (or disenchantment) of directors turning to TV. Even before his Twin Peaks gigs, he was calling the shots on episodes of Falcon Crest and Beverly Hills 90210.  He takes to Twin Peaks like a duck to water.


Mark Frost appears to be keeping his eye mostly on teasing out enough plot ammunition to ensure the series keeps up a head of steam, which is why – encounters with llamas and intuitive discourses aside – this episode goes light on the peculiar. Mostly, we encounter further elaborations on characters’ involvement in no-good activities.


There’s Benjamin Horne, whom we knew was plotting the demise of the mill but didn’t realise he was entangled with Leo Johnson (he shows up while Leo is burying Bernard). He’s clearly capable of – at least – ordering unspeakable acts. This positions him even more as a suspect, since he had the means to procure Laura and Ronette (employing them at his department store perfume counter) and ready access to the drugs smuggled by Leo and Jacques. On the lighter side, he laughs at a joke for which we’ll have to wait another week to hear the punchline (“No, I don’t know what you get when you cross a Norwegian and a Swede”).


More of a surprise is the reveal that pouting princess Josie is also in with the villains. The extent of this will be made clear next episode, but for now it’s enough to find out that newly released Hank is known to her. Hunter goes nuts with this (the final scene in the episode), shooting Josie from alarming Dutch angles as she reads his letter. 


Chris Mulkey has made a career out of a rather untrustworthy face, but Hank, with his attempts to get back into Norma’s good books and role as heavy for hire, isn’t the most interesting of roles.


Agent Cooper: Is it safe to say she came to you because she was having problems of a sexual nature?
Dr Jacoby: Agent Cooper, the problems of our entire society are of a sexual nature.

In contrast, Russ Tamblyn continues to steal scenes as Dr Jacoby. With his two-tone tinted glasses and sleight of hand with golf balls, Tamblyn is constantly interesting to watch. He gets a meaty scene with Cooper, in which the FBI man unsuccessfully fishes for any information he can get while the latter cites doctor-patient confidentiality (“Laura had see-crets”). They also compare notes on Tibet and ancient Hawaiians. It’s unfortunate that during Jacoby’s next couple of episodes an entirely banal subplot is introduced in which he Madeline poses as Laura.


The One-Armed Man: I was on the road from Memphis selling pharmaceuticals to… some place.

The other face in the frame is Al Strobel’s One Armed Man (last name Gerard; a Fugitivereference). If this is much more grounded than Mike’s first appearance (in Coop’s dream), there’s still sufficient peculiarity to go round. Mike (middle name Michael) is staying in the Orwellian Room 101 at the Timber Falls motel. He has no record, no warrants against him, but he obliquely fits the face of the man from Coop’s dream. This is a good scene for undercutting expectations, as Mike has no (apparent) recollection of the person Coop thinks he is, and even leading clues, such as his tattoo, do not pay off as expected (he had his tattoo removed; “It said… mom!” at which Mike starts crying).


Audrey: You ever heard of One Eyed Jacks?
Donna: Isn’t that the western with Marlon Brando?

Audrey continues to be by far the most interesting and watchable of the show’s bright young things. Smoking in the school locker room, dreaming of an FBI agent whisking her away from it all, her investigative skills are exceeded only by Coop’s and even that’s without law enforcement agencies at her beck and call. There’s an overt parallel here, with Donna comparing her to Sherlock Holmes (“What else have you figured out, Sherlock?”) just as Harry did Coop.  She also proves to be an excellent actor, feigning repentance to pater (“Please let me be your daughter again”) in order to go undercover at the department store.


Agent Cooper: In the grand design, women were drawn from a different set of blueprints.
Sheriff Truman: Amen to that.
Hawk: Amen.

While all of this is likeably played, it’s evident that the true Peaksy-ness only kicks in when Coop is involved. In particular, scenes with Bobby and Shelly and Donna and James (“This is about us. We have to do this for us not her”) feel like filler, waiting for something more interesting to happen.


The Andy-Lucy subplots are in full effect now and they’re filler of a different kind; quirky, but more irritating than charming. I do like Lucy’s response to Harry’s “What’s going on?”, leading to her summarise the latest events in Invitation to Love. Andy is more centre stage than usual, puzzling over why Lucy isn’t talking to him, which leads to a curiously over-masculine appraisal of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venusproportions from Coop (Harry and Hawk’s has the complementary hue of hearty sexism). It seems less nuanced and equivocal to the Coop we expect.


Sheriff Truman: Ever married, Coop?
Agent Cooper: No. I knew someone once who helped me understand commitment, responsibility and the risks. Who taught me the pain of a broken heart.

However, it leads to a marvellously unreserved recollection from Coop on lost love, and, surprisingly, a hilarious undercutting of the Wise Native American trope I’ve complained that Hawk represents.


Hawk: One woman can make you fly like an eagle. Another can give you the strength of a lion. But only one in the cycle of life can fill your heart with wonder and the wisdom that you have known a singular joy. (pause) I wrote that for my girlfriend.

Surprisingly, the thunderously thick Andy is an excellent sketch artist. Unsurprisingly, he’s a fecking eejit when it comes to stealth raids (his gun goes off, leading to a visit to the shooting range). Sarah Palmer’s vision in the living room of her daughter’s bedroom is clarified as not being a bad edit, as that’s exactly where was while she was in the living room (“I saw him, at the foot of Laura’s bed. He looked like an animal”).


It’s also notable here that here lies another stage in Leland’s disintegration. No longer is he breaking down at a moment’s notice. He has turned rather dark; dishevelled, unshaven, dismissive of Sarah. Even if Wise didn’t know it, there are more than enough pointers here to his character’s eventual reveal, the inner burden of terrible deeds breaking the surface


Agent Cooper: This is the man I saw in my dream. I had an intuition that my dream and Sarah Palmer’s vision were connected.

While there are no fractured realities in this episode, there is further embedding of Coop’s assessment of a holistic universe. Bob is established as one and the same person in both his and Sarah’s visions. He didn’t want to be present at the sketching as, “I’m a strong sender” (Andy’s picture isn’t perfect; “The eyes are a bit closer together”). Coop’s also a crack shot. At the target range Hawk is surprised that the FBI guy only had four hits, to which he replies, nonchalantly “Oh, I put four through each eye then one through each nostril”.


Agent Cooper: Harry, in the heat of the investigative pursuit, the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line.

Harry accepts all this talk of dreams, although he’s back to his uncertain status after last week’s talk of evil in the woods (“Cooper, I’d think you be afraid to go to sleep at night”). In another example of the kind of recycling that would make Douglas Adams proud, the European pilot’s discussion of synchronicity is regurgitated (“When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry we must always pay strict attention”). Which is good, as it’s a wonderful Cooperism.


Agent Cooper: The bird that attacked Laura Palmer is a client of this office.

The most fun to be had here is with the visit to veterinary clinic (“Aid to the Beast Incarnate”), in pursuit of Coop’s theory (Laura’s body had bird bites on it, while Mike professes to know a vet named Bob Lydecker). The obvious question is why Coop didn’t just take a look at the Bob Lydecker lying in a coma in the hospital, rather than asking the receptionist at the clinic if sketched Bob is her boss.


Nevertheless, there’s some neat stitching together of clues here. And there’s also Coop and Harry’s encounter with a llama (that would be Tibet again, sort of). After much searching of files (they’re organised alphabetically by the name of the pet), it’s discovered that the bird in question is Waldo, a mynah bird owned by one Jacques Renault. Watching this again, one of the most surprising aspects is how cogently and concisely the disparate elements are brought together. The show isn’t guilty of the kind of free-for-all time wasting of Lost, even though that show takes many of its cues from Twin Peaks. On the subject of birds, there’s a nice big close up an owl.


1.5 is more a solid episode than a top-to-bottom class act. It’s very much more the eccentric procedural with mild intrigue than truly offbeat. Still, there are obligatory food references, so all is still right in the world (“We’re going to need some more coffee”). Josie makes Pete a sandwich with mayo, while Dr Hayward cannot contain his disgust at the latest ready meals (“Donna, who the heck ever heard of diet lasagne?”)




They fucking drown them in it in that shit.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

What I have tried to show you is the inevitability of history. What must be, must be.

The Avengers 2.24: A Sense of History
Another gem, A Sense of History features one of the series’ very best villains in Patrick Mower’s belligerent, sneering student Duboys. Steed and Mrs Peel arrive at St Bode’s College investigating murder most cloistered, and the author of a politically sensitive theoretical document, in Martin Woodhouse’s final, and best, teleplay for the show (other notables include Mr. Teddy Bear and The Wringer).

Are you drinking the water?

A Cure for Wellness (2016)
(SPOILERS) Well, this is far more suited to Dane DeHaan’s slightly suspect shiftiness than ludicrously attempting to turn him into an outright action hero (Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets). It’s not, though, equal to director Gore Verbinski’s abilities. One of Hollywood’s great visualists but seemingly languishing without a clear path since he was cast adrift from collaborating with Johnny Depp, unfortunately, he must cop most of the blame for A Cure for Wellness, since it was his idea.

There’s a whiff of Shutter Island’s pulp psychodrama tonally, as DeHaan’s unscrupulous finance company executive Lockhart is sent to a Swiss health spa to fetch back a board member vital to pressing ahead with a merger. No sooner has he reached the alpine wellness centre, resplendent in the grounds of historic castle with a dark past, than he’s involved in a car accident, leaving him with a leg in a cast and “encouragement” to recuperate on site, taking the waters …

Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.

Star Trek (2009)
(SPOILERS) If JJ Abrams’ taking up the torch of the original Star Wars trilogy had been as supremely satisfying as his Star Trek reboot, I’d have very little beef with it. True, they both fall victim to some incredibly ropey plotting, but where Star Trek scores, making it an enormously rewatchable movie, is that it gets its characters right – which isn’t to suggest it’s getting The Original Series characters right, but it’s giving us compelling new iterations of them – and sends them on emotional journeys that satisfy. If the third act is somewhat rote, its achievements up to that point put it comfortably in the top rank of Trek movies.

This here's a bottomless pit, baby. Two-and-a-half miles straight down.

The Abyss (1989)
(SPOILERS) By the time The Abyss was released in late summer ’89, I was a card carrying James Cameron fanboy (not a term was in such common use then, thankfully). Such devotion would only truly fade once True Lies revealed the stark, unadulterated truth of his filmmaking foibles. Consequently, I was an ardent Abyss apologist, railing at suggestions of its flaws. I loved the action, found the love story affecting, and admired the general conceit. So, when the Special Edition arrived in 1993, with its Day the Earth Stood Still-invoking global tsunami reinserted, I was more than happy to embrace it as a now-fully-revealed masterpiece.

I still see the Special Edition as significantly better than the release version (whatever quality concerns swore Cameron off the effects initially, CGI had advanced sufficiently by that point;certainly, the only underwhelming aspect is the surfaced alien craft, which was deemed suitable for the theatrical release), both dramatically and them…

You just keep on drilling, sir, and we'll keep on killing.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
(SPOILERS) The drubbing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk received really wasn’t unfair. I can’t even offer it the “brave experiment” consolation on the basis of its use of a different frame rate – not evident in itself on 24fps Blu ray, but the neutering effect of the actual compositions is, and quite tellingly in places – since the material itself is so lacking. It’s yet another misguided (to be generous to its motives) War on Terror movie, and one that manages to be both formulaic and at times fatuous in its presentation.

The irony is that Ang Lee, who wanted Billy Lynn to feel immersive and realistic, has made a movie where nothing seems real. Jean-Christophe Castelli’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel is careful to tread heavily on every war movie cliché it can muster – and Vietnam War movie cliché at that – as it follows Billy Lynn (British actor Joe Alwyn) and his unit (“Bravo Squad”) on a media blitz celebrating their heroism in 2004 Iraq …

Don't give me any of that intelligent life crap, just give me something I can blow up.

Dark Star (1974)
(SPOILERS) Is Dark Star more a John Carpenter film or more a Dan O’Bannon one? Until the mid ‘80s it might have seemed atypical of either of them, since they had both subsequently eschewed comedy in favour of horror (or thriller). And then they made Big Trouble in Little China and Return of the Living Dead respectively, and you’d have been none-the-wiser again. I think it’s probably fair to suggest it was a more personal film to O’Bannon, who took its commercial failure harder, and Carpenter certainly didn’t relish the tension their creative collaboration brought (“a duel of control” as he put it), as he elected not to work with his co-writer/ actor/ editor/ production designer/ special effects supervisor again. Which is a shame, as, while no one is ever going to label Dark Star a masterpiece, their meeting of minds resulted in one of the decade’s most enduring cult classics, and for all that they may have dismissed it/ seen only its negatives since, one of the best mo…