2.12: The Black Widow
This one, directed by Caleb Deschanel and written by Harley Peyton and Robert Engels, continue the largely antiseptic trend of the last couple. It will remain that way until Jean Renault (well played by Michael Parks, but not used well beyond his first couple of appearances) is despatched and Windom Earle takes centre stage.
Dick Tremayne: Andy, I believe that little Nicky, incredible as it may seem, may in fact be the devil.
The Black Widow is more of the less engaging/haven’t a clue what to do filler plotlines, basically. Even in these, there’s the occasional quirk; it just isn’t enough. Ian Buchanan continues to make silk purses out of sow’s ears as Dick Tremayne. Here, he takes Nicky on a picnic; they are dressed identically (and ridiculously). Following a mishap with a jack, he becomes convinced the lad is demonic, concerned at the “persistent random misfortune” occurring to those coming into contact with him.
At which point Deschanel fully embraces the series’ more cartoonish aspects by giving Andy a cartoon thought bubble showing the child dressed in a devil costume. Andy is typically moronic, of course (on learning Nick is an orphan, he asks “Really, what happened did his parents die?” Dick replies, “Nicely deduced”).
Mayor Milford: You sexual adventuress! You’ll burn in hell for this.
This is slim stuff, barely worth a mention really, but one has to scratch for nuggets at this point in the show. So we have the mass swoon for the widow of Dougie Milford (a heart attack in flagrante). First Hawk, then the entire sheriff’s office succumb to hear extravagant charms, launching into a soliloquy from Romeo and Juliet (“Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright…”)
There’s naught to muster in enthusiasm for James’ soporific sojourn as a mechanic. He meets Evelyn’s brother Malcolm (Nicholas Love) and we learn her hubby beats her.
Elsewhere, Audrey proposes a partnership with Bobby, who has finally encouraged Ben to listen to him. Bobby is packed off to photograph Hank, while Ben begins his re-enactment of Gettysburg. Still, Ben’s line about Leo recording a tape gets a smile (“Frankly, I’m surprised he could master the technology”).
On a similarly tedious note, Catherine is still lording it over poor little maid Josie (“She’s lucky she’s not hanging from a tree”) while Nadine is trying out for the wrestling team. The Big Ed/Norma developments by rights ought to follow this rather tiresome path, but they manage to be quite touching; halfway through life and making an attempt to grasp at missed opportunities.
Special Agent Cooper: Might this have something to do with a place called the White Lodge?
Colonel Riley: That’s classified.
The Major Briggs plotline continues to be one of the bright spots of this section of the series. Colonel Riley (Tony Burton) provides clarification regarding the signals picked up from space; they are actually intercepting them “from right here in these woods, but where sent to is another question”. He also asks specifically about sightings of birds or owls during Briggs’ vanishing, before clamming up with the usual refrain of “That’s classified”.
Colonel Riley: His disappearance has implications that go so far beyond national security, the cold war seems like a case of the snivels.
Military fascination with occult forces is nothing new as a concept, but Twin Peaks is notable for how seamlessly it has segued there. The blending of UFO lore and the more traditionally supernatural recurs when Briggs returns in the last scene (dressed as if he has been riding a 1940s motorbike); he appears to have lost time (“Strange, it seemed much shorter”, when told that he has been gone two days). It’s nice to have a call back to Bobby’s talk with his dad, even if highlights how poorly he is being used currently (“My father is a deeply weird individual, but he has a lot more going on in his head than most people”).
Special Agent Cooper: Audrey, you did better than good you may have save my life.
Coop is also engaged in non-linear thinking. He takes a look at a property on a whim of where his tossed coin falls. It leads him to Dead Dog Farm, where Renault and company had a drugs meet. En route, Irene Littlehouse (Geraldine Keams) gives him a little folkloric background pertaining to dead dogs (only the purest of hear can feel the pain of dead dogs, and the best and worst are drawn to them). Not sure it makes a whole lot of sense. On the subject of the same location – highly coincidental, but that’s okay, it’s Twin Peaks – Audrey delivers photos of the meet to him, the ones Bobby has taken.
Special Agent Cooper: He anticipated my response to his opening move perfectly.
The rest of the Coop storyline sees more laying of the groundwork for Earle’s unveiling. Some of this is smart – Earle can predict Coop’s moves in advance – some less so (Coop’s rather self-indulgent pondering that he might be able to raise a family one day, even with his past).
Audrey: Do they have women agents?
Denise: More or less.
It’s also Denise’s second of three appearances and, while the set ups and dialogue can be patchy, Duchovny is consistently good value. Audrey’s ignorance of the DEA having female agents seems designed purely to allow Denise to deliver a gag (Audrey can’t be that ignorant). Sherilyn Fenn plays her fascination/delight with realising Denise is a guy superbly, however. She also plants a smacker on Coop, presumably as some kind of territorial claim.
Denise: Now, can we talk about something more important? Exactly how old is that girl?
Special Agent Cooper: Denise, I would assume you are no longer interested in girls.
Denise: Coop, I may be wearing a dress, but I still pull my panties on one leg at a time, if you know what I mean.
Special Agent Cooper: Not really.
It’s easy to see why Duchovny got bored with Mulder after a while; there’s so much more to play with here. His scene with Ernie Niles in the diner is essentially the DEA putting the squeeze on the con, but it plays with a very amusing layer of Ernie’s consternation over the gender choices of his interrogator.
2.12 keeps things ticking over, just about, but it’s mostly tepid. The next episode will continue in that vein, but at least it signals an end to the holding pattern of Coop’s suspension (not that it’s lifted, but the related and less than scintillating subplot will fall away).