Skip to main content

I’m in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper. I’m waiting for you.

Twin Peaks
2.22: Beyond Life and Death

So this is it. Until 2017. Well, let’s see them start filming before counting on it. The season two finale, until the new arrivals, has earned its place as one of TV’s iconic cliffhanger endings. Those are few and far between, of course: Blake’s 7, Angel, Sapphire and Steel. Notably, these are all in the fantasy genre. At the time, or thereabouts, the most annoying thing about where we were left was not the ending itself but that Lynch went and made a prequel that actively rubbed anyone wanting some form of continuation or closure’s nose in it. Regardless, this is iconic TV fare, lifted to such status by the mere presence of Lynch in the director’s chair and blessed with a final 20 minutes of craziness the like of which hasn’t been part of mainstream television since Patrick McGoohan confounded audiences with the conclusion to The Prisoner (with which this bears a few passing similarities).


The ever-useful Wikipedia informs that Lynch revised dialogue and scenes of the scripted credited to Frost, Peyton and Engles. That should come as no surprise, as they don’t have this kind of bonkers-ness in them. It also explains why entirely dropped characters, but ones Lynch co-conceived, are brought back for a final (red) curtain. It should comes as even less surprise that the supremely deranged Red Room sequence is the one he rewrote top to bottom (which goes to explain the curiously limited role for Windom Earle; one wonders if Lynch didn’t take to the character).


As has been noted with his other efforts for the series, Lynch doesn’t just lift the main plotlines, but also the less essential supporting ones. As such, there are some particularly cruel and/or surprising twists of fate here.


Nadine: Where are my drape runners?

The harshest blow in this regard is surely the disintegration of Ed and Norma’s chances of happiness. Following her bop on the head, Nadine returns to her former antic state (so many to choose from). Lynch stages this absurdly at first – Nadine and Mike in huge head bandages decorated daubs of red paint and Mike professing love. But the despair of Norma realising Ed will do the honourable thing is palpable.


Doc Hayward: Leave my family alone!

Then there’s by far the best moment in the tiresome Donna-Ben saga. The latter shows up at the Hayward house professing his honest credentials. Donna bursts into tears, telling Doc Hayward, “You’re my daddy”. Then, in a classic (not in the original script) of Lynch domestic hysteria, Doc slams Ben’s head into the fireplace and he falls bloodied to the floor as Doc screams “Oargggghhhh!


Eckhardt (from beyond the grave): Got you Andrew, love Thomas

The scripted demise of Andrew is quite sly; a bomb in a safety deposit box. But it too becomes typically warped, complete with signature slow-moving elderly folk and long shots extending the duration to hypnotic levels. For whatever reason, Catherine doesn’t go to the bank (as per the original script), Pete does. So Lynch blows up Andrew and Pete, and possibly Audrey who has chained herself to the vault door of the Savings and Loan. There’s also some amusing business here, Audrey asking Dell for a glass of water and obligingly making way for Andrew to get through to the vault. This is Lynch all over; Audrey’s left stranded for episodes on end, then he shows up and she’s a quirky, engaging character again.


Bobby: Shelly, Leo’s probably up in the woods having the time of his life.

Leo was originally discovered in Earle’s cabin by Hawk and Major Briggs, at which point he set off the spider trap. Instead, Lynch reduces his presence to a comedy punch line incorporating the previous week’s footage. I rather like this, and the idea that he’s still staring up at those spiders 25 years later. Whether Bobby and Shelly go on to tie the not (“I think we should get married”), we’ll have to wait and see. We also revisit Lynch’s giggling waitress Heidi, tittering at Bobby’s jokes about jump-starting the old man.


Sarah Palmer: I’m in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper. I’m waiting for you.

Some of Lynch’s character insertions border on the random, which is exactly what you’d expect of him. Sarah Palmer hasn’t appeared since the fairly wretched 2.10. Now she’s visiting the diner with Jacobi (bringing some sterling cape action), bringing a psychic message from, presumably, Windom Earle. If not Earle, then whom? Since it’s delivered to Major Briggs, there doesn’t seem another likely correspondent.


Pete: The Log Lady stole my truck.
Special Agent Cooper: Pete, the Log Lady didn’t steal your truck. The Log Lady will be here in one minute.

The Log Lady and Ronette Pulaski didn’t appear in the original script either. This scene is less than elegant, truth be told, cramming in bits and pieces in an ungainly attempt to bend the trajectory back towards Lynch’s vision. There’s the scorched engine oil brought by Margaret, which satisfies Ronette’s sniff test. The oil opens the gateway to the Black Lodge, so I guess there’s at least an explanation there. Kind of.


Hawk: That’s where I found the bloody towel and the pages of the diary.

The exposition regarding the circle of twelve sycamores that surround Glastonbury Grove is the kind of “No shit!” dialogue that recalls the previous episode. This prime location of clues that has been ignored throughout just happens to be the same place where all the answers are to be found, only in a different dimension.


Special Agent Cooper: The legendary burial place of King Arthur.
Pete: King Arthur’s buried in England. Last I heard.

This element seems very much on the Frost spectrum, that with the connections between freemasonry and the Holy Grail (and the sword, or rather pickaxe, in the stone a few weeks before). And Glastonbury Grove has owls in common with Bohemian Grove. Make of that what you won't.


Windom Earle: Take a look at that! Twelve rainbow trout.

There’s at least one line of Earle random humour, as he draws Annie’s attention to the contents of the back of Pete’s truck. Annie is turned into a zombie (not that kind) and in short order Coop follows her and Earle into the Black Lodge. The effect here is simple but evocative; the backdrop to the Grove becomes the drapes of the Red Room. Lynch also comes up trumps with the eerie and beautifully sung Under the Sycamore Trees (vocals from Jimmy Scott).


The Man from Another Place: This is the Waiting Room.

The strangeness inside is all present and correct. Red drapes, strobe lighting, screaming faces (Laura), The Man from Another Place, the reveal that the Giant is one and the same as the waiter (“Whoo! Hallelujah” x2), the 25 years comment, coffee (solid, liquid, gloop), Maddy (“Watch out for my cousin”), evil possessed twins effectively symbolised by whitened contact lens (“Doppelganger”). Although, even The Man from Another Place appears to have his own doppleganger, so I’m not sure quite how that works.


There’s also paying with time and identity. Coop relives the demise of Caroline (stabbed by Earle, recalling 2.11’s “You with your wounds, I with mine”), lying bloody on the floor, alternating with Annie (“I saw the face of the man who killed me”).


The Man from Another Place: Wow, Bob, wow.

Much frantic running down “corridors” ensues, including Coop pursuing “Coop” once his own doppleganger has assembled. This in particular suggests the end of The Prisoner. Lynch’s meanings work on a much more primordial level than McGoohan’s though.


Windom Earle: If you give me your soul, I’ll let Annie live.
Special Agent Cooper: I will.

The destruction of the antagonist by a force more powerful than he imagined isn’t anything new (it’s the climax to Raiders of the Lost Ark, for example), but it’s particularly cryptic and fractured here. Bob denies Windom Earle Coop’s soul (“He is wrong. He can’t ask for your soul. I will take his”). Why this entitles Bob to Coop’s soul too is immediately unclear. One might construe the deal passed with the de-souling of Earle (comedy flames spurt from his head; in the original he ends up in a dentists chair tortured by Bob); certainly, Annie gets released (“She’s going to be just fine. She’s over at the hospital”) and Coop’s mirror scene suggests a Leland Palmer-esque transaction has taken place.


More likely, and generally accepted, is that Coop succumbed to the fear that enables his doppleganger, Hawk’s “dweller on the threshold” to take his place, Coop having failed the test. It’s rumoured that Season Three would have seen Major Briggs rescuing Coop from the Black Lodge (as one who might well have passed unscathed through it’s confines with a pure heart). The eventual Season Three won’t be able to go quite that route, obviously (well, they could recast).


Andy: Do you want a thermos of coffee?
Harry: Yeah
Andy: A plate special?
Harry: Yeah.
Andy: Dessert?
Harry: Yeah.
Andy: Pie? Harry? Harry?

The exchange between a distracted Harry and Andy is welcome bit of levity amid the lunacy (we also note the disjunctive time; they are out there for 10 hours, much as Briggs felt he was wherever he was for a much shorter period than he was), but the hotel room scene that ends the episode, and the show, is legendary.


“Coop”, recovered from Glastonbury Grove, awakes in the Great Northern, with the need to brush his teeth. He squeezes his toothpaste into the sink and proceeds to head-butt the bathroom mirror, laughing maniacally along with the image of Bob. Particularly cruel is his mocking, “How’s Annie? How’s Annie?”, imitating his own “earnest” question moments earlier. Only Lynch and Frost know if Heather Graham will return. If not, we will likely discover that Dopplecooper topped her soon after the events of this episode.


There’s nothing in the Black Lodge phantasmagoria that is as palpably unnerving as the material that will follow in Fire Walk With Me, but this is the most undiluted stream of Lynch weirdness the series has seen. It’s entirely appropriate that it should cap the run.


One might argue Season Two would have been improved by cutting about a third of it away from the middle, but the problem is more systemic. When Lynch is back in the picture, it’s clear that those picking up the ball with his (and Frost’s) show are in the main pale imitators. Even when they invent a character or scene that is either weird and or funny/clever, it doesn’t have the singular edge of his work, the ability to really bend the expectations of narrative and network television. It will be interesting to see how his unexpurgated vision; all from him and Frost and (presumably/possibly) all directed by him will be. Eighteen episodes are a lot, but it appears he has a lot of material. Let’s hope it’s as damn fine as the third or so of the original run that made the show so innovative and enduring.



The Best of Twin Peaks:

Difficult to pick one, but the pilot (Northwest Passage), the subsequent three episodes (Traces to Nowhere, Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer, Rest in Pain), the first of Season Two (May the Giant Be With You), the seventh (Lonely Souls) and the finale are the crème de la crème.


The worst is easily 2.10, Dispute Between Brothers, a slap in the face to the storyline that invested viewers in the first place.












Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

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…

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…

That be what we call scringe stone, sir.

Doctor Who The Ribos Operation (1978)
Season 16 is my favourite season, so I’m inevitably of the view that it gets a bad rap (or a just plain neglected one), is underrated and generally unappreciated. Of its six stories, though, The Ribos Operation is probably the one, on balance, that receives the most accolades (on some days, it’s The Pirate Planet; many moons ago, back when DWAS was actually a thing of some relevance, The Stones of Blood won their season poll; there are also those who, rightly, extol the virtues of The Androids of Tara). I’m fully behind that, although truthfully, I don’t think there’s an awful lot between the first four stories. Why, I even have great affection for the finale. It’s only “KROLL! KROLL! KROLL! KROLL!” that comes up a bit short, which no doubt makes me a no good dryfoot, but there you are. If that Robert Holmes script is on the threadbare side, through little fault of his own, The Ribos Operation is contrastingly one of his very best, a hugely satisfyi…

I do… very competitive ice dancing.

Justice League (2017)
(SPOILERS) Superheroes, and superhero movies, trade in hyperbole, so it shouldn’t be surprising that DC’s two releases this year have been responded to in like, only each at opposite ends of the spectrum. Wonder Woman was insanely over-praised in the rush to fete a female superhero finally leading a movie, crushing all nuanced criticism in its wake. Justice League, meanwhile, has been lambasted on the basis that it’s more of the same as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only worse – to the extent there have been calls for a Zach Snyder Director’s Cut, which is quite an extent, as extents go – as it’s guilty of being an unholy clash of styles, grimdark Zach scowling in one corner and quip-happy Joss pirouetting in the other. And yes, the movie is consequently a mess, but it’s a relatively painless mess, with the sense to get in and get out again before the viewer has enough time to assess the full extent of the damage.

I think World War II was my favourite war.

Small Soldiers (1998)
An off-peak Joe Dante movie is still one chock-a-block full of satirical nuggets and comic inspiration, far beyond the facility of most filmmakers. Small Soldiers finds him back after a six-year big screen absence, taking delirious swipes at the veneration of the military, war movies, the toy industry, conglomerates and privatised defence forces. Dante’s take is so gleefully skewed, he even has big business win! The only problem with the picture (aside from an indistinct lead, surprising from a director with a strong track record for casting juveniles) is that this is all very familiar.

Dante acknowledged Small Soldiers was basically a riff on Gremlins, and it is. Something innocuous and playful turns mad, bad and dangerous. On one level it has something in common with Gremlins 2: The New Batch, in that the asides carry the picture. But Gremlins 2 was all about the asides, happy to wander off in any direction that suited it oblivious to whether the audience was on …

‘Cos I’m the gringo who always delivers.

American Made (2017)
(SPOILERS) This is definitely more the sort of thing Tom Cruise should be doing, a movie that relies both on his boyish™ charm and at least has pretensions of ever so slightly pushing the envelope of standard multiplex fare, rather than desperately attaching himself to an impersonal franchise (The Mummy) or flailingly attempting to kick start one (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back); remember when Cruise wouldn’t even go near sequels (for about 20 years, The Color of Money aside, and then only the one series)? American Made is still victim to the tendency of his movies to feel superstar-fitted rather than remaining as punchy as they might be on paper (Made’s never quite as satirically sharp as it wants to be), but it at least doesn’t lead its audience by the nose.

You diabolical mastermind, you.

The Avengers Season 4 Ranked – Worst to Best
Season Four is generally held up as the pinnacle of The Avengers, and it certainly maintains the greatest level of consistency in the run. Nevertheless, as I noted a few reviews back, one viewer’s classic is another’s ho-hum with this show, perhaps because it doesn’t elicit the same kind of exhaustive fandom to establish any level of consensus as some series. There follows my Worst to Best ranking of the season, told mostly in pictures. The index for full episode reviews can be found here.

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…

You’re never the same man twice.

The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970)
(SPOILERS) Roger Moore playing dual roles? It sounds like an unintentionally amusing prospect for audiences accustomed to the actor’s “Raise an eyebrow” method of acting. Consequently, this post-Saint pre-Bond role (in which he does offer some notable eyebrow acting) is more of a curiosity for the quality of Sir Rog’s performance than the out-there premise that can’t quite sustain the picture’s running time. It is telling that the same story was adapted for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents 15 years earlier, since the uncanny idea at its core feels like a much better fit for a trim 50 minute anthology series.

Basil Dearden directs, and co-adapted the screenplay from Anthony Armstrong’s novel The Strange Case of Mr Pelham. Dearden started out with Ealing, helming several Will Hay pictures and a segment of Dead of Night (one might imagine a shortened version of this tale ending up there, or in any of the portmanteau horrors that arrived in the year…