Skip to main content

There is a time, when Jupiter and Saturn meet... they will receive you.

Twin Peaks
2.20: The Path to the Black Lodge

Stephen Gyllenhaal, mostly a TV guy, with the occasional film credit, directs another Peyton and Engels offering, and it’s one of the most satisfying of the second half of Season Two. A lot of that is down to it being Windom Earle’s best showing since Diane Keaton guest-directed.


There are other elements, non-Black Lodge related, of course. Andy informs us that Styrofoam never breaks down, Doc Hayward pleads with Ben to let it lie (“There’s nothing good about ruined lives”), who asks Audrey to enter Miss Twin Peaks, who pursues Billy Zane (he’s a cool dude), whose partner has been murdered and is off in his private jet. Audrey persuades him to deflower her and generally bump uglies. I have to admit to being unimpressed with the way in which she presses Pete into her service as chauffeur (“You!” she demands; he has a name, you know – Pete Someoneorother). Catherine and Andrew are still trying to open the box, while the dearly departed Gordon Cole has opened Bobby’s eyes to his neglect of Shelly.


Annie: What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.

Coop and Annie are going from strength-to-strength, noting (again) “We’re very much alike” and quoting Heisenberg to each other. Fortunately, lest things get unbearably cute, the Giant is on hand to wave a warning “No” at the prospect of Annie entering Miss Twin Peaks, when the mayor’s mike gives out.


Such weirdness is appealingly laced throughout the episode. Gyllenhaal gives a very Lynchian slow-motion close up of dripping gravy when some plates are smashed in the diner. Then there are the four incidents of hand tremors; a patron of the diner, Coop, and Pete all experience this (and Ben at very least experiences the accompanying sound effect). Commendably unexplained, it is most easily construed as a portent of the return of Bob through Earle’s opening of the Black Lodge. Accordingly, he his hand strains through into Twin Peaks reality in the last scene, and we see a reflection of the Red Room through the portal in Glastonbury Grove.


Special Agent Cooper: Windom Earle’s playing off the board.

Like most of the best episodes, there’s a wealth of (actually) funny business mixed in with the weirdness. Moving the human pawn from its perch on the porch entails much problematic manoeuvring, accompanied by a silver-suited men (it reminded me a little of hazmat guys in Repo Man). Andy, as usual, bursts into tears over the untimely demise. We learn that Windom Earle is no longer playing by the rules of the game (he “took another pawn but didn’t tell us his move”) and Coop consequently puts the trio of gals under close watch.


Special Agent Cooper: He’s been after something else all along – the Black Lodge.

Crucially, after his chat with Major Briggs (who shows them archive footage of a babbling Earle), Coop realises he has miscalculated his nemesis’ attentions. Earle isn’t focussed on vengeance on Coop; he wants to find the Black Lodge. Briggs informs us that “Earle was the best and the brightest among us” but after shifting his attention from UFOs to the woods he became “overzealous, secretive, possessive, violent”.


There is also much talk of dugpas. Coop sends (very bit player) Kevin to find out more. Fortunately we have Earle to inform us the necessary more about these “ancient sorcerers bent on evil” Well, not that much. They’re “Another fine bunch of zanies, I can tell you”. This appears to be picking up on the show’s masonic interests again (training with dugpas suggested as the last step for a mason before becoming fully illuminated).


Windom Earle: Hello, Wilbur!

To the end of locating the Lodge, Earle abducts Major Briggs. In a classic slice of Peakslunacy (possibly too broad for the tastes of some, but I was fully on board), Briggs is wandering the woods when he comes across a pantomime horse (the most memorable TV appearance by one this side of Rentaghost). Earle, at the front, greets the major enthusiastically (“Long time no see, Briggsy”) before shooting him with a tranquiliser dart.


Windom Earle: What do you fear the most?
Major Briggs: The possibility that love is not enough.
Windom Earle: Oh God, I shall weep.

Back at his shack, Earle uses the major as a dartboard and, having unsuccessfully interrogated him, shoots him full of haliperidol. The interaction between Don S Davis and Kenneth Welsh is a delight, and the playful-yet-sinister tone is perfectly pitched (“What is the capital of North Carolina?”: “Raleigh”). Earle elicits enough information from Briggs (“There is a time, when Jupiter and Saturn meet... they will receive you”) to discern that the petroglyph is a clock that tells the time, and that it is an invitation and a map to the Black Lodge; the missing information he needs. The last scene, with Leo screaming and Briggs staring, has a suitably unsettling and hysterical tone.


Windom Earle: Leo, stop dawdling. If you were outside you’d have trouble with pigeons.

But mostly, the Earle material is a lot of fun: the panto villain with his panto horse and his bumbling sidekick. From Windom dismissing Coop’s efforts (“You know Leo, the only thing Columbus discovered is that he was lost”) to his dismissal of Leo’s smarts (“Leo, it looks like you’ve finally found your calling” he comments of Leo’s role as a horse’s arse), Earle’s is deliciously cruel. Welsh and DaRae are a great double act (“Catch!” he instructs Leo before not throwing him an arrow).


Windom Earle: Oh, poor Leo. We’re all love’s fools, more or less. But you will learn as I have, the value of hate.

The best of this is dim Leo’s hilarious assumption that having procured the electro-shock buzzer he now wields power over Earle. He proceeds to point it at Windom, and each time he presses it convulses with shock. Welsh’s laughter is highly infectious (“No Leo, I’m begging you!”)


So this is good stuff, the kind of standard the series should have been meeting throughout it’s sophomore outing. It’s a shame it had to come right at the tail end.














Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She was addicted to Tums for a while.

Marriage Story (2019)
(SPOILERS) I don’t tend to fall heavily for Noah Baumbach fare. He’s undoubtedly a distinctive voice – even if his collaborations with Wes Anderson are the least of that director’s efforts – but his devotion to an exclusive, rarefied New York bubble becomes ever more off-putting with each new project. And ever more identifiable as being a lesser chronicler of the city’s privileged quirks than his now disinherited forbear Woody Allen, who at his peak mastered a balancing act between the insightful, hilarious and self-effacing. Marriage Story finds Baumbach going yet again where Woody went before, this time brushing up against the director’s Ingmar Bergman fixation.

You're not only wrong. You're wrong at the top of your voice.

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
I’ve seen comments suggesting that John Sturges’ thriller hasn’t aged well, which I find rather mystifying. Sure, some of the characterisations border on the cardboard, but the director imbues the story with a taut, economical backbone. 

You can’t climb a ladder, no. But you can skip like a goat into a bar.

Juno and the Paycock (1930)
(SPOILERS) Hitchcock’s second sound feature. Such was the lustre of this technological advance that a wordy play was picked. By Sean O’Casey, upon whom Hitchcock based the prophet of doom at the end of The Birds. Juno and the Paycock, set in 1922 during the Irish Civil War, begins as a broad comedy of domestic manners, but by the end has descended into full-blown Greek (or Catholic) tragedy. As such, it’s an uneven but still watchable affair, even if Hitch does nothing to disguise its stage origins.

To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourself.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
Easily the best of the Narnia films, which is maybe damning it with faint praise. 

Michael Apted does a competent job directing (certainly compared to his Bond film - maybe he talked to his second unit this time), Dante Spinotti's cinematography is stunning and the CGI mostly well-integrated with the action. 

Performance-wise, Will Poulter is a stand-out as a tremendously obnoxious little toff, so charismatic you're almost rooting for him. Simon Pegg replaces Eddie Izzard as the voice of Reepicheep and delivers a touching performance.
***

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

So long, sky trash!

Star Wars The Saga Ranked
This is an update of my 2018 ranking, with the addition of highly-acclaimed The Rise of Skywalker along with revisits to the two preceding parts of the trilogy. If you want to be generous and call it that, since the term it makes it sound a whole lot more coherent than it plays.

When I barked, I was enormous.

Dean Spanley (2008)
(SPOILERS) There is such a profusion of average, respectable – but immaculately made – British period drama held up for instant adulation, it’s hardly surprising that, when something truly worthy of acclaim comes along, it should be singularly ignored. To be fair, Dean Spanleywas well liked by critics upon its release, but its subsequent impact has proved disappointingly slight. Based on Lord Dunsany’s 1939 novella, My Talks with Dean Spanley, our narrator relates how the titular Dean’s imbibification of a moderate quantity of Imperial Tokay (“too syrupy”, is the conclusion reached by both members of the Fisk family regarding this Hungarian wine) precludes his recollection of a past life as a dog. 

Inevitably, reviews pounced on the chance to reference Dean Spanley as a literal shaggy dog story, so I shall get that out of the way now. While the phrase is more than fitting, it serves to underrepresent how affecting the picture is when it has cause to be, as does any re…

Man, that’s one big bitch cockroach.

Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
Everyone loves Bruce Campbell. He’s eminently lovable; self-depracating, a natural wit, enthusiastic about his “art” and interactive with his fans. It’s easy to be seduced into cutting anything he shows up in some slack, just by virtue of his mighty Bruce-ness. I know, I’ve done it. Unfortunately, not everything he does has the crazy, slapstick energy of his most famous role. Most of it doesn’t. Don Cascarelli’s Elvis versus Mummy movie has a considerable cult following, based as much on the cult of Don as the cult of Bruce, but its charms are erratic ones. As usual, however, Campbell is the breezy highlight.

The blames rests with Cascarelli, since he adapted Joe R. Lansdale’s short story. The premise is a great high concept mash-up; Elvis Presley, a nursing home resident in declining health, must fight off an ancient Egyptian mummy. Is he really Elvis, or Elvis impersonator Sebastian Haff? Or both, as the King claims to have switched places with the real Haff so as t…

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

That Freud stuff’s a bunch of hooey.

Spellbound (1945)
Spellbound is something of a stumbling follow-up to Rebecca, producer David O Selznick’s previous collaboration with Hitchcock. Selznick was a devotee of psychoanalysis, and the idea of basing a film on the subject was already in the mind of the director. To that end, the producer’s own therapist, May Romm, was brought in as a technical advisor (resulting in Hitchcock’s famous response when she pointed out an inaccuracy, “My dear, it’s only a movie”).