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

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

You guys sure like watermelon.

The Irishman aka I Heard You Paint Houses (2019)
(SPOILERS) Perhaps, if Martin Scorsese hadn’t been so opposed to the idea of Marvel movies constituting cinema, The Irishman would have been a better film. It’s a decent film, assuredly. A respectable film, definitely. But it’s very far from being classic. And a significant part of that is down to the usually assured director fumbling the execution. Or rather, the realisation. I don’t know what kind of crazy pills the ranks of revered critics have been taking so as to recite as one the mantra that you quickly get used to the de-aging effects so intrinsic to its telling – as Empire magazine put it, “you soon… fuggadaboutit” – but you don’t. There was no point during The Irishman that I was other than entirely, regrettably conscious that a 75-year-old man was playing the title character. Except when he was playing a 75-year-old man.

So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.

Casino Royale (2006)
(SPOILERS) Despite the doubts and trepidation from devotees (too blonde, uncouth etc.) that greeted Daniel Craig’s casting as Bond, and the highly cynical and low-inspiration route taken by Eon in looking to Jason Bourne's example to reboot a series that had reached a nadir with Die Another Day, Casino Royale ends up getting an enormous amount right. If anything, its failure is that it doesn’t push far enough, so successful is it in disarming itself of the overblown set pieces and perfunctory plotting that characterise the series (even at its best), elements that would resurge with unabated gusto in subsequent Craig excursions.

For the majority of its first two hours, Casino Royale is top-flight entertainment, with returning director Martin Campbell managing to exceed his excellent work reformatting Bond for the ‘90s. That the weakest sequence (still good, mind) prior to the finale is a traditional “big” (but not too big) action set piece involving an attempt to…

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.

You're skipping Christmas! Isn't that against the law?

Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Ex-coke dealer Tim Allen’s underwhelming box office career is, like Vince Vaughn’s, regularly in need of a boost from an indiscriminate public willing to see any old turkey posing as a prize Christmas comedy.  He made three Santa Clauses, and here is joined by Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple planning to forgo the usual neighbourhood festivities for a cruise.

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.

We’ll bring it out on March 25 and we’ll call it… Christmas II!

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
(SPOILERS) Alexander Salkind (alongside son Ilya) inhabited not dissimilar territory to the more prolific Dino De Laurentis, in that his idea of manufacturing a huge blockbuster appeared to be throwing money at it while being stingy with, or failing to appreciate, talent where it counted. Failing to understand the essential ingredients for a quality movie, basically, something various Hollywood moguls of the ‘80s would inherit. Santa Claus: The Movie arrived in the wake of his previously colon-ed big hit, Superman: The Movie, the producer apparently operating under the delusion that flying effects and :The Movie in the title would induce audiences to part with their cash, as if they awarded Saint Nick a must-see superhero mantle. The only surprise was that his final cinematic effort, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, wasn’t similarly sold, but maybe he’d learned his lesson by then. Or maybe not, given the behind-camera talent he failed to secure.

It's their place, Mac. They have a right to make of it what they can. Besides, you can't eat scenery!

Local Hero (1983)
(SPOILERS) With the space of thirty-five years, Bill Forsyth’s gentle eco-parable feels more seductive than ever. Whimsical is a word often applied to Local Hero, but one shouldn’t mistake that description for its being soft in the head, excessively sentimental or nostalgic. Tonally, in terms of painting a Scottish idyll where the locals are no slouches in the face of more cultured foreigners, the film hearkens to both Powell and Pressburger (I Know Where I’m Going!) and Ealing (Whisky Galore!), but it is very much its own beast.

On a long enough timeline, the survival of everyone drops to zero.

Fight Club (1999)
(SPOILERS) Still David Fincher’s peak picture, mostly by dint of Fight Club being the only one you can point to and convincingly argue that that the source material is up there with his visual and technical versatility. If Seven is a satisfying little serial-killer-with-a-twist story vastly improved by his involvement (just imagine it directed by Joel Schumacher… or watch 8mm), Fight Club invites him to utilise every trick in the book to tell the story of not-Tyler Durden, whom we encounter at a very peculiar time in his life.

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.