Twin Peaks Rewatch Project - Season 1, Episode 1
The staff of the Talk Film Society takes you on a journey back to Twin Peaks, episode by episode. All leading up to the premiere of the new season in May.
Title: “Episode 1 aka Traces to Nowhere“
Original Air Date: April 12, 1990
Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by Duwayne Dunham
In the opening moments of “Episode 1”, we see Special Agent Dale Cooper, as quirky as ever, hanging upside-down in inversion boots, recording a message for his always-mentioned, yet never-seen secretary, Diane. He’s a guest at the Great Northern Hotel, and soon after dismounting, he heads to the dinner to grab a cup of coffee and breakfast. There, he says what might be the most famous Agent Cooper line, and possibly the most famous Twin Peaks line bar none — “This is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee.” In making Cooper an all-American, “Just the facts, ma’am” type of investigator, Lynch and Frost gave him a few simple traits, he loves coffee, donuts, and as we’ll see later, a good slice of pie. It’s in these small details that we get a sense of who much of a good guy Cooper is.
Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), the daughter of the owner of the Great Northerner Hotel, Ben Horne (Richard Beymer), introduces herself to Cooper in the hotel’s dinner. We saw Audrey in the Pilot, getting up to no good, ruining with her dad’s business dealings and being a general thorn in everyone’s side. She really goes after Cooper in the dinner, trying to seduce him, unapologetically, and Cooper seems to be just a tad smitten with this 18-year-old, but it’s unclear at this point in the series if anything develops. Remember, Audrey is 18-years-old and still in high school.
Sheriff Truman and Copper sit down with Dr. Hayward to discuss Laura Palmer’s autopsy findings. The doctor says Laura had sexual relations with at least three men before being murdered, while also delivering other hard-to-stomach results. It’s clear Laura’s murder and the violent acts perpetrated on the comatose, fellow victim Ronette Pulaski are still affecting the small town of Twin Peaks, judging by how Dr. Hayward still struggles with the seedy details. As more and more is revealed, the secret life of Laura Palmer is become clearer. She wasn’t the buttoned-up, homecoming queen she was known as by many. Cooper interrogates murder suspect and the secret love of Laura, James, who admits Laura was using cocaine and she was scared of something so big that she couldn’t share it with the boy who was in love with her. We get a flashback with James and Laura, where she gives him the second half of her heart necklace. James doesn’t reveal to Cooper that he was the recipient of the other half of the heart, in hopes of not being pinned as the prime suspect.
Laura’s mom, Sarah, isn’t doing much better since we last saw her. She’s still on edge and Donna fails to comfort her, only making things worse when Sarah sees the visage of Laura’s face on Donna’s — which recalls the frightening imagery we would later see in Lynch’s Inland Empire. Then, Sarah sees the mysterious figure that haunted her at the end of the Pilot, a being we’ll refer to as Bob from here on out. Meanwhile, Leo Johnson, the certified jackass and husband of Shelly, gives his wife a bag of laundry to wash. In the pile, Shelly finds a bloody shirt, which she hides. Leo is enraged, to wife-beating levels, when he can’t find it. Is this a clue to the violent last night of Laura Palmer? Meanwhile, a mysterious one-armed man lurks around the halls of the hospital where Ronette Pulaski is being treated.
In this episode, we meet up with pretty much every town member we first encountered in the Pilot. We get glimpses into the home lives of both Audrey and Bobby, each dealing with their own father issues. With Audrey, her father scorns her for ruining his business deal, cutting deep with the line, “Laura died two days ago. I lost you years ago.” While, Bobby’s bad boy attitude comes face-to-face with his Air Force Major father’s hardline — a slap to the face, knocking out Bobby’s cigarette makes this real clear. We find out that there’s a plot brewing by secret lovers Ben Horne and Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie), both wanting the sawmill currently owned by widow Josie Packard, who has her own thing going on with Sheriff Truman. Honestly, it’s hard to keep track of everyone's secret life and the countless affairs going on in Twin Peaks. It’s entirely purposeful that pretty much everyone in town has their own secret; Laura Palmer, as we keep finding out, had secrets of her own.
The Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson), a woman carrying around a log as if it were an infant, has her own secret. She reveals her log has something to say about Laura Palmer’s murder, telling Cooper to ask it something. Cooper doesn’t comply, not buying into the wood’s sentience. The Log Lady proclaims, “I thought so.”
The episode ends with even more secrets. We see Dr. Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) at his home. Jacoby revealed to Cooper and Truman in the Pilot that Laura had been seeing him for psychiatric help behind her parents’ back. He plays audio tapes of Laura as he pulls out, surprise, half of Laura’s heart necklace. Was it actually Jacoby who dug up Bobby’s half in the final moments of the Pilot? Or this could be an entirely new piece of jewelry?
Like the Pilot, “Episode 1” continues the mystery with enough twists and turns to keep you hooked. Yes, we still get our fair share of melodrama, and, yes, it starts to become the show’s biggest detriment in later episodes. But for now, enjoy the mystery.
Check back with TFS next week as we cover Season 1, Episodes 2 and 3.