Twin Peaks Rewatch Project - Season 1, Episode 2
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 2 aka Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer"
Original Air Date: April 19, 1990
Written by Mark Frost & David Lynch
Directed by David Lynch
The episode starts off on a strange note, but one that helps to ground the weird essence that only continues to become more present throughout the season. It opens on the Horne family eating dinner in a quiet, subdued manner, before they they are rudely interrupted by Ben's brother Jerry (David Patrick Kelly), who has returned from a trip bringing brie and butter baguettes, which he and his brother chow down on in an off-putting manner to the dismay of the rest of the family. Ben tells Jerry about Laura Palmer's murder and the failed Ghostwood endeavour, still unbeknownst to him that it was Audrey who caused the Norwegians to leave. Jerry says he's depressed, which Ben decides to solve by taking him on a boat ride up the river to visit One Eyed Jacks, a part-casino/part-brothel located over the US-Canada border, and make a coin toss to decide who will be the first to sleep with the newest prostitute. This whole section of the episode is fairly unpleasant in terms of content, but also in showing the ugly side of Audrey's father and his tenacity to behave so callously.
We then get another scene between Donna and James, completely immersed in their newfound love for one another, despite the fact it comes from the loss of Laura's life. While meant to be romantic, there's no real chemistry between these two, and it slows the pacing right down. But then again, its the only time we have to see James and his pouty face at all in the episode.
Dale Cooper receives a phone call from Deputy Hawk, who tells him that Ronette Pulaski, the high school student connected to Laura that had been in a coma, had quit her job at Horne's department store prior to the incident. He also informs Cooper that a one-armed man was spotted around the intensive care unit. A mysterious knock is heard at Cooper's hotel room door, as a note is slipped under the door, which reads 'Jack with One Eye'. While giving some impression of context and connection towards One Eyed Jack's as a clue for the viewer, this revelation only adds more questions.
Meanwhile, Bobby Briggs and Mike Nelson go to the woods to retrieve a stash of cocaine hidden inside of a football, when they are ambushed by Leo Johnson, demanding the $10,000 they owe him. The boys tell him they only have half of what they owe, claiming Laura had the other $5,000 hidden in a safety deposit box. Leo believes that one of them may know who is sleeping with his wife Shelly, before he scares them away. The next day, Bobby goes to visit Shelly, only to see that Leo has given her a beating. Bobby, demonstrating his loyalty, pledges to kill Leo if he does it happens again.
In one of the more unusual moments from the episode, Cooper gathers together Sheriff Truman, Hawk, Brennan, and Lucy in the woods, to give a demonstration of a mind-body technique he plans to use to identify the primary suspects in the case - based on a dream he once had about the plight of the Tibetan people. Taking a passage from Laura's diary that reads 'Nervous about meeting J tonight', a list of all suspects whose first or last names start with a 'J' are listed on a chalkboard. Then an empty milk bottle is set on a log, exactly six feet and six inches away. Truman reads aloud each name as Cooper tries to throw a rock towards the bottle with the intent of smashing it - thus, allowing nature to provide a hint. While its a silly and futile exercise, when Dr. Jacoby is mentioned, a rock hits the bottle. And then when Leo Johnson's name is read, the bottle is completely smashed. Once again, Cooper's strange eccentricities prove intriguing as to getting to the bottom of the mystery.
Donna and her parents are then seen dining at the Double R, when Audrey walks in and plays a dreamy tune on the jukebox, slowly dancing around the restaurant. She goes over to Donna, and its hard not to see that she is infatuated with Cooper, even asking her if 'she likes coffee'. The conversation then moves over to Audrey's father, as she asks whether Laura had mentioned Benjamin, because as Audrey puts it, 'he used to sing to her'.
Later, Cooper and the police team return to their headquarters, when suddenly three FBI agents led by Albert Rosenfield (the late Miguel Ferrer) enter the scene. Rosenfield is a forensics expert, but isn't quite the most social of people - preferring to put work and the task at hand before anything else. In a matter of moments, he criticizes the town, the police station, and the pathology reports to date. Truman isn't the kind of man who would take this, so he makes a light threat against Rosenfield, who takes off with his men in a flash. This gets a solid thumbs up from Cooper, in arguably the episode's best comedic moment.
Another big moment happens when, returning to the Palmer household, we now see Laura's father Leland, not her mother, who is completely broken up over their family tragedy - as he listens to Glen Miller's 'Pennsylvannia-5000' and spins around the living room with Laura's portrait, while crying. As Sarah tries to keep Leland's sanity in check, the portrait breaks and cuts open Leland's hand, making for a bloody end to a deeply distressing scene.
The sequence that follows this is one of the most iconic parts of Twin Peaks as a whole - the introduction to Cooper's weird dreams in the Red Room. In the dream, he is twenty-five years older, and sitting in a chair next to a backwards talking dwarf (from here on out, the Man from Another Place) and a woman who looks exactly like Laura Palmer. A series of brief flashes involving the mysterious long haired man from Sarah's visions follows. And then, the One Armed Man appears, and speaking to Cooper, states:
Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds ... fire ... walk with me. ... We lived among the people. I think you say, convenience store. We lived above it. I mean it like it is, like it sounds. I too have been touched by the devilish one. Tattoo on the left shoulder ... oh, but when I saw the face of god, I was changed. I took the entire arm off. My name is Mike. His name is Bob.
Cutting back to the red room, the Man from Another Place tells Cooper "that gum you like is going to...come back in style". Cooper asks the woman about Laura, to which she replies "I feel like I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back." The Man from Another Place then states "She's filled with secrets. Where we're from, the birds sing a pretty song ... and there's always music in the air", before doing a little dance as the lights begin to flicker and the woman moves over to Cooper, kissing him and then whispering something.
Cooper immediately awakens, and calls Truman to say "I know who killed Laura Palmer", following it up with "No, this can wait till morning", then hanging up and bringing himself back to sleep.
The interesting thing about this last section of the episode is that it comes from a much longer sequence in the original feature length version of the pilot - in the event that the show did not get picked up to be a series, so that it could be screened theatrically in Europe instead. It would have conveniently wrapped things up with Bob being named the killer, though its a good thing that didn't happen as it would have resulted in the loss of a great series. 'Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer' is a phenomenal and integral episode of Twin Peaks, as it really sets in stone the strange thoroughline of the series, while also giving us some great character moments and some new ones to boot. It's arguably one of, if not the best episode of the first season, and one that will assuredly hook first-time viewers who may be on the fence with continuing.