Twin Peaks Rewatch Project - Season 2, Episode 6 & Episode 7
The second season of Twin Peaks kicks into high gear in its sixth episode as the show begins revving towards the answer to the show’s central question. Though David Lynch and Mark Frost initially had no intention of revealing Laura Palmer’s murderer, ABC laid down severe pressure to reel in viewers rather than leave them in the percolator. While killing the mystery that Lynch still calls “the golden goose” did indeed result in a loss of forward momentum, the execution resulted in some of the most captivatingly terrifying television in history.
Having botched their mission to retrieve Laura’s secret diary from Harold Smith, Donna and Maddy are rescued by James, leaving the agoraphobic botanist weeping in betrayal. Meanwhile, Cooper and Truman return from One-Eyed Jack's with a near-catatonic Audrey, who has just barely survived a forced drug overdose. Audrey hints at how much she’s learned about her father’s secret business, and Ben thanks Cooper with his typical insincerity, leaving the agent more suspicious than ever of the Great Northern's owner.
David Lynch makes his first on-screen appearance as FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole, revealing that his yelling heard over the phone in season one wasn’t just a bad connection (“Hearing’s gone—long story,” he explains in that Lynch way that leaves you dying to know more). Elsewhere, Bobby and Shelly realize taking care of the comatose Leo isn’t going to be the insurance goldmine they expected, Leland’s compulsive showtune singing increases in intensity, Ben continues to negotiate Ghostwood funding with the mysterious “Mr. Tojamura”, and the even more mysterious Jonathan tells Josie he will kill Truman if she doesn’t return to Hong Kong with him. Most alarmingly, Cooper receives a message from his old partner, Windom Earle, containing the opening move of a chess game.
The greatest cliffhanger of the series comes courtesy of Al Strobel as the one-armed Philip Gerard, who is finally brought into custody after a mysterious absence. Deprived of his cocktail of maintenance drugs, Gerard emerges from a seizure speaking in the refined voice of Mike, the entity from Cooper’s dream. He explains to Cooper, Truman, Cole, and Hawk that he is an inhabiting spirit using Gerard as a vessel in his mission to find and stop his former partner, Bob, who feeds on fear and pleasure. “Few have seen his true face,” Mike explains, “the gifted…and the damned.” On this line, Strobel turns straight to the camera to stare at us, the damned, the TV viewers who have seen the face of Bob.
After reciting the “Fire Walk With Me” poem from Cooper’s dream, Mike hints that Bob is in “a large house, made of wood, surrounded by trees. The house is filled with many rooms, each alike, but inhabited by different souls, night after night.” With a jolt, Cooper realizes exactly where they will find Bob: the Great Northern Hotel. It’s easy to overlook now what a turning point this scene is for the show. Up to this point, there’s been no shortage of surrealism, dreams, and visions, but Mike’s soliloquy is the moment Twin Peaks sits us down and tells us we are watching a show about dueling spirits from another plane.
Lynch returns to the director’s chair for the next episode, the show’s centerpiece. The guests of the Great Northern are paraded past Mike, while some sort of convention of sailors bouncing balls gathers in the lobby. It’s a bizarre scene that gives the impression that reality itself is warping as Bob prepares to kill again. Meanwhile, based on Donna’s tip, Hawk goes to Harold’s home and finds Mr. Smith hanging from his own rafters with a suicide note reading simply, “J’ai une ame solitaire,” which attentive viewers will remember as the mysterious sentence spoken by Pierre Tremond five episodes earlier.
At the Palmer house, Maddy informs Leland and Sarah that she’s going home to Montana in a quietly astonishing single-take scene set to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”. The effect of this scene’s slow burn of sweetness is a sense of something being unidentifiably wrong, building an undercurrent of dread. Audrey, dressed in Dale-like investigative flannel, confronts Ben about his criminal doings and history with Laura. He confesses to sleeping with her, but when pressed about whether he killed her, responds only that he loved her. At the diner, a tearful Shelly tells Norma she has to quit to take care of Leo (who has begun muttering the phrase “new shoes” ad infinitum), and Nadine’s strange new strength causes her to shatter a glass accidentally, much to Big Ed’s horror.
Cooper pours over the secret diary recovered from Harold’s house, recording for Diane what he’s learned about Laura’s history of abuse at the hands of Bob, “a friend of her father’s”. When Audrey tells him about Ben’s confession, Cooper declares to Truman that they need a warrant for his arrest. The police interrupt Ben’s meeting with Tojamura by dragging him away in handcuffs. That night, Pete is startled to walk into his kitchen and find Tojamura, who kisses him and reveals herself to be Catherine in disguise.
While Hawk puts Ben in a holding cell, Cooper and Truman find Margaret, with her log, waiting to tell them that there are owls in the roadhouse. In the Palmer home, the Louis Armstrong record has ended and is spinning nonstop, lending the scenes that follow a classically Lynchian unnerving clicking sound. Sarah crawls down the stairs searching for Leland, clearly under the influence of the sedatives she’s been given since Laura’s death. Just before blacking out, she has a vision of an ethereal white horse in her living room. Cooper, Truman, and the Log Lady arrive at the roadhouse, where Julee Cruise is again performing on stage. As Cooper watches in horror, she is replaced by the Giant, who tells him calmly, “It is happening again.”
Leland stands before a mirror, and as we look from him to his reflection and back, suddenly Bob is in his place. Maddy enters the room, and he attacks. Lynch uses warped sound and spotlight visuals to create a multi-layered depiction of a vicious murder occurring on two planes of reality. Its horror was, at the time of its airing, unprecedented in the annals of network television, and still packs a punch today.
As the Giant fades away, the elderly room service attendant appears and tells Cooper simply, “I’m so sorry.” As some of the roadhouse’s clientele weeps inexplicably, Cooper stares off into space, knowing he has failed but unsure how. Cruise’s ethereal voice closes the episode as Lynch fades to a red curtain, simultaneously recalling the Red Room and symbolizing the end of a grand performance. The mystery of who killed Laura Palmer has ended, but the horror is just beginning.