Okay, raise your hand if you think the whole Josie-dies-and-gets-turned-into-the-knob-of-a-nightstand development was a desperate shock twist decided upon one episode back? Do I hear two episodes? Jeez, that was silly. And it's silly in a particularly bothersome way since it coasts on the creepiness of Bob and the Man From Another Place and other signature Peaks images, employing them for a story development with a fraction of the power of the Laura Palmer story.
There's a lot of coasting going on here. Apart from revealing his tragic backstory, Coop hasn't done anything interesting in weeks. (Which I guess is just days in Peaks time, but still…) And consider Albert and Audrey. Who are these characters now? Audrey was the bad girl. Albert was the cynic with a deeply buried heart of gold but neither one has really been those characters in some time. Miguel Ferrer and Sherilyn Fenn are both so fully committed to the roles that it's possible to overlook that their characters have lost all definition. But only for a while.
It's a sad testament to the state of the show that the Big Ed/Super Nadine/Pie-Servin' Norma (sorry, I had to stretch for the modifier there) plot is the one generating the most heat. The Super Nadine stuff continues not to work but watching Ed and Norma get together is really a pleasure.
It's also a pleasure watching Richard Beymer as the newly saintly Benjamin Horne, even if that development is only slightly less silly than the Civil War-obsessed Ben Horne. And it's nice to see the Windom Earle plot at least gathers together Peaks' three female "teen" leads for the first time since… How long has it been? Leland's funeral? Laura's? And in another encouraging development, James apparently recognizes he's deadweight and rides off into the sunset in what has to be the most abrupt exit since Poochie. "I have to go now," he says. "My expressionless home planet needs me." Then the screen shows that James has been killed in a horrific motorcycle accident. Or at least that's the way I remember it.
Oh and Billy Zane shows up as Audrey's bland new love interest. Yes, those are crickets you hear. I can't really defend his character's importance to the show but I will say I've always liked Zane. Like Peter Gallagher, he's almost comically handsome but there's a subversive gleam in his eye even when he's engaged in the most stereotypical handsome man behavior. Like singing a cowboy song at a picnic. But I'm getting ahead of the show.
Back to the real action: Josie shoots Eckhardt then dies then gives way to Bob then turns into the knob of a nightstand via some really primitive computer effects. And the Man From Another Place returns, all in the span of a couple of minutes. I don't know if the term was in use back then, but no doubt IRC chats and Compuserve message boards were filled with variations on "WTF?!?" or its 1991 equivalent.
Let me echo that sentiment now. This seems pretty desperate. This was also the last episode the dwindling number of Peaks faithful would get to see for a while. It aired on February 16, at which point ABC yanked the show from its schedule with guarantee of it ever returning. So let's have a moment of silence out of respect.
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Oh, and the episode gets…
So, assuming that Peaks is keeping with its rarely violated one-episode-equals-one-day approach, Harry has gone straight from the scene of Josie's death directly to the binge drinking stage of grief. (Which, if a remember my Elisabeth Kübler-Ross correctly falls between "anger" and "bargaining.") He's in pretty bad shape, which is not how we're used to seeing Harry and Michael Ontkean plays it well.
While Harry looks a little worse for wear the show itself feels a bit refreshed by the break. The stuff that's funny is actually pretty funny. The pine weasel riot is over the top but it still features the return of David L. Lander and this immortal warning to a panicked crowd who might injure the pine weasel gone wild: "He's already endangered!" And who knew that Gary Hershberger, the actor who plays Mike, could be funny? His scene checking into the Great Northern with Nadine is really nicely executed, particularly once the two classmates dressed like Blossom show up. (It's a rare instance of the early-'90s making a surprise appearance in the mostly timeless town of Twin Peaks.) The Earle plot is picking up steam, too. In spite of the lace-thin disguise he wears, his scene with Donna has some genuine creeps. (Was anyone else reminded of the Joyce Carol Oates story "Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been?") Then there's the creepily filmed moment of the newly saintly Ben showing up at the Hayward house. This story thread won't really go anywhere interesting but it's a nice moment.
Still, in case you somehow forgot you were watching late-period Peaks we still have Audrey and Billy Zane's picnic to deal with and the arrival of a surprisingly unglamorous Heather Graham as Coop's new love interest. Coop and Audrey have 10 times the chemistry together as they do with their new partners and both plots feel like a waste of sparks. And while I was surprised to find myself enjoying pine weasel-gone-wild scene it's still a pretty serious break in the tone of the show, not to mention the style. I doubt that Lynch and Frost ever thought the show would employee a WeaselCam. Nonetheless, though we've definitely come a long way from the place we started but it feels like we're starting to head back in the right direction again.