TP Countdown Day 11: Arbitrary Law

I wanted this episode to be better than it was. I wanted to like it better than I did. I wanted it to be as good as I remembered it, but it wasn’t. 

It had it’s moments, don’t get me wrong, but even with three credited writers behind it, it was kind of a great big mess. And I think it’s because this is what happens when ordinary people are left to clean up after David Lynch.

If there’s one incredibly important thing that this episode does incredibly badly, is struggle to connect Leland Palmer’s reveal as the killer to Cooper’s dream way back in episode three. And I think part of the reason it’s done so badly because, first, I’m not sure the dream, as formed in David Lynch’s imagination, was ever meant to be taken this literally, and second, because even if it was, I don’t think those literal translations were meant to come at us this quickly.

Even Cooper comes off looking bad here. After all his investigative work, he’s ultimately left looking to “magic” to help him solve this case, bringing a handful of relevant people to the Roadhouse, and waiting for divine intervention. When Senor Droolcup arrives, accompanied by Major Briggs, he offers some gum to Cooper and Leland. Leland is excited to see the gum, which he says he used to chew when he was younger, and Drollcup says, “That gum you like is going to come back into style.”

And then giant comes back and gives Cooper back his ring, which should have already happened, actually, because he promised to bring the ring back after his three predictions had come true, and they’d been true for awhile. But I digress. The point is that ace FBI Agent Dale Cooper solved the case because a 100 year old man brought some gum. And that’s pretty sad.

So now that I’m feeling sad about this episode, Iet’s talk about the one great thing.

There’s a brief sequence, from the moment that Leland is shoved into the holding cell at the Twin Peaks Sheriff Station, to the moment that Leland dies, is pretty great. Ray Wise gets to do some great acting again, and we get a moment to actually hear from the mysterious BOB who we’ve been searching for for so many weeks now. And after BOB smashes Leland’s head against the bars numerous times, leaving Leland to die on the floor of the cell, Cooper’s attempt to cleanse Leland’s soul and help him into the light is weirdly moving.

For people who enjoy satisfying endings, that moment, as Leland passes on, might be the very best place to stop watching Twin Peaks. Laura’s killer has been found and dealt with. Many of the other plots have either been resolved or, at the very least, put on a kind of hold before they mutate into something much worse. And you get to avoid the not terribly great mid-season episodes.

And, until recently, it would have allowed you to avoid the extraordinary cliffhanger of the series finale, which surely left people who enjoy satisfying endings tearing their hair out. Granted, there’s now a third season coming more than 25 years later, but knowing Lynch, I wouldn’t be so sure that at the end of those 18 episodes you’re going to be particularly satisfied. He’s not exactly a “let’s make sure everyone’s happy at the end” kind of guy.

As for everyone else planning to continue on, we’ll have Lucy’s pregnancy, developments with the mill land and Ghostwood properties, the ending of James and Donna’s relationship, and desperate attempts to keep a certain FBI agent in town despite the fact that his job there is very unambiguously complete.

Speaking of Donna and James, I realized as watched their attempts to rekindle their romance over the past two episodes, that they had been struggling and apart so long, that I actually had no investment at all in their relationship, and, in fact, no idea if they even should be together. So when James finally ditches Donna this episode, I was like, “Okay, see ya later.” Though I guess he had to go. Now that Laura’s killer’s been found, there isn’t really any more mischief for those two to get in to.

And while I can’t find any way to comfortably segue to mentioning it, I absolutely need to fucking dutch angles in this episode. Seriously, there were so many I would almost swear we were in the Netherlands.

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