TP Countdown Day 5: Slaves and Masters

I think the problem that I have with James is that, as a character, he’s really only defined in regards to his relationship with other people. He doesn’t really have any personality of his own, besides a leather jacket and a pout, which isn’t too much to start with. All we know about him comes in the form of his connections to other people – Laura, Donna, Maddie, Big Ed, and most recently, Evelyn.

I can understand how this happened. Looking back at the early episodes of Twin Peaks it’s easy to see how, with an ensemble show like this, you might start out with a few characters as nothing more as caricatures with the intention of filling them in and fleshing them out as the story unfolds. So maybe you start with the biker dude, the school jock, the kind best friend, the crazy one-eyed lady obsessed with drape runners. All of these are pretty standard cliches in drama.

And then gradually, you begin to fill them in. They gain more depth, more character, and that has worked, with varying success, for most of the loosely defined characters in Twin Peaks.

Except for James Hurley.

That’s why, I think, most plotlines haven’t involved him in anything but the most tangential of ways, and why when he finally did get a big, juicy subplot all to himself, it never really clicked. Because even in those moments where he’s supposed to be the center of attention, he’s really just a cliche. Which is why I’m glad this horrible mess with him and Evelyn finally appears to be over, because holy crap are these last few moments pretty terrible. After Donna and James escape the Marsh’s estate, Donna tries to reach Big Ed for help, but when that doesn’t pan out, James decides to return to the scene of the crime to ask Evelyn why she set him up, because of course that’s going to well.

Except it does, at least for a little bit, until Evelyn’s brother who isn’t Evelyn’s brother after all shows up and knocks James unconscious. He wants to kill James, completing the frame up job, but Evelyn isn’t sure about that, because I guess she has some amount of remorse. Suddenly Donna bursts into this chaos and starts screaming about how she can’t do this to James, and please don’t, and please, and somehow Evelyn’s brother who isn’t her brother doesn’t just shoot both of them. Instead, Evelyn takes the gun and shoots her brother who isn’t her brother, and then I think maybe James and Donna just sit there, but maybe they escape – I’m not sure, I think I might have missed something because my eyes had rolled so much they were in the back of my head.

Another couple of characters who seem to be unfortunately defined by their relationships with other characters are Big Ed and Norma Jennings, who are almost entirely defined by their relationship – or lack thereof – with each other. Which is why it’s sort of nice that they finally managed to get together this episode, even though that moment is somewhat diminished by the way they immediately go back to complaining about how long it’s been since they were together, and how life isn’t fair. We get, you guys.

When Nadine comes home to catch the lovebirds in bed together, there’s a moment where it seems things could turn ugly, but instead Nadine gives them her blessings, because now she’s free to pursue things with Mike.

And while I had complained about Ben Horne’s civil war subplot in the past, I feel a bit like I’ll miss it now that it’s finally resolved. It wasn’t the best of the season, but it was hardly the worst, and seeing Ben’s extended family – including Jerry, Audrey, Bobby, and even Dr. Jacoby – trying to help the man get back to sanity was strangely affecting. Also, getting Ben back into devious business mastermind territory isn’t something I’m entirely looking forward to.

Finally, things with Windom Earle continue to escalate. His relationship with Leo turns rapidly to one of master and slave – as the title of this episode might indicate – with Earle affixing an electric dog collar to Mr. Johnson, and zapping the poor fellow whenever  he misbehaves. Earle also begins to put into motion a plan to choose a “queen” which is surely connected to his chess game with Cooper.

Of course it’s not just about the game. It’s about poking at his old partner, which he continues to do. Albert arrives this episode to inform Coop that Earle has been sending packages to law enforcement departments around the country, each package containing a piece of Caroline’s wedding dress. And then later, as if that wasn’t enough, Earle leaves Caroline’s death mask on Coop’s bed, an invasion that is both physical and emotional.

Oh, and it turns out Josie was the one who shot Cooper at the end of season one. Would have seen that coming?

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