Welcome to my First-Watch of the original 30 episodes of the 1990-91 television series Twin Peaks. Below are the bulletpointed notes I jotted down while watching the episode “Coma.”
- On this day in history, Maxi Priest had a #1 single with “Close to You.” I thought I didn’t know this song until I listened to it. It’s still forgettable.
- The Stephen King collection Four Past Midnight was still at the top of the bestseller list. All four novellas have probably been adapted for movies or miniseries by now. I know this is true for “The Langoliers” and “Secret Window, Secret Garden.” Characters and settings for “The Sun Dog” appeared in the second season of Castle Rock. Maybe “The Library Policeman” hasn’t been adapted. Yet.
- Also somewhere on the bestseller list: Prime Directive, a Star Trek novel by Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens.
- Today is Saturday, March 4 in Twin Peaks.
- This morning, AGENT DALE COOPER is having breakfast at the Great Northern Hotel with AGENT ALBERT ROSENFELD. As we join the two FBI men, Agent Cooper is explaining Tibetan tradition to Agent Rosenfeld, who doesn’t seem interested.
- To keep the viewer up to speed, Cooper also says that RONETTE PULASKI has awakened from her coma, but she’s not talking yet. The plans are to show her sketches of both LEO JOHNSON and the mysterious man with long gray hair known as BOB.
- Albert has determined, from the autopsy, that JACQUES RENAULT was smothered to death with a pillow, not strangled as previously thought. Also, the fire at Packard’s Sawmill was definitely arson, with Leo Johnson as the prime suspect.
- Agent Rosenfeld seems genuinely concerned when he asks how Agent Cooper is feeling. You know, with him being recently shot and all.
- Agent Cooper remarks that his ring is missing.
- Not to be outdone with non sequiturs, Agent Rosenfeld says that Cooper’s former partner, the institutionalized WINDOM EARLE, has also vanished into thin air.
- During this scene, there is a barber shop quartet in the background. Also, an ASIAN MAN hides behind a newspaper like a character in an old black-and-white movie, watching Cooper.
- Cut to: the Tremond House. DONNA HAYWARD is delivering Meals on Wheels to MRS. TREMOND (Frances Bay). There is also a child sitting in the room, wearing a jacket and bow tie. Mrs. Tremond says that she didn’t want creamed corn, and then the corn disappears from the tray and appears in the little boy’s hands. Mrs. Tremond says her grandson is studying magic. Alrighty then.
- Mrs. Tremond says she didn’t know LAURA PALMER well, but HAROLD SMITH (Lenny Von Dohlen) next door was Laura’s friend. Donna should talk to him.
- When Donna goes to the Smith House next door and knocks on the door, we cut back to the magician child, who says “J’ai une âme solitaire,” which translates to “I have a lonely soul.” He also says that Donna seemed like a very nice girl.
- Weirdness on top of weirdness.
- Cut to: Calhoun Memorial Hospital. Agent Cooper and SHERIFF HARRY S. TRUMAN enter Ronette Pulaski’s room. Ronette doesn’t finger Leo Johnson as the man who hurt her, but she reacts violently to the sketch of Bob. She seems to be trying to say the word “train.”
- Back at the Great Northern Hotel, BENJAMIN and JERRY HORNE are trying to decide which of the two ledgers from Packard’s Sawmill to burn. It is also mentioned that PETE MARTELL‘s signature is needed before JOSIE PACKARD can sell the land to them. One of the conditions of the deceased owner’s will was that CATHERINE MARTELL or her heirs had to approve of the sale. And since Catherine seems to be dead—
- Rather than decide which ledger to destroy now, the Brothers Horne decide to toast marshmallows instead.
- At the Double R Diner, DEPUTY ANDY BRENNAN is putting up a poster of the Bob sketch—which says “Have you seen this man?”—and has managed to wrap himself in tape. Oh, Andy.
- The LOG LADY sits at the diner counter next to MAJOR GARLAND BRIGGS. NORMA JENNINGS asks the Log Lady not to spit her gum on a booth this time. The Log Lady asks Major Briggs about his medals, then tells him that her log has something to say to him. “Deliver . . . the message.” The Major says he understands. That makes one of us.
- At the Sheriff’s Station, LUCY MORAN sits, watching a fly buzz around. Deputy Andy paces for a while outside before coming in. Lucy still seems to be mad at him. Deputy Andy tells Lucy that when he applied to be a donor at a sperm bank, he was told that he was sterile. Andy is concerned that Lucy’s baby isn’t his.
- HANK JENNINGS is in Sheriff Harry’s office. The sheriff tells Hank to sign in “like a good boy” and to keep his nose clean for another week. After Hank leaves, the sheriff tells Agent Cooper that he and Hank grew up together, and that Hank used to be one of the best of the Bookhouse Boys.
- Ben Horne finally calls Sheriff Harry and tells him that his daughter, AUDREY HORNE is missing, perhaps for as long as two days.
- Return to: Great Northern Hotel. Jerry Horne brings the unsigned insurance policy to his brother. He says Catherine Martell never signed it because of her concerns with Josie Packard being beneficiary. They decide to call the Icelanders, who tell the Hornes that their lawyer, LELAND PALMER, had already called to tell them about the fire. Ben tells Leland, who has also entered the office, to confine his activities to preparing his tax return. Leland sees the Bob poster on the table beside the couch. “I know him,” Leland says, then says he has to tell Sheriff Harry about it.
- As Leland leaves, Ben asks Jerry to kill Leland.
- Jerry says: “Is this real, Ben, or some strange and twisted dream?” A question the viewer can relate to.
- Back at Calhoun Memorial Hospital, DR. WILL HAYWARD explains to SHELLY JOHNSON that the bullet lodged in Leo Johnson’s spine was successfully removed. Too early to tell if Leo is paralyzed. He had lost a lot of blood. Shelly wants to know if they’re going to put Leo in prison.
- Cut to: Sheriff’s Station. Someone is calling for Sheriff Harry but refuses to give his name. Lucy hangs up on him.
- Meanwhile, across the border at One Eyed Jacks, Audrey Horne is bringing an ice bucket into a room where everyone’s favorite department store manager, EMORY BATTIS, is tied up, with his toenails painted while another girl is using a vacuum cleaner in the room. Audrey tells the other girl to leave, then unplugs the vacuum and wraps the cord around Emory’s neck. She threatens to tell her father about Emory, Laura and Ronette.
- Emory admits that he works for the owner of One Eyed Jacks, her father. He was responsible for recruiting both Laura and Ronette. He says that Benjamin Horne knew Laura Palmer, and that Laura always got her way, just like Audrey.
- That evening, down by the river, BOBBY BRIGGS and Shelly Johnson are parked in a car. Bobby tells Shelly that, as long as Leo is alive and not in prison, she can get his disability check. Over $5,000 a month. But, only if he’s at home. Bobby says that they can scam his money and still be together.
- Methinks this won’t go as smoothly as Bobby thinks it will.
- At the Great Northern Hotel, Agent Cooper is dictating his customary message to DIANE. He’s troubled by the disappearances of both Windom Earle and Audrey Horne. There’s a knock on the door. It’s Major Garland Briggs.
- Major Briggs tells Agent Cooper he has a message for him. Part of his work includes monitoring deep space monitors aimed at distant galaxies. Most of the communications they receive are “space garbage.” But, on the night Cooper was shot, they received a clear message: “The owls are not what they seem.”
- Rationally, Cooper wonders how Maj. Briggs knew the message was for him. Well, after the owl message, they received another message, the name “Cooper” repeated many times.
- A reminder: The X-Files was not on the air yet.
- Over at the Hayward House, JAMES HURLEY, MADDY FERGUSON and Donna Hayward are recording a song. James is playing guitar and singing. No one is playing drums or bass that I see, although I’m certain I can hear them. James and Maddy seem to be making goo-goo eyes at each other. Donna notices, then storms off, crying.
- When James comes after her, Donna and he begin to make out. Then, she receives a call from Harold Smith, who wants to meet with her.
- In the other room, Maddy has a vision of Bob coming over the couch, all creepy-like. Maddy screams and goes into hysterics. James and Donna go to her, but, of course, there’s no Bob there.
- Back at Great Northern Hotel, Agent Cooper dreams. The GIANT is there, telling him the owls are not what they seem. There are also flashbacks of Ronette dreaming of Bob, SARAH PALMER coming downstairs and an image of an owl superimposed over her vision of Bob. Bob laughing.
- The phone rings, interrupting Cooper’s dreams. It’s Audrey Horne, who wants to know why he isn’t there. She tells him that he looked handsome in his tuxedo and that she is in trouble.
- Cut to: One Eyed Jacks. BLACKIE O’REILLY and Emory Battis take the phone from Audrey and hang it up. Blackie says, “Miss Horne, you don’t know what trouble is, not by a long shot.”
- And the episode ends.
When the going gets tough, introduce new characters and complicate the plot. If your story has holes in it big enough to drive a truck through, no one will notice if you keep hurling mystery boxes at their heads.
From my vantage point outside of Twin Peaks, Washington, I’m looking at this episode as a whole and asking myself: “What’s the point?” Even when I suspect that it’s not true, I’m going to approach my review of each episode of this famous, influential series as if each episode has a purpose, a reason to justify its existence.
I’m having trouble with this one. Let’s break it down a bit.
We did learn that Windom Earle, Cooper’s former partner, has disappeared from whatever institution he was locked away in. This is a set-up for a future story thread, I’m sure.
The scene with Mrs. Tremond and the French-speaking child magician seemed to exist only to point Donna Hayward towards Harold Smith. Another future story thread set up. Okay.
The stuff with the Horne brothers, the ledgers and the unsigned insurance policy didn’t add anything new. Neither of the ledgers was destroyed. During one scene, we do find out that Leland recognizes the sketch of Bob and wants to tell the sheriff. Um. Future story thread.
Andy tells Lucy that he’s sterile and questions whether the baby she’s carrying is his. More to come on this, I suspect.
Bobby and Shelly plan to scam Leo Johnson’s disability money in another future thread.
A love triangle develops between James, Donna and Maddy. Future . . . eh, you get the joke by this point.
Nothing really happens in this episode. It’s all about positioning our huge cast of characters for the story lines coming down the pike. Even Maj. Briggs delivering his message from the stars to Agent Cooper (after having been told to do so by the Log Lady’s log), only reiterates the Giant’s “The owls are not what they seem” message, which means absolutely nothing. Still. Also, Cooper and the sheriff learn what the viewer already knew: that Audrey is missing. And, the resolution of that particular thread still lies in the future.
While the stylish weirdness of the show continues, it’s mostly spectacle over substance in this episode. The early part of a chess match, when pieces are being positioned on the board, is rarely the exciting part. Same is true here.
This gets two-out-of-five stars from me.
While “Coma” delivers a lot of what we’ve come to expect from this series—largely good-looking scenes with attractive actors, and a lot of smoke and mirrors—the overarching plot is getting as twisted as an improperly stored garden hose, with little apparent progress in the investigation.