Welcome to Twin Peaks:/\/\ First-Watch Recap: Season 2: Ep. 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (Original airdate Saturday, December 1, 1990) — a review

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 “Arbitrary Law.”

  • On this day in history, Ty Detmer, the Brigham Young quarterback, wins the 56th Heisman Trophy. He played professionally in the NFL for fourteen seasons, for six different teams, mostly in a backup role. While he never really became an NFL superstar, he seems to have defied the so-called Heisman curse. He’s never become a drug addict, committed suicide or killed anyone, as far as we know. He did, however, lose a lot of money in the Triton Financial Corporation fraud scheme between 2007 and 2009, if you want to keep the curse theory alive.
  • Also, French and English Chunnel workers meet 40 meters beneath the English Channel, establishing the “land” connection between England and France.
  • The next day, Sunday, December 2, both American composer Aaron Copland (90 years old) and actor Robert Cummings (80 years old) pass away. I knew Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” primarily because Emerson, Lake and Palmer did a cover version of it. I know more of his compositions without knowing the composer. For instance: “Hoedown from Rodeo,” which I just listened to, is familiar as well.
  • The #1 single in the US is “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” by Whitney Houston. Vanilla Ice is #1 in the UK with “Ice Ice Baby.” It had already hit #1 in the US back in November. This is a global conspiracy.
  • The In-Story Date is Saturday, March 11. I lost track over a couple of episodes.
  • After the normal synth intro and outdoors montage, our episode begins with a dissolve shot of a very dead MADDY FERGUSON. Then, a slow walking exterior shot of AGENT ALBERT ROSENFIELD (Welcome back, Albert), AGENT DALE COOPER, SHERIFF HARRY S. TRUMAN and DEPUTY HAWK, while the credits continue to roll.
  • I was surprised to see Agent Rosenfield, because DIRECTOR GORDON COLE, in a previous episode, said that Albert wouldn’t be back.
  • The director of this episode is Tim Hunter. Hunter has helmed many things that I’ve watched over the years, such as the movie River’s Edge, and episodes of the television shows Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, Dexter, and many other things that I will probably watch one day.
  • Agent Rosenfield says that Maddy’s death was definitely the work of the same person who killed LAURA PALMER.
  • There is the letter “O” under a fingernail. Strands of fur belonging to a stuffed white fox are in her right hand.
  • Agent Cooper asks Sheriff Harry for twenty-four hours to finish the case before the sheriff reports the murder.
  • Agent Rosenfield encourages Cooper to continue with his vision quest. He’s the only one who can do this.
  • This is an example of subverting expectations. When Rosenfield was first introduced as a character, I didn’t know that he would end up being as metaphysically-oriented as Agent Cooper himself. But, he’s weird, too.
  • Deputy Hawk adds: “You’re on a path. You don’t need to know where it leads. Just follow it.”
  • The Mystic Native American has become as much a character trope as the Magical Elderly African-American.
  • Double R Diner ||| A very dark diner, at that. DONNA HAYWARD and JAMES HURLEY meet. James gives Donna a ring, sliding it on the ring finger of her left hand.
  • Elsewhere on the same set, NORMA JENNINGS‘s mother, VIVIAN NILES, complains about the omelet she’s been served. There is definitely a fractured mother-daughter dynamic here.
  • DEPUTY ANDY BRENNAN, at the counter, is trying to say “J’ai une âme solitaire,” which is what was written on HAROLD SMITH‘s suicide note. Donna Hayward overhears as she and James approach.
  • Donna asks Andy if he knows MRS. TREMOND. This threw me for a second before I remembered that Harold Smith’s neighbor, Mrs. Tremond, had a grandson who was a cream-corned magician and who, I think, said the same thing, also in French.
  • Donna suddenly has a burning desire to find Agent Cooper, which she tells James Hurley. James, as usual, has no idea what’s going on. He has less self-awareness than Scooby-Doo. Like Deputy Andy.
  • Mrs. Tremond’s House ||| This is my idea of a scene transition. We jump cut to Donna accompanying Agent Cooper and Deputy Andy to Mrs. Tremond’s house. Donna tells Cooper that it was here that she heard the French phrase before it turned up in Harold’s final missive.
  • A woman comes to the door and claims to be Mrs. Tremond. But, she not the older woman who was here last time, the one with the grandson and the creamed corn. This Mrs. Tremond says her mother has been deceased for three years and didn’t have a grandson.
  • This is a bizarre turn of events that you might think would warrant deeper examination.
  • Instead, we discover that this new Mrs. Tremond actually has a letter from Harold Smith that she was instructed to give to Donna. This is convenient.
  • It turns out to be a page from Laura Palmer’s secret diary. Laura apparently had dreams about the red room, the same as Agent Cooper. An old man and a little man. She whispers into the old man’s ear.
  • Laura also writes that BOB is afraid of only one man . . . MIKE.
  • For her February 23 entry, she writes that tonight is the night I will die.
  • Agent Cooper says that he and Laura had the same dream. Deputy Andy is of the opinion that this is impossible. Cooper agrees, then asks the deputy to take Donna home. He has to go see PHILIP GERARD, also known as THE ONE-ARMED MAN . . . or Mike.
  • Great Northern Hotel ||| DR. WILL HAYWARD urges Agent Cooper to allow him to administer Gerard’s drug. But, not yet, Cooper says, because he needs to talk to “Mike,” and the drug cocktail makes the inhabiting spirit recede.
  • Mike tells Cooper that when he and Bob were killing together, theirs was the perfect relationship: appetite and satisfaction, a golden circle.
  • At the “golden circle” prompt, Agent Cooper says, “A ring. My ring. I gave my ring to the GIANT.”
  • Mike tells Cooper that the Giant can help him find Bob, but he must ask him first. He says Agent Cooper has all the clues he needs. The answer isn’t in his head, but in his heart.
  • In the hallway outside, Cooper runs into the old senile room service waiter, who says, “I know about you. That milk’ll cool down on you, but it’s getting warmer now.”
  • Getting warmer now,” Agent Cooper repeats, like a mantra.
  • Elsewhere in the Great Northern Hotel, in BENJAMIN HORNE‘s office, Agent Cooper stares at a taxidermy fox. Sheriff Harry tells Agent Cooper about finding a record of the call LELAND PALMER had mentioned, a call from this very office to Laura. Both men note the stuffed white fox. They think Maddy Ferguson was there. Agent Rosenfield says that Maddy died the night before last between 10 PM and midnight. He also gives the results of Ben Horne’s bloodtest.
  • Sheriff’s Station ||| Deputy Andy tells dispatcher/receptionist/Girl Friday LUCY MORAN that he wants to talk about their baby. Lucy says that maybe it’s not Andy’s baby. Andy calls DICK TREMAYNE and says that they need to talk.
  • Down in lockup, MR. TOJAMURA meets with Ben Horne, who says there has been a snag in signing the Ghostwood contract. Tojamura asks for his five-million-dollar check back, a check we know Ben gave over to JOSIE PACKARD. Ben says that his brother/lawyer JERRY HORNE is out looking for a better lawyer to represent Ben against this murder charge. Tojamura puts a manicured foot with painted toenails through the bars, and Ben realizes that Tojamura is CATHERINE MARTELL in disguise.
  • Ben kisses Catherine’s foot. He wants her to tell Sheriff Harry about being with him the night that Laura Palmer was killed. He willingly signs the Ghostwood contracts for Catherine.
  • Catherine says she’ll consider telling the sheriff.
  • Palmer House ||| Donna Hayward is there with Leland Palmer. She’s delivering the tape that she, Maddy Ferguson and James Hurley made together. She wants Leland to mail it to Maddy. Leland recognizes the sunglasses that Donna is wearing. They had been Laura’s. Donna tells Leland that Maddy gave them to her. Then she tells him about the secret diary and Harold Smith’s suicide.
  • During this scene, Maddy’s mother calls and tells Leland that Maddy never arrived home. Leland tells her not to worry about a thing
  • Of course, we know that Maddy Ferguson is dead and that Leland—or Bob, the inhabiting spirit within Leland—murdered her. Leland tells Donna that he’ll get them lemonade and they can give this a think. As Leland looks in the mirror to straighten his tie, Bob is staring back at him, gnashing his teeth.
  • Leland brings Donna a glass of lemonade that looks oddly orange on my computer monitor. He asks Donna to dance and it seems like he’s about to attack her to add to his body count when the doorbell rings.
  • Sheriff Harry tells Leland that they need his help: There’s been another murder.
  • Donna walks home, crying, guessing that the murdered victim is Maddy. James Hurley stops by on his motorcycle, and she tells him that the same person who killed Laura killed Maddy.
  • James says that they could have helped her. He adds that this is no good and it’s not going to work. Donna asks him not to leave her, but he says that nothing they do seems to matter and he rides off, leaving Donna crying.
  • What a prince. “It doesn’t matter if we’re happy and still the world goes to hell.”
  • Roadhouse ||| Ben Horne is there in a booth. Agents Cooper and Rosenfield are sitting at the bar. Sheriff Harry brings Leland in. BIG ED HURLEY comes in as well. Agent Cooper asks everyone to clear the room and make a large space in the center.
  • Deputy Hawk pushes LEO JOHNSON in his chair. BOBBY BRIGGS is there also.
  • Cooper tells those assembled that he needs magic to complete his investigation. He says that someone is missing.
  • MAJOR GARLAND BRIGGS comes in with the elderly room service waiter. “Right on time,” Agent Cooper says. It turns out that the old waiter flagged Maj. Briggs down and asked him to drive him to the Roadhouse. The waiter gives Cooper a stick of gum. Leland says that he knows that gum. It was his favorite when he was a kid. The waiter says that gum you like is going to come back in style.
  • This whole bizarre scene makes Agent Cooper recall his Red Room dream. This time, he remembers what Laura whispered into his ear.
  • My father killed me.”
  • Then, the Giant appears and drops Agent Cooper’s ring on the floor. Cooper picks it up.
  • Cooper asks Ben Horne to accompany him to the Sheriff’s Station. He also adds that he should bring Leland as his attorney.
  • Maj. Briggs, Bobby Briggs, and Big Ed Hurley stand there, looking confused. Cooper gives a “thumbs up” gesture to the old hotel waiter.
  • Sheriff’s Station ||| Leland asks if Ben is going to be charged. Cooper tells him that he is, then whispers his secret plan to Sheriff Harry. They pull the old switcheroo and throw Leland into the interrogation room.
  • Leland begins acting like a caged wild animal.
  • Cooper says that Ben Horne can be released, and that’s not Leland Palmer in the room. Sheriff Harry wants to know how Cooper knows all of these facts. Cooper says that Laura told him in his dream. The sheriff suggests that they may need stronger evidence than that. Cooper asks if a confession will suffice?
  • Leland/Bob sings like a canary. He confesses to killing both Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson. He says he has this thing for knives, just like that thing that happened to Agent Cooper in Pittsburgh that time.
  • Bob insists that Leland has been a good vehicle and a good ride, but now he’s weak and full of holes. It’s nearly time to shuffle off to Buffalo. Bob says that when he departs, he’ll force Leland to remember everything.
  • Sheriff Harry says that’s enough evidence for him.
  • Dick Tremayne shows up at the station. Lucy Moran asks him to come with her. She meets with both Dick and Deputy Andy in the conference room. She says that she’s keeping her baby. She says they will wait to conduct a paternity test until after the baby is born. Until then, she expects full cooperation from both gentlemen. Smoke from Dick’s cigarette curls up towards the smoke detectors.
  • Agent Cooper explains his dream connections to Sheriff Harry, Agent Rosenfield and Deputy Hawk. In his dream, the little man danced. Leland danced compulsively after Laura’s death. They were told Laura’s killer was a gray-haired man. After Leland murdered JACQUES RENAULT, his hair turned gray overnight.
  • Leland said that when he was young, the people who lived next door to him were the Robertsons. Mike said the people Bob inhabited were his children. They have collected the fingernail letters R-O-B-T. Robertson. Son of Robert. Bob was spelling his name. A signature on a dream self-portrait.
  • Cooper says that Leland saw the pages of Laura’s diary where she was writing about Bob. He tore the pages out. Leland placed the call to Laura from Ben Horne’s office at the Great Northern. He was the third man outside Jacques’ sex cabin window. He took the girls to the train car. It was his blood they found, not Ben Horne’s. Maybe he killed Maddy Ferguson because she reminded him of Laura or because he couldn’t bear to part with her.
  • Sheriff Harry, who has moments of clarity, says that Bob can’t really exist. Leland’s crazy, right?
  • Leland/Bob begins reciting that old, favorite poem: “Through the dark of futures past/The magician longs to see/ One chants out between two worlds/Fire . . . Walk with me.”
  • The smoke detector begins beeping and the sprinklers go off.
  • Leland begins screaming as he gets wet and then begins slamming his body against the door. Cooper calls the sheriff to unlock the room.
  • Leland, as promised by Bob, begins regaining memories of all that he’s done. Cooper tells someone to call an ambulance.
  • Leland says, “I was just a boy. I saw him in my dreams. He said he wanted to play. He opened me, and I watched him, and he came inside me.”
  • No one needs to point out how much this sounds like a repressed memory of childhood sexual abuse.
  • Leland admits that he killed Laura. They wanted her but she was too strong to allow them to take over, so then they wanted her dead. He also killed TERESA BANKS, which was the murder that eventually brought Agent Cooper to Twin Peaks.
  • Leland seems very remorseful. He’s also dying, it seems.
  • Cooper tells Leland the time has come to seek the path. He tells Leland that his soul has set him face-to-face with the clear light, and he is now about to experience it in its reality, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like a transparent vacuum without circumference or center. He tells Leland, in this moment, to know himself and abide in that state. Look to the light, Leland. Find the light.
  • This is the type of show where things like this can be said.
  • Leland sees the light, of course, and Agent Cooper gives him permission to go. Leland sees Laura in the light, and then he dies.
  • Later, in the woods, Sheriff Harry, Agents Rosenfield and Cooper encounter Maj. Briggs on a white-rock-lined path.
  • He was completely insane,” the sheriff says.
  • Think so?” asks Agent Rosenfield. “But people saw Bob. People saw him in visions. Laura. Maddy. Sarah Palmer.”
  • Maj. Briggs: “Gentlemen, there’s more in heaven and earth than is dreamt up in our philosophy.”
  • Amen,” says Agent Cooper.
  • The sheriff says he’s seen some strange things in these woods over his life, but he’s having a hard time believing now. Agent Cooper asks him if it’s easier to believe that a man would rape and murder his own daughter.
  • Maj. Briggs asks if it really matters what the cause of all this is. Cooper says it does, because its their job to stop it. Agent Rosenfield suggests that maybe that’s all Bob is: The evil that men do.
  • The sheriff wants to know where Bob is now, if he got away.
  • We cut to a POV shot of a ravine and a crashed car, and then an owl flying towards the camera.
  • End of episode.

Who killed Laura Palmer?”

This was the story question set up at the beginning of this series, and this episode—originally known as “Episode 16” before being given a title—seems to answer that question.

At least here on the physical plane of existence. Leland Palmer, that silver fox, murdered them all. Teresa Banks. Laura Palmer. Maddy Ferguson. Even Jacques Renault.

He failed to kill Ronnette Pulaski, apparently, but the series seems to have forgotten about her.

This episode gets extra points for answering a big story question and attempting to tie off many separate story threads. Simultaneously, however, we’re giving the now-late Leland Palmer an out by blaming the murder on the inhabiting spirit known as Bob. The series is no longer about solving the mystery of Laura’s death, if it ever was, but is about solving the mystery of Twin Peaks. Maybe.

We are less than midway through the second season, so the story is about to take another turn, I suspect.

In spite of all the metaphysical mumbo-jumbo, this was an entertaining episode. Another four-star outing for me.

I admit that it’s only curiosity that keeps me watching this show, however. From a story perspective, maybe that’s the lesson to be learned here. How to keep the viewer interested in finding out what happens next.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The owls aren’t what they seem

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