Here’s something that has become increasingly clear to me by the sixth episode of this show. No one on Twin Peaks is what they seem. In many ways, of course, I began watching the show with that idea. I expected duplicity and complication and revelation. But it’s only natural to seek out some foothold in the tangles of the narrative. You search for your protagonists. And we get protagonists: Agent Cooper, Donna, James, Truman. And we get some obvious villains: Leo, Bobby, Catherine Martell. But to an admirable degree, the show isn’t content to stay bound to these categories. No one is what they seem. The nice people all have surprisingly dark depths, and the creeps all have unexpected vulnerabilities.
More on that in a moment, but first some catch up on the plot: Cooper and Truman discover a cabin in the woods where they suspect the murder took place. They find a rare bird, some twine, and part of a poker chip from a nearby brothel. All these clues tie into evidence found on Laura’s body (bite marks, ligature marks, piece of a chip in her stomach). Meanwhile, Hank Jennings (the husband of Norma Jennings, the owner of the RR Diner) has returned from prison. He beats up Leo, who has apparently been running Hank’s drug trade in his absence. Leo goes home and slaps around his wife Shelley (who works as a waitress at the RR Diner). What Leo doesn’t know is that Shelley and her secret boyfriend Bobby Briggs have been planning for this moment. Shelley draws a gun and shoots Leo. We don’t see Leo get hit, though, so I’m prepared for pretty much anything to happen next. The episode ends with Cooper returning to his hotel room to find Audrey Horne naked in his bed.
I mentioned in an earlier post that Twin Peaks seems to be a rough place to grow up. It’s a doubly hard place to be in love. In this town, love is the exclusive domain of betrayers and the betrayed. Those dark depths and unexpected vulnerabilities I referred to earlier almost all seem to unfold via sex. Norma is cheating on Hank with Big Ed. Big Ed is cheating on his crazy one-eyed wife with Norma. Shelley is cheating on Leo with Bobby, who was cheating on Laura, who was cheating on Bobby with James, who was falling in love with Donna. Mr. Horne is cheating on his wife with Catherine Martell behind the back of her sister-in-law, the widow Josie Packard, who is having a secret relationship with Sheriff Truman, but we find out in this episode that Horne and Packard are secretly having an affair. In ways that have yet to be revealed, all of this seems to go back to Laura Palmer. She’s the center of the spider web.
On this last point, perhaps the most intriguing development in this episode is the meeting between Bobby Briggs and Dr. Jacoby. The doctor questions the normally defensive Bobby about Laura, and Bobby seems to crumble, revealing an aspect of Laura that has hitherto gone unreported. Almost crying Bobby says:
She said that people tried to be good. But they were really sick and rotten on the inside, her most of all. And every time she tried to make the world a better place, something terrible came up inside her and pulled her back down into hell, and took her deeper and deeper into the blackest nightmare. Each time it got harder to go back up to the light […] She wanted so much. She made me sell drugs so she could have them.
This speech puts us in new territory. Bobby Briggs—continuing a line of development that began in the previous episode at Laura’s funeral—reveals unexpected dimensions here. Since we have no reason to doubt what he’s saying, what he’s saying seems particularly revelatory. What darkness was inside Laura Palmer? Was it part of the darkness in the woods that Sheriff Truman talked about in the last episode? Most interesting, perhaps, is Bobby’s assertion that he was selling drugs for Laura. She “made me sell drugs.” What does that mean exactly? Clearly this ties Laura to both Leo and Hank in ways that are new, but what’s most haunting here is Bobby’s apparent fear, not of either of those two men of violence, but of Laura herself. Who was Laura Palmer?
The ending of the episode is fun. It’s a lift straight out of The Big Sleep. Our weary hero comes home from a hard day’s detecting and finds a beautiful woman naked in his bed. Something tells me the next episode won’t begin with a sex scene, but I also suspect it won’t begin with Cooper throwing her out in sex-hating Marlowe fashion, either. He’s too much of a gentleman, and not nearly enough of a misogynist.
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