[Review by Jay Yencich]
[Writer: Harley Peyton | Director: Tina Rathborne | Aired: 04/26/1990]
The good ship Twin Peaks Ship is now sailing out of the safe and coherent harbor of the first triptych of episodes, all penned and mostly directed by the Frost/Lynch team (with the exception of the more modest stewardship of Duwayne Dunham, but then what 90s kid would complain about the man who brought us Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey?). Now in fully uncharted waters, with series staple Harley Peyton writing and Tina Rathborne of a more modest curriculum vita directing, we find ourselves asking a different set of questions about what’s to come, while entering an episode that should be big for most of the cast: Laura Palmer’s funeral.
One of the litmus tests I like to use to determine whether a script for an ongoing series is doing enough is to evaluate not so much what it does with its protagonist, but what it is able to do for the supporting cast even when this might not be “their” episode. Let’s pull up some examples here.
In the build-up to the funeral, Ed is standing around in formal attire (read as: bolo tie). Nadine, unconnected to Laura in any meaningful way, rushes in neither dressed to the occasion (except for the black) nor emotionally reflecting the couple’s destination. Instead, she coos, kisses with an equal mixture of nervous energy and sloppiness, and solicits affection and compliments, eye shut to her surroundings and circumstances. She recalls how she used to jealously see Ed with Norma in high school, thinking that if only, if only she were able to get through to him, Ed would realize how special she was and they would be “together forever.” Ed stares into the intermediate distance, gloomy, stroking her hair, unresponsive save for slight twitches at the corner of the mouth, a swallow now and then.
While the entertainment value of Nadine acting out and Ed responding like a henpecked, perpetually perplexed husband has been high, this scene elevates it from the verbal slapstick it had resided in. There’s pathos in Ed’s performance, as consoler and victim for a tempestuous woman with a myopic and often self-centered viewpoint. You can see how volunteering little observations about the décor or her dress, whether he’s actually interested or not, is his way of doing maintenance on the relationship to keep it from backfiring on him. So too do you feel a bit for Nadine who has gone on in a decades-long marriage where her husband is her entire world, and yet what she can provide him and receive in return is still inadequate to the task of resolving her own feelings of inferiority, further compounded by Ed’s secretly carrying on with that first love of his life. It’s all on key, wouldn’t change a thing.
Then James saunters through the front door. “We don’t want to be late, are you ready?” “I’m not going.” “It’s Laura, James.” “I can’t. I just can’t.” “James! (door slams).” And we’re right back to it with him. Understanding that James is the “still waters run deep” archetype throughout, there’s only so much you can do, but here we get a juxtaposition in one scene between two very different senses of craft. Where Nadine tries and fails— without realizing it— to have an intimate moment with Ed and we get the intense camera scrutiny on the both of them, reading the miniscule details of facial twitches and eye movements, James stands there, framed in the doorway, saying nothing that we didn’t already expect of him. You can’t read anything from his body language, except he looks vaguely rattled— a default expression for him— you can’t read anything from the tone, there’s nothing to be learned from the camera’s framing of him, and little in how he enters that might betray any thought process he could be undergoing. Even seeing his aunt and uncle in such an embrace registers nothing. A pivotal moment for him is wholly squandered.
Here’s an alternate take on the same idea. Ed’s preoccupied because he left a message for James saying that he’d pick him up at x hour and there was never a reply. He makes some remark to Nadine about maybe needing to rouse the boy and takes off. Cut away to James in a room. He’s plucking away at his guitar, but nothing seems to be resolving into a song, though we can hear perhaps a bit of a melody or chord progression that will turn into something he’ll later play for Donna and Maddy. James continues futzing with the guitar, adjusting the tuning, and one of the strings pops, drawing blood as it snaps up at him.
Getting up to retrieve a replacement and maybe a bandage, the camera follows James around his living space. What kind of place does he live in when his mother is off doing whatever? Is it orderly? Is it sparse? Neglected? Does it appear more as if he’s a tenant in someone else’s home? James returns with a new guitar string as Ed pulls up in the driveway. Ed sees James in the window and begins calling out to him, pointing out that he might regret it if he stews too long, though not overly pressing the matter (he and James have that understanding, as Ed is also talking to a version of himself). Maybe Ed mentions James father, who is presumably his own brother and died when James was old enough to remember it, but James doesn’t respond. James picks up the guitar and retreats deeper into the house. Ed, having seen the gesture before, shrugs and drives away.
Perfect? Hardly. I came up with the idea while I was in the shower one morning. But it gives James something to do without needing to say much; we can just take an evaluation of his actions, sneak a little backstory in for him via the setting, and get the faintest bit of cross-referencing in that would later reward us with a slightly better look at Ed and a new and vexing emotional dimension to James playing songs for Donna/Maddy that he wrote while thinking about Laura.
These are the problems one faces applying scrutiny to an episode like “Rest in Pain.” In its better moments, I plays out with a real understanding of the characters and memorable, thoughtful dialogue. In its worse, it views like clumsy fan fiction and has a direction that doesn’t do it any favors. And as a sum, well, the episode feels insufficient as send-off to one of television’s most famous Macguffins.
But I am surely a fan of the show, so let’s go through some more of the good things the episode does before reviewing my frustrations with it. The recounting of the dream sequence, once we get to it, plays up well with the characters even if it reiterates material from the previous episode/international pilot. There’s Cooper’s enthusiasm for breakfast slightly exceeding his eagerness to tell his story, Truman asking “Tibet?” as soon as the dream is mentioned, Lucy intently transcribing instructions of limited relevance (and gaping at the Mike and Bobby implications), and the diversion into talking about the synaptic chemicals behind dreams. I’m usually one to shove back if I feel like a show is dawdling and I think the little bits of callback reaction here are enough to make the scene not a problem for me. Practically, it also serves to let new viewers get acclimated after the burst of hype that likely followed “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer” [1×03]
The subsequent scene at the morgue continues an early run of viewing goodness layered with deeper messages. An initial viewing will take a lot of its joy in pitting Albert and all of his blustering bombast against an emotionally raw Doc Hayward, and Peyton’s skills are well-attuned to bringing this to life. The two sides are irreconcilable, with Hayward emphasizing decency and humanity and Albert thinking himself a paragon of these traits merely for showing up and attempting his forensic work in less than superb conditions. The more rational appeals of Ben Horne are slightly better received (“stupidity, however, is not necessarily an inherent trait”) and just as ineffectual until Doc pulls the plug on the drill, Truman and Cooper show up, and the good sheriff uses a more physical means of communication to get his message across.
As a viewer gets acclimated to the series and its various tones, they’ll note how Albert’s language is coded with a dismissal of everything rural about Twin Peaks, “backwater,” “forgotten,” “sinkhole,” “yokel,” “hayseed.” For Albert, the town is an inconvenience, from its location to its dearth of modern equipment to the sheltered life of its inhabitants that demands that he, ever so graciously, explain the nature and rigor of his work. Likely, the opinions he came in with were preformed and little could dislodge him from them. But the tension is predominantly between him as a committed outsider and Cooper as a more sympathetic voice who is willing to take in the environment on its own merits and intercede to get Laura buried even at the cost of his own investigation. Cooper’s more gracious opinions would be less convincing without a voice posed against him and Albert plays a fine heel there. It’s hardly incidental that Coop later starts talking about property purchases moments after he tells Albert and his official report off.
Another positive comes from Invitation to Love being used in its usual meta way. The cast listing with the Jade/Emerald connection is an obvious and quick “heads up” to the Maddy/Laura duality incoming. A bit more subtle is the fact that, from the TV, we hear cries of “Daddy! Daddy!” moments before we see Maddy in all of her angular shoulder-padded, tortoise shell glasses, messy-haired dorky splendor. All we need to know, that Leland is going to project on her, is already present.
The layer beneath that? The father figure on the television is penning a letter outlining his various disgraces and how he’s going to commit suicide in order to spare his family further ignominy. Leland, at the funeral, will make his dive onto the coffin, an attempt at oblivion, and Sarah will scream at him “Don’t ruin this too!” The TV-within-TV father takes his choice of death as a noble way of going out, but Leland is left not only to embarrass himself but have everyone make merriment out of his grief. Immediately too, as Shelley re-enacts the funeral scene to the diner patrons with a napkin dispenser as prop.
But turning back to that early scene, we also see that Leland, like Sarah before him, is being sedated as if doing so were commonplace, so much so that the nurse can answer the doorbell while he remains oblivious. Given there are two minds operating within Leland, does the sedation allow one or the other to come to the fore more readily? The developments later with Gerard/MIKE certainly would lend some plausibility to the notion. Are we also to infer, from the soap opera’s narrative, that Leland himself is suicidal in this moment? Does that mean that Maddy both saves and finally destroys him? Items to consider moving forward, which will take place of a proper “Speculation” section for this round.
Move forward we will for now, skipping ahead to the quintessentially American Briggs residence with its flag, RV, picnic table, TV antenna, and cinderblock exterior overlooking an well-trimmed lawn. These features alone at enough to slide the scene into the positive category, along with any opportunity to get Don S. Davis to make speeches. There are good bits to it, Bobby’s hair-trigger temper, recoiling as the Major rests his hand on Bobby’s shoulder, Bobby playing with the lighter’s flame. I suppose most of what I appreciate in it is Bobby; something about Garland seems off in this moment. The vocabulary, grammatical tics (appositives!), syntax, they’re all capably ventriloquized, and yet I’m less convinced of the intent, as the theme of Garland’s little talk, responsibility, doesn’t match up with what is happening. The show needs the two of them to be at odds, once again, but where I initially sympathized with the father, now I’m seeing how presumptuous he was through the son, for his shoehorning in of a irrelevant lesson.
I have little more to add on Albert’s report save that the expository details: Cooper’s cocaine assumption proves true, the twine analysis ties immediately both to the dream (“sometimes my arms bend back”) and the idea of crucifixion so conveniently placed for us through the Jesus figure at the Briggs home, the ingested poker chip points again to One-Eyed Jack’s, and the bite marks will eventually bring Waldo to the cast temporarily, while Albert’s “look, it’s trying to think” provokes a few enraged twitches, but nothing more from Truman. This, again, helps the new viewers get their footing and shouldn’t lose points for lacking the fresh material of other scenes.
Since Ed and Nadine, I’ve already gone to great lengths on, Audrey and her hiding spot in the Great Northern is the next plus scene. I have understandable reservations about so obvious a secret door going undetected, though it does serve to bring a little substance in. It means that Audrey herself does not need to be present in order to observe the bickering of her parents, for example. Negatively, it undermines some of the secrecy that Ben has, as when he excused himself and Jerry from the table in the previous episode. One doesn’t have to imagine too fervently in order to get to where Audrey overhears one of her father’s more untoward dealings, which diminishes both the value of the hiding spot and the value of the surprise later.
What I prize, probably more than any involvement Audrey has in the scene, is Dr. Jacoby trying to negotiate with Johnny about the headdress and their slow commiseration as they rock back and forth, forehead to forehead. Both are in positions of feeling things about Laura they can’t really express, Jacoby because of the confidentiality, Johnny because of his developmental issues. But that in focus, I have misgivings both about Jacoby not showing up to the funeral (he can coax Johnny out and then somehow pull off an Irish goodbye?) and later showing at the gravesite. There’s a romanticism to the cloaked figure with hat and flowers, but I feel as if, even though it touches on Jacoby’s professional detachment and his own attempts to overcome it, what he offers as explanation is bereft of a unique insight that could be his alone to claim. Instead, his lines fall somewhere between “Bobby” and “James” in rationale. “Laura is the one, I am not a good person, etc.”
I get too far ahead of myself. I’m not fully into negative territory yet as I have some material to praise in the Packard cabin scene as Josie and Truman confer on the ledgers. I’ve never strongly felt the chemistry between the couple. Nevertheless, I can delight in the deviousness of Catherine listening in over the intercom and then immediately rubbing Pete’s nose in it, about his collaboration with “the merry widow.” Superficially, this might come off as an abrupt squelching of the ledger reveal that was so important to the last scene here, but it retains a cleverness in how, as meticulous as the show can be with its details, Josie’s recollection of what Catherine says is nowhere to be found in the canon. And why would Catherine have reason to refute it? Based on what we’ll come to know in season two, Josie could be making the whole thing up just to get one more ally.
Ending on another certain positive, I would laud the rare instance of Hawk having anything to do in this episode by way of his conversation with Coop about the soul. Sure, it’s clichéd to have the token Native American carry the torch of mysticism, but I think Hawk is enough his own character to justify falling back on a well-used trope. Of particular interest for the show’s mythos is the discussion of multiple souls, divided between dreaming and waking. The discussion helps buttress the earlier dream sequences and emphases recounted by Cooper, but one idea I find myself newly stuck on is the selective use of plurals by Hawk.
It slips by rather quickly, as the camera sticks to Leland, smiling, content, head tilted to the ceiling, hands opening and closing to the music. Hawk claims, for the waking life, that there are “souls,” “more than one,” as Coop might say. Surely, we can be of two or more minds on this or that question, but for Twin Peaks, we are engrossed from its very name the idea of multiplicities. From Laura/Maddy, to Black and White Lodges, and the two spirits at work in MIKE, Leland, and eventually Cooper, it’s one more complement to the overarching scheme.
But for dreaming, there is a singular mind, the “mind that wanders,” an ongoing subconscious narrative. “One and the same” as the Giant and the Room Service Waiter will eventually explain. This hints that there could be a specific underlying truth to the show and its happenings, but as it’s in that liminal life/death, dream/waking space, it could be insensible, and do us little good. As Hawk says, returning from the mystic back to the concrete, the only certainty is that Laura as she was known is in the ground. With that, the living are attended to and the law enforcement officials escort a broken Leland, partnerless, away from the dance floor.
It’s probably Cooper’s best involvement with the plot of the episode, which in and of itself constitutes a rather large complaint that I have again and again. It’s that the script wants to make homage to various Cooper trademarks without understanding how or why they worked. After we focus on the waterfall for, let’s face it, a few moments too long given the intensity high we ended on, we move into Audrey in wait for Cooper with a frilly red top meant to accentuate her… finer points. We look forward to this because Cooper previously was plainly taken in by her charms and Audrey, for her part, was playing it up with a rather adult cunning, albeit one that could be mimicked from romantic movies.
The encounter here has no electricity. Instead, it has Audrey, more childlike, calling Cooper by the wrong title as an adorable, endearing mistake. Leagues away from her prior tactics, which had been successful. Coop regards her as a child too, or a curiosity, and the remarks on her perfume aren’t sincere so much as a segue to move from the scented note of the previous episode to confirming that she wrote it. Subtler are the few glances he gives her as she excuses herself from the table, which corroborate with the abrupt change of heart. Their relationship takes a few awkward steps in another direction without any clean explanation as to why.
Since a good number of my complaints follow Cooper, why not just run with it? When I appreciate Cooper of the first few episodes, I appreciate how he’s a protagonist and takes a leadership position in the cast, but doesn’t overly force himself into anything that isn’t his domain. He’s deferential to Truman on matters of the town, and when he makes his cunning little observations, they’re grounded in observable data. In “Traces to Nowhere” [1×02], we get to Cooper’s conclusion about Harry seeing Josie through Cooper visibly smirking at Harry’s body language and how he leans in, rapt, as she talks. This is engaging for an audience because we know that, to some degree, we can keep up and are playing a slightly more active role in the solving of the murder ourselves.
An example that we get from this episode: Pre-funeral, Harry and Cooper head to Leo’s shack and after some charming observations on ducks (one of the most wondrous animals in the world, according to Lynch), we track Leo down to chopping wood, Leo the, if not hardened, then at least congealed criminal. Leo willfully ignores the two men in favor of his task and Cooper calls him out for lying about whether he knew Laura. It provokes a response, sure, but was it body language again? A bluff? Anything we ourselves can see or have explained? Nope. Cooper said it was a lie, we must concede it is.
Worse, is the stretch in the Double-R when the drug subplot comes to the fore. Aside from the points it scores with the line “this must be where pies go when they die,” the whole thing begins on uneasy footing with the showcase bet as to whether Coop will figure out the Ed/Norma relationship. Which he does. Despite not facing in Ed’s direction since arriving, and certainly not during Norma’s stop by. Which leaves Norma as evidence, except all she offers a sudden shift to seriousness in a long glace after taking the order, and even then, it’s phrased with Ed having been in love with her. Is that the best conclusion? It could be little more than “you really trust that guy?” or “you’re having this conversation here?” It’s cute on the first viewing, but the callback is ultimately barren.
The necessity of the diner scene is that it allows Truman to reveal The Bookhouse Boys and get Cooper invested in the shadier doings of the town. The Bookhouse as one force at play is something to appreciate in the large scheme, but the payoff here is lacking. We talk of mysterious agents in the woods, build up a good versus evil dynamic generations long, and then go off to interrogate a clumsy boy with a bad French-Canadian accent about his crossing the border with some cocaine. Hardly the mythic conflict it was made up to be, unless you’re a Francophobe or have PTSD flashbacks to the D.A.R.E. sessions in junior high. Furthermore, Cooper goes from having an extreme professional discretion (this likely crosses over some FBI stipulations) to being point man in grilling Bernard while Hawk and Ed, two elite members of this society, and two squires in Joey and James, serve the role of scenery. It’s aggravating.
But there are other scenes without our protagonist that I take umbrage with. I can tolerate some ogling and minor flirtation with Norma being shot down with references to Homicidal Hubby Hank, but that it’s the parole officer of all people doing it is just silly when his job is ostensibly to ease transitions. Then again, that’s probably the most glaring non-Cooper incident.
“Rest in Pain” is an episode fraught with conflicting responses for me both as a critic and someone who experiences an emotion on occasion. The dialogue is as snappy as it’s ever been and there were times when I wanted to transcribe the whole damned thing. Certain little exchanges between the characters are monumental in our understanding of them. But the direction doesn’t give us much, multiple opportunities are squandered throughout (James, Donna being non-factors), and in its worse moments, the characters act like they’re taking part in a fan homage that lacks the rigor of the original. On average, it’s surely competent, I’ve outlined more positives than negatives, but it bounces between joy and groans and as a sum, I just don’t think it holds up well on repeated viewings.
No scene would better encapsulate that sentiment than the very funeral itself, which I’ve heretofore dodged and juked out of the way of. We’re all going to remember Johnny’s “AMEN” and how it sparks within Bobby an impromptu tempest and the strongest confirmations yet of Laura’s dark and light dualities, emphasizing the dark. Leland’s dive onto the coffin is wonderful for the reasons I’ve already detailed and how it elicits that uncomfortable humor the show does so well with. The wind, the trees, the setting, there’s much going on here.
And yet, it never seems like enough. Perhaps this is the point. Perhaps we’re meant to be bored and scanning the crowd, as Cooper does while the pastor makes a rather perfunctory and by-the-book funeral speech. But if so, why do the remarks from him, to “that special love we reserve for the headstrong and the bold” and Laura being “impatient for her life to begin” seem so insightful? And why do these particular insights come from a tertiary character when the sources we’ve had for Laura’s more willful nature are the ones most committed to protecting her privacy? It gives us a way of looking at what he and Bobby say as two sides of a coin, but does it fit? Would a more striking contrast have served better?
These are questions I can’t immediately answer. But what I can point to are things like James having two lines in the whole thing or Donna having none whatsoever. How Cooper’s behavior isn’t entirely consistent with even the previous episode. How there could have been some reference to the Martells finding Laura’s body and instead there’s… nothing. When “Rest in Peace” makes contact, it knocks the ball out of the park. Elsewhere, it whiffs for want of effort. There’s enough production to retain it as a part of the show’s legacy, but we shouldn’t so easily overlook the burial of the series’ central character. Yet we do, a bit too readily.
There is a sadness in this world, for we are ignorant of many things. Yes, we are ignorant of many beautiful things. Things like The Truth. So sadness, in our ignorance, is very real. The tears are real. What is this thing called a tear? There are even tiny ducts, tear ducts, to produce these tears should the sadness occur. Then the day when the sadness comes, then we ask, “Will the sadness which makes me cry, will this sadness that makes me cry my heart out, will it ever end?” The answer, of course, is “yes.” One day the sadness will end.
One side of me craves an emphasis on the subjectivity of sadness, based on the introduction we receive. True enough, Leland’s fall and Shelly’s response get that into the episode, but I suppose that where the writing and direction are concerned, it is more about ending, what it is and isn’t.
The Bobby/Garland discussion encapsulates most of this, that burial is something that we do for the living to help achieve closure. There’s little we can do for the dead other than bury, ceremonialize, and remember. But remembering becomes a thorny matter when, as Bobby passionately explains in front of the grave, it accompanies an awareness that something could have been done to avert the death, that it has come too soon. In this, we can see the impasse that Garland and Bobby were at: Garland has seen war, been in conflicts, and buried men who were fighting for a cause, Bobby has neither the habituation to death nor an ideological reason for it that might mollify the pain and frustration.
The funeral, then, provides one kind of ending, namely, a physical one. However, for those who are investigating the why of the death, Cooper, Donna, James, others, there is no closure that the funeral can bring. Answers are not in its nature. They remain ignorant, of “Things like The Truth,” and it will goad them, tears and all, into continuing pursuit of the various loose ends. Their coming to terms with it is something that will happen “One Day,” but not likely this one, and in the curious case of Leland, the only end to his particular sadness will be more death.
- Not much of interest here, except to point out that the slo-mo of the funeral fight scene between Bobby and James, that’s sort of a Lynchian trademark. The issue here is that there’s the anticipation of violence without it truly manifesting, as it would in a Lynch film, so, idle homage again.
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ I don’t like the Audrey/Cooper scene, but minor credit for her choked “I do?” when Cooper suggests she has “romantic nature… a heart that yearns.”
+ Albert, labcoat and goggles over his suit and tie.
+ Albert pokes Ben with an instrument, Ben carefully scrutinizes the part of the coat where he was touched.
+ Cooper returning Laura’s arm to her chest after the incident with Albert and Truman.
+ The conclusion of the Leo/Cooper exchange. “[Shelly will] confirm this?” “She will if you ask her (CHOP).”
+ Mrs. Briggs going to a funeral with a smiley face pin.
+ “That’s not your bike… is it?” “It’s James.” “James who?…. Oh.”
+ Johnny, in lieu of the headdress, carrying around a copy of Peter Pan, like The Lost Boy he is.
– Andy’s regular teary outbursts were one of the highlights of the pilot, so it’s a shame he barely gets to speak here despite being involved twice in scenes with Laura’s body.
– The transitions are ugly in this one. Chatter about Hank’s parole and criminal nature -> “LOOK AT THAT. DUCKS ON A LAKE!”
– From The Bookhouse, to the cemetery, to the Great Northern’s bar in a few minutes, Cooper is everywhere at once.
– The post-funeral portion of the episode, Hawk aside, is noticeably weaker than pre-funeral.
* Registering the glance back and forth when Ben intervenes at the morgue, it would seem that Doc Hayward is not entirely comfortable with Ben’s speaking for him or the Palmers.
* Albert’s forensic report describe soap residue on the neck pretty much right around where Leland holds Madeline when they embrace.
* In light of Normal-Crazy Nadine’s reflections on what life was like for her in high school, you can regard the life that Super Nadine seeks out to be wish fulfillment.
* Bobby’s funeral speech will resonate a lot more after we see how Laura scorned even him, routinely, in Fire Walk With Me. The deleted scenes will twist the knife a few more rotations.
* Shelley with the Chekov’s gun, rather literally, to go with the bloodied shirt.
* Stretching a bit, the red/white/charcoal of Leland’s coat in the final scene does visually cue Cooper’s tie from the Red Room, for me at least.