[Review by Jay Yencich]
[Writer: Mark Frost | Director: Mark Frost | Aired: 05/23/1990]
If a device has framed our early approach to Twin Peaks, it’s been a juxtaposition of the many-handed approach to direction with the few-penned take on scripts. Along the way, we’ve seen instances of the camera being especially complementary to the happenings and others where the two aren’t on close terms.
Artists who can manage both writing and directing ends of the film game are often considered auteurs of the highest order, whereas those who dabble in both and fail could end up producing “vanity projects,” appearing more concerned with self-indulgence than any advancement of the arts. Yet, film is a curious business in that it demands both aspects harmonize to some degree. Elsewhere, we might rightly condemn the starlet for her foray into music or the diva taking a smaller screen stage as being hubristic and misguided evaluation of one’s own talents. Harder to imagine the screenwriter at a desk without any inkling of how it might be shot, or the director taking on a project without a design.
Mark Frost, coming into “The Last Evening,” had directed one episode of Hill Street Blues in 1985. That was five years prior, and now, Lynch’s commitment to Wild at Heart necessitated that Frost take over camerawork for a finale that he himself wrote. This would, theoretically, result in a more pure realization of the vision Frost set forth in imagining the episode. So, what distinctive hallmarks do we find here?
When I think of “The Last Evening,” I often return to the idea of Frost’s sense of the close-up and the zoom. The episode is bookended with two specific instances of it, nearly opening with Doc Jacoby getting bludgeoned with a blackjack and then staring into the night sky as the camera zips in on the marble of his eye. Closing, the final images are quick cuts between the gun firing and blood blooming on Cooper’s dress shirt. I don’t know that either has aged especially well (although the Blu-Ray re-master helps take the edge off the pixilation). The ending has a way of narrowing our frame of reference and demands a suspension of disbelief, that we would see the gun over who might be holding it. The beginning, with the limitations of resolution in the day, reminds me of, seeing in video games, that bright and detailed sprite rush full-bore into the view until we see each individual pixel and lose all sense of it.
Nevertheless, there’s another camera moment that always stands out to me when I think of the season one finale. Having lured out Jacques with the broken poker token, Cooper buys him a drink, puts on the appearance of having been the moneyman of the drug running enterprise, and asks Jacques to explain how the chip came to be, well, chipped. Jacques account on its own would be lurid, but on top of this, we get focus on his mouth, as the seat of both appetite and utterance, rimmed with the froth of the beer he just guzzled. With apologies to Walter Olkewicz, the intense scrutiny of Jacques is outright disgusting and has a way of portraying Laura, Ronette, et al as mere commodities to be consumed, sloppily at that. Paired with this, we have the shots of Kyle MacLachlan’s eyes, which can do little of their own volition beyond observe and gauge intention, as Cooper often does. The lips are read, we are all a bit unsettled, and for Jacques, the jig is up.
Beyond the zooms, Frost’s turn in the director’s chair produces some intriguing effects for those wondering how a script is translated into an episode. Certain touches and flourishes become more prominent as we more readily are able to make sense of who is where and why. Among the best of these, is Andy’s recreation, with some help, of the Jacques arrest. While a series with a greater breadth of days per episode gets away with the “now Andy can shoot!” development more easily (Andy looks like an idiot savant here), there’s a lot of fun to be had with this. Lucy’s failing to water the plants at moments where the narrative gets tense, rushing off to the coffee nook while still tipping the watering can, a “give it your best shot” from Hawk, Andy smirking at the group as he closes the screens, the false starts in the kiss and cries of “Oh, Punky!”, followed by Andy’s losing the heart he just gained, befuddled in how to respond to the news that Lucy is preggers. You have to love that, of all the reactions to Andy’s mistake, Big Ed, used to a tempestuous woman at home, gives the clearest signs of empathizing with the deputy’s state.
But then, the follow-through to what closes this scene also marks one of the poorer translations, an instance where a lacuna in scripting overlaps with a blindspot in direction. While Lucy’s irritated “what” that inaugurates the call from Bobby-as-Leo is nice, as is the detail of the bell tolling 4 am, allowing Lucy to triangulate where the call is coming from, what reason would Cooper and Truman have to follow the advice of a wanted man in Leo against a fairly unambiguous good seed in James? Why does Coop make the sudden turn to impatience, rather than suspecting that the cocaine could’ve been a plant? The rationale that guides the typically astute Cooper to a place of suspicion doesn’t seem fully plotted out, other than to route us through the greatest number of diversions.
And then there are the scenes that one never quite knows what to do with. I’ve seen Nadine’s suicide attempt perhaps a dozen times and get as much out of it now as I did on the first viewing. Here is a Lodge-y settling of a plaid blanket. There’s Nadine, wearing a pearl pendant, in her prom, or wedding, or best Sunday dress (“why not all three?” a small voice asks). That is the letter she is finishing on a silver tray. Now enter the very delicate, guitar-and-harp take on the title theme, about fifty yellow and pink pills poured into a flowery bowl next to a glass of water, and then a quiet, choked goodbye.
On the whole, I’d rather not see suicide attempts on TV unless there’s a good amount of discretion, forethought, and all that involved. Nadine’s role in the series to date hasn’t exactly been the most flattering depiction of mental illness. While sympathy points have been tallied on occasion, what this looks like is the old “permanent solution to a temporary problem,” especially when it’s predicated on there being a roadblock along the “drape-runner map to wealth,” itself drafted a few days ago. Or are we to take the musical cues, that heavenly harp, as suggesting that this may mark a release from the protracted misery that is a life haunted by mood swings and feelings of inadequacy? May we at least consolidate the number of red, fluttering things we are required to make inventory of in the series?
This is the gist of “The Last Evening.” It’s mostly good, but has instances of shoddiness and perplexity. Otherwise, it generates is interest through certain writerly sensibilities that make their way over to the camera.
I’ve gone through a number of the major scenes to this point, but there’s plenty of material left to give the expected, exhaustive, go-over. We open with the paradisiac views of palms and sunset within Doc Jacoby’s office before starting to see the seams—a Twin Peaks conceit, there are always seams in anything that looks that good. And for anyone wondering, yes, the Pacific Northwesterner, surrounded by rain and pine trees and nonetheless obsessed with the Hawai’ian tropics is a type to be found in the wild.
For the most part, I’m fine with Donna and James’ break-in, because if an upbringing of Hanna-Barbara cartoons taught me anything, it’s that mysteries, no matter how spooky, are best left to teenagers to solve. There are a few things that are a little too clever, like Donna’s reacting to the change in music without what would seem like adequate interval to process the surprise, or the fact that by getting the locket and tape in the coconut, they presume that there’s all they need to discover. But then, I suppose that the latter plays into the naïveté of the investigation, as everything looks like a clue to the plucky pair when they first enter the room, when really, it’s mostly paper umbrellas saved from momentous mixed drinks.
Having talked about Jacoby’s encounter earlier (envision the eye for yourself), the roulette wheel makes a natural transition back to One-Eyed Jack’s and the continuation of the attempted sting. The two representatives of the Bookhouse Boys being who they are, Ed falls flat on a game of chance in roulette, losing the promise of a date he had with one of the card girls, and Cooper is busy counting cards of his own in blackjack, requesting what seem like far too many to get twenty-one.
There being dual pretenses for being here right now, there is also Audrey to consider, entering while Blackie plays an elaborate variation on solitaire in between glances at the closed-circuit TV. Having previously been exposed as not the seasoned gentleman’s club veteran she wanted to be thought of, Audrey is free to play her own hand more freely, inquiring after the owner as if it were a subject of ordinary curiosity, which Blackie is quick to halt. An additional thumbs up to the girl as she claims from the deck a Queen of Diamonds and then retreats to her waiting room while a dress is prepared.
Having given an account of the Jacque/Cooper interaction already, it probably behooves me to skip over a scene and commercial break to address the arrest. The water treatment plant, as site of the sting, is unusual in that while we might view the lumber mill as a “natural” industry, the presentation of the facility here is more mechanistic, foreboding, with the sonic textures of metal clashing on metal. I often puzzle over just how many policemen the township of Twin Peaks manages to employ, but there’s much to enjoy here, between Andy and Truman’s commiseration, the overhead shot of the cars blocking Jacques in (just how much practice have they had?), and the rather impulsive move for the gun which helps facilitate Andy’s character development, but then what possible endgame could Jacques have?
Since I can’t totally avoid the scene that precedes it, I’ll use it as a means of producing arbitrary continuity… Shelley, despite knowing that Leo is snooping nearby, falls victim to the horror movie trope of “there is eminent danger, but this hair won’t wash itself.” Having laid down the gun on the counter, she proceeds to get soap in her eye and is captured. Stand-up guy that he is, Leo allows her to finish washing the soap out before she is next seen. I have no defense for this other than “thriller logic.” My face has palmed.
We’ll use this as segue to House Hayward where Doc getting a call concerning Jacoby provides the privacy to play Laura’s tape recording and figure out just what makes a laid-back surfer psychiatrist weep. We can tell why it might be the heartbreaker that it is, not necessarily for its content, but for its tone: Laura, in feigning the reveal of a secret, couches it in a threat, at once asking for help and resisting it. There’s enough detail to connect it to Leo, as if to say, “save me,” but then it turns in on its own darkness, playing the old sex and death card. Dissonant as it may be, there’s something that’s definitively Twin Peaks in Laura’s cutting the recording short on account of her mother’s arrival with a homemade dessert.
And the peanut gallery? Most of the focus is directed at James as Laura’s then-amour, as if her status as Donna’s BFF were not particularly relevant to the moment. James has to endure insults to his intelligence and other unpleasant unveilings, but I think that it’s telling that of all the details, what gets him to break is not the put-downs or any scandal over her proclivities, but instead the notion that she was throwing her life away for no particular reason. It will be some episodes before the pain of that takes hold, but it is compelling from his vantage.
Having the red Corvette name-dropped, it’s a natural transition to other fire-red things, like gas cans, extinguishers, and the threat of actual fire. Leo, blunt instrument that he is, still has enough technical skill to tie Shelley up and rig an egg-timer-based bomb, for which he likely had to buy the supplies himself. To think, he could have spent this money on shoes! Truly lamentable.
A structural element I’ve come to appreciate as complementary of the grand design is that, where Leo occupied the major adversarial role of the first half, the transition into the second brings Hank to the fore. Leo’s hallmark is his anger, either on the surface or subdued just beneath it, what his rage might lead to, but Hank’s is largely in his duplicity, rendering him an excellent villain for the series. The violence remains, but you scarcely know when or where it might manifest or to what end his constant manipulation aims.
In this respect, it makes him a fascinating partner for Josie, who likewise has a placid surface she’d like to present to others and jagged reef beneath to shipwreck one’s innocent intentions on. One can also respect, in being at the Packard cabin, the shelving of cosmopolitan, globe-trotting knickknacks adorning the rather rustic frame, leading to such clever elements as Hank being positioned beneath a pair of antlers as he harasses Josie. Devil or jackalope? I’ll leave the discerning viewer to decide.
Yet, teasing aside, Hank makes his danger well-known, disguising it in some philosophy picked up in prison, but being neither repelled nor discouraged in snorting in Josie’s second-hand smoke and not letting her proceed more than a few feet before either touching her or grabbing outright to make her face him. All the angles as shot position Josie as the smaller of the two, looking down on her or up at Hank, no technical coup, but supplementary to the viewing. Of course, were we to add another, lesser close-up to the earlier billing, we might consider Hank’s producing the switchblade and the intense focus on the two thumbs, cut and pressed together with a curt, “partners.” And that Josie then reds her lips with the dripping blood, almost hypnotized. Love it.
A sponsor interlude provides another soft landing to go to the mill on, where Catherine is terrorizing the filing system. The sequence falls short on surprises, and yet there are moments that you can genuinely smile at: Catherine’s request to Pete to tell her he didn’t take it (quickly fulfilled), the gawking loggers for whom the full array of shades must be drawn, and Catherine’s admissions of the failings of their marriage and her shortcomings which, manipulative or not, return with an earnest affection from Pete, which is either humored or reciprocated by Catherine.
Having visited the police station already, we might bypass it in favor of the horizontal swipe to the hospital, where the camera pan highlights an officer-on-duty. Observing the Jacques interrogation, the phrase “banality of evil” comes to mind. Gone is the animalistic, reflexive impulse that compelled him to try to shoot his way out of capture, returned is the jovial conversation about his trysts: “they was no nuns.” Jacques’ account of the events is uninteresting, and Leo’s reasons for clubbing him with a whiskey bottle, more of the same. He talks of the girls as if they were mere vehicles for fun and laments little more than a lengthy walk back home. Jacques isn’t made out as anything but the bad guy, but he’s deceptively ordinary.
The trip back to Casa de Packard, I don’t know, it’s worth commenting on for sentimental old Pete’s yearbook reminiscences on Midge Jones, Catherine’s “oh, Pete,” and call from Hank getting her back to the mill. Likewise, the celerity with which she waves Pete off into the other room. Cathy, get your gun…
Naturally, another positional gain is to move straight from Hank’s threatening phone messages to him talking polite to Norma and trying to treat prison bunk conditions with a measure of humor. Being Hank, he uses it to transition into a predictable appeal to her emotions. Does he actually care for Norma, planning to funnel his ill-gotten gains back into the diner, or would that too be a front? One never truly knows. All we hear is the tiptoeing twang of his guitar theme, landing on those awkward and disorienting bent notes.
To deviate a little from the plan, I will give a final nod to the police station for one relevant detail. I’d claim that there’s something deeply psychological that one admires in retrospect about Leland’s quest for someone to blame and his obsessive, questioning insistence, “but is it the man?” It’s no far-fetched claim to present this as a displacement of his own, semi-conscious feelings of guilt and his belief that, if he can rid himself of that outside force disrupting his family (the utterly blank utterance of “hospital”), he might return to normal life. That it fails spectacularly makes his efforts all the more heartbreaking.
The approach of the final ten minutes provides impetus to get back to the contract signing at One-Eyed Jack’s which, after all this, could be labelled “anticlimactic.” Einar remains dopily enthused, but as Ben shoos away the card girl trying to pour additional water, casually answers his private line in the midst of the deal, and soon, permits Einar’s escort out onto the floor of the casino, you get the sense that it was never about these investors or even Ghostwood (correction: “Ghostwood Estates AND Country Club”), but its role as a means to an end. I don’t get the same “threat” from Ben as elsewhere, but “business” and “capitalism” often entail their own brand of inhumanity.
The ending summons the type of momentum that can get Hank from a pay phone to Leo’s just in time to save Bobby from getting the ax. I enjoy the thrill of it—Bobby’s attempted fake-out and Leo’s blatant irrationality in the blame—but the suspense is muted. More pleasurable is Leo seeing his metafictive mirror in Montana, himself shot, and those flicks of recognition in his eye as he starts to bleed into unconsciousness. Catherine finds Shelley and, take-charge lady that she is, uses her own hatchet to sever the ropes and help furnish an escape as the drying shed starts to burn down. Leland breaks the unnecessary fire alarm, commits equally fruitless murder. Pete bellows “CATHERINE” and gets to be a big damned hero. Audrey stares down the threat of incestuous entrapment as a blissfully unaware Ben quotes Shakespeare’s The Tempest, which fades us into Cooper at The Great Northern.
The climax is… well… this is hardly the only show to feature a cliffhanger by way of gunfire. The discovery of Leo by Dept. Brennan and the others ensures that it’s not him behind the firearm, but who it might otherwise be was probably the talk of the television offseason. In particular, you can’t really think of too many people that might have a reason outside of Leo. Hank put the hit on Leo, but lacks the motive. Any number of people who might be candidates are too far away to pull it off or lack access to weapons. Of course, there is also the fellow in the balaclava who beat up Jacoby, who doesn’t need a motivation being, potentially, anyone. There’s a cheap thrill in it, but it’s more exciting to me for the absurdity that follows in the second premiere than anything presently known or speculative.
For a long time, I presumed that the flaws of “The Last Evening” were easily explicable: It merely was overshadowed by the tour de force that is “Beyond Life and Death” [2×22]. Having a series that (as of an early 2016 writing) only has two finales, the more bombastic and violently visual submission would inevitably render the other more chump than champ. But lately, a separate conclusion has dawned on me, which has such obviousness that I don’t know how I could have overlooked it, thus oversimplifying the relations between the two. “The Last Evening” just isn’t weird enough.
Perhaps, to many television viewers, this would be its defining grace. The drama of it all seems so identifiably human that even its dramatic soliloquys and baser elements—Jacques’ pornographic narration, Leo’s rage, Leland’s pained scene of revenge—never stray too far from relatability. The strangest the episode ever seems to get is in the portrayal of Nadine’s suicide, but even that peculiar example has viewed to me as more confused than deliberately enigmatic.
There is intensity all throughout. There are occasions for intrigue, such as the many faces of Hank, the mugger in the park, or the identity of the shooter in the closing scene. There is not much eeriness. The menacing all seems physical, with little spiritual dimension to it. It’s put together nicely, but almost too much so, sacrificing the mythic elements for the matters of historical record. It feels like competent, well-executed drama with isolated moments of levity and humor. It doesn’t feel especially representative of Twin Peaks, however.
Having said that and honed in on a cause, I now feel I have a better sense of what I enjoy in the episode, how I contextualize it, and how, despite its receiving a top grade for the season in certain voting aggregators, I’ve been hesitant to give it much more than a B. For all that “The Last Evening” has going for it, it lacks a brazen, unapologetic oddity in its proceedings that would help situate it in the larger mythos. It’s not just that there is no MIKE, or BOB, or owls, or Log Lady, or giants, or magicians, but that the circumstances played out almost render all of the above inconceivable. We don’t even get wind through trees. For the finale, the town of Twin Peaks as depicted is one where the secrets are moral or criminal, contingent on man-made constructs. It lacks features that otherwise distinguish the series among viewing experiences. It doesn’t kill the episode, but it does render it unsatisfactory.
A drunken man walks in a way that is quite impossible for a sober man to imitate, and vice-a-versa. An evil man has a way, no matter how clever, to the trained eye, his way will show itself. Am I being too secretive? No. One can never answer questions at the wrong moment. Life, like music, has a rhythm. This particular song will end with three, sharp sounds, like deathly drumbeats.
It’s not often that the Log Lady is this direct, as the three sharp sounds that punctuate the end of the episode are those same gunshots fired at our dear agent. There’s only so much coffee-ground-reading I can invest in it, but let’s consider the episode in terms of its audio.
In some respects, it can be said to be a larger project about hearing, mishearing, and overhearing. Jacoby plays into a mishearing of Laura on the phone, which brings him to the park. Teen Mystery Squad overhears Laura’s tape, intended to remain private, but unavoidably public in the mystery of her death. They wait for Doc Hayward to be out of earshot, then cut it short when he returns, just as Catherine gets Pete to leave when he risks hearing anything she doesn’t want him to know (likewise, the logging grunts at the mill). Bobby fakes being Leo over the phone, Hank speaks in a growly, Dragnet noir-ish voice when calling Catherine.
And the nonverbal bits? Well, we might appreciate that, given we are inclined to think none too highly of either intellect, the noises that Bobby and Deputy Andy both make to imitate gunshots are nearly the same. For dramatic purposes, the throbbing heartbeat zoom on Jacoby has a way of echoing into the plodding, tense, industrial thrum that we later get at the water plant stakeout. If nothing else, it gives us a sense that Frost could hear as well as he could write, which I appreciate as a poet.
As for the “drunk man, sober man” parallels, we could say that neither Jacques nor Leo are capable of hiding their intentions very long, being men of considerable, passion, let’s say. Yet this doesn’t adequately account for those like Hank, who can turn on a dime and give nine pennies in change, Josie, who comes off too studied in her secretive vocabulary to ever fully betray herself, or Ben, whose affect as a dilettante usually resides in the same register unless he gets caught up in Jerry’s enthusiasm. Likewise, not much to make of Leland, other than the material quality of his agony. It’s not quite as nuanced though. Let’s keep the sound in mind, instead.
- The way we watch the show now, the mysteries have a way of resolving themselves in rapid succession, a solution unavailable to the show before the advent of DVDs and streaming services. In light of this, I feel inclined to mention the absolute preponderance of black leather gloves worn by people throughout the episode, which make the final scene the subject of all the more debate. Donna and James don’t have them, but Bobby does, and Catherine does, and Leland does, and the assailant does, and so do any number of others to the extent that one might accuse Horne’s Department Store of running one hell of a sale. The point I aim to make in all of this is that, for the downtime in the months between the end of S1 and S2 and even on into S2, there was conceivably a lot of debate going into just who shot Cooper and why and the evidence surrounding the incident is very much misleading and subject to interpretation.
- While one of my major complaints about the episode is its lack of mytho-psychological implications, worth pointing to the sheer number of red, curtain-y things in the staging, from Nadine’s plaid blanket, to the privacy curtain around Jacques bed (more orange than red, admittedly), to Audrey’s private chamber, to the scene of Einar and Ben Horne signing the contract, where there are so many red curtains one scarcely has a sense of there being walls (much like in The Room itself).
- So, uh, does Jacoby run a crate and box business on the side?
- In more scrutinizing moments, I wonder to what extent Tommy Wiseau might’ve been inspired by the pathos embodied in one Leo Johnson. “YOU’RE TEARING ME APART, SHELLEY!”
- For my own viewing, it’s hard to hear Hank cite “oriental philosophy” now without thinking of his character on Halt and Catch Fire, uttering in that thick, Texan drawl, “Well, the Japs love me.”
- Glancing at the diner clock in The Double-R, Hank’s scene with Norma appears to fall just before midnight, so it could be an editing room change.
- This is one of those weird, nitpicky things to notice, but when Ed reads back (422 Riverside) the address for their house, it doesn’t match the numbers on the outside of the house in the pilot (31002).
- The Icelanders’ company? Fjjord International Investments.
- Ben Horne, on the other hand, banks in Belgium because of course he does.
- Who is that bizarre, bag lady seamstress who makes Audrey’s dress, with the card slipped under her hairnet? For I must know more of her.
- This isn’t a super important point, but with respect to continuity, if you listen to the tape that Jacoby plays at the end of “Traces to Nowhere” [1×02] and compare it to the one in this episode, they aren’t really the same tape despite both professing to having been recorded on “Thursday the 23rd.” The tape in “Traces to Nowhere” has a bit of earlier exposition as to why Laura is recording them and how they get to Jacoby, a bit more choked up sobbing when talking about James, a reference to wishing she had met Jacoby earlier, and a foreboding concern that she’s going to “get lost in those woods again.” None of these end up present in the final tape we hear in “The Last Evening.”
Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)
+ Since I talked about the ladies’ uniforms before at Jack’s, note now that the dealers dice bolo ties and cufflinks with cards in them.
+ Laura calls Jacoby “Lawrence.” Of course.
+ Doc Hayward’s description of Jacoby as “out of the woods.” The way cliches are tweaked in this show…
+ “Say NO to Ghostwood” posters in The Double-R help make it feel just a little more lived-in.
+ Ed’s return home to Nadine gets the job done effectively. I don’t know what more I could say about it.
– So, uh, did Hank and Catherine inadvertently cross travel paths, or how did he know that she was back at home, looking for the ledger, so that he could send her back to the mill?
* Audrey picks out the Queen of Diamonds card, and later, as part of the Miss Twin Peaks contest…
* Cooper saying “see you on the other side” is certainly eerie, considering that Jacques will be dead by the end of the episode and by the end of the series…
* Perhaps Jacques’ motivation behind diving for the gun is a roundabout (likely retconned) way of introducing big brother Jean as someone who could get him out of this fix…