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Written by Robert Engels
Directed by Lesli Linka Glatter

Airdate: 13 October, 1990

For the second time in Twin Peaks's run, we arrive at the impossible situation of the first episode following some David Lynch mind-fuckery. I'd say that Episode 10 handles that fractionally better than Episode 3 did, though at least partially by accident. The end of Episode 9 is, I think, honestly a little bit exhausting, particularly with Episode 8 ending in much the same way: the two Lynch-directed episodes that open the show's second season end with audio-visual assaults that seem more than a little bit designed to make the physical act of watching the show seem a bit unpleasant and draining, and returning to the simple matter of being a television series centered around a mystery is somewhat relaxing and soothing, albeit far less adventurous.

And, to be sure, Episode 10 is a good episode of mystery television (not inherently the same thing as a good episode of Twin Peaks). It's crammed full of story beats, and almost all of them work in the moment, though I cannot repress my shudder when Nadine (Wendy Robie) wakes from her coma under the enthusiastic belief that she's a high school student again. As a jolt of pure "what the hell?" strangeness, it works, and Everett McGill's baffled reaction is perfectly-timed and amusing in its extremity, coming from such a reliably sedate character. But knowing where it's almost immediately going to head makes it impossible not to wince.

I have mostly the same thoughts about the arrival of Dick Tremayne (Ian Buchanan), the other candidate for the father of Lucy's (Kimmy Robertson) unborn baby. It's funny (though a different kind of funny than what the show is best at) to see an unctuous gasbag going on with no realisation of how much everybody around him hates him; Buchanan plays the role superbly, given what he has to work with (Mark Frost and David Lynch were apparently impressed enough to give him the lead role in their short-lived TV series On the Air, the year after Twin Peaks's demise). And there's something deliciously perverse in trying to puzzle out what could possibly have gotten these two characters romantically involved. But it's another subplot that hits a brick wall almost immediately, and that robs my affection for its innocuous, even enjoyable first appearance here.

Otherwise, though, Episode 10 is pretty smooth going down. The episode is heavily focused on the character of Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle), who hasn't really gotten her moment in the limelight; her youthful love affair with James (James Marshall) is used a lot as a thematic and tonal counterpoint, but this is the first great solo work she's had, from her own perspective. She's put front and center in two of the episode's three scenes that really "feel" like Twin Peaks to me: the second finds her at Laura Palmer's grave, whipped into a frenzy as she talks to her dead friend, ultimately screaming "It's almost like they didn't bury you deep enough!" in recognition of what's been clear to a Twin Peaks viewer throughout: Laura's ghost is one of the main characters of the show, seeping its way into the daily life of people who only slightly knew her, corroding everything. It's a scene that I gather is divisive; I can't say that I understand why. Something about Donna's righteous selfishness and her urgent desire that the past be through with her (though it of course won't), and with the mocking treatment of a graveside vigil, that feels exactly what the show is supposed to be doing, to me.

The other great Donna scene is the introduction of another new character, weird shut-in Harold Smith (Lenny von Dohlen), orchid grower and yet another in the show's list of male characters with a transparent erotic pull towards Laura. Harold's impact on the show overall ends up awfully small for the amount of time we spend with him, but there's a queasy wonder to his scenes. He exudes a wounded animal's pathetic charm, and Donna obviously responds to it, but something is just wrong about him; I don't know if it's because von Dohlen is a good actor or because he's a bad actor, but Harold feels the very quintessence of an alien wearing a human skin and almost pulling off a good impersonation of our species, but it's not quite there. He's clammy and creepy, and Donna's obvious attraction to him is like watching a small mammal transfixed by a snake. Which is maybe slightly unfair to the character, who is presented as emotionally broken rather than particularly dangerous. But still, the blocking of the scene and the lighting of the scene (gloomy without being actually dark) throw a bit of morbidity onto the character that extinguishes any real chance of regarding him as a poor lonely soul, the way Donna does (and presumably Laura did).

The third scene, since I brought it up, involves the one-armed man Phillip Gerard (Al Strobel), having a seizure in a bathroom stall, and coming out of it to be someone else. Someone whose voice sounds harsher and mechanical, someone whose eyes harbor an intensity of feeling that the banal Mr. Gerard is not capable of. It's a short moment, no question, and a bit of a "gimme" - the first time you watch the show, it's striking because of what it seems to imply about the seriess mythology, the second time it's striking because of what you damn well know about the series' mythology, and Angelo Badalamenti's score is doing all the work for the writer and director in putting it over. Still, it's part of what lingers with me after the episode is done.

Beyond these moments, is a solid piece of storytelling, inching towards the upcoming reveal of Laura's killer (with a neat piece of misdirection wrapped around foreshadowing: Leland's story about the match-throwing madman of his youth makes so much more sense in the wake of where the show goes, but Ray Wise plays the scene in a way that pushes us in exactly the wrong way, probably because he himself didn't know where things were headed. Even knowing the reveal, I think this is the series' clearest indication that Leland genuinely did not know what he was doing). The storyline of Audrey's (Sherilyn Fenn) misery in One-Eyed Jacks is growing a little bit ridiculous, but director Lesli Linka Glatter is careful enough around the tone of those scenes that it still feels creepy rather than campy (these are the most conspicuously slow, methodical parts of the episode, particularly the shot of black lace on Audrey's face). And we get to meet our third major new character of the episode here, the placidly villainous Jean Renault (Michael Parks). That's a lot of new characters, and a lot of Renaults, to handle, but Parks is so damn good: his bored, evil baby approach to the role is a perfect fit for the tonal rhythms of Lynch and Twin Peaks.

All that being said, the episode as a whole doesn't do a lot to excite me. It's plotty rather than atmospheric, and Glatter's direction lacks the inspired gestures that were so stimulating the last time she helmed an episode. And it's invariably shitty when Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) are given nothing to do other than shuffle from scene to scene, looking for clues; their best scene is one in which they're playing straight men to Albert Rosenfield's (Miguel Ferrer) surly declaration of pacifism - which is a great moment, and the highlight of Ferrer's tenure on the show, but he's not the show's protagonist, and it always feels "off" when Cooper is such a bland functional object as he is here.  One dramatic low-angle shot near the end doesn't do a lot to redeem that. Still, this episode has a lot of good-to-great individual scenes, even if they don't quite cohere into a whole (Donna's plotline feels whole, but it feels detachable from the rest of the episode, somewhat). That's going to sound like the stuff of an amazing, classical episode before too much longer.

Grade: A-