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Written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels
Directed by Diane Keaton

Airdate: 9 February, 1991

We've made it: the last episode in Twin Peaks's five-part tour of pain, and by many accounts, the worst one of all. I don't think I can quite take it that far: it has the worst script, almost beyond a doubt, but it at least has the benefit of being fully committed to its lunacy. For this we can thank (or "thank") episode director Diane Keaton, whose work in this field isn't anything nearly as impressive as her work as an actor. Prior to Twin Peaks, her directorial highlight was the rather dopey music video for Belinda Carlisle's "Heaven Is a Place on Earth", and 26 years later, that perhaps remains true. In her single trip through Twin Peaks, Keaton tried harder than just about any other director the show ever had to mimic the style of David Lynch as much as she possibly could, and by no stretch of the imagination did she succeed. But at least the failure leaves for a spicier, more memorable episode than the crushing banality that had dominated the show for too long.

That being said, we've finally hit the first and only episode that doesn't actually include anything straight-up good. Even the best moments are a little off: surely nothing in the whole hour is more satisfying than Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) returning to give Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) a great big man-hug greeting, before launching into a ridiculous but cute David Lynch-as-Gordon Cole impression. And yet, as much as I dig the notion that Albert has so fully embraced his inner pacifist as to be thrilled to see Harry again, I simply can't convince myself that the show had gotten around to building up to that moment.

And that is, I reiterate, the best thing that happens. Maybe even the only thing that approaches goodness. There's the usual pleasure in seeing actors we've gotten to like playing character's we've gotten to know: Wendy Robie remains a comic delight as Nadine, and her scene interrupting Ed (Everett McGill) and Norma's (Peggy Lipton) lovemaking is well-acted by all three concerned parties, enough to rise to the level of second-best thing in the episode. Sherilyn Fenn's delivery of Audrey's mid-episode speech brightly and passively threatening her uncle Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) is a delightful little nugget of sweet-sounding innocence wrapped around biting, merciless business wisdom. It's an easy joke and Fenn plays it exactly the way you would expect, which doesn't at all make it bad, just, well easy.

Anyway, the episode wraps up the two plotlines chiefly associated with its decline. Ben's (Richard Beymer) Civil War hallucination comes to a close in a scene so utterly stupid and so happily invested in its own stupidity that I'm fond of it anyway: why not force all of those people to play act in conveniently available 19th Century costumes, and suddenly interrupt the action with a non-diegetic Confederate flag dramatically clomping into frame, and then cut back to show that it is in fact diegetic? It's goofy and ridiculous, and the gag of Audrey smacking Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) in the face with her little Southern belle purse doesn't grow old for me. It's beneath the dignity of Twin Peaks, obviously, but so has been everything about the last four episodes of Twin Peaks. At least this has the decency to be silly.

And we also get an end to the James (James Marshall) road trip/film noir plot, replete with the worst dialogue that this hideously tin-eared subplot has had. "He was good at two things: the car, and me." "You’re good, and you’re honest. I’m not. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like the good and honest way that you taste." And with Annette McCarthy's boundlessly stiff acting, it feels less like watching a femme fatale have her moment of self-doubt, than watching a robot starting to malfunction. Perhaps to salvage this, perhaps to mock it, perhaps any number of things, this plotline is where Keaton unloads all of her attempts at style, including lots of slow-motion, and even the slow-motion animalistic roar that we last heard when Bob killed Maddie, ages ago in Episode 14, back when this was still the best show in the history of television.

Thank God Keaton tried - it makes for an episode that's rather more startling and memorable than the draggy, boring episodes preceding it - but this is a flawless example of the difference between David Lynch and everyone else in the world. When Lynch does the things Keaton does here, such as the exaggerated high angles (most notably pointing down at a chess table), focusing on random objects instead of the action at hand, distorting the image through various post-production effects, dwelling on reaction shots, emphasising the disjunction between sound and image, he's doing it intuitively constructing the texture of a particularly florid dream. When Keaton does it, you can see the sweat as she tries to figure out the whys, failing to know that the lack of a clear why is part of what makes Lynch so good. That being said, I don't want to act like this is just an act of mimicry: a lot of what shows up in Episode 22, particularly the use of slow-motion and dissolves, also showed up in "Heaven Is a Place on Earth".

For all the director's efforts, there's no effective atmosphere of tension. Not entirely because of the director's fault: I doubt anyone but Lynch himself could have done good with the first full scene featuring Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh), who has now firmly arrived as the major antagonist for the rest of the series. And that's kind of horrible, now that we have to face it. In the comments to Episode 21, lucasbarkley pointed out the story reasons why Earle fails as a character and a villain; now we get to deal with the aesthetic reasons. Welsh is a flat-out ham, which isn't bad on the face of it - Earle has a flair for psychopathic theatricality in the spirit of a great comic book villain - but it comes across as so fucking goofy, and his big dopey handlebar mustache disguise later on only confirms that we're watching a cartoon character, not a self-amused maniac. It's not the worst part of an episode that includes both the most lifeless stretch of the James subplot and the indescribably boring machinations of the whole thing where Catherine (Piper Laurie) squares off against Thomas Eckhardt (David Warner, thoroughly detached), a subplot too anemic to even be fun complaining about. But it's the most disappointing: when a villain has been built up that much, one hopes that he'll be a great, imposing threat, not a zany moron. It's one last insult against the show's good name as an atmospheric horror-mystery before it finally crawls out of its rut and becomes, if hardly its best self, at least an enjoyable television program instead of a grueling chore.

Grade: C-