Seriable’s Mark Jones reviews Twin Peaks Episode 17 — Dispute Between Brothers
With Laura’s murder tied up in a neat bow things have changed in Twin Peaks. Episode 17 begins with Cooper and Doctor Hayward comforting Sarah Palmer as the words “three days later” flash up on the screen.
Previously, each episode has represented a day in Laura Palmer’s murder case and the insertion of this gap signifies the start of a new era for the show. It becomes clear at the gathering in the Palmer’s house after Leland’s funeral that there’s now no immediate danger, like Twin Peaks has been robbed of its darkness, at least for the time being. It’s also is obvious that Cooper now has no reason to stay in town, which for me is the worst thing of all. While he’ll be given an excuse to stay later it doesn’t feel as if it’s a completely legitimate reason, like the writers have been forced to come up with something, which of course they were.
This is just the start of several problems with this episode, and the rest of the series as a whole, but there’s still plenty of fun to be had. One welcome return in this episode is the doddery mayor Dwayne Milford who fights with his brother at the gathering. This sparks off a run of jokes throughout the rest of the series involving him and his sibling. The party in Leland’s honour also sees the another welcome return in the form of Dr. Jacoby who also turns up later with Ed, helping him get Nadine back into high school. Taking up a quarter of the episode, the gathering is a good excuse to bring together most of the cast under one roof, offering some light relief after the darkness of the previous episodes but definitely doesn’t do anything to help the anti-climatic feeling.
There are two big comic subplots which are set up in this episode, one is Nadine’s induction into high school, the other is Dick Tremayne‘s “big brother” storyline. Nadine‘s continuing regression to her teenage mind is maybe the focus of too much attention but it does offer some laughs as she causes havoc in the high school with her super strength. Then there’s Tremayne’s announcement that he’s enlisted in a big brother program to win over the pregnant Lucy — and is just the beginning of probably the biggest dud of a subplot that Twin Peaks ever graced us with, though it’s certainly close between that and James leaving town.
As well as opening up a few new storylines the episode firmly shuts and throws away the key of another. This is the end of the Cooper/Audrey relationship. In a touching scene where Audrey comes to say her goodbyes, Cooper makes it clear that he could never date her, at least not at her current age, even though she isn’t involved in a case he is working on any more. Whatever the reason for not pursuing this coupling it certainly would have made for a more interesting, as well as more risqué and inkeeping with Twin Peak’s dark undercurrents, relationship than Cooper’s later entanglement with Annie Blackburn.
It’s too easy to speculate about what could have been, and for the rest of the series they will remain just good friends. Their conversation does offer some more insight into Cooper’s past, as he shares some of his backstory with Ben’s daughter, and there’s Windom Earle‘s involvement, which is always welcome. Audrey clearly gets the message and turns her attention to other males in the local population and later she teasingly tells Bobby that she “likes to lick” when he offers to buy her an ice cream.
No sooner has Cooper said his goodbyes, touchingly given a Bookhouse Boys badge by Harry and blowing his whistle for one last time before he leaves the station, the FBI turns up at the Sheriff’s office informing him he’s been suspended without pay for his little mission to save Audrey. Forced to give up his badge and his gun, Cooper finds himself without a job as he is investigated under suspicion of drug trafficking. With a Canadian policeman who’s in league with Jacques, in addition to Hank Jennings and the twitchy Ernie Niles and Renault against him, things don’t look too hopeful. Although an interesting turn of events and thankfully a reason for him to stay in town, it still feels a little too convenient after tying up the show’s main mystery. Before he faces what’s to come, Cooper has a pleasant evening of fishing to look forward to with Major Briggs. Not only do the Major and Cooper make a good pairing but Briggs starts to come into his own as a character.
The ending is the best bit of this episode and sets up the White Lodge storyline with the disappearance of the Major. Even if it feels like we’ve been suddenly introduced to this idea of the White Lodge it definitely adds a strong new mystery element to the show and paints the Major as a more important character. Cooper gets up to answer the call of nature, spies an owl watching him and returns to their spot to find the Major disappear in a flash of white light. Up until this point in the series it always felt like the Major had potential to be a more central character, especially after his speech to Bobby in the diner at the beginning of the second season, and it was a shame we never got to see him fleshed out more fully.
It’s clear from this episode that Twin Peaks isn’t the show it once was, and although still enjoyable it feels like a tire with a puncture, slightly deflated. The White Lodge storyline is the new mystery which is equivalent to Laura’s murder and while a great piece of mythology, there wasn’t much build up to it. This build up could have taken place while Laura’s murder was still being solved but, as it is, the audience will have be content with less interesting matters until Windom Earle catches up with Cooper and the season reaches its thrilling finale.
7/10 Seriable Stars