Seriable’s Mark Jones reviews Episode 19 of Twin Peaks — “The Black Widow”
Episode 19 presents us with another mixed bag of intriguing mythology, silly humour and dull soap opera-esque storylines.
It starts well enough as Bobby once again tries to blackmail Ben with the tape from Leo’s boot. Ben doesn’t seem that bothered and decides to offer Bobby a job. After quite a few episodes where he’s been helping Shelley look after her vegetable of a husband and figure out how to make some more money Bobby finally has something interesting to do.
The pairing of Bobby and Ben is quite a good one and throughout this instalment Bobby gets some decent scenes. Unfortunately it’s still silly season in Twin Peaks and Ben’s state of mind continues to get worse, manifesting in his recreation the battle of Gettysburg in his office, complete with period costume. This doesn’t happen until later and when Bobby enters at the beginning Ben has amusingly stacked the contents of his office symmetrically against one wall, complete with familiar objects including the white fox and Ben’s name carved out of a log.
Meanwhile, Cooper is looking to purchase some property in Twin Peaks and it seems like the writers are trying to recapture that strange supernatural voodoo that he had in earlier episodes. Flipping a coin to decide between his choices the coin goes astray and falls on a property called “Dead Dog Farm”. Cooper is immediately drawn to its strange name and the fact that nobody has stayed there for very long. While it proves to be an important stone in the path to getting Cooper back in the FBI it doesn’t have the same feel that similar moments used to — possibly because, like most major developments since Leland died, it feels a bit forced.
Cooper also gets a visit from Colonel Riley who’s investigating Major Brigg’s disappearance. This brief meeting sheds some light on the message that was delivered to Cooper earlier in the season, indicating that it came not from space but within the woods at Twin Peaks, and also draws attention to the owl that Cooper saw on the night that Briggs vanished. These little hints at what’s going on make the mystery seem even more tantalising, especially given that the air force is aware of the significance of the owls.
The scene also gives us a clue of how important the Major is with Colonel Riley’s statement “he was born with hardware most of only dream about” suggesting that there’s much more to him than meets the eye. Riley’s closing line “His disappearance has implications that go so far beyond national security the cold war seems like a case of the sniffles” is the one that really brings home the gravity of the situation and makes the audience wonder why they should care about the other seemingly pointless stuff that’s going on.
A lot of time is spent in this episode establishing Little Nicky as some kind of possessed evil child, which for a brief moment looks like it could go somewhere. Some of the details surrounding his mysterious past are quite interesting in the context of the show, but rather than being another vessel for Bob, Nicky seems to be an anomaly that doesn’t really fit in with the show’s mythology. Aside from the sometimes cringe-worthy laughs the story is played for, including my least favourite Twin Peaks joke when we see inside Andy’s brain as he imagines Nicky as the devil, it doesn’t really sit comfortably with the other odd happenings in Twin Peaks. Especially when it appears the child has some kind of psycho-kinetic powers.
Thanks to Audrey it looks certain that Cooper will soon be exonerated as she manages to acquire the photo’s that Bobby took for her father which goes some way to proving his innocence. It’s the set up for one of the funnier scenes, and possibly just another excuse for a character to meet Denise for the first time which is always amusing, when she delivers them to his hotel room and Denise also turns up. Clearly not realising that Denise used to be a Dennis, her eyes light up when she realises that the FBI has female agents. Although a relationship between the two of them has been ruled out there’s clearly still some feeling there on Audrey’s part. For all the less spectacular comic devices which appear in these later episodes, Denise is definitely one of the better ones, and a perfect prelude to the funnier episodes of the X-Files.
It would seem that there are other powers at work in Twin Peaks other than darkness and light, and in this episode it seems lust is a potent force too. After Dougie Milford is discovered dead in his hotel bed it becomes all too apparent that his widow Lana has some strange power over men, including the ability to give them a heart attack mid coitus. Although it’s another thorn in season two’s paw there are some enjoyable scenes, and it’s hard not to laugh when Hawk falls through the door that Andy has opened while trying to look cool in front of Lana.
The best bit is undoubtedly the ending and the return of the Major. Whenever anything big happens in Twin Peaks it always seems to be preceded by a storm, complete with thunder and lighting, which is certainly true when Garland Briggs reappears in his living room as Bobby and his mother are having a heart to heart. The episode began with Bobby and it ends with Bobby, who comes across as a much more interesting character when he has something to do and shows a bit of humanity, as he does to his mother when recalling the talk he had with the Major about his vision at the beginning of the second season.
However, it’s the Major who’s the star of this scene — and not only is the fact the he appears out of nowhere wonderfully strange but the way he’s dressed, like a pilot from the 1940’s, is the cherry on the cake (or in the pie). His final words indicate something is wrong and hint at what might have laid beyond the second series of Twin Peaks. “Is everything alright?” asks Betty Briggs, “No dear, not exactly” he enigmatically replies. The question of why he’s dressed the way he is and his foreboding words adds back a little of what has been missing since Laura’s death, a great mystery mixed with a sense of danger.
Overall, it’s another episode which tries too hard to make us laugh and not hard enough in keeping us interested in the over-arcing story, but at least manages to develop the main plot in some intriguing ways. The idea of Nicky being possessed goes nowhere, thankfully, but more scenes with the Major or of any investigation into the White Lodge would have been a lot better than seeing Dick Tremayne in his camping attire.
7/10 Seriable Stars