It encompasses the all, it is beyond the fire – Twin Peaks Pilot Rewatch

The copy of the pilot that I’m watching is the regular ol’ pilot that is up on Amazon, and not the international version.

I am, however, indulging myself with the Log Lady introductions, which were created by Lynch for airing of the show on Bravo in 1993 (which means these gems were filmed after after Fire Walk With Me).  They (like many of the Twin Peaks books) have been proven to be important to the Twin Peaks mythology given the revelations in episode 10 of The Return that “Laura is the one.”  I love all of the little details in the introduction to the pilot – even the fringed lamp to the right of the frame is interesting (and familiar).

Log Lady Intro Screen Cap

The undercurrent to the sound on this one is evocative of the wind, which reminds me that Lynch once said “to me, the wind blowing means mystery.”

Honestly, the fact that these introductions exist AT ALL is interesting, since in Catching the Big Fish Lynch remarks, “We’ve got to guard the film itself.  It should stand alone.”  It’s worth noting that in this short essay about Director’s Commentary, he soon after adds, “I do believe in telling stories surrounding a film.”   Perhaps this is one of Margaret Lanterman’s stories surrounding the film (and is it important to understanding in which ‘layer of reality Twin Peaks ultimately exists)?  You can read the overall comments of the Log Lady here, and it is followed by the script of the pilot (which seems to track closely to what we see on screen, as opposed to earlier versions).  I have to wonder if there is something within even these introductions that indicate the mystery of it all — and that maybe Margaret Lanterman . . . known as the Log Lady . . . helps us to realize where we really are when we sink into the world of Twin Peaks.

As soon as the theme starts playing I have to admit it still elicits a Pavlovian response with me. The thick reverb tones of the music have the same sort of effect as a meditation bell does — they indicate a time to slow down and savor the moment. I loved the music so much that when I started to re-learn piano, the theme to Twin Peaks was one of the things I’d use to warm up (as well as Laura Palmer’s theme, which is actually a good warm up for the fingers). The mill (factory) imagery interspersed with nature speaks to a duality that is hinted at within the title itself. Part of my aesthetic fascination with factories has to do with the largeness and necessity of all of them — these cavernous giants in whose bellies mammoth creations of various sorts come together. I can’t say I’m surprised that Lynch has released a book full of factory photographs. It’s amazing to me that after all of these years the credits sequence still appeals to me, though perhaps for different reasons.

I’m more captivated by the sounds this time around.  Because of Lynch’s mastery of sound design, I’ve been watching with headphones to help isolate the sounds and fully encapsulate me in the world. The languid opening with Badalamenti’s music running over gurgling water.  Josie’s soft, broken humming is a wonderful re-introduction into the world.

Speaking of a sense-based reintroduction into a familiar, comfortable world, let’s talk about the coloration for a moment.  One of the things I love about Twin Peaks (that becomes apparent as soon as the image cuts away from the external of Blue Pine Lodge to the lamp near Josie) is the dreamy, otherworldliness that is indicated by the coloration of everything.  I would call it bordering on uncanny, but only bordering on it for me, since it’s comfortable.

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Screen shot from ABC’s Twin Peaks S01E01

Production Designer for the original run Richard Hoover commented that “The spaces were treated as locations within a four wall reality riffing on material themes of the Pacific Northwest: stone, wood, moss, rain, dirt.”

Screenshot from ABC's Twin Peaks S01E01
This shot contains all of our PNW elements: stone, wood, moss, rain, dirt.

I think the color palate helps highlight those elements when they appear on the screen, resulting in an appealing study of how woody tonality plays on texture.  It also helps to really make the reds (and pure black and white) pop, which is important when it’s such a vital color in the visual language of Twin Peaks.

Screenshot from ABC's Twin Peaks S01E01
Pop!

It was moving to watch Pete discover Laura’s body all over again, especially after The Return (and the big moment of avoiding that outcome, which I promise I’ll talk about at great length many times — just not now).  His discovery of the body, the center of our mystery, his reaction to it — all of these are important moments and we are lead to them by Pete, our momentary proxy as we slip into this world, and we are introduced to another steadfast character in the Sheriff through this proxy quite early.  The slow pacing allow us to absorb moments through observation (we know Pete’s marriage is probably somewhat loveless, given the reaction his wife gives as he declares, “Gone Fishin,'” we can guess Sheriff Truman is kind because he doesn’t try to rush Lucy through an overly long explanation of transferring calls), allowing the discoveries to take a deeper route than if we were just told them.

These details help to bring the world of Twin Peaks into a more full focus.

There is an impatient part of me that wants to hate Lynch for this pacing.  If it was anyone else, I probably would, but somehow, for some reason, Lynch gets a pass.  He consistently selects and audio / visual language that I enjoy.  The scene around the discovery of Laura Palmer’s body is one of those scenes that really demonstrate so much of what I adore about his stories and language.  The first glimpse we really get of Laura Palmer is unforgettable and iconic.

The yell that ‘snaps’ Carrie Page at 54:23 in The Return finale episode can be heard at around 8:16 here in the pilot.  The pacing here seems to really do some good to establishing Sarah’s character, but it’s strange and tragic at once to watch her searching for Laura, while also wondering exactly what the motivation might be.   I love watching the light change on this very simple scene as Sarah searches for her daughter, especially that the last room bathes the corners in warm, reddish light.

The first of many glimpses up these stairs

As though we are somehow attached to all these different narrators yet are somehow passed off among them, we follow Sarah’s search for Laura to the Briggs’ house.  Given how much we know about the Briggs family now, especially the Major, it’s particularly great to see the introductory frame of them be so vivid.

Screenshot from ABC's Twin Peaks S01E01
Pop!  Wait a minute!  Philip — is that you??

All of these introductions are interestingly done (including, and perhaps most especially, Audrey and her shoes).   I love how the series allows some quiet moments to pass until being punctuated by sirens or screams. Sarah’s screams over Laura’s theme as the camera pans slowly down over the phone is both technically beautiful and emotionally tragic even after over two decades.

I love some of the longer shots where we linger looking down hallways, whether it’s in the high school halls of Twin Peaks or Leland’s visit to see Laura in the morgue.  The bluer color tones of the lights, especially in the hospital, help cast a sharp, uncomfortable mood.  The high squeal of the lights as Leland grasps at Laura’s face seem far more significant once you’ve seen The Return.

The reaction to people in homeroom to the insinuation that something is off is fascinating (hey, did you catch that Laura’s chair is red??).  There’s a person behind and to the right of Donna that looks actually bored, while the gent behind her in the blue seems more confused.  It’s also interesting that the words “Laura Palmer is dead” aren’t really joined up until around 20 minutes into the pilot.   The scene of the school reacting to Mr. Wolchezk talking about Laura’s death — the sound of his voice at some points modulated, flat, and echoing through the halls until the camera rests on our first glimpse of a living Laura is haunting.  I have to believe that Donna’s cries of pain and grief are meant to be echoed by Sarah’s which are next.

Grace Zabriskies’ performance the part where the Sheriff talks to her while she is sedated and under the care of Doc Hayward is harrowing.  Her distant look, her gasping breath, the sometimes soundless words.  To add to the eeriness, the framing of the scene is pretty awesome with a ghostly visage of Laura over her grieving mother’s shoulder.

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I also like how we keep returning to the ceiling fan image — it’s an important one, and we are reminded of it, and we can see how the light plays across it differently.  As we are shown this, Sarah is choking through how “I can tell from the sounds that it isn’t her.” That line seems more significant now than it would have been before, especially with that ticking clock underscoring all the action in the Palmer house.

This is why I'm certain all ceiling fans are suspect.
Don’t forget the creepiest ceiling fan of all time.

We are dumped, rather unceremoniously, from the sounds of the Palmer house to the squeals and hums of the mill.  For some reason, Pete checking off his list of “2×4’s, 4×8’s…2×4’s…4×8’s” never fails to make me smile.

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I love Piper Laurie, but look on the wall behind her at the “Fiscal Calendar,” which also happens to be the calendar year. Notice how the dates are marked off.

Josie’s moment with the intercom, Catherine lashing out at Truax — the entire mill being shut down as the grieving Mr. Pulaski is guided to the police car is all done with a slow, methodical reverence.  The machines all wind down slowly as Josie talks.

The moments of watching Ronette cross the bridge reminded me of this quote in  Catching the Big Fish, ‘When you see an aging building or a rusted bridge, you are seeing nature and man working together…But if it is allowed to age, then man has built it and nature has added into it — it’s so organic.’  In this moment there is this rusting old bridge being crossed by a woman in great peril (Lynch’s favorite), her white nightgown stained and torn.  Her backdrop is above the treeline, punctuated by the indifferent mountains behind the rusted bridge.  Screenshot from 2017-09-17 11-43-29

There’s also something nearly celebratory in the design of Big Ed’s Gas Farm – it seems to revel in the fusion of a 50’s aesthetic aged over time.  I love how steathily shocking Nadine is here.

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There are few moments more exciting for me than hearing Special Agent Dale Cooper’s introduction to the town of Twin Peaks.  The date of his ‘journal entry’ is 2/24 at 11:30 AM, which is pretty interesting, given the overall timeline of Laura’s murder.  I’ll talk about that more when we get to her diary.  From Cooper’s initial dictation to Diane, all the way to his straightforward conversation with Harry (he went from setting the tone of their relationship to delight over Douglas Firs!), Cooper’s introduction is done so well you just want to see more of him.  I love Kyle MacLachlan’s steady, cool reserve, and his long, observational looks all through this episode.  Frost and Lynch go through great pains to ensure that every character is well established, Cooper in particular, and it’s easy for me to admire how Lynch allowed time / space for that introduction to happen.  I think it’s also important and interesting to note that the jazzy riff being played behind Cooper during his time with Diane in the car continues to play quite softly in the background as Cooper and Truman are introduced.

I love how creepy Cooper’s examination of Laura Palmer’s nails still is after all these years.  The electricity arcing (and that continued sounds manages to set me on edge for the entire scene) throughout the scene with the lights flashing is extremely effective.  His excitement at finding the clue is now imbued with retconned fatalism.

The time we spend with Cooper and Truman in the police station as they prepare for and subsequently question Bobby is almost playful.  Almost.  Cooper’s conspiratorial grin to Truman after breaking the lock on the diary quickly gives way to a somber moment as he reads “Asparagus for dinner again.  I hate asparagus.  Does this mean I’ll never group up?”  The face work of him as he reads, and then Harry’s reaction is lovely yet heartbreaking to watch.  He also reads the date of the entry –  Behind Cooper’s grins to Bobby lies something far more astute, and you can tell from MacLachlan’s performance that Cooper both enjoys and is very talented at his job.  The phone call between Andy and Lucy is sweet (much like most of Andy’s moments on screen).  The music and atmosphere built make it a poignant break before Cooper begins his questioning of Bobby. The next break from the police station comes with Audrey and the Norwegians, and then it’s back to Cooper’s relentless questioning of those closest to Laura.

Once the plot gets to the train car we are reminded of exactly what Lynch’s history is.  The somber music and lush soundscape underlie the grisly discovery of a blood-scribed note.  The use of darkness and flashlights really helps with disorienting us to the time, this incongruous intrusion of nighttime on scenes that were before in the light of day.  It helps drive home not only the literal duality of Twin Peaks, but the intrusion of day as well.Screenshot-from-2017-09-17-12-19-14.png

The episode continues to follow the impact of Laura’s death — interspersing clues as to why the homecoming queen was murdered with the story’s proliferation through the community.  And always we are followed by sounds.  Drape runners.  Electricity.  Wood creaking.  The tension during the community meeting seems, feels, and sounds real.

When we switch from the community meeting to the howl of the wind at Sparkwood and 21, it becomes more and more clear that the woods here do hold a mystery, just as the Log Lady told us.  The intimacy of Doc Hayward’s discussion of his concerns while Donna listens seems nearly cozy, but the music indicates the underlying tension and seriousness of the situation.  I love how the lighting creates a still green lawn even at night, with Bobby surfing, drunk on the roof of his car as Mike talks to Doc Hayward.

We check in with Cooper and Harry, who have Lucy patch them through on the radio.  I love the clarinet part that is playing in the background during this — it’s this weird improv sounding bit, almost frenetic with exploration until the sounds of Julee Cruise break through.Screenshot-from-2017-09-17-12-35-09.png

The Roadhouse scenes are always dreamy, and this one really helps set the definition for this.  It isn’t long until we are treated to the outbreak of a fist fight inside the Roadhouse, and a dreamy exit by Donna and Joey (it appears that they exit twice), and we are treated to headlamps aimed into the trees and the road.  The soundtrack becomes the mix of sirens, the fight at the Roadhouse, and soft psithurism.  The burial of the half-heart necklace feels pretty Lynchian to me.  I think it’s a mix of the textures and just a thematic thing.

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Look at all of those textures. LOOK AT THEM.

The episode winds down through surrealistic screaming hoots of Bobby and Mike through the bars at James — I wondered at first if there was some sort of animal mixed in, but then I let the thought go, wondering if perhaps that was part of the magic.  It’s enjoyable to see that even Harry Truman is shown to have some duality here in his rendezvous with Josie.  I thought it was interesting that once again we were given a glimpse of the Palmer house — interior — night.  That jarring, upwards look at the ceiling fan, the shadows around it more forboding than ever, soundtracked by dark chords, and Sarah’s screaming.

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Seriously, FUCK OFF FAN.