WHERE PIES GO TO DIE – THE LIFE AND LOVES OF NORMA JENNINGS

Norma is one of those rare characters who is loved by everyone. I’m sure there must be haters out there, but I’m yet to find one. She is constant and unchanging, both on our screens, and in the town of Twin Peaks. For three seasons and a film, she has served coffee with a smile, and has taken no crap from anyone.

As Annie is much younger, Norma essentially grew up an only child. We don’t know much of her father, but she has a cold, overbearing mother (for ease, I’m referring to the events of the actual show rather than the Secret History).
Vivian no doubt put pressure on Norma to be the perfect schoolgirl, to date the perfect boy, to enter, and win, the first Miss Twin Peaks contest.

Although she was in love with Ed, Norma’s tryst with bad boy Hank was possibly her first act of rebellion against her perfect life. If you want to find a man your mother wouldn’t approve of, sleazy old Hank is probably a good choice.

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What happened next is something that has always bugged me. Ed turned to the first girl he saw in order to get back at Norma – sweet doting Nadine who was always there for him. For some reason, these two little acts of teenage cheating turned into two marriages and 48 years worth of affairs.

This is why I never had any sympathy for Ed and Norma. If they wanted to be together, they should have just done so instead of playing stupid games. Ed did Nadine no favours by trapping her in a loveless marriage and cheating on her the whole time. I always thought Norma was maybe afraid of Hank, but she left him quite easily in season 2 once Ed was free. So it seems he was just part of the facade of her perfect life.

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And is Ed really such a great prize? Within the community, he’s decent enough, and hardworking. He’s a good surrogate parent to young James. But when it comes to relationships, he’s a coward, with a deluded sense of duty. For Norma’s one weekend with Hank, she is punished for almost 5 decades. There is so much more she could have done with her life. She really could have done better than both of them.

As a businesswoman, Norma is highly respected. She takes pride in her product and strives to be the best. She is a mother figure to Shelley, if a little weak in her friendship. She knows that Shelley is in an abusive marriage and does nothing to help, apart from taking her out to get her hair done. Seeing as  she has a direct line to the Bookhouse Boys, you think she’d do a little more.

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But everyone likes her, and she provides a nice safe place for the Twin Peaks residents to hang out and see a friendly face. Like the RR, Norma is a reliable constant.

Norma does everything to perfection. She tried hard to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student. Now she is the perfect employer, the astute businesswoman, the loyal wife, the good friend. We don’t have to see her house to know it would be immaculate, with everything in its place. The only wrong thing in her life is her affair with Ed. And, if anything, she is also the perfect mistress. He calls the shots completely, while she waits compliantly (for almost 50 years!) for him to find the courage to leave Nadine.

We can talk for hours about what season 3 means for Ed and Norma, about the ‘resetting’ of time (I’m still unconvinced about this). I’ve asked myself many times if Ed and Norma finally got their happy ever after, not that I think they particularly deserved it. I’ve decided they are together. The fact that the chosen track of Otis Redding’s ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ is a live version makes me think that it is David’s way of saying that this is happening right now, that it is real life.

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It is nice to think that it is real, and that Norma finally has her reward for a lifetime of trying. In a town of darkness and loss, maybe she can also create the first real perfect happy ending.

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