“Occupied by Different Souls: Twin Peaks Episode 13” is also available in audio-visual format on the 25YL YouTube channel. Join us every day from January 30 to February 28, as we look at every episode of Seasons 1 & 2 for Twin Peaks Month.
The guest writer for this article is Lindsay Hallam. She is a contributor to The Women of David Lynch: A Collection of Essays and author of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me for the Devils Advocates series.
Every Twin Peaks fan has their own story of how they first watched the show and their obsession began. Those who watched it when it was first aired tell tales of weekly coffee-and-pie watch parties, water-cooler conversations, and campaigning to save the series when its cancellation was first announced. Younger fans often speak of finding the show on Netflix and bingeing the show in marathon sessions, then taking to the internet to share memes and jokes on social media. For me, I come from the VHS generation, a bit too young to have watched it when it was first on, although slightly aware of its cultural impact. I discovered the show at my local video library, firstly the Pilot (which was actually the European version) and then the two seasons in a set of four giant video boxes with two VHS tapes placed side by side, the cover emblazoned with Laura Palmer’s Homecoming Queen photo. For some reason my local video library only had the first two sets, which then led to a cross-town search across the city of Perth in Western Australia, scouring video libraries to help satisfy my obsession.
The last episode of the second set was actually the episode I am here to discuss, and so it always functioned for me like a season finale, a cliffhanger that left me desperate to know what happens next, only to be followed by an agonizing wait for answers and gratification. And certainly within the context of the second season, this episode also functions in this way, building to a climax before resolution in the next episode.
As is well known, co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost were forced by the network to reveal Laura Palmer’s killer, with this episode, in particular, setting the table for the revelation that was to come. Much of Episode 13 therefore works to put viewers off the scent and positions Ben Horne as the most likely suspect.
The opening scenes intercut between two daring rescues: picking up right where the last episode ends in Harold’s home, Donna and Maddy make an escape after James comes to their aid (in the process leaving Laura’s diary behind); then it shifts to Cooper bringing Audrey back to safety after rescuing her from One-Eyed Jack’s. Ben arrives with the cash ready to pay for Audrey’s ransom but seems more relieved that he doesn’t have to pay than seeing his daughter alive. He feigns ignorance when told of the location where she was found or who was holding her, but the scene ends with a lingering shot of Ben as concern washes over his face, realizing that Jean Renault has him in his sights.
When Audrey awakens, he goes back to his old, slimy self, uttering platitudes that “times like these make a man aware of the value of life. Every raindrop. Every sunset.” Audrey, armed with her knowledge that not only does her father own a brothel, but that he had (albeit unknowingly) tried to seduce her, sees straight through this act. Her replies to him are barbed with sarcasm; she stares at him as she tells him, “I saw so much.”
Ben’s sleaziness comes to the fore in a later scene with Josie, who has been summoned by Thomas Eckhardt and makes plans for a speedy exit from Twin Peaks—she wants the money she’s owed after years of scheming. The scene between Ben and Josie is a masterclass in one-upmanship and banter, aided by director Lesli Linka Glatter’s skills at blocking and shot composition. Besides Lynch, Glatter directed the most episodes of the original two seasons, and she managed to develop her own unique signature style.
In his book TV Peaks: Twin Peaks and Modern Television Drama, Andreas Halskov notes that Glatter “uses overt and often stagy compositions (including three- and four-shots)” (p. 93), which is exemplified in this scene as Josie and Ben are placed precisely in the frame, at first face-to-face in mid-shot as they reveal that they each have compiled evidence against the other, both grinning ear-to-ear as they realise, as Ben states, that they are at a “Stalemate”. This exchange illustrates the similarities between Ben and Josie: both love money above all, to the point that it’s hard to really tell whether the moments where they reveal a more human side (Josie’s relationship with Harry, Ben and his environmentalism) are genuine or just another con (although I have always wanted to believe that Josie had some feelings for Harry). What is clear, though, is that they are equals, again expressed through the staging of the scene, as Ben stands behind Josie, handing her the cheque as she gives him the papers in one smooth movement.
As Halskov states above, though, Glatter is particularly known for her shots where multiple characters are placed in the frame, and this technique is showcased primarily in the scenes set in the Sheriff’s station. These scenes are also notable for the entrance of Lynch in the role of Gordon Cole, announcing himself loudly before he’s even seen. Cole is one of the great comical characters of the show, his lack of hearing making for a series of hilarious misunderstandings and classic lines bellowed at high volume: “Coop, today you remind me of a small Mexican chihuahua.”
Cole arrives with news of the One-Armed Man and the lab results from testing the syringe he left behind in Episode 10. Cole tells Harry, “Albert’s never seen a drug like it. A combo, really weird stuff.” This is only part of the reason Cole delivers the report in person though, telling Coop of the recent message from Windom Earle: a chess move, foreshadowing what is to come later in the season. Cole is also concerned about Coop because of his recent gunshot wound, alluding to his previous injury back in Pittsburgh (at the hands of Windom Earle) where Cooper “went into the chute”.
While Cooper assures Cole that this case “bears no similarities”, it’s not the first reference to this incident in the episode. After rescuing Audrey and bringing her to the Bookhouse, Harry tells Cooper he saw footage of him at One-Eyed Jack’s and that Audrey’s captor was Jean Renault. Cooper realises that Audrey’s kidnapping was instigated to lure him there, stating, “I went out of my jurisdiction. Twice. I violated my professional code and now Audrey is paying the price…. This isn’t the first time my actions caused suffering to someone I care about in the name of doing what I had to do.” In Pittsburgh Cooper had fallen in love with a witness he was sworn to protect—who was also the wife of his partner, Windom Earle. Earle tracked them down, stabbed Cooper, and killed Caroline. We later see this event play out again in the Black Lodge in the series finale, but with Annie Blackburn, Cooper’s new love interest, at moments being seen in Caroline’s place.
In the context of all three series of Twin Peaks as a whole, this conversation with Harry is an important one, with Cooper realising his best intentions always seem to bring about tragic results. In this instance, Audrey has gotten off pretty light. One of the toughest realizations I myself have had as a viewer is acknowledging that Cooper is far from perfect. Each series finale confronts us with this difficult truth.
The episode engages with other subplots: Shelly and Bobby bring Leo home to claim the government cheque for his care—and are bitterly disappointed when the expected $5,000 a month turns out to be a mere $700. Given the now dire situation they are in, they resort to a drunken party, where Bobby berates Leo and lists his crimes. He and Shelly get carried away in an amorous moment but then catch themselves from going too far; as Shelly looks up at Leo his head moves slightly in a rare showing of some signs of life. There is still some semblance of Leo in there, and alongside the opening move of Windom Earle, there is clearly some table-setting going on, preparing to move the show forward after Laura’s killer is revealed.
But the Laura Palmer plotline is not over yet. There is, in hindsight, a heartbreaking scene between James and Maddy, as she announces her intention to go home. She confides in James that she has secretly revelled in a chance to be someone else—seeing herself as Laura in everyone’s eyes has been a way to keep Laura, and her connection to her, alive. She ends her confession with the line, “But now I’m just me again.” Given what is to come for Maddy—that she will suffer the same violent, horrific death as her cousin, at the hands of a trusted relative—the tragedy is compounded by the fact that she never really gets to become herself again.
The idea of two souls in one body is visualised in the episode’s final scenes with the One-Armed Man, where he reveals his true face. Having entered the station as Philip Gerard, Cole and Cooper deny him his medication (to which Harry objects) as it contains Haloperidol, which is used for schizophrenia and multiple personalities. Gerard begins to change, at one point letting out a long sigh that echoes, almost unnaturally, throughout the room. He then rises in his seat and announces himself as MIKE, “an inhabiting spirit”. MIKE explains that he and BOB were once partners, but after seeing the face of God he was purified and cut off his arm. He now keeps close to this “vessel” with the purpose of finding BOB to stop him. As he further explains, BOB similarly needs a vessel to inhabit: “Do you understand the parasite? It attaches itself to a lifeform and feeds. BOB requires a human host. He feeds on fear…and the pleasures. They are his children.”
MIKE’s speech weaves together several threads that make up the wider Twin Peaks mythology, elements of which reach back to the very beginning when MIKE told the same story of taking off his arm in the original international pilot, parts of which had been used in Cooper’s dream in Episode 2. This speech reveals BOB as pure evil, who exists only to cause fear and suffering in order to consume it as a form of sustenance. This is a reference to what is named in Fire Walk with Me as “garmonbozia”, which takes the form of creamed corn (a food that played an important role in Episode 9 when Donna visited Mrs Tremond). Tellingly, MIKE says that BOB feeds not just on fear but also “the pleasures”, suggesting that he is a sexual predator. That he then follows this statement with “They are his children” further points to Leland, who preyed on his own daughter.
Prior to this scene, we see Leland at the Great Northern Hotel, with Ben welcoming him back to work and telling him he has recently come to sympathise further with Leland after he also almost lost a daughter. In the lead-up to the killer’s reveal, the reflections between Leland and Laura and Ben and Audrey are increased. We see a glimpse of Leland as he was before Laura’s death (to this point we have only seen him as a father overwhelmed with grief, at any moment apt to break down crying or burst into song) when he proposes a sneaky way to circumvent the deal with Iceland going through so the sale of Ghostwood can go to Tojamura. There is also an odd moment in Ben’s office when Leland reaches over to a stuffed animal, pulls out some of its fur, and puts it in his coat. Later this fur will be found near Maddy and used as evidence to further implicate Ben as the killer. This suggests some premeditation on Leland’s part—has he already at this point decided to kill Maddy? And has he further planned to frame Ben for it? This strongly suggests it’s not just BOB at work here; Leland must also take some responsibility.
This scene also situates both Leland and Ben at the Great Northern Hotel, which relates to MIKE’s final revelation before the credits roll. He states that the killer is in “a large house made of wood. Surrounded by trees. The house is filled with many rooms, each alike. But occupied with different souls, night after night.” Cooper deduces that this refers to the Great Northern, the episode ending with a shot of the hotel as ominous music plays.
And so, the scene is set for the big reveal.