“Episode 14 Is Twin Peaks’ Finest Hour” 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 world spins, but does it always take us back to starting positions? Episode 14 of Twin Peaks, also known as “Lonely Souls,” certainly paints that picture. I’ve said for many years that this is the finest hour of the series, closely rivaled by Part 17 from Season 3, and after a recent rewatch, that’s a claim I stand by. There is an atmosphere that fills this hour of television, a mood that connects all three acts that is simply unparalleled in the world of filmmaking. The intuitive characters on the show know that something is happening. Those less intuitive still feel something regardless. It’s undeniable, no matter how “in tune” you are or not. But these are the things we’ve known about this episode for 30 years. Let’s dive a little deeper here.
The Seeds For Fire Walk With Me Are Planted
Up until this episode, we knew very little about Laura Palmer. This is when, by virtue of discovering the remains of her diary, we discover that BOB has molested Laura from a young age. We also learn that Laura had worked at One-Eyed Jacks and that Ben Horne has not only slept with her but loves her. We are learning things onscreen that had only been previously disclosed in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, a book which was released in between the first and second seasons of the show.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me would give us full awareness into the sexual nature of BOB’s violence, but here, during the death of Maddy, we see BOB first pick her up and dance with her before beginning to kiss her neck, and later her bloody lips. Not only has BOB taunted, stalked and repeatedly hit Maddy up to this point, but he is now forcing himself intimately on her. This was an act of “You’re mine,” forcing his “affection” on her before ending her life. A claiming of Maddy, if you will, much the same as he wanted to claim Laura before her. For BOB, killing Maddy is a consolation prize of sorts, an act of revenge. He can’t have Laura, so he gets the next best thing. For Leland, the pain of losing Laura’s proxy is too much to bear, so he gives into that dark temptation like he has done so many times before.
Episode 14 was in many ways our introduction to both Laura and BOB. Sure, we had seen BOB before and knew some things about the dead girl our story was based on, but our perceptions of these characters and who they really were weren’t fully formed at this point in the narrative. Episode 14 changes the conversation with these characters, laying the groundwork for everything Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me will show us less than two years later.
David Lynch’s Idea of Twin Peaks
There’s a common theme in Lynch-directed episodes of Twin Peaks, in that they largely focus on the characters he most identifies the show with. The Palmer family is Twin Peaks to David Lynch, as are the characters at the Sheriff’s station, James, Bobby, Donna, Big Ed, Norma, the Log Lady, the Giant, and a few others. Same with settings such as the Palmer home, the Roadhouse, and the Great Northern. Lynch brings things back to his own personal starting position by focusing on what he believes the core of the series to be about.
As noted in John Thorne’s must-read book, The Essential Wrapped In Plastic, the script for this episode did considerably vary from what we ultimately saw onscreen. In the script, Cooper spends more time examining the contents of the diary, and perhaps most noticeably different is the scene where the police look through Harold’s home. In the script, Cooper brings MIKE with them for the sole purpose of seeing if BOB has been there. While its perfectly reasonable for Harold to commit suicide, knowing everything we do about him, there’s still a hint of mystery to his death. Can BOB have possibly killed Harold? The script firmly tells us no, as MIKE doesn’t detect BOB there. Another note of interest is that during that scene, Truman discovers that Harold was a patient of Dr. Jacoby, another mystery that could have made for an interesting storyline but was ultimately discarded. Whether these decisions were Lynch’s or a group decision remains unclear to this day.
Twin Peaks has always had a thing with time and bringing things full circle. There is an element of things progressing and then coming back to “starting positions.” This episode had a few examples that really stuck out to me. When Big Ed brings Nadine into the Double R, Nadine introduces herself to Shelly and asks Norma if seeing her with Ed is upsetting to her. To Nadine, she and Ed are in the beginning of their relationship, and having this conversation with Norma is completely appropriate, seeing as how Norma is Ed’s ex-girlfriend. To Ed and even Norma, they’ve come full circle, back to when Ed first gets together with Nadine. Nadine isn’t well and not confident, and Ed puts himself in a caregiver role with her. All of the years of resentment—and Ed trying to convince himself that leaving was in fact OK—have been erased. They’ve made a full loop, all progress lost, and their starting positions don’t feel good one bit.
Audrey Horne’s journey up to this point has been about finding her inner strength and trying to find her own way, in a manner that has nothing to do with her neglectful parents. Early in Season 1, we see Audrey hiding, watching her father and Catherine, unable to control her tears as she sees part of what her father is truly up to in life. This vulnerable girl is the true Audrey, one who is desperate for both love and attention. Audrey’s fascination with Cooper is more about latching onto someone who is nothing like her father, and that fascination leads her on a quest to uncover secrets in which her father is complicit.
In this episode, Audrey finally holds all of the cards. She’s able to force her father to speak the truth, to answer her questions. This should be a victorious moment for Audrey, but it’s really a return to starting positions for her. Much like when she learns the truth about her father and Catherine, learning these truths about her father and Laura brings about more pain than it does satisfaction. Audrey’s quest for truth and for a life unlike her father’s will not be over just because it has come full circle. Much like how she pursues an older man from out of town in Cooper, who is nothing like her father, she will soon embark on a new incarnation of that pattern with the “King Tuck” himself, John Justice Wheeler.
Another cycle that this episode touches upon is the Palmer home being a source of both pain and answers. While we don’t know going into this episode that their home is where we’ll learn the series’ greatest secret, that will in fact be the case. In Season 3, the Palmer home is treated much the same, only pronounced slightly from before. We are told that Cooper is trying to get there so he can take Carrie Page there in an effort to confront her past. The Palmer home is the endgame for Season 3, a place where we as viewers hoped to gain some kind of resolution. This, more than anything else, was David Lynch returning to starting positions. For him, everything about this series connects back to the Palmer family, and in Parts 17 and 18 of Season 3, Lynch brings so much of what was started here in Episode 14 full circle. The turmoil and pain in that home that we discover in Episode 14 comes back to life in Part 17 of Season 3, as we watch Sarah destroy the photo of her daughter in what is arguably the most intense and disturbing moment of the comeback season. It is certainly the moment where Lynch’s unique brand of horror and tension is most felt, in a way that felt truly comparable to his work in Episode 14 of the original series. Then in Part 18, the Palmer home becomes the place we have to go to see what is really going on, just like how we’ve had to go there to get answers before as to who killed Laura.
It Is Happening Again
Season 3 opens with the Giant (soon to be renamed the Fireman) giving Cooper instructions. That, in fact, has always been the dynamic between these two characters, The Giant appears to Cooper to give him both clues and instructions as to what he needs to do next.
Episode 14 of Twin Peaks features one of the most memorable scenes with the Giant, as he appears at The Roadhouse to famously tell Agent Cooper, “It is happening again,” at the very moment that Leland, with a little help from BOB, begins his life-ending assault on Maddy. Looking throughout the entire narrative of Twin Peaks, both the Giant and Laura Palmer serve as guides of sorts to Cooper. They are in a different realm, between two worlds, if you will, and Cooper is a seeker of truth, justice, and answers. While neither the Giant nor Laura interferes and prevents Cooper from making any wrong moves, both serve to keep him on his path, and here, in the case of Episode 14 of Twin Peaks, the Giant does insert himself to let Cooper know that his arrest of Ben Horne is an error.
The Giant’s investment in Agent Cooper seems to imply a certain relevance Cooper has to the larger game being played between the supernatural beings of Twin Peaks. He’s a piece on the board in a high-stakes chess game that has to be protected or eliminated, depending on which side of the board you’re on. The Fireman, as seen in Part 8 of The Return, has a large investment in Laura Palmer. Does Laura’s death bring about a need for a Plan B in the form of an FBI Special Agent? Or was the plan always for both of them to be key players in the Giant’s mission? That’s a question for which there’s no narrative evidence to support a conclusion either way, but it makes the spiritual connection between Laura and Cooper even more fascinating to think about. Does the Giant’s need for both of them make their relationship predestined?
The World Spins
Episode 14 of Twin Peaks is an episode nobody will ever dismiss or forget. This was the television version of Fire Walk With Me, in terms of its mood, shockingly brutal violence, and pure Lynchian terror. As noted earlier, this episode simply feels different than others. Artistically speaking, David Lynch never shined brighter on television than he did here, managing to push the boundaries of the medium like nobody before (or after).
As an audience, the great mystery has been solved. We know who killed Laura Palmer. We’re shocked and terrified, and this already creepy world became infinitely scarier, knowing now what BOB is capable of and that he’s on the loose. No matter how many times I view this episode, I still get all the same feelings. This episode is art, and it changed network television—and so many of us who viewed it—for the better.