[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from the first two parts of the “Twin Peaks” revival series.]
On Sunday’s premiere of “Twin Peaks,” fans reunited with beloved character Margaret Lanterman, better known as the Log Lady. The reunion was bittersweet, though, since actress Catherine Coulson had died from cancer shortly after shooting her scenes for the revival series in September 2015.
In the two scenes in which the Log Lady appears, the evidence of Coulson’s battle with the disease is evident: She’s weaker, speaks haltingly and breathes with the aid of a nasal cannula. Despite this obvious infirmity, though, it was heartening to see that the Log Lady is still on her game and possibly sharper than ever. In these first two episodes in which the women are treated viciously on screen, it was inspiring to see that one woman isn’t beaten down or cowed, and in fact provides guidance and offers sustenance.
The first thing to notice is that the characters in Twin Peaks call Margaret by name, not just Log Lady, which is how she’s referred to in the pilot. Calling her Margaret was a practice that we saw increasingly in the second season of the original series and has carried through 25 years later. Log Lady relegates her to being only a character, a kook, while Margaret humanizes her, and thus legitimizes her as a player in this story with life and death stakes.
Each time we see her in the revival, Margaret calls Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse). In the first episode, she tells him, “Hawk, my log has a message for you. Something is missing and you have to find it. It has to do with Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). The way you will find it has something to do with your heritage. This is a message from the log.”
The second time, she knows that he’s out walking at night and advises him, “The stars turn and a time presents itself. Hawk, watch carefully.” She also has pie waiting for him. (Incidentally, the first two episodes use the Log Lady’s quotes as brief episode descriptions: “My log has a message for you,” and “The stars turn and a time presents itself,” respectively.)
It’s no accident that it’s Hawk that she’s speaking to each time. Through his Native American spirituality, he’s aware of the supernatural forces in the forest, and once asked Margaret, “The wood holds many spirits, doesn’t it?” The two of them are simpatico, and Margaret’s ability to understand the log perhaps puts her in direct connection with the forest in a way that Hawk lacks. When Hawk speaks with her, it’s not just humoring her; it’s with respect.
As the woods whisperer, Margaret is on the side of nature and goodness and wisdom that has been around for a long time. If anything has a chance of defeating BOB (Frank Silva) or the evil entity from the Black Lodge that had been unleashed upon the world, we imagine it would be an equal, balancing force like nature.
In the original series, Cooper has a philosophical debate with Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) on whether or not BOB is real, and eventually concludes that BOB is a manifestation of “the evil that men do.” Could it be then that the foil for that would be a feminine power, and that’s why BOB often targets women? And, we’re probably reading too much into this, but BOB has a “Fire Walk with Me” tattoo, and Margaret is very anti-fire, after her husband was killed in one.
While Margaret may not be the savior of “Twin Peaks,” if only because of her health issues, it’s clear that she’s on the side of angels and has been working with Hawk and Agent Cooper, the latter whom is definitely the hero. Before the coffee-loving FBI agent went to the Black Lodge, he had been showing signs of experiencing the world like Margaret did, and listened to her counsel more and more. Could he be her spiritual successor?
We don’t know how much more of Margaret we’ll see in the series, if any at all, but she’s already had an impact. In the second episode, we see that Hawk intends to dig back into the old Laura Palmer case files to find out what’s missing. It’s because of the Log Lady that the folks of Twin Peaks will be primed to either find or help Cooper on what Showtime president and CEO David Nevins called, “Agent Cooper’s odyssey back to Twin Peaks.” And he’ll need all the help he can get if he’s going to be facing what amounts to Lynchian versions of Scylla and Charybdis.
Margaret getting her due in the premiere is fitting because the Log Lady wasn’t just some oddball that David Lynch dreamed up for laughs on the show, and Coulson wasn’t just an actress. In an interview with IndieWire, Lynch said, “Every character’s important in a story, but she was unique and special, and a great texture in the world of ‘Twin Peaks.’”
Beside playing the Log Lady, Coulson has had a long history working with Lynch. She played a double amputee in his 1974 short film “The Amputee” and was an assistant director on his 1977 debut film “Eraserhead.”
When Coulson died, he said in a statement, “Today I lost one of my dearest friends, Catherine Coulson. Catherine was solid gold. She was always there for her friends — she was filled with love for all people — for her family — for her work. She was a tireless worker. She had a great sense of humor — she loved to laugh and make people laugh. She was a spiritual person — a longtime TM meditator. She was the Log Lady.”
“Twin Peaks” airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.