[Spoilers start here.]
“Twin Peaks” began as the story of a dead girl, and while the world of the show is so much bigger, there’s no denying that Frost and Lynch built this franchise on the back of violence against women.
And in the first two episodes, said violence against women is pretty staggering. First, Tracy (Madeline Zima) is met with an uncertain but definitely bloody fate after stripping down to have sex with a hapless camera operator (Ben Rosenfield). A school librarian gets decapitated, her head left in her apartment while her body goes missing. An adulteress gets shot in the back by Evil Dale. Even dead, Laura Palmer can’t escape torture — she gets sucked up into an unknown void, screaming.
The worst is probably this: Daria, in an excruciatingly painful sequence, is terrorized, beaten, and eventually murdered by Evil Dale, as he has figured out that she and Ray have betrayed him. Daria wears just a bra and panties for the entire scene as Evil Dale beats her, tells her again and again that he’s going to kill her, and then does so, shooting her in the head after repeatedly slamming her against the wall.
It’s not that men aren’t murdered in the show, but as just one example, we don’t see Jack, Evil Dale’s male henchman, go through the ordeal that Daria does. Evil Dale plays with his mouth for an uncomfortable period of time, but Jack doesn’t die on screen — and he gets to keep his clothes on.
These hard-to-watch scenes aren’t just hard to watch because Lynch is a master of suspense. They’re hard to watch because they represent an antiquated attitude toward this genre. “Stupid young couple fucking where they shouldn’t and dying as a result” is a trope that is officially played out — as is the assumption that a sexual woman deserves to be murdered, as exemplified in countless horror films.
That’s what we always forget about “Twin Peaks” — it might enjoy its moments of absurd comedy, as well as whatever you want to call Dale Cooper plummeting through the cracks of reality. But this is a horror story, and from time to time it means to scare you, whether that be with supernatural murders or the awfulness that exists in our basic humanity.
But the show is entering a new era, when audiences are maybe hoping to be hooked on narratives that don’t consider women to be victims and/or sex objects. The violence against women in the first two episodes, especially in comparison to what was experienced by men, stands out as perhaps the most antiquated element of the new series — a series we’re looking forward to following, but hoping that it remembers women deserve as much a chance to be heroes as men.
The Quotes that Haunt Us (Because We May Or May Not Understand Them)
“Your log and I are on the same page.”
“I am dead. Yet I live.”
“I don’t need anything, Ray. I want.”
“You followed human nature perfectly.”
“Aren’t you nice and wet?”
- The obvious fragility of Catherine E. Coulson, returning as Margaret (better known as “The Log Lady”), is heartbreaking to see. Coulson passed away in the fall of 2015, and we’re grateful that she was able to reprise her iconic role one last time. And, as IndieWire’s Hanh Nguyen pointed out, of all the women on this show, so far she shows the most agency.
- Michael J. Anderson wasn’t asked to come back for the new season, and perhaps this is because Lynch had already decided to depict the Arm (AKA The Man From Another Place) as a disembodied CGI brain stem. It makes as much sense as anything. It’s too bad we won’t get to see Anderson again, but major points to “Twin Peaks” for the weirdest recasting moment of all time.
- Matthew Lillard is a real grown-up actor now, and his performance in these first two episodes is really impressive.
- Favorite sound design moment: The audio of a record skipping, every time Laura Palmer takes a step in the Red Room. That one will stick with us.
- The way in which Lynch’s mastery of modern technology to enhance the Black Lodge is impressive on a level beyond compare. Good Dale’s descent between the cracks of reality is maybe the most visually impressive sequence we’ve seen this year. And Lynch has 16 more hours left to top that.