This was serious detective work.
On a recent night I rendezvoused with three tape editors at a post-production facility in Hollywood--I can’t tell you which one--where we spent the better part of an hour replaying the seemingly crazed ending of Sunday’s season premiere of ABC’s “Twin Peaks,” written by Mark Frost and directed by David Lynch.
The tape editors have no connection with “Twin Peaks,” which resumes at 10 tonight on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42. Yet what these moderately bizarre people had discovered, and wanted to show me, was astonishing.
Two of the editors sat behind the control panel, one with his hand on a knob that regulated the speed of the tape. The other editor stood beside one of many monitors on a wall facing the control panel.
I thought I heard the wind howling through the trees. Or was it the wind? Maybe my terrible cliche was howling through the trees. Whatever it was, it was scary, for come to think of it, there were no trees in the vicinity.
To briefly review: The ending of Sunday’s episode was a frightening dream-like flashback that appeared to show a man with long, gray hair--known only as Bob in fleeting earlier appearances last season--murdering Laura Palmer, the mysterious high school homecoming queen whose body washed ashore on last season’s premiere episode. FBI agent Dale Cooper’s investigation of the slaying has since been the main plot.
It would appear that Laura’s death followed her involvement in kinky sex games with the now-comatose Ronnette Pulaksi and Leo Johnson and the since-slain Jacques Renault.
Using fast cuts and dramatic flashes of light and sound, Lynch ended Sunday’s episode on a crescendo of terror while leaving the impression that Laura had been murdered by the obviously demonic Bob. The sequence of shots clearly showed Bob, with blood smeared across his mouth, kneeling over Laura and screaming while repeatedly plunging something into her chest.
But had Lynch been playing his own fiendish games?
“Are you ready?” the editor by the monitor asked eagerly. His eyes widened, almost as if he, too, was demonized. I gulped. “Ready.”
Using sophisticated equipment to make a detailed examination by slowing the tape and freezing the frames in key spots, the editors proceeded to demonstrate that everything was not as it seemed. It seems that I, and probably just about everyone else who saw the episode, had the wrong impression. Actually. . . .
Bob is a good guy.
One editor slowed the tape and froze the frame as the editor beside the monitor pointed to Bob raising his arms over the apparent Laura in an apparent fit of rage. “Look at his wrists,” the editor said. “See the handcuffs?”
He was right.
Bob was wearing handcuffs.
At regular speed, they couldn’t be spotted. “We had to play it back three times before we saw it,” the editor said.
Why would Bob wear handcuffs while murdering Laura?
“He’s not murdering her,” the editor said. “He’s not even attacking her. Look, there’s nothing in his hands. No weapon, nothing.”
He was right again. Watching this sequence at regular speed, I had assumed Bob was plunging a knife into Laura’s chest.
But what was Bob doing?
“Look at the position of his hands,” said the editor. Then the editor at the controls advanced the footage slowly, frame by frame. “See the way he’s pounding his hands on her chest?” Yes?
“He’s giving her CPR.”
Of course. Of course . That’s exactly what he is doing. Far from being a heavy, Bob is heroic.
But, then, why is Laura’s blood smeared across his mouth?
“That’s not Laura’s blood,” the editor said. The tape was advanced to a close-up of Bob, then freeze-framed. Yes, yes . It wasn’t Laura’s blood at all.
“It’s her lipstick,” the editor said. “Obviously, Bob was trying to save her by giving her mouth to mouth.”
But, uh, just one more thing. I distinctly recall that, as Bob fleetingly flashed on the screen, his face was maniacal fury, the very essence of evil.
Advance tape. Freeze frame.
Not fury, anguish . It’s now so clear. Laura--the apparent Laura--is dead, and Bob’s distraught. It was the editing--juxtaposing Bob with shots of a truly demonic Laura--that gave me and other viewers watching this at normal speed the impression that Bob was possessed.
If the purpose of television drama is to communicate, however, what does all this cleverness mean? That “Twin Peaks” is a private joke? That co-creators Lynch and Frost are master obfuscators who enjoy teasing and toying with their audience? That it’s necessary to have advanced electronic equipment to comprehend this series?
On the contrary. The editors believe that all of these obscured elements are mystery building blocks that will be explained when Laura’s true murderer is revealed, in whatever millennium that occurs.
By the way, there is one interesting addendum to this sleuthing.
It appears there may be truth to rumors that, in addition to being the name of the fictional lumber town where the series is set, “Twin Peaks” is also a reference to female anatomy.
At one point in Sunday’s ending, the camera swiftly pans the body of the apparent Laura. Only when the editors slowed the shot, advancing it frame by frame, did I see something I hadn’t seen when watching at normal speed.
Her nipples are clearly visible through the netting of the corset she’s wearing.
Does ABC know it’s presenting prime-time breasts? Apparently the network’s standards and practices department screens programs as the rest of us do, the old-fashioned way, at normal speed. “If in fact there is some nudity there, ABC was unaware of it,” a network spokesman said.
Meanwhile, the wind was howling. . . .