Twin Peaks #12 – What is a Stall Episode? #tv
Mark Frost and David Lynch really have a laugh giving us Twin Peaks episode 12, a stall episode to end all stall episodes. What is a stall episode? A stall or stretch TV episode is done for several reasons. The first is to fill time and help delay the TV season until more meaningful episodes can be shown to move it along. The second is for reasons of foreshadowing. Or a stall is done for contrast. I think Episode 12 has all this stuff.
The biggest stall of Twin Peaks is the return of Agent Cooper, which Episode 12 doesn’t deliver. It teases us with more Dougie and more comedy and more of his son. When it comes down to it, this episode ignores what the viewer really wants. This happens all throughout, in connection to much more than just Agent Cooper. Basically, the “stall” is this episode’s conceit, as it explores just what the viewer really needs from watching a TV episode or diving into a story in general. Do we need plot points to enjoy a TV show?
The Stall has been demonstrated by the series dialogue all along, which has elongated-David-Lynch pauses, but there seems to be a lot more of them this time around. Sometimes there’s so much anticipation to end the Stall it’s like fingers on a chalkboard. I think some anticipation begins in earnest with the Ben Horne scene, as Sheriff Turner sits there looking at him during a brief conversation about Richard Horne and Miriam. The reason for this Stall is to draw out Ben’s reaction to his grandson’s crime, running over a little boy in his truck. Since the audience already knows all about this situation, it delays Ben’s reaction and our understanding of his feelings. He’s basically helpless.
The second Stall is during the Gordon and Albert comedy hour, as we wait for the French Woman to leave the room. This is Mark Frost and Lynch teasing us. And since we pretty much know what Albert’s going to say, it makes the Stall even worse. Gordon throws in a dumb joke to really get us. Albert can only rub his forehead. Viewers are doing the same thing.
The third Stall is the Audrey scene, which marks her first appearance, although it is really anticlimactic. She talks about characters the viewer doesn’t know, and name drops people we haven’t been introduced to yet. It’s pretty frustrating. This is done later in the final Stall, by OTHER characters at the bar we hardly know, who talk about MORE characters, but we haven’t met those either. Or if we have, I hardly remember. You’d think I’d remember a guy named Billy and two hot chicks. Maybe not. Anyway, the major reason the Audrey scene is a Stall is because her husband keeps a lot of information from us the viewer, in order to resolve our dilemma about just what is going on in this scene. After learning this information over the phone, he hangs up and gives Audrey a smug look. She starts screaming exactly what the viewer is thinking, “You’re not going to tell me what she said?”
Overall, I can see the purpose of this episode pretty darn clear, but it doesn’t make me like it. In fact, I hate this episode. I don’t hate David Lynch playing Captain Experimental, but at this point, you might argue that his exploration of several storytelling concepts and themes is secondary to the plot. Whoopee.