"Hey, Grandma": the Bad Seed in Twin Peaks and Doyle's Canon

Episode 10:  “Hey, Grandma”

WARNING:  this post has a LOT of spoilers for both Twin Peaks and Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes canon.  If you haven’t read the original stories – what are you waiting for?  They’re wonderful!  Grab a copy and dive right in!!!

This week’s episode of Twin Peaks confirmed that Richard Horne is in fact the grandson of Benjamin and Sylvia Horne.  Their evil, twisted, depraved monster of a grandson.  This opens up all kinds of questions --- is Audrey his mother, or is Johnny his father?  If it IS Audrey, is Evil Coop the father?  Is Audrey still alive?  Did Richard kill his mother?  Did Evil Coop kill Audrey, and/or rape her while comatose after the explosion at the end of season 2?  What’s up with all the red shoes popping up lately?   It also gave us a disturbing scene of family brutality that I found shocking --- and that’s saying something for a series as cruel and heartless to its characters as Twin Peaks is. 

Richard, however, is nothing new:  he’s the latest version of the Bad Seed.  The child gone wrong.  That kid in the neighborhood who your mom didn’t like.  What we were told would happen to all of us if we listened to heavy metal, played Dungeons & Dragons, didn’t mow the lawn, etc.  This archetype is a familiar one, and still manages to pack a punch without seeming stale.  The term "Bad Seed", by the way, was originally the title of a novel by William March, about a cute little girl who happens to be a murderous sociopath.  The book is considered one of the classics of 20th century horror; novelist August Derleth proclaiming it "...a novel of suspense and mounting horror".  Its popularity (helped by the fact that the author died roughly a month after publication) quickly led to a highly-acclaimed stage adaptation and at least two film versions -- three, if you count Macaulay Culkin's performance in The Good Son.

Sherlockians are familiar with this "Bad Seed" motif – Doyle repeatedly used this theme in the original canon.  Sometimes he used it as a red herring, such as in The Boscombe Valley Mystery or The Beryl Coronet, both stories involving crimes where the son is accused of the criminal deed but is eventually found innocent.  Well okay, in Beryl Coronet, the niece was the villain… kind of.  But she didn’t know that Sir George was that kind of guy, and the ambiguous ending leaves open the possibility of her comeuppance.  Reigate Squire is unique in the canon, having both father AND son be the criminals (although the son, Alec Cunningham, is portrayed as the main villain.  He’s just not someone you leave your kids around). 

But there are those few canonical stories where Doyle shows how children can just grow up bad.  The first one that came to my mind was The Sussex Vampire, where we see young Jack Ferguson become so jealous of his infant half-brother that he ends up shooting poisoned darts at the kid.  Mark Frost and David Lynch have yet to steal this plot device.  Copper Beeches mentions in passing how the six-year-old child at the estate is cruel to animals, but he’s just a minor side character (Doyle’s criminals were always old enough to be responsible for their actions).  Kids --- what can you do?

The Sgt. Pepper of the canon, The Hound of the Baskervilles, is another example.  Rodger Baskerville’s illegitimate son turns out to be the shoe-stealing thief, setting his mastiff loose on the moors and giving Doyle a reason to bring Holmes back from the dead.  Finally, The Adventure of the Priory School treats us to James Wilder, another illegitimate son who gets involved in kidnapping and murder. 

As you can see, Richard Horne is in good… I mean, bad… company.  The main difference between Frost & Lynch's handling of the character and, what I assume Doyle's would have been, is that F&L show us right from the start that this kid is trouble.  Kind of like an old Columbo episode --- we know right away who did it.  The joy of a good Doyle canonical story, however, is that we have no idea who the villain is at first.  Doyle has us exploring the mystery along with Holmes and Watson to slowly reveal who the criminal or criminals are, and how they committed their dark deeds.

--- Brian Belanger

PS:  If you haven’t been reading the credits, you haven’t been paying attention --- the woman in the trailer that Richard Horne attacked is listed as Miriam Sullivan, who tells Richard that yes, she sent a letter off to Sherriff Truman today about how Richard ran over that little boy a few episodes back.  However, when Deputy Chad intercepts the letter in front of the police station, the return address reads “Miriam Hodges”. 

Deputy Chad, it seems, has made a mistake of Lestrade/Hitchcockian proportions.  Derrick disagrees, however, stating that it's not the deputy who's made the mistake, but rather Mark Frost and David Lynch!  "Like Sir Arthur, " Derrick says, "Lynch and Frost are not above making mistakes".  

What do you think?  Was the wrong letter intercepted as a deliberate plot point, or is this simply a case of sloppy writing?


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