Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Ben Horne: "Who's the Glad Handing Dandy?"

Who is Benjamin Horne; a lovable playboy or a self-serving deviant? Initially described by Agent Cooper in the pilot episode of Twin Peaks as a, "glad handing dandy," Ben Horne didn't seem like a very good person when we first met him in 1990. In fact, he looked to be a likely suspect in Laura Palmer's murder, not to mention an awful father, husband, arsonist, a scandalous businessman, a womanizer, and an attempted murderer. However, his character's arc in the original series took Ben on a very bumpy emotional ride. By the end of Season 2 he seemed to be a better man. Imploring the rules of goodness taught to him by none other than John Justice Wheeler, Ben appeared to have turned over a new leaf. Played brilliantly by the very talented Richard Beymer, Ben Horne's influence in Twin Peaks goes far beyond just the lives he affected, some positively, many negatively. His character creates a sort of moral compass for the show, proving that even the worst of us can find redemption if we truly want to change...maybe.

Multiple Misdeeds 

From the beginning of the series, it was revealed that Ben Horne, and his brother Jerry Horne, were powerful, eccentric, hedonistic, and dangerous men. They were also, ironically so, very likable in their bad behavior. Or at least they were extremely fun to watch. However Ben in particular, seemed to be behind a lot of terrible things in the town of Twin Peaks. From his scandalous affair with Catherine Martell, the subsequent plot to murder her, and burn down the Packard Saw Mill, to his perversion with young women, and mistreatment of his daughter and family in general, made Benjamin Horne a formidable bad guy. Ben Horne was also the proud owner of the brothel/casino, One Eyed Jacks, and admittedly had an affair with Laura Palmer when she was seventeen years old. He apparently fell in love with Laura, and kept a photo of her on his desk right in front of not only his own family, but also Leland Palmer. The deep level of how inappropriate that is goes without saying.

When Audrey was kidnapped by Blackie and Jean Renault at One Eyed Jacks in Season 2, Ben was far more concerned for his money, property, and the keeping of his secrets, than he was for Audrey's well being. Despite Audrey seeing, "so much," at One Eyed Jacks, and her attempts to reveal that information to Agent Cooper, Ben was more interested in keeping her in his control to protect himself. It took a fox hair frame up from Bob/Leland in Laura's murder investigation for Ben to finally be taken down.

Perhaps Ben's hubris in always thinking he was two steps ahead of everyone else was what Bob detected, allowing him to deal Ben some comeuppance. In addition, the amazing Piper Laurie, aka Catherine Martell, pretended to be Mr. Tojamura in order to gain control over Ghost Wood Estates. While sitting in jail after being arrested for Laura's murder, Ben learned of Catherine's plot, which upended the world he knew and sent him spiraling into entertaining madness. 

A Downward Spiral

In the aftermath of Laura Palmer's murder, despite ultimately being acquitted, Ben suffered a slow mental collapse. At first it played out in a charming way. While incarcerated, Ben and Jerry recalled a childhood memory of Louise Dombrowski dancing on a hook rug, watch --> here, while they admired her from their bunk beds. Then it moved into a more somber, but still sweet moment where Ben, now sporting a bathrobe and a five o'clock shadow in his office, reminisced while watching old movies of his childhood.  

Enter Hank Jennings, who informed Ben that he was no longer the owner of One Eyed Jacks. That bit of information seemed to tether the last shred of Ben's sanity into oblivion. After which, Ben begins to believe himself to be General Robert E. Lee during the civil war era. It takes an elaborate plot from Audrey, Jerry, Bobby, and Dr. Jacoby, where they haphazardly reenact the civil war with the South winning this time around, for Ben to emerge from his deranged state. Although he didn't remember much about his delusions, Ben did appear to have shed the weight of his angst from the experience.

Telling the Hardest Truth

After waking from his delusional brain fog, Ben seemed to genuinely want to be a better man. He switched from cigars to carrots. He tried to be more supportive toward Audrey, and got her involved with the family business. He also took some guidance from John Justice Wheeler, who told him to always tell the hardest truth first. Even though he was a bit calculated in his motivation to promote saving the Little Pine Weasel in order to stop Catherine's development plans for Ghost Wood Estates, Ben did so on the up and up. Despite many people finding his new path hard to accept, Audrey was happy to embrace her father's turn around.

Along with his desire to be a man of some righteousness, Ben decided he wanted to rediscover part of his past with Eileen Hayward. Ben began sending Eileen roses, and stopped by her home uninvited. Donna Hayward immediately took notice and made the upsetting discovery that Ben might actually be her father, not Doc Hayward. This led up to the Season 2 finale, where Ben showed up at that Hayward's house after the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, and without verbally confirming it, led Donna to believe she was, in fact, his daughter. Donna, heavily distraught, continually cried to Doc Hayward, and much to fans distaste, "You're my daddy!" Doc Hayward then acted in a fit of rage, and slammed Ben's head into the hearth above their fireplace. That incident left Ben's fate unknown to fans for over two and half decades.

A Changed Man in 2017

When Season 3 of Twin Peaks aired on May 21st, 2017, Ben and Jerry were one of the first original characters the audience got reintroduced to. Although it was never officially mentioned, Ben clearly recovered physically from the incident at the Hayward's house at the end of Season 2. At first, it didn't appear that much had changed. His office looked very similar, he had returned to smoking cigars, and he still had bantering sessions with his, now pot smoking, brother Jerry. Ben also seemed to share an attraction to his lovely new and younger assistant, Beverly, played by the talented Ashley Judd. At first glance it appeared that Ben might have returned to his devilish ways. However after we learned more about Ben's life since the end of Season 2, it seemed that, at least some of, the goodness he tried to exude had taken root.

In Season 3 of Twin Peaks, we learned that Ben and his wife Silva had divorced. His grandson, Richard Horne, the son of Audrey and Mr. C, was a stain on the town of Twin Peaks. Johnny Horne was living full time with Silva, while Ben was paying for their livelihood. Audrey was somewhere unknown, but seemingly unpleasant, depending on how you look at it, and Ben, although clearly tempted, was now showing, R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for Beverly, and her troubled marriage. By doing so, he politely rejects his desires for her. In a reflective moment with Sheriff Frank Truman, Ben seems a bit wistful about his life while having a recollection about a bike his father gave him as a child.

Overall in 2017 it would appear that Ben is a changed man. Maybe it was the sum total effect of his life's experiences, or maybe he's just too old to keep up with the games he once played. It seems reasonable to think that perhaps the troubles Audrey had, that Richard Horne had, that we learned Donna Hayward had in The Final Dossier, and the financial responsibilities Ben still had to Silva Horne and Johnny Horne, might have humbled Ben over the years. Although it played out slowly throughout Season 3, it seems Ben Horne might be a good example of the overarching theme of The Return, which I think is that life moves on, people change, life changes, but some things stay the same, cigars beat carrots.

Enjoy one of Ben's finest scenes below!