We all love looking.
The 21st century takes a bigger strain on the eyes than any time that has preceded it. When we’re not glued to our televisions, we’re ceaselessly scrolling on our cell phones; personal computers that we’re
happily enslaved by. You might even be reading this that way – aware to some degree of the crick in your neck or the burn in your eyes from all this… looking.
Some of this media is branded as ‘social’ because of its facsimile to genuine interaction, but it acts as a hollow copy, undone at a fundamental level. We experience this ‘togetherness’ by ourselves. Alone. Isolated.
The wear on mental well-being caused by this sense of isolation is another booming trend of the new millennium. As technologies evolve, our bodies and aptitudes stumble to replicate such readiness. Health is compromised.
Still, to look is to request transportation; to enter into a loose contract with the subject. Twin Peaks: The Return is something wonderful to look at, but it isn’t afraid to critique how passive our lives have become, how enslaved we seem to be…
The irony of this blog – an obsessive deconstruction of something to look at – is not lost on me…
Cutting away from Twin Peaks, the show makes its first excursion to New York City for the first half of one of the most immediately iconic sequences of The Return. How pretty and serene the metropolis initially appears to be. Lynch frames down on the glittering buildings at night.
Then, an ominous and weightless slow-zoom up on a high rise building. We venture inside one of the topper-most studio apartments; a dark space where an expensive-looking experiment is in progress.
A glass box is placed in front of an aperture in the wall. It is mounted some feet up in the air; beneath it a vast array of cables and electronic devices are housed. It is stage-lit like an exhibit. Something to be looked at.
In keeping with this there is a looker; Sam Colby (Benjamin Rosenfield), a young man employed to observe the glass box. He sits on a sofa opposite the box, framed by two lamps. Cameras surround the box recording it, too.
The act of patiently watching appears here for the first time in the series and recurs throughout. And it often occurs when characters are in isolation. This first instance is perhaps one of the most pointed. We have a young man, alone, on a sofa, staring fixedly at a glass object, and no doubt he has been for hours. He evidently does this day in, day out. Returning to the medium of television for the first time in years, could it be that Mark Frost and David Lynch are commenting on this often empty and antisocial past time that preoccupies so much of western society? Aren’t our televisions our own glass boxes? And are we responsible for what comes out of them? The Return dares to confront the complacency of so much of our passive viewing…
Camera number 3 requires a replacement data storage device and we patiently watch Sam attend to this, filing the full unit away in a nearby container after he has replaced it. We observe this activity in full. Again, Lynch has us watch, and wait. Once he’s done, Sam returns to his prior vantage point, watching the glass box.
Sam then receives a visitor. Exiting the room through a secured door, he enters a hallway with an elevator. A security guard is there. Whatever is happening here is clearly taken seriously.
Sam’s visitor is a young woman named Tracy (Madeline Zima). She has brought two coffees
(of course, coffees), evidently in a bid to get a look at what’s going on behind the secured door. She’s as curious as we are.
“You’re driving me crazy,” she says to Sam, glancing at the security guard. She’s being flirtatious, but one senses that it is part curiosity and part genuine affection for Sam. The guard isn’t impressed, and Sam apologises that he must prioritise his ‘job’. Tracy is disappointed. Perhaps in an effort to endear herself further to him, she offers Sam both coffees.
“Thanks Tracy,” he says, taking both cups. Tracy tries to sneak a look at the door combination and Sam catches her.
“You’re a bad girl, Tracy,” he says with a smile, returning the flirtation.
“Try me,” she replies, turning up the heat. Sam takes the coffees back to the sofa in front of the glass box, and resumes his duties…
Is there a suggestion in this scene, then, that we’ve reached a point where isolated, passive viewing is preferable to human contact and company? It might not be the intention, but its there to be argued. Certainly, Sam is committed to his job, and takes pride in doing it attentively. There’s also a vaguely biblical subtext to the scene, too.
Replace the coffees with an apple and you might have something.
We’re close to getting involved in the sometimes problematic depiction of women that can occur in Twin Peaks; a show which is about – lest we get complacent and forget – how a woman is abused in silent social contract
(it’s about a lot of other things, too, I realise that).
Perhaps, in an effort to get ahead of the game on that score, the very next scene addresses the treatment of women head-on, as we return to a pair of familiar faces in the town of Twin Peaks…
Next time: R-E-S-P-E-C-T