Our first return trip to a primary location from the series’ original run, and its the Great Northern Hotel. Lynch triggers us with that classic establishing shot – the hotel structure over the tumbling waterfall. It’s the first scene of The Return that feels like coming home.
As intimated last time, the subject of female representation in the show is here addressed head-on. It’s been a thorny issue for Twin Peaks for some time. Accusations of misogyny are not uncommon (or wholly unfounded). This is seemingly inevitable for a show in which the central story line concerns the incestuous rape and murder of a high school girl. One might even argue that the addition of supernatural elements (BOB, the Black Lodge etc.) only exist to make the subject matter slightly more palatable; softened by the veneer of the fantastic. It’s all right, it’s only make belief…
The crucial distinction is that Twin Peaks has never endorsed misogynistic behaviour; it has merely reflected its shattering consequences. Lynch’s work may have leered in the past (our introduction to One Eyed Jack’s; several sequences in Lost Highway), but the intent has always appeared to be Lynch’s own morbid fascination with the darker side of our desires and of sexuality.
Still, The Return contains some tough material. In particular a sequence coming up in Part 2 in which evil Mr C (Kyle MacLachlan) commits murder in a motel room. With Parts 1 and 2 often screened together as a feature, it seems as though this scene at the Great Northern Hotel exists (in part) to get ahead of any complaints about the depiction and treatment of women.
We’re back in Benjamin Horne’s (Richard Beymer) office. It’s changed a bit, but several of the iconic production elements are in place. There’s that famous ‘BEN’ woodblock on his desk, and behind him one of the Great Northern’s many striking murals.
Ben is talking with his aid, Beverly (Ashley Judd) about refunding a guest. Already the man sounds more charitable than when we formerly knew him. An implied tale of a rogue skunk is charmingly in-keeping with the oddball escapades that often occurred at the hotel.
Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) interrupts, wafting nostalgia our way as he is – as ever – describing food with an unbridled passion.
“Is that the new girl?” Jerry asks as Beverly leaves, plonking himself in a nearby chair, “Or should I say woman? A woman like that you can’t call a girl.” Already we sense Jerry is clumsily struggling with political correctness. His struggle becomes an outright collapse after Ben confirms and he replies with a blunt, “Are you banging her yet?”
Crude, maybe, but its not as if Jerry’s suspicions don’t come with a little justification. Ben was always a scoundrel with women. Lest we forget he had an affair with the show’s aforementioned school girl Laura Palmer. But Ben’s reaction to Jerry’s question shows his development since the early 90’s.
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect!” he admonishes Jerry, keen to vocalise his moral superiority.
“She’s a beautiful soul,” Ben continues, only to undercut himself slightly by adding, “And she’s married.” Still, a little growth is better than none.
The conversation then turns to Jerry’s baked goods, before ending (wonderfully) with Ben contemplating the knitwear on his beatnik brother’s head and asking, “Is that mother’s hat?”
The point of the scene seems mainly to exhibit Ben’s renewed sense of respect for women. To show us he has, to a degree, turned over a new leaf. The world has advanced since last we visited the Great Northern, and Ben is trying to advance with it.
The moment clunks a little bit, recalling a current trend in Hollywood for quasi-patronising ‘girl power!’ moments nudged into blockbusters, seemingly as box-ticking a exercise. And, as intimated, the scene also feels pointedly defensive, as though Ben might be a foil for Mark Frost and/or David Lynch here. They know where they’re going to take us, and it isn’t all going to be pretty. But again it is worth stressing that depicting and advocating are two distinctly different things…
Next time: Two Trumans