Boom… Bap… Boom-Bap…
The sound you are hearing as the scene opens is David Lynch’s own remix of “American Woman” by Muddy Magnolias. It is pointedly the loudest element so far in the sound mix (something Lynch himself is acutely involved in). The stark beats are an eerie counterpoint to the visuals. Another of Lynch’s favourites; headlights illuminating a dirt road. The sense of menace is like a sledgehammer after two relatively docile scenes in Twin Peaks.
Lynch and roads have been entwined for years. The love affair was felt keenly in Wild At Heart and then again in Lost Highway – two projects that saw Lynch working closely with pulp novelist Barry Gifford. Both of these projects explored the sexually liberating possibilities of the open road, which took their protagonists to places of lust and darkness, frequently in the desert.
Then, in 1999, Lynch subverted his own association with Disney picture The Straight Story. Perhaps his purest ‘road movie’, he got closer to the ground than ever, crawling along at the speed of a lawnmower, while Angelo Badalamenti’s music evoked a hayseed sweetness.
Twin Peaks: The Return sees the imagery return firmly to the ‘dark side’. The way that the dirt road snakes through the barely discernible woodland is incredibly evocative. Lynch conjures in the imagination the idea of a hidden USA; a second map of roads, connecting the criminal underground via a series of way stations. This idea will be given supernatural form later in The Return.
Longtime fans will have been waiting to catch-up with Agent Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachlan) evil double, who will hear be dubbed ‘Mr. C’ for easy distinction. These images of night travelling – in combination with the source music – tip us off that this catch-up is about to happen…
The car – a dark grey BMW – pulls up at a cabin and we get our first look at Mr. C. Tanned, with long lank hair, his physical appearance already has links to BOB. He wears a black leather jacket, calling to mind one of Lynch’s other great psychos; Frank Booth as played by Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. In a tradition borrowed from countless other supernatural stories, his eyes are black pools.
Mr. C’s walk is slightly robotic. It is – as with all of MacLachlan’s various roles throughout the season – defined by subtle choices that make big differences.
Mr. C approaches the cabin and a guard with a shotgun comes out to greet him. Mr. C dispenses with the threat swiftly and marches stiffly up the steps and into the cabin. He is strong, confident; a serious threat. Lynch’s “American Woman” remix is incredibly suited to this sense of unstoppable purpose.
Perhaps another visual indicator would be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator?
Inside the cabin sits Otis (Redford Westwood) drinking some kind of moonshine (presumably) from a glass jar. He has a wavering demeanor that mildly recalls the elderly bellhop who dithered so frustratingly around the gunshot Cooper at the start of season two. Mr. C sits opposite him and looks around. The cabin in ramshackle, dimly lit. On the other side of the room sit a redneck-looking fellow in dungarees (unknown, uncredited) and a disabled man in a wheelchair (Steven James Tingus, also uncredited).
Its unclear whether their silent presence is meant to add a suggestion of backwoods inbreeding. If so, this might be deemed a little insensitive. At the very least, they evoke a sense of a specific history that we’ll never become privy to. This place – this way station – is a lived-in micro-climate, and that sense is captured with great efficiency. It’s a technique Lynch will lean on frequently during later trips to the Roadhouse.
The guard from outside creeps in and goes for Mr. C again, but he is dispatched with ease. Buella (Kathleen Deming) enters from the rear of the cabin; a tall, gummy woman who one assumes is the partner of Otis. Mr. C asks her if Ray and Darya are there, giving us the reason for his house call; he’s collecting members of his crew. Buella confirms that they are indeed there.
“Buella,” Mr. C says flatly, “Put something better at your front door.” He’s referring, of course, to the guard he has so swiftly incapacitated. Buella sighs and speaks one of – for me – the great and iconic lines of The Return (or, at least, Part 1 at any rate):
“It’s a world of truck drivers“. Even in the underworld you just can’t get the staff. Leo Johnson (Eric DaRe) is the show’s most famous truck driver, and he often did mercenary work on the side, running drugs but also taking jobs like, for instance, the burning of the Packard Mill.
With this line, Buella saunters off, resigned to her meager lot.
Ray (George Griffith) and Darya (Nicole LaLiberte) emerge. He’s thin, wiry, has the look of a flunky. She seems hardened, weathered from experience. Though we’ll spend a little more time in the company of these two, we’ll not encounter Otis, Buella or this place again. It’s a shame. I find the set-up evocative and endlessly curious, but the scene – small as it is – helps intensify that sense of an American underbelly that I alluded to previously. Lynch has always been a master of communicating a tone, a feeling. This cabin scene is a great example of that.
“Let’s go,” Mr. C says simply, and the three of them disappear off into the night. In his chair, Otis nods his head and gives Cooper’s doppelganger his nickname, “Mr. C… Mr. C…”.
Next time: Intimacy