2:2 – Eye for an eye

The evil Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan) makes a brief appearance in Buckhorn now, tying up loose ends as the violence against women in the opening two parts of The Return amps up. But, before we get to that, a discrepancy that’s most clearly visible.

Bill Hastings’ driving licence clearly gave a home address of 439 East Elm Street; a place we’ve visited twice now. This third visit opens with a nighttime establishing shot that allows us sight of the house numbers going down a support beam of the porch area. A bush obscures the end digits, but the two we can see are ’20’… A little goof, and one that’s excusable (maybe Bill hasn’t got around to updating his licence?).

A bed of sinister rumblings on the soundtrack makes us nervous about the house’s dimly lit interior. Inside, a static shot looking through a living room door into a hallway only seems to collect shadows. The lamp light (more lamp light) isn’t good enough. It’s slightly reminiscent of the feeling in the Palmer house the night Madeleine Ferguson (Sheryl Lee) died.

Phyllis Hastings (Cornelia Guest) arrives home, switching on the hall light, defusing some of the eeriness, yet any sense of safety will be short lived. She stops dead in her tracks on entering the dark living room and a reverse shot reveals that ours had been a P.O.V. There stands Mr. C; a living shadow himself.

“What are you doing here?” Phyllis asks, and her tone further suggests that Mr. C might be the other affair Bill spoke of during her prison visit. It’s lightly playful, almost a coy taunt. Lynch switches P.O.Vs again and pushes in on Mr. C. We clock his gloved hands, and that in his right hand is a gun.

“You did good,” Mr. C tells her in that flat tone of his, “You follow human nature perfectly.” The line creeps, reminding us that he is one with BOB; an interloper in our world; an impostor.

“This is George’s gun,” he tells her, holding it up for her to see. Phyllis turns to run but hasn’t the time. Mr. C shoots and Phyllis drops to the ground in the illuminated hallway, dead. Mr. C exits and Lynch takes us closer, so we can see his handiwork. A gruesome mixture of practical and computer effects reveals the exit would in Phyllis’ face. The bullet may have entered the back of her head, but it exited out of her right eye socket. A small amount of blood pools.

The quickness of the death is merciful, comparatively speaking, but the leering shot of the newly made corpse is anything but. While not as shocking as the evisceration of Sam and Tracey in Part 1, this act of violence does continue an err toward gratuity in The Return, especially when it comes to the deaths of women.

Phyllis – prefiguring Darya – hasn’t been around long enough to really become fleshed out, or to generate our sympathies, leaving the character as something of a cipher, more memorable as a nasty corpse than as a person. Her hostility toward her husband and her evident extra-marital affairs suggest to the moralists in us that we shouldn’t mourn her long.

Still, the body itself draws an unmistakable parallel to the severed head of Ruth Davenport. She too seemed to have had an eye blown-out, further suggesting that Mr. C is directly responsible in both instances, and further that he has a pattern or modus operandi. Is the shooting out of an eye deliberate? Both crimes are part of an effort to stop people seeing; to control the flow of knowledge. And both crimes also share a conflict, in that their very acts draw what is to be concealed closer to the light. Again, it is as if Mr. C is daring the law to make connections as they follow dumbly in his wake.

Curiously, the deeply suspicious murder of Phyllis – with George’s gun no less – immediately becomes a narrative dead-end, and certainly isn’t enough to pry Bill loose of the Buckhorn PD’s clutches. For the remainder of The Return it is curiously as though this event never happened, making its dark imagery all the more problematic. Perhaps it only serves to set precedent for what Mr. C is capable of, which leads us back into the troubling and murky waters of enacting violence against women purely to establish a male character’s register of evil.

Next time:  Middle management

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