During the initial run of Twin Peaks, it was common for the show to take occasional pauses to evoke a certain mood or feeling, be it through lingering shots of the wind in those Douglas Firs, or the popular and fondly remembered hanging stop light at the intersection of Sparkwood and 21.
That stoplight often had a habit of feeling like it was more than just transitional material. It often showed us red; the symbol for stop, but also for danger. It’s presence was an ever-so-slight (but ever-so-impactful) pressure point. It’s work may have been almost subliminal, but it helped conjure that mood of beautiful menace that was frequently at the fringes of Twin Peaks.
Throughout Fire Walk With Me and The Return that sense of menace is much more pronounced, for reasons previously discussed. Still, these transitional moments still prove useful, as much for pace and tone as for establishing menace.
Here – before the diner scene which we’ll dig into in a moment – Lynch detours to a nearby exterior. It’s the dead of night somewhere. The barriers of a level crossing are coming down to the persistent chimes of warning. Red lights on both side of the crossing flash, and signs flash bright white Xs into the moonless night. A horn blares and then, presently, a freight train roars through the scene.
The Xs at this crossing are the most prominent to feature since the ones on the boxes Deputy Hawk unearthed in Part 1, but where those denoted unsolved mysteries, these – in combination with the red lights (themselves reminiscent of Sparkwood and 21) – make us brace for imminent danger. The intensity of the darkness is also a signifier. Night is a time of danger in Lynch’s work. It is a time of owls. In Blue Velvet, Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) operates at his most sadistic by night. One of his most memorable lines, having breathed from his oxygen mask, is the threatening, reverent and open-ended statement, “Now it’s dark…”
The crashing of the train – the arrival of danger – marks a cut to…
A motel. The sound of the train can still be heard, advising the audience that the two scenes are connected, and that there may be trouble ahead.
Inside a diner we join Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan), Ray Monroe (George Griffith), Darya (Nicole LaLiberte) and a fourth person; a mechanic in overalls named Jack (Steve Baker). Jack shovels spaghetti into his mouth from the toppermost of a stack of plates and Ray jests, “Jack, you’ve barely touched your three dinners.” The reverse show reveals Mr. C, who is anything but impressed.
Changing the subject, Ray brings up a past conversation with Darya in which she intimated that Mr. C may be worried about “tomorrow, or the day after”. This lets us know that a significant event is coming, which the remainder of Part 2 and all of Part 3 will detail.
Mr. C brushes this off, but advises that for a while – starting the day after tomorrow – he’ll beed to be on his own. There is clearly a plan in place. Mr. C is anticipating things. “That might be a good time for you to learn how to mind your own business,” he adds. Mr. C speaks in monotone. He is indifferent to how others experience him. Inflection isn’t necessary. He simply doesn’t care.
Smoothing things over, Ray says he’ll follow up on a contact of his, “maybe get that information you need.” Here Mr. C does raise his voice a little, correcting Ray. Here, in the light for the first time, we see how his eyes are merciless black pools.
“Want,” he says, “Not need. I don’t need anything, Ray. It there’s one thing you should know about me, Ray, its that I don’t need anything. I want. And I want that information.”
This line is one of the most iconic delivered by Mr. C throughout The Return. For one thing, as he rarely speaks beyond a few words, its a rather explicit statement of intent.
But beyond that, it explains a lot about the BOB character. BOB is a possessing spirit who inhabits humans and compels them to do his bidding without their consent or waking knowledge. Mr. C sees BOB within himself in a later scene and says, “You’re still with me,” but he is not the same as Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), for instance. He is not even a complete person. Mr. C is a facsimile if Dale Cooper; his doppelganger from the Black Lodge and arguably a thought-form – or ‘tulpa’ – himself. But that the BOB entity is within him is telling.
While later installments confirm for us that these thought-forms can be destroyed – and the climactic battle in Part 17 may even see the destruction of BOB – BOB has not, in our experience, even come to any harm. His amorphous nature almost precludes it. Indeed, BOB himself probably believes that ‘he’ is immortal; an avatar of evil on earth (and a metaphor for particularly masculine weakness).
If BOB doesn’t not believe ‘himself’ to be mortal, then the differences between wants and needs are evident. The things we need as people are governed by their usefulness for preserving our mortality. We need food, air, water, for example. The things we may want in our lives – love, riches, security, the respect of our peers, for instance – are desires but not imperatives. Mr. C’s sinister and direct speech to Ray here doesn’t trivialise the things he wants by reducing their necessity to him, rather it underscores the suggestion that the thing he represents in the show cannot truly be defeated (and whose to say for sure that it ever really is…).
Mr. C finishes his little speech saying, “Kinda funny that she’ll only give it to you” (referring back to the information – co-ordinates, as we’ll discover).
Ray raises his eyebrows as though taking this as a compliment. “This information seems pretty important to you,” he says, laying the foundations for a move he’ll come to regret. There’s a beat of tension as the ramifications of what he’s thinking project themselves across the table before he again smooths out the atmosphere.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get it for you,” Ray smiles.
“And I’d better be able to trust that information,” Mr. C glares, underscoring the uneasy relationship between them.
“She’s Hastings’ secretary,” Ray confirms. Hastings has definitely become the poor patsy in a conspiracy to obtain this important information, “She knows what he knows.” Those distant train horns remind us there’s danger coming down the track.
The scene closes with Ray and Mr. C both looking to Darya, who appears quite vacant
(perhaps prefiguring Candie), before returning their gazes to one another like men in a stand-off. Instead of pulling pistols on one another, they down their coffees in unison.
Next time: The stars turn and a time presents itself