“Do you think that if you were falling in space… that you would slow down after a while or go faster and faster?” muses Donna Hayward (Moira Kelly) while lazing in the Palmer house living room with Laura (Sheryl Lee) during Fire Walk With Me.
Laura’s answer still sends shivers down my spine as she appears to glaze over, picturing the preponderance. The question has opened up a crack in her sugar glaze universe. Behind it is BOB, night terrors, complex sexual traumas.
“Faster and faster,” she replies distantly, “And for a long time you wouldn’t feel anything. And then you’d burst into fire, forever. And the angels wouldn’t help you, because they’ve all done away.”
Just transcribing it gives me chills…
Having been expelled from the Black Lodge by The Arm’s rotten doppelganger, Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) now finds himself hurtling through space, experiencing first hand the scenario proposed by Donna. Does he find the answer?
It’s tough to tell. Lynch’s portrayal of his fall is chaotic and menacing. Peter Deming’s camera shakes violently. The soundscape rushes and crashes in line with this sense of gathering entropy.
This in itself suggests that Laura may have been right. Laura was right about a lot of things. Cooper doesn’t appear to be drifting as other space dramas might depict this kind of fall, rather he seems to be plummeting.
But then one is moved to ask… is this conventional space? Given Cooper’s dramatic exit from the Black Lodge, very little about this stretch of The Return fits the definition of conventional. Space is a vacuum. He wouldn’t survive, regardless of the speed of his travel.
And if we’re being finickity, the cacophonous dissonance surrounding him would have no ability to exist either.
No, what I feel is being depicted here is exactly what The Arm’s doppelganger threatened during the previous scene: non-existence. Cooper has been plunged into a disordered space. Perhaps prolonged exposure to this environment – this anti-place – would cause him to disperse or disintegrate? It certainly seems as though it is rocking him apart. It is as though he is flour being sifted, disorganised. And then suddenly…
Cooper crashes into a glass surface. It is night time. We’re back at the high-rise where Sam and Tracey met their untimely deaths.
We can now understand that there are, in fact, two glass boxes; one inside the studio as we’ve previously seen and one outside. They are connected through the aperture. Cooper sinks through the solid surface so that he is inside the box. He floats serenely through the aperture until he is inside the glass box as seen in Part 1. He is able to unfurl his arms, like a bird. The room is empty and the door is open.
Cooper’s landing and transition through the glass is telling. For one, he appears uninjured, despite the intense sense of falling that we’ve just seen. Moving through the glass surface reaffirms this sense that the normal laws of physics have been suspended. Whatever the nature of the glass box, it appears quite powerful; something Mr. C has managed to harness.
But Mr. C is not one of Laura’s vanished angels saving Cooper. The function of the glass box appears to be like a magnet, drawing entities to it. Quite how is unknown.
Or, this specific place – above the New York cityscape – was always where Cooper was going to be forcefully ejected to. The positioning of the box is to intercept him. It’s a trap.
And, its worth remembering that the box may well have been intended for more than one purpose. The appearance of ‘the Experiment’/Judy within it may have been just as intentional as the trapping of Cooper.
The studio is in an orderly state. No remnants of carnage or of police having itemised a crime scene. Lynch shows us why.
Footage from Part 1 replays. The security guard away from his desk. Sam (Benjamin Rosenfield) looking in the bathroom for him. Tracey (Madeline Zima) waiting for him.
Cooper’s swift exit from the Black Lodge has transported him to a time in ‘our’ recent past. This further underscores the feeling that the Lodge has a very tangential relationship to time. Tracey’s unexpected visit is unfortunately(?) coincidental, causing Sam to miss, perhaps, the very thing he was employed to watch out for.
Space inside the glass box grows unstable. Rumbling is heard and the image shakes. Cooper’s journey is not over. Following an ominous creaking sound the box begins trapping Cooper in smaller and smaller iterations of itself until he is sent back into nothingness. He is seen hurtling through ‘space’ once more as the glass box returns to normal. Laura’s words again start to feel like an eerie prophecy.
So the glass box’s function is not only to trap, but to redirect. Instead of remaining on our plain of existence, Cooper is being sent on to a ‘new’ place that we will experience for the first time in the opening sequence of Part 3. This is all part of a plan that ends with Douglas Jones. Dougie.
Note also that, while Sam and Tracey completely miss Cooper’s temporary appearance in the box, this event occurs directly before their grizzly deaths at the hands/teeth/claws(?) of ‘the Experiment’/Judy. It seems quite conceivable that this monstrous entity was drawn to the glass box by the activity that they miss. This calls into question whether ‘her’ arrival was intended or not. Collateral damage or, for Mr. C, a happy accident?
Or, perhaps, two birds with one
Next time: The Palmer house