Lynch’s work is often described as dreamlike with justification. The man himself is obsessed with the interplay between dreams and reality, and its an especially porous line between the two in The Return. Still, even by his standards, this sequence of scenes that open Part 3 display a greater degree of dream logic than he has previously dared display.
Even the high water marks of ‘difficult’ Lynch – Eraserhead and INLAND EMPIRE – played by an internally coherent set of rules. The events in The Purple Realm dispel this notion. Enter somewhere, and you’ll exit somewhere else entirely. Space and form are resolutely not continuous.
Behold Agent Cooper’s (Kyle MacLachlan) arrival at the top of the ladder having followed Naido (Nae Yuuki) out of the crimson room. They emerge atop a black box. It appears to be metal, riveted together like the hull of a ship. Lynch and his VFX team pull back, framing the box centre screen, illuminating that this place is in no way linked to the physical enormity of The Fortress, where Cooper landed previously. The box is adrift in space. A UFO.
The black box is far smaller than the interior space that the two of them have left, reminding audiences of another famous sci-fi space; the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Atop the black box, next to the hatch, are two short antennae, like the legs of a pylon (this correlation prefigures the prevalence of pylons later on in The Return). Taking up a large portion of the ‘roof’ area is a bell-shaped structure which features several dents, two dials, and has a lever on the side. It sits on a short circular platform.
This is not the last of these bell-shaped machines to appear in the mysterious other realms in The Return. The next we’ll encounter is housed within the Slow 30’s Room in the Fortress/White Lodge we encounter in Part 8 – later again, in Part 16 we’ll see that this is one of many. And then there’s the present condition/state of Phillip Jeffries, formerly played by David Bowie, now re-imagined as a steaming machine that also resembles the other bell-like devices. This imagery – vaguely phallic, vaguely domestic – was clearly prevalent in Lynch’s mind while he and Mark Frost dreamed up The Return.
Though the black box is suspended in the infinite of space, Cooper and Naido have no trouble breathing. In keeping with Cooper’s inability to feel impacts when falling, there’s a sense that conventional laws are redundant here. The surface of the black box evidently has its own gravity, also.
Naido continues trying to talk to Cooper but he cannot understand. He looks sadly exasperated, as though he wishes he could help her communicate. Cooper’s history of wanting to play the white knight to troubled or vulnerable women is well-documented, and MacLachlan often seems to be Lynch’s foil in this respect, fulfilling this function also in Blue Velvet and, conceivably, for Lynch’s sole studio film Dune as well.
Still, it is a little reassuring to see Cooper struggling to understand as we, the audience, have been thrust into a similar position here. Part 3 opens with a barrage of new situations and information. On first viewing it is bracing. There is no exposition for this long sequence of dreamlike imagery. Lynch is painting with film. We have to intuit. In terms of his filmmaking, the opening stretch of Part 3 is amongst the purest when considered in these terms. It is totally unfiltered and direct from his mind’s eye.
The vivid achievement of realising these dreams is that as viewers we just go with it and accept the journey.
So an element of good faith is involved.
Naido edges around the bell-shaped machine as Cooper looks nervously at the vastness of the drop should either of them fall. Naido reaches the lever and pulls it down. The bell-shaped machine electrocutes her. White light is cast over her face. Cooper watches in horror as Naido is catapulted off of the black box, disappearing down, down into the abyss of space. He reaches for her but she is moving too quickly. She is gone.
So, too, is the pounding sound, which had continued to cause background distress following their exit from the crimson room. Naido appears to have sacrificed herself to save Cooper from the unseen – and unknown – threat.
In Part 14 Naido will reappear; her fall coming to an end in a kind of landing. The length of her fall, considering the broken relationships with time exhibited in The Purple Realm, is impossible to guess.
All is quiet atop the black box. Looking down, Cooper sees the face of Major Garland Briggs (Don S Davis) floating in space. Don S Davis sadly died in the intervening years between season two and The Return. As with Frank Silva who played BOB, his image is used and carefully manipulated throughout The Return so that the story can be told. The appearance here of his disembodied head allows us to make a few connections.
Chiefly, we’ve previously been presented with a headless corpse in the apartment belonging to Ruth Davenport. The build of the body equates to Major Briggs’ former stature. Thus, even before it is confirmed, we are urged to guess that the headless corpse is that of Major Briggs.
Secondly, his head’s appearance in the other realms of Twin Peaks makes a kind of sense. His top secret job involved investigation into these forces, and during the run of season two, he even appeared to be abducted by these same paranormal phenomena, in a sequence of events eerily similar to popular tales of alien abduction and UFO encounters.
That his head now appears in order of a kind of UFO makes a dreamy kind of sense. Major Briggs’ ghostly head says “Blue Rose” before disappearing again. Blue Rose is, of course, the designation given by Gordon Cole to the task force investigation these supernatural cases. This experience is very Blue Rose.
Major Briggs’ head disappears again and Cooper has few options on the outside of the black box so he returns to the hatch and back down the ladder to inside the Fortress.
Next time: The former Ms Ronette Pulaski