This post covers a series of short scenes edited together into a unified sequence.
Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan) drives down a road in the desert; the same as when Agent Cooper saw him from an elevated vantage point while gazing out through the drapes of the Black Lodge. As he drives, he starts to lose visual clarity. Lynch films from his P.O.V. as he looks at the analogue clock on the car dashboard. The time is 2:53. Mr. C appears nauseous.
This style of shifting in and out of focus from a character’s P.O.V. is a recurring trope in Lynch’s work and featured prominently in Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and INLAND EMPIRE. It is often used – as here – to convey his subject’s instability.
This same motif is used again, this time focusing on the cigarette lighter in the car – one of many apertures or access points in electronic devices throughout The Return which are given power or prominence for their ability to transfer and transmit. The cigarette lighter is a hole and therefore in this context a portal; an avenue by which Mr. C might be transported out of our realm and back to the Black Lodge.
* * *
Back in The Purple Realm, Cooper edges closer to the fuse box in ‘Room 3’ (3 being the number on the box). A light flashes against it. This is another regularly occurring visual motif from Lynch; flashing white light on an object or character to denote that said object or character is about to experience something troubling or unearthly, or of significance. Change is coming and it might be bad news.
The American Girl (Phoebe Augustine) gets up and turns around. As Cooper reaches a certain proximity to the box (a distance of approximately five or six feet), it appears to distort the reality he stands in; it is as if it is sucking him toward it, distending his shape. He steps back and it stops. He looks questioningly toward the American Girl.
“When you get there you will already be there,” she advises, employing the same backwards-speak observed by residents of the Black Lodge
(one and the same). Cooper understands that the machine on the wall is his portal; her words are words of advice as much as they are words of warning. It seems what is supposed to happen here is a trade – Mr. C for our Agent Cooper – and if this were to go smoothly, the two would not exist in the same place at all. Mr. C would move to the Blade Lodge and Agent Cooper would transition from The Purple Realm to our reality.
The American Girl, however, appears to have knowledge of Mr. C’s plan to use a decoy. Her words seem to refer to Douglas Jones, who we’ll meet shortly (the first of our titular Two Dougies!).
If so, and if Mr. C is aware of this, then this could very conceivably explain the threatening pounding noise heard earlier. Perhaps Mr. C has some someone – or something – after the American Girl and Naido. Could that be ‘the Experiment’ seen earlier in the glass box scenes? If so, it would probably rule out ‘the Experiment’ and Judy being one and the same. Judy seems higher-up the pecking/power order than Mr. C/BOB and would not be taking orders as a lackey or supernatural henchman.
Cooper prepares to enter the fuse box which crackles like a radio with static, as if there is a message inside the machine. He approaches it again and it reacts violently to him. A small amount of smoke blooms. The process appears painful.
* * *
Mr. C continues driving down the desert road. The cigarette lighter makes the same distorted noises as the fuse box has been and Mr. C struggles to retain control of the vehicle.
* * *
In The Purple Realm, the intense pounding sound resumes, giving some credence to the idea that a threatening presence is chasing after Cooper and has been sent to stop what is happening.
“You’d better hurry,” the American Girl tells Cooper, “My mother’s coming”.
Threatening maternal figures have appeared in Lynch’s work before, perhaps most notably Lula’s mother Marietta Fortune in Wild At Heart as played by Laura Dern’s own mother Diane Ladd. In that instance – in-keeping with an overarching inspiration – Marietta was cast as a kind of wicked witch. Then, looking further back, there’s Jeanne Bates as Mrs X in Eraserhead, who castigates Jack Nance’s Henry just as she seems to lust for him also; an uneasy mix of the near-incestuous and the nightmarishly unpredictable.
Within Twin Peaks, bad mothers have been less prevalent. Norma Jennings’ (Peggy Lipton) restaurant critic step-mother Vivian Smythe (Jane Greer) displayed a coldness toward her daughter’s business, the RR Diner, but this was more of a subplot than a focal matter for the show. A retroactive case could be made for Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) given the revelations in The Return that she has played host to Judy on-and-off for many, many years. Generally, however, its the fathers who most brazenly fail their children.
‘The Experiment’ that was loosed from the glass box in Part 1 appeared feminine. It’s conceivable that this is the mother being spoken of here. This casts further question on the true nature of the American Girl, especially if we’re to believe that ‘the Experiment’ and Judy are one and the same.
The use of the word mother also casts the American Girl in a childlike light. Granted, the use of the word ‘Girl’ in her character name doubles-down on this. In Part 1, Jerry Horne (David Patrick Kelly) acknowledges that a woman like Beverley (Ashley Judd) can’t be called a ‘girl’ – so this isn’t a blunder of political correctness on the part of Mark Frost and David Lynch, but a conscious choice to infantilise this trapped woman. To make her vulnerable.
Cooper allows himself to be stretched and pulled through the fuse box on the wall. As it levitates him horizontally into the air and pulls him through, more smoke plumes. He is fed through the portal like a long letter getting posted through a door. In a moment most likely played for its surreal comedy than anything more significant, his shoes get caught and he loses them; they drop to the floor in ‘Room 3’. The American Girl is left alone and the pounding on her door continues. Cooper may be out of danger, but she is not. A fire burns in the hearth behind her. Fire and electricity go hand in hand in Lynch’s worlds, and its presence is not irrelevant. We will never learn her fate, however.
* * *
In the desert, Mr. C accelerates and it seems as though the entire dashboard is attempting to pull him out of our reality. It’s finally too much. His car veers off the road and rolls, landing on its wheels and skidding backward down an embankment. Mr. C is dazed but unhurt. Electronic humming continues on the soundtrack but it appears as though the draw from the cigarette lighter has abated.
Mr. C is suddenly compelled to vomit. The clock ticks to 2:54 (the window of time is over), the cigarette lighter crackles again and the red drapes of the Black Lodge encircle the car. It appears as though the trade is about to be made, in spite of Mr. C’s best efforts.
Next time: Dougie