Deputy Director Gordon Cole (David Lynch) is ushered into the office of the FBI Chief of Staff by a man named Bill Kennedy (Richard Chamberlain) – the second inconsequential Bill of Part 4.
Cole sits and waits for his appointment and his gaze falls to the chair beside him, where a bouquet of flowers is rested. Red roses and, in the centre, a white lily. Roses commonly represent love or lust, romance and desire. The lily, meanwhile, is a flower most commonly associated with death, mourning or a period of grief. Once again, Twin Peaks conflates and intermingles associations with sex and death.
Presently, the Chief of Staff joins Gordon and it’s none other than Denise Bryson. David Duchovny reprises his role – a fan favourite – for this one scene.
“It’s Cooper,” Cole announces, “We found him.”
Cole fills Bryson in on the latest; that they have found Cooper in Yankton Federal Prison and that he intends to pay him a visit the following day, accompanied by Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Tammy (Chrysta Bell). Bryson is already aware, intimating that Agent Tammy Preston is something of a loud mouth and perhaps can’t be trusted to keep a secret. Cole takes exception to this, getting defensive at the suggestion that he is taking Tammy with him because of her youth and beauty.
Lynch has had some criticism levelled at him over the years for his masculine gaze. His films are often populated with beautiful women in overtly sexualised roles. He has been labelled a misogynist by his least forgiving critics. This scene feels like Lynch again confronting these comments that are made of his work.
“I’m old school, Denise, you know that,” Cole says, getting a little agitated, “Before you were Denise, when you were Dennis, and I was your boss, when I had you working undercover at the DEA, you were a confused and wild thing sometimes. I had enough dirt on you to fill the Grand Canyon and I never used a spoonful because you were and are a great agent. And when you became Denise, I told all of your colleagues, those clown comics, to fix their hearts or die“.
This spirited speech seems to serve a couple of purposes; one to position Lynch as a traditionalist (“old school”) as he would see it in terms of his attitudes toward women (in effect acknowledging his predilection but citing it as fair game) but then also to counter this with an expression of his fair and open mind to transgender persons. Those same critics of his work might call this unnecessary ‘virtue signalling’ (a phrase I’ve come to loathe), but Lynch’s defensive tone reveals, I believe, the best of intentions underneath. Lynch is in touch with a darkness. It’s in his work across all mediums. But he is also the keeper of much self-awareness. I don’t believe, personally, that the treatment of women in his work is unsound; when it occurs it is usually on theme or in connection with an intuitive aesthetic that his audience readily appreciates. Context is everything. Still, these words and their delivery remain one of the more stilted moments in the series’ run… yet they have been embraced and championed. Fix your hearts or die, indeed.
Denise soothes Gordon and Gordon makes his point, “Agent Tammy Preston has the stuff, Denise.” He believes in his agent, and Gordon tends to have good judgement.
The remainder of the scene leans into comedy in order to readdress the strange mood that has accumulated. Particularly worth relishing is Denise’s love of “saying Federal Bureau of Investigation unabbreviated”. In between his part in season two and his reappearance here, David Duchovny achieved international stardom playing Special Agent Fox Mulder on hit TV show The X-Files (which featured a plethora of Twin Peaks stars over the years) – a show about FBI agent investigating paranormal cases, no less. Now, with that show’s glory days behind him, Duchovny’s Denise Bryson character carries a certain irony. While Fox Mulder was out chasing aliens and sifting through files in a basement office, Denise was working her way up the chain of command to the lofty position she now holds. “Federal Bureau of Investigation” indeed.
Lynch’s aforementioned position as something of a traditionalist creeps back into the scene when Denise starts to talk about her “screaming hormones”, but this is quickly swept aside. The scene itself is needless and could’ve been excised from The Return during editing if need be, but it allows some fan-service in catching us up with Denise Bryson, and that pleasure is enough justification all by itself.
Next time: Brings back some memories