This entire project is subjective, I won’t pretend otherwise, and so, in that spirit, we arrive at easily the worst character in all of The Return, and I’d go further and say all of Twin Peaks
even besting the ever-excruciating Dick Tremayne portrayed by Ian Buchanan (mercifully absent from The Return). Yes, it’s time for Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) to receive a visit from his tempestuous wife, Doris (Candy Clark).
Doris is horrendous. The very picture of the nagging, stupid wife who needlessly henpecks the reasonable husband. As cautious as I was of these reductive traits manifesting in Janey-E Jones, Naomi Watts is positively restrained when compared to the caricature of bluster embodied by Candy Clark. Her two appearances in The Return are played for comedy and represent rare poor choices from Mark Frost and David Lynch. This rote stereotype is woefully unfunny and perhaps represents the most out-dated depiction across what is frequently a very forward-thinking (or at least current) enterprise.
Candy Clark is best known to this writer for her role in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976); a sci-fi parable which starred David Bowie as a alien being building a business empire in the United States. Clark’s character in that film, Mary-Lou, is also contentious for how annoying she is. However, I am not at all convinced that the awfulness of Doris is Clark’s fault. No, in this instance I feel it is the writing which fails her.
The Bowie connection between Twin Peaks and The Man Who Fell To Earth is not lost on me.
Sheriff Frank Truman sits in Deputy Chief Hawk’s office. Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) warns him over the intercom that his wife Doris is on the way. Truman ends a call with his brother Harry (unseen, of course) and braces himself for the fury to come. Doris bursts in.
“Why aren’t you in your office?” she curtly inquires.
“Because I’m in here,” Truman replies, breezily, as if trying to goad her into an outburst. He asks what she wants.
“Dwight’s got diarrhea. The twins are coming this weekend. He got in the upper cupboard again. And I am not going another day with a leaking pipe. It soaked the pantry floor, and we’re gonna get that black mold, Frank!”
The identities of Dwight, the twins and whoever is in the upper cupboard are never revealed, but that isn’t really the point. As Doris rinses through this tirade, Lynch cuts back to Truman, wearily patient with all this. In fact, if there’s any purpose to Doris at all, it is perhaps to add context to Truman’s easy-going temperament, something surely honed from years of listening to outbursts like this one.
Referring to a plumber, Truman tries to placate Doris, “They know all about the leaking pipe and promise to have it fixed by tomorrow night.”
“So I have to go a full day with a leaking pipe? Do you realise what this is going to cost?”
Truman’s suggestion of putting a bucket under it is as helpful as his answer to why he’s in Hawk’s office. This leads to another tirade – not worth transcribing – that ends with Doris moaning about a rug she wants to buy, an echo or exaggeration of Janey-E’s established materialism.
The problem here is that all of Doris’ concerns are reasonable, really, but the way she presents them – and the way she is presented – is not. We’re given no wider context of her character or temperament, only the assumption that this is her baseline; who she is all of the time. Awful people exist. Maybe that’s the point? If so it’s a pretty thankless one. She barks at him some more about her dad’s car, which is evidently dangerous. Truman again tries to placate her but with no real expectation of her listening.
“You’re impossible!” Doris shouts, wagging her finger at him before exiting the room (with a door slam, of course). Truman is unphased and we cut away.
Next time: Innocence