One of the staple locations of the former series now makes its long awaited return as Part 5 continues to define itself through short, sharp hops from place to place. This jumping about marks a change in feel for The Return after a fairly direct and streamlined opening clutch of installments.
Inside the Double R Diner we find Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) going through paperwork at one of the booths. She still runs the place after all these years. Also there, behind the counter, is Shelly (Mädchen Amick).
A young woman enters whom Norma recognises with a smile. It is Becky (Amanda Seyfried); Shelly’s daughter of whom we heard Shelly speak at the Roadhouse at the end of Part 2. Seyfried is one of the most recognisable new faces to appear in The Return, having had many leading roles in popular American cinema, from the likes of Mean Girls through Mamma Mia. Becky, who wears an apron from a local bakery, hands off a hamper of bread Toad (Marv Rosand), the Double R’s chef, and goes to speak to her mother.
We observe their conversation from Norma’s perspective; the dialogue is hushed but it finds Becky apologising to Shelly and asking for “more money”. The conversation grows indistinct as Norma strains to hear.
“He will find a job,” Becky assures her mother. In the background, out the window, and drifting in and out of focus, the red hand of a stop sign. A subtle and maybe even inconsequential blot in the frame suggesting warning, perhaps to Shelly as she reaches for her purse. If so, she doesn’t heed it.
Shelly hands money over to Becky, who then leaves looking reproachful, as though asking for help isn’t something she is proud of. Becky leaves and through the vantage of another window we see her getting into a car with Steven (Caleb Landry Jones) who we were introduced to earlier in Part 5.
Norma joins Shelly looking out of the window with worry at the couple in the car and we are given to understand that this is the third time Becky has come to Shelly for money in two weeks. Norma cautions Shelly that Becky needs help and that it has better come sooner rather than later. Shelly knows this only too well from her own experience.
We switch to the action in the car and Steven checks out the money that Becky has procured from her mother. $72. The money is clearly for Steven and intended to enable him to keep up his drug habit. Steven makes a hollow promise of paying it back. Becky appears upset with him and they drive out of sight of Norma and Shelly. Parking in a lot nearby, Steven evokes pity from Becky and they kiss. He continues to try and make amends by offering to take her out for dinner, but she only comes around when he offers her cocaine (though she is still shocked by how much Steven casually admits to have taken that day already).
He smooth-talks her (in his own way). “I’ll get you some bread,” he says. She asks why and he delivers his punchline; “I heard you’ve been kneading it all day.” She punches him playfully.
Snorting the cocaine given to her by the man that we learn is her husband, Becky’s entire demeanor changes.
Lynch displays this to us through rapturous song. Steven turns on the car radio and “I Love How You Love Me” by The Paris Sisters comes on. Becky leans back in her seat, the effect of the drug warping her sense of regret, albeit briefly. Her features reflect the sun shining down on her and she appears to glow, adding to the sense that the image is a little tripped out. As Steven starts the car, the camera is jolted a few degrees and then locks in place. Lynch stays on her through a verse and chorus of the song, the world rushing by outside of our view, pulling out very softly, as though lifting. Becky feels like she’s lifting. The high is hitting.
Through this sequence we gain a much better understanding of who Shelly’s daughter is and there are clear and daunting parallels to be drawn to two other characters from the show’s history.
For one thing, as we were shown throughout seasons 1 and 2, it appears as though Becky has inherited her mother’s persuasion for bad boys. Steven however, is nothing like Leo Johnson or Bobby Briggs; he’s not nearly as competent as either for one. And it’s worth noting that while Leo and Bobby were both involved in illegal activities involving the trafficking of drugs over the Canadian border, Shelly was never a part of such dealings, nor an addict herself.
The other figure that rushes to mind is the show’s most iconic and important; Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) herself. Laura we know had a drug habit and so the echo is most definitely there. She also has a penchant for bad boys, and bad boys were in no short supply following her tenure at One Eyed Jacks. Laura was also passionate and prone to wild changes in mood at a moment’s notice, something which appears to happen for Becky here and in the future.
These similarities raise a red flag for the viewer, as long term fans will be ready to make these connections, well aware of the road that Laura’s extra-curricular compulsions put her on, though its worth remember that Laura was driven to these activities by the terrors and traumas inflicted upon her at home. Becky seems also subject to these, but to a lesser degree (one assumes). We are given no wider context of the nature of Becky’s upbringing, aside from the reveal that her parents are long separated. Without much to go on, it can be difficult to assign cause or reason for her decisions as far as drugs are concerned, and as far as Steven is concerned, also.
Nevertheless, this scene does not bode well for the future and Lynch capitalises on the promise of pain further down the road as we will see. The danger is as bright as the bright red interior of Steven’s vehicle. Tellingly, in this long, sustained shot of Becky, her loving gaze is not at her husband, but at the infinite skies above.
Next time: 5:30