Out at a sawmill
(the lumber trade remains a prolific source of employment in the Pacific Northwest), Richard Horne (Eamon Farren) meets with Red (Balthazar Getty) – previously seen at the Roadhouse at the end of Part 2. They meet in a shed riddled with bullet holes, the locale evoking a mix of the grim industrialism of Eraserhead and the riveted darkness of the prison in Lost Highway. The latter is evoked even more strongly thanks to the presence of Balthazar Getty as Red. Lynch pans passed a henchman brandishing some significant artillery. This is a shady business deal – a drug deal – just as you might expect to see on the outskirts of Twin Peaks.
Richard tests out Red’s product (sourced over the Canadian border, of course), pleased with the results. The deal is struck and Richard is instructed to pick the rest up at Maryanne’s (a place we’re not familiar with and, ultimately, will never see). When Richard asks how Red knows the area, Red becomes irritated by his line of questioning.
Aware of his power over Richard – his greater experience and therefore masculine dominance – he proceeds to belittle the young man, threatening him with karate-like moves and asking questions designed to place Richard on the back foot.
“Have you ever studied your hand?” he asks him. Richard isn’t sure where the conversation is now headed. Red likes the area (of Twin Peaks), announces a problem with his liver, stamps the floor energetically. It’s erratic and unpredictable behaviour. We in the audience are forced to side with Richard, unsure of the threat levels of the scene. We don’t want to side with him. Our previous experience of him at the Roadhouse in Part 5 is enough to have us set firmly firmly against him. But, in this situation, Red is the more volatile and therefore more sinister presence. Richard seems way over his head, as our we.
Both of these figures are traditional Lynchian villains; small town hoods who prosper from the victimisation of others. In both Richard and Red one can see aspects of the greatest villainous shadow to previously darken doors in Lynch’s oeuvre; Frank Booth from Blue Velvet. They both have the potential to become that extreme figure of pure want. Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan) is just about as nasty, but the electricity of Dennis Hopper’s performance as Frank Booth resonates at a slightly stronger frequency. Red would be a subordinate to both Frank Booth and Mr. C, were he placed in that position, while Richard, one senses, is still somewhere in the balance. He acts the part but isn’t committed to it. His vulnerability in this scene serves this end. We can place him in a pecking order of villainy. Though he is foul, he is also weak and pitiable.
“Did you ever see the movie The Kind And I?” Red asks him, again going off on a tangent to keep Richard bewildered.
“What?” he replies. Red asks what Richard thinks of the film, but Richard doesn’t quite know how to respond, despite Red affirming his preference. He seems to be asking Richard to show his subordination. Richard is uncertain whether he wants to give him that. Red’s affection for the film might seem unusual, but it’s a reference out of time that matches his 50’s bad-boy look. Again, that aesthetic that Lynch is so fond of returning to.
“There’s one problem,” Red tells him, “I don’t know you yet.” He tells him that he’s going to be watching him. When Richard attempts to assert himself, instructing Red, “Don’t call me kid”, Red laughs the attempt off, denying Richard his power.
“Just remember this, kid,” Red replies, “I will saw your head open and eat your brains if you fuck me over.” It’s a graphic image, but it links quite openly to something else we’ve witnessed. The idea of sawing heads recalls the headless body of Major Briggs. His head wasn’t opened, but removed.
Still, through this link, one is urged to wonder whether Red actually is a lackey of Mr. C’s…? It is possible that he killed Major Briggs for Mr. C? Ultimately it seems unlikely; the two are never intrinsically connected and he is never again referenced in proximity to the Major’s death, not Ruth Davenport’s for that matter.
With little in the way of a response from Richard, Red gets a coin from his pocket and flicks it into the air. Richard’s gaze follows it up where it becomes suspended at the apex of it’s curve, spinning in entropy. Red isn’t any ordinary amateur magician. There’s a physical impossibility to this trick. Perhaps he has earned some unearthly powers through proximity to one of the otherworldly entities in the vicinity of Twin Peaks? This presses the suggestion of his connection to Mr. C a little further.
The idea of a villain flipping a coin recalls the Coen Brothers’ neo-Western No Country For Old Men, based on the book by Cormac McCarthy. In that film the relentless killer Anton Chigurh would flip a coin to decide the fates of the people he encountered. If they called it correctly, they got to live, if not, they were killed. Still, the decision to flip the coin resides with Anton Chigurh. It is not pure fate, but a risk taken and entered into by uncertain participants. At the end of the film Kelly MacDonald’s character refuses to call and we are left to presume that she was killed anyway for not playing along.
Red is playing with Richard here. The rules of the game haven’t been relayed, however, and so the outcome is left suspended in the air. The coin disappears and suddenly Richard finds it in his mouth, symbolising his inability to articulate himself in this situation. Then the coin lands back in the possession of Red, and Richard discovers he doesn’t have hold of it at all. Red has won the game and the trick has firmly placed Richard in his role as a subordinate.
As if to make this explicit, Red then tells Richard that he is the coin, showing him it in his open palm, tails up. Tails might be taken to mean cowardly, and the open palm reads as defenceless.
“This is me,” Red then says, and flips the coin over onto his opposing fist, revealing the head. Red is saying he holds the upper-hand and, with the closed fist, that he is more powerful that Richard.
Magic tricks have appeared prominently before in Twin Peaks. Most memorably, the amateur theatrics of Mrs. Tremond/Chalfont’s grandson, who performed for Donna Hayward and also made cryptic appearances in Fire Walk With Me. These two characters – the Tremond/Chalfonts – are widely understood to be denizens of the Black Lodge/Convenience Store, though their allegiances are mysterious. Magicians also make an appearance in BOB’s poetic manifesto, echoed by Philip Gerard; “The magician longs to see, fire walk with me“. Another of David Lynch’s fixations is conjured by this couplet; The Wizard of Oz, which features a powerful magician; the “man behind the curtain” (curtains linking to those Black Lodge drapes). The Wizard of Oz proved a recurring motif in Lynch’s 1990 feature Wild At Heart. Sheryl Lee even played a fantastical character version of the Good Witch.
Still, it’s highly unlikely that Red could be revered as the man behind Twin Peaks‘ curtain. That position is solely reserved for Lynch and his cohort Mark Frost.
“Heads I win,” he says, “Tails you lose”. There is no winning for Richard. Richard, captivated and fearful, is almost moved to tears.
Cut to Richard driving in his truck, and he is crying, visibly shaken from the encounter which has directly challenged his proud masculinity. He curses Red and bangs on the steering wheel, enraged and ready to make a fatal mistake…
Next time: Carl Rodd