Following an establishing shot of a New York town house, we cut to inside an apartment. The decor has a decidedly Eastern influence, suggesting an interest in Japanese culture. A man wearing black (Jesse Johnson; credited as Younger Man) prepares to leave the apartment as knocking can be heard at the door. He goes to answer it; it’s FBI Agents Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer). This, then, is Diane’s apartment.
The man shows them in and Diane (Laura Dern) appears from around a corner. In keeping with the Japanese theme, she is wearing a kimono. Her hair – as we’ve seen previously – is cut into a bob cut, dyed white
(A BOB cut?). “Oh my God,” she says on seeing who it is. The man leaves, blowing Diane a kiss, indicating a sexual relationship between them. In keeping with his credit, he is younger than she is, feathering in Diane’s sexual confidence and a dominant nature in her personality that will further manifest in other ways presently. It’s a refreshing dynamic to see, even briefly, as American TV and film often offers us the reverse, even to problematic degrees.
Diane’s prickly attitude continues and Gordon asks to sit so that they can discuss things. He asks, “You got any coffee?”
“No,” she replies curtly while holding a coffee cup, bringing a cigarette to her lips, “I don’t have any cigarettes either.”
“Ah, the memory of tobacco, but I gave it up,” says Gordon. This is a funny line coming from Gordon, as David Lynch is a renowned chain-smoker; evidently there is some delineation between character and actor after all.
“Fuck you, Gordon,” Diane says; her rich language coming through and not for the last time. Diane’s personality and temperament have been great unknowns for fans of Twin Peaks up until this point. She was the show’s most famous unseen presence. In truth, we’ve had very little information about her other than what could be determined from Agent Cooper’s Dictaphone messages. These messages were more for the purpose of summary or exposition than to feather in another character, and this shows itself now. Whatever our expectations of the character might have been, Mark Frost and David Lynch now bring bold ink lines to those initial sketches. She is a confrontational person. That may have surprised many viewers, but Laura Dern – one of Lynch’s most treasured collaborators – brings her to life with vigor. As we’ll discover much later on, she holds many secrets.
“Diane, your former boss and former Special Agent, Dale Cooper, is in a federal lock-up in South Dakota,” Gordon informs her, to which she says, “Good.”
Diane presents disdain for Cooper and hostility toward Gordon and Albert. Cooper was uniformly warm to everyone, but this still rings as off. As The Return progresses we will come to understand why.
“Diane, this might require a slight change of attitude on your part,” Gordon advises. Gordon begins most sentences addressed to Diane by reiterating her name, which seems a little excessive. This potentially comes from how her character has been written previously. Cooper employed the same habit in past seasons, often for the benefit of the audience as the character was never present. It appears to have become a natural association in the writing to therefore continue this same tendency.
The subject of names and their importance is an interesting one. As we will learn, this is not Diane Evans, but rather a tulpa created by Mr. C, much like Douglas Jones. The real Diane has been stolen away and imprisoned – presently in the Purple Realm – where she has been disfigured and reconstituted as the character Naido (previously encountered by Dale Cooper in Part 3; Naido being a near-anagram of Diane). Though her face is disfigured, Naido – played by – is clearly Asian. Diane’s affection for Japanese fashion and design is, therefore, an oblique clue to their connection.
The heavy usage of her name here – unwittingly erroneous – might also be an effort from Frost and Lynch to subconsciously allay any suspicions in the minds of the audience. This is Diane, they’re reaffirming to us. Of course it is. Gordon and Albert recognise her as such. We have, at this stage, no reason to doubt it. Our lack of direct experience plays into the writers’ hands at this time.
Calling her by name at this point – over and over in fact – defines her. The word becomes entwined with the person. Only later will The Return show that words and definitions can be dangerous things, reducing persons or things to narrow confines which aren’t always sufficient. Consider the opposite; Carel Stuckyen’s character who, for ease will eventually be dubbed ‘The Fireman’, but whom, for quite a while, is credited as ‘???????’. He’s a being of unknown power. Godlike power, it seems. And as such a name seems inadequate to define him. His parameters can’t be impinged by a word. Even ‘The Fireman’ seems like a compromise handed down by him to humans to allow us some measure of narrow understanding.
Anyway, I digress…
Diane responds that her attitude is none of their business, suggesting something private; a secret history between her and Cooper.
“Touch cookie,” Gordon says to Albert
(echoing a prior summation of Janey-E – “tough dame” – made by a hood in Part 6; Janey-E being another strong female character in The Return). “Always was.”
This establishes that Diane’s personality has always had this or an equivalent level if iciness to it; that this isn’t a new trait but whom she always has been. Diane brings them coffee, which is, according to Gordon, “Damn good.”
Albert relays their fears that there is something wrong with Dale and that they want her to join them in returning to South Dakota so that she can give her opinion on the man sitting in jail.
“This is extremely important, Diane,” Gordon tells her, “And it involves something that you know about, and that’s enough said about that.” It is as though Gordon is being deliberately elusive because he (and by extension Frost & Lynch) is aware of us out in the audience, watching and paying attention, eager to make connections. Mark Frost and David Lynch treat their audience with respect and know that those who engage with the show will sniff out any clue available. Gordon’s evasiveness here is a clue in and of itself, and low-key playful.
“Federal prison, South Dakota,” Diane repeats, exhaling smoke, resigning herself to the idea, it seems.
Next time: The backwards word