Part 8 is a very special installment of The Return. A detour, if you will, into the past, and into Lynch’s more personal, artistic and fascinating approach to exposition. Appropriately, the scenes set in the present all take place at night, giving the hour the feel of something illicit and also, of course, dreamlike. The rest of the season is largely typified by events taking place in the day. But, as Frank Booth of Blue Velvet would say, “Now it’s dark”.
We open with Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan) and Ray Monroe (George Griffiths) following their release from Yankton Federal Prison. Ray drives and Mr. C is in the passenger seat of the rental car they received as part of Mr. C’s deal with the warden. Angelo Badalamenti’s music really does a good portion of the work here in setting up the slowly escalating unease, and it does so without the need to overtly announce itself. In an episode typified by bold and/or atmospheric audio choices, this is the first to really nail Part 8’s coherent approach to combining sound and vision.
They drive on the highway. Mr. C retrieves a device from his pocket and announces that there are three tracking devices on the car. We see the readout on his handheld gimzo. There are three boxes, “C”, “FIRE” and “D . X”. These equate to the three bugs, one assumes. Mr. C selects all three on the touchscreen with his thumb. He tells Ray to “get up close behind that truck”. Ray does so and Mr. C appears to use the scrambler in his hand to transfer the relays for their trackers from the rental car to the truck with the code DEGWW8.
“That should do it,” he says, and throws the device from the window of their moving car.
“Hope you’re not sore at me for running off,” Ray says, attempting to break the tension between them. The last time we saw these two characters prior to their stints at Yankton Federal Prison was in the diner in Part 2, in which Mr. C expressed the difference between want and need. Ray seems flinchy here, evidently having betrayed Mr. C, as Darya did. We know how Mr. C responds to betrayal from her fate, so one would assume Ray has every right to fear his companion and emancipator. Mr. C has almost certainly freed Ray o that he can kill him himself. Ray is testing the waters here, “Sure was stupid of me to get caught up like I did. Thanks for getting me out of there.”
When Ray asks where Darya is, Mr. C lies in his response, telling him that Darya is waiting for him to call once they’re some place safe. Mr. C surmises that Ray will want to go to a place he refers to as ‘the farm’ (a hang-out for mercenaries which we will come to later). Ray encourages this idea – presumably thinking the place offers him safety in numbers – but Mr. C changes the subject.
“You have something I want, Ray,” he looks at him for the first time in the scene. Ray pauses as though this isn’t a topic of discussion he particularly eanted to go into at this time.
“Yes, I do,” he concedes, “I got it memorised. All numbers. Memorised perfectly. But honestly Mr. Cooper, I think it might be worth some money. Maybe quite a lot of money.” This is Ray’s play to stay alive. Distrusting his former partner, he now plans to extort his knowledge of the co-ordinates that Mr. C is seeking in order to secure his freedom and the money to maintain said freedom. Mr. C’s response to this is monotone, his face without feeling, but he stares at Ray. He asks him to get off the highway by taking the next exit and it leads them onto a dirt road.
Lynch cuts to a view from the hood of the car, affording us the sight of the headlights sweeping a turn in the road as Ray drives. It recalls the opening of Lost Highway just as it recalls the opening of Mulholland Drive and even acts as a call-back to Mr. C’s introduction back in Part 1. Badalamenti’s music acts as punctuation at this point, growing more prominent, encouraging us to feel unease, suggestive of trouble and danger. The intimacy of night driving is evoked beautifully. The mystery and quietude of it. The magic. Lynch savours the moment for a little while and there is quiet in the car. He alternates between the inhabitants and shots of the road, which grows increasingly barren. They are off the beaten track.
Near the very end of The Return, Lynch ‘treats’ us to similar, even more protracted sequence of two people driving at night, seemingly alone in a featureless dark, only this sequence in Part 18 features Dale/Richard and Laura/Carrie Page in quite a different context. Still, the memory of Mr. C and Ray’s night drive is carried through The Return all the way to that scene, maybe even subconsciously. As such, when Dale/Richard an Laura/Carrie drive, there is an intense apprehension because of the similarities to this sequence, along with very specific apprehension over how The Return will end. But now we’re getting quite far ahead of ourselves…
Ray advises he wants to stop and take a leak. “Go for it,” Mr. C replies. It’s all pretense by this point. The dirt road is telling Ray that Mr. C is soon to make his play. Ray’s request tells Mr. C the same. The forthcoming standoff is inevitable.
Ray stops the car and gets out and makes to take his leak. In the car, Mr. C retrieves the gun – this “friend” – from the glove compartment. It’s a revolver and he checks the chamber. It’s loaded. He exits the car. He walks toward Ray, pointing the gun. “Ray, I want that information,” he says coolly.
“Yes,” Ray replies, not turning around.
“Looks like you’re out half a million,” Mr. C tells him. They hadn’t discussed a prince in the car, so one assumes the half mil is either part of a separate agreement Mr. C has with Ray or refers to a portion of the scene that didn’t make the final cut. The meaning of the statement is the same regardless; their business together is suspended. Finished.
“Well, I think you’re wrong about that,” Ray says, turning, revealing that he too has a gun. Mr. C fires, but the bullets in his revolver are blanks. “Tricked ya, fucker,” Ray says, and shoots Mr. C twice in the torso. Mr. C goes down. Ray moves closer to finish the job with one in the head, but as he does so bright lights start to flicker around them…
Next time: Intervention