We cut to the Roadhouse.
Not the first surprise of Part 8; by no means the last. Discordant noise fills the soundtrack as the band on stage build-up the intro to their song. The resident MC (J.R. Starr) announces that the venue is “proud to welcome the Nine Inch Nails” (!)
Here the MC gets the name of the famous industrial band slightly wrong; his ‘the’ ordinarily has no place in the name of the band. They’re simple Nine Inch Nails
Led by Trent Reznor on sneering vocals, the band grind through a performance of the song “She’s Gone Away” from a then-recent EP. It’s a grim dirge with an oppressive mood that is entirely fitting to the disposition of much of Part 8; what’s happened already and what is to follow. The band are ghoulishly lit; a blue shimmer covering them. The Roadhouse is packed.
Nine Inch Nails are a strange outlier in the selection of bands who play the Roadhouse throughout The Return, but also a choice that makes perfect sense, especially within the wider scope of David Lynch’s filmography and aesthetic history.
Though Twin Peaks plays heavily into his ‘Pretty ’50’s’ aesthetic, Lynch’s fascination with all things industrial is well documented. It’s there not only in his early shorts and his striking feature debut Eraserhead, but also in the darker, heavier source music choices of particularly Lost Highway. Lost Highway featured Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug” on its soundtrack – a soundtrack produced by Trent Reznor, who has gone on to compose notable film scores, particularly for David Fincher. Reznor, therefore, is an old friend and collaborator for Lynch, and this appearance plays as a kind of artistic reunion. It is also, as intimated, a perfect fit in terms of mood; something Lynch also holds as integral to his work.
Still, this seems like an odd place for us to cut back to the Roadhouse, and I have a tenuous, totally unproven theory on this. Pretty much every ‘part’ of The Return is a fairly uniform 58 minutes and change, except for Part 7, which comes in a little bit shorter. Consider that this whole season was conceived as an 18 hour film and then roughly divided into parts, then edited to fit that plan. I can’t help but wonder whether everything we’ve seen so far in Part 8 – including this performance – was originally intended to be the end section of Part 7, so that everything that follows – the show’s extended flashback into the past and into monochrome – would have been wholly isolated in Part 8. If this was the original intention then “She’s Gone Away” would have played out Part 7 in the customary fashion of each ‘episode’ ending at the Roadhouse.
What I imagine happened is… it didn’t quite work. Part 7 covers a lot of ground and squeezing all of this material into it would’ve meant some cutting; either of the material already in Part 7, or of the creeping slow pace of the scenes of Mr. C being healed by the Dirty Bearded Men. Not one to compromise when it comes to mood, tone and pace, I imagine that David Lynch decided, along with Mark Frost, to re-edit, and bring Mr. C’s shooting and this Nine Inch Nails performance into Part 8 so that they could exist in the fullness of time that they wanted. This might also explain, for some, the seemingly long scene near the end of Part 7 of the Roadhouse floor being swept – an effort to re-balance the running times, maybe.
Does this mean there was additional flashback material for Part 8 that hit the cutting room floor as a result? In Behind-The-Scenes footage, Lynch is seen growing frustrated that he wasn’t afforded the time to expand on his ideas for the White Lodge etc, so maybe the material for Part 8 ran short and that was the impetus. Who knows. It’s just a theory. And the pace of some of what is to come is disarmingly slow as it is. Like I say, it’s just a theory.
As the song dies away we return to the desert at nighttime where we left Mr. C (Kyle MacLachlan). Nine Inch Nails echoes around his bloody body and the song abruptly comes to a stop as Mr. C sits bolt upright, recovered from his shooting, revived by the (now unseen) Dirty Bearded Men. He’s back.
Cut to black…
Next time: July 16, 1945