The third part of The Return is a truly Lynchian vision. Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) may be free to go, but Lynch refuses to make things easy, painting an abstract, surrealist vision beyond the bizarreness of the Red Room. In a purple room, with its silhouetted windows and doors, Cooper meets Naido (Nai Yuuki), a silent, eyeless woman. We move through electrical circuits and power sockets, floating up ladders. Cooper moves into the vastness of space, into a cube hanging in the air, evoking back to Eraserhead (1977), past consciousness and the limitations of our own mind into a space beyond. In the Red Room, Lynch plays with abstract visions further, reducing body and head into nothingness and a gold orb.
Lynch allows an opportunity to return to the bumbling idiocy of the Sherriff’s Department, catching up on Hawk (Michael Horse), Andy (Harry Goaz) and Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) continuing their investigation, leafing through folders and paperwork to no avail, reminding people to DONUT DISTURB them.
Hawk, as a member of the Nez Perce tribe, remains one of the series’ most important characters, positioning a Native American character within a position of power as one of the sanest people within the department. Hawk is neither redface cartoon nor uncivilised savage to be tamed or murdered by the white man, but a well-developed character with his own set of beliefs; Native Americans have always been an integral part of American history and culture. Lucy whitesplains to him, wondering if the chocolate bunny from the evidence she ate in a moment of stress is directly tied to his heritage. Easter is a Christian holiday; chocolate derives from Aztec and Mayan cultures. She stresses to him that he’s Native American, as though he wouldn’t remember his own heritage, unable to name the tribe he belongs to.
Through Cooper’s return, Lynch crafts a puzzle. Lynch pays close attention to the hands of the clock, suggesting his doppelgänger’s time is up. Like the limousine crash that marked the opening of Mulholland Drive (2001), Cooper’s doppelgänger desperately seeks to escape his inevitable fate, his body and crashed windshield found by a nearby highway patrol. Lynch ties in the “pain and sorrow” of creamed corn, barfing up an inordinate amount of garmonbozia as his demise is imminent.
Cooper awakens embodied in the form of Dougie Jones, lying next to his own vomit, combining and subverting elements of Cooper and BOB further. Lynch refuses to make Cooper’s return simple; he was never going to take an episode to do it, or make everything the same as it was. Cooper is left an empty vessel, trying to adjust to the world and rebuild his identity. He carries a key to the Great Northern, unable to know what the Great Northern is. He lies on the carpet, forgetting what shoes are. Dougie has met with prostitute Jade (Nafessa Williams) in Las Vegas, paying her off with dollars, leading him forth in her yellow car to their next destination. Where did he get that suit? And where did he get that haircut? Driving down Sycamore Street, sense the wider world Dougie is involved in. As Cooper and Jade drive away, the camera pans towards Jake (Bill Tangradi) and Gene (Greg Vrostos) in their vintage car, setting trackers and attempting to stage an assassination attempt.
At the Silver Mustang, Lynch plays up Cooper as a fish out of water, in a casino full of old grannies. Cooper tries to understand how to get tokens, the Red Room a slither in the corner of his eye. He yells “HELLLLOOOOO”, getting the jackpot. He yells “HELLLLOOOOO”, getting the jackpot. He yells “HELLLLOOOOO”, getting the jackpot to the whirr of the alarm. If only paying off student debts could be so easy.
One of the greatest elements of Fire Walk With Me (1992) is also back: the FBI headquarters in Philadelphia, including the return of Gordon Cole (David Lynch). Cole’s presence is greatly appreciated, setting up a new stage of the investigation. In the Red Room, the episode hints towards the “blue rose”, a codeword used within the FBI. Watching over images from the New York apartment, we witness Sam and Tracey’s brutalised, headless, mutilated bodies; Lynch lingers on these images, refusing to move away from them. The FBI headquarters is built upon juxtapositions; its walls display an image of the impact of an atomic bomb.
In a scene any other person would cut, we spend several minutes witnessing Dr. Jacoby spraypainting shovels, wearing a protective mask. Why is Jacoby spraypainting shovels? Why is Jacoby even here? Only Lynch knows. In the Bang Bang Bar, in its neon lighting, Lynch includes another musical performance: The Cactus Blossoms, performing Mississippi. Framed in orange lighting, The Cactus Blossoms feel like another era, with a country sound not so far apart from Lynch’s use of Roy Orbison in Blue Velvet (1986). It’s apt: Lynch’s work is often anachronistic, evoking other eras of noir thrillers. Of all the tropes within this new series, showcasing artists might be the most satisfying.