In the fourth part of The Return, Lynch takes his mystery even deeper, with fewer answers. Lynch plays with heightened reality: Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) wins nearly 30 jackpots, allowed to go, not seen as a fraud but handed a bigger bag to replace his series of buckets. The Silver Mustang is the friendliest casino ever depicted on screen, taking Cooper into their office to offer him whatever services, from a limo to dining out to a sexual partner, he requires. Cooper becomes Mr. Moneybags, able to pay off remaining debts. But where is home? Cooper instructs his driver to find the elusive red door, a la the Red Room, of his house, based upon the description of former colleagues within the casino.
Cooper exists upon another frighteningly domestic life, playing as a 1950s vision of suburbia. Dougie is clearly unhappy, having met with Jade for sexual favours in the previous episode. Dougie’s wife, Janey-E (Naomi Watts), has an unrelenting optimism, preparing plates of pancakes piled high and jugs of orange juice. Maybe the Betty (or was it Diane?) of Mulholland Drive (2001) escaped her Ontarian life and Hollywood dream, torn apart by the loss of her lover and the difficulty of the Hollywood industry, finding a new domestic life where she can perform a new role. Watts channels Betty’s faux happiness perfectly, with a son, Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon).
Cooper contends with and inauthentic life, with shadows of reality: he wears a bright green suit, placing the tie on his head. He drinks black coffee out of a mug, labelled as obviously as the canned food in Repo Man (1984) as “I AM DOUGIE’S COFFE”, spitting it out in disgust. Looking in the mirror, it doesn’t crack; he isn’t Killer BOB. Lynch fucks with us, creating an identity crisis within Cooper. Is Cooper’s apparently deceased doppelgänger an undercover agent, working secretly for the FBI for the past 25 years? As ever, Lynch holds back an answer.
But this episode also brings in some recurring characters, and the fates of others who never came back. In the FBI, we meet Denise (David Duchovny) again, played by the actor better known for The X-Files (1993-present). As a trans woman, her presence in the original series was largely progressive, Cooper accepting this as part of who she is, despite being initially taken aback. Her original appearance might pull some jokes and rely on deadnaming, her gender fluidity used as ruse, yet was worlds beyond the issues that persist to this day with a focus on transition narratives, inaccurate stereotypes or “bury your gays”. She has to deal with what it means to be known as trans within the workplace, joking about hormones. Gordon Cole (David Lynch) is sympathetic to her, having accepted her transition within the FBI. Denise may be played by a cis actor, unfortunate when trans actors remain marginalised, but avoiding recasting her is something I can just about accept. Denise may not have a feminine voice; Duchovny largely sounds like David Duchovny. But maybe Denise couldn’t, or didn’t want to, go through transitioning, or her body reacted badly. As ever, trans people come in many different ways.
Cole channels the miscommunication humour that played so well within the original series, his trademark hearing aid replaced with a more modern, subdued device. In the Sherriff’s Department in the original series, Cole could camouflage himself with Cooper’s own quirks. Here, we see the frustration within the FBI as he exists upon his own plane. As the car approaches Mount Rushmore, his misinterpretations of Cossacks in Russia almost ground the car to a halt.
Cooper’s disappearance mirrors another disappearance: Phillip Jeffries, reportedly an ally to Cooper’s doppelgänger. David Bowie’s character in Fire Walk With Me (1992) relied on his alien image, appearing and disappearing from a hotel in Buenos Aires, walking through the FBI’s haunted corridors. Bowie’s absence is unfortunate due to his recent passing; could you imagine Blackstar-era Bowie, with his silver streak of hair, returning as Jeffries? Jeffries’ presence is still felt, discussed by Cole. Disappearing agents is just another day in the park for the FBI.
At the Sherriff’s Office, we contend with another legacy: the legacy of Laura. Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), her former boyfriend, has grown up from rebellious kid to deputy, staying in the same part of the country he’d grown up in. Gazing upon her iconic yearbook photo amid the evidence, reused throughout promotional materials and this series’ own title sequence, we see the emotion within his eyes. He’s still not done mourning, 25 years on. Through Bobby, we learn of the death of his own father in a fire, Major Briggs, played by the late Don S. Davis, witnessed by Cooper himself. Harry S. Truman’s legacy (Michael Ontkean declined returning) is fulfilled by his brother Frank (Robert Forster), an original contender for the role.
Perhaps Lynch’s craziest character inclusion is Wally Brando (Michael Cera), the son of Andy (Harry Goaz) and Lucy (Kimmy Robertson). Years may have passed since Cera’s popularity, as the boyfriend in Juno (2007) or early 20s everyman in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), yet Cera remains a cinematic joy. As Wally, Cera is no longer the grounded young adult trying to find his way in the world: he’s Marlon Brando, channelling Johnny Strabler’s rebellious image in The Wild One (1953), before James Dean symbolised the rebellious teenager in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). Brando’s presence has always hung over Twin Peaks: the iconic casino and brothel is named after the western One-Eyed Jacks (1961), Brando’s only directorial effort. Wally Brando is a joke, speaking in highly stylised dialogue: he speaks of travelling across the country, with a map in his heart. But how can anyone not love Michael Cera?
In the Bang Bang Bar, Au Revoir Simone perform Lark. Because David Lynch has a fucking great taste in music.