Last week, we saw Cooper’s doppelgänger (Kyle MacLachlan) escape from prison by blackmailing the warden, after Cooper’s assistant, Diane (Laura Dern), confirmed suspicions that the man they had in custody — though appearing identical to Cooper — is not, in fact, Cooper.
This week, we join the doppelgänger and his accomplice, Ray (George Griffith), in their getaway car. The doppelgänger, in contrast to Cooper, has never been particularly warm or friendly — he’s cold and detached: a product of the Black Lodge. Thus, it makes sense when the doppelgänger attempts to shoot Ray, only to find that his gun is out of bullets. Ray shoots back with a fully loaded gun — and when he does, ghostly figures run past him toward the doppelgänger, padding down his lifeless body and smearing his blood on his face.
As the dark beings hover ominously over the doppelgänger, a familiar demonic face appears: that of BOB (Frank Silva), the embodiment of the underworld that is the Black Lodge.
Ray, shaken and fearful, is unsure as to whether the doppelgänger is dead.
Meanwhile, at the Roadhouse, Nine Inch Nails gives a haunting performance of “She’s Gone Away,” as green and blue lights dance across them and the crowd bobs along sloppily. As the song fades, we return to the forest where the doppelgänger’s body lies.
He sits up, not dead at all. Can the doppelgänger not be killed?
Soon after, in a flashback to 1945, we witness an explosion. In an avant-garde scene, the screen is consumed by a mushroom cloud that turns into colorful explosions and flecks of debris, to the tune of tense orchestral musings. Then, a stop-motion black and white scene reverses into itself: smoke billows through the doors of a convenience store, from another explosion or perhaps at least a fire. Suddenly, bodies surround the store, dashing in and out of the frame as it sputters backwards and forwards in time.
What follows is no less confusing: a faceless being floats in black space, vomiting a stream of spheres that reflect images of BOB.
Are we witnessing the creation of the Black Lodge?
In an isolated building atop a towering cliff, a woman sits solemnly swaying to 1940s jazz music over a metal clanking in the distance. The Giant (Carel Struycken), a figure from Cooper’s dreams in the original series, appears in the room with her. She trails behind as he finds a theater, where the same clip we’ve just seen — explosion, vomit and all — plays for him. He pauses on the image of BOB within the spew, but then his body levitates, emitting a starry constellation as the woman looks on, entranced. She holds a golden bubble that made its way down to her, and as she looks closer, the face of Laura Palmer appears. It seems that while everything else in this room is black and white, anything gold maintains its color.
In another scene from 1945, an egg breaks so that a frog-winged beetle hybrid can emerge — and later climb into the mouth of a young girl. In a desert landscape, bodies approach the camera and flash closer and closer, moving like zombies. We know they must be Lynchian ghosts, if anything, because their presence is accompanied by electric fuzz and distorted voices. One being in particular seems to immobilize those in his presence, as he approaches with an open fist and crush human skulls.
It’s body horror, loathsome and vivid even in black and white.
These black-and-white sequences harken back to images from “Eraserhead,” director David Lynch’s first feature film, made in 1977, that perplexed and disgusted audiences — so much so that the film almost didn’t get made. Who would’ve known that the director’s supernatural, almost unintelligible television show would be one of the most influential of its era, and continues to be more than two decades after its original release.
This installment of “The Return” hardly delivers us as much direct insight as the previous episodes have done, but it certainly gives a deep look into Lynch’s stylistics that had been more subtle thus far. We didn’t get a single scene with Agent Cooper this week — but we’re still left with questions regarding his fate, especially because the doppelgänger whose death we depend on for Cooper’s return now seems indestructible.
Sophie-Marie Prime covers television. Contact her at [email protected].