For over 25 years now we have wondered how exactly is Annie? Has BOB been inhabiting Cooper for all these years, and If so what terrible crimes has he committed whilst in control of our hero? Is BOB in control? Was he ever in control? or is Cooper’s Doppelgänger (from here on I will call him Doppelcooper) the one in control? is BOB inhabiting him at all?
As news of a third series broke with that heart stopping and elating duplicate tweet from Lynch and Frost, and we got closer to release date, fans started to ponder how the story would unfold and guessed that The Return couldn’t focus solely on Cooper’s fate, there must be another mystery to solve and indeed there is; there are many in fact.
The plot line that I will be covering over the coming weeks and months will be this new murder mystery: Who Killed Ruth Davenport? I mean really killed her?
Inevitably this plot line will intertwine with the other stories but meanwhile I will be reviewing this line of investigation every Wednesday.
Part 1, My Log has Something to Tell You
It’s 35 minutes into the first episode before we find ourselves in Buckhorn, South Dakota. This is a small town where everyone knows everyone.
Buckhorn is the name of the singular mountain peak which broods over the residents below. Already we see similarities to our beloved town of Twin Peaks.
We are looking down a long, orange-coloured corridor. A rotund lady with a mass of dark red curls, carrying her groceries is being dragged by her small (hopefully Mexican) Chihuahua, Armstrong, to the door of her neighbours apartment at no 216, 1349 Arrowhead Road.
“What is it Armstrong?” she asks her pooch. Then she notices a terrible smell. She hurriedly enters her own apartment and phones the police and in true Lynchian style we witness this woman’s comedic but frustrating incapabilities. We learn her name is Marjorie Green and that she hasn’t seen her neighbour, Ruth Davenport, for three days, but she can’t remember her own address. Is this due to panic? Or the need to look like she’s such a good neighbour (but purely for the gossip), that when it comes to really needing to be a good neighbour, she’s bereft of the skills?
Police Officers Douglas and Olson arrive at the scene and Marjorie tells them that the Building Supervisor, Barney, is in the hospital, but “not the regular hospital”. A few eyebrows are raised. Next she says that Barney’s brother would have the keys to the building, but she doesn’t know who or where he is. Hank Philmore will know; he’s the Maintenance guy.
Outside of the building, the Officers find Hank, in overalls, bald as a coot, lurking with a black rubbish bag in one hand and clutching a black leather hold-all in the other. When Hank spots the Officers he immediately becomes defensive and yells, “Harvey you son of a bitch!” and goes on to ask them if Harvey had sent them. Hank is clearly up to no good. We don’t know what yet but whatever it is he’s a liability. His paranoia and obvious guilt are sure to catch him out sooner rather than later.
The Officers ask Hank about Barney’s brother who turns out to be called Chip; he doesn’t have a cellphone. As the Officers are about to get the locksmith, Marjorie appears on the building walkway above and calls down to them wondering if Ruth has gone out of town, as when she goes out of town she waters her plants and has a key to the apartment. You can feel the officers frustration oozing from every pore. Cut back to the hapless Hank who calls at the officers who are leaving his presence: “Am I free to go?”.
Upon entering Ruth’s apartment the camera pans slowly around her lounge area, long enough to notice the books she keeps to catch your eye. Titles include Dreamland, Indian Heritage, American Image, Lord of Mystery and one book by the Author Turow; the title is indecipherable but his works are mostly law-related fiction novels, including Presumed Innocent, Reversible Errors, The Laws of our Fathers, to name a few. The camera pans now to a dresser upon which stands a looking-glass, its base is shaped like the clawed foot of a bird of prey; an owl perhaps? Does this looking glass in itself symbolise that there are clues in Ruth’s reading history that may help solve the puzzle of what we are about to see next?
Officer Douglas notices the bedroom along the corridor and the two officers walk towards the bed. A large mound underneath dark blue sheets can be seen. As they get closer Officer Olson calmly exclaims, “Uh oh”. Pan to the pillow where lies a woman’s head with flame red hair; half of her face is missing due to decomposition, and her left eye socket is empty. It appears she has been shot. I know of another red head with a missing eye, but this not our silent drape runner inventor, thank the lord.
(Interesting fact, Ruth Davenport is played by Mary Stofle, sister of Emily Stofle, David Lynch’s wife).
Next we see Hank again, who is leaning through a window of a small truck, still clutching the leather hold-all tightly. He’s using his cellphone, speaking to the so far mysterious Harvey. Hank tells him that, “I’ve got it all right here!“ as he squeezes the bag, but that it’s his and Chip’s, that Harvey opted out of this. Harvey makes an unheard threat to Hank and hangs up on him.
Back in Ruth’s apartment we meet Constance Talbot, a police officer who is assessing the scene. On the bedside table sits a clear perspex box (is this box a hint to a connection with the box in New York?) with jewellery inside. This is no robbery gone wrong.
In walks Detective Dave Mackley. The forensic photographer’s flash lights his way to the bedroom. He greets Constance and holds up his blue rubber gloved hands to show her. She sniggers and says, “Good for you Dave! You are behaving yourself for a change”, which suggests that Mackley can be a bit slap dash or old school.
The two of them pull back the blue sheets, at which point Officer Olson calmly exclaims again, “Uh oh”. We discover a pretty horrific sight. Ruth’s head is severed; there is a body, but it’s not hers. This body is bloated black and blue, twisted to cover its dignity at least. This body is a male, hair on the belly, large strong hands. Where is the head? Who does the body belong to?
This sight is a million miles away from the beautiful, blue tinged, sand-bejewelled body of Laura Palmer, wrapped in plastic like a single rose. This is a monstrosity.
Whatever did this is an evil we have never come across before. Who or what did this? Is it something new? Or perhaps the evolution of an evil we know only too well? Laura Palmer’s and Madeline Ferguson’s deaths at the hands of BOB were about as brutal as anything we had seen on film/television at that time; but this, imagining what happened here, is so much worse.
Back at Buckhorn Police Station Constance confirms that the head is that of Ruth Davenport’s; the body is a male John Doe. But there is a second set of fingerprints at the scene, those of a local man, and much to her and Mackley’s dismay they belong to the local High Schools Principal, Bill Hastings.
Mackley arrives at 439 East Elm Street, the residence of Bill and Phyllis Hastings. There is a wolf’s head door knocker on the door, he does not use it. He knocks the door with his hand and Phyllis answers. Mackley asks for Bill, who bounds out from inside like a happy puppy dog. That expression quickly changes when Mackley tells him he’s under arrest.
As Bill is led away in handcuffs, Phyllis calls out, “but the Morgans are coming to dinner!”. Is Phyllis just an unpleasant person more interested in keeping up appearances than the fate of her husband? Or is there more to this? Perhaps their happy marriage is not what it seems?
Bill sits in the police interrogation room with his head in his hands. Enter Detective Don Harrison from Rapid City State Police. This scene is reminiscent of the first time Sheriff Harry Truman meets Agent Dale Cooper. Mackley is happy to accept the help of the cops from the big city, but Harrison doesn’t want to step on their toes and encourages Mackley to do the interview knowing he’d get more out of Hastings as he was his fishing buddy, who he’d known since High School.
It needs to be said here that Matthew Lillard’s performance as Bill Hastings is probably the best we have seen in Series 3 so far. It is clear that Lynch wants his actors to ham it up for many of the scenes, and they are soap-operaesque in places, almost painful to watch in parts (but I personally think there’s a reason for that and all will be revealed in time) but Matthew Lillard is up there with the likes of Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise, and indeed Bill is very much like the last we saw of Leland Palmer in his jail cell, as BOB leaves his host body, and the terrible realisation of what he’d done washes through him.
Hastings admits in the interview that he knows who Ruth Davenport is, but only that she’s the librarian – which is interesting to note. As a librarian she would have access to many, many books, so those she keeps in her home must be important to her; she wants them close by. Bill says he doesn’t know her well, only to say hello to, he hasn’t seen her for a few months, he’s never been to her apartment and doesn’t even know where that is. But as the questions keep coming, Bill starts to get nervous, beads of sweat appear on his forehead. On Thursday night he had a school curriculum meeting, and when Mackley queries how it took him from 9.30pm-10.15/20pm to get home, he remembers that he had to take his assistant Betty home as there was something wrong with her car. He then says again: “SOMETHING WRONG”. His mind appears to wander at this point. What is he remembering? Elsewhere in the Red Room/Black Lodge, we hear Phillip Gerrard say those same words. Something’s wrong.
Hastings asks where his lawyer George is, and begs to know why he has been arrested. Mackley tells him that Ruth Davenport has been murdered and his finger prints are all over her apartment. Bill’s world is crashing down around him and every thought he has flashes over his brilliantly expressionist face. He’s taken to a holding cell to wait for George and he asks to see his wife.
Mackley and Harrison arrive at the Hastings’ home with a search warrant. Phyllis is not amused and reluctantly allows them to enter her home and search Bill’s car. Upon searching the trunk, Mackley’s torch flashes on and off, a nod to the faulty, flickering light when Cooper and Truman examined the corpse of Laura Palmer way back when. Under a cooler box they find a chunk of bloodied flesh. Things really aren’t looking good for Bill Hastings.
Part 2, The Stars Turn and a Time Presents Itself
Phyllis joins Bill in his holding cell, she tells him that George has said that they’re not going to let you out on bail. Bill exasperatedly laughs that he’s, “in so much trouble”. Grabbing his wife’s shoulders he says, “I have something to tell you. I wasn’t there, but I had a dream that night, that I was in her apartment”. Phyllis replies with utter disdain, ”You were there. Your fingerprints are there”. Bill swears he wasn’t; then Phyllis drops the bombshell: she knows he was having an affair with Ruth Davenport all along. We see a change in the demeanour of Bill now, he becomes irate and with gritted teeth, right in her face says, “Well lookie here, I know about you too. I know about you and George and maybe someone else too”. So Bill has been having an affair with Ruth, which would explain his finger prints in her apartment? Phyllis has been having an affair with the family lawyer, and someone else? Who might that be? And how does Bill know?
As Phyllis smugly leaves Bill to rot in jail forever, Bill’s anger turns to utter panic. His world is falling apart. On her way out Phyllis bumps into George, tells him that Bill knows about them and tells him to meet her at her house later.
A broken Bill Hastings sits with his head in hands in the cell. The camera pans across the other empty cells until we see a figure of a man sitting on the bed. Blackened from head to toe, only the whites of his eyes can be seen. He is statuesque, like a stone figure from Pompeii, stuck in a moment of time. A pained or frightened expression on his face. This is for me the scariest thing I have ever seen in all of Twin Peaks, ever, ever. There is something about this which strikes a primal fear right to my very core. For now I’ll call him ‘Charcoal Man’ until we know more. He wears a hat, coat and shirt, so blackened it’s hard to decipher any detail. He has a beard and long scruffy hair. Remind you of anyone?
Who is this? Is this BOB? It could make sense that if BOB inhabits people to carry out atrocities that this is him leaving Bill’s host body. But Bill remembers what happened, even though it was a dream – Leland never remembered what he’d done whilst BOB was in control. We have never seen BOB like this before. The BOB we know is a malevolent, laughing, denizen, who liked to play with fire, but was never burned to a crisp by it. This thing, whilst being spooky as hell does not seem evil to me. It is still, like something devastating happened and in a flash its life was over, forever stuck in time.
Who else could this be then? Who do we know that died in such circumstances, perhaps in a fire? Could this be a vision of the charred remains of Samson Lanterman? The woodsman and volunteer fire fighter, who died shortly after marrying his one true love, Margaret Coulson, in a blaze that spread with such speed he had no chance of escaping its grip?
We have seen our beloved Log Lady in Twin Peaks giving a message from her log to Deputy Hawk. We can see that she is very unwell, and hasn’t got much time left in this world (and it is so totally heartbreaking knowing that was true in real life too). The log knows this too, and without his trusty interpreter he’ll need to find another way to get his messages of help out there.
The ‘Charcoal Man’ slowly vaporizes away, his face only remains, drifting off, mouth opening and closing as it goes. What is it trying to tell us? At first I wondered if he was just a Lynchian oddity and perhaps we’d never see him again, but Lynch told us this week in an interview for Entertainment Weekly, “about that guy, just keep watching”. So he’s important that’s for sure. I eagerly await seeing him again, though I’ll be peeking from behind a pillow.
The special effects are not what you would expect from 2017, and I think that is precisely the point. The fear I felt seeing this figure reminded me of being a child, going downstairs at night when I should have been in bed, and accidentally catching my parents watching a scary moment in Tales of the Unexpected, and not being able to sleep for a few nights because of it. The effects don’t have to be good; they have to absurd for your imagination to be captured. Too realistic and it’s not as scary anymore.
Phyllis returns home and as she flicks on the lights she is greeted by Doppelcooper, standing tall in her lounge. She seems almost pleased to see him, asks him what on earth he’s doing there. He says, “You did good. You followed human nature perfectly. This is George’s gun” and with that he shoots her through the right eye. At this exact time there is a glitch, ever-so-slight but noticeable. As if time were slightly skewed or something left the body. Was that her soul leaving? What did Doppelcooper mean by she followed human nature perfectly? was she “manufactured” for a purpose too? Were her comments about the Morgans coming to dinner an accurate depiction of how awful the human race can be at times?
And this is all we see of Buckhorn in Parts 1 & 2. There are many questions left unanswered.
Why does Doppelcooper want to find Betty, Hastings’ Assistant? He’s looking for co-ordinates to somewhere (maybe the black shape on the Ace of Spades card is a place or something to be found at that location) and Hastings will know them. He says that Betty will know everything that Hastings knows.
If Doppelcooper was inhabiting Hastings to carry out the murder, why can’t he just find out what he wants to know directly from the source? Personally I don’t think Doppelcooper has the ability to inhabit anyone, that’s something only MIKE and BOB can do, and I don’t think BOB as we knew him is in Dopplecooper, but perhaps he comes and goes, using owls to move between host humans and doppelgänger’s whenever he sees fit.
So was someone or something else in charge of Bill Hastings at the time of Ruth’s murder? Was Bill involved in the murder at all? Did he really just dream it, much like our Agent Dale Cooper had dreams that were linked to the Lodge?
Now that we know Bill was having an affair with Ruth it would explain his finger prints being all over her apartment. Will he admit that now to save himself?
We can assume that Doppelcooper killed Ruth Davenport as Phyllis was murdered in the same way, but why? What did she and Hastings know that he wanted her dead for and him in prison for life? Why not kill them both? Whose is the male body left in Ruth’s bed? And where is his head? Where is Ruth’s body? Assuming that the male was not killed in the apartment, how did his body end up there without anyone noticing? Or did someone notice? Is that why poor Barney is in the ‘other type of hospital’?
If Doppelcooper’s plan goes as hoped, George will arrive at the Hastings residence next, find her dead body and he too will be incarcerated, he for the murder of Phyllis. Two affairs, two women brutally murdered, shot through the eye. Two men in prison for life. Or will Bill be free once he admits he was having an affair with Ruth? He most definitely cannot have killed his wife as he was in prison at the time. Will George be incarcerated for both murders? Was this Bill’s plan all along? Has he done a deal with the devil?
The male John Doe will probably hold the key to this mystery and his body is a message to someone, at a guess that will be Deputy Director Gordon Cole.
Interestingly Cole and Hastings appear to share an interest – both have photographs of Franz Kafka on their walls. Just a little inside joke from Lynch and Frost about metamorphosis and the absurd? Or something we should be looking a little deeper at maybe? After all one of Kafka’s unfinished novels had the working title, The Man Who Disappeared.
I’ll be back next Wednesday to catch up about what is happening in Buckhorn and the world of Bill Hastings, in Parts 3,4 and 5 of Twin Peaks, The Return. Let me know what you think might be going on here or there’s anything I’ve missed.