It’s time for a different approach in this column, so aptly titled Homeward Bound. Truly, this is about Dale’s journey, and Part 7 has left us in an interesting spot. Up until this point, much of what I’ve written has been recap + speculative inquiry. This week, my goal is different. While I will do what I’ve done previously, I want to spend more time focusing on a question that has been big in the minds of viewers: When will we see ‘Our Dale’ again?/Will we see ‘Our Dale’ before the final episode?
More and more people seem to be answering this question. “Yes,” many say. “But not until the final episode”. And they aren’t saying this fondly. Every tweet on this topic that I’ve seen thus far contain the words of people who are very worried about this eventuality. And the more I see people worrying about it, the more I worry about it. And that just isn’t acceptable, because I wasn’t worried about it at all until people started to mention it.
In fact, I’d like to laud Lynch and Frost on their decision to take their time on Dale’s retransition to the world. One thing that television/film often finds itself beholden is the concept that events have to be sped up, often outside of the bounds of reality, in order for the plot to progress. I’m glad that Frost/Lynch have decided to say ‘screw that’ to this unspoken rule, because the simple fact of the matter is that it wouldn’t make sense for ‘Our Dale’ to return so soon. Rather, we have what I argue isn’t a long, drawn out return to himself, but one that is paced just right and appropriate to the rest of the material, considering what we watch week to week is essentially an 18 hour long mega film. (And let’s get real here, this is Lynch. You can’t complain about the pacing. If you’re familiar with his work, it should have been expected, and thus, not something worth complaining about, but rather something to be endured. But I digress). Each time something resonates with Dougie!Dale, it gets the viewer excited. There he is! Our Dale, peeking through! This is what Lynch and Frost do all the time, and successfully so. This is a show where we can have a two and a half minute sequence of a man sweeping a bar floor, and feel extremely tense the whole while, despite the fact that we have absolutely no reason to be. That is skill.
I’m a really, really fast reader. People have always asked me, how can you possibly enjoy the books you read? You read so fast! And they aren’t always wrong. Just like with the promotionals for The Return, you want it until you’ve got it. We were all chomping at the bit to see new promotionals, but in the end, all agreed that the ‘less is more’ approach worked well. We had to wait to see anything of substance until the premiere and we were most certainly rewarded. Lynch’s motto with The Return seems to be that patience is a virtue because the sweetest things are worth the wait. And the return of “Our Dale” is definitely worth it. The Dougie scenes are important because without them, I guarantee you, someone, somewhere, would be haranguing the show for returning him too quickly and without enough consequences. The simple fact is that writers just can’t win. There will always be the unhappy few.
That being said don’t feel that, if you’re not enjoying the Dougie scenes, I’m calling you out. I’m not. They’re meant to frustrate you, to exhaust you emotionally. They’re meant to drain you until you are at your wits end. I feel that way too. “I just want Dale Cooper back!” You yell as you are crawling the final paces up the slopes of Mount Doom, and then, when Frost and Lynch send in the eagles, you’ll be rewarded. Just have some faith, and put your trust in Lynch and Frost. So far, they haven’t let us down. The build up is their way of showing that they care. That Our Dale Cooper deserves to return to us in the best, most thorough and (dare I say it) realistic manner possible, and not through some plot contrivance.
What do we have so far?
- Dale recognized the key.
- Dale notices the owl.
- Dale focuses on the word ‘Agent’
- Dale and Coffee
- Dale and the thumbs up
- Dale and case files
- Dale and badges
All of these things are integral to his return, and each one brings with it a brighter, longer lasting spark in Dale’s eye. They’re resonating because they’re important. Each time something happens a la “He’s lying” that is a piece of Dale returning to himself, and Part 7 just handed us the biggest one yet. But before we get to that, I’ll lead in with the only other Dougieworld scenes in this section.
Dale is back at it again, drawing on his case files, as well as on the desk itself, in some intuitive manner. The nervous insurance agent, Tony, has little luck reaching him when he tries to question Dale about the meeting he had with their boss that morning. Eventually he leaves. Outside an anxious Janey-E takes determined steps into Dougie’s workplace, apparently tired of waiting for him.
The repercussions from the exploded car finally come through in the form of three detectives…who, if you paid close attention to the end credits, all happen to be brothers. Dale gets excited when he sees a badge. Again, note the increased frequency of things that he recognizes and relates to. This is most certainly purposeful, building to what we all desire. As they grill Dale and eventually Janey-E, who does most of the talking, Dale’s mimic game continues. “Sto-len”. In fact I think it’s gotten better. He’s responding to things with a purpose, even if he might not yet be aware of what they mean, or what that purpose is. I genuinely think he’s making progress.
Janey-E, still fresh from her ‘noon-thirty’ meet ‘n’ greet with the local loansharks is short with the detectives as they play a verbal ring-around-the-rosie regarding Dougie’s ‘terrible car’. I really enjoyed Janey-E in this scene. One of the brothers obviously senses that she’s not to be antagonized and they agree to leave, giving her their card. Bushnell Mullins also has questions for Dale but lets them go, after Janey-E gives him a pointed look. As she and Dale leave, she fills him in on how things went down that afternoon and chews him out about gambling and the merits of smart investments and spending in regards to their family’s future.
As they exit the building, a strange, tonal humming starts up. It’s so low that on my first watch I missed it. It’s but one of several scenes in Part 7 where a sounds is highly important and indicative of something happening that is more than what it seems. It’s a subliminal reminder to pay attention. Recall the Giant/??????? asking Dale, and the audience by proxy, to listen to the sounds? This part really capitalizes off of that.
I actually filmed this scene on my phone so that I could watch and examine it in minute detail, since everything happens so quickly. Douglas the Cobra indeed! The noise starts after they exit the building. Dale doesn’t seem to be cognizant of anything out of the ordinary until after the shot of Ike the Spike running towards them, though that point could be debated.
I would describe this scene as muscle memory. When you do a certain thing a certain number of times, your body and brain memorize it, even if you are unaware of it consciously. Victims of retrograde amnesia often know how to do things, but don’t know where they learned them or when. Examples of this include speaking languages, following a series of predetermined steps, or retaining skills, such as the use of a sewing machine, or knowing how to operate a particular remote control. They generally have the same taste in food, in films, and in clothing as well, which fits with the Dale to which we have been thus far exposed.
Dale’s memories of his time at the FBI academy are gone, or, in my personal estimation, locked away, but that doesn’t mean he can’t access the skill sets that come with those memories. And boy does he ever! Watching Dale in that sequence was absolutely beautiful. Pardon me, watching Kyle in that sequence was absolutely beautiful. There is no look of sudden recognition on his face, no awakening, just the same blank stare throughout an immensely tense moment.
He pushes Janey-E out of the way in one fluid movement, following perfectly choreographed and rehearsed steps, undoubtedly practiced to death in his twenties. Dale attempts to gain control of the gun in a safe fashion, angling the barrel away from possible targets and incapacitating Ike with military like precision. These moment remind me of two things. Firstly, the sequence from the original run, when Dale rescues Audrey from One-Eyed Jack’s, taking out the woman who sneaks up behind him with the knife. Secondly, I’m reminded of the words my father has spoken on several occasions. “Eileen, if you go for the throat, you’d better be prepared to kill a man,”
My father was in the military, was part of the first draft during Vietnam, though he never actually ended up there (he was stationed in Germany), and he likes to say that anyone who thinks you can learn “self defense” from military training is wrong – they aren’t training you to defend yourself, they’re training you to kill people. If the person you’re fighting can get back up after you’ve attacked them, then you haven’t done your job.
Dale goes for the throat not once but twice. It’s not a straight on hit, so it doesn’t do any fatal damage, but, had he been in a position to do so, Ike might very well have been dead. Period.
At any rate, he continues to hold down the gun, keeping Ike from using it in the way desired. At this point, Dale’s face does show some signs of strain. Then, things get weird. The Evolution of the Arm peeks it’s way up from the concrete.
“Squeeze his hand off” It repeats several times.
I don’t believe that what’s at work here is all Lodge driven. My guess is that everything we see up until that point is pure Dale. Dale knows what he’s doing when a man comes up to him with a weapon. But the Lodge does seem to be invested in Dale’s survival, so a tip here or there (though to what ulterior motive we can only guess) is not unforeseen. He’s had several other tips, which I believe to be a mix of both Lodge influence and Dale’s own intuition.
After Dale does indeed “squeeze” Ike’s hand off of the gun – note here, that the gun appears to be clean of any…erm residue…- Ike runs for it and Dale stands, looks around, acting for all the world like nothing happened. Janey-E, understandably, throws her arms around him, to which Dale gives no reaction. The awful tonal dissonance ends when the sirens start. What’s occurred is definitely traumatic, but what I find most interesting is what happens after Janey-E finishes her ‘once over’ of him. Dale blinks once, and looks up very pointedly. What is he looking at or for? Why does he look up? The last time he looked up like that, I think, was when the owl flew past. Correct me if I’m wrong. The time before that, Laura disappeared from the lodge. Just an observation. Actually this moment reminds me most of Phillip Gerard whenever we see him ‘looking’ for Dale out in the world. Curiouser and curiouser.
This shot transitions into a collage of scenes shot like they are through the POV of news cameras and include a variety of interviews from witnesses and Janey-E alike. I actually found this to be a strange choice, considering that nothing like that has ever happened on TWIN PEAKS before. When they show the cops handling the gun, the screen is darkened except in an oval around the weapon and the (most likely) flesh which they peel off of it.
Think back to the moment when Ike lets go of the gun. There was nothing that I could see, so I decided to take an admittedly terrible screenshot. While I see nothing on the handle of the weapon itself, which could be a production error (those happen) there does appear to be a dark patch on Ike’s hand as it pulls away. Is it a shadow? Is it a large wound which matches the flesh residue on the gun? If it’s not, is the residue the same sort of mystery meat found in the trunk of Bill Hasting’s car? Is it a piece of the EOTA? We may have to wait till longer than next Sunday to find out, but at this point, I can’t make any conclusive statement on the matter. Decide for yourself.
Specifics aside, I genuinely believe that this scene is pivotal. To all those of you who are worried that we won’t see “Our Cooper” until the end of The Return, not only do I sincerely hope that you have no cause to worry, I genuinely believe that you will be pleasantly surprised. This scene was enormously important developmentally for Dale, both psychologically and in terms of plot. To me, this says that he’s nearing his old self again, a reassurance that the end of the tabula rasa Dale is at hand. Consider this – actual, real Dale Cooper just made what could be larger than local news. Someone will see it, of that I’m sure. Who that might be is up for debate. The mysterious billionaire of the Box – theorized to be anyone from the greater government to Audrey Horne (fingers crossed that either way, she’s involved soon!) – the people in Twin Peaks, Gordon and Albert, and, most importantly perhaps, DoppelCoop are all options.
If DoppelCoop is one person to see Dale on the news, I can most certainly see “Our Dale” reemerging sooner rather than later. A popular theory is that “Our Dale” cannot come back to himself until the two are one. In one of my previous articles Doppelgängers, Owls and Other Folklore Superstitions in Twin Peaks, I researched the history of Doppelgangers and compared their traditional lore with the way in which they are presented in TWIN PEAKS. If what I determined there holds true, then we might be looking at an instance in which we have two physical beings that have to recombine in some way shape or form. If DoppelCoop catches wind of Dale on the news, especially now that he’s broken out of jail (and that’s if and only if the timelines of our different plots match up) then I can see them coming to a head and possibly recombining within a few Parts.
Time for a few bets:
The safe bet: “Our Dale” will be back in three Parts.
The not so safe bet, but also the bet that I believe the most strongly: We will have our Dale back by the end of the next Part, the final one released before the break.
Questions answered: We saw a second 4:30 in this episode in Twin Peaks between Andy and the farmer.
Questions posed: When will “Our Dale” return. Put your bet in the comments and your reasoning why! I can’t wait to see what you think!
What do you think about my theories? Did I miss something? Do you agree or disagree? Let me know what you think! Leave your thoughts a comment!
Some images Courtesy of Showtime