“Black Lodge/White Lodge” is the 25 Years Later version of the popular point/counterpoint style of debating, wherein two sides take opposing views and hash it out on stage. Here, we’ll be debating the finer points of Twin Peaks lore, in writing, for your reading pleasure.
Today’s debaters are: Aidan Hailes & Simon RJ Brake
The topic is: What is going on between Diane and Mr. C?
Black Lodge: by Aidan Hailes
Laura Dern as Diane has stolen every scene she’s appeared in during her brief run in Twin Peaks: The Return. Composed of a flashy, brash exterior, with glimpses of a tortured past underneath, Diane has managed to both intrigue and impress at the same time.
But where, exactly, do her loyalties lie? While her appearance in earlier hours seemed to indicate a somewhat fractured but altogether simple relationship with the main players in the FBI investigation (Cole, Albert, and Cooper/DoppelCooper), Part 9’s text message from DoppelCoop (DC) has complicated things in an exciting new way. Is Diane still to be trusted to work with the “good guys” of The Return? Or do her allegiances belong to DC and his entourage of underworld characters? Taking a close look at the evidence thus far, it definitely appears that Diane could be playing the FBI, or at the very least working with an agenda all her own.
Let’s start with the message and its potential meaning. While it’s obviously far too early to tell exactly what DC said with the message, it was his first action (aside from walking to Chantal and Hutch and being patched up) since (presumably) BOB’s removal in Part 8. Was he perhaps transmitting information related to BOB’s removal? If so, Diane would have to be very important to his plans to be the first person to whom he addresses this information to.
While the contents of DC’s text are gobbledegook, similar to his “cow jumps over the moon” in his call from the prison, Diane’s face once she’s received the message seems to indicate that it has some meaning for her. As a coded message, DC sent the text to someone with whom he has enough of a relationship that they can decipher the meaning of the phrase. While it’s possible this was a code Dale Cooper set up with Diane many years earlier, it seems more likely that we can confirm that Diane and DC have been communicating for some time.
What we can’t confirm is the form or content of their previous communications.
There may be some clues to the extent of that relationship though. Diane anxiously checks her phone on the plane, which seems to indicate that she is awaiting DC’s message. She also receives a very peculiar “Blocked” display on her phone – in the same graphical treatment that DC’s phone received when he used it to disable the trackers in Part 8. While a small connection, it could indicate that, like Duncan Todd, she has been visited by DC’s blend of magical technology.
The second thing worth considering in all of his is her response to the message. Partly because we get only a very brief snippet of Diane after getting the text, it’s very difficult to describe her reaction. It’s almost easier to describe what she isn’t. She isn’t scared, confused, excited, happy, sad, or defeated. In fact, she seems to mirror the show’s deliberate pace of revelation: patient intrigue. No single event stands out in as this show twists and turns (atomic bomb notwithstanding), and Diane doesn’t seem to instil this text message with any overpowering importance (yet) – it’s simply another small piece in a much larger puzzle.
The third bit of supporting evidence may actually be something so obvious we’ve overlooked it due to Diane’s charisma on screen: her hatred of the FBI. At many points she’s openly professed this, including a hatred for Albert, Cole, and even Tammy (who she’d just met). Most fans seem to have chalked this up to some sort of bad incident between her and DC souring Diane’s relationship with the FBI, and thereby implied that Diane in her heart of hearts has remained a character for good who is understandably upset by the cards she’d been dealt. But what if that is too much of our reading into the situation? What if we took her hatred at face value? Wouldn’t that be a very powerful indicator that she was willing to work with DC?
One last point to consider is actually her behaviour during her interrogation with DC. While my esteemed White Lodge compatriot is right that Laura Dern’s performance was absolutely amazing, and pulled us all in to the idea that DC had done something terrible to her “that night”, there is room for another interpretation, specifically concerning Diane’s small ritual before she begins to talk to DC. She fixes her hair, straightens her clothing, and adjusts the microphone just so, to ensure that everything is correct. While it’s easy to view these actions more attention to detail on the part of Laura Dern to truly capture a woman about to confront her abuser, it could also be seen as Diane preparing herself for her own performance. In this view, Diane’s tortured, crying appeal to find out who DC is, really, is actually a step too far, into overacting. While it’s quite a stretch, Dern could actually be toeing the incredibly thin line between melodrama and heartfelt, effective acting. At first glance, we as the audience wanted to believe Diane would be key to discovering DC – but that may just be owing to our build-up to that scene. When we watch it again, it’s possible we could see Diane as more cabaret singer than FBI saint.
All of this is certainly circumstantial at this point, so it’s worth mentioning another theory, brought to my attention by John Bernardy: namely that Diane doesn’t know she’s in league with DC. It could be that Diane has been working with someone anonymously (like the billionaire in New York), unaware that it was in actuality DC. This could add a layer of complexity to the mysteries around both players as the series unfolds.
Regardless though, Diane’s role in The Return is definitely going to be larger and more complex than we’d first imagined after Part 6.
Aidan is a speechwriter and communications professional (he works for the Government of Alberta) by day and a podcaster (he’s half of Bickering Peaks) by night. You can (and should!) follow him on Twitter at @aidanhailes.
White Lodge: by Simon RJ Brake
“An interesting cross between a saint and a cabaret singer,” Dale Cooper once said of Diane. That’s the first impression he had of her, on his first day at the FBI. Fast-forward nearly 40 years and we find ourselves meeting her for the first time, encountering an interesting mix of hard and soft personality. But in episode 9 of Twin Peaks: the Return we find ourselves wondering where her loyalties lie. Is she The Cabaret Singer, the performer on a stage, an act, or is she The Saint, innocent and victimised? Neither? Both?
I’ll be arguing the case for the innocence of the accused. At this stage there’s not enough evidence to suggest that Diane is complicit in working with someone else. It’s possible, of course. We’re being drip-fed information, made to question everything as the story progresses, but we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.
I won’t argue, of course, that Mr C isn’t a very persuasive man. He seems to have allies he can call upon everywhere. It’s entirely possible he could have been playing the long con by having a pawn working with the FBI. And, of course, that pawn would be all the more useful if seen to be against Mr C, to have legitimate reasons to hate him and to work with the FBI against him. But I don’t see that those pieces all fall into place.
Diane has appeared very much to be the victim, vulnerable beneath her brash exterior. And yes, it’s the perfect con, to act this part, to be reluctant to get involved, to give up just enough information to anyone eavesdropping to make them believe you’re on their side. But if she’s working for Mr C then it feels like she’s given away too much information to Cole about what he is. And yet she is not willing to get as much information out of the FBI as she could. It seems to me that, even if she didn’t need to see the dead body, it would benefit an ally of Mr C in this position to learn exactly where the FBI are in their investigations, what they know, where they’re going next. If she IS working for Mr C, she’s slacking. She’s more concerned with taking smoke breaks and drinking her way through the FBI alcohol supply than keeping an eye on people.
Some viewers have observed that Diane checks her phone as if expecting a message, but because her phone is blocked she has to wait for a quiet moment to read it. But if she’s expecting a message from Mr C, why didn’t she check once they’d landed? Could she not have, at the very least, excused herself to have a smoke outside, rather than make a scene about smoking inside?
I read the scene as Diane just feeling trapped. She’s human, she’s somewhere she doesn’t want to be, and she does what anyone else in the modern age would do in her situation. She checks her phone. The fact that her phone is blocked (and the plane’s phone isn’t) is just one more thing to frustrate her. Frustration often feeds into itself – rather than find the first opportunity to check her messages or once they’ve landed, she bottles her frustrations up and then explodes when someone tells her she can’t smoke. It’s only then, once people have left her, that she finally checks her phone.
And so, what of the content of the message? “AROUND THE DINNER TABLE, THE CONVERSATION IS LIVELY” The same message Mr C sent earlier, albeit in a slightly different format. Questions about continuity errors aside, this message would seem to be one of two things. One, a reference to an actual dinner. Or two, a code, along the lines of “the cow jumped over the moon.” Let’s tackle those, one at a time.
Itseems unlikely that Mr C would send a reminder about an actual dinner to an ally. He doesn’t seem one for bringing up the good times. And yet, if Mr C is taunting his victim, you’d expect her to react more. Might she simply be puzzling by who the message is from? She’s a woman that has at least one charming male friend, possibly more. Even if she considers it is Mr C might she be hiding behind her usual hard front, numbed by distance, alcohol and cigarettes?
If it’s a code then there are further possibilities. Is it a code that Mr C has with Diane, or one established before Coop ever entered the Black Lodge? Mr C sending a coded message to an ally makes perfect sense, but at the same time I can see how Diane receiving a coded message from an unknown number would, again, not make her panic.
She’d stop and consider what to do about it.
Mr C, of course, doesn’t seem to be expecting a reply. The fact he keeps destroying his phones makes me think he’s worried that someone can track him. The FBI? Phillip Jeffries? If he’s working with Diane he’s not made it easy for her to get back in touch. I think he’s pressing buttons and then not waiting to see what the result is. He’s sent her something that will keep her mind ticking over for a while. It might be a simple taunt. Or it might be something that will make her do something stupid down the line, in an attempt at revenge.
Finally, in addressing (and dismissing) the idea that’s she’s working with Mr C you have to rewatch and reconsider the one encounter we’ve seen between the two, in the prison. Undoubtedly, Diane The Cabaret Singer could’ve performed for any audience listening in. But it’s a perfectly nuanced performance, if that’s what it is. That cool and composed exterior cracks suddenly, exposing the fear and panic beneath it. As it is it’s a powerful scene that actress Laura Dern delivers an incredible performance with. If secretary Diane Evans can deliver the same performance, with no opportunity for a rehearsals or retake, she’s in the wrong job.
Simon is a designer by day, fan of weird fiction by night, and one of several writers/editors at Stygian Fox in the impossible moments in between. You can (and should!) follow him on Twitter at @psibreaker, and you can follow Stygian Fox (@StygianFoxHQ) for all the latest on their work in the gaming
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