On the Topic of Agency, and Of Scheming, Suited Gangsters

Homeward Bound, Part 10

Part One: Dale Cooper

When we first see Dale this week, it is the single best fanservice scene I’ve ever witnessed. I just want to get it out of the way right now: Kyle MacLachlan’s abs are the best thing since sliced bread. I think we can all agree on that, right? Okay, good. Now that we’re all on the same page let’s shake it up a bit.

So, finally, Janey-E has taken Dale to the Doctor to get him checked out. Ha. Ha. Sorry. Back on track. While the Doctor is looking him over and pronouncing him to be fantastically healthy, to an almost shocking degree, Janey-E is also checking him out. Literally this time. I thought, at first, that maybe Janey-E was finally growing skeptical about Dale being Dougie. She, like the Doctor, really seemed to actually think about the implications of the amount of weight they believe Dougie lost, and indeed, his relative health. At this point, all I can say is that the Doctor must be slightly incompetent. If I were him, I’d want to know exactly what was up with my patient instead of chalking it up to simply a miracle. What happened during those three missing days? And, he doesn’t do any ‘checking out’ of Dale’s head, which is where, I presume, and actual damage would be perceived to be.

Janey-E, I’ve given up on, not because I think she’s unobservant – quite the contrary in this episode, indeed, she’s finally noticed that Dale Cooper is sinfully attractive – rather, that she doesn’t want to know how or why. She’s just happy that he’s different. Let’s talk about that. Obviously, later, when they get back to Dougie’s house, and Dale eats a piece of cake, she’s still thinking about how remarkably and suddenly attractive her husband has become. He doesn’t treat her badly (doesn’t treat her anything really, he’s being led around on a leash, but with less personality than even the most boring dog), doesn’t go missing, drink or gamble, doesn’t do anything, or object to anything, for that matter, which puts Janey-E firmly into a position of power.

Knowing what we do of Dougie, prior to this, I can’t say that I blame her for willfully ignoring how obviously Dale isn’t the same Dougie who disappeared and missed Sonny Jim’s birthday. It’s a pleasant change for a woman used to picking up after her husband’s messes and mistakes, used to being second best to other women, and used to being ignored. However, that doesn’t excuse what happens next.

Many people have been having a great laugh about Part Ten’s sex scene. I, instead, cringed. Dale Cooper, in his current state, has no agency. We spend a lot of time talking about other character’s agencies, usually female characters, like Laura. Agency is important for those characters because it keeps them from being utilized in a manner that is demeaning or centered on someone other than themselves. Laura having her own agency is integral to the story. Dale’s agency is no less important, and it hasn’t really been talked about for one reason. He’s a man. But just because he’s a man and it’s sex, doesn’t make the two conditions mutually exclusive.

Men + Sex ≠ always okay

Dale Cooper in this form is purely instinctive and reactionary. He experiences outside stimuli and reacts, on a basic level, via natural instinct. Coffee smells and tastes good, so he’s going to drink as much as possible. Sex, once started, feels pretty damn great, and so follows the goofy, innocent grin of awe and bliss on his face. Just because something feels good, doesn’t mean that it is good. In his state, Dale Cooper cannot truly consent to sex, not even to the woman who believes herself to be his wife. When Cooper comes back to himself, mentally, who knows how he might feel about such an encounter? Either way, it doesn’t really matter, because, as he’s incapable of making his own decisions, for the most part, he is in no way capable of consenting to any sexual activity. Even if this were really Dougie, and not Dale, it wouldn’t make a difference. Janey-E, newly turned on by her hunk, hero ‘husband’ who was formerly a seventies sleazy squeeze (who wasn’t squeezing her) utilizes her newfound power to take what she wants, for what she’s been truly yearning. Again, I reiterate, knowing how she’d been treated, I don’t necessarily blame her for wanting to do what she did, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong.

She had sex with a man whom we’ve consistently been comparing to a baby in terms of mental development. Recall the scene in the examination room. He kept trying to touch the stethoscope, the doctor actually having to pull his hands aside. For anyone unfamiliar with babies and very small children, this is how they act when you’re changing their diapers if you don’t give them something else to do with their hands. If you don’t see something wrong with that, then I really hope you see the scenario in a new light after reading this.

Janey E and Dougie lock arms

Afterwards, when she’s laying with him and tells him that she loves him, he parrots the phrase back, but he still has a vacant look. It’s not the same vacant look as his normal vacant look, he seems contented, obviously, but it’s still without recognition for what’s going on around him. The next morning, when she reiterates how happy she is, Cooper’s traditional vacant look is back – he has no lingering emotions as to what happened, or at least cannot express them. I truly do feel for Janey-E, but I can’t help but cringe, wondering what this will mean for Cooper in the future.

Cooper lacking agency is not the first traditionally ‘feminine’ related characteristic that has been applied to Cooper – that would be his intuition – which definitely says to me that there is something more to this than just a surface based comic sex scene with dark undertones. We’ll see where this goes. I hope, more than anything, that it’s addressed appropriately. Sexual abuse (whether knowing or intentional in the case or not), both of men and of those who are mentally handicapped, is still an enormously unsung issue and I’d hate to see both played for laughs. As long as there’s some overt point to this, I can reconcile it, but likely never fully forgive it. This is truly the only scene I hated in the Return thus far…and that’s including the highly controversial Wally Brando, of which I am not overfond.

The only genuinely funny moment is Sonny Jim’s surprise at his mother’s overenthusiastic reaction. That is something no kid ever forgets!

I spent some time trying to think of a good reason for this advancement of their relationship to have happened. So far, it seems like Dale’s role is to give people what they need, as our own Lindsay reminded me. Think about the whole situation at Lucky 7, for example. Bushnell needs Dale to help him with the insurance scam. The man in the first meeting needed Dale to take the coffee so that he could discover that he likes Green Tea. And possibly… Janey-E needs validation? Sexual fulfillment? To feel loved by the man to whom she devoted her life, and who never gave her anything in return?

Yes, I suppose Dale’s come off that way so far, but that’s a dangerous place to be – helping everyone all the time. And, never has Dale not, seemingly, gotten something out of an experience without helping himself, knowingly or not. It remains to be seen what that might be with Janey-E, but I’m not yet convinced, nor placated.

The second argument, obviously, is that Dale needs to relearn how to do things. I think this is a weak argument. It’s not something that he absolutely must know in order to carry on. He doesn’t, as far as we know, need to understand sex in order to return to his former self. I think he could probably have done that without a sexual encounter, and then remembered it of his own accord via memories of past experiences. There just hasn’t yet been an argument that made me think there was any real reason for this scene to have happened. If the roles were reversed, I can only imagine that I would be one of many, instead of one of few, writing with this stance.

One last quick thought about this sequence – is it just me or does Dale look markedly younger post-coitus? Let me know in the comments if you think I’m seeing things, just plain crazy, or if I’m onto something.

Part Two: The Brothers Mitchum

When we catch back up to the brother’s Mitchum, it’s with Rodney, looking over some paperwork – a surveillance log, apparently. Meanwhile, newest fan darling “Candie” totters around the room trying to get rid of a fly. The payoff of this scene was phenomenal, as I think we all knew where it was headed, though I didn’t quite initially anticipate her use of the remote control. (Side note – another Red Room Red prop makes an appearance in the kerchief she was originally using.) A fantastically executed scene.

What I love most is the moments immediately afterword, because, somehow, Rodney just doesn’t seem to be all that angry, a change of pace from when we last saw him beat the ever loving crap out of the employee who let Dale walk away with all that money. He actually tells Brother Bradley that “It’s Okay”. An interesting and upending parallel to the rest of the episode, chock-full of man-on-woman violence all things considered. I have a soft spot for Robert Knepper, so I was glad of that at least, seeing as he usually plays wholly despicable characters.  

And of course, props to Amy Shiels for her over the top, simply amazing performance. I believed all of it to a tee.

Later that evening, she’s still absolutely traumatized crying whilst Rodney tries to tell her, once again, that he’s okay. The next bit with the news, is what I’ve been waiting for. We have some new connections being made!

The Brothers Mitchum are apparently no friend to Ike the Spike, whom they’re pleased to see has been arrested (they call off an apparently costly hit on him as a result, ever looking to save money) in connection with none other than the Mitchum’s very own “Mr. Jackpots” – Douglas ‘The Cobra’ Jones. I don’t think I’ll ever get over that either. Janey-E’s explanation is a riot.

Turns out our Mr. Jones is actually a Mr. Jones,” Says Bradley.

What a fuckin’ world,” Says Rodney.

“How can you ever love me after what I did?” Candie struggles to say though her sobs, for which the only answer the brothers give is exasperated glances.

This is Twin Peaks at some of it’s finest.

We meet back up with them again when Tony Sinclair, who previously met with the rival gangster in the employ of DoppelCooper, arrives at the Silver Mustang in order to misdirect the brothers from the insurance conspiracy against them. He’s supposed to pin it all on Dougie, either by convincing them that Dougie has a personal vendetta against them or, in the event that that fails to do so, kill him himself. Ultimately, it seems that the brothers take the bait – later they agree to put out their own hit on ‘Dougie’. Previously, we had a short interlude with Candie, who is quite vacant herself, and seemingly numb to everything happening around her. Is she normally like that, or is it a reaction to the trauma she underwent earlier after hitting Rodney?Anthony-Sinclair and Mandie-Candie-SandieAt one point, Bradley mentions that he can’t ‘fire her’ or something along those lines, because she would have nowhere to go, to which Rodney replies “I know”. Again, find their reactions to her and interactions with her to be strangely kind, domestic, docile, take your pick, in comparison with the other similar situations presented in TWIN PEAKS. What are we supposed to get out of this? What are we supposed to recognize or learn? That sometimes hardened gangsters treat women better than husbands and grandsons? Perhaps. I’m not sure yet, but it’s definitely a purposeful dichotomy.

Things are definitely starting to come together. Despite the fact that this Part spent much time catching certain story lines up to the rest of the show, filling in some blanks, it definitely is starting to amp up the pace, and things are finally starting to converge on Cooper. The clock is winding down and I can’t wait to see where we end up next.

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Written by Eileen G. Mykkels

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