The More Things Change: Homeward Bound, Part 12

“Here we are Bob! It’s the bottom of the ninth and it just doesn’t get any more exciting than this, does it? Number 12, Rookie Sonny Jim Jones has the ball, and he’s angling, who’s he going to throw it to?”

“My money’s on the late the great Number 25 Dale “Agent” Cooper, Pat. He’s been out the game a while and this comeback is a long time in coming,”

“But will he be able to follow through?”

“I don’t know, Pat, I don’t know! But I think we’re about the find out!”

“Jones winds up for the throw, and it’s really punched out of there, wow!”

“What a throw!”

“Yeah, that’s a good one! Will Cooper catch it? He’s got that look in his eyes, I think, yes, I think-”

“And the ball hits Cooper right on the noggin! Gosh, what a game, Bob, that was spectacular folks. What a spectacular play by Jones and Cooper!”

“Amazing. Simply amazing. This is it folks – this is the reason why baseball is the Great American Pastime!”

Bob Uecker and Pat Hughes…probably…

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Well, that’s it for Homeward Bound this week, thanks for checking in everyone!

 

… I kid.

This week, instead of talking about Dale’s journey – considering I don’t believe I could draw it out any longer than I just did (thanks to Bob and Pat of the Brew Crew announcers for lending their names to this fiction) – the usual Homeward Bound article is going to talk about none other than our very own Ben Horne.

This season has defied expectations and explanation time and again. Before the Return started, there was a lot of debate over how much we’d see of certain people, and, of course who they would be twenty-five years on in life. After Part One aired, there was a lot of debate over whether or not Ben Horne’s change of heart from Season Two would carry forward in the Return, and even some debate over whether he’d have more than just the one scene. Considering the extent of Ray Wise’s role so far, I can’t say as that thought was unfounded. In fact, I think we’ve already seen far more of Ben (and Jerry) than many of us anticipated, nor, perhaps, than is strictly necessary. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Until this television experiment is over for good this September (cue tears) we can’t really say with any true conviction what will be relevant in the long run, and what will not.

Ben’s journey has been an interesting one to say the least. In all of the three times that I’ve  watched the original run, I always always manage, by the end of the second season, to have forgotten what a despicable human being Ben Horne is. That is definitely the magic of TWIN PEAKS at work, where I find my favourite Funko POP is the super cute Killer BOB, am shocked every time I discover that Bobby is a killer, and forget that Ben Horne is a disgusting, child molesting, cheating yuppie asshat.

My absolute adoration for the man Bobby has become  – masterfully achieved by the immensely sweet Dana Ashbrook and probably obvious from my article last Tuesday – aside, few returning characters, I think, have come so far as Ben Horne, portrayed by the ever riveting and compelling Richard Beymer (another favourite of mine). From all the evidence we’ve been given, he has truly kept himself on the straight and narrow since his radical change in life choices post his Civil War altering mental breakdown (sometimes I forget just how wacky Season Two got!).

Ben feels the same, and yet different, just like all of the other returning characters, sans Cooper. It’s jarring to see how altered these people are after twenty-five years. We are used to seeing change occur in such slow increments that it’s generally unnoticeable to us. In television, the same can be said to be true, but few shows have attempted to do precisely what TWIN PEAKS is doing, picking up with the same characters, not where they left off, but quarter of a century later, without any word as to how they got where they are. Other shows which have done similar, most recently Gilmore Girls and The X-Files, struggle in that the characters are returning years later, but their development isn’t, it’s still right where we left off. It’s not necessarily jarring, but it makes for only mediocre television (my personal dedication to The X-Files notwithstanding).

So, no, we don’t know how Ben got where he is, and without that information, it is still difficult to ascertain exactly how reformed he is, or when, precisely, that reform truly began. Is this a carry through of his dedication to the Pine Weasels and ending the Ghostwood project? Or did he relapse after that, and this Ben Horne is the product of a second, third, fourth even, return to the moral high ground?

I think it’s safe to say that either he remained reformed post Season Two, or had ‘one’ relapse at some point before changing his path again for the better. That course of reasoning just seems reasonable.

People change, but they also don’t.

In this latest part, I was frothing at the mouth when Ben started talking about Richard with Frank Truman, itching for a mention of Audrey, even an illusion to her! But Ben devolves into a story about the bicycle gifted him by his father as a child. Some may think of this sequence in much the same light as the sweeping scene from the Roadhouse, but I think it has a deeper significance than that. Indeed, I think that this scene of all Ben’s sequences so far in the Return tells us the most about him.

I’ve heard some speculate that he passed the bike to Richard, and that Ben is  thinking about it for that reason. There’s no way to substantiate this claim, and I don’t find it very compelling. The way the Return has been going so far, it’s already earned David Lynch the dubious title of “Nostalgia Killer” for absolutely denying us the simple pleasure of coffee and pie and Dale Cooper as we knew them, much, I believe to his merit.

Now, I have a particular view on nostalgia that I don’t think matches with that of most people. I like to think of it as a cat. Anyone who has a cat, like myself, knows that one minute, you’re giving your furry baby a nice tummy rub and he’s purring away like a motorboat, and the next your arm is his chew toy. Nostalgia can turn on you just as spectacularly.

Renowned author, the late Ray Bradbury, whose book Dandelion Wine is literally a love letter in nostalgia to his childhood, had this to say on the topic:

“There is no cause for nostalgia save the good and life-enhancing nostalgia for the present.”

In other words, to paraphrase a good friend of mine ( and steal from a different article I wrote on Star Wars) nostalgia without substance is just a hipster wankfest. The past cannot be repeated, and those who wallow in nostalgia without substance, nostalgia for something which cannot enhance the present, are doomed to never, truly change.

I could get meta about the TWIN PEAKS fandom right now, but I’m going to stick with Ben Horne.

Ben Horne, in that moment, is mired in his own nostalgia for the past. Not the past of his Season One years, but literally his childhood, before things all went to hell. He’s divorced, his brother is so high he thinks his foot is talking to him (or is it his foot?), is potentially alienated from both his children, and his grandson has been getting in progressively bigger trouble until he’s now committed vehicular manslaughter (vehicular is one of my favourite words, readers. Just try saying it out loud. Ve-hic-u-lar. It’s that just the greatest?) and assaulted not only a kindergarten teacher, nearly beating her to death, but choked out his Grandmother, stole from her and called her cunt.

Most of time time we’ve been with Ben this season, he’s seemed downtrodden, truly as if he’s reached the end of his rope and just given up. He’s incredulous, dry, exasperated, all of which remind me of his demeanour in Season One, except now he’s also emotionally worn out. All he has left is the business and the apparent loyalty of his new executive assistant, Beverly. He’s become a good enough man that even in the position where he’s found himself, he turns away his own inclination to enter an affair with her, considerate of her marriage, though we are aware of just how rocky that relationship really is. He has nothing left, and so, when confronted with the true horrors his grandson is capable of, wallows in that most dangerous place, the only safe place. His memories of the past.

Ben has made changes in his life, but is anything really better for him? He has his moral integrity, which is something, I guess, but despite that things are worse for him, interpersonally, than when we left him those long years ago. Moral integrity is no guarantee of lifelong happiness, success of personal satisfaction, especially when you consider that he’s still mostly a self-centered individual. At this point, I can’t really blame him. When he forgets Miriam’s last name, I think most viewers are a little perturbed that he feels so little regarding her. He’s not upset because she’s hurt, he’s upset because Richard is the one who did it. Personally, I think that’s quite fair, and I don’t hold it against him.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Ben has altered somewhat but his life hasn’t. Tough luck chuck.

So lets talk about the Bike. First off, to hearken back to John’s article “Richard Horne’s Car: A Character Profile” green is a positive colour in TWIN PEAKS. Ben’s bike is two toned green – double the green double the positivity? – and his story backs up that assertion. The bike carries only positive connotations from positive memories. Secondly, bikes are meant to take people somewhere. This is where the scenario grows ironic. For all the progress we’ve hedged that Ben has made, his bike may as well have been an elliptical for all the farther it got him. He’s pedaling and going no where. Escaping to the past to recall the bike no less, isn’t going to help him. It protects him in the moment, certainly, from the things which he is unready to face, or tired of dealing with, but his nostalgia is a dangerous thing because it keeps him from moving forward. He, like so many other residents of Twin Peaks, has stagnated. Dr. Jacoby, or Dr. Amp as he’s styling himself these days, would say that Ben needs to shovel himself out of the shit, but it’s not the corporations or politicians shit he’s stuck in, but rather his own.

Recently, it’s been put forward that Richard is actually front and center of the connective tissue between the many plot threads of the Return. He’s got his fingers in so many pies that it’s actually hard to keep track. Considering that he’s a Horne (though he’s still yet to be confirmed Audrey’s son, notably, despite the likelihood that it is the case) this draws the rest of them, Ben included further into the main plot of the season than anyone originally imagined.

Whether or not Ben’s stagnant condition is part of a time anomaly ( see Time Moves Strangely, or, Metaphysical Geologic Events in Twin Peaks and The Resonance of Timequake Theory: From Stuttering Time to Robert Jacoby ) in Twin Peaks, or merely part of the larger message which Lynch and Frost are not so subtly interweaving into the greater narrative, I can’t say. But the message is there all the same. It’s not necessarily asking its viewers to be wary of nostalgia, or to make changes in their lives before they too stagnate. Instead, we are simply being made aware that it’s there and as real in our own lives as those of the town of Twin Peaks. In typical Lynchian fashion, the underbelly of suburbia, and sometimes the truly terrifying parts, are the things which we’ve normalized and internalized so much that we can only see them for how destructive they are when hyperbolized on film, remorselessly riveting us to the screen, demanding that we recognize them in our own lives, whether we choose to do something about it or not.

 

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