Decoding Wally Brando – Electricity Nexus #19

A lot of people love the Wally Brando scene and a lot of people hate it, but it’s not often investigated as to why it was included in Season 3 in the first place. This column will do just that, and I’ll start off by saying I think the scene’s telling us a lot more about the season than it’s letting on.

Wally Brando is played by Michael Cera, who is known for his deadpan comedy chops. And for being not at all like Marlon Brando. Yet here we are. 

Cera’s being cast to play a convincing/unconvincing Marlon Brando impression either means a) Reference at all costs the greats that have come before you, or b) Dabble with nostalgia at your own peril because it’s never going to be what it used to be. 

I think it’s the last option because as Season 3 was beginning, dealing with Nostalgia and Expectations was THE hurdle being navigated by viewers and critics. I think Lynch and Frost are dealing with the nostalgia aspect directly in a fractal way with the Wally Brando scene as they confront what they were up against by making ANY form of new Twin Peaks:

  • Do Lynch and Frost cater to the viewer’s need for nostalgia?
  • How do they handle old Twin Peaks in new Twin Peaks? 

Brando

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What Lynch and Frost did with the Wally Brando scene was bring in an appreciation for what has come before (nodding to the Season 2 plot thread of Lucy’s baby, for example, and letting us meet Wally, who is one of the only guaranteed new characters we knew about and therefore had expectations for), while turning it on its ear by bringing in an entirely unrelated category of equally evocative nostalgia brought up by mentioning Marlon Brando. Wally Brando being dressed exactly like Marlon Brando in The Wild One adds further reference to outside-Peaks nostalgia. This is what Wikipedia begins to say about The Wild One:

The Wild One is a 1953 American film directed by László Benedek and produced by Stanley Kramer. It is most noted for the character of Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando), whose persona became a cultural icon of the 1950s. The Wild One is considered to be the original outlaw biker film, and the first to examine American outlaw motorcycle gang violence.

In the movie, the “one elderly, conciliatory lawman, Chief Harry Bleeker” has a brother named Frank who runs the local café-bar, but in Twin Peaks this is inverted: Frank is now the “elderly, conciliatory” lawman who takes Wally’s messages with little response besides somewhat beleaguered breaths. And obviously, Wally does not bring a gang nor violence along with his motorcycle. He merely brings a message of peace.

This is still nostalgia being presented, but literally not the kind you think it should be. Though at the same time the scene IS that kind of nostalgia as well, because it’s also Lucy’s kid speaking. We are getting answers to a very specific, oft-asked question. It’s just in that Peaksian way where answers to questions lead laterally into other questions.

Wally

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In terms of nostalgia, the scene is both satisfying and confounding at once. And it’s perfectly in keeping with any screwball sense of humor that’s ever been in Twin Peaks. There is a simultaneous reverence and irreverence to what’s come before, and it is absurd to absurd levels while staying on theme in the way that comedic characters get to deliver the strongest messages in the show. “Is this nostalgia or is it anti-nostalgia” is fairly similar to “is the Roadhouse part of the physical world or is it part of the lodge plane?” The answer to both questions appears to be “Both.” 

Wally himself is a loose end from Season 2. Who is the father of Lucy’s baby? That mystery remains unanswered. But, we get who he is, what he’s like, and that he’s just like his parents (you could see him plausibly being Andy’s kid or Dick Tremayne’s, while getting the message plain and clear that this left-behind question doesn’t need to be satisfied).

In terms of comically played characters revealing truths in the series I’m thinking of “shovel yourself out of the shit” in particular, where the message is so on the nose you may actually notice it if you can stop laughing to look for it. But Jacoby isn’t at the front of the line in this regard. That honor goes to Wally Brando’s “Very Important” parents:

  • Lucy: if you live in the past, you won’t understand where you are (cellphones, for example). But once you confront the important stuff you can finally understand you’re in the present, not the past. 
  • Andy: He’s the most present character who’s living as simple a life as there is and, because of this, is the character who gets the Fireman’s vision and can help people around him. 

I think Wally, the motorcycle traveler, is as much a veiled sage as they are (just as roles such as Sheriff are consistently passed from parent to child in all things Twin Peaks), giving us a map to Season 3 while distracting us from the message by being so over the top he makes you want to vomit from a) Disgust, or b) Laughing too hard.

Let’s decode the dialogue:

Lucy: {seeing Sheriff Truman come to the door} Oh! Oh! {giggles} Sheriff Truman, look who’s where!

Andy: It’s Wally. We’re so excited. He came in unannounced.

F.Tru: Good to see you again, Wally.

Wally came unannounced to the Sheriff Station, had a chat with Frank, and he’s touted like an unexpected hero rolling into town. Cooper got this exact treatment upon his own arrival to the Sheriff’s Station, albeit it was the Doppelganger who arrived first and got that hero’s welcome. As Lucy and Andy associate Wally and Cooper together by repeatedly mentioning how Agent Cooper never had a chance to meet Wally, this says to me we are meant to be foreshadowing and contrasting the two characters’ story paths.

If this scene IS an intentional foreshadowing to Part 17’s events, just like The Wild One reference it is inverted (beyond just Wally’s benevolence to DoppelCooper’s malevolence): Lucy speaks of Wally excitedly first, followed by Andy. Both scenes show Andy and Lucy at the exact same level of being absolutely overjoyed by the returning character.

WB: It’s good to see you, too, Sheriff Truman. As you know, your brother, Harry S. Truman, is my Godfather. I heard he is ill. I came to pay my respects to my Godfather

I assume this is an intentional Godfather reference, which layers on another aspect to the Marlon Brando nostalgia. It’s not just one part of his career, it’s two different periods of it, just as this is two different periods of Twin Peaks. It could be a one-for-one reference as I described or it could just be added for humor alone. Either way, it’s a good dad joke groaner.

and extend my best wishes for his recovery, which I hope will be swift and painless …

Truman: {acknowledges with a lip smack}

Unlike Cooper (who doesn’t even ask Frank about Harry during their initial Part 17 phone call due to there being a dead doppelgänger to deal with), Wally knew of Harry’s condition, and he wanted to pay his respects with kindness and human decency. Janey-E’s “we are the 99%” monologue from Part 6 about wanting compassion or feeling for people’s suffering is being satisfied here, by a comedic character once again embodying a major show theme by thinking about things the right way and living a good, decent life.

WB: It’s an honor to see you again. You know, my heart is always here with you and these fine people, my parents, who I love so dearly,

Love is blatantly mentioned. Back in Season 2, Fear and Love were the binary themes of the show, and Love was the key Cooper used to get into the Waiting Room in Episode 29. Wally’s heart is filled with love, and he keeps it near his past.

In show terms, this means Love is still a relevant part of the (likely alchemical) equation.

and I was in the area and I wanted to pay my respects.

F.Tru: Thank you, Wally. {awkward sigh …}

Wally: I also came back to let my parents know, because this has been a matter of grave concern for them, that I’ve decided to let them do what they wish with my childhood bedroom.

What was Wally’s purpose for arrival? To tell his parents they don’t have to keep his room like it used to be. The house (and therefore his parents) doesn’t need to be anchored to the past anymore.

They want to, they want to build a study with the two of them, such sweet people.

Andy and Lucy want to move on, and now they can. Just like Ed from Nadine later on, they need to be released by someone whose compass is driven by love in his heart. And they are now free to pick out a chair and build a study in their house and other love-based dreams of their hearts’ desires.

Lucy: Oh! That’s such beautiful news, Wally. Tell us where you’ve been, Wally.

Wally: My family, my friend, I have crisscrossed this great land of ours … countless times.

Wally has seen the world. So has Cooper’s Doppelganger (though in a criminal empire-building way). Here we have more inverse parallels between the two characters.

It’s also a cue to the viewers that we’ll be seeing more of the world throughout Season 3: Buckhorn to Odessa, New Mexico to Paris, even Buenos Aires for a second. 

I hold the map of it here, {holds heart} in my heart next to the joyful memories of the carefree days I spent, as a young boy, here in your beautiful town of Twin Peaks.

He has a map! Seemingly with all the coordinates, too (the coordinates are love, I’d say). Another inverse of DoppelCooper, who rules through his constant fear of being returned to the Lodge.

From a show foreshadowing perspective, Wally’s map talk is saying we’ll see the world at large ALONGSIDE the town we love. Right next to each other, in our hearts as well as in Season 3. This is equal parts about how nostalgia will be dealt with, and also how scenes in and outside of Twin Peaks will be presented to us.

{Frank stares unsurprised but waiting.} … From Alexandria, Virginia to Stockton, California, I think about Lewis,

Lewis, the first main character in The Secret History of Twin Peaks who was the last person to wear the Owl Ring safely inside a pouch rather than on fingers where it can cause trouble.

and his friend Clark,

Clark is listed here as Lewis’ 2nd Banana, as well as in SHoTP, where he’s not mentioned very much.

Namedropping Lewis and Clark in the Wally scene, it alludes to when we see the origin of the Owl Ring entering our Earthly world. Those of us who’ve read TSHoTP are meant to make that connection. We’re supposed to think of this early sighting of Owl Ring, which is essentially its origin story. This scene also operates as foreshadowing for another origin we’ll be seeing in Part 8.

the first Caucasians (pronounced cah – cAe – zee – ans) to see this part of the world.

And what ABOUT caw kay zee ans? It says this to me: Don’t forget to overpronounce everything and not take yourself too seriously. Or, take yourself SO importantly serious that you CAN’T take yourself TOO seriously. 

Their footsteps have been the highways and byways of my days on the road. My shadow is always with me, sometimes ahead … sometimes behind, sometimes to the left, sometimes to the right,

Shadow seems another reference to Cooper whose shadow is an omnipresence in Season 3, Compared to Dale, DoppelCooper seems like he’s literally everywhere: New York, South Dakota, every direction. Sometimes he’s ahead, arranging hitmen to cut CooperDougie off at the pass, sometimes behind, like when Cooper gets away or the plan is implied to be coming together. Sometimes DoppelCooper is literally to the north, south, east, or west, moving from Beulah’s to Buckhorn to the Dutchman, to Montana, to Twin Peaks, while CooperDougie stays in Vegas as he “wake[s] up”.

{in preponderance} except on cloudy days … or at night.

Cloudy days are days that have both sunlight and darkness, and nights have only darkness. This is likely a reference to cycles of darkness and light that Margaret Lanterman is especially fond of sharing. Cycles end just like cloudy skies or nights. Light is implied to return.

F.Tru: … Yes, well, Wally, it’s great to see you again … {awkward pause} … and may the road rise up to meet your wheels.

Wally: … {brings fist up to his heart} That’s a lovely turn of phrase. Thank you … My dharma is the road,

Dharma, for my purposes here, will be the simple explanation of “a principle of cosmic order”. Wally’s cosmic order comes from being on the road, which means he’s where he’s supposed to be when he’s on a journey.

The journey is what Wally pays attention to, not a destination in the future. This, I believe, is the message from Lynch and Frost directly to us: Do not look only for the answers, look around as you’re on your journey of exploration.

Wally was “in the area” so he went to Twin Peaks to take care of his parents and show compassion for those who know Harry Truman. He’s living in the present and working well with his surroundings. He is at a point of balance because he experiences many places to the fullest as he is near to them. He lovingly remembers where he’s come from, and isn’t overly concerned with where he’s going. He lives in the present and experiences where he is to the fullest.

The message to us is this: Explore the world. Keep where you’re going and where you’ve been in balance as you live in your present, literally attaching your dharma to the road, which means the journey rather than the destination. 

your dharma, {he gestures out to the night landscape and the sheriff’s station … and drops his hand, staring back … -end of thought-}

Frank’s dharma is a wordless gesture of the sheriff station and surrounding town.

In the scene it is currently dark outside, but as cloudy days and night are mentioned earlier it implies that even in the dark, the Sheriff Station and the town of Twin Peaks will experience a period of light as early as the next morning. And that Frank is right where he is supposed to be.

The Sheriff Station in Part 9 is shown to be bathed in sunlight as if a golden orb was shining on it. This establishing shot leads directly into the scene when Wally’s parents are buying a chair (the scene which itself is thematically relevant to being helpful and compassionate, embracing the light, being part of the light). Being bathed in light is a symbol of the good, but so also is the Sheriff Station, a location where demons are twice separated from their hosts. And the Station is Frank’s dharma, currently entering a period of light once again. 

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The other portion of Wally’s last line is that it trails off into a picture rather than words. This ends the scene ambiguously, and in much the same way as Cooper does after he leaves the Sheriff Station in Part 17 with Gordon and Diane. To the people in the Station at the time, Cooper trails off inconclusively and leaves suddenly, almost as if he was never there. Much as Wally basically disappears from the story and is barely mentioned again.

Another parallel between Wally and Cooper: This is Wally’s second time leaving town, and when Cooper leaves for the boiler room it is his second time disappearing from town. There’s a thing about leaving or returning twice (Jacoby did it before settling into his Dr Amp persona, James left town twice before returning to a simple yet fulfilling life, and there are too many more to mention but believe me when I say it’s a pattern). There’s also a thing about two coats on a golden shovel. I may not understand all the subtleties involved with the meaning of the two coats before alchemical evolution of a soul, but I guarantee you this is a purposeful detail in this scene. 

There’s potentially one more meta thing happening in the Wally scene: this HAS to be a Mark Frost monologue. It felt that way to me, and Harley Peyton also thinks Frost’s touch is all over it. Let’s assume this was a Frost-led scene. How much do you want to bet Lynch had a BLAST filming this scene? As he would also have been fully aware that this joke was supposed to do double duty by foreshadowing, Lynch couldn’t help himself and said “I’ve got to make one of these! Get me a French dame!


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2 Replies to “Decoding Wally Brando – Electricity Nexus #19”

  1. Cool article!

    I never thought about it in much detail because (as I said over on reddit) the scene is now a little haunted for me due to the suicide of Frank’s son. Still totally hilarious, and yes to all that map stuff, but it does make everyone in it slightly less absurd. I find a lot of TP is that way — things actually do make sense, on just an emotional and human level.

    1. I completely agree, about how things make sense on that emotional human level even when things look absolutely absurd.
      I feel like this scene was one of those bastions of light ready to overwhelm the darkness that is otherwise so prevelent in Season 3, and I wonder if this might’ve also been some kind of healing moment for Frank here too. The ambiguity lets scenes like this work on so many levels even without authorial intent.

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