What is The Return ...
 

What is The Return 'about'?  

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(@badalamenti-fan)
Roadhouse Regular

So...  There's been a great deal of fascinating analysis/interpretation/speculation on this forum. Thanks, all, for your incredible sleuthing!  Many posts have addressed the "meta" or "fourth-wall breaking" facets of The Return. Suffice it to say that there is some measure of consensus that one thing The Return is "about" is the relationship between spectator and camera, filmmaker and audience, cult TV series and cult fandom...

Elsewhere I griped about complaints about the serial release of each part-- I've come to realize this was hasty and ill considered on my part. As many here reminded me, it seems quite clear by now that part of what Frost and Lynch intend is for The Return to be a social experience-- like this very forum-- that demands the audience wrestle with the challenge and discomfort of reconciling expectations and reactions, individually and collectively.

While I have found the myriad competing theories/predictions about how one might make sense of the "clues" we've been provided thus far absolutely fascinating...  ... the last few episodes have made me more interested in thinking about higher-order or macro-level "themes..."

Stated otherwise, I'm interested to know what you have found The Return to be "about," topically or thematically.  I'm letting go of "unifying theories" or reductive or doctrinaire explanations (I've been prone to make them), so let's keep the pluralistic spirit of this forum in mind here-- I fully expect people will have radically different ideas about the answer to such an impertinent question (after all, multiple journalists/critics have already observed that the series all but denies the possibility of a coherent or cogent synopsis/recap/analysis...)

So, please do share!  

I'll get the ball rolling by using the original, 1990-1992 series/FWWM as an example...

Themes:

"The evil that lurks in the hearts of men..."

Violence against women <> male sexuality 

Domestic spaces, family secrets and interior lives made publicly known

Multi-generational cycles of violence/abuse and trauma

Intuition vs. Reason

Nature vs. Culture (also, society vs. industry)

The paradox of death and representations thereof-- death exists outside our experience, but the power/fascination of the macabre entails its penetrating our experience from elsewhere; in fact, death is ubiquitous

Dreams (the psyche) and reality (the phenomenal world/perception, cognition) are mutually dependent or co-constitutive of each other.

The innocence and folly of youth vs. the wisdom of age/experience

Tradition vs. rebellion

the abjection of surviving a loved one-- especially a child

the unremunerated labor of childrearing

"masks" and the performance of the self

the erotics of female suffering (ewww....)

 ...

Quite a few of these themes return, more intensely, in The Return , IMO... 

Now, in case anyone is inclined to troll this topic with truisms ("Art isn't about anything, man...") or ("it's up to every viewer to decide for herself...") or ("TV is just about entertainment-- lighten up!")....

... let me preempt that.  Many books have been written about how the interaction of Lynch's overdetermined vocabulary of symbols/signifiers crystallizes into themes/topics/higher-order abstractions.

Yet no books have been written about The Return. Yet.

Let's rock/brainstorm!

 

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Posted : 10/08/2017 5:16 pm
(@ruskinowl)
Roadhouse Regular

Interesting, good post.

I'd add about 'enjoying the small things' to the list. These things (coffee, cherry pie etc) aren't so small when they become the all, best and everything of the particular moment in which they're enjoyed.
It suggests the joys of mindfulness.

It doesn't seem as pertinent as season 1/2, but it's still present.

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Posted : 10/08/2017 5:35 pm
(@badalamenti-fan)
Roadhouse Regular
Posted by: Ruskinowl

Interesting, good post.

I'd add about 'enjoying the small things' to the list. These things (coffee, cherry pie etc) aren't so small when they become the all, best and everything of the particular moment in which they're enjoyed.
It suggests the joys of mindfulness.

It doesn't seem as pertinent as season 1/2, but it's still present.

Thanks, Ruskinowl! Couldn't agree more re: simple gifts and mindful awareness of them.

ReplyQuote
Posted : 10/08/2017 5:38 pm
Ruskinowl liked
(@badalamenti-fan)
Roadhouse Regular
Posted by: Ruskinowl

Interesting, good post.

I'd add about 'enjoying the small things' to the list. These things (coffee, cherry pie etc) aren't so small when they become the all, best and everything of the particular moment in which they're enjoyed.
It suggests the joys of mindfulness.

It doesn't seem as pertinent as season 1/2, but it's still present.

In fact...  Your post prompted me to reconsider the phrase "Is it future or is it past?" What are neither of these? Present!

perhaps the narrative fracture/refracted temporality of The Return corresponds, at a global scale, to local instances of mindful "present-ness."  Typically, via pie!

 

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Posted : 10/08/2017 6:16 pm
(@the-conversation-is-lively)
RR Diner Patron

Great thread!

 

Identity:

I remember early on when Wally Brando appeared, people started to talk about the theme of identity and how it is constructed. At that point (episode 4) Dougie also appeared to be a way of exploring what of our identities we could rebuild if we had to start from zero. What parts of us are just a story we tell ourselves – are we only a story we are telling ourselves and nothing more. Existentialism 101.

 

The strangeness of the normal:

Initially, I felt like Dougie wandering through family life, work life and Vegas in general was Lynch trying to dig under the surface of American society again. What would happen if we could see everyday life as though we had been dropped into the centre of it having forgotten everything we knew about it? Would we find its rules and codes as equally surreal as the Red Room? 13 episodes in, I don’t reeeally think this anyone.

 

Bardos:

I think now that Dougie’s journey is more like passing through the Tibetan bardos, with Lynch’s primary reason for returning to the series being to resolve issues to do with the Lodges. I don’t mean that in the sense of explain what they are or how they function but more like how and why they are important. Future, past, real and illusory all functioning as part of a whole.  

 

Time:

Slowness, boredom, looping, repeating, disjointed. When is 2 minutes a long time? (in TV) When is 25 years a long time? (In a human life) When is 4 billion years a long time (for atomic particles)

 

Oil:

 

Black corn or Peak oil, as I like to call it, ho, ho. Linked in with time and the anthropocene. The Woodsmen are covered in soot or engine oil – fossil fuels – death on a geological level pumped up from the depths of the Earth – all traffic runs on burning ancient death. “It all comes out now flowing like a river”. A dark chemical mind is being vomited out – a living gloopy darkness hatching its evil plans. Some kind of black corn / black fire is emerging through demonic channels. 

https://aroundthedinnertabletheconversationislively.wordpress.com/

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Posted : 10/08/2017 8:37 pm
(@silentbobni)
Roadhouse Regular

One of my first posts on these pages was about a theory I'd seen which is that Dougie is Lynch showing the horror of Alzhiemers or dementia in the same way a lot of what FWWM showed the horror of incest and childhood sexual abuse. 

It's an interesting take, one I can't take any credit for, but something that gets lost in a lot of crazy theories that exist. 

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Posted : 10/08/2017 8:49 pm
(@samxtherapy)
Detective

Pretty much agree with all the stuff posted here, insofar as they aren't concrete, conclusive statements of what the show is about in its entirety.

Also, I think the original shows, overall, were poking fun at, and playing with the format of the soaps of the day.  ISTR Lynch saying he enjoyed the trivial aspects and the soap opera elements for their own sake, even if they weren't making much sense in the overall story.

I guess there's always been an element of holding a mirror up to western society, too, but that seems much more to the fore in the new shows.  The old shows seemed to concentrate mainly on the lives of middle class America, and the idealized view of Americana.  Again, Lynch admits to a fascination for 50s styles and formats, and has said they were the times that seemed most optimistic and prosperous.  The new shows take a wider view, though; compared to Twin Peaks, the world outside seems more in step with most peoples' view of now.  Maybe not entirely but certainly not stuck in an American Graffiti time warp.

Mr C reflects the harsh brutality of crime and the perceived willingness to act without any restraint whatsoever.  Then there's the fact he can control various people, getting them to go along with his plans - whatever they are - without question.  Darya and Ray don't count, since they were sleepers planted by Jeffries.  But there's Chantal and Hutch, and after the arm wrestling, the entire Farm gang.  The magnetism of true evil?  Maybe and may also be an oblique reference to Manson and others like him.

DougieCoop reflects an innocence, a trust in things always working out, that seems to be lost to most people now.  The world he moves in is indifferent to how he behaves, just one more crackpot on the streets.  He has a boss who doesn't see there's something seriously wrong, and a wife who is just as blind to it.  That may not float in the real world but the backstory concerning a car accident (just about) deals with it.  I have to assume Dougie - the real Dougie (if I can use "real" in this context) had similar episodes before now, so they are prepared to accept the current situation.  In any case, our DougieCoop seems to have turned over a new leaf (conscientious worker, provides well for family) which can be taken as proof he's still functioning at some level and doing the best he can.  What can you take from that?  Work hard, make money, nobody will give a damn.  Like Devo's "Mongoloid" in a way.  Society, as a whole, is blind.

That's just a fraction.  Honestly, I think Frost and Lynch decided to cram in as many references, memes, sideswipes, knowing looks and tributes as they could, within the framework.  Every obsession, theme and general stuff that is of interest to them.

I keep thinking of Bunuel's stuff, too.  I bet they were influenced a great deal by his movies.  And I really don't know how to get a ~ over the n, either.

 

Coppula eam se non posit acceptera jocularum

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Posted : 10/08/2017 9:21 pm
(@karen_paynter)
Deputy
Posted by: Badalamenti Fan
Posted by: Ruskinowl

Interesting, good post.

I'd add about 'enjoying the small things' to the list. These things (coffee, cherry pie etc) aren't so small when they become the all, best and everything of the particular moment in which they're enjoyed.
It suggests the joys of mindfulness.

It doesn't seem as pertinent as season 1/2, but it's still present.

In fact...  Your post prompted me to reconsider the phrase "Is it future or is it past?" What are neither of these? Present!

perhaps the narrative fracture/refracted temporality of The Return corresponds, at a global scale, to local instances of mindful "present-ness."  Typically, via pie!

 

As Eckhart Tolle says, "only the Now exists in truth." ( many other teachers have said it in various ways ). The past exists only as memory, and studies have shown human memory is faulty ( for example in these times you can compare with something on video and they don't align ), and the future exists only as imagination. 

Fire Walk With Me

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Posted : 11/08/2017 4:58 am
(@steve_moss)
Roadhouse Regular
Posted by: Sammy Weir

One of my first posts on these pages was about a theory I'd seen which is that Dougie is Lynch showing the horror of Alzhiemers or dementia in the same way a lot of what FWWM showed the horror of incest and childhood sexual abuse. 

It's an interesting take, one I can't take any credit for, but something that gets lost in a lot of crazy theories that exist. 

I get no sense that Dougie is experiencing any horror. 

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Posted : 11/08/2017 5:20 am
(@badalamenti-fan)
Roadhouse Regular
Posted by: Steve Moss
Posted by: Sammy Weir

One of my first posts on these pages was about a theory I'd seen which is that Dougie is Lynch showing the horror of Alzhiemers or dementia in the same way a lot of what FWWM showed the horror of incest and childhood sexual abuse. 

It's an interesting take, one I can't take any credit for, but something that gets lost in a lot of crazy theories that exist. 

I get no sense that Dougie is experiencing any horror. 

I think it is a poetic, not a literal, representation at work here, one from the perspective not of the afflicted but of those surrounding the afflicted -- in this case, the audience. We have not been privy to Dougie's/Dale's interior life (nor can I think of any narrative, at least at the moment, that depicts Alzheimer's etc. from a first-person perspective...) Rather, I think the 'horror' Sammy refers to is that of the audience polarization around Dougie. To be sure, many viewers have expressed vociferous  frustration, impatience or outright anger in forums like this one over the 'withholding' of special agent Dale Cooper...

....taken together, such reactions strike me as an uncanny reflection of the  so-called five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) that have proven , in my experience, an accurate shorthand for describing the process of mourning lost loved ones, whether lost to the immediacy of death or 'the Long Goodbye,' letting go of past expectations for a relationship with  someone who is present in body but in an unrecognizable state of mind.

Thanks Steve, et al, for much food for thought-- will continue the discussion as soon as I get done with today's 'case files' and can retreat to 'Szymon's.' More soon!

 

 

 

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Posted : 11/08/2017 9:57 am
(@silentbobni)
Roadhouse Regular
Posted by: Steve Moss
Posted by: Sammy Weir

One of my first posts on these pages was about a theory I'd seen which is that Dougie is Lynch showing the horror of Alzhiemers or dementia in the same way a lot of what FWWM showed the horror of incest and childhood sexual abuse. 

It's an interesting take, one I can't take any credit for, but something that gets lost in a lot of crazy theories that exist. 

I get no sense that Dougie is experiencing any horror. 

Neither do most people who are afflicted. 

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Posted : 11/08/2017 1:39 pm
(@badalamenti-fan)
Roadhouse Regular
Posted by: Sammy Weir
Posted by: Steve Moss
Posted by: Sammy Weir

One of my first posts on these pages was about a theory I'd seen which is that Dougie is Lynch showing the horror of Alzhiemers or dementia in the same way a lot of what FWWM showed the horror of incest and childhood sexual abuse. 

It's an interesting take, one I can't take any credit for, but something that gets lost in a lot of crazy theories that exist. 

I get no sense that Dougie is experiencing any horror. 

Neither do most people who are afflicted. 

Tough to generalize here... depends on the condition, how advanced the disorder/disease is ...  A relative of mine suffering from dementia has, of late, tended to project embarrassment/self-consciousness about memory lapses re: routine tasks (keys, thermostat, etc.) onto anybody in the vicinity (family members, care providers, etc.) ...  Rather like Corrado Soprano ("Uncle Junior") in the Sopranos...  Likewise, aphasiac stroke victims often suffer enormously if they are fully able to think but unable to speak...

That said, your point is well taken re: advanced Alzheimer's, etc.  One can be entirely unaware and thereby not at all self conscious... Like Dougie/Dale seems to be... 

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Posted : 11/08/2017 1:50 pm
(@colin_basterfield)
RR Diner Patron

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread, so nourishing to take this kind of step out...

Thank you...

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Posted : 11/08/2017 2:32 pm
(@badalamenti-fan)
Roadhouse Regular
Posted by: The conversation is lively

Great thread!

Identity:

I remember early on when Wally Brando appeared, people started to talk about the theme of identity and how it is constructed. At that point (episode 4) Dougie also appeared to be a way of exploring what of our identities we could rebuild if we had to start from zero. What parts of us are just a story we tell ourselves – are we only a story we are telling ourselves and nothing more. Existentialism 101.

Wow-- this already has me really fired up...  pardon the disorder of this lengthy post... I'm more-or-less thinking out loud....

I had very much the same impression of Wally Brando after Part 4, and I couldn't imagine a better way to articulate this than your choice of words:

"What parts of us are just a story we tell ourselves? Are we only a story we are telling ourselves and nothing more?"

What happens when we take the theme of constructed identity and frame it in terms of gendered character archetypes?  Wally and James come to mind immediately... 

I certainly agree that Dougie's storyline has veered in new directions since Part 4...  I'd previously posited that Wally could be a reflexive critique of the "rebel without a cause" trope. That is to say, I sense that notions of [white male] masculinity tied up with the "strong, silent [arche-]type" (Tony Soprano's memorable phrase) have outlived their shelf life, now tone-deaf in a putrifying, decadent way that Michael Cera's performance channeled into an absurdly self-indulgent, narcissistic send up.... [c.f. the multiple generations of muscle cars appearing, IMO, more anachronistic than ever in The Return....] 

After part 13, I think there's a case to be made that the Roadhouse "apotheosis of James Hurley" only intensifies this reading... His trajectory from naive teen endeavoring to be Marlon Brando/James Dean/Jack Kerouac to a spectral presence haunting the liminal space of the Roadhouse stage-- still singing the "same old song" after all these years.... Pretty amazing, IMO.  [IIRC, we otherwise haven't seen anybody inhabit the Roadhouse stage who doesn't otherwise exist 'outside' the main cast of characters and narrative-- save for the entirety of the "Miss Twin Peaks" excursion, which I'd say it's safe to bracket as distinct from the otherwordliness of Julee Cruise and her phantasmic sunglass-wearing motorcycle-gang band...]  

In my experience, it's still hard to find smart critiques of white-male masculinity/subjectivity-in-crisis in American TV these days  (maybe this is changing and I'm just not up to speed...)  Louis C.K. has been able to do something in this direction with "Louie" and "Baskets," and "The Guy" in "High Maintenance" is something apart in a smiling-Buddha way that Dougie/Dale shares, but my impression remains that U.S. television is still in something of a cultural hangover from the extraordinary, decade-long success of charismatic a**hole anti-heroes...Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White and on and on... 

All of which makes Dougie, Wally, Andy, Jacoby, Ray, Hastings and the other frail/impotent male characters in The Return a breath of fresh air. Not to mention, they all serve as foils to Mr. C, making him all the more terrifying,  not-of-this-world, etc.

Dougie is compelling, IMO, in his purity, innocence and good deeds, the furthest thing from James Hurley or Bobby Briggs 25 years ago, a contrast that Wally brings into heightened relief ....

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Posted : 11/08/2017 3:22 pm
Myn0k liked
(@badalamenti-fan)
Roadhouse Regular
Posted by: Colin Basterfield

I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread, so nourishing to take this kind of step out...

Thank you...

Thank you, Colin!  I'm thrilled by the response, so much so, in fact, that I may try to compile a new list comprised of themes identified in this brainstorm sesh (with attributions to each of the contributors) in a new topic, a springboard for more discussion (that I'll avoid hijacking with lengthy, stream-of-consciousness posts... lol)  More soon!

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Posted : 11/08/2017 4:15 pm
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