It’s difficult to process the “Cooper awakens” material in Part 16 in light of the finale. When this one first aired, the stuff with Dale was one long series of fist-pumps (even if I was a little troubled when Dale’s usually impeccable moral compass apparently indicated that the murderous Mitchums had hearts of gold). After Part 18, though, it’s tough to decide how I feel about Coop, not to mention how L/F intend me to feel about him, and whether those two things are one and the same. (Heck, who knows if Lynch and Frost are even on the same page?) While Dale isn’t quite firing in full-on “maple syrup collides with ham” mode (Kyle seems unable or unwilling to pitch his voice up from his normal speaking voice as he did in days of old), it does feel like getting an old friend back. And yet...he’s controlling, bossy and commanding to everyone around him to an arguably unpleasant degree (although they all accept and even seem to enjoy it). And yet...was he always like this? He bossed Harry and the sheriff’s station crew around plenty...but there was also a warmth and sense of camaraderie there, whereas his interactions with Janey-E and Bushnell come across as a bit more condescending here, even with his rather perfunctory expressions of admiration/affection. And yet and yet...we really don’t see enough of him in “classic Coop” mode to make a firm determination on any of this. I do think that was a very conscious bit of calculation on DKL’s part, to keep us confused and debating what to do with this sequence. For instance, “I am the FBI” can be read as a joyous return to form and also as a slightly more ambiguous, troublesome expression of overextending paternalism, particularly in light of the events of Part 18. The Vedder song contributes to this ambiguity, reminding us that “who I was I will never be again.”
Whatever my ambivalent feelings on “the good Dale,” I’m sure of one thing: he makes a huge sacrifice when he leaves Las Vegas. The looks on Kyle’s face when he hugs his wife and child, and when Janey-E touches his cheek, are heartbreaking and dripping with loss. I think it’s even more than the fact that he is giving up a simple life that he longs for: if my theory about the formation of tulpas is correct, Dale actually gives up a part of himself — the part that takes joy out of things like Douglas firs and jelly donuts — when he creates Dougie 2.0. Hence, the soulless Mr. C-esque Dale we get in Part 18. Coop makes this tremendous sacrifice in order to do what he believes is right, even if it ends up being a grave miscalculation.
Are we assuming that the big rock was a trap for Mr. C, and Richard is destroyed because he shares Mr. C’s DNA? If so, Mr. C sure was lucky to have the perfect guinea pig thrown in his path. Or did someone point Richard to the Farm? It’s never clear how he got there, and it seems like a pretty big coincidence. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to be common knowledge that Ray and Jeffries gave Mr. C the “bad” coordinates that would have killed him, whereas Diane (offscreen) gave him the “good” coordinates (which take him to the Fireman’s lair but also turn out to be a different kind of trap in Part 17)...but Diane didn’t send him the full coordinates, which is why he prompts her with the “:-) ALL” here? This all gives me a headache. Obviously Albert and Gordon feed Diane coordinates they know will lead to Mr. C being trapped/killed. Were they aware of Ray/Jeffries giving the other coordinates? Were the Ray/Jeffries coordinates Plan A and the Diane coordinates a failsafe, or were the two groups acting totally independently with different plans to kill Mr. C?
Do we think Jerry even saw who Richard was? Based on the distance he was at, the fact that he was using the binoculars backwards (obscuring distant objects/people even further) and given how stoned he was, I have my doubts. Ben ironically might never learn of Richard’s fate even though his brother unknowingly witnessed it!
I’ve been vocally ambivalent about Mr. C’s coordinate-hunting exploits. Sadly, I don’t know that this rewatch has particularly improved my opinion. The thing is, I like pretty much all the individual scenes (only the Montana arm-wrestling scene feels a tad draggy, and I think would have worked better at night). The Mr. C scenes by and large have a great mood — in fact, the Part 8 sequence of the Woodsmen “repairing” him is among my favorite scenes of the whole show. I enjoy these scenes immensely as I’m watching. But when I reflect on the show as a whole, the storyline still strikes me as a bit of a missed opportunity: the Mr. C character doesn’t say much about Cooper (he’s more interesting in this regard after Part 18, but he still comes across as more stock villain than “Dale’s dark side”), and the storyline overall still feels simultaneously overly plot driven and devoid of meaningful narrative.
Diane’s actions are interesting. The “:-) ALL” prompt seems to awaken something inside her — she says she remembers (remembers what? The rape? Did she not remember it previously during her jailhouse conversation with Mr. C? She seemed to...or is she talking about something else?). Her “Oh, Coop,” seems to indicate that she is good...but she then goes to kill Gordon. Does she know Mr. C is a doppel or does she believe he is the real Dale? Does she send him the “trap” coordinates knowingly or is she just a pawn?
I’d forgotten that Diane implies Mr. C took her to the convenience store/Dutchman after raping her. This is interesting. Is that where he trapped her as Naido? Did he create the tulpa, or did a bit of Diane manage to escape back into the world? More importantly, did he also take Audrey there after raping her? Is this the key to understanding where Audrey is and what is going on with her?
I really love the resonance of Vedder’s song for both Dale and Audrey. Dale has literally lost 25 years of his life (and as I said above, I believe sacrificed a piece of himself for his family, so he will never be who he was again). Audrey’s situation is less straightforward, but whether she is trapped in a coma, the Lodge, or a bitter loveless marriage, the contrast to the innocent teenager of the original show is equally poignant. “Now it’s gone, gone.” The song even literally references mirror-gazing, very relevant to both characters but especially Audrey in Part 16. “There’s another of us around somewhere with much better lives.” Is there, though? Is Mr. C’s life better than Dale’s? Is Carrie Page’s life better than Laura’s? Is there another Audrey somewhere?
I loved the dark humor of the Hutchenses’ ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ comedy-of-errors end when it aired, but the idea of a shootout in Vegas is unpleasant and unsettling in light of recent events. It’s not the show’s fault — and I hope this isn’t too preachy/political on my part — but the bad timing made the sequence play for me as a dark reminder that the entertainment industry tends to often make light of gun violence instead of confronting the realities. DKL is just having fun with genre conventions, and I think in six months or a year I’ll be able to enjoy the scene at face value again, but perhaps we as a culture should rethink what those genre conventions say about us, and begin to move past them.