Lost in the Movies: Sheriff Cable (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #17)

Sheriff Cable (TWIN PEAKS Character Series Bonus #17)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2023 to reflect the third season (and patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public), but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

Cable is surly and smug in defense of his provincial prerogative...until confronted with FBI fisticuffs.

Friday, February 12, 1988
An FBI agent barges into Sheriff Cable's shabby little office in Deer Meadow. Brusquely introducing himself as Chet Desmond, he demands to see the body of a girl who was recently murdered. Initially taken aback by the rude entrance, and then serenely malicious in a (mostly) passive-aggressive fashion, Cable mocks Chet and resists his entreaties until Chet pulls rank. Finally the sheriff hands him the dead girl Teresa Banks' files and directs the federal agent to the morgue (on his way out, Chet notices a framed newspaper photo of Cable bending a steel rebar). Cable has already sent an upset Deputy Cliff out of the room, but once Chet exits, Cliff returns and he and Cable exchange knowing glances.

Saturday, February 13, 1988
A van arrives to take Teresa's body to the FBI's Seattle headquarters. Cable refuses to release the body and when Chet asks if they found a ring on the corpse, the sheriff practically snickers, "We got a phone here...it's got a little ring." Clearly this isn't going to be easy. Cable and Chet retreat to the backyard, where the sheriff has apparently installed a ridiculous barricade of haystacks in front of the morgue entrance. After Cable demonstrates his steel-bending skills, an extended fistfight unfolds. Cable takes the first cheap shot while Chet is getting ready, but the FBI agent soon overcomes him with an endless albeit slow-paced barrage of punches to the face until Cable collapses. To rub it in, Chet bends a piece of steel himself and then leaves the humiliated, bloodied sheriff gasping in the dirt.

Characters Cable interacts with onscreen…

Chet Desmond & Sam Stanley

Deputy Cliff

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Cable
Like Carl Rodd and Teresa Banks, Sheriff Cable shows us Deer Meadow rather than Twin Peaks; but one town highlights quite a bit about the other. Specifically, Cable is the Bizarro Sheriff Truman. Whereas Truman is amiable, accepting Cooper's authority and welcoming his friendship, Cable takes the classic figure of the surly local police chief to its illogical extreme. There's more than a whiff of corruption about the place; why is he so eager to withhold Teresa's body and obstruct the FBI? Cable highlights how radically the film Fire Walk With Me (he never appears in the TV show) transforms the series' quirk into something even more subversive. His dialogue, and particularly his delivery, is weird in a typical Lynch fashion: long pauses and odd intonations punctuated by subtly demonic expressions all pitched to a level of very dry black comedy. The blunt, absurd violence of the fight scene also shows how relaxed yet focused Lynch's style can be in The Missing Pieces.

Cable’s journey
Cable is introduced as a powerful figure, limited perhaps in his capacity but stubbornly determined to dig in his heels. He ends up an absolute wreck, degraded by Chet's blows. Here's where a contrast between Fire Walk With Me and The Missing Pieces might be instructive; in the film there is no fight scene, so even though we see that Chet is somehow able to move the body, Cable retains his air of ominous, inscrutable autonomy. Only the complete picture, as provided by the deleted scenes, reveals his fall. There's something archly amusing about the fight (though it's tedious too) but I think I might prefer the version of Cable's story in which he remains oddly defiant; this feels more indicative of Deer Meadow's overall intransigence and the FBI's inability to penetrate this sinister obscurity.

Actor: Gary Bullock
Bullock emerged as a character actor in film and television only in middle age, and worked for about a decade and a half before his onscreen credits dried up, although he narrated a documentary about a World War II fighter group a few years ago (he is a passionate, lifelong model airplane enthusiast). In the nineties and zeroes, his height and unusual looks made him a shoo-in for Abraham Lincoln, whom he played on multiple episodes of three separate shows; in fact, he launched his career in theater with a one-man show he wrote about Lincoln. He was also a natural fit for several horror and sci-fi parts (he was cast both as the character Goth - see above - and a Klingon on different Star Trek spin-offs). His voice has led him into consistent work as an audiobook narrator. He is also an author; he and his wife often work together, and share a website devoted to their work (including recordings of Dickens novels which she performs and he engineers). Before Bullock took up acting, he had a career as a computer programmer working in various observatories. In another great interview with Brad Dukes, Bullock describes his various passions and experiences, as well as several screenplay ideas; he's also interviewed in the great Moving Through Time documentary featured on the blu-ray for the film/series. (series pictured - Star Trek: Voyager, 1997)

Never appeared on the TV series

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (feature film)

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (collection of deleted scenes from the film)

Only appearing in material shot for the film, Cable was written by David Lynch and Robert Engels, and directed solely by David Lynch.

Cable is onscreen for roughly eight minutes. He is in three scenes in Fire Walk With Me/The Missing Pieces taking place in two consecutive days. All of his scenes are set in or around the Deer Meadow sheriff's station. He shares almost the entirety of his screentime with Chet.

Best Scene
Fire Walk With Me: Cable methodically teases and torments Chet before sullenly cooperating.

Best Line
“In fact, when the state boys called me about a J. Edgar coming up here...I think I said...so what?”

Additional Observations

• A few hours after his fight with Cable, Chet returns to the trailer park where Teresa lived...and then he promptly vanishes. Since we last see him reaching for the Owl Cave ring under a trailer, most viewers assume his disappearance is supernatural. However, I've also heard speculation (I think maybe on The Twin Peaks Podcast, among others?) that Cable and Deputy Cliff had him killed. We do learn later in Fire Walk With Me that Cliff is part of a drug-running ring and given some of Cable's interactions with Cliff, and his general aura of resistance to federal investigation, it's likely he is involved too. Maybe they murdered Chet because they were afraid he was getting too close, or maybe even just as revenge for Cable's humiliation?

• Cable is actually named in Scott Frost's 1991 novel The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes, in which Agent Cooper is the one to conduct the Teresa Banks investigation in Deer Meadow (as was originally intended for the film, before Kyle MacLachlan whittled his schedule down to a few days out of hesitation to participate at all). I remembered the character being rather plain and not at all evocative of the film's strange character, but on revisiting the book I see I'm wrong. This is actually a pretty good starting point for the man we see in Fire Walk With Me: "Diane, the local and apparently only authority is a large ex-marine going by the name of Cable. Locally known as the Chief. He is none too pleased about having a federal man on his turf, though it is clear that the last serious crime he saw was in a gangster movie." According to My Life, My Tapes, Cable is called "the Chief" by locals, his crime scene report is described as "a work of fiction worthy of a Pulitzer," and he gets sick while helping Cooper conduct the autopsy. Take all of this as you will, since the central conceit of these scenes is directly contradicted in the film.

Update 2018: This entry was written in 2017, before the third season, and did not need to be revised as Cable did not re-appear. Only the description/intro at the top and the ranking were updated. Since the criteria for inclusion was changed (originally three scenes with dialogue, now ten minutes of screentime), he retroactively became a "bonus entry" rather than part of the full rankings. In the original character series, Cable was ranked #60, between Jonathan and Malcolm.

No, Bullock is not on the cast list for 2017. The Deer Meadow situation in general is sketchy; according to The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Fat Trout Trailer Park is in Twin Peaks, not on the other side of the state. What happened to Cable after his beatdown? I am not as inclined toward the "ring transported Chet to the Lodge" reading as most, so I like the idea that maybe Cable had something to do with Chet's disappearance - I'll discuss that more in the agent's own entry. Anyway, if Deer Meadow still exists I'll bet Cable is out there brooding still. Who knows what he's up to...

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