Lost in the Movies: Darya (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #77)

Darya (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #77)

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. A new character study will appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday although patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public. There will be spoilers.

Darya doesn't say much until it's too late, and then no amount of talking can save her.

Thursday, September 22, 2016
Darya and Ray Monroe emerge from a backroom in a wooded house somewhere in the Midwest where they're met by Cooper, a grim crime lord who has requested their presence. Both of them hand a white card to two men in the corner of this main room before walking out the front door with their boss; neither says a word.

Friday, September 23, 2016
Ray is now speaking quite a bit, although neither Darya nor Jack (a compatriot silently stuffing his face with spaghetti) have anything to contribute to this conversation. In passive-aggressive fashion, Ray taunts and teases Cooper about information that he needs - or rather "wants," as Cooper is quick to assert. Darya remains aloof throughout, but occasionally a fleeting look of nervousness or concern crosses her face, usually exchanged with Ray while Cooper glowers.

Saturday, September 24, 2016
As Cooper pulls up outside Darya's motel room, where she is talking on the landline telephone, Darya curses and quickly hangs up. He enters as she lays down on the bed in her lingerie. The two of them pose testy questions back and forth under the pretense that all is well between them, each waiting for the other to call their bluff. Cooper calmly crosses from window to window, closing curtains and asking for Darya's .45 after she tells him she just got off the phone with Jack. She wonders why he hasn't headed somewhere else yet although she feigns pleasure at seeing him again so soon. Then, as they cuddle atop the sheets, Cooper's arm firmly around her shoulder, he drops the bomb. "Jack is dead," he explains in a dry, terrifyingly unrushed cadence. "I killed him two hours ago..." Realizing she's been caught in a lie - a lie exposed by Cooper's very willingness to murder her collaborators - she hesitates for a moment: frozen with fear, processing this new knowledge, desperately plotting her escape. Unfortunately she can't shake herself free; Cooper easily restrains her jerky attempt and warns with pent-up brutality, "Don't move a muscle." He plays a recording of her recent phone call with Ray, who told her he's in state prison after being arrested for arms trafficking and that it's now up to her to kill Cooper the following night. Panicking again, she is yanked into place by Cooper, who bashes the back of her head into the headrest three times. Dazed and realizing she is absolutely, certainly going to die in the few minutes - which Cooper readily confirms when she asks - she tries yet again to wriggle free and in response, she's not only further concussed but punched in the face. Bleeding, crying, she obediently whimpers answers to Cooper's inquiries about Ray's real situation (she's unsure), who hired them (she doesn't know), how much they were paid (half a million), and where Cooper might go. She is largely in the dark about all of it, even though Cooper tells her that her life may depend on providing the coordinates that Ray recently procured. Learning how little further use she is to him, Cooper muses aloud about his own grander plans and "games." He asks her if she recognizes a scratched playing card with a black figure drawn on it (no surprise she does not), identifying it as "what I want." Sensing that her last reprieve has run out, Darya asks if Cooper is going to kill her now and he calmly says yes. As she flails and screams, he throws her down violently on the bed, punches her out, covers her face with a pillow, and shoots her in the side of the head. When he lifts the pillow, she's gone, leaving behind a corpse staring blankly at the ceiling. Cooper covers her with a pillow again and there she remains as macabre ornamentation while he washes his hands, speaks to someone else over a radio, and glances indifferently in her direction when he tells the voice on the line that his tardiness in making the call "couldn't be helped." Neither could Darya.

Characters Darya interacts with onscreen…

Ray Monroe

Agent Cooper ("Mr. C") (her killer)

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Darya
Darya, of course, never sees Twin Peaks - none of the doppelganger's entourage will make it there with him and were probably never intended to. There are eerie resonances in her motel room though: the wood paneling, the curtains (a Bob-ish blue rather than red), the painting of a fish directly over her spot of death, where she will lay flopped out (even looking headless) when Mr. C is done toying with her. And her lacy lingerie is reminiscent of the girls at One Eyed Jack's in the Canadian woods or Laura and Ronette in Jacques' cabin, posing for Flesh World. Although in some ways she exists to tell viewers that the Twin Peaks of old - the warm, spooky ABC series of the early nineties - is long gone, Darya actually represents the seamy noir side that has always been part of Twin Peaks, in the small town as well as on the road (as it is here). She is also the first figure in the new season to remind us of that eternal Peaks theme: violence against women. And yet although she is certainly sexualized in this scene, and Cooper intersperses his threats with caresses and a controlling grip that takes advantage of her weaker stature, she is not exactly assaulted in the manner of Laura or Maddy, nor is she presented as entirely a helpless victim - at least not up to the point where Mr. C has her where he wants her. In the writing, Darya calls back to femme fatale figures like Josie, or Blackie and her sister Nancy (who also got punched out of the show by a version of Cooper, albeit much less brutally). In the direction, however (and especially in the duration), Lynch mixes this figure - the culpable if pitiable gangster's moll whose treachery gets her killed - with gestures and expressions more reminiscent of the abused and exploited teenagers of Peaks' past, muddying the waters and only heightening the viewer's discomfort in this scenario. In this single sequence, Darya's genre-coding and expositional purpose clash with her prolonged contemplation of her own imminent demise, initially pulling the show back from the raw intensity with which it once presented human suffering...only to circle back around again from a colder, but not insensitive, distance.

Darya’s journey
In her first couple scenes, Darya is little more than a background figure - a cool piece of iconography in her pink jacket and cagey eye contact over a diner table. In her final moments, Darya is again a background figure but one charged with a far more poignant resonance. In between these two points, she's been humanized only for her humanity to be snuffed out. Most of Darya's real narrative arc unfolds inside that single, stretched-out scene (framed within the episode by the other Cooper in the Red Room, as if he is watching this psychological torture unfold from afar...maybe, we even wonder, from within "Mr. C" himself). When this passage begins, we hear Darya talk for the first time and the effect is jarring, at once making us question who she really is and drawing us closer to her perspective during the following minutes. Significantly contributing to the unease of her long death scene is the volume of dissonant information we're provided: not just the exposition she's delivering but the fact that her character is finally opening up at the exact same time she's being permanently closed down. Initially she seems to be more "in on" whatever Cooper is up to than we are, but soon she's essentially in the same position as us. We're in over our heads, grasping desperately at Cooper's enigmatic statements, trying to figure out what larger chess match he is playing while also feeling the distress of the much smaller yet deadly game he is playing with Darya in that very moment. Eventually, as Cooper begins to deploy phrases and concepts we at least recognize - "the Black Lodge" and a symbol which looks like a swollen Owl Ring - we've completely switched positions with Darya, now knowing much more than she does or ever will. And then, finally, she's gone while we carry on without her, haunted by Lynch's ability to immerse us in a moment of acute fear and pain and perhaps troubled by his ability to simultaneously keep us apart from it.

Actress: Nicole LaLiberte
LaLiberte's acting career began just a decade before The Return, but she'd been involved with art and show business for a long time before that. At twelve, she left her hometown for New York City to study as a ballerina and in her early twenties she launched a successful modeling career before transitioning into theater with the Off-Broadway play Artfuckers (this New York interview from the time offers a snapshot of that period). Roles in film and TV followed over the next few years including in Paul Morrissey's News from Nowhere, Gregg Araki's Kaboom, and as one of the bodypainted, mohawked "bird girls" in the Steve Carell/Paul Rudd comedy Dinner for Schmucks. She was cast as the recurring character Lulu in the HBO ensemble How to Make It in America in 2011, as the lead character (also named Lulu) in Austin Chick's thriller Girls Against Boys in 2012, and as Arlene Schram in a couple episodes of Dexter's seventh season that same year, returning to the part for an episode of the following season as well. Other TV appearances included Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Rescue Me, Nurse Jackie, The Mentalist, CSI, Major Crimes, Now Apocalypse, Monsterland, and Station 19. During the same summer that Showtime was airing Twin Peaks, LaLiberte appeared in an episode of the network's lead-out I'm Dying Up Here. Recent films include She's in Portland, Dog, and Zero Road. In conversations with 25 Years Later... and Twin Peaks Unwrapped, La Liberte revealed that among her many eclectic interests and activities, she also conducts and collects interviews with unusual people (especially experimental artists but also folks in various fields whose lifestyles and philosophies push the envelope). She dubs them, and the project, "arsonists." (series pictured: Dexter, 2012)

Part 1 (Showtime title: "My log has a message for you.")

*Part 2 (Showtime title: "The stars turn and a time presents itself." - best episode)

Darya is onscreen for roughly thirteen minutes. She is in three scenes in two episodes, taking place over three days. She's featured the most in part 2, when she is interrogated and killed. Her primary location is the Buckhorn motel room. She shares the most screentime with Cooper's doppelganger. She is the second highest ranked character in part 2.

Best Scene
Part 2: From an unexpected phone call to a smothered gunshot, Darya completely loses control of her situation.

Best Line
“Are you gonna kill me?”

Darya Offscreen

Part 2: When Cooper tells Chantal to clean up the room next to hers, she realizes Darya has been killed and remarks, "That's good news. I was getting so jealous of that bitch."

Part 8: Ray asks where Darya is during his jailbreak ride with Cooper, who responds, "She's waiting for a phone call when we get some place safe."

Additional Observations

• The disorienting effect of Darya's one big sequence - in which a variety of information and experience hurtles toward us all at once - is further underscored by Darya having to listen to her own voice from just a few minutes earlier (which now feels like a lifetime away). For us, this is the first time we're getting this information; displaying her own reaction to this surreal confrontation, Lynch is able to envelop straightforward exposition within a complex emotional texture.

• When Darya first emerges, I get the vague impression that she and Ray are tulpas (even before the narrative introduces that concept) who have just been manufactured for a purpose. Whether due to their silence, posture, or the way Buela retreats and retrieves them, ready to go, at Cooper's request, this association offers an additional echo - or premonition - to Darya's situation. We will later learn of Cooper's acts of violence toward Diane and Audrey without ever actually witnessing them. Here, core traumas are evoked indirectly, through a more "peripheral" trauma (in terms of the overall drama if not the character's own experience). This is the case with many important elements in The Return and indeed in the original Twin Peaks, before Fire Walk With Me illuminated so much directly. Darya may not literally be a tulpa but she serves a similar function in the narrative, as a reflection and amplification of other experiences.

Next (active on Friday, February 10 at 8am): Detectives T., D., and "Smiley" Fusco
Previous: Beverly Paige

To immediately read a month of upcoming entries, updated weekly to stay a month ahead...

(at the time of publication, this includes full entries on new or revised characters among #77 - 52)

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