Lost in the Movies: Ray Monroe (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #44)

Ray Monroe (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #44)

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.

Far more than the mere henchman he initially appears as, Ray has many sides and many lives - but not as many as his boss.

Thursday, September 22, 2016
Called forth by the grim Mr. Cooper, Ray and his partner Darya exit a wooden house in South Dakota after clasping hands with mysterious figures in the corner of the entry room. They join their boss on the road and, later that night, in a diner where Ray teases another compatriot, Jack, for eating so much. He also passively taunts his boss, who is not amused; telling Ray that he's about to lay low for a little while, Cooper adds that this should give him enough time to learn how to mind his own business. Ray smirks, remarking that he's about to get some information - coordinates from a woman who's secretary to a man named Hastings - that Cooper need. Cooper sternly corrects Ray: "I don't need anything. I want." He also comments that "it's kind of funny" that the secretary will only pass the numbers onto Ray. Ray relishes his power in this situation.

Friday, September 23, 2016
Darya receives a call from Ray in her motel room. He informs her that he's been picked up on weapons charges and confined to a federal prison "at the worst possible moment." It's now her job to kill Cooper, as he was planning to do, but only if their boss is still around the following night.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Nonetheless, Cooper is alive and well four nights later. He's managed to work out a deal with the warden to allow both himself and Ray to break out and get away. Their cells are opened and a guard guides them to a car, where Cooper advises Ray to drive. During the ride, Ray apologizes for getting caught, asks about Darya ("she's waiting for us," Cooper claims), suggests that they go to a place called "the Farm," and - sliding right back into confidence after his supposed screw-up - asserts that he wants money in exchange for the coordinates he was able to attain. Cooper asks him to pull off on a side road; they get out, and Cooper draws a gun while Ray pees. But it doesn't work. Ray mocks Cooper before gunning him down; then, much to Ray's shock, a cascade of apparitions descend on the corpse, rubbing blood all over his face and retrieving a ghostly sphere (with a face inside) from his stomach. Ray screams, retreats to the car, and drives off in a panic. He calls his collaborator Phillip Jeffries and offers an update, saying that he's headed to a place where he can kill Cooper after the supposedly dead man catches up to him.

Saturday, October 1, 2016
Sure enough, a living Cooper shows up at a Montana warehouse and asks permission to enter. The criminal gang which Ray has joined allows him in, with leader Renzo commenting, "You didn't kill him too good, Ray." Cooper is told he can "have" Ray if he submits to the gang's rules: an arm-wrestling contest against Renzo which will either make Cooper the new leader or allows him to be killed. Cooper is contemptuous but agrees, and Ray appears comfortably certain that he's safe. How wrong he is. For several minutes, Cooper toys with Renzo (who shouts "Don't you fucking move, Ray," when Ray panics), never allows his own arm to be pressed all the way down, and then slams his opponent's hand onto the table and punches him so hard that his face is reduced to pulp. Ray is horrified and tries to flee, but he's restrained by his fellow criminals who respect the group's rules. They surrender Ray to Cooper and leave the two alone to fight it out. Cooper shoots Ray in the leg and questions him as he lies injured on the floor. Asserting that he "can make you tell me," Cooper gets Ray to admit he was working for Jeffries, has a ring he was supposed to place on Cooper after killing him (he now places it on his own finger as Cooper's insistence), and knows where Jeffries is: the Dutchman's. After reluctantly handing over a piece of paper with the longed-for coordinates, Ray tells Cooper that the Dutchman's "is not a real place" but Cooper abruptly shoots him in the head before he can finish. The ring disappears from the corpse's finger.

...in Another Place
Ray's body materializes on a zigzag floor with a pool of blood under his head. There is no ring on his finger.

Characters Ray interacts with onscreen…


Agent Cooper ("Mr. C") - his killer

Spirits who appear with/to him


Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Ray
For a character who, like many in the third season, never appears in the town of Twin Peaks, Ray intersects quite a bit with a larger mythology of both the place and the series. The old Agent Cooper never had a right-hand man; Diane came close but was a purely offscreen presence, while Harry was presented as a sidekick of often equal stature (jurisdictional authority and detecting skills aside). Ray allows us to see Cooper, or a version of him anyone, interact with someone who works directly for him although that chain of command only lasts so long. The taunting, rebellious underling serves as a surprise conduit for Lodge energy, including Jeffries and the Owl Cave ring. And though we don't find out until after the character is dead, he's even linked to the FBI as an informer. This classic noir hoodlum comes from a different world than the Northwestern town (for all its criminal elements), so intertwining him with the familiar iconography provides a perfect microcosm of The Return's interest in folding such foreign elements into the texture of Twin Peaks. In terms of the larger plot he participates in, Ray's actions allow us to know that the powerful doppelganger does have his vulnerabilities - although these vulnerabilities have their own limitations. Like the dangerous and deceptive Josie and Windom before him, Ray is able to make Cooper bleed without successfully killing him; it will take a sheriff's station receptionist to finally pull off that trick.

Ray’s journey
In a premiere full of characters who make an impression but will never appear again, Ray initially shows up wordless and subservient. The more we learn about him, however, the more important he seems. In his second scene, he's talking back to the diabolical Cooper with breathtaking assurance; his third scene involves him participating in a plot to kill his boss; and by his fourth scene, when Mr. C has gone to extraordinary lengths to break him out of prison, Ray has emerged as one of the key pieces in whatever larger game is being played. From there, Ray's centrality only continues to ascend even as his effectiveness fades. His power peaks when he shoots down the doppelganger but begins to decline immediately afterwards, when he's forced to witness a supernatural intervention far outstripping his own tenuous hold on the Lodge machinations of Jeffries. From there, it's only a matter of time. Ray's final, extended sequence represents both the zenith of his screentime and his complete downfall as any sort of threat to Mr. C's plans. (Even so, he makes a gallant last effort, passing along false coordinates that will eventually electrocute his boss' son.) He makes it to the Red Room, a unique - if dubious - accomplishment, and is even spoken of by a high-ranking FBI agent in the finale. Ray may be doomed, but the character has a surprising amount of staying power, with cards to play beyond even his final moments.

Actor: George Griffith
Griffith has appeared in shorts and features for several decades now (although his only other TV work - aside from some doubtful soap credits on IMDb - is background in an episode of Private Practice in 2008). His filmography overlaps with other Twin Peaks actors several times. His most recent movie, 2021's Hide and Bleed, co-stars Balthazar Getty and Darya herself, Nicole LaLiberte, and his first cinematic role was in 2005's Spanish Judges in which Matthew Lillard played one of the leads. Lillard was also cast in Griffith's own writer/director debut, From the Head, about a strip club bathroom attendant who encounters a variety of stories from patrons while pursuing his own agenda. The film is based on Griffith's own experience in such an occupation and was memorably reviewed by a stripper-turned-critic from that very same club, who celebrated its accuracy and poignancy. Another fan was David Lynch, who cast Griffith as Ray based on From the Head - "David had acknowledged my film, and that was a really profound thing to happen initially," Griffith recalled later; the casting in a revival of one of his favorite series was just icing in the cake. The actor has very much embraced his role in subsequent years, showing up for many fan events and proudly proclaiming himself #ThatFuckerRay in his Twitter bio (based on an offhand Mr. C comment). Griffiths mother has even stitched - and sold - shirts with "That Fucker Ray" as a badge. Since at least 2018, he's attempted to direct another feature although unfortunately the project has not yet come to fruition. (film pictured: From the Head, 2011)

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

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

Part 7 (Showtime title: "There's a body all right.")

*Part 8 (Showtime title: "Gotta light?" - best episode)

Part 13 (Showtime title: "What story is that, Charlie?")

Ray is onscreen for roughly twenty-nine minutes. He is in eight scenes in five episodes, taking place over ten days. He's featured the most in part 13, when he is finally killed by Mr. C. His primary location is the criminal headquarters (often presumed to be "the Farm" he speaks of earlier). He shares the most screentime with Cooper (as Mr. C). He is one of the top ten characters in part 2, one of the top three in part 8, and second only to Cooper in part 13. And he is the eighth-highest ranked character introduced in the third season (ninth if we include Diane despite original series dialogue addressed to her).

Best Scene
Part 13: His cocky face finally falls for good when he watches his old boss kills his new one, knowing this means his own demise.

Best Line
“Tricked you. Fucker.”

Ray Offscreen

Part 1: Mr. C asks for Ray and Darya by name before Buella fetches them.

Part 2: We witness the end of Darya's conversation with Ray before Mr. C plays back the recording to her, revealing what he knows about their plot to murder him. She tells him that Ray and her were hired by someone only Ray knows, and Mr. C expresses skepticism about why and how Ray was arrested. Darya says that she and Ray were going to split a half million in reward money, and after determining that she doesn't know about the coordinates Ray got from Hastings' secretary, Mr. C shoots her. Then he speaks electronically to someone who may or may not be Jeffries before looking up schematics for the federal prison Ray is in.

Part 15: Visiting Jeffries at the Dutchman's, Mr. C asks why he sent Ray to kill him. Jeffries' cryptic response is "What? I called Ray." When Mr. C asserts, "So you did send him," Jeffries is silent.

Part 17: Speaking of "cryptic," Gordon reports to Albert and Tammy that "recently, a paid informant named Ray Monroe sent a cryptic message indicating that the Cooper we met in prison is looking for coordinates. Coordinates from a certain Major Briggs."

Tammy expands on what Gordon tells us in Part 17, relaying Ray's backstory to the reader (and, curiously, to her boss - who told her about Ray in the first place, even though she writes, "you would have told us [if Ray was reporting to you], wouldn't you?"). Apparently the informer was not merely tapped after joining Mr. C's circle but recruited to do so long before they met, likely in Las Vegas. Far from taking care of their own business, the Montana gang seems to have left Ray's body behind and maybe even abandoned their headquarters since Tammy reports finding the corpse, the burner phone used to call Jeffries, and a pristine matchbox advertising the Dutchman's Lodge (which burned down in the late sixties) at the location. Ray's chapter runs three pages and focuses as much on Jeffries and the Dutchman's as Ray himself. Tammy is astounded that, based on the contact list on that phone, "Ray Monroe believed that he had originally been recruited by and was working for Phillip Jeffries, a man the Bureau had not seen or heard from since he disappeared from your Philadelphia office in 1989." She concludes that Mr. C's entire prison operation was conducted to find out from Ray where he could find Jeffries.

Additional Observations

• Though the character interactions focus only on others with more than ten minutes of screentime, Ray does of course also interact with Renzo (the highest-ranked of all the near-misses). And while I didn't list him among the spirits who appear with/to Ray, I should note that some incarnation of BOB is at least present (inside that sphere) before Ray runs away from the woodsmen.

• Ray's shifting allegiances provide a fascinating and elusive thread throughout The Return (and The Final Dossier) especially considering that his demeanor suggests a classic cocky criminal archetype. He tells Cooper that Jeffries said he could "get out and stay out" if he helped with the anti-Cooper lot, but how did he get in, in the first place? Tammy suggests that he was an informer from the beginning; some fans have gone so far as to conclude that he was actually an undercover agent and not just a turncoat hoodlum. However, it seems more likely that Ray is a snitch than a Donnie Brasco type. Everything from his potentially self-destructive behavior with his boss to his affiliation with the Montana gang identifies him with the seedy underworld as a longtime participant rather than a visitor for some just cause (or maybe he's just that good).

Next (active on Friday, July 21 at 8am): Detective Dave Macklay

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 #46 - 30)

No comments:

Search This Blog