Part 2 of my goodbye to Twin Peaks, wherein we take a look at the story’s end. Or is it the beginning?
. . . But You Can Never Go Home Again: episode 18
This episode, at the moment the final hour ever of Twin Peaks until we hear otherwise, is fated to be the most debated installment in the show’s run. Already it has proved monumentally divisive, with some loving it, others declaring both it and retroactively the entire revival a waste of time, and still others just confused as hell as to where to begin unpacking whatever happens here. Indeed, even the people who love this episode don’t agree on why they love it, with sharply differing interpretations across the board.
So, what does happen here? In the most basic of rundowns, Cooper goes back into the Black Lodge after the unseen presence (probably Judy/Mother/Sarah) takes Laura, where he subsequently relives his experiences from earlier in the season, albeit with some slight alterations. This time, the Arm gives him different clues, asking Cooper “Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane? Is it?,” an alarming invocation of Audrey’s mysterious predicament. But Cooper is tasked with the same mission he was given before, both times by the ghostly Leland Palmer: find Laura.
Cooper exits the Black Lodge in Glastonbury Glove, hence his “curtain call” comment in the previous episode to Diane, who is waiting for him. They have a tender, even romantic, reunion, but again there is no time for Cooper to enjoy being in Twin Peaks. He has an objective that must be fulfilled.
Cooper and Diane drive exactly 430 miles into the desert, where amidst a flurry of power lines Cooper discerns a gateway to another place. With some reticence, he and Diane drive through that gateway. Day immediately transforms to the blackness of night. Coop and Diane, increasingly trance-like, stop at a wayside motel for the evening, where they engage in a sex scene that absolutely no one any time soon will describe as affectionate, Diane holding her hands over Cooper’s face as she looks at the ceiling and tries not to cry. In the morning, Diane is gone, having left Coop a goodbye note. But according to this note, these characters are no longer Cooper and Diane. They are Richard and Linda.
Richard/Cooper goes outside, revealing that he is not at the same motel or driving the same car as he was the previous evening, indicating that Coop has now fully entered into whatever world he was trying to find. Learning that he’s in a shithole called Odessa, Texas, Dalechard is drawn to a diner ominously named Judy’s. Inside, Cooper fights off three cowboy tough guys who harass the waitress, coldly assaulting them and dropping their weapons into the deep fryer. Sensing there’s another waitress he was supposed to see, Cooper gets the address of the off-duty server, a woman named Carrie Page.
Upon arriving at Carrie’s house, Cooper is shocked to see that she looks almost exactly like Laura Palmer. He tries to convince the skeptical Carrie to come with him to Twin Peaks, Washington, so that she can be reunited with her mother Sarah. Carrie has no memory of anyone named Laura or Sarah or Leland Palmer, but considering that she just murdered her abusive boyfriend/husband in her living room, she’s willing to give this FBI man’s protection a shot.
They silently traverse the highways of America, arriving in Twin Peaks in the dead of night. Cooper leads Carrie up the stairs to the Palmer household, Carrie still drawing a blank on her surroundings. They knock on the door, but instead of Sarah, they are greeted by a woman named Alice Tremond. She has apparently owned the house for a while and has never heard of the Palmers, and claims to have bought the property from a woman named Chalfont. Confused, Cooper thanks Alice, and he and Carrie find themselves standing in the middle of the street, unsure of what to do next.
Suddenly disoriented, Cooper asks “what year is this???” with an uncertainty he has rarely ever displayed, immediately indicating that something is very, very wrong. A look of recognition slowly crosses Carrie’s face. From the depths of the house, she hears Sarah Palmer calling “Lauraaaa!!!” from the very first episode. The horror all comes crashing back to her, and the awakened Laura lets out an ear piercing shriek. The lights in the house go dark.
And . . . that is the end of Twin Peaks, I suppose!
Where to even begin here?
First off, I think it’s important to acknowledge that episode 18 is not really the ending to the revival of Twin Peaks. That actually occurred in the previous hour. Episode 17 is the entire payoff to the story we’d been watching. This final part is more like an epilogue, or the dot dot dot at the end of the sentence, the start of something else entirely. It is the opening of a new door after the closing of the old one.
Now, why would David Lynch and Mark Frost do this? We went almost 25 years believing we’d never get closure on the story of Twin Peaks, and they had 18 hours to wrap this fucker up. Why just stick the audience with an ambiguous non-ending that leaves us hanging? AGAIN? Are they planning a season four in secret? Do they just not care? Was this them fucking with their longtime fans?
I’ll admit, I was personally expecting something more resembling an ending, considering that this revival was written to be a conclusion in the event that there was no more Twin Peaks after this. So I found myself a bit caught off-guard. My first thought was “wait, so they do want another season after all!” But then I started laughing hysterically, and my second thought was “and the joke was that there’s no punchline.”
That may sound flippant, because I actually don’t think this is a joke at all. It was dead serious. But the hilarity is that Twin Peaks defied and surpassed my expectations right up until the very end. After a few minutes (when the episode really started sinking in), I realized that this final hour, up to and including it’s non-exist-ent ending, is the greatest sendoff that Twin Peaks could have possibly had, regardless of whether or not there will be more.
There’s just so much to discuss about this episode. One thing that most definitely transpires here is that the series strips itself down to its most basic set of themes: Cooper as the hero who won’t give up, Laura as the forever lost soul dwelling in confusion, the town of Twin Peaks as a meeting place where opposing metaphysical forces are destined to forever collide.
Certainly, this episode (and season) said more about Dale Cooper than almost any other character. This entire revival has deconstructed and pasted together the Cooper character in numerous combinations. While Mr. C was in some ways not at all Agent Cooper, at heart it’s important to remember that he was Cooper’s dark side, the evil of which someone even as noble as Coop was always capable. No one, not even Dale Cooper, exists without a shadow self. It’s a pointed realization when Phillip Jeffries states to Cooper’s doppelganger “you are Cooper” . . . Mr. C is what Cooper could have been had his settings been turned differently. Cooper is both this season’s hero and its villain. Even Dougie Jones is Coop, a particularly clueless, simple, well-meaning but overindulgent Cooper lacking in self-awareness. In a sense, this means that Richard Horne is Cooper’s child, as is Sonny Jim.
The life in Las Vegas is the life that Cooper never had, the one he missed out on with Caroline, with Annie, with Diane, because his cosmic fate intervened every time. When he becomes Richard, yet another variation of himself, the reference is pointed: Cooper is named after his wayward bastard son, the one his doppelganger unleashed upon the world. Richard Horne by all accounts grew up without much direction, and fell into a darker and darker path from which no one could save him. That doesn’t excuse his horrible actions, but it begs the question whether he was so vicious simply because Mr. C was his father, or because (as Sailor Ripley would say it) he “didn’t have any parental guidance.”
Much has been said already about the unsettling sex scene between Cooper and Diane. Cooper comes across as almost predatory, and Diane fearful. There has been a flurry of speculation that Coop and Diane are engaging in Thelemic sex magick, a ritual where the female partner is meant to become the Scarlet Woman, a deliberate embodiment of the goddess Babalon, the Mother of Abominations. Certain dissections of the season have equated Judy/Mother with Babalon, especially since Mark Frost’s Secret History delves into the subject, and Diane’s red hair is definitely evocative of the phrase Scarlet Woman.
A few critics have also noted a bit of overlap with the work of Kenneth Anger, one of the founding fathers of American experimental cinema and himself a Thelemic magician. His film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome features Marjorie Cameron, a well-known sorceress and artist who was married to Jack Parsons, the rocket scientist whose real-life attempts to summon Babalon form a major subplot in Frost’s book. In Pleasure Dome, Cameron portrays the Scarlet Woman/Babalon, and some theorize that Diane’s look in the final episode may have been inspired by Marjorie Cameron’s appearance in Anger’s film.
Lynch has been compared to Kenneth Anger before, and understandably so: Anger used pop music as the scores for his short films well ahead of directors like Lynch, Scorsese, Waters, or Tarantino, and one section of his classic Scorpio Rising is famously paired with Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet,” 20 years before Lynch made use of the song. (Anger maintains that David Lynch stole the idea from Scorpio Rising, and has held a chilly opinion of Lynch’s work ever since).
As someone with a lifelong appreciation of Thelema, I’m of two minds here. On one hand, I certainly think there are some deliberate intentions on Frost’s part with creating a parallel between Judy and Babalon. (Mark Frost has a storied interest in the occult and the esoteric. See his books The List of 7 and The 6 Messiahs to get a sense of how much of this stuff actually comes from him).
However, I do not necessarily think that Judy is Babalon, as if there is a 1:1 correlation between the mythology of Twin Peaks and the work of Aleister Crowley, the founder of the belief system of Thelema. That seems like too much of an intellectual frontloading for Lynch, who is primarily an intuitive artist and typically doesn’t understand his own work himself until after the fact. The cosmology is also wrong for a direct equivalence; in Thelema, Judy would more heavily correspond to Choronzon, a demon representing the delusions and illusions of the ego (which, historically, is Lynch’s primary concern when it comes to presentations of darkness). Babalon is regarded as a positive figure of spiritual and sexual freedom and enlightenment, not the monstrous negativity associated with Jowday.
As for Kenneth Anger and Lynch, it’s difficult to say how consciously Lynch has been influenced by Anger’s work, as Lynch has never actually been as immersed in avante-garde cinema as one might presume. (Eraserhead is frequently compared to Un Chien Andalou, for instance, but Lynch didn’t see that film until years after completing his movie). Granted, Lynch and Anger both tap into the unconscious, so they’re bound to strike some of the same wells here and there. But Lynch seems less purposeful in terms of using film as a type of magick, whereas Anger is most certainly engaged with the idea, hence his work being deliberate forays into occultism.
If anything, I’d argue that Anger’s use of pop music, not occult imagery, opened the biggest creative door for David Lynch. This season even has an unintentional musical reference to Anger, as Lynch employs “I Love How You Love Me” by the Paris Sisters. Kenneth Anger has also used the Paris Sisters, and in a similar manner: his short Kustom Kar Kommandos is scored (quite hilariously) with their version of “Dream Lover.”
It also seems somewhat ridiculous that Lynch and Frost would require the audience to study an obscure form of mysticism in order to actually grasp what’s transpiring onscreen. Season two drew heavily from ideas found in Theosophy, but I don’t see anyone arguing that the second season is beyond your grasp if you don’t read the collected works of Madame Blavatsky. Lynch is usually adamant that no one needs to do homework in order to understand what’s happening in his films, and I’d say that still applies here.
I think one could make a very solid argument that a lot of these occult elements have bled through on their own, simply because of how Lynch works, and due to the nature of the questions in which he and Mark Frost trade. (We’ve pondered the phrase “The magician longs to see” since early in the series. Who is the magician here if not Cooper?). I still do suspect there’s an intentional connection between these concepts, particularly on behalf of Frost, but there are other ways to see Judy, and other ways to see this scene between Cooper and Diane, that are equally valid and important.
(And regarding Diane’s appearance, I’m not 100% sold that she’s deliberately based on Marjorie Cameron. Diane was described way back in Cooper’s autobiography as looking like a cabaret singer, and that seems to be the prime carryover as far as her aesthetic is concerned. If any cable TV series this year has a character whose appearance is inspired by Cameron, I would actually pick Cersei on Game of Thrones).
Whether or not Diane is supposed to be the Scarlet Woman, the psychological and emotional undercurrent of this sequence is that, once Cooper and Diane drive through that portal into this alternate reality, their identities begin slipping away. Neither of them are completely acting like the characters we saw just a few moments before, especially not Coop. Diane seems to have more knowledge that something isn’t quite right here, but both of them were aware that things would change should they cross.
Akin to the symbolism used in Lost Highway, Cooper and Diane have found themselves in a place of transition along some kind of spiritual interstate, and when they pull over at this motel, they begin sinking into their new personas, a process crystallized upon Cooper waking the next morning. When Cooper and Diane have sex in the motel, she can feel their normal selves crumbling, hence her hands placed over Coop’s face, as if his identity is being obscured.
This scene almost note for note feels like a similar moment in Inland Empire, where Laura Dern and Justin Theroux play both Nikki & Devon (two Hollywood actors) and Sue & Billy (the characters those actors are portraying in a film). The two of them have sex, and it becomes increasingly unclear as to whether we’re watching Nikki/Devon or Sue/Billy. Dern’s character grows concerned as she senses their identities blurring, no longer certain of who she is or who she’s in bed with. And now Dern is essentially recreating that scene for this episode.
As “My Prayer” by the Platters makes its return appearance this season, we can tell that Diane is deeply unsettled by what’s happening here, and the song plays both as an ironic ode to the romance not present in this scene, and her plea for this to be over. At a certain point, she is no longer making love with Cooper. It feels more and more like she’s being fucked by a stranger. The subtext here is that Cooper bears the face of the man who raped her in another world. And as much as we’d like to believe otherwise, that man is a part of him.
It’s also worth mentioning that many male authority figures have historically been portrayed in Twin Peaks as chauvinistic; even Cooper at times represents that obsolete code, such as in the deleted scene from Fire Walk With Me where he gleefully tells an off-screen Diane that it’s her job to make coffee for the men. It’s Don Draper Lite, an adorable but still sexist moment, comical in its absurdity. Denise confronted Gordon Cole about this tendency early in the season, and we’ve seen Cole as a walking horndog throughout most of the episodes since. (Not to criticize any of the characters for being sexual, of course. It’s a relief to see characters in their 60s and 70s — Cole, Norma, Ed, Nadine— actually presented as having love lives).
The fact is that despite Cooper and Diane’s mutual and genuine feelings for each other, there is an additional element of him being her boss, providing an unpleasant aftertaste to their romance. (Which is why, to their credit, they both did their best to avoid hooking up back when they worked together).
When Cooper tells Diane to come to him in the motel room, it somewhat suggests him following a bizarre instruction manual only he can see. “Oh, it says I do X, then you do Y, then presto!” But it’s also delivered like an order, as if he’s her superior and it’s her job to service him. This scene is stripping away the various layers of their characters to arrive at some very uncomfortable undertones at the heart of their situation. Again, this isn’t to deny the very real feelings that he and Diane have for each other, but this other world they’ve stepped into brings out the dark side of their coupling.
The two of them are almost devolving into masculine and feminine archetypes (which does work with the sex magick theory, I should add), but partially as a critique of those archetypes. To again return to Inland Empire, that film opens with a man and a woman having sex, their faces blurred. The woman seems to be a prostitute, the man rings as abusive, and they are the template for an eternal cycle. Lynch has always dwelled on the way that men use their power to take advantage of and hurt women, and Twin Peaks is included in that discussion, and it again comes to the fore here with these odd versions of Cooper and Diane.
The next morning, Cooper has fully settled into Richard, even though he still recognizes himself as Dale Cooper. This new iteration of Cooper is pitched almost precisely at the halfway mark between Coop and Mr. C, combining the reason and nobility of the former with the driven, detached menace of the latter. When Richard scuffles with the rednecks at Judy’s, he possesses a pragmatic cruelty that the normal Cooper lacks; even when he’s asking the waitress for Carrie’s address, there’s a threatening air to him, and you can tell this woman is afraid. It’s not difficult to see why Linda left Richard, though we don’t exactly understand their dynamic in this strange new world.
This idea about men and women also comes through with Carrie, Laura’s newest incarnation. It’s fairly certain that she’s endured a rough life in Odessa, and the man sitting dead in her living room is proof that she finally reached her breaking point. The fact that even in this existence, Laura has had to live through mistreatment at the hands of men speaks to one of the main concerns at the heart of Twin Peaks, which has always circled back to the horror that was Laura Palmer’s life. But in her presence, Cooper is more the man we remember, not quite as compassionate but still doing his best to protect her.
Now, just when and where exactly are Cooper and Laura? “What year is this?” has come to be this new season’s equivalent of “How’s Annie?,” but like the latter we may never get an answer to the question. Are they in a different timeline? A parallel universe? An illusion created by Judy? Are they actually Richard and Carrie, and Dale and Laura were just the dreams? And who is the dreamer, anyway? Cooper? Laura? The Fireman? Waldo the myna bird?
This being David Lynch, I’d say All of the Above.
For sure, there does seem to be the element in play that Laura was taken by Judy, so it would work that she’s now imprisoned in a dreamworld created by her abductor. Given Lynch’s interest in TM and in Eastern mysticism, the notion of the dreamer having to awake from the illusion is consistent throughout his work. Lynch is repeatedly drawn to the nexus between reality and dreams, and his work blurs the line between the concrete and the abstract. In some cases, such as Eraserhead or Inland Empire, the entire movie exists in the abstract and there’s little point in attempting to discern what is “real.” In other films of his, such as Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive, the method is employed more literally, where one section of the movie turns out to be a dream or fantasy in the mind of the main character.
Yet even in those cases I would argue that’s not Lynch’s final point. He steadfastly refuses to come out and exclusively endorse those interpretations, because by summing it up so succinctly, it reduces the magic. According to him, not forcing it into words allows you to “feel a bigger thing.” Some of his movies may utilize a psychological framework, but the endpoint isn’t ultimately “this part was real, this part wasn’t.” He has no interest in laying it out for you like Fight Club. In the end, what’s literally real or not is less important than the fact that the entire story is reflecting the spiritual state of the main characters, and the characters themselves are often unsure of what is real. The hope in all of his films is that these lost souls can reach that moment of transcending the illusion, of connecting with Ultimate Reality. Most assuredly, that’s part of the hope for Cooper and Laura in this surreal epilogue.
But it’s the ending of episode 18 that is going to be the most hotly contested element until Twin Peaks: The Return: The Return premieres 25 years from now. There are many ways to interpret the conclusion. Some feel the ending is saying that darkness always wins and Laura is doomed no matter what Cooper does, a slap in the face to the fantasy that the Boy Scout can save the girl, or that things ever turn out okay in the end. Others have opted for the opposite approach, floating the idea that Cooper and the Fireman/Giant had this planned in advance, and it was the Fireman who stole Laura away to keep her safe. By this reading, Cooper is merely fulfilling his duty to wake Laura up, and her scream at the end is, if anything, defeating Judy. Still others feel that this sequence is Laura’s dream now that she’s in a timeline where she doesn’t die, and Sarah shouting for her is Laura about to wake up back in her bed, a 17 year old all over again.
These are all really interesting and cool ideas, and given that Lynch is an abstract artist who operates on multiple interpretations at once, they’re not even mutually exclusive. But none of them quite expresses where I arrived in my own feelings after watching the episode. (Hence the 119,253,430.315 “well, my interpretation is . . .” posts that have hit the internet in the wake of the finale).
My own personal take about the ending is that there is no ending, and therefore it is neither entirely happy nor entirely downbeat.
Endings are slippery things on Twin Peaks. Lynch was famously hesitant to reveal Laura’s killer on the original show, feeling that doing so would hobble the mystery central to the lifeblood of the story. In Chris Rodley’s Lynch on Lynch, when asked at what point Leland would have originally been unmasked had ABC not forced the issue, Lynch responded “Way, way later. And who knows how it would’ve unfolded then?” Lynch considered it like The Fugitive: you do the payoff at the end, not before, otherwise you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
But the question of who killed Laura Palmer is an answerable mystery, whereas Twin Peaks is ultimately an existential mystery that has no answer. Revealing Laura’s killer just opens new and endless rabbit holes. The newer series sidesteps the original issue by posing an infinite series of labyrinthine mysteries with no definitive terminus. Any question could or could not be answered, because at the end, this is an unsolvable equation.
The story of Twin Peaks — which is the struggle between light and darkness, both in the human heart and in the town of Twin Peaks, whose citizens are caught between two poles representing opposing cosmic forces — goes on forever, in various forms. Who knows how many times Agent Cooper has tried to rewrite time to save Laura? Who knows how many universes he’s crossed to do so? Who knows how many other tragedies like Laura exist in Twin Peaks?
The darkness can’t be entirely vanquished. It will always exist. Maybe even needs to exist. But so does the light. Lynch’s work is sometimes assumed to be wholly ironic or cynical, and his occasionally goofy portrayals of goodness or wholesomeness thought to be parodic. While they may contain an element of irony, I think Lynch actually does believe in the beauty of the small town with the picket fence. His work is not nearly as flip or casually nihilistic as some might claim. He’s certainly had some endings — especially Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway — where transcendence or redemption is not reached and the darkness seems to win out, but even then he’s not quite endorsing hopelessness.
Twin Peaks is most certainly not ending on a promise that it will get better for either Cooper or Laura. But I’m hesitant to say that this means darkness triumphs, Laura is damned, and Cooper is a failure. The fact that Coop achieved what he did in episode 17 shows that he’ll never stop, never give up. And Laura herself is a light that refuses to be extinguished, no matter how many times Judy attempts to intervene, which seems to be why the Fireman sent Laura in the first place. “I am dead. Yet I live,” Laura says in hour two of the revival, removing her face to reveal the indestructible light within, just as Sarah later removes her own to unveil the abyss of horror she now contains. If Sarah is not directly Judy, then like Laura she is probably an incarnation or seedling of a specific force, but in this case dark instead of light. This dance between light and dark has no end, and neither does Twin Peaks.
To that point, this new season opened with the Giant’s clues to Cooper, clues that we now know relate to Coop’s eventual crossing into another reality: 430, Richard and Linda, two birds with one stone. That is the very first scene setting the new Twin Peaks in motion. In other words, this was meant to happen. Cooper becoming Richard and traveling into some illusory universe to find Laura was always part of wherever this story is going, a fact of which the Fireman was well aware. We may leave Laura and Dale in a dark place, but it’s not the end of their journey. This is the beginning of something new. That doesn’t mean that goodness “wins” at the end, or that everything is going according to plan. But it doesn’t mean darkness wins, either. Laura does wake up from the dream of Carrie Page, after all.
Repeatedly this season, we’ve been made to think about the idea of home. Not surprising, considering Lynch’s proclivity for making allusions to The Wizard of Oz. “I’ve never really left home,” Evil Cooper ominously tells Gordon at one point. Meanwhile, Dougie coming home in episode 18 — not the original Dougie (who himself was not original), but another direct copy of Cooper — is the one moment of actual closure in the finale, where he, Janey-E, and Sonny Jim are all united and determined to stay that way. “Home,” he says.
Twin Peaks was once where Cooper felt most at home, and all season we’ve expected to see him return, to finally be where he belongs. And Cooper’s ultimate goal is to take Laura home, to where her mother will protect her. Home is a place of safety, of salvation.
However, it’s also a place of horror. It’s not for nothing that one of the Giant’s first lines this season was “It is in our house now.” After all, it was home where Laura Palmer always felt most threatened because of her father. And now Judy, the ultimate force of darkness, has taken up residence in the Palmer house. The darkness is actually waiting for Laura at home, should Cooper bring her there. And he does, and the show’s denouement seems to speak to this realization that home is not safe.
This notion also impacts how we’ve perceived the season as a whole. Returning to Twin Peaks has been our desire to reconnect with a certain moment that is long past. Many of us fans have made Twin Peaks a place of safety and salvation. I know it’s been so for me. And no doubt, so many highlights this season have given us that feeling: just seeing places like the RR or Great Northern again, or revisiting so many characters from the old days, or hearing Angelo Badalamenti’s classic music cues, or watching Cooper come out of his coma and be the person we last saw in 1992. The feeling of the former Twin Peaks is recaptured at these times.
But it’s not the same. This is, almost defiantly, not the Twin Peaks of old. This is something else. Mark Frost and David Lynch have aged. The cast members and their respective characters have aged. Some — Frank Silva, Jack Nance, Don Davis, Catherine Coulson, David Bowie, Warren Frost, Miguel Ferrer, too many others to count — have since passed away. Maybe time can be rewritten, but it will always inevitably move forward, and it steals as it does so. For every unashamed dip into nostalgia like James singing “Just You and I,” there’s Audrey lost in a delusion doing “Audrey’s Dance.” For every moment Gordon Cole is still virile, we’re seeing the family life that was completely robbed from Dale Cooper during his imprisonment within the Black Lodge. The Log Lady dies, Harry Truman is dying, Sarah is a paranoid alcoholic, the Man from Another Place is now the terrifying thirteenth sycamore.
Somehow, the new Twin Peaks managed to take us home while also reminding us that we can never go home again. Cooper revisits the past, but the plan doesn’t turn out as perfectly as he thought. The course of events is not so easily altered without consequences. His real homecoming is the final scene, as he drives through those wet, quiet streets with Carrie/Laura beside him. That’s when he finally returns to Twin Peaks. And it’s not the place he remembered. The place of safety to which he attempts to deliver Laura is a place not just unrecognizable, but also dangerous.
That doesn’t mean that Twin Peaks itself has become tainted for us, the viewers. Nor does it necessarily mean, as some critics have floated, that Lynch and Frost used this revival as a way to slam the entire of concept of revivals. It simply points out the contradiction inherent in life that things both somehow stay the same yet also change. Nothing is immune to the passage of time.
Time is central to the concept of Twin Peaks. Mike’s poem begins “Through the darkness of future past,” and the intertwining relationship between past and future has become a tenet of the series. On multiple occasions Cooper is posed “is it future or is it past?” while in the Black Lodge, a place that is itself beyond linear time. Phillip Jeffries is first introduced to us as a man who can inadvertently teleport and time travel, and who by the newer episodes has evolved into a being that has some measure of power over the spacetime continuum.
When Cooper asks “what year is this?” it’s as if the awareness of time has suddenly hit him: of the time that he’s lost, of the fact that he’s in some ways a relic of a bygone era, of the cyclical nature of these proceedings and how he’s permanently consigned to attempting to save Laura Palmer. And it’s the latter, that sense of time forever bending in on itself, which ultimately gives Twin Peaks its gravity.
One of the persistent themes throughout the story is “it is happening again,” the repetition of this struggle between good and evil, and the way abuse is perpetuated and passed down from generation to generation, hence the recurring motif of the broken record. In the new Twin Peaks, we’ve seen that everywhere, from the new generation repeating the same mistakes as their parents, to sounds and images playing on a neverending loop in Sarah’s house, to Jeffries showing Cooper an infinity symbol as a way to reflect time, to Cooper trying but not completely succeeding in reversing Laura’s fate. It’s the eternal recurrence.
But mixed in there somewhere is the hope that it can get a little better in each turning of the wheel, that the cycle of abuse can be broken, that the course of things can be nudged a bit more towards the light, even if darkness will always resist. Maybe none of that will happen, but there’s always the chance that it could. This is the town where the prom queen was raped and murdered by her own father and where the seeds of corruption are always festering in spiritual wounds, but it’s also the place where Big Ed and Norma are finally able to be together, where Ben Horne consciously works to reverse the damage he caused to the world, where Nadine finds some measure of sanity, and where someone like Bobby Briggs can grow into an amazing human being. The light and the dark are as real as each other.
Cooper — now well aware of the brevity of time, and of life — still sincerely hopes he’ll see everyone again, old friends and new, when all is said and done.
Maybe he will.
In Twin Peaks, it is always happening again.
More Thoughts That Happened:
- There are many characters I missed this year and would have loved to see, but far and away the biggest absence is Harry. I understand that Michael Ontkean felt like he wasn’t up for it, and it goes without saying that Robert Forster proved indispensable to this new version. But all the same, I’m sad we’ll never see Harry S. Truman again.
- Al Strobel has been fantastic this season, and the One-Armed Man if anything became an even bigger fan favorite. Michael J. Anderson’s falling out with Lynch/Frost at least has an upside.
- I said Cooper “returns” to the Black Lodge, but since the Lodge exists outside of time, in some sense he’s actually back in episode two of this season, except now he knows his way around better and even has some measure of control over the Lodge itself (the very goal that Windom Earle sought to attain, though I’m not sure if Windom came to Twin Peaks in The Return’s continuity). There really is something phenomenal about watching Cooper emerge from those red curtains in Glastonbury Grove, closing the chain of events that began when he first walked through them 25 years before.
- My only actual gripe with this entire season is that Matt Battaglia, who plays one of the cowboys, is not reprising his role from the original series as the state trooper who couldn’t spell Jaguar.
- The ominous, garmonbozia-sucking telephone pole from the Fat Trout Trailer Park is now outside Carrie’s house. Bad sign.
- Earlier this season, Hawk said there’s still one page of Laura’s diary missing. Probably not a coincidence that she becomes Carrie Page.
- Lynch always joked with Sheryl Lee that he’d create a third character for her. Nice to see that finally come to fruition.
- Alice Tremond is played by the actual owner of the house that doubles as the Palmer home.
- The Tremond/Chalfont connection is a lovely nod to the late Frances Bay, who played Mrs. Tremond/Chalfont in the series and Fire Walk With Me, and also another indication that we should perhaps be suspicious of this reality.
- Twin Peaks having two, almost contradictory endings reminds me of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel Glamorama, which itself dealt with doubles and the slipperiness of reality.
- It’s hard to accept that Laura just can’t eternally relive that moment where she saw her angel. She at least deserves that. But I’m glad her angel was referenced this season, when Andy was shown that Twin Peaks Mythology for Dummies slideshow by the Fireman.
- The end credits image is an incredibly slowed down version of Laura whispering her secret in Cooper’s ear, a moment that occurs in both parts 2 and 18 of the new series, and is itself a recreation of the end of Cooper’s dream from the original Twin Peaks. Whatever she whispers to Cooper seems to strike him to the core, and has now become a new ongoing mystery. This is in stark contrast to the original show, where in the whispering scene Laura seemed flirty and Cooper looked tantalized. This much darker rendition fits with how the series is recasting its legacy in a different light.