BEWARE THERE ARE SPOILERS FOR TWIN PEAKS FINALE & SEASON 3.


When TWIN PEAKS debuted back in 1990; it changed TV landscape forever. With its cinematic storytelling, surrealistic sequences, and quirky characters, David Lynch’s program re-shaped what the medium was capable of accomplishing. Look at any TV program of the modern era, from LOST to BREAKING BAD, and you will notice the influence left by TWIN PEAKS. This left the TWIN PEAKS reboot with a challenge: how does one stand out in a landscape that took direct inspiration from its success?

TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
Scene from TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Even with all the hype surrounding it, no one could have been prepared for TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. Promoted by Lynch as an eighteen-hour movie, the new series once again pushed the boundaries of what one could expect from a TV show. Shifting from horror to mystery, dark comedy to avant-garde, the third season deliberately subverted the expectations of its nostalgic fans. With FBI Agent Dale Cooper recovering his memories after sixteen episodes, one would expect the finale to cover loose ends.

Returning To Twin Peaks

Of course, nothing is ever that simple with Lynch and Mark Frost. For the majority of THE RETURN EPISODE 17, it felt like all the pieces were coming together. FBI director Gordon Cole revealed the existence of Jowday (Judy) a supernatural entity that he and Cooper had been hunting.

Cooper’s doppelganger Mr. C fell into a trap prepared by the Fireman, teleporting him to the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department. Both a revitalized Agent Cooper and the FBI arrived in Twin Peaks to witness Mr. C’s demise, shot by Lucy Brennan and his essence destroyed by Freddie Sykes’ green fist.

READ: What makes “weird” TV so captivating? Look no further than TWIN PEAKS and LEGION.

Instead of an emotional character reunion, however, Lynch subverts his audience’s expectations once again. Moments like BOB’s return to the Black Lodge and Diane’s revival suggested finality, yet twenty minutes remained on the episode. Instead of staying with his colleagues, Cooper says farewell to them and embarks on one final mission: save Laura Palmer.

This was a mission Cooper accepted during THE RETURN’s first episode, yet he has followed it relentlessly since the show’s pilot. Using the special key given to Sheriff Truman, Cooper enters a secret room within the Great Northern Hotel, transporting him back to the night Laura Palmer died.

TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
Dana Ashbrook, Miguel Ferrer, David Lynch, Chrysta Bell, Robert Knepper, Jim Belushi, Kimmy Robertson and Harry Goaz in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Who Saved Laura Palmer?

Laura has always been the centerpiece of TWIN PEAKS, her life and death invariably intertwined with the town’s supernatural occurrences. As the surrealistic EPISODE 8 revealed, Laura was created as a direct response to BOB’s “birth,” an angel to combat evil.

She became a victim of that very evil, suffering at the hands of her father’s abuse, albeit while possessed by BOB. In traveling to the past, Cooper hopes to end this tragedy before it ever began, risking his very timeline to save Laura’s life. Moreover, for a brief moment, he nearly succeeds, guiding Laura away from the point where she met her tragic demise.

Unfortunately for Cooper, that moment is ruined by Sarah Palmer’s actions in the present day. While hinted in EPISODE 14, this scene reinforces the theory that “Judy” possessed Mrs. Palmer, paralleling BOB’s possession of Leland Palmer.

In a fit of spontaneous rage, Sarah smashes Laura’s iconic photo, an image that has haunted the show since the pilot episode. Even though her corpse vanishes from Twin Peaks, Judy nevertheless prevents Cooper from fully triumphing, whisking Laura away from his grasp. All he can do is hear her screams from afar.

Two Birds, One Stone

TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
Scene from TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, Courtesy of SHOWTIME

If EPISODE 17 subverted our expectations of questions being answered, then EPISODE 18 only gave the audience more to ask. Questions have always been the driving force behind TWIN PEAK’s mysteries, from “Who killed Laura Palmer?” to “How’s Annie?”

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EPISODE 18 piles question after question upon its protagonist as his mission is given a complete do-over. It is not just the search for Laura Palmer that has gone back to square one: Cooper’s actions have altered all of reality. Just as he warned a revived Diane:

“Once we cross, it could all be different.”

The references are subtle, dating all the way back to the first scene of THE RETURN’s first episode. “Remember 430, Richard and Linda”– 430 miles on the dashboard, and a letter addressed from “Richard” to “Linda.” These are the bodies that Cooper and Diane inhabit after they “crossover” a mysterious electric field.

Others are more identifiable, such as Cooper and Diane’s car/motel looking completely different than they were the night before. From these clues we know something is different about this world — Cooper has “crossed-over” into another body, another life, with the whereabouts of everyone else in TWIN PEAK’s narrative unknown.

Who Is The Dreamer?

Similarly, the “Richard” body that Cooper inhabits acts completely different, yet eerily familiar, regarding personality. Richard feels like an amalgamation of Kyle McLachlan’s three performances: Agent Cooper, Mr. C and tulpa Douglas Jones. He maintained Cooper’s sense of duty but mixed with Dougie’s blank expressionism and BOB’s cold efficiency.

This is made evident by Richard/Cooper’s scene in Judy’s Diner, and his interactions with the locals inside. He appears distant, unafraid to shoot threatening customers and, in the most un-Cooper manner possible, refusing a cup of coffee. Moreover, despite gaining a new chance at life after spending twenty-five years in stasis, Cooper cannot move on until his mission is complete.

Hence the reunion between Richard/Cooper and Carrie Page, who bears a striking resemblance to Laura Palmer. Who she is remains a mystery: a doppelganger, tulpa or perhaps a version of Laura had she never been murdered. For all Cooper knows, this is the consequence of him meddling with a timeline set up by otherworldly forces.

The Fireman, the Arm, and the Experiment: all these entities saw Cooper and Laura as pawns on their chessboard. In this new world, however, all that planning has been overridden to some degree. However, despite his new life, Richard/Cooper retains his connection to his previous mission: bring Laura home.

TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
Kyle MacLachlan, Scene from TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, Courtesy of SHOWTIME

There’s No Place Like Home?

This “mission” ties into a central theme of TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN — a rejection of nostalgia. The original show had played with this theme before, hiding a seedy underbelly underneath a Northwest town resembling 1950’s Americana. In THE RETURN, Lynch deliberately subverts the expectations of a different nostalgia: one held by fans of the original show.

Most episodes this season focused on locations and characters, not in Twin Peaks, Washington, and those that did were hardly exciting. Whether it was Norma running the diner, Lucy and Andy’s relationship or Audrey’s loveless marriage, everything felt mundane or tragic. After twenty-five years of waiting to see what happened to these characters, the result was intentionally anti-climactic.

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This theme is teased once again in EPISODE 18’s final act, as Cooper persuades Carrie Page to travel with him back to Twin Peaks. While one would find Ms. Page willingness to follow a random stranger unusual, it makes sense from a viewer perspective. As an audience, perhaps we would assume that the real Laura lies within Carrie, subconsciously recognizing this life as a dream.

Dreams are a common theme in Lynch’s work and are constantly referenced throughout the series. From Gordon Cole’s “Monica Bellucci” dream to Audrey’s unknown fate, character interactions walk a line between dreams and reality. Even Agent Cooper “slept” for twenty-five years before inhabiting the personality of a man that greatly resembles a sleepwalker. He woke up again, only to enter another dream life after potentially saving a woman from her nightmare.

A Never-Ending Loop

TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
Scene from TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, Courtesy of SHOWTIME

In the drive back to Twin Peaks and the Palmer house, the audience expects to find some closure. We want the show to end with something resembling a happy ending, one that leaves us remotely satisfied; but, even that is not permitted. When Cooper and Carrie reach the Palmer house, it is not Sarah Palmer who opens the door.

Instead, it is a woman named Alice Tremond, who claims to have bought the house from a Mrs. Chalmont. These names will sound familiar to those who watched “Fire Walk with Me,” but to our main characters, they are total strangers. With no familiar face to give any resolution, it is the literal embodiment of “you cannot go home again.”

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Walking back down the stairs, Cooper asks one final question in the street: “What year is it?” With this one question, amongst others, TWIN PEAKS ensures that its story is just an endless series of mysteries. Even if we were to get an answer, another door of secrets would simply reveal itself, leaving Cooper’s quest futile. No matter how much he tries to fight for good, evil will always reveal itself with more questions to answer.

Fire Walk With Me

In its final moments, TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN caps things off with a mystery rooted in horror. For all its silly moments, TWIN PEAKS always had the disturbing secrets of a seemingly idealistic individual. The horrors Laura Palmer experienced were represented by BOB and other supernatural entities, leaving a permanent impact on her town. That horror was itself a form of inescapable nostalgia, forever plaguing Twin Peaks no matter how much it tried to hold the illusion or normality.

TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN
Scene from TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Thus, when Carrie hears a voice calling for Laura (taken from the original pilot), we question whether Cooper’s actions were the right ones. The scream she lets out signifies that “Carrie” has regained Laura’s memories, thus reliving everything that Laura experienced.

Hearing Sarah’s voice has woken Carrie out of her dream, and with it, brought Laura back into her nightmare. If that is the case, then perhaps, in his attempt to save Laura Palmer, Agent Cooper inadvertently made things worse. Not only will his cycle never end, but neither will Laura’s as well.

Conclusion….Barely

There is so much to dissect about TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN, but one thing that’s clear is its inherent uniqueness. There is nothing like it on TV, and what made it stand out was a rejection of conventional audience expectations. The show deliberately played with nostalgia and revoked it outright, all the way up until the finale.

Where other shows would have given some closure, David Lynch chose, this time willfully, to leave on an anti-climactic note. Moreover, even with all the frustrating unanswered questions left in THE RETURN’s wake, it was probably the right way to go out. After all, if the show had ended on a traditional note, it would not have been TWIN PEAKS.

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