Twin Peaks: The Return – Parts 17 & 18

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The thing you get from the Fire Walk With Me film is that, amongst the Cooperisms, the small town insidiousness, the parables of good and evil, the coffee and the cherry pie, this was always the story of Laura Palmer. And so it’s fitting that in the end the show found itself stripped of all the others things to finish with Dale Cooper standing confused in the streets as Laura Palmer screams terrified at the sound of her name.

Except it wasn’t Laura Palmer… was it? And the Dale Cooper we met in the last passage wasn’t entirely like the Dale Cooper we took sixteen episodes to be reintroduced to this series either. The cold way he spoke, the way he demanded the address… there were shades of EvilCoop in there too as if perhaps the Two Coopers we came to know were somehow like the two sides of this one Cooper – the good and bad, the yin and yang, the angel and devil on the shoulder.

You know that thing when a cartoon character finds themselves in the ‘real world’ within their own show? That’s what the end of Twin Peaks – The Return felt like. The colourful world of the show had been stripped back with Cooper’s waking in that new motel room. The note to Richard from Linda – remember Richard and Linda. The diner called ‘Judy’s’. The woman who looks like Laura but probably isn’t Laura – and this time it ain’t her cousin. (The dead guy on the couch I’ll leave otherwise unmentioned). The white horse on the mantle. The long drive to Twin Peaks and then that familiar old house, towering down. There were no old soul songs playing in the background, no tragic theme tunes or even that brilliantly crafted sound collaging that Lynch brought to this show. Nope, it was gratingly silent. Bracingly realistic. Almost as if Cooper himself had woken from a dream. Or fallen deeper within one.

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I didn’t get the feeling watching it that Cooper was really Richard though. Nor that Diane was Linda. Although the thing he says to her about how it’ll be different on the other side or whatever, that does seem to hint at it. Watching it I felt more like Cooper had just stepped into this Richard fellow’s life the way he stepped into Dougie’s – and Cooper was never Dougie, he only replaced him. Throughout these recaps I’ve made the connection to Mulholland Dr and how The Return has thematically echoed that one so much. For long parts of the final episode it suddenly became Lost Highway, right on down to that defining (if completely weird) sex scene.

Both of those films inhabit that same sense of dislocation from waking up from somebody else’s dream. Both of those films get a good way through and then suddenly and drastically reshuffle the deck. Both of those films should be required viewing now… somehow the bland reality we end up in is infinitely more terrifying than the weirdness that preceded it.

“Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane?” asks The Arm. The subsequent odyssey of Laura/Cherrie and Dale/Richard back to Twin Peaks would suggest that it is (what was the name of the town in Texas where Cherrie lived? Odessa). They made it all the way down the lane to where the little girl lived as well.

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There was no Audrey in this finale, not even in the flashbacks. She didn’t make it into the Sheriff Station like all those other key characters – Diane was Naido! – nor did she appear in the recalibrated history where Pete and Catherine exchanged not-quite morning pleasantries or where Josie ominously applies her makeup. We didn’t return to the white room. Ben located Brother Jerry but never once mentioned Daughter Audrey.

Thus for a moment in the double-finale I pondered whether Audrey’s scenes had been added after just to make sure there’s some Audrey in there. But then, no. Audrey’s always been a major character and while she only had brief screen time here I think she might still be crucial to any kind of understanding. The little girl who lived down the lane? Audrey used that exact phrase when talking to Charlie. Who is the dreamer?

And the woman in the house that once belonged to Sarah Palmer, she called herself Treemond. She bought the house from a person called Chalfont. Both were names that the old lady from the Room Above the Convenience Store went by – the lady with the creamed corn. Also the lady who gave Laura Palmer the painting to hang on her wall which she entered in her dream. See, once upon a time a woman and her grandson by the name of Chalfont hovered around where Teresa Banks was killed. Then they played magic tricks on Donna as she went about her Meals on Wheels route. Suddenly those names appear in what otherwise seems like a coincidental situation. It was enough to arouse suspicion even before that piercing scream.

The lights explode, the screen goes black. It returns for credits with a loop of Laura whispering into Cooper’s ear in the Red Room. Say, did you notice Diane’s red hair and black and white nails? Pretty reminiscent of the décor in the Red Room, actually. Also the tree and light outside the new motel when Coop leaves, the ones the shot lingers on as he drives away… combine the two and you’ve got The Arm.

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“Find Laura,” says Leland Palmer.

“What year is it?” asks Dale Cooper.

“What’s going on around here?” ponders Bobby Briggs.

Anyone who thought the show was gonna wrap itself up in a nice little bundle was kidding themselves, it was always gonna be something beguiling. Cooper appeared to try save Laura but she slipped from his grasp with a scream. For a while I genuinely considered a time-loop ending where Cooper saved Laura and everything carried on as ever for the better – the Jumanji ending - but that would be denying the horrors she’d already suffered. Instead she disappeared.

And we were left with hint and clues as the Twin Peaks universe jarred into its final calibration. Cooper’s confusion about the year throws another one in on the Jumanji ending theory but also a clue towards what MIKE said about “is it future… or is it past?” Well it sure looked like the present but I dunno.

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That’s all the tangible evidence, though. Just clues. Nothing definitive but hints and clues and allusions and references. Do you think there’s an actual answer to all of this? Do you think there’s a skeleton key that’ll unlock this riddle? Do you think they’ll be back for another season?

I think no on all three counts. What I’m reminded of most now is the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy thing where they built a big computer to solve the meaning of life. Millions of years later they have their answer… but they don’t know what the question was. In this case, as far as I believe, the overriding riddle is the one Monica Belucci told to Gordon Cole (a real-life character, a person from another reality): Who is the dreamer?

But like Douglas Adams gave no question to the answer, here there’s no answer to the question. Or, rather, the answer is the question. The question is the answer.

Who is the dreamer?

The usual stuff, smack an ad to support the website's continued existence. Might have to write a few more Twin Peaks things so yeah. Good on ya.