There will be a million theories buzzing around in the world by now about what, exactly, happened… or what is meant… by the finale of Twin Peaks: The Return. There will be spoilers, and as Sherilyn Fenn said in a recent interview:
“Understanding with David is overrated, don’t try to understand it. There’s no one way to understand it – however you interpret it, he would tell you that’s correct, and mean it. It’s not about his ego getting one thing across. He’s about all of us being connected on a larger level.” Source.
I really loved the two-part finale of Twin Peaks. Few other shows have consumed my mind while it’s been on. It’s frustrated me, frightened me, amazed me, made me laugh, and insinuated itself on my person. So I’m writing this from the perspective of someone for whom the finale very much worked.
This, comparatively, is the more “straightforward” part of the finale, if you can truly call it that. But it really did wrap up the narrative we’ve been following most of the season. Mr. C. meets his end (thanks to Lucy!) and Bob is finally destroyed thanks to a super-powered Brit. Diane, yes, is revealed to be Naido, and there is a brief reunion of most of the classic characters, except poor Audrey. Then it all gets much weirder. I straight-up cried when Cooper went back to save Laura. It seemed so impossible and lovely. The world of Twin Peaks actually changed. Laura was no longer dead. But she was also… not home. This is all just to establish what is easier to establish, before we move onto the tricky bit…
My theory here, is this: Twin Peaks, the show… the universe we’ve experienced over the last 25+ years, is a dream. Or something like a dream. You might call it a different dimension. Or some sort of hyper-reality that exists separate from our own. But I don’t think it’s an alternate universe, exactly, or an alternate timeline that Cooper disrupted by saving Laura. This isn’t a time travel story, exactly. It might be better to say that Twin Peaks is a place absent of time. So, although it could be many of these things I propose or any one of them, I’m going to refer to it simply as “the dream.” Because, whatever it is specifically, I think the universe of Twin Peaks is a place that we, in reality, interact with. In a very real way, of course, as viewers. But also “in universe.” It’s a place where there are heroes and villains. Soap-operatic plots. Superheroes, even. Cooper, ably assisted by The Fireman/The Giant saved the day. But then he wanted to do something more. He wanted to save Laura. And, quite sadly, I think that’s where he ultimately lost. He lost himself, and he lost Diane. Although he did, as Leland urged him “find Laura.”
I believe the event we saw in Episode 8, when man first exploded the atom bomb, did unleash “Judy” into the world. I’m convinced the entity credited as The Experiment or The Experimental Model is either Judy itself or a manifestation of it, at least. And from Judy, the infection of Bob and his ilk (the mothfrog creature is one) spreads. But WHERE does it spread? I’d propose that it spreads into the dream. It spreads into the universe of Twin Peaks. Which, I believe, is not just a place we go when we sleep. But a place where our imagination and creativity lives as well. And it’s a timeless place that is ultimately corrupted by Bob. Laura, the savior the Fireman sent to protect it, is ultimately destroyed. And that effects the dream. It becomes sick. It’s bleeding from the mouth, and tainted. By the time we rejoin it, it’s a fractured place of stilted lives, and broken dreams. There are still people clinging to the fading image of Twin Peaks, but it’s a very different place. What, exactly, Cooper’s actions in saving Twin Peaks actually DOES to that dream, we may never know. Laura still disappeared no matter what. But I like to think he left it a happier place, he hopes he can get back to.
Leaving The Dream
But then Diane and Cooper leave the dream, and ultimately, themselves when they cross the threshold. They pull into that Motel, a road-side callback to the Americana that Twin Peaks represented. I think this was the lest vestiges of the dream fading away. Because as Cooper wakes up alone, he is now in the most bog-standard hotel possible, lost in a clutter of suburban sprawl. Diane is gone, realizing that he is no longer really Cooper, just as she is no longer Diane. Richard and Linda, perhaps? Kyle Mclachlan’s performance here in particular is stunning. Just as Dougie was not Cooper and Mr. C was not Cooper, this “Richard” is not Cooper either. Cooper does not wave a gun at a scared waitress. But he does ask her politely to write down the address of the waitress who isn’t working. In this way, this “realistic” Cooper is a halfway point between the good and bad Cooper. He is a no longer heightened version of Twin Peak’s hero. He’s still on his mission to bring Laura Palmer home. There’s that core of decency, but the shine in his eyes is gone. That’s because he’s now trapped in reality, with the rest of us.
Laura/Carrie is not totally connected from the dream, just as Cooper an Diane will never fully be. This, however, may become a torment. Laura recognizes her parents in some way. It pushes her into coming with Cooper, even if her life falling apart helps. When she shows up at what used to be the Palmer’s house, now owned (and previously owned) by people with curiously familiar last names, she still doesn’t recognize it. But she does at the end. The lines between worlds starts to blur. She hears her mother crying out for her. And she screams, trapped in reality with the rest of us but haunted by another world.
Odds & Ends
Of course, this is just where my mind went with it. I don’t think Lynch and Frost want us to come away with anything certain. And it’ll be fun to see other people’s ideas as well as the years pass. I don’t really think another season is planned. I think this was meant to be a self-contained thing. And what a privilege it’s been. But if they make another season? I’d watch.
Audrey – Perhaps the most upsetting dangling thread is Audrey. Where is she? Was she? My belief is that the Audrey we saw on the show was actually as much a part of the Twin Peaks dream as the rest of the characters. The brief flash of her life in reality is just that, a sign pointing us to the reality that nothing in Twin Peaks is actually real, and those quirky things (large and small) are all just a part of that unreality. It does beg the question though… would all the Twin Peaks characters have corollaries in the real world? Or is there only one dreamer in this dream, and it’s Audrey? Everyone else is unreal? Which is perhaps why Diane, Cooper and Laura will have a hard time in reality?
Becky – This whole storyline with Becky and her husband… did her husband kill her? Or is she alive and happy? Did he kill himself? None of these details are actually that important, I don’t think, but it is dangling.
Sarah Palmer – What was up with that scene of her smashing the picture? My guess is that, in the Twin Peaks world, Laura still went missing. Bob was still around. Evil was still afoot. Laura was saved, but ended up in reality. So much of the evil that was in Twin Peaks and that seemed to have eaten away at Sarah Palmer was still there. Which kind of leads to…
The Mothfrog thing – Did it infect Sarah Palmer? I thought this MIGHT be the case, but I now think it’s more likely that this was just showing Judy corrupting the innocent dream of Twin Peaks. The girl wasn’t any character we know. She was just representative of that lost innocence.