*WARNING: SPOILERS FOR TWIN PEAKS SEASON 3, EPISODE 17 AND 18*
What have we done?
When Twin Peaks first returned to our screens, we yearned for fairytale endings. For Dale Cooper and Audrey Horne, or for Laura Palmer to finally be given her rest. But at what cost? It’s the question which seemed to centre the show’s finale: a dizzying, heartbreaking end which both roared and whispered in its last breaths.
Whatever disparate strands, unfinished tales David Lynch and Mark Frost may have left behind – the youth of Twin Peaks seem now as forgotten by the show itself as by the world around them, as their pain now quietly muffles into silence – the finale opened on a furious pace of conclusion. The forces that be travelled swiftly to the centre of it all, Twin Peaks.
Gordon Cole received a phone call from Cooper, already on his way. Bad Dale enters the vortex at Jack Rabbit’s Palace into the other dimension; we then see the lair of The Giant, who seems to have some control over Bad Dale, transporting him straight to the front of the Twin Peaks Sheriff Department.
With all the chess pieces at play, every moment counts. The results are nail-bitingly tense. Cooper phones Sheriff Truman just as Bad Dale enters his office; Bad Dale lifts his gun on the realisation his charade has been unmasked, but is shot down by Lucy, in a moment of clarity which breaks her from her nostalgic haze: “Andy, I understand cellular phones now.” It’s an awakening, of sorts. Meanwhile, Chad Broxford escapes from his cell as Naido’s yelps get louder, sensing Bad Dale’s encroaching presence. He lunges to attack Andy, but Freddie knocks him out just in time, thanks to the powers of the green glove.
Indeed, Freddie and his glove prove a saviour to Twin Peaks. He swoops in like Superman; as the spirit of BOB raises out of Bad Dale’s body, Freddie’s glove is able to defeat him and cause him to shatter into a thousand pieces. There’s an audaciousness there, in how the supposed great villain of this show is defeated by a kid we’ve only met a few episodes before, but it’s the first step in learning the great, miserable truth of this finale. Things are never as we picture them.
“There are some things that will change. The past dictates the future,” Cooper says. As all these characters gather in this supposedly victorious moment – from Cooper to Bobby Briggs, Gordon Cole to Lucy, even Diane miraculously emerges from Naido to give Cooper a giant smooch – it seems like, at any moment, we’ll ease into a final freeze frame. Credits, and the neat little ending to everything.
But, of course, this is Twin Peaks we’re talking about. The hands of the clock keep twitching. Time isn’t moving forward. As this resolution plays out, we watch it over the superimposed head of Dale Cooper. This isn’t reality. We’re living inside Dale Cooper’s head. “See you at the curtain call,” he utters to the rest of his comrades.
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We fade into the superimposed image, of Cooper back in the other dimension. He and MIKE travel to see Philip Jeffries, who sends Cooper back to 23 February, 1989, the date of Laura’s death. He’s here to save Laura from her own fate. He grabs her by the hand, but she soon disappears into thin air, as we’re left with the echo of those piercing screams we’re so used to by now.
We replay the events that opened Twin Peaks‘ very first episode, but Pete Martell never finds her body. It’s disappeared. Did she live? Sarah Palmer stabs wildly at a photograph of her daughter: whether that scene takes place in the past, present, or future, it’s clear Cooper’s actions have not resulted in Laura’s salvation.
The Jones family may receive their fairytale ending, as MIKE ensures a new Dougie is created in the Red Room, so he can return to his wife and son in Las Vegas. But, elsewhere, we’re falling fast into despair; Cooper and Diane, the real Cooper and Diane, find each other after the former emerges from the Red Room. This is after MIKE repeats his question, “Is it future or is it past?”, in a scene which seems to retread the season premiere. The pair drive 430 miles, before Cooper stops the car and warns: “Once we cross, it could all be different.”
They drive forward and are plunged into darkness, arriving at a motel where Diane sees her own tulpa. Everything feels wrong at this moment. Diane, perhaps, doesn’t feel like Diane. Cooper doesn’t really feel like Cooper either. As the two have sex, she seems to claw at his face desperately, as if she could feel out his true identity; she becomes increasingly frantic, and her tears seem to speak so much.
Cooper awakes the next morning to find Diane gone. Left behind is a note from Linda to Richard, telling him that she’s doesn’t recognise him any more. The Giant had warned us all about this: about 430, about Linda and Richard. Cooper (or is it Richard?) leaves a different motel and steps into a different car, stopping when he notices as a sign for a cafe called Judy’s.
Earlier on, Cole had revealed that Briggs’ work had discovered the existence of Judy, actually an entity of “extreme negative force”. There had been a plan to get to Judy, but then both Briggs and Cooper disappeared. Jeffries was also onto the entity, before disappearing himself. In short, we’d all been tricked; the idea that BOB was any kind of ultimate evil pales in comparison to who was working behind the scenes, to who’s been pulling the strings this whole time.
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Whatever exactly Judy may be or represent, this slow revelation is heartbreaking. Everything our heroes have been through, everything they’ve sacrificed, is pointless in a way: all time, fate, and reality seems so out of their hands now. Cooper tried to change time, but it seems to have changed him. The Cooper we see entering Judy’s is sour, his eyes don’t light up at the taste of coffee. After swiftly taking down a trio of cowboys harassing the waitress, he demands the address of the other waitress working there.
It’s what leads him back to Laura Palmer. Except she isn’t Laura Palmer, but Carrie Page. Cooper takes her to Twin Peaks, to the Palmer house, hoping some memory might reignite. Not only does Carrie remember nothing of this place, the place no longer seems to exist in the way we remember. The Palmer house is actually inhabited by a woman called Alice Tremond, with the property previously owned by Mrs. Chalfont.
Those names will be familiar to Twin Peaks fans: Mrs. Tremond and her grandson were visited by Donna Hayward on her Meals on Wheels delivery, but seem to be unmasked as spirits when they were seen in the room above the convenience store when BOB and several others met. They also lived in the trailer park under the name Chalfont, but disappeared after the death of Teresa Banks. Those details perhaps matter little, but what’s clear is that Cooper’s actions have rendered an alternative universe that feels entirely without victory.
“What year is this?” Cooper asks. Then Carrie starts to scream. That same, awful scream. This is no fairytale ending. We looked for, fought so hard for answers. For neat resolutions. It’s the way we consume TV, how we desire out stories to play out. Our lives, too. But when we chase those things that are, in reality, impossible, we lose ourselves in our own dreams. We cannot change fate. Let’s return to Cooper’s own words: “there are some things that will change. The past dictates the future.” That is true, but we are fools to think we can dictate our own future. Neither can we change the past.
And in this perfect ending to Twin Peaks, we learn these things with a devastating sense of hopelessness. For all the inevitable talk of season 4, it seems unlikely. David Lynch wanted us to feel like this. To feel utterly lost. It’s one of the most powerful emotions there is.