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We are all the dreamers.
Much like how we returned to Twin Peaks weeks ago, we're leaving David Lynch and Mark Frost's undeniably strange world with a two-part feature; bookends, mirrored images, doppelgangers. Perhaps the only guaranteed expectation viewers had with The Return was that it would be pure Lynch, and after experiencing episode 18's final moments, I can boldly say: "Yes, that was 100% Lynch." Of course, it goes without saying that quantifying and qualifying Lynch's work at this stage is almost impossible, and to be honest, a tad hubristic. While hour 17 was as straightforward as Twin Peaks can ever be when it comes to plot, the final hour is something straight out of a dream, blending surrealism with images and ideas that were stored in the back of Lynch's mind. In turn, it's only acceptable to cut my final recap and review for the series into two parts.
Part One, Episode 17: "The past dictates the future."
Everything we've seen so far has been leading to a final showdown between the two manifestations of Agent Dale Cooper. One, the real Coop we've known and loved since the show premiered, and the other a visual doppelganger for the FBI agent inhabited by Bob. Not only are all of the characters realizing this, like when Cole, Albert, and Tammy finally learn Dougie Jones was the real Cooper, but the mysterious powers hidden behind the scenes know it too. As Mr. C heads to his final coordinates in the woods, the Fireman intervenes, sucking him into a prison-like vortex to drop him directly in front of the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department. Thankfully, this massive game of cosmic chess is starting to lean in the favor of the good, as passing dreams and lines delivered to certain characters begin to manifest into real plot points. While Andy and Lucy seem convinced that Mr. C is really Cooper, there is a slight speck of doubt for Andy, as his encounter with the Fireman and Naido gave him some mystical knowledge that's beginning to rear its head.
The star of the show in this sequence is the tension, as it grows increasingly clear that Sheriff Truman also believes this to be Cooper. It's only a matter of time and blood before everyone realizes they were dead wrong. The back and forth between Truman's call with the real Cooper and Mr. C staring intently is as engaging as anything Twin Peaks has seen so far. Who will strike first and who will get caught in the crossfire? Truly, Andy and Lucy never needed to be more than set dressing this season, but it's nice to see Lynch and Frost wanted to give at least a little something for the sweetest couple in Washington to do. Hell, Lucy manages to get a gunshot out on Mr. C just before Sheriff Truman is about to take a bullet. It's a small moment but needed for a show with 200 characters.
While Lucy is unloading lead, Andy is dealing with the problems down in the cellblock. This is where we get more about Freddie. A latecomer to the show, Freddie and his rubber glove seem to have a mystical purpose in this mess, and by the time he, James, Andy, and Naido head upstairs to confront Mr. C's dead body, his purpose is ready to be fulfilled. The real Cooper arrives and before he can get his proper greetings into everyone the spirit of Bob emerges to attack the room. This is it, Freddie's time to shine. Using his glove, he punches Bob straight into the depths of hell, and when that's not enough, he makes one final blow that shatters the evil being into tiny pieces. We'll probably never know if this is really the end of Bob, but for now, Laura has finally received some justice. It was an odd choice to give such an important moment to a character we've had three scenes with at the most, but if you haven't realized by now that Lynch does what he wants when he wants then this is probably more frustrating than anything.
Granted, the real battle is still underway as we learn that Cole and Cooper both knew of the ultimate force known as "JowDay," or referred to as "Judy" by Phillip Jeffries. That mysterious creature that attacked the kids watching the box in the premiere for the season has a lot more to do with Bob than we ever anticipated and it seems the Blue Rose case and everything else attached to what we've seen in the Twin Peaks universe can be attributed to this being.
The prevailing theme of hour 17 is joy found in unending resolution. Nothing makes this more apparent than when we meet the real Diane. Blind Naido, who has been locked in the police department's cells, makes her way to Cooper to materialize into Laura Dern. Swapping the silver wig for a red one, Diane has genuine joy and peace in her face when she sees Cooper. After sharing a kiss, Cooper turns his attention to the room filled with new and old faces to explain that time is not a finite thing. Brilliantly, Cooper's stagnant face is placed over the entire scene, making it clear how many time loops could be occurring at once even during this happy moment. It's a beautiful thing to see how Twin Peaks won't end with a neatly tied bow on top. The series' ambiguity will offer up unsettling tones and questions of the mysteries of life. Yes, this will probably infuriate many people, but this is the show you've chosen to commentate on, so match the intention, please. Just like Lynch told fans before The Return aired, Fire Walk With Me would play a huge part in this season and that becomes extremely apparent in some truly amazing final scenes. After entering the Great Northern's basement using his old hotel key, Cooper meets with Mike and Phillip Jeffries for one last discussion on time and space. Where does it all begin and does it ever end?
We cut to the scene from Fire Walk With Me where Laura pushes James away in the woods to meet with her final doom. However, this time Cooper is there to help her and guide her away from her death. The figure she screams at was Cooper, and here we're finally seeing the other side of the scene. We are then treated to the opening scene of the pilot episode of the series, where Josie is humming to herself and Jack heads out to go fishing. Arguably the most famous scene from the series and one of the most iconic in television history has seemingly been changed. Jack does not find Laura's body "wrapped in plastic." Instead, he enjoys his day of fishing and we're apparently led to believe everything is different now. Instead of Sarah Palmer crying her eyes out over Laura's dead body, we see her smashing a framed picture of the girl, which could mean anything at this point, but I like to believe we're seeing Sarah's reaction to finding out Leland slept with his own daughter. Her husband is the one to blame, but who knows, Sarah could have blamed it all on Laura. That's the fun of Twin Peaks, we'll probably never know what that was supposed to mean.
Part Two, Episode 18: "What is your name?"
Changing gears, the final hour of The Return is reminiscent of hour 8 as we see the forces we would come to know as Bob and Laura emerging from a nuclear bomb explosion. Our only direct narrative ties to this season happen at the beginning of the episode, where Janey-E and Sonny Jim are reunited with a new Dougie. Hopefully, this one doesn't get a gambling and prostitute addiction like the last model. As well, we see Mr. C is locked in the Black Lodge on fire, bringing at least this incarnation of Judy's evil to justice. From here on out, it seems we get a rest on the entire season, or at least a new vantage point through a different timeline. Going back to the opening scenes of the season, Cooper is in the Black Lodge with an aged Laura, who whispers into his ear. Then, Cooper talks with Mike stating, "is it future or is it past?" Cooper talks once more with the Arm, who makes another connection to previous events in the season with the reference to "the little girl who lived down the lane." This is the same statement Charlie made to Audrey that sent her into hysterics. While we don't get a complete resolution for Audrey's story it seems the Arm knows to ask Cooper if we're talking about Audrey's story or Laura's.
Whatever timeline we're in, Cooper does meet up with Diane in the woods, and even though both state they are the real versions of themselves, they seem off. Cooper has the blank expression of Mr. C mixed with the short responses of Dougie. Diane seems equally happy and upset to see Cooper. What is going on? As the pair drive to "find Laura," Diane tries one last time to get Cooper to turn around, as if the two know exactly what kind of irrevocable events are about to occur. Arriving at a motel in Odessa, Diane sees another version of herself close by. Though she doesn't address it with Cooper, the two have one of the most uncomfortable sex sessions ever. Cooper looks just as menacing as Mr. C did, while Diane seems so uncomfortable that she can't look him in the eye. Instead, she places her hands over his face, hoping to block out whatever demons are flying into her mind during the act. The next morning, Cooper wakes up alone, and we never see Diane again. Cooper finds a note from Linda to Richard, which gives immediate callbacks to all of those odd Roadhouse conversations, but no additional answers are given in that moment. This really is an alternate world, and maybe here, Linda is Diane and Richard is Cooper. The most important thing to pull from this is that there is probably some clarity that will come from a complete rewatch of the season.
Cooper then goes it alone to find Laura. He makes his way to Judy's Diner, which is a sly nod to the Judy that has caused so much evil. Perhaps Laura is forever a puzzle piece for Judy regardless of which incarnation she's embodied from timeline to timeline. This makes more sense when Cooper finally tracks down Laura who, in this world, is known as Carrie Page. We don't know much about her, but she seems to be in just as much trouble as her time as Laura, with a dead body sitting in her home. Cooper attempts to tell her she's really Laura Palmer. Carrie, at first hesitant, agrees to travel with him to Twin Peaks in order to escape whatever drama she's living under in Odessa. Like a dream, we watch Cooper and Carrie head to Twin Peaks. Their journey lasts only 10 minutes in the shows running time but it's presented to us in a way that to feels like days. This is exactly what Lynch can capture so well when trying to convey these themes. It can be extremely upsetting to have to watch someone sweep for five minutes but sometimes these instances pay off. Once Carrie and Cooper arrive at the Palmer household, it seems we'll finally get some answers to what the hell is going on in this episode.
Of course, it's Lynch, so why I had that thought would happen, I have no clue.
A woman answers the door, but we quickly see it's not Sarah or anyone we've seen before. She says her name is Alice Tremond and she bought the house from Mrs. Chalfont. These are both names fans should recognize from the series and FIre Walk With Me. This seems to be nothing more than a reference to the separate timelines and spaces our characters can manifest into, but it does add more of that dreamy tone these final moments are giving off. Cooper stares back at the home with determination until he finally inquires, "What year is this?" Carrie, or Laura, hears the sounds of what could possibly be Sarah beginning to scream and cry, and she lets out one of her famous screams. One last shot of Laura whispering into Cooper's ear leaves us with that chilling scream.
I do not have the answers to what all of this means. I have ideas and feelings, but I don't believe anyone outside of David Lynch can provide enough concrete detail to make general audiences feel satisfied. What I can say is that I haven't been able to stop thinking about this final hour since seeing it. The dream-like approach has encroached on my own subconscious giving me flashes of the young Laura Palmer mixed with Carrie screaming outside of her home. As a fan who's loved the show since the beginning, I am satisfied with this season and it's tendency toward the "Black Lodge style" storytelling I loved from the original series. It's extremely clear this wasn't what many fans wanted, as cherry pie always tastes sweeter than a blue rose, but this is what Lynch wanted to do with the series.
Laura is, once again, the central focus of the season, but she also represents the entire series as a whole and some form of commentary on Lynch's part about life itself. Good and evil exist. In this story, Laura is good, but she is flawed and in immediate danger wherever she resides. I believe Lynch did a brilliant job in taking a story that started with a simple mystery of "who killed Laura Palmer?" and used it as a stepping stone to a greater conversation of good and evil. Laura is not just a prop in this world, but a fully realized character that earns both our sympathy and empathy. While she may represent the entirety of goodness found in the universe, she also represents human kind in all of its twisted glory. We all make mistakes and are far from perfect. We strive to do good but we will fail or become a victim. It's what we do with that knowledge that sets us apart, and that's the space inhabitated by characters like Cooper, Audrey, and even Ben Horne. Life moves in and out of time. We make decisions that could easily have been changed with one action or choice, and yet, the choices dictate who we are. What if we were able to start life again and take a different path?
Lynch and Frost have managed to create an engaging television series built off of a soap opera-esque premise. It sneakily inserts tales of morality and the purpose of human existence. To put it simply: Twin Peaks is more than just a show. It's art.