Written by Eden H Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.
A lot of debate seems to be going into whether or not Audrey Horne survived the fateful explosion at the bank. While some see it as a given that she must have died (and I agree, in real life, she’d be dead as a doornail), others find it difficult to believe that the character would have been written out of the show. Below are the main arguments for why Audrey probably did not die in the bank explosion.
1) She was a fan-favorite character
I’ll use perhaps my weakest evidence first: This argument states that, because Audrey was (and still is) a fan favorite character, it would have been a bad move to kill her off. This would upset fans and possibly cause the show to lose viewers, although, at the time, Twin Peaks was facing almost certain cancellation.
Back in the day, we probably would have found that Pete and Audrey both survived the explosion: The elderly bank clerk and Andrew Packard were more likely to have died, being relatively unimportant and not that popular (although the bank clerk character, I think, has potential). Now, with Jack Nance having sadly passed away, Audrey will most likely be the only survivor of the bank explosion of ’91.
2) It was done to cause sensation
As I said earlier, at this time, Twin Peaks was facing almost certain cancellation. They’d already been cancelled, in fact, but were brought back for a final three episodes; an opportunity which Lynch and Frost used to wrap up some story-lines, but more so to throw many characters’ fates up in the air in order to hopefully cause an uproar among fans, who would want to see what happened to their favorite characters. If the demand was high enough, maybe they would be brought back for the third season after all? Though the ploy, ultimately, didn’t work, it does imply that Lynch and Frost only had the intention of stirring up interest by making people believe that a fan favorite character might be dead, and the writers probably had no intention of going through with it.
3) Certain people have claimed she was slated to survive
Also in a Fangoria interview, Billy Zane mentioned that he would have likely returned for the third season as well. Apparently, Audrey was going to find out she was pregnant, which would have necessitated the return of John Justice Wheeler to Twin Peaks. This confirms that Audrey survived the bank explosion.
(Note: I have not yet found the actual Fangoria interview to verify this.)
AVC: It seems like there was set to be a lot more Audrey if things had gone differently. Reportedly, there was a discussion about Audrey getting spun off into her own series, and Billy Zane has said in the past that Audrey and his character [John Justice Wheeler] were supposed to get together on the show.
SF: Oh, my God. [Laughs.] Um… the Audrey spin-off that would’ve come about, it really ended up being the original idea for Mulholland Drive. That was either in between the first and second season or after the second season, but they were like, “What if we did a movie, and it’s Audrey in California?” And they talked about an opening scene of her driving along Mulholland Drive, and how she’s a little bit older. Whatever it was going to be, it never ended up happening for me. But I was young, and I thought it sounded weird, because no one ever really did that. I was, like, “Okay, but do people do that? Go from TV to a movie as the same character?” Then all those years later, David made the other one, and I didn’t have anything to do with it.
(Source: A. V. Club)
While anything short of confirmation from Lynch and Frost themselves still leaves room for debate, it has been said by Billy Zane (John Justice Wheeler) and Sherilyn Fenn that Audrey was supposed to survive the explosion. Also, at the time, Lynch had the idea in his head that, after the events of Twin Peaks, Audrey would go off to Hollywood to become an actress. Though this plot never came to fruition, it mutated, and became the film we now know as Mulholland Drive.
4) Twin Peaks uses soap opera logic.
One of the most common arguments I’ve come across is that Audrey, realistically, would not have survived the bank explosion. And I agree, but that is thinking realistically, which Twin Peaks has shown us many times that it does not do. If the Twin Peaks universe worked with realistic medical logic, many things would go out the window, including Nadine’s super-strength, Cooper getting up and running around a day after having been shot, Sarah Palmer would be seen coughing a lot more, and Leo wouldn’t have had time to regrow the muscle tissue to be able to just walk around like nothing had happened (even with physical therapy, it would have taken months for him to be able to hobble on a cane again). Furthermore, while we’re talking about Audrey and medical realism, she would also most likely have been physically dependent on heroin (or methadone) after having been drugged repeatedly at One-Eyed Jack’s. One does not simply recover from a nearly fatal drug overdose and, yet, the next day, other than looking maybe a little sleepy, Audrey is fine.
And finally, what may have happened if they’d done season 3 back then:
This is complete speculation, but here’s what I think they were planning on doing with Audrey: The bank explosion results in Audrey falling into a coma, trapped between life and death. Because she is on the verge of death, her spirit is drawn into the Black Lodge, where she interacts with Cooper, Annie, and maybe also Benjamin Horne. Meanwhile, the doctors discover that Audrey is pregnant, and send out a call for John Justice Wheeler to return.
Twin Peaks is known to be partly inspired by soap opera-style story-telling, and soap operas are notorious for having characters come back from absolute death all the time. With this in mind, I find Audrey’s death to be less than certain.