Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.
Warning: Contains spoilers for Twin Peaks Season 2.
Note: This is the second part of a two-part article. To read the first part, click here.
Without doubt, the most anticipated moment of the new season of Twin Peaks is the return of Agent Cooper. Speculations abound as to how this might go. Is Cooper still possessed by BOB? Has he killed anyone? Or was BOB cast out of him already? If the Good Dale is still in the Black Lodge, what has he been doing all this time? Is Laura still there with him? Is he still being pursued by the terrifying Doppelgangers? In this article, we will theorize how Agent Cooper might return to the series.
So we’ve journeyed through the Black Lodge, and analyzed the many symbols that confronted Agent Cooper during his pilgrimage to rescue Annie Blackburn. We have some idea of the meanings behind these symbols, but what does all this mean for the future of the Good Dale? What has happened to our hero?
As Hawk said in his description of the Black Lodge, any being passing through the Lodge will have their soul “utterly annihilated” if they do not demonstrate perfect courage. When Cooper is forced to confront all of his demons — his fears, his regrets, his desires — he keeps a cool facade, until the very end, when, shaken by his confrontation with Windom Earle, the man who tried to murder him, and whose wife he loved, Cooper sees the ultimate embodiment of all his weaknesses, and the evil that might dwell in his own heart: His Doppelganger. Instead of facing his Doppelganger, Cooper turns and runs from him.
It is because he ran that he was overtaken. But in what way was Cooper’s soul “utterly annihilated”? Wouldn’t that mean his soul would cease to exist? Not necessarily. Legends are often mistranslated and/or misinterpreted, and this seems to be such a case. In reality, it seems that the soul is simply removed, rather than actually destroyed, leaving the vessel empty and able to be possessed by evil spirits. Based on the dream shared by Cooper and Laura, we know that Cooper’s spirit still exists in the Lodge 25 years later, and thus we know his spirit was, thankfully, not annihilated, but still exists somehow.
So why say that the spirit would be “utterly annihilated,” giving the impression that it would no longer exist at all? One could say that Hawk was just misinformed, and that is a possibility, but all the rest of Hawk’s information seems accurate. So why would this be wrong? Perhaps it is a case of mistranslation: “Utterly annihilated” could just mean it will be overwhelmed, defeated, and captured by the dark spirits within the Black Lodge. However this leads us to another question: What exactly is BOB doing to the souls of those he possesses?
Knowing Twin Peaks‘s penchant for references to Tibetan Buddhism, I think this ties in with reincarnation. According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the afterlife must be strictly prepared for during one’s lifetime. If an individual fails to live by Right Thought, Right Action, Right Words, and goes into the afterlife unprepared, they will re-enter the cycle of reincarnation instead of ascending to a higher spiritual plain. The Tibetan Book of the Dead tells us that, as a spirit is leaving its body and heading into the afterlife, it will meet a series of entities in pairs of two, who will test the spirit. These beings are almost exact mirror images of each other, and laden with symbolism. One represents letting go of the physical plain, and the other represents material temptation. Choosing the correct one will lead your spirit towards a higher plain, while choosing the wrong one will lead you back into the circle of reincarnation.
I believe that the Dugpas are purposely manipulating people to keep them in the cycle of reincarnation. Keeping them in their physical bodies, unable to reach the higher plain, keeps them in the cycle of pain and suffering (garmonbozia), which in turn feeds the Dugpas and continues their equivocal cycle of appetite and satisfaction (the “golden ring” described by MIKE). The Doppelgangers that appear in the Lodge are similar to the entities that appear to the spirit in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. In fact, I believe, in Cooper’s experience, that Laura is a prime example of this: Good Laura represents letting go and ascending to a higher plain, as she has actually transcended to the White Lodge (more on that in a bit), while her Doppelganger represents Cooper’s guilt, and his inability to let go of the past.
[For more analysis on the symbolism of rings in Twin Peaks, click here.]
So any body possessed by BOB is being made to suffer, and being fed off of. Perhaps being “utterly annihilated” takes time, as the soul is slowly feasted upon by the Dugpas. Note that Leland seems to not have become possessed by BOB by entering the Black Lodge and being overtaken, and he still had moments of being able to control his own body. However, Cooper failed his test in the Black Lodge, and so had his spirit “utterly annihilated”; in other words, his spirit is no longer able to occupy his body AT ALL. Instead, it is trapped in the Black Lodge to be food for the Dugpas, until it is completely devoured.
Now, here’s a tricky part: What exactly does it mean when Laura says, “Meanwhile…”? I’ve got a theory, but it gets a little complicated, so hang in there.
I believe it is another allusion to the non-linear procession of time in the Lodge, and is a hint at the importance of its existence. The non-linear time flow can explain many puzzling elements of Twin Peaks. Think about what Laura’s Doppelganger is really saying to Cooper in the Lodge: She says, “Meanwhile…” and starts screaming. But that’s not just any scream; that’s her scream from the night she was killed in the train car. So what does that mean?
The Good Laura will see him again in 25 years. Meanwhile, she is still going to be murdered in the train car.
This event both has happened already, and hasn’t happened yet. Remember that the “25 years Later” scene is a dream that Cooper and Laura shared at different times. This dream is technically taking place in three different times: When Laura had the dream before her murder, when Cooper had the dream after the murder, and 25 years later, when it “actually” happens.
It is key to remember that the Black Lodge does not run by time as we perceive it. Because of that, time travel (for lack of a better term) is technically possible. This power could be used for both good and evil. If a powerful psychic on the side of Good, like, say, Agent Cooper, was able to harness this power, imagine the heroism they could achieve. Maybe saving a certain character from a bank vault explosion? Or sending messages back through time to warn Laura about the ring? Who knows. We are getting into an area of total speculation, but there are some amazing possibilities when we consider the warping of time in the Lodge.
So, what does this mean for Cooper in the aftermath of Season 2?
There are many signs throughout the series and in the film that suggest that Cooper will become a shaman. Keep in mind that, from the beginning of the series, we are shown that Cooper is special. He is highly intuitive, borderline psychic perhaps, describing himself as “a powerful sender” of mental images. So we know that Cooper has some mystic abilities already. But there seems to be evidence that these powers became stronger in the course of his hero’s journey.
In the episode “Traces to Nowhere,” we see Cooper fashioning a wooden whistle. Later, he stands in the doorway of his hotel room and blows on the whistle before smiling in satisfaction and entering the room. The subtext is that this whistle is meant to scare away any evil spirits that might be dwelling in the room. This is an old superstition:
“…the older belief that the friendly wind would blow if an evil spirit had not stifled it, and that whistling would scare the evil spirit and the kindly breeze would be able to blow.”
– Indian Antiquary, Volume 25
So we can see Coop, in a small way, being connected to purification rituals. But big deal, right? That doesn’t make him a shaman. However, let’s move to our next example before you form your opinion:
In the episode “Arbitrary Law,” when it becomes apparent that Leland is dying, Cooper turns Leland onto his left side, and speaks to him, guiding him through his death experience, so that he passes into the afterlife safely. This is related to a Tibetan Buddhist death rite, which requires a shaman to accompany an individual during their time of death. The shaman is to turn the dying individual onto their side and talk them through the experience to help guide them successfully into the afterlife, and out of the cycle of reincarnation. This is exactly what Cooper does once he realizes that Leland is dying. Notice how he even makes a point to turn Leland onto his side.
Finally, let’s look at the ending scene of Fire Walk With Me, where we have the rare experience of seeing Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper, the two heroes of Twin Peaks, together. It was recently rumored to be of particular significance as some sort of foreshadow to what would happen in season 3. Whether this rumor is true or not, I believe it gives us a clue about Agent Cooper’s character development. Let’s re-watch this beautiful scene:
It looks like Cooper is doing the same thing for Laura as he did for Leland. If you subscribe to the popular theory that this scene depicts Laura ascending to the White Lodge, then think about what Cooper’s presence during this scene means. He has a hand place comfortingly on her back as the angel appears. Perhaps he brought the angel to her? But how did Cooper acquire a skill like that?
We can theorize that Cooper and Laura have already been in the Black Lodge for a while by this scene, since Laura appears resigned to being stuck in the Black Lodge, whereas Cooper seems to be endowed with renewed hope of escape; very different from how he appeared when he was talking to the Man from Another Place. This idea would give Cooper time to investigate the Black Lodge, perhaps to realize why he failed his test, and to learn and grow from his near-fatal mistake. Perhaps he found a way of communicating with the angels of the White Lodge. Cooper is no fool, and as powerful as the Black Lodge is, I believe there’s no way it could continue to outsmart him; especially since he is known to already be gifted with some form of psychic abilities.
But if Cooper can aid people in escaping the Black Lodge, why has he himself not left yet?
The first possible answer to this is that Cooper has only found one way out, and that is into the White Lodge. Perhaps one cannot enter the White Lodge unless they are truly dead. In this case, it’s not the exit Coop is looking for. Another possibility is that he actually did go with Laura into the White Lodge, and met with the good spirits that live there. Perhaps he even ran into Major Briggs while he was there, and learned how to escape the Black Lodge for good? Either way, what this scene implies is that Cooper has grown and become more powerful while he has been trapped. I believe that, the next time we see Agent Cooper, he will be a fully-fledged shaman, capable of using his powers to overcome the forces of the Black Lodge.
So, in sum, what does all this mean for the fate of Agent Cooper, both in body and soul?
It means that, in the last 25 years, Agent Cooper has most likely sharpened his psychic abilities, and is now an Agent of the White Lodge. 25 years is a long time, and it’s plenty of time for an inquisitive and determined soul to evolve and become stronger than ever. If this is true, Cooper could be as powerful (or more powerful) than BOB, especially if we consider the non-linear procession of time in the Black Lodge, 25 years to us may be an eternity to someone trapped in the Black Lodge. And I doubt Cooper would just be sitting idly by in all this time.
Until next time…
“All things considered, being shot is not as bad as I always thought it might be. As long as you can keep the fear from your mind. But I guess you can say that about almost anything in life. It’s not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind.”
-Agent Dale B. Cooper