Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers for Twin Peaks: The Return.
The two-part finale for Twin Peaks: The Return left many fans reeling, whether thrilled or dismayed. It’s taken a long time to process it, but now that I think I have some solid theories to present to you, let’s not waste any more time, and jump right into my analysis of Part 17, with a separate article analyzing Part 18 to come.
The episode begins where we left off with Gordon, Tammy, and Albert after the disappearance of the Diane Tulpa. Gordon has a moment of exposition so that he can retcon the ending of Season 2. He talks about Judy, who’s actually Jowday, and Phillip Jeffries’ involvement with her, or it. This leads to some seeming inconsistencies with the way Judy is referenced in Fire Walk With Me and The Missing Pieces, where we are strongly led to believe that Judy is a human woman. A way of explaining this away is that Jowday was an inhabiting spirit, which called itself “Judy” while it was possessing a female body.
Gordon also mentions that Phillip Jeffries “doesn’t really exist anymore, at least not in the normal sense.” Of course we know that Phillip Jeffries is inside some kind of machine now. I think this has something to do with the altered timeline, which has all but erased Jeffries from existence. That’s why Albert and Gordon barely remember him, and why Jeffries will later mention something about Gordon remembering “the unofficial version.” I believe this indicates that Gordon is, to an extent, aware of the altered timeline. The “official version” of the timeline is the one we see in the show: “The unofficial version” is the one we saw in Fire Walk With Me, which is being erased.
Then comes a big reveal: The “two birds with one stone” line was actually said by Cooper 25 years ago to Gordon. He told Gordon that if he disappeared like Jeffries and Desmond, to do everything possible to find him. He said he was “trying to kill two birds with one stone.” This could mean Cooper was trying to take out both BOB and Jowday. This retcon calls into question just how much of the past events Agent Cooper has actually been in control of. It’s heavily implied that his entry into the Black Lodge was anticipated, and made part of his plan with Briggs and Cole. For unknown reasons, it was kept secret from Albert. However, Gordon says that he isn’t sure if the plan is unfolding properly, as he expected to hear from the real Cooper by now. I believe the setback to the plan was the unanticipated creation of Dougie by DoppelCoop, which hindered Cooper.
We return to the jail, where Naido and the drunk have finally fallen asleep, so Chad is able to execute his escape. Now, much has been made of the drunk and his potential connections to Chad, Billy, and Naido, and why he disappears later. I honestly don’t think we have enough information to go on with him. There’s a decent possibility that he’s Billy, but he may also just be a weird character put in by Lynch for his odd humor. Sort of like the sweeping scene, but a character instead. Admittedly, however, it is odd that, when the drunk wakes up, Chad is discouraged from his escape attempt, and, later, when the drunk passes out but everyone else is awake, Chad continues his escape attempt. Also, judging by his weird sores and injuries, he may be addicted to the Sparkle drug. It’s also very curious why he isn’t in a hospital…
Meanwhile, Jerry turns up naked in Wyoming. This could just be for comedic effect, but the first thing it made me think was that he had been struck by lightning, which can sometimes knock the clothes off of people. Now, you may point out that, if it was lightning, there would have been obvious signs, and it would have been mentioned. I think there were no signs because it wasn’t literal lightning, but a spiritual lightning. In Native American lore, lightning represents a spiritual awakening, usually granted by a thunder bird. You can read more about the connection between the thunder birds and Twin Peaks here. Perhaps Jerry had an epiphany?
DoppelCoop’s coordinates take him to Jack Rabbit’s Palace. He approaches the pool of liquid gold next to the lone sycamore and time begins to skip as the portal opens. DoppelCoop makes it into the White Lodge, but Briggs has laid a trap for him. This is probably part of the plan he put together with Cooper 25 years ago. DoppelCoop is caught in a machine, and, instead of making it to the Palmer house like he planned, the Fireman sends DoppelCoop to the Sheriff’s Station, for the final confrontation. We see many of the dome-shaped machines working in a room, as DoppelCoop is transported away.
As he arrives, Naido sits bolt upright. When Andy and Lucy see him, they assume he’s Agent Cooper and are excited, until Andy remembers his vision from his meeting with the Fireman, in which he’s leading Lucy down the hallway. However, he doesn’t seem to know what to make of this. But once Agent Cooper refuses coffee, I think that clues Andy in that something’s wrong. He runs to get Hawk and tell him. Meanwhile, Chad is executing his big escape in the jail. Naido wakes up the drunk, who begins tearing the tube out of his nose angrily. Andy enters the jail, looking for Hawk, and gets held up by Chad, only to be rescued by Freddy. Upstairs, Lucy gets a call from Agent Cooper, and figures out how cell phones work.
This ongoing gag about Lucy and cell phones, I think, is a joke about Twin Peaks, both the show and the town, being perpetually stuck in the 1950s. It’s also a little play on the existence of Doppelgangers, and a person being in two places at once.
Anyway, Lucy turns bad ass and guns down DoppelCoop, which is what Andy’s vision was foretelling. The real Cooper, via phone call, warns Frank Truman not to touch the body, while Andy brings the occupants of the jail cell, Naido, James, and Freddie, but notably not the drunk, into the Sheriff’s office. He was probably previously instructed to do so by the Fireman. Then, three Woodsmen show up and begin trying to resurrect DoppelCoop. I believe that the blood they rub on his face is actually a representation of Garmonbozia (remember, it was represented as blood during the ending of Fire Walk With Me). This should revitalize him, but it doesn’t work. Instead, just as the real Cooper arrives, the BOB tumor erupts from DoppelCoop’s stomach and attacks Cooper. Freddy steps forward and challenges BOB, narrowly defeating him, fulfilling his destiny.
One of the most commonly raised complaints about Part 17 is the showdown between Freddie and the BOB tumor. Fans complained that it was ridiculous and mindless — too easy for the big showdown with BOB himself. This uncharacteristic anticlimax led fans to wonder if Lynch was making a joke, perhaps about superhero franchises, where problems are often solved by punching things. An interesting theory says that, had the series continued in the 90’s, Nadine, who had super strength at the time, would have been to one to punch BOB out. Once her story arc was altered, Freddie was supposedly created to fill the void.
But why is Freddie, the chosen warrior of the White Lodge, from England? It’s so seemingly out of the blue. However, I think there’s a reasonable explanation.
In the past, the Black Lodge has made good work of removing the agents of the White Lodge. They took Agents Jeffries, Desmond, Stanley, and even Cooper. They killed Bill Hastings when he started to talk. They took the real Diane and replaced her with a Tulpa agent. They killed Laura Palmer. They even took Audrey, who was a close friend of Agent Cooper’s and may have had a larger role to play. They possessed Sarah Palmer. They killed Major Briggs. The White Lodge needed to find agents that the Black Lodge wouldn’t see coming. They used Andy and Lucy, two of the last people who might be perceived of as a threat to the Black Lodge. They may have brought Laura Palmer back from the dead. So someone far from Twin Peaks, who the Black Lodge couldn’t get to and corrupt, was an ideal candidate.
Cooper puts the ring on his Doppelganger’s finger, and its body disappears. Cooper asks Frank for his old room key, saying that Major Briggs told him that “Sheriff Truman would have it.” This strengthens the idea that Briggs had some ability to time travel through his dealings with the White Lodge. As the FBI arrive, Cooper notices Naido, and his face becomes interposed over the following events. This is because Cooper, has dreamed all of this before. In effect, he already watched himself do all these things, that’s how he knows what will happen. The interposed face is the dreaming Cooper watching all of this happen.
Next is a moment that almost seems like exposition, but it’s all very confusing exposition. Bobby arrives, as do Albert, Gordon, and Tammy, and Cooper launches into a speech. He explains that Garland Briggs “was well-aware of what is going on today.” He then says, “Now, there are some things that will change. The past dictates the future.” This is a fairly clear indication that Cooper intends to alter the timeline, or knows that someone else will. Naido runs over to Cooper and touches hands with him, and the curse placed on her by the Black Lodge burns away, with much black smoke. The facade cracks, revealing Diane, who has candy-red hair. It would seem that, after attacking her and taking her to the Black Lodge, DoppelCoop trapped Diane in the form of Naido, who could not communicate, and was disguised so Cooper couldn’t recognize her, then made a Tulpa to take her place in the outside world.
People have drawn a connection between Diane and Jack Parsons’s second wife, Marjorie Cameron, who also had neon red hair. Parsons believed that Marjorie was an “elemental” created by a ritual he’d performed, who was destined to help him with his magic.
Cooper and Diane kiss passionately, and the interposed image of Coop’s face disappears, suggesting this is where his dream ended. However, the face reappears a moment later. Coop asks Diane if she remembers everything, and she says she does. To me, this implies that she is also part of Cooper’s plan. Time starts glitching, as if it is stuck in one moment. With much distortion, the Cooper face says, “We live inside a dream.” The “regular” Cooper says to everyone that he hopes he sees them again, then stresses, “every one of you.” This suggests that he knows some of these characters do not exist in other timelines.
Then, everything fades to black. Coop and Gordon call out to each other, almost as if asking, “Are you ready?” because they next move is together, along with Diane. They walk through the darkness and enter what seems to be a basement, filled with machines, like James saw a few episodes ago. However, it’s all very dreamlike as this basement seems to be made up of various other environments. It’s reminiscent of the basement BOB appeared in in the original series, as well as the one James saw, and includes the door to Coop’s old room at the Great Northern. We also hear the hum that Ben and Beverly have been hearing, which apparently indicates the nearness of another dimension. Some have suggested that this is the basement of the Great Northern, and the old key was repurposed for a door down there once the switch was made to key cards.
Cooper’s face fades out, for good this time. We see many doors down here, which to me suggests different dimensions are accessible from here. Coop enters one door and tells Gordon and Diane not to follow him. He looks back and them and says, “I’ll see you at the curtain call,” a reference to his meeting with Diane at the portal of the Black Lodge, the “curtain call” obviously referring to the red curtains in the waiting room. It also has a more meta interpretation, as the curtain call can also indicate the part of a stage production, after the play when the curtains go down, and the actors come out to take a bow. I noticed also that the black paint near the door he enters is speckled with white and looks remarkably similar to the background when we see him falling through non-existence.
Cooper meets up with MIKE, who recites the Fire Walk With Me poem, which causes electricity to flash. They are transported to The Dutchman’s to visit Phillip Jeffries. We see the Jumping Man leave down the stairway, which may suggest some collusion between he and Jeffries.
Cooper gives Jeffries the date of Laura Palmer’s murder, and MIKE begins shaking his head. Perhaps he is sad, thinking of what happened, or perhaps he sees the folly of what Cooper is trying to do. Jeffries says he’ll find the date for them, and says, “It’s slippery in here.” The way he says it makes it clear that the two statements are connected, but what does the latter mean? I think it means that time is “slippery,” that it often glitches and is hard to keep hold of. He tells Cooper to say hi to Gordon, who will apparently “remember the unofficial version.” Read this as: “He will have residual memories of me from the erased timeline.”
Jeffries begins to spout some confusing dialog here.
“This is where you’ll find Judy. There may be someone. Did you… ask me this?”
I’ll get back to that in the next article, though. Bear with me. He then shows them the Owl Cave insignia, which turns into an eight, then an infinity symbol, with a small dot traveling along it. This suggests an infinite loop, that Cooper has done this before. After the dot moves along the lemniscate for a moment, there’s a mechanical clank and it stops, as Jeffries finds the right time for Cooper. He says, “You can go in now,” mirroring when, in the Lodge, MIKE tells him, “You can go out now.” He then implores Cooper to remember, probably, to remember the alternate timeline, which holds some pertinent information. MIKE, who has been shaking his head all this time, says, “Electricity.” Right on queue, electricity crackles and time jumps as the energy is produced to transport Cooper back to the night Laura was murdered.
We see events replay. Laura leaving with James to the woods, then James leaving her. This time, Cooper is watching. He was all along. Laura even sees him, and screams. After James leaves and Laura is alone in the woods, Cooper appears to her. She recognizes him from her dreams, and takes his hand. Her body, wrapped in plastic, disappears from the shore. He tells her, “We’re going home,” suggesting that he plans on taking her back to her house.
We cut to the Palmer house in what seems to be the 25 years later time period, and Sarah Palmer, who’s been possessed by Jowday all along, grabs the iconic photo of Laura, and, wailing the whole time, attempts to destroy it with a broken liquor bottle. Time skips, and no matter how many times she tries to stab the photo, she can’t damage it. In short, Jowday wants Laura dead, but cannot harm her. Laura is protected.
However, as Cooper is leading Laura by the hand through the woods, periodically checking to make sure she’s still there, we hear the sounds that the Fireman played for Cooper at the beginning of Part 1, and Laura vanishes. We hear Laura’s death scream, and Cooper looks despondent. Jowday couldn’t kill Laura, so she took her.
But, where is Laura now? Will Coop see Gordon and Diane again? What was Phillip Jeffries talking about? Find out in the thrilling conclusion, when I analyze Part 18 of Twin Peaks: The Return!