Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.
Disclaimer: Contains spoilers for Twin Peaks: The Return, all episodes. But you really shouldn’t be shocked by that.
The final episode of The Return was met with much controversy, with some heralding it as visionary, and others left feeling angry and cheated. Undoubtedly there were many vagaries and gray areas that people have been pondering ever since. Without further ado, let’s delve into the mysteries lying within Part 18 of Twin Peaks: The Return.
Cooper’s Doppelganger sits in the Black Lodge, stiff, his eyes milky, his body smoldering and engulfed in flames, yet unburnt. He is trapped back in the Lodge and being punished for attempting to avoid returning to the Lodge, as his fate was meant to be by some unknown decree. Meanwhile, MIKE uses electricity to make a copy of Dougie from Cooper.
An important thing to note: The original Dougie was presumably made from the DNA of DoppelCoop, and took on his negative personality traits. However, this version of Dougie was made from the DNA of the Good Dale, and therefore we can conclude that he will be a better father for Sonny Jim and a better husband to Janey-E, who he returns to, as Cooper promised them previously. There is debate in the fan community about whether it really is Dougie who returns to the Joneses, or if it might be the real Cooper, leaving a tulpa in his place. I don’t buy into this theory mostly because I think it would be out-of-character for Cooper to abandon his mission. With all the Doppelgangers and tulpas running around, it can be difficult to keep track of who is who or what, but I think here is a moment where David Lynch was straightforward in giving us a conclusion to the Joneses story.
Let’s take a moment to talk about the Golden Sphere, without going too deep into it as it could fill up several articles of its own. It is interesting to note that both Laura and Dougie are made from golden spheres, though Laura’s is much larger than Dougie’s (But does size really matter?). As Dougie is a tulpa, does this mean Laura is also a tulpa? Does that mean that tulpas can be born the same as ordinary humans? Or does the golden sphere not necessarily denote the creation of a tulpa? Can a being created by one of these spheres also be a human?
As Dougie is embraced by Janey-E and Sonny Jim, the only word he utters in his state of joy is, “Home.” This is a powerful underlying theme of Season 3; returning home. Going back to where it began. And it all began with Laura.
We once again see Cooper leading Laura through the woods, only to hear the sound from Part 1, which heralds Laura’s disappearance. But why? What is this noise? In Part 1, the Fireman plays the sound for Cooper and warns him, “It is in our house now.” This suggests that the sound is caused by whatever is “in our house.” The house could either be the White Lodge, or the Palmer residence. I believe it refers to Judy/Joudy/Jowday being in possession of Sarah Palmer, the house being the Palmer house. If my hunch is correct, this further implies that Judy found Laura, and took her, rather than BOB finding her and murdering her. After Laura vanishes, we hear the same scream from when she vanished within the Black Lodge.
Next, Cooper is back in the Black Lodge, talking to MIKE, which suggests that a time loop is in play here. Has Cooper repeated this mission multiple times? “Is it future, or is it past?” That is the question. MIKE disappears, then reappears, or another version of him appears, in the corner of the room, beckoning to Cooper. They walk through the curtains and meet up again with the Evolution of the Arm, which asks, “Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane?” which is a repetition of one of Audrey’s lines, suggesting she has a bigger part in this than is immediately evident. Just what that is remains to be seen. It is also reminiscent of the line from Fire Walk With Me, when the man in the diner asks Agents Desmond and Stanley, “You talking about that little girl that was murdered?”
Cooper does not answer the Arm, and it presses on, “Is it?” We then see the scene of Laura whispering in Cooper’s ear. This might suggest that she is “the little girl who lived down the lane,” but it is not definitive proof. The phrase “little girl” could also be connected to Teresa, Annie, or maybe Audrey. The film The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane is about a young teenager who covers up the murder of her mother and lives by herself in an isolated house, until her landlord’s son discovers her secret and attempts to prey upon her. It contains the Lynchian themes of isolation, small-town mystery, and women in trouble who try to fight their way out. The little girl who lived down the lane could be a blanket statement referring to the women who were sacrifices to the Black Lodge. Audrey’s reference could be coincidental, otherwise she could know something about the Lodge’s rites.
Back in the Black Lodge, Laura vanishes, just like before, and Cooper runs into Leland, who implores him to find Laura. Cooper then walks down the hallway, his hand extended in front of him in a manner stunningly reminiscent of a similar scene in Inland Empire. He seems to be feeling for an exit. He finds one, and leaves the Lodge, emerging in Glastonbury Grove, where Diane is waiting for him. This is the “curtain call” Cooper referred to in the previous episode. He assures her that it is really him, and he asks if it’s really her. This really drives home the frightening fact that you don’t know who you can trust anymore, as there are so many duplicates of people including Doppelgangers, tulpas, and time travel replications. It has been suggested that there is some time-warping here, and this actually happens after the final events of the episode, and is the true ending of Twin Peaks.
It suddenly feels like we’re in another David Lynch movie altogether. Cooper and Diane drive to a desert, and Cooper says he drove 430 miles (although he doesn’t specify the starting point, nor where they ended up). Diane is nervous and repeatedly asks Cooper if he wants to go through with what they’re about to do. Presumably, he told her everything during the car ride, but what we can’t be sure of is what exactly he told her or where he even got the idea from (I’ll get pack to that in a minute, though). He gets out and checks the area, seeming to be feeling the atmosphere for electrical pulses which would be indicative of the presence of a portal. Satisfied, he goes back to the car.
He asks Diane to kiss him, and says, “Once we cross, it could all be different.” After kissing passionately, they begin to drive forward slowly, and electricity begins to pulse and flash, and they go through the portal. Suddenly, it is night. They are driving along the same (more or less) stretch of road. Then, everything goes black. Fade in, exterior of a motel, night. Coop & Diane drive up. He gets out and enters the office, while she waits in the car. Staring out into the desert, Diane sees a duplicate of herself emerge from behind a pillar. Notably, this is another red-haired Diane, not the white-haired tulpa Diane. Could this be Diane’s Doppelganger? Diane seems quite unperturbed. It’s almost as if she knew this would happen. Perhaps because that is not a different Diane, but the same Diane we are following. Let me see if I can put this straight: This is Diane, looking at herself from either earlier or later in the timeline, and she knew this would happen because she has already experienced coming out from behind the pillar and seeing herself in the car. The Fireman very importantly told Cooper, “Remember Richard and Linda.” The word “remember” is important here, as it clearly specifies that this has happened before, and will happen again. Season 3 is one big time loop, everything is recurring and recurring and changing and doubling up on itself. This is most likely why Cooper and Diane know what will happen, they “remember” it from a previous time loop. They “remember” being Richard and Linda.
When Coop exits the office, the other Diane is gone. They then go to a motel and have sex while “My Prayer” by The Platters plays. It is theorized that Cooper and Diane are performing a sex magick ritual, a type of magick often utilized by Jack Parsons and Anton LaVey. In this case, Diane, with her shockingly red hair, would be acting as Cooper’s Scarlet Woman. Some have noted her resemblance to Parsons’s own Scarlet Woman, Marjorie Cameron.
The inclusion of the song “My Prayer” adds a tinge of ritual here, and if you’re familiar with my theories on Lynch’s use of sex in film, then you’ll know that Lynchian love scenes have much more than what is on the surface. Obviously apprehensive, Cooper and Diane clearly knew what they were doing and what would happen. They knew they were performing a ritual, and that it would transport them to another world. The implication here is that everything happening in this scene is tied to what the Fireman says in Part 1. He bids Coop to “Remember Richard and Linda” and “430,” as in, remember this event that has technically already happened. This is what you have to go back and do (More confusing time paradox logic here).
Diane is understandably upset while she and Coop are having sex, and covers her face. This is because she remembers the trauma she suffered at the hands of his Doppelganger and is trying not to think about it, but the darkness seeps in, anyway. In the morning, she is gone, and Cooper finds only a note, which reads the following:
“Dear Richard, when you read this, I’ll be gone. Please don’t try to find me. I don’t recognize you anymore. Whatever it was we had together is over. -Linda.”
The implication here is the following: Coop and Diane used sex magick to open a portal to a parallel world, in which versions of them exist, named Richard and Linda. By entering this other world, they have actually merged with their other selves, hence the loss of memory. Lack of recognition is a recurring element in The Return, as well as David Lynch’s other works, most notably Lost Highway where the Mystery Man asks point blank of the protagonist, “What the fuck is your name?” The Return shares many elements with Lost Highway which are worth exploring, but we don’t really have time to get into here. Just take note of the fact that both Lost Highway and The Return have shown us characters having sex in the desert and then switching with parallel versions of themselves. Loss of memory and the inability to recognize familiar people could point to characters merging with these other versions of themselves, causing them to become confused by memories of other lives in other realities. Linda doesn’t recognize Richard anymore because he’s not just Richard anymore, he’s also Cooper, and she’s now also Diane. Even “Richard” seems confused, probably by all these conflicting memories circulating in his mind. People who travel between dimensions, when not Lodge spirits, seem very confused. Just think of Philip Jeffries’ confusion when he appeared in Cole’s office.
[Note: To avoid further confusion, I will continue to call this version of Cooper “Cooper,” rather than Richard. According to the theory I just posited, both are technically accurate, so… let’s just go with that.]
Cooper leaves the hotel, which is different from before, and drives to Odessa, Texas, where he stops at a cafe called Judy’s. Inside, he asks the waitress is there’s “another waitress” who works there. The waitress says there is, but it’s “her third day off,” implying that she’s been missing for three days. Cooper then gets into a fight with three aggressive men with guns, and dispatches them by kicking one in the groin and shooting one in the foot. His behavior here is a bit confusing, as it’s hard to imagine Agent Cooper being so violent. However, he shows kindness to the waitress that is characteristic of Cooper, leading some to posit that this “Richard” version of Coop is a fusion of Agent Cooper and Mr. C. If true, this further suggests that all versions of Cooper are merging, perhaps including ones we’ve never heard of before, like Richard.
Cooper then goes to visit the other waitress at her address (provided by the waitress at the diner). In front of the house is an electrical pole with the number 6 on it, just like the one at the Fat Trout Trailer Park, suggesting a sort of tie between dimensions. Perhaps this is the other world’s version of the Fat Trout Trailer Park? Or, could one use a portal at Fat Trout to get here? There are some odd objects in the front yard as well, including what looks like a noose and a small bronze orb. When Coop knocks at the door, it is answered by Carrie Page, who looks just like the older Laura Palmer we saw in the Black Lodge. Coop says he’s with the FBI and Carrie asks “Did you find him?” It’s never explained who she might be looking for, a lover, a family member, a friend… However, it’s very clear that she’s in some serious trouble, as, when she invites Cooper in, there’s the corpse of a man dead of a gunshot to the head sitting in her chair. She says she has no idea who Laura Palmer is, but seems to agree that her parents are named Sarah and Leland (though this is open to interpretation). Coop tells her he wants to take her to her mother’s house, which was her house, “at one time.” This reminds us of Ronette Pulaski/American Girl in an earlier episode warning Cooper, “My mother is coming.” This strengthens the idea that the “mother” is Judy, who is possessing Sarah Palmer. In any case, Carrie agrees to go with Coop because she’s “got to get out of Dodge anyway.”
Carrie Page’s name is very interesting, because it seems to be tied to the third still-missing page of Laura Palmer’s diary. In a sense, Carrie Page is “the missing page.” The identity of the dead man in the chair is up in the air. Carrie also mentioned to Cooper, “Somebody like you comes around, and I tell him to fuck off.” What does that mean? Who has been coming around? FBI agents? Have other parallel Cooper’s been showing up looking for her, from other dimensions? Or is someone else trying to hunt her down for unknown reasons? Have they been sending hitmen after her? Perhaps she told the man in the chair “to fuck off,” in a sense. It is worth noting that the dead man seems to have a mass on his stomach, which could be a BOB-tumor emerging, suggesting that the man was the host of this world’s BOB, meaning that BOB is potentially defeated in both Coop’s world and Richard’s.
Here’s where things get very, very, very confusing. Very. Coop and Carrie drive to this world’s version of the Palmer house, only to be met by a woman neither of them recognize, played by the woman who owns the house in real life. She doesn’t know who Sarah Palmer is, and says the house was previously owned by a Mrs. Chalfont, and that her name is Alice Tremond. There are a couple of things to note here. Firstly, the name Alice is also used in Lost Highway for the parallel dimension version of Renee. The name is, in both cases, a reference to Alice in Wonderland, a story in which a girl named Alice travels to another, fantastical world, and has trouble holding onto who she is. The names further reinforce the importance of interdimensional travel, as the Tremonds/Chalfonts are heavily involved in characters traveling from their worlds into the Black Lodge. They give Laura the painting that makes her dream of the Black Lodge, they own the trailer under which Chet Desmond finds the Owl Ring before disappearing, and Donna speaks with them in what seems to be an alternate dimension version of a house she visits while working for Meals on Wheels. In short, the Tremonds/Chalfonts are proficient dimensional travelers, which is important here. Portals seem to be near whenever the Chalfonts and Tremonds are.
After chatting with Alice, Cooper and Carrie turn away and walk back towards the street. Cooper suddenly seems disturbed, and asks, “What year is this?” More of the confusion from traveling between dimensions, as this is highly reminiscent of Philip Jeffries in Fire Walk With Me, asking, “May? 1989?” Then, we heard Sarah Palmer’s distorted voice calling for Laura from the house they just left. Carrie turns and looks, and, in that moment, it seems that all of Laura’s memories come flooding into her, and she screams in horror at the revelation. All of the lights in the house go off, and fade to black.
Now, what does this mean? Did Cooper succeed? Did he fail? Is Judy defeated? Is everyone a tulpa? Electricity is of course an important part of the Twin Peaks mythos, and the fact that the electricity shorts out the moment Carrie screams is significant. It implies a loss of power to the Lodge spirits. However, even inferring this leaves us with many questions. What is this dimension, exactly? Is it an alternate timeline? Is it a dimension created to trap Laura? Is it our world? An illusion? None of the above? The episode ends with Laura (or Carrie?) whispering in Cooper’s ear in the Black Lodge, and we still can’t hear what she said.
I think this finale was purposefully constructed to be confusing and inconclusive, to keep the mystery alive, and encourage us to believe that the spirit of Twin Peaks will never really end. I think Lynch and Frost want us to continue theorizing, and, especially in Lynch’s case, believe that what’s important is not definitive answers, but what the show means to us as viewers, as we are taking the journey with the characters, and experiencing their trials, their joys, their failures and victories, loves and heartbreaks, with them. Done right, film and television can change peoples’ lives, and I believe that this was Lynch’s true goal for The Return, and the finale in particular. I don’t know what my conclusive belief is about the ending. I have my clues, my leads, my theories, and here they are for you, to help guide you, should you want them to, to your own conclusions. This has been an incredible journey we have all taken, and, in our various ways, we have all been changed by it. Here’s to keeping the mystery alive.