Written by Eden H. Roquelaire for Twin Peaks Freaks.
Warning: Contains massive spoilers for the final episode of Twin Peaks Season 2.
“The shadow-self of the White Lodge. The legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self. My people call it ‘The Dweller on the Threshold’ … But it is said, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”
We all know that the final episode of Twin Peaks Season 2 revolves around Agent Cooper and his exploration of the other dimension known as the Black Lodge. What you may not know, however, is what, exactly, it means. In this first segment, we will do a scene-by-scene analysis of Cooper’s pilgrimage through the Black Lodge, and attempt to shed some light on the mysteries that lie beyond life and death.
The journey through the Black Lodge is, ultimately, a test of one’s true character. Cooper must face his “Shadow,” or, in Lynch-Frost language, his “Doppelganger,” or “the Dweller on the Threshold.” He must confront everything he feels guilty for, particularly all the deaths he could not prevent: Laura, Maddy, Leland, and Caroline. He also encounters a specter of Annie, whose death he fears he will not be able to stop. He also faces one of (if not the) most traumatic events of his life: The murder of Caroline Earle, his illicit love, and the attempted murder of Cooper himself. This is similar to many accounts of NDE’s (Near-Death Experiences), wherein people say that they go through a “Life Review.” In this Life Review, they experience everything that has happened to them in their lives, and not only feel all their own emotions again, but feel the emotions of the people whom their actions affected, making them aware of the consequences to their choices in life. With this in mind, let us proceed with our scene-by-scene analysis of Cooper’s journey through the Black Lodge.
First, Cooper enters the Lodge, and the lights begin to flicker in a strobe effect, mirroring the black and white/dark and light pattern on the Lodge floor. Cooper stares, wide-eyed, as the Man From Another Place dances by, and seats himself in the black chair. Jimmy Scott sings the final lines of “Sycamore Trees,” then vanishes.
Let’s talk about this song for a moment. It is given prominence, as it is playing when Cooper first enters the Lodge, but what is its significance? Of course sycamores are the kind of trees that encircle the portal to the Lodges in Twin Peaks’ woods, and these trees have an intriguing symbolism in the lore of Ancient Egypt:
“In Egypt the Holy Sycamore is said to stand on the threshold of life and death, connecting the worlds.”
(Source: Ancient Wisdom Foundation: Tree Lore)
That’s a bit on the nose, I would say, and most likely why Mark Frost chose to use them. However, with David Lynch, it might be another story. Lynch has always been inspired by music, as most famously seen with Blue Velvet, and music is most likely a source of inspiration for him here, as well. There is a classic standard from the 1930s, entitled Dream a Little Dream of Me. Here are the lyrics:
Stars shining bright above you, night breezes seem to whisper, “I love you”.
Birds singing in the sycamore tree, “Dream a little dream of me”.
Say “nighty-night” and kiss me. Just hold me tight and tell me you’ll miss me.
While I’m alone and blue as can be, dream a little dream of me.
Stars fading, but I linger on, dear.
Still craving your kiss, I’m longing to linger till dawn, dear.
Just saying this: Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you.
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you.
But in your dreams whatever they be, dream a little dream of me.
Stars fading, but I linger on, dear.
Still craving your kiss, I’m longing to linger till dawn, dear.
Just saying this: Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you.
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you.
But in your dreams whatever they be, dream a little dream of me.
This classic has similar lyrics to the Lynch/Badalamenti penned song, Sycamore Trees. Notice also certain elements that coincide with imagery from Twin Peaks: Sycamore trees, dreams (The Lodge is seen in the dreams of Cooper and Laura), kisses (Laura kisses Cooper before she tells him the identity of her killer), the stars (celestial events are connected with the Lodges), and birdsong (“Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song.”) Have a listen to this version by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, because this sounds like it could be the version that inspired David Lynch to create the first scene where Laura meets Cooper in the Black Lodge:
Returning to our analysis, let’s take a moment to examine the Waiting Room decor:
There is an oddly specific lamp sitting on a small table in this room: A 1939 World’s Fair Saturn Lamp. Saturn is the Roman God of the harvest, and, as such, was considered to reign over the cycles of time as well. Time is shown to be non-linear in the Lodge, and the presence of this lamp could be referring to this fact. Perhaps a more important point, however, is the identity of Saturn as the lord of the harvest, as the Dugpas harvest pain and suffering to feed on. In mythology, Saturn was also known to have devoured his children, which is similar in the way that Leland murdered his daughter Laura and niece Maddy, and BOB devoured their pain and suffering. Also consider that the people BOB inhabited were “his children.”
Notice the Grecian-style statue in the background: It is called the Venus Pudica and I shall return to it later.
Cooper sits in a black chair, across from the Man From Another Place. The Man From Another Place tells him, “When you see me again, it won’t be me,” a foreshadow of the later appearance of the Man From Another Place’s Doppelganger. He asks, “Would you like some coffee?” (which doesn’t come right away) and informs Cooper that some of his friends are there. This indicates that Cooper will have to meet the spirits or representations of important people in his life. Cooper looks up and watches as Laura walks in and sits down in the black chair next to the Man From Another Place. She winks at Coop, and snaps her fingers, leaving her middle and index fingers pointing sharply downward. In Lynch’s later film, Inland Empire, snapping is used almost as a magical gesture by Laura Dern’s characters, and her sex worker friends. (I will cover magical gestures in a later article.) Laura then tells Cooper, “I’ll see you in 25 years,” referencing the eventuality of Cooper being trapped in the Black Lodge for 25 years. She then says “Meanwhile…” (remember this for later) and holds her hands up in a cryptic pose.
Meanwhile: Also seen during the waiting room sequence, and accompanied by the words “meanwhile”. The gesture is later mirrored by the “doppelganger Laura” during Cooper’s Black Lodge test, before she starts to scream hysterically. The exact meaning of the sign is controversial, but allegedly refers to a vedic mudra meaning “do not fear”. Other theories suggest that she is holding an imaginary object, like a picture, a vase, or (my interpretation) perhaps a pillow. The pose looks similar to that of a person asleep holding their pillow, but upright. It is interesting that Laura makes the sign after saying “I’ll see you in 25 years“. It has been suggested that the sign foreshadows what Cooper will experience in between, that is, being trapped inside the Red Room, or as Jeffries puts it: “[living] inside a dream“.
-From the Twin Peaks Gazette
Laura’s hand gesture is similar, though not identical, to the vedic abhaya mudra, or “Do Not Fear” hand gesture. This fits so well with the circumstances and symbols of Twin Peaks that I feel we should overlook the slight variation of the pose and consider them to have the same meaning. Laura’s spirit is appearing to Cooper to remind him not to fear the Black Lodge, as that would ensure his demise. Laura’s expression in this scene also seems to be blissful, or aloof; much like depictions of the Buddha. Notice also that this is actually Laura, not her Doppelganger.
Laura disappears, and a moment later, the Elderly Bellhop is sitting in her place, holding a cup of coffee. The Bellhop makes the “Indian Whooping Call.” The significance of the whooping call may be one of two things: 1) It has to do with interactions between the Dugpas and the Native Americans in the past, since, based on what Hawk tells Cooper, the Native Americans had knowledge of the Black and White Lodges, or 2) it represents the wind whistling in the trees; Considering the statement in The Missing Pieces, “We have descended from pure air,” spoken by the Man from Another Place during the meeting above the convenience store, as well as other references to air and wind in the series, such as the repeated imagery of the wind blowing through the trees, we can associate the Dugpas with this element.
The Bellhop says, “Hallelujah,” and the Man From Another Place says “Hallelujah” back. “Hallelujah” originated as a command to a congregation of people to praise the God Yahweh. Its significance here, I cannot say, except that it is yet another example of ritualistic behavior exhibited by the Dugpas (For more analysis on this subject, review my article “With This Ring, I Thee Wed”). It may, however, play into the theory that the Giant and the Man From Another Place have been wanting to put a stop to BOB’s antics, and Cooper may be the savior they’ve been waiting for: The one who can reign in the rogue agent who has the fury of his own momentum.
The Elderly Bellhop serves Cooper coffee, then turns into the Giant. The Giant sits down in the chair next to the Man From Another Place and says with a smirk, “One and the same.” This is to say, the Giant was most likely possessing the Bellhop in the same way that BOB possessed Leland, and the spirit MIKE was possessing Philip Gerard. Similar antics are most likely also in play in the cases of Mrs Tremond/Chalfont and her grandson. It is also possible that the Log Lady’s husband is similarly possessing and speaking through her log; we see these similarities again with Josie being trapped in the wood of the Great Northern Hotel. The famous line, “The owls are not what they seem,” may allude to the owls being used in this same manner, being possessed by Lodge spirits in order to watch the human world. The Giant is finally letting Cooper in on his secret.
The Giant then disappears, and the Man From Another Place begins rubbing his hands together. This may mean that he is satisfied with the way things are going, or it may be one of the mysterious “magical hand gestures” that I have noticed occur in many of David Lynch’s works. Cooper looks at the steaming cup of coffee left by the Elderly Bellhop. He attempts to drink the coffee, only to find it solidified. He shows it to the Man From Another Place, who looks pleased. Cooper looks at his coffee again, and tips the glass. This time the coffee spills like normal. Cooper is confused, and looks to the Man From Another Place for answers, only to have him look off in another direction, seemingly angry. Finally, Cooper tips the mug again, and it pours out slowly: It seems to have transformed into something like tar (perhaps oil?). The Man From Another Place looks unhappy, and, looking off at some unseen thing or person, says, “Wow, Bob, wow,” and “Fire walk with me.”
There is an interesting theory about this scene, and it goes as follows: The coffee is a sort of fortune telling device that the Dugpas are using to predict how Cooper will fare in his test. At first it is solid and unmoving, and the Man From Another Place looks satisfied. This means that Cooper, at first, will be steadfast and brave, and potentially defeat BOB. Then, it takes a darker turn, when it transmutes into the motor oil, suggesting the presence of BOB. Then, finally, the coffee runs, predicting that, ultimately, when Cooper faces BOB and his evil Doppelganger, he will run. The Man From Another Place then looks angrily at perhaps an invisible BOB and says to him, “Wow, Bob, wow,” as in, “Impressive, BOB: Looks like you win, again.” Other theories related to this scene are that the changes in the coffee represent the manipulation of time — slowing down, or freezing entirely, and that the hand rubbing motion made by the Man From Another Place represents the conjuring of heat or fire by use of friction. Another interesting thing of note: Both the words “Bob” and “Wow” are the same backwards and forwards. This could suggest the mutability of time, and linear events.
The idea of the coffee being an important fortune telling device is not as far-fetched as you might initially think, especially considering David Lynch’s (and Cooper’s) obvious adoration of the beverage. It actually reminds me quite a bit of the concept of reading tea leaves.
When the Man From Another Place says “Fire walk with me,” it is almost as if he is resigned, as if to say that BOB is on his way, and the ritual is about to begin, whether Cooper is destined to persevere, or not.
Flames explode in the darkness, announcing the approach of BOB and the Doppelgangers. The light begins to flicker. This strobe effect, I believe, is a variation on the Black Lodge carpet – the black-and-white chevron pattern. Hence, I believe they both represent the duality of light and dark within everyone, as well as referencing the Black and White Lodges. We also hear Laura’s dying scream in the distance, as if it is “moving through time” to reach Agent Cooper. Cooper gets up and walks out of the room. The Man From Another Place has disappeared. Cooper enters the hallway and walks toward the Venus DeMilo statue, parts the curtains next to it, and walks into another room, identical to the first.
Let me break here and talk about the two statues in the Lodge. There are a few points to make. First let’s note that these are both depictions of the Goddess Venus, and thus are another planetary reference (along with Saturn) within the Black Lodge. Another thing to note is that this is another example of Doppelgangers in Twin Peaks.
The first is the Venus DeMilo, which has a couple of connections to Lynch: Gordon Cole refers to it as “the babe with no arms” when comparing Shelly to the statue. Incidentally, shortly after Twin Peaks ended, David Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer, put out the movie Boxing Helena, which was built entirely around the symbolic connotations of the Venus DeMilo. The film also starred Sherilyn Fenn, a.k.a. Audrey Horne, as the Venus figure.
The other is Venus Pudica (meaning “modest Venus”). This represents the “Virgin” archetype, the dual half of the more sensuous Venus DeMilo.
It’s probably my imagination playing tricks on me, but from a certain angle, it almost looks as if she looks like she is pointing with her right hand into the empty space of the room, perhaps at the same unseen thing that the Man From Another Place is gazing at when he says “Wow, Bob, wow.” Or, as seen above, she may be pointing to Laura, who is, in a way, the “Venus” of the Black Lodge.
These statues are another reference to duality, being two different depictions of the same Goddess. On the one hand, Venus brings loving couples together, but on the other hand, the word “venereal” (as in “venereal disease”) is derived from her name. Through Venus, we can be shown both the light and dark sides of love and lust. Being a Goddess of sex, Venus could be thought to represent Laura and her own struggles with the contrasting personality traits, particularly her sexual relationships. Another way of looking at it is that the DeMilo represents Laura, and the Pudica represents Maddy, her more timid lookalike cousin.
Venus Pudica could also be related to the story of Eve and the apple in the garden on Eden, as she is covering her nudity as if in shame. This could tie back to those feelings of disgust and shame that Laura felt when she prostituted herself and did drugs. In The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Laura wonders if it was her discovery of her own sexuality that brought BOB to her, as a form of punishment.
Returning to the narrative… Cooper enters another room, which looks just like the first, except it is devoid of life. He leaves, goes back down the hallway, and enters what may be the first room, again. The Man From Another Place is there. He points toward Cooper (or in the direction he should be going) and says “Wrong way.” Cooper turns, goes back down the hall, and enters what should be the room he left earlier. It looks the same, only empty of any occupants, but we soon hear the Man From Another Place laughing maniacally. He appears out of nowhere, and dances in reverse to his chair and sits down. This is not the normal Man From Another Place, this is his Doppelganger, and this is what the Man From Another Place means when he tells Cooper, “When you see me again, it won’t be me.” The Doppelganger says, “Another friend.” This relates to the Man From Another Place’s earlier statement to Cooper, “Some of your friends are here.” The Doppelganger then laughs and hides behind the chair he was sitting in, right as Maddy walks in.
Maddy tilts her head coquettishly and says, “I’m Maddy. Watch out for my cousin.” Of course it refers to Laura, but not the Laura we’re thinking of: Her evil Doppelganger. I think this indicates that this Maddy is also a Doppelganger, and not her actual spirit. However, as we do not get a close look at her eyes, we cannot tell for sure where she is or isn’t. Cooper turns away and Maddy vanishes.
Cooper returns to the other room. This time, the room appears completely devoid of any people, spirits, or furniture. Then Cooper sees something out of the corner of his eye and turns his head to the left, where he sees the Man From Another Place’s Doppelganger, who says, “Doppelganger.” This can be construed as a warning, or an announcement: We are here, and we’re coming for you.
Cooper then looks to the right, where he see Laura’s Doppelganger (this is the cousin Doppelganger Maddy was warning Cooper about), holding the “Meanwhile…” pose. Only now, instead of an expression of aloofness or bliss, she looks angry.Her hands shake with rage, and her lips curl into a sneer as she says, “Meanwhile…,” then begins to scream. Of course this is Laura’s death scream. She backs up and steps behind a new chair, one that is particularly unique: It is red, with two conjoined seats, both facing opposite directions. This of course is another representation of duality.
She then runs up and screams in Cooper’s face, as if mocking him with her death, as he will never be able to save her. Cooper, frightened, turns and runs. Note that after Cooper leaves, we see a shot of Doppelganger Laura’s screaming face. This particular shot is not a continuous one, using the strobe light; it is actually two different shots of Laura’s face, interchanging. Another example of duality.
Cooper enters the other room, but begins to stagger. Confused, he looks down to see blood running from his torso. This is because the Doppelgangers have succeeded in frightening him, and now he is slowly being drained by them. Of course, this wound also mirrors the one dealt to him by Windom Earle in Pittsburgh, when Caroline Earle was murdered. Cooper looks at the trail of blood he has left, and follows it back out into the hallway. Judging by the trail, he has been bleeding since he left the room with Laura’s Doppelganger: Notice that that was also the first instance he showed obvious fear.
Cooper peers into the room, clutching his injury, and sees himself, lying wounded on the floor, holding the murdered Caroline Earle. When she sits up, however, we see that she is actually Annie in Caroline’s dress.
Annie looks confused, scared, and seems to be unable to speak. The strobe light begins again. The next few seconds are actually a continuous shot of the Lodge’s chevron floor lit by the strobe light. This shot fades into a view of the red curtains as Cooper walks through the hallway again. I believe this indicates a time lapse: He’s been wandering around for a while. Things get a bit more confusing here. Cooper looks into the room and sees Annie, wearing her black dress from earlier, standing there. She walks up to him and says, “Dale. I saw the face of the man who killed me.” Of course, this is referring to Windom Earle. Cooper does not understand this. She tells him, “It was my husband.” Again, this means Windom, but it could be a foreshadow to something we may see in the new season. I’ll get back to that in the second part of this article. Everything here has a dual meaning: Some of it just relates to Caroline’s past, but it is also playing on Cooper’s anxieties over Annie’s potential death.
Confused, Cooper says Annie’s name again, only to have her respond with, “Who’s Annie? It’s me.” She then turns into Caroline, who continues to say, “It’s me.” However, notice the appearance of Caroline’s eyes: They are the same as the Doppelgangers of Laura, Maddy, Leland, and the Man From Another Place. To me, this suggests that Caroline herself is not trapped in the Black Lodge. We are only seeing a sort of “puppet” of her, created by the Black Lodge to test Cooper.
She then turns back into Annie, but wearing Caroline’s dress. She touches Cooper’s face lovingly and says, “You must be mistaken. I’m alive.” This is actually Annie responding to Cooper earlier, when he asked, “The face of the man who killed you?” Suddenly Annie’s hand is gone from Cooper’s face, and she has turned into angry Doppelganger Laura, who continues to scream, before stopping abruptly and standing, staring angrily at Cooper. Cooper then flinches as she turns into Windom Earle.
Now, it must be noted that this scene has played a large part in shaping people’s interpretation of Cooper’s journey through the Black Lodge. Many people take this scene as an indication that the interchanging Annie, Caroline and Laura were all just Windom Earle using the power of the Black Lodge to shape-shift, and scare the wits out of Cooper. Some even believe that all the spirits that we see in the Lodge are Windom in disguise. I don’t believe this for several reasons. First of all, there are too many bits of hidden wisdom spoken for me for think that Windom could pull off imitating the Lodge spirits all this time. Windom, no matter how evil he may be, is just an arrogant human who went insane. He’s too weak to control to Black Lodge’s magic to this extent. Also, Windom has not made any sacrifice yet, thus has harvested no garmonbozia, and so has most likely not received any power from the Lodge. And finally, everything thus far has gone according to Hawk’s descriptions of the Black Lodge, and what one must go through within. Therefore, it is my opinion that Windom had nothing to do with any of the events, between him taking Annie and entering the Lodge, and his reappearance in front of Cooper. I even believe that Windom was not aware of Cooper’s presence until that moment, and has no idea that the Black Lodge is also playing tricks.
Windom addresses Cooper, and then Annie, wearing her own black dress, materializes. She is breathing heavily, as suggested by her movements. She looks from Cooper to Windom, then disappears again. This implies to me that Windom is holding her captive, in a sort of psychic cell, and he is only showing her to Cooper to prove that he has her. She is his bargaining chip.
In the corner of this room, we in fact see the table from Fire Walk With Me (The one in the Lodge, when the Man From Another Place shows Cooper the ring). This table has golden wings holding it up, perhaps connecting it to the Angels of the White Lodge. However, because the Owl Ring is seen on it in Fire Walk With Me, it is also connected to the sacrificial rituals the Dugpas of the Black Lodge perform.
Windom laughs maniacally and says, “If you give me your soul, I’ll let Annie live.” Of course Cooper consents unflinchingly. Here’s where things start to get even more confusing.
Windom stabs Cooper, right where he stabbed him in Pittsburgh, and Cooper falls. However, the wound is bloodless: It is actually a psychic attack, and Windom is taking Cooper’s soul. Then everything explodes into fire, announcing the arrival of BOB. The scene where Windom stabs Cooper is played in reverse, suggesting that it has been undone (this would mean Cooper got his soul back). The strobe begins again, and Windom cries out for help as BOB gets a hold of him and begins torturing him. BOB says “Be quiet,” which mutes Windom’s screams. BOB then tells Cooper, “You go. He’s wrong. He can’t ask for your soul. I will take his.” This indicates again to me how powerless Windom really is.
Windom begins to scream again, and we see fire go into his head, seemingly at BOB’s beckoning. Windom then goes still and quiet. BOB has presumably taken his soul. Cooper walks slowly out of the room. As he does, however, another figure comes running up behind the red curtains. It is Cooper’s Doppelganger. Even if BOB told him to go, it isn’t that simple: There is still another trial that Cooper must pass. The Doppelganger laughs with BOB, who still has Windom.
(This is the last we see of Windom Earle.)
Back in the hall, Cooper is about to enter another room when Leland Palmer’s Doppelganger steps out, laughing, from an area where there should be nothing. His hair is its original brown shade. Doppelganger Leland tells Cooper “I did not kill anybody,” which is a reference to Leland’s role as a pawn in BOB’s murders, and Cooper’s guilt that he could not save Leland. He steps toward Cooper, seemingly trying to intimidate him, but Cooper avoids him and parts to curtains to enter the other room. However, he steals one last look backward at Leland’s Doppelganger, and sees his own emerge from the other end of the hall. This is a continuation of his mistake of not facing his Doppelganger, but instead continuing to search for Annie. Cooper steps into the other room, and the Doppelganger enters the hallway. He and Leland’s Doppelganger smile and laugh.
The appearance of Leland’s Doppelganger is significant because of what is about to happen to Cooper: He is about to be a vessel for BOB. The only other vessel for BOB that we have met is Leland, hence his Doppelganger’s appearance at the end of the Black Lodge sequence.
Now, instead of going back and forth down the hallway, Cooper is running consistently through the rooms of the Lodge, most of which are empty. Doppelganger Cooper laughs as he pursues Cooper, and as he finally catches his quarry, the strobe light once again begins to flash, and we see BOB’s face smiling into the camera. The scene in the Lodge fades into the scene of the entrance – red curtains hanging in the circle of Sycamore trees. There is a spotlight on the curtains, and it become brighter right as two bodies suddenly materialize outside…
Cooper made the fatal mistake when he ran from his Doppelganger: He had already shown fear, but I believe that, if he had ultimately faced his Doppelganger, the “Dweller on the Threshold,” he could had succeeded. The fact that he ran at that crucial moment is what spelled demise for Cooper, and why he ended up trapped there for 25 years, while his Doppelganger and BOB run amok.
So that is the sum of what, exactly, happened to Cooper inside the Lodge. So what does that mean for the future of Agent Cooper and Twin Peaks? We will explore that in the second part of this article; Beyond Life and Death, Part 2: The Rebirth of Agent Cooper.