I’m a bit late to this party and I’m betting that everyone is bored to tears by now of hearing endless theories about what it all means, if indeed it means anything. I’m not going to focus on theories (maybe one or two later on) but more about feelings.
There are lots of spoilers here for the end of season 3 so be warned. I’m guessing everyone’s seen it by now, though.
If you haven’t read my first posts about this, they’re here:
I sat there in front of the television and I was angry. The credits started and I couldn’t believe I had been left in that state. Someone had taken what I was used to as the norms of storytelling and basically ripped them up in front of my face with no concern for my needs. There was no more coming. It was the end and I was stuck with it. That was pretty difficult for a fifteen year old to take. Just Dale Cooper staring into the mirror and Bob staring back and that mocking phrase, “How’s Annie?” repeated over and over again. I’d known that kind of shock before: the time when they discontinued the Zoids comics when I was 11 and the story of the crash survivors on the planet Zoidstar was never going to be resolved. That just ended with no resolution at all, cancelled in mid-story. It wasn’t as if it was intended to end like that. What I couldn’t understand was that, with Twin Peaks, it was meant to end like that.
Over the years, I came to accept what had happened and realise that it was probably for the best. Having that ending meant that I could carry on the story in my mind in whatever way I chose and indulge in all sorts of theories for all the loose ends that hadn’t been tied off. Always leave them wanting more as the saying goes. The best endings do that in different ways:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer leaves you with a simple, hopeful look that allows you to imagine a brighter future (even if that doesn’t work out in the canonical comic book continuation: Season 8).
The Shield leaves you with Vic Mackey strapping on his gun and stalking out onto the streets after the sound of sirens, unable to be restrained by the strict confines of his new job.
Battlestar Galactica leaves you with the notion that all that has passed will happen again in our own future.
Blake’s 7 leaves you with a stand-off, the outcome of which you never see. Still you imagine ways in which Avon could have escaped and could still be out there somewhere, sardonic wit intact.
Twin Peaks left you with the horror of seeing your hero replaced by an unstoppable evil and all you were left with was sick imaginings of what chaos that doppelganger might wreak in his name. It was this reversal of any notion of completion that will forever make Twin Peaks stick out in my mind, above the fine examples listed above (all of which I love), as the best thing I have ever seen on television. Far from not having a happy ending, the worst possible scenario was conjured for us and we were stuck with it for 25+ years.
So why, when I hauled myself out of bed at 4.30am to watch the finale of Twin Peaks: The Return, did I expect anything different? I said in a previous post that this entire series was a gift and it has been just that from start to finish. None of us expected it or predicted that it would happen. Truly, at the end of that first watch, I felt that same anger I felt as a teenager. I wanted answers! I wanted things wrapped up neatly with a bow. Give me my Michael Ontkean cameo appearance now!!!! It’s natural to want that. I forgot what I had written before, way back when there was still 12 episodes of this left in which to hope for the resolution I craved. I feel like such a hypocrite but I wanted just a taste of nostalgia to round things off.
Above all, I felt angry at Dale Cooper. My initial reading of the final two hours was that, just as he did when he charged into the Black Lodge after Annie at the end of Season 2, he bit off way more than he could chew. All tragic heroes have a fatal flaw; Cooper’s is his self-confidence. He was hopelessly out of his depth in the Black Lodge, barely able to speak, let alone have any real influence on the events around him. That led to his doppelganger gaining access to the outside world and wreaking havoc for over 25 years. Fast forward to part 17 and Bob is defeated, almost entirely by the actions of others (Lucy and Freddie). Cooper then plunges into a plan to rescue Laura and maybe defeat the all powerful evil, Judy. I knew as soon as his watching face was superimposed over the screen, relegated to watching events unfold, that something was horribly wrong. There is an incredible sense of foreboding that begins with that watching, powerless face. I also felt a fear for what would come when, upon climbing the stairs inside the convenience store, Cooper is passed the other way by the long-nosed jumping man on his way to some mischief, potentially using the door that our special agent opened. Cooper dives back in time to nobly save Laura, not paying any attention to side effects that might have. This all ends up with a whole timeline being altered and everything we’ve ever seen becoming null and void, even the happy ending for Janey-E and Sonny Jim. Not what I would have wanted.
This whole thing isn’t about me and what I want, though; that’s what I forgot. This was not television created in a writers’ room with a bunch of overseeing producers making sure all the right demographics and what-not are hit. Lynch and Frost didn’t have me in mind when they came up with these ideas. As sad as that might make me and as much as it damages my ego, I’m afraid it’s true and it’s true for all of us. They didn’t write this ‘for the fans’. I feel confident in saying that they clearly hoped that we would like it as does anyone who creates something that is designed to be seen by others. While I was getting ready for work after the finale, I had a brief look on Facebook to see what people were saying about it. It was wall to wall bile; people were so angry. I can understand the feelings but it was the way in which people were lashing out that stunned me. Here are a few choice examples.
“I’ll punch the first person who tells me this was a good ending.” Hello Mr Fascist, other opinions are available, yes?
“I’m embarrassed to be a Twin Peaks fan.” That really says more about your insecurity as a person than it does about what you’ve been watching.
“This was a complete waste of my time.” All of it? Dude I played 108 hours of Mass Effect and the ending wasn’t that great. It didn’t make the other 107.5 hours any less cool.
“I wouldn’t have ended it that way.” Go and create something of your own, then. Stick it out there and see how it makes you feel. No need to start with an 18 hour film. Just bake a cake and see if people like it. When they start waving their arms around and shouting, telling you they would have used less icing, take a mental snapshot of how it makes you feel.
These 18 hours have been a beautiful and maddening experience and there are so many standout moments that will resonate with me just as much as anything from the original series. In the end, I don’t understand everything; not everything was explained to me. That hurt at the time but, even as I write this, I can feel myself warming to the process behind it. It’s just a different way of presenting things. Let me try to give you an example of what I mean using something else.
These are my two favourite paintings:
I have a good idea of what Turner was trying to convey in his picture. It’s quite a straightforward work in terms of interpretation. Despite its simplicity in terms of themes, it’s still a captivating masterpiece that I can spend ages gazing at. Different features catch my attention at times but the ethereal beauty of the old Trafalgar veteran juxtaposed with the inky black stain of the steam-powered tug is always what I come back to. It’s a neatly conveyed idea.
Sprick’s work on the other hand is a complete mystery to me. I could go mad trying to ascribe intentions to it. I literally have no idea what it is supposed to mean or how I should feel about it. Different objects capture my eye every time and some of them mean nothing in terms of an overall interpretation but for some reason I’m OK with that. It comes down to what you’re comfortable with. Are you comfortable with not knowing? All I want to do is keep looking at it. It’s not traditional and it has no answers but it is beautiful nonetheless.
We really know so little in life. So much of our everyday, despite our supposed routines, is uncertain. Are the ‘powers that be’ about to end our story? Maybe that’s why we’re so demanding of neat little boxes when it comes to entertainment. We don’t always need them, however. In my opinion, it’s good to be confused sometimes. Like Mr. C, we don’t need anything, we want.
There are lots of plot strands that are left hanging over the course of the 18 hours: Red, Becky and Steven, the drunk, Audrey, the glass box. As annoying as these are, they do mirror our experiences in life. We come into contact with people and their stories and all too often we lose touch without the full discovery or understanding. Now, I’m not saying that this is all just the genius of Lynch. As I’ve said before, I don’t just blindly ‘love’ all his work. I’m sure some of these things are just oversights. The best thing about it is that it leaves itself open to interpretation to the nth degree. How many other TV shows do that? People dissect every little motion, going as far as timing different scenes to see how the loops match up. This level of analysis just does not happen elsewhere. YouTube is awash with videos containing theories and guesswork about intentions and meanings. I love the fact that Twin Peaks provokes that in people. The note of the hum in the Great Northern is playing at exactly 315Hz, for example. Is that true? is it intentional? Isn’t it amazing that it’s open to interpretation?
Kyle Maclachlan, who richly deserves all the praise he’s getting for his work on this, has said that “Good art asks questions.” and Twin Peaks certainly does that. It is like nothing else on television and my summer has been so much richer for its return. Seeing people like Everett McGill and Richard Beymer on screen after so long, slipping so seamlessly into their roles has been magical. Watching Eamon Farren, Amy Shiels, Laura Dern and Naomi Watts join the cast and add so much to the mythos of the show has been fantastic. I can’t even list all the names: Robert Knepper, Tom Sizemore, Jim Belushi, Don Murray also added so much. The ensemble put together for this was phenomenal. It’s also so lovely that we got to spend some final hours with Catherine Coulson and Miguel Ferrer. Seeing the marvellous collection of musical performances over a range of styles, rounded off beautifully by Julee Cruise singing her favourite song, which has haunted me since I was a teenager. That’s also something that will last long after the summer has passed away.
It’s been an amazing journey since May and I loved every minute of it, even the most uncomfortable and challenging ones; even the ones that made me angry.
Now, I did say that I had some theories, but they’re more like observations really. I have to tip my hat to all the people who put so much thought into this online. Your theories are a joy to read and make me feel incredibly dumb sometimes.
- That jump cut to Audrey in the mirror at the end of part 16 was one of my favourite shots of the whole show. That’s how you do a cliffhanger!! I can’t add anything to this. I love this theory about Audrey and potentially the whole series. It’s here.
- When Cooper diverts Laura from her path and stops her murder, we cut back to the Palmer house in the present day. I think Sarah is the vessel for Judy at this point, realises that the timeline has been changed and Laura has been saved. She is furious and attacks the picture which has the result of ripping the Laura in the past away from Cooper and into the strange ‘netherworld’ we have seen in some episodes. Maybe this also happens concurrently with the removal of Laura in the red room in the first part of the series. She is taken from all realities and dumped into the life of Carrie Page, far away from where she can influence anything.
- Just before the Giant sends Mr C through the horn to the sheriff’s station, his screen is showing the Palmer house. I took that to indicate that the last thing that was sent through the horn was sent there. What could it be? Is it the thing that is in Sarah’s kitchen? Is it the thing that inhabited Sarah? We’re all a bit timey-wimey here so could it be that the Giant was able to switch everything round and move Sarah/Judy away from the house so that when Carrie and Cooper arrived there they would be safe. Maybe he sent Mrs Tremond, an ever present and seemingly neutral force in the mythos of the series to balance things out.
- Carrie hears her mother call to her before she screams and seemingly has her Laura memories revealed. I don’t know where this comes from. In any case, immediately afterwards it feels like something has been tripped and needs to be reset, like a blown fuse as there is so much talk of electricity throughout the series. the electricity in the house (and in the reality itself) shorts out and we cut to black.
- When Laura whispers to Dale in the red room, he is visibly upset by what she says. I wonder what the message was. Perhaps it was the knowledge that they are both trapped in a loop now and forever
- The electricity pylon at the 430 mile limit where Cooper and Diane stop made me seriously think of the picture of the giant in the owl cave map.
- I still don’t know how Annie is. I never thought I’d be that bothered by the question but I really want to know now. I don’t have much confidence that I’ll find out in Mark Frost’s Final Dossier as she was conspicuously absent in the Secret History.
- I feel like we’ve been looking into a number of different realities over the course of the series and that we may never know what’s what. Maybe there are so many and they can be created at every turn. Ed creates one himself when he closes his eyes. Whatever we dream is possible becomes so in another world that we create.
That last one gives me some hope. I have hope that somewhere there is the Las Vegas where Janey-E and Sonny Jim are happy with ‘Dougie’. It would satisfy me to know that there is a bright spot in all the darkness.
Thanks for reading,