This article contains spoilers for Twin Peaks season 3 parts 17 and 18. For maximum enjoyment, we recommend reading after you’ve watched the show.
David Lynch reinvented the television wheel not once but twice. The original Twin Peaks, which ran from 1990-1991, was his attempt at branching out into a new creative medium, intrigued by long-form storytelling. Things soured considerably, as the show went from cultural phenomenon to ignominy in the space of a year. By the time the season two finale aired in June 1991, nobody really gave a damn. Once Laura Palmer’s killer had been unmasked, the water cooler conversations quickly dried up.
Now season three has come to an end, and it may just have altered the television landscape all over again. Earlier this year Showtime CEO David Nevins described Twin Peaks: The Return as the, “pure heroin version of David Lynch”. He wasn’t kidding. In part eight, Lynch treated us to a 45-minute experimental short film involving nuclear bombs, killer lumberjacks and a sequence set inside an explosion which replaced 2001: A Space Odyssey’s ‘star gate’ sequence as the most far out thing we’ve ever experienced. How did he get away with it? Well, because David Lynch is David Lynch, and his cultural stock was high enough again for the network to give he and Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost creative carte blanche.
If part 17 was the exciting showdown we’ve long expected between Coop and Mr C – and it was very exciting – part 18 was the haunting coda nobody saw coming. While the penultimate chapter practically rebooted the mythology – yes, even Lynch has joined the reboot craze – it did so in an unspeakably tragic way. The sombre tone and peculiar mood of part 18 recalled 1962’s horror gem, Carnival of Souls (a singular work which itself feels proto-Lynchian), and one of the director’s favourite’s, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
Agent Cooper/Richard (Kyle MacLachlan) sets off to find Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in Odessa, Texas and return her to the Pacific Northwest mountain town for a happy family reunion with Sarah and Leland. Although Coop woke up and reverted to his kick-ass former self, in saving Laura in the woods moments before her rendezvous with Jacques Renault (Walter Olkewicz) and Leo Johnson (Eric DaRe), something went very wrong. This was no Quantum Lea-style righting of past wrongs.
Philip Jeffries’ line in Fire Walk with Me, “We live inside a dream,” reappeared in the final parts, and it now looks like Lynch and Frost have condemned Coop to existing in a living nightmare. While everyone in the town thinks Dale is perfect, his mistakes tend to be big ones. Is he guilty of arrogance or lack of guile? Hawk (Michael Horse) did warn him, back in season two, crossing into the Black Lodge without perfect courage would annihilate his soul. Turns out Coop is a very flawed hero after all.
Frost and Lynch have been hinting at fractured timelines and alternate dimensions throughout season three. This goes some way to explaining curious continuity errors too deliberate in design to be the product of sloppy directing, two prime examples being Big Ed’s reflection in the Gas Farm window front not matching his actions in the scene, and Norma (Peggy Lipton) correcting her suitor and business partner about her not having any family. In one reality of Twin Peaks, Norma does have a sister named Annie (Heather Graham) and a food critic mother named Vivian (Jane Greer), but not necessarily in another. Frost set the stage for all this time-blurring madness in his 2016 book ‘The Secret History of Twin Peaks’, where Norma’s lineage is totally at odds with the show’s.
It’s time – at long last – to talk about Judy. ‘Judy’ began as a reference to a person in Fire Walk with Me and in 2014’s The Missing Pieces this person is referred to by Jeffries as “Miss Judy”. But Gordon Cole’s revelatory explanation in part 17 turned Judy into a malevolent force of evil, not necessarily a literal person. The scene also, hilariously, features a dick joke. When Albert (Miguel Ferrer) quips that his boss is going soft in his old age, Cole fires back, “Not where it counts, buddy.”
The FBI Deputy Director informed Albert and Tammy (Chrysta Bell), Judy was in the “olden times” known as “Jiāo dāi”, which is Mandarin for “to explain”. Contained within this bit of retconned mythology from the spin-off prequel is a coded message from Lynch to the fans. Jiāo dāi in Twin Peaks is a supreme negative force and the ultimate negative force (for Lynch) is explanation.
Mystery is a beautiful thing. If all has been explained, it takes away the pleasures of thought and imagination, stripping away multiple meanings and readings into one definitive concern. It’s no fun and even anti-intellectual. Lynch wants us to actively engage with his work and daydream about it. Keep the mystery alive, let it be, be in awe of the unknown and the unknowable. In a world of directors constantly talking about making films “for the fans”, Lynch and Frost have done the exact opposite. They love Peakies – as the fan base is affectionately known – but the pair’s creativity is not in thrall to them, and they’re certainly not interested in cheap fan service. Lynch and Frost threw us more than a few bones along the way, but it was always on their terms.
Twin Peaks season three is surely Lynch’s magnum opus. It feels like a summary statement of everything the director has achieved. From his inspirations – the Holy Vedas (Hindu texts), animation, abstract expressionism, 1950s Americana, pop music, surrealism, transcendental meditation and even quantum physics – Lynch has revealed that Twin Peaks exists and operates like a dream, where forms, physicality and physical spaces are constantly in doubt, appear in disguise and can be presented in multiple versions. Season three was never going to end conventionally. Was anyone really expecting to see Coop sitting in the Double R, munching cherry pie and shooting the breeze with all our favourite locals? That’s simply not Lynch’s style, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Published 5 Sep 2017
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