“Black Lodge/White Lodge” is the 25 Years Later version of the popular point/counterpoint style of debating, wherein two sides take opposing views and hash it out on stage. Here, we’ll be debating the finer points of Twin Peaks lore, in writing, for your reading pleasure.
Today’s debaters are: Yvette Giles, Mat Cult, and Isaac Closs.
The topic is: What’s is going on with Audrey?
Black Lodge: by Yvette Giles
That terrible business at the bank…
When I first watched the Audrey and Charlie scene something felt off to me. It was really very reminiscent of Mulholland Drive, and it was as if we were being shown something close to reality but not quite right. Audrey seemed both familiar and unfamiliar, and it was extremely off-putting. In psychoanalytic terms this is referred to as ‘the uncanny’ and those familiar with Lynch’s work will recognise this feeling: situations and people that seem normal but on a closer glance are very wrong.
I have seen a number of theories being explored online, but the one that has really stuck with me is this one: that Audrey Horne never awoke from the coma that the bank explosion put her in and she is dreaming a reality that doesn’t exist, but that is linked to the goings on in Twin Peaks that she is cognizant of, particularly those involving Richard.
While there has been no confirmation that Richard is Audrey’s son it is getting increasingly difficult to accept any other possibility. Richard is unequivocally Ben’s grandson and there is no evidence to suggest that Johnny could possibly be his father, particularly given the way that Richard spoke about Johnny. This leaves either Audrey or (possibly) Donna as Richard’s link to Ben. However, given Richard’s almost inhuman capacity for evil (“That boy has never been right.”) I am unconvinced that anyone but Mr. C could be his father and given what we know of Mr. C’s visit to Intensive Care, Audrey is most likely Richard’s mother. This begs the question: if Audrey is Richard’s mother and is living in Twin Peaks (evidenced by her comment to Charlie about visiting The Roadhouse), then why would Frank not go to see Audrey rather than Ben? And why would Audrey not have mentioned Richard in her scene with Charlie?
What is particularly telling is the fact that nobody, except Doc Hayward, has even talked about Audrey. This cannot be unintentional as Lynch and Frost are well aware of just how loved this character was and is. Sherilyn Fenn is front and center in the EW cover, and she is not a minor character, so the mere fact that she has only been mentioned once and unseen until two thirds through the run is telling. Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly’s Twin Peaks Podcast stated that Audrey was “introduced as if she had always been there,” and indeed she has. I propose that Audrey has never left Twin Peaks, in fact she has never left Calhoun Memorial Hospital, a fact that is never mentioned but intimated in the weight in Will Hayward’s voice when he tells Sheriff Truman: “She was in a coma.” In their Skype call, Doc Hayward seems to be greatly affected by the memory of Audrey in a coma, which seems strange given it is 25 years after the fact. However, if she had never awoken from that state the gravity in Doc Hayward’s tone is completely plausible.
Another clue that suggests that Audrey is not in the same reality as the other Twin Peaks action is the lack of technology. Charlie’s office has no computer, a rolodex, piles of paper files and, strangest of all, a rotary phone. This is an office from decades ago, not 2015. Audrey is able to envision this office because she has never seen a smartphone or a modern computer. In his piece, Isaac has argued that lack of technology is a familiar theme for Lynch given his nostalgia for yesteryear. However, in The Return, Lynch and Frost are concerned with the evils of modernity, particularly late capitalism, and rather than looking backward to a better time they are facing head-on the consequences of greed, intolerance and individualism. Therefore, we see modern technology present throughout the series, we have seen smartphones and computers, not to mention Sheriff Truman’s James Bond-esque desktop.
While looking at Twitter today, I saw comments suggesting that theorizing that Audrey was stuck in a coma-dream state was “lazy.” However, as Audrey says herself, ‘dreams sometimes hearken a truth.’ In Lynch’s world, dreams are always significant, and they often tell us about the reality of his characters: their hopes, dreams, disappointments, desires and more, channeled in a way that they are unable to in reality. Audrey is reaching out from her comatose state and trying to make sense of the evil manifesting in the world around her. Mat Cult argues that what is being experienced in Twin Peaks is an aftereffect of traumatic events such as the Trinity test, Laura’s death and Cooper’s disappearance. Twin Peaks has, after all, always been about the evil that men do. Like Mat, I believe Audrey has been profoundly changed as a result of these events. This does not mean, however, that she has to be awake and experiencing them in real time. For Audrey, Billy and his stolen truck are a link back to Richard and his heinous crimes. Finding Billy is a psychic quest, a way to face the evil that is connected to her, both through Richard and Mr. C (Break the code, solve the crime!) We can only hope that, like our beloved Dale Cooper, she is slowly coming back to the world and will soon wake up.
White Lodge: by Mat Cult
Twin Peaks has always been about ripples. We watched as a single event – the murder of a teenage girl, a small-town homecoming queen – sent out ripples of action and reaction through time and space.
What we’re watching in The Return is a continuation of those ripples. A quarter of a century has passed and the aftershocks of Laura Palmer’s death are still tangible all over the town of Twin Peaks. Bobby Briggs, now a capable, confident officer of the law, still can’t see her photo without weeping. And Laura’s mother, Sarah Palmer has never recovered either. She is broken, frozen and haunted by the “goddamn bad story” that tore her world apart. Rather than fading out over time, the ripples have intensified into destructive waves of grief.
Perhaps this escalation occurred because, as time passed, Laura’s ripples combined with other impacts on the surface of the town, most notably the sudden disappearance of Special Agent Dale Cooper 25 years ago. The Return reminds me of those “Bizzaro: What If?” comics they used to do, like “What if everyone on Earth had Superman’s powers?” Except here the “What if?” is “What if Agent Cooper suddenly ceased to exist 25 years ago? What would the world be like?”
And the answer is: Not good. Not good at all. Twin Peaks is not the warm, welcoming town we came to love way back when. Violence and madness, once secret and suppressed in the shadows, now stand proud in the bright light of day. Back in the 1990s, Agent Cooper had become a key figure in the fight against “the evil out there”, and his disappearance left the community vulnerable to the sinister forces that besieged them. The “troubling abstractions” that once lurked and skulked in the woods are now openly running riot through the streets.
Audrey Horne was profoundly and personally affected by the sudden vanishing of Dale Cooper. Had he been there when she awoke from her coma, her situation could have been so different. Perhaps the two of them would have started a life together. At very least he would have continued to be a steadying, encouraging influence and a true friend.
In this Sliding Doors future without Cooper, Audrey has lost her mischief and her sparkle. Robbed of the magic of a thrilling teenage crush, she settled for a loveless and frustrating marriage to the world-weary and irritating Charlie. Charlie is an anti-Cooper – inert, cynical, uncaring and putting his work before Audrey. How they ended up together is a mystery. Perhaps he was there that fateful day in the bank. Perhaps he was there when she finally awoke. Perhaps she loved him once. I don’t know. I don’t have a crystal ball (and neither does he*).
Although the decades of disappointment have clearly worn her down, Audrey has retained a hint of her spark, a glimmer of her former rebellious and idealistic youth. But that energy is tainted by years of bitter resentment and now manifests in a foul mouth, an emotional coldness and a destructive affair with a man named Billy. And Billy, like Cooper before him, is missing. Audrey is left with only troubled, violent dreams about his fate to keep her company.
Will Cooper return, like a knight in shining armour to rescue this damsel in despair? Probably not. And even if he did, he could never undo 25 years of damage to Audrey – any more than the spirit of Laura, for all her golden, glowing goodness, could repair Sarah’s spiritual and psychological devastation. The wounds inflicted on Twin Peaks, and the people who live there, have festered, not healed. We will never know what may have been if Laura and Cooper were not cruelly snatched away, because they were. What we see is what we get – the ugly, tragic reality of life after loss.
More than 70 years after the Trinity atom bomb test, the residual radiation at the site is still highly toxic. Just like the tremendous, spreading force of the blast we witnessed in Part 8, devastating shocks from the past continue to undulate in waves through this simple logging town. And nobody is immune to the fallout from the events that shook Twin Peaks, not even the dreamiest femme fatale.
*This is a lie, he totally has a crystal ball. It’s right there on his desk.
Red Room: by Isaac Closs
“Come on Audrey, you know I don’t have a crystal ball…”
Of all of the expectations from the revival of Twin Peaks (calling it ‘The Return’ sticks in my craw, but that’s just personal preference), the announcement that Sherylin Fenn would return sent these skyrocketing. We’ve all surely gotten used to Dougie-Coop and made our peace with that, and swooned over the new and improved Bobby Briggs, marvelled at Ben, Betty and Carl and the predictably outstanding performances from these returning actors- but what many were waiting for with baited breath was Ms Horne herself.
We’ve had hints – left in a coma following episode 29; Richard Horne may or may not be her son, but other than that, her current status quo has been a mystery.
And…it’s pretty much still a mystery.
We cut with no fanfare to a classic Lynch scene – stilted, odd, devoid of real context: A dark wooden office, where Audrey stands fidgeting in place whilst her husband, Charlie sits at his desk strewn with papers.
Theories have been flying thick and fast: Audrey is still in a coma and this scene is all in her mind, with slivers of the real world siphoning into her mind; Audrey is utterly delusional and acting out to her psychiatrist, who is keeping up the pretence, handling her damaged emotions like glass; Audrey is on a soundstage, acting in a modern, semi-autobiographical version of Invitation to Love.
Lynch can be obscure, wilfully so. But sometimes a golden shovel is just a golden shovel.
This scene, whilst jarring and disconcerting, is ‘merely’ a Lynchian scene in this most Lynchian of series.
On Charlie’s desk we see a rolodex, and he phones ‘Tina’ on an old school rotary phone – these ‘clues’ have been pounced upon as evidence that all is not what it seems. However, these anachronistic items crop up time and again in both Twin Peaks and Lynch’s work in general (see: the sequence of phones on Mulholland Drive). Lynch almost fetishizes the old-fashioned, vaguely 50s era of technology.
In this scene, a number of names are frantically referenced – Billy, who is missing; Tina, the last person to see Billy; Paul, whose name holds a vague threat. This has been taken as evidence that this is all fiction, that Lynch/Frost wouldn’t possibly bamboozle us viewers with these unseen characters so late in the game. But this isn’t the case – we hear about characters who we never see fairly frequently (‘Chip ain’t got no phone!’) and even later in the episode in the Roadhouse we hear a slice of life about cheating lovers. Lynch fairly commonly refers to the unseen, to add texture to his worlds.
And of course, this scene is very much set in Twin Peaks, in the Twin Peaks world- Audrey references the Roadhouse several times, and the elusive ‘Billy’ was mentioned previously – in that diner scene where Bing bursts in searching for him (though a lot of confusion was caused due to incorrect subtitles).
It’s been noted that this scene has no blocking, with Audrey standing in the same spot for this entire scene, adding to the impression that this is unreal, therefore not a ‘real’ scene.
However anyone with a passing knowledge of Twi Peaks can see this as a folly- if you look at any scene directed by David Lynch and expect Stanislavski-esque naturalism and realism, you’ve got a long way to look.
Yes this scene is jarring, and almost utterly devoid of context – much like the original dream/Red Room scene, and the opening scene of this series with the Fireman – but that doesn’t mean that this context won’t become apparent in coming episodes. Mark Frost is very plot focused, and I don’t think that a scene of this length would be added in as a mere throwaway.
Whilst this scene didn’t work for me on first view, on repeated view I felt something more- it feels odd and claustrophobic, cut off from everything else (an effect which may or may not be attributable to the fact that Fenn did not film in Washington). At the risk of sounding patronising, I feel that the weight of expectation for Audrey’s return was so large that whatever fans of Audrey expected her first scene to be like…it certainly wasn’t this. As a result, I think that some people have been struggling to accept that this is Audrey’s redebut- fans are now watching the clock, worried that the waters of the plot are becoming too muddied, so it’s perhaps easier to write it all off as a dream.
I actually think these interpretations of the scene are disrespectful of the character, to write her off as a fantasizing coma victim, or a psychologically broken woman. Time will hopefully tell what this scene means in the greater context (remember the mantra…it’s an 18-hour film…) – but even though it seems unreal, like things are not what they seem – isn’t that just pure Lynch! Disconcerting and subverting our expectations, again and again. Let’s take it at face value – this is Lynch just being Lynch (with a peppering of Frost, of course!)
BONUS! Mauve World: by John Bernardy
If Audrey really IS in a coma, this could be her clawing her way to the surface in a very similar way (and mirror) to our Agent Cooper in “Vegas.” While there’s a poetry to Richard Horne’s parents both being lost in dreams while he’s become a living nightmare (and let’s be clear I do NOT rule this out at all), I don’t think Audrey’s lost in herself fighting to make that sort of a return. We have been led to believe this much too strongly, and Lynch and Frost have proven themselves way too interested in defying expectations thus far for this plot turn to be taken as truth.
I think the Audrey scene we saw in Part Twelve has more to do with the OTHER dreamland, Hollywood, and if the scene had gone on ten more seconds we’d hear the director yell “Cut!”
Mulholland Drive was supposed to be an Audrey spinoff, and as The Return seems to be Lynch checking things off his wish list (I’m looking at you, Ronnie Rocket), I see no reason in the world to think that this isn’t that original story pitch reborn into its original intent.
If this meta premise of mine is true, Audrey’s storyline has her working as an actress, who is starring in a passion project of hers that is somewhat based on her issues back home, and she’s playing a character who I will call Audrey Richards after the Mary Tyler Moore Show’s main character Mary Richards. The contract (between her and her co-star “Charlie”) could easily be based on whatever arrangement Ben and Sylvia have been living in all these years, and therefore not only will we get to see how Audrey is living today, we will get insight into the entire Horne family over the years.
An unfolding of history within a narrative is perfectly Peaks. Also, autobiography through art is something I bet Audrey would be completely on board with, as is Sherilyn Fenn herself (currently at work on an autobiography) and, as The Return would imply, Lynch would be as well.
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