One Slice of Bread in a Big Cosmic Loaf: Multiverses in The Return

When The Secret History of Twin Peaks was released, the prime complaint most people had was that the history being told just didn’t match up to the history we’d seen play out on our TV screens all those years ago. Some armchair theorists believed that this was evidence of the forgery of the dossier that forms the central thrust of the novel; others posited more elaborate scenarios involving timequakes, multiple realities, and alternate timelines.

With the latest installment of Twin Peaks: The Return, added together with the strange glitches in time that have been built into the scenes we’re seeing (the RR Diner in Part 7; the glitch in the door panel in Part 10) or in the way the scenes have been structured (Hawk’s trek into the woods where he sees the red curtains from Glastonbury Grove in Part 2; Bobby’s comments about what he found that belonged to his father in Part 13) I think that the latter group of theories has been given a significant boost because of three key scenes.

The first clue in Part 14 is found in the fact that Gordon mentions a dream he’s had, another one involving Monica Bellucci. Dreams in Twin Peaks have always had special import, going back to Agent Cooper’s first Red Room dream in Season 1 Episode 2. Several mentions of dreams have become integral plot points in the last few weeks, from Audrey’s dream (within a dream?) in Part 12 to Gordon’s dream in Part 14. It’s Gordon’s dream that is most interesting to me, as it contains elements of a larger sequence from the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me that involved Agent Cooper, and was famously part of a meta “Dream Theory” posited by Twin Peaks superfan John Thorne in Wrapped in Plastic. Partly because of Gordon’s dream the FBI are inching ever closer to the truth of Cooper’s situation—that there are two of him and that he’s been replaced by his doppelgänger. Maybe Audrey is right; maybe dreams do hearken a truth.

What’s fascinating about Gordon’s dream is that it’s not like Lynch’s other dream sequences. It follows the conventions of dream logic but it’s fairly straightforward and it’s narrated, unlike the first two-thirds of Mulholland Drive or the entirety of Agent Cooper’s Red Room dream, which feel disjointed and alarming in a way that Gordon’s dream doesn’t. Gordon’s dream is also in black and white, which links it to both the scenes in the White Lodge (?)/The Fireman’s home (?) from Parts 1, 8, and 14, as well as to the Trinity bomb test and New Mexico scenes in Part 8. Food for thought…

I won’t get too far into the dreams here—my colleagues have got that well covered—but I wanted to use it to start a conversation about the liminal space that dreams represent, and the fact that the existence of dream realities opens the door to the possibility that some, or all, of what we’re seeing is taking place in an alternate reality space or state. The fact that this episode opens with a dream is critical to this; it’s priming us for what’s to come, and may help us re-frame what we’ve already seen. Lynch and Frost are telling us directly that some of this story is taking place in the alternate reality of the dream. If that’s true, what other realities are there?

After Gordon narrates his dream, he admits that he remembers the events from the dream happening in real life. But it’s Albert—who was there in the dream and in the scene in FWWM—who gets to deliver the most fascinating line in response: “I’m beginning to remember that, too.” Beginning to remember it. The line stuck out like a sore thumb to many viewers, but it’s fitting to credit John Thorne for putting it out there on Twitter:

What does Albert mean? How can a memory “begin” to be remembered? It could just be odd phrasing, but the fact that this takes place after a dream and before what I think is the pièce de résistance, in the forest near the middle of the episode, gives it extra weight. Is it that the memory of Phillip Jeffries faded over time? Or is it, as Thorne puts it, that this memory has just been “downloaded” to Albert?

We don’t get much more on this front until midway through Part 14 when the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department treks out into the woods to find Jack Rabbit’s Palace and the location that Major Briggs’s note directed them to a few Parts back. After stuffing their pockets full of soil, they head off 253 yards due east and arrive in a strange clearing featuring all the hallmarks of a Twin Peaks supernatural threshold–strobing lights, a sycamore tree, and a puddle of what looks like molten gold. The entire area is flooded with low-lying fog that slowly dissipates to reveal the naked and prone body of Naido (the eyeless woman from the Purple World) on the forest floor.

Andy is spirited away to the black and white world inhabited by the Giant, now known as The Fireman, while his comrades reassemble at Jack Rabbit’s Palace. And when I say reassemble, I mean literally reassemble: there are multiples of each of them, and as they slowly and transparently move across the verdant landscape (not terribly unlike the Woodsmen in Part 8) the multiple selves coalesce into solid forms, all of them ending up in the same locations.

To anyone who subscribed to the multiverse theory of TSHOTP, this looked a lot like multiple universes coming together in one very important moment.

We also see at least two different versions of the investigative party, who are shown deliberately walking in two different orders away from Jack Rabbit’s Palace: first with Hawk leading the way and then–crucially, when they enter the glen and the camera comes back around to shoot them from behind–led by Bobby, with the men in line behind him falling into reverse order. The order switch could be shrugged off as a mere editing error–and now I’m experiencing deja vu, because didn’t we have this same conversation about the diner scene in Part 7?–but the fact that the order was shown so deliberately suggests that this was intentional. I believe that in one reality, Hawk led the way into the glen; in another, Bobby did.

Have we been seeing different scenes and slices from multiple realities out of order all season long? And if so, is that the reason why we haven’t been able to reconcile the timelines?

Could this also be the reason for the strangeness in Lucy’s first scene with the insurance agent? Could “It might make a difference,” repeated twice, be an indication that this scene has happened twice, in two different universes? And could we have seen two different diners from two different time streams in Part 7?

What happens after Andy–one Andy, not many–returns to the glen is strange too, and calls back to the opening scene, with Gordon and Albert and the dream. Hawk and Truman exchange quizzical glances. “What happened to us back there?” Truman asks.

“I don’t know,” Hawk replies. “Something. But I don’t remember a thing.”

“Same with me,” a perplexed Truman says.

In the first scene, Albert and Gordon seem to recall elements of a dream/memory as if it had been magicked into existence in their minds. In the second scene, Hawk and Truman (and probably Bobby as well) seem to have had their memories magicked out of existence, following a moment of convergence with their several other selves.

What does it mean? Are there actually multiple realities at play here? Is it possible that memories coalesce in the same way that bodies (apparently) do?

I don’t have the answers to those questions. I wonder if The Return has the answers to those questions. But I’m eager to find out.

*Title comes from this quote from physicist Brian Greene. “String theory envisions a multiverse in which our universe is one slice of bread in a big cosmic loaf. The other slices would be displaced from ours in some extra dimension of space.” Not that I’m saying that Lynch/Frost are envisioning a theoretical physics/string theory multiverse, but the quote had a certain je ne sais pas that I couldn’t pass up!

Written by Lindsay Stamhuis

Lindsay Stamhuis is a writer and English teacher. In addition to editing and writing about TV and Film, she is the co-host of The Bicks Pod, a podcast currently deep-diving into the collected works of William Shakespeare. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner Aidan, their three cats, and a potted pothos that refuses to grow more than one vine.

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