BY JOHN BERNARDY
In my explorations of Twin Peaks, I’ve found three plot points that could do with a little fixing:
- Audrey should’ve been the one Dale rescued from the lodge in Season Two
- Annie Blackburn is missing
- Cooper needs to pull it together
As I tinker through them, I’m going to share how The Return is actually attempting to fix them. Some of you might enjoy this, and some of you might think what I’m doing looks more like this:
But I suspect there are enough of you out there that thinks that kind of Mr. Fix-It looks like a fun time too, so let’s get to reading.
The Great Season Two Course Correct
Sherilyn Fenn has quadrupled down on the opinion that Lara Flynn Boyle forced Kyle MacLachlan to put the kibosh on an impending Dale Cooper/Audrey Horne romance that would have culminated in Audrey being taken by Windom Earle into the Black Lodge. I don’t think it’s as simple as she said (because the Church of Cooper fan that I am personally thinks that WOULD have been wrong for Cooper’s character), but the fact remains there is a storyline in the ether fans have been keeping alive for decades where Dale was rescuing Audrey from the lodge rather than Annie Blackburn.
And how much would you bet that Frost and Lynch were perfectly aware of this Capital-W Want from the fandom as they wrote Audrey’s portion of the return, and they’re giving us the fan service we always deserved? The first part of this equation is Audrey Horne is currently trapped inside a surrogate for (or possibly IS) the Black Lodge.
Much as Dale was in a single room with presumably no one but Phillip Gerard to keep him company, Audrey Horne has only been seen in a single house with a single other character, an odd man by the name of Charlie who among other things threatens to end her story.
She is mirroring Dale’s story in that Audrey cannot seem to leave the house. Until his loophole, Dale was stranded inside the lodge because DoppelCooper is occupying his physical body. Audrey came right to the door, but is stranded inside her room possibly by her own doing. Whether she’s in a coma trying to “wake up!”, she’s in a mental institution, or she’s being gaslighted, Audrey Horne is trapped. So even if Audrey’s “merely” suffering from head trauma, she is stuck in her own prison regardless, well within the terms of needing rescue. And her desired goal is to get to the Roadhouse, which appears to be an extension of that prison as the Roadhouse has either been framed as a portal into the Black Lodge or a portal into Invitation to Love, either option a heightened reality from the one Twin Peaks residents live in.
Adding to the vibe of Audrey’s predicament, her own father Ben acts like his memory lost her years ago. Is this a forgetting moment where Ben doesn’t remember Audrey even exists, or has something terrible happened to Audrey and Ben wrote her out of his own story just like Charlie threatened to do to her in Part Thirteen? Is that why Charlie’s line worked on her? Personally, I think Charlie is some kind of avant guard therapist in the grand tradition of Lawrence Jacoby, though as people begin to remember things (which as of Part Fifteen characters definitely are beginning to remember things), I will be on the lookout for people remembering there may be an Audrey Horne in the world.
To me, Audrey’s fate seems to be well within the supernatural, especially as the only person in the greater Twin Peaks world who admits to knowing her is her son Richard, whose father currently appears to be 100% lodge. And that purported father is a solid reason to think that part two of Lynch and Frost’s “fan service” may be in play: a Returned Dale Cooper may rescue Audrey on his way to enlightenment, as atonement for his darkest moments.
Just like we don’t know if Bob was real, a masking mechanism, or a metaphorical representation of the evil that man does, we don’t know how the world will see DoppelCooper’s exploits versus those of Dale Cooper’s. But we do know Dale Cooper will continue to balance the scales and right the wrongs of DoppelCooper everywhere he can (as many people believe CooperDougie is currently doing in Las Vegas).
If one of DoppelCooper’s wrongs is indeed the rape of Audrey Horne, then Dale Cooper will have much more atoning to do than I am capable of explaining or understanding. As with all things in The Return, it’s a complicated issue that will be dealt with in unexpected and (hopefully) in-the-end-satisfying ways. I don’t know what kind of magic Lynch and Frost will pull out of their hats but I will say the first step in the right direction is for Cooper to bring Audrey back to the state of reality.
It may not be the fairy tale ending fans would like, it’s certainly too complicated to wake up Snow White with a kiss and live happily ever after, but a rescue is a rescue, and bringing Audrey to a place where she can begin to move forward is a good beginning. Because after all, Dale himself will be newly returned to the world as well. And they may be able to lean on each other as they learn to weather the wreckage from the storm left in the wake of their stolen lives.
How to Include Annie Blackburn
There was a period of time (not that) long ago before The Secret History of Twin Peaks was published, when the cast list of 200-plus names was released and there were zero Heather Graham’s on it. There was a time this was literally all we could know. Using the information I had available to me at the time (Annie was literally within the final spoken words of season two, for one thing), I was left with this single task: explain how Annie Blackburn will be included.
As Secret History was on its way and we were still under the assumption that it would bridge the gap between the season two finale and The Return, I assumed that Annie and Laura would somehow be combined into a single person, in that Sheryl Lee would be playing Annie and she and (Doppel)“Cooper” would be married, and as an unexplained side effect there would be perhaps no mention at all of Laura Palmer, as if reality was overwritten somehow and there never WAS a Laura Palmer. This would be due to some kind of identity shift after she won against Bob, and Laura’s reward was to get a new life (like perhaps this one…). It would start the cycle over and it would be a really simple shorthand to prove Annie’s importance in the story by having Sheryl Lee play her. The town would be unable to notice the difference between Heather Graham and Sheryl Lee, and would have no idea what was missing at its heart as the Palmer Family dynamic would be so changed. Except for that town weirdo, Sarah Palmer, of course, who is the only one who would know Twin Peaks the way we viewers did.
(I still enjoy this take, and for just coming up with reasons for why Heather Graham wouldn’t be in the cast, it’s becoming more on-theme than I’d figured now that Part Fifteen has come out and characters are starting to remember things they never knew they experienced. As if say, reality had been overwritten (or masks were covering truths) and now everyone was beginning to wake up to the reality of things.)
And then once upon a time, in those twilight days AFTER The Secret History of Twin Peaks and before The Return, I was left with one task: explain Annie Blackburn’s complete absence.
Using the information I gleaned from Secret History (most of which is here relating to my still-breathing theory on earthquake-style timequakes overwriting reality with every tectonic interaction of realities) I worked off the assumption that Laura, because we know she enters the lodge after her death, was absorbed into the lodge somehow and, because we knew Lynch really believed that there was a Good Cooper and Bad Cooper, that Laura was immediately separated into a Good Laura and Bad Laura.
Assuming Laura separates into two people after she is killed (as I’d also implied Meriwether Lewis does earlier in the book), I made the supposition that Annie (who show writer Harley Peyton was known to refer to as “the Saint”) is the Good Laura, and the Bad Laura is the one with the shit life we already knew well who was the Laura in Fire Walk With Me. If this Bad Laura finds a way to best Bob as she did, I couldn’t think of a better way to satisfy a victory in one’s own Black Lodge Trial, thus granting access to the White Lodge. I would assume the reward for something like this is a reunification with your other half, a recombining of two ‘base metals’ into a completed ‘gold’ enlightened alchemical soul.
Between this, Bob’s separation from Leland, Garland Briggs’ abduction into the White Lodge, Earle and Cooper’s absorption into the Black Lodges, and Cooper’s possession by Bob, ALL these shockwaves in a highly concentrated space on the calendar, it’s no wonder that the Good Laura/Annie and Bad Laura would’ve been shoved apart across time like that.
And working with this logic (and what we already know from earlier Twin Peaks media), that means the Good Laura/Annie sends a message to the Bad Laura (“write it in your diary”) that will eventually allow the Good Dale (the one who ends up rescuing Laura from the Black Lodge at the end of FWWM) to be saved from the Black Lodge himself in The Return. Which means Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer save each other in a wonderfully strange timequaked way, and are inextricably linked together in a double-circle of connection, a double-helix of a metaphor if I may.
I realize Annie’s existence is probably much more related to Aidan Hailes’ & Lindsay Stamhuis’ article Who’s Annie, but I still like the truth at the heart of my outdated theory. Because let’s not forget how Dale, before his lodge trial even began, fell almost too easily for the Good Annie/Laura. He threw out common sense around her, was not inquisitive at all, merely trusted his feelings blindly and gave himself over to Annie. Almost like he was linked with her. Like he’d already known her. Like he knew his soul’s enlightenment depended on her and hers on him.
I still love this part of my “theory”, and I still hope it’s true in some major capacity. The part about Laura and Dale saving each other, anyway. Because if this were true, it would be a Love story at the heart of Twin Peaks, a MUCH NEEDED love story, finally asserting itself over the story of darkness and abuse that currently and uncomfortably forms the foundation of Twin Peaks. Call me a romantic, but I surely hope that Love will overcome the fear, and I think there’s good odds for this because there is another main character of The Return to consider and his name is Major Garland Briggs. He is essentially the Laura Palmer of The Return whose recent death seems to be at the heart of every plot in The Return, and he believes that Love is the most important force, as we see most prominently by how he presents the most plot-relevant answers to his own wife and son in the most empowering, loving way possible. I think love will finally find a way through the darkness in The Return, and I want Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer to force the darkness away together, their circular connection forming another kind of vortex where the fear can be captured, and maybe even locked away. Though it won’t be a romantic love at its base, I believe there is a platonic love between Dale and Laura, a more fundamental, foundational love that we will see surround the darkness like the white of an eye, becoming a barrier between that darkness of fear and the rest of us, as best they can.
Though there’s another factor, a looming one, at odds with this sort of conclusion: David Lynch’s tendency to weave dread into the foundation of any scene. And we also know Garland’s deepest fear: the possibility that love is not enough.
I am worried. I am concerned. Yet I am still hopeful. I’ll side with Garland Briggs on this one, with both his values, and his reservations. Inside me, and inside The Return, we go back to the root battle of Twin Peaks Season Two: Love versus Fear. We are hoping above hope that we will get the victor we want, but with all my theorizing I think it’s a more complicated answer than this.
I suspect what we may have to do is this: assimilate Love and Fear together. Much as I suggested Annie and Laura would combine into one, much as the Good Dale and DoppelCooper need to merge into a whole, I believe we’ll see love and fear merge together at the end of The Return as the two foundational forces of the universe, and there will be no clear winner. We will merely see a cycle, where love and fear create each other, tear each other apart, and recreate each other again, over and over.
I am still hopeful, but I am concerned. And I am worried. But I have faith. Annie Blackburn and I have that in common. Let’s see where that gets us.
Which Dale Goes Over The Top?
And now that I bring up Dale and DoppelCooper needing to merge, I’d like to look into a suggestion by the Chopping Wood Inside Podcast of what exactly would happen if Dale and DoppelCooper needed to arm wrestle for dominance.
First of all, they remain in starting position the entire time. They are literally one half of the same whole. They are equals. They will look as still as a movie poster, and because Lynch would film it, it would look like a still life painting. The crowd around them would be pumped, yelling, waiting for them to start the battle, but it would already be started. The interesting part, all the real action, would be happening inside them.
And there would be subtle changes happening outside that room as well. Because Dale and DoppelCooper made contact. When they link hands, time will mend.
All the out-of-continuity time, all the repetition of scenes, the Dr. Amp reruns, they would all stop stuttering. The time being out of sync would correct. The Part Three purple room scene is an exact microcosm of what is going on with The Return. The entire town of Twin Peaks is doing the exact thing Cooper and Naido were doing in their scene: moving forward, moving backward, with no pattern to it and with constantly missing frames of their movements. Communication was near impossible though Cooper and Naido could see each other. They tried to communicate to each other just as the Twin Peaks scenes are conveying information to us: Sometimes we see Bobby at a diner with his family and sometimes we see him earlier talking to Ed about a message pod he got “today” from Parts and scenes earlier. Time moves forward, skips backward. Just like Cooper walking forward then back and forward again with Naido. Approach and regress through time, and it’s awkward to know what to make of it.
The only thing that fixed time in the purple room was when Naido and Cooper clasped hands. Time finally progressed as they made contact with each other. They constantly moved forward, there were no missing frames of movement. Time flowed naturally.
I believe once Dale (maybe as CooperDougie, maybe as himself) and DoppelCooper make contact with each other, this will be the important moment of contact that will make the entirety of the Return run chronologically. Once they make contact, I suspect we’ll see no more out-of-order storytelling. We will see every moment move, one second after another.
But again this is a David Lynch joint, and we’ll be watching time moving but we won’t know it because it will be so glacial. When Cooper and DoppelCooper meet we’ll be seeing facial expressions between them but no words. We’ll be yelling at the television, cheering for the big impending battle, the huge throwdown. But they’ll be calm as anything, starting positions the whole time. And then there’ll be one Cooper left. We won’t know how, that’s just how it’ll be. And he’ll have a lot of work to do. And he’ll do it, because he’s Special Agent Dale Cooper.