Dr. Robin Bunce, University of Cambridge
The Fireman, a character who has been dishing out cryptic advice since 1990, once told Cooper ‘A path is formed by laying one stone at a time.’ What was true in 1990 is true today, specifically, it is true of Twin Peaks: the Return. Each Part offers us pieces of Cooper’s path from the Black Lodge back to Twin Peaks. The problem is that the steps appear, at least from our perspective, out of sequence. I say ‘the problem’, but in reality our problems are legion: for starters we don’t even know what year Cooper has wound up in, or how his story dovetails with the activities of the other characters. Fortunately, Mark Frost and David Lynch have laced the show with clues, so obsessive fans can begin to reconstruct what’s going on.
First, what year is Season Three set in? Laura Palmer famously promised to that she would see Cooper again in 25 years. Taken literally, that would place the show in 2014. However, other clues indicate that the show is taking place over the space of ten days, perhaps two weeks in late September 2016. Here’s my logic. It is possible to work out the year by triangulating three clues. First, we see a shot of a watch in the Mauve room, and the watch read Saturday 1. Second, Major Briggs leaves a message telling his son to visit Jack Rabbit’s palace on 1 October. Third, in Audrey’s first scene Charlie tells her that he’s not going out that night, as it is too dark due to the fact it’s a new moon. As luck would have it Saturday 1 October 2016 was a new moon. This also means that Cooper left the black lodge and arrived in the Mauve Room, on the same day that Hawk, Andy, Truman and Bobby found Naido in the woods. And that later that same evening Audrey tried to persuade Charlie to go to the Roadhouse for the first time.
What about Cooper’s timeline? My basic idea is that Cooper was supposed to leave the Waiting Room and arrive in Twin Peaks at 2:53pm on Saturday 1 October 2016. However, he was tricked and he arrived on 22 September, – 9 days too early, in Las Vegas.
Here’s my reasoning: shortly after Mike tells Cooper it is time to leave, he is stopped by the Arm’s doppleganger. Having successfully left the Red Room Cooper falls through space and appears briefly in the glass box in New York, quickly followed by the Mother of Evil.
Cooper next appears in the Mauve Room, and it is here we see the watch which reads 2:52, Saturday. As the time reaches 2:53, a woman in the Mauve room urges Cooper to leave as her ‘mother is coming.’ My guess is that this is a reference to the Mother of Evil, who we saw pursuing Cooper in the glass box in New York. Cooper leaves the Mauve Room through an electrical outlet.
Cooper’s arrival in ‘the real world’ causes DoppleCoop to crash and vomit. The police arrest DoopleCoop, and their arrest paperwork shows that this took place on 22 September. Assuming that DoopleCoop’s crash happens at the same time to Cooper re-enters the ‘real world’, that would mean that Cooper has travelled back in time 9 days.
Soon after Cooper has arrived in Las Vegas, Mike tells him he’s been tricked and he needs to wake up. Clearly, something went wrong with the plan to get Cooper back to Twin Peaks. Between 22 September and 1 October, attempts are made to kill DougieCoop, but Mike sends him prompts that keep him safe.
On 1 October Truman, Hawk, Andy and Bobbie find Naido near Jack Rabbit’s palace. My hunch is that this is where they were supposed to find Cooper.
My guess is that DougieCoop sticks his fork into the power socket shortly before 1 October.
Finally, Cooper’s encounter with the Fireman (which we see at the beginning of Part 1), happens after DougieCoop has stuck his fork into the plug socket and become Cooper again. My evidence for this is that Cooper has his FBI pin on in the Waiting Room and in the Mauve Room; it is only after he leaves the Mauve Room and becomes DougieCoop that he loses his pin. Notably, his pin is missing when he meets the Fireman in Episode 1, indicating that the meeting is after he has become Dougie; Cooper’s ability to speak coherently, coupled with the absence of the FBI Pin, indicates that the encounter takes place and after he has left the Mauve Room and after he has ‘awoken’ from his Dougie state.
Twin Peaks: the Return is the path by which Cooper returns to Twin Peaks. It’s a path laid one stone at a time, the problem is that we see the path from Cooper’s perspective, and as Cooper has jumped about in time we too have to follow his non-linear timeline. Whatever the ‘truth’ of Cooper’s path back to Twin Peaks, one thing’s for sure: Season 3 has been an amazing journey, 18 hours of television containing the most beautiful dream and the most terrible nightmare, all at once.