Notes from the Bookhouse is my new weekly column! My hope is that this will be a place to do some theorizin’, some speculatin’, and to generally discuss the big topics of the Twin Peaks world.
This past week, everyone was trying to wrap their heads around the finale. Many people went straight to theorizing; some shut down completely from the emotional turmoil of those last two hours. Some of us loved it; some of us hated it.
Here at 25YL, we weren’t immune to any of this. So we got together a few members of the staff (J.C., Ali, Eileen, John, Brien, and I) for a roundtable to start hashing it all out
Lindsay: So…lay it on me. What were your first thoughts and feelings about the 2-part finale of The Return?
J.C.: My first thought at the end of 18 was: “Here comes Season 4!” I thought 17 was fantastic. But it felt fractured in places. And then 18 had me riveted but then questioning where are they going with this.
Ali: I was really anxious all night and emotional because it’s the end and then I really loved 17 but got really nervous about the last hour and then 18 was just upsetting for a lot of reasons. I didn’t and don’t dislike it but I found it really unsettling.
J.C.: I’m with Ali. I felt unsettled too.
Eileen: How ‘did’ I feel is very on point, because I feel radically different now than I did after it ended. I was in a bad place then and I’m quite excited about it now. The first half of 17 had promise that I’m not sure was fulfilled. The second half made me cry. 18 was very harsh. Emotionless by comparison until the very end.
Matt : I enjoyed part 17, overall. I found the amazing bouncing bob fight scene somewhat embarrassing, both because of the action sequence, the effects and the way bob was destroyed so summarily by a cartoon cockney superhero. Bob has always been a hidden menace who lurked inside others, and having him become an end of level baddie i just felt cheapened the character, and the original series.
J.C.: I feel better now that I’ve had time to think about it. Still some lingering ups & downs.
Brien: Frustrated and disappointed.
Lindsay: How so?
Brien: Frustrated at the plot lines that were just dumped. It’s not a matter of leaving them unresolved. They were just dropped midstream, with no regard to storytelling. People want to say this is art or we have no right to expect anything from it, but that’s simply not true. This whole season they’ve played with expectations expertly. The expectations we have were placed there.
John: I was massively optimistic at the end of Part 17 but Part 18 just confused me. We saw it in a sleepy haze anyway which made it even more unreal and dreamlike but every single show rule was changed at once and it was impossible to keep track of anything or feel like there was ANY resolutions in The Return.
Eileen: I’ve been seeing people talk about circular narrative being employed here — that could contribute to the lack of resolutions, but I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, at least the way I’ve seen it speculated.
Matt A: Part 18, I mostly enjoyed taken on it’s own, but I didn’t feel it in any way functioned as a finale. It felt more like The Returns’ FWWM, with the same lack of further answers as that film had.
Lindsay: I feel the same as you all. And I think the word that really best describes it, that J.C. and Ali used above, is unsettled. Or empty maybe. I sat in silence for an hour and a half after the credits rolled.
Eileen: Unsettled, definitely. I’m pretty certain that was the emotional goal. I’m not really “mad” about any of the directions it took anymore. Maybe I was at first, but that’s calmed considerably for me. I haven’t rewatched. Have any of you rewatched?
Ali: I rewatched today and it was definitely a different experience but it’s still unsettling at the end.
Lindsay: I haven’t been able to rewatch yet, but I feel like I’m getting closer to it. What surprises me is that I want to watch Part 18, not Part 17. I feel like 17 was too happy and I’m scared I’ll become nostalgic for Sunday night, watching it for the first time, not knowing what we’re in store for…
J.C.: I’m with you. I feel like I have to watch 18, 17 with some distance between it.
Lindsay: I’m just not ready yet for 17 to pull the rug out from under me again.
Eileen: They’re both such different animals, and yet they feel like one part and not two. Maybe it’s the seamless transition.
Ali: It’s not actually happy when you watch it again if that helps. Because you know what’s coming
Lindsay: No, Ali. No, that doesn’t help…haha I feel like all the mystery is in 18 too. 17 lays the foundation for it but 18 is where it explodes into the ending that we got.
John: Well there are circular narratives with patterns, like Part 8 vs the Laura-centered stuff, and then there’s jumping ship entirely. I’m sure that’s the point but we’re at a beginning now rather than an ending I think.
Lindsay: I read something really interesting this evening that spoke to me…and I’m wondering if you agree? The quote from this particular comment thread that resonated was this:
It is the first time I have sensed a willful resistance to closure in Lynch’s work. The loose ends always feel so natural, part of the work. I am sure part of this is from everyone wanting answers to lingering questions about different characters and occurrences, but the quantum tack of the narrative here was so quick and pervasive that even Coop was taken by surprise and left confused at the end.
That felt true to me because on some level this ending is so vastly different from any other ending that Lynch has ever given. So my question to you all is: what is it about Parts 17-18 that make it feel so wholly different from Twin Peaks or even another Lynch film? Or is it different at all?
Eileen: That is a very interesting read. I think it works with a lot of previous conversation that you and I have had lately, Lindsay, that centers around Cooper’s lack of character progression, but this definitely goes further into how it affects the narrative. I’m not sure if I agree with the excerpt totally, but it did feel extremely different from any Lynch or Lynch/Frost work I’ve encounter previous.
J.C.: Unfortunately I think, Eileen, that is the correct one too. I think that’s why they end up on the Laura & Coop Lodge shot. Until he can face the fact that not everyone can be saved, he’ll forever be stuck with no chance of leaving. The Lodge will forever have his soul.
Eileen: That encapsulates my thought precisely. It’s like his own personal purgatory.
Ali: I agree with the part of the excerpt about how Coop is a mix of all the Coops and so it loses its center.
Eileen: Lindsay and I have talked about how Cooper isn’t very good with happy mediums. Everything he does, he does to extremes, and that, I think, is exceptionally personified in himself and his doppelganger. Would a mixture of all these Cooper’s maybe present with a /better/ Cooper? One who is a mix, rather than homogeneous in nature?
John: Makes me wonder if Coop was split from his doppelganger the whole time and now we’re finally seeing a combined Cooper for the first time at the end. That’d be a hell of a way to meet the guy for the first time.
Eileen: It’s both terrible and wonderful, if it’s true, John.
Brien: I think this was closure. The whole season was set up for this ending. The Fireman’s clues were red herrings for all but the last part. Most of this season didn’t matter and in the end might not have even happened.
Eileen: Brien, what if they aren’t clues, but rather warnings?
Brien: Really they’re neither. They are reminders of the three timelines the Cooper traversed. Each one refers to a different time line if you think about it.
J.C.: I was thinking warnings as well. You know what really bothers me though? When the Fireman says, “It’s in our house now. We cannot speak it aloud now.” Does he mean that Judy is in the Palmer house?
Eileen: Oooo. You’re onto something.
Ali: I think the Fireman stuff is actually after everything else. Because Richard and Linda mean nothing to him when he reads the note but at the beginning he says I understand
Brien: Yes, for sure
Eileen: So Dale fails, he goes to the Fireman, he goes to Laura, and then…is it future or is it past? And has to start over again. The beginning is the end.
Ali: Basically yeah
J.C.: Yes. Exactly.
Eileen: And in that sense it really is more like hell than purgatory. His torment starts all over again.
J.C.: It’s the infinity symbol. It does remind me like Audrey’s arc…No exit. You create your own hell.
John: Just like in the first scene of part one how Coop keeps seeing Gerard. Makes sense.
Eileen: Interestingly enough that’s the SEVENTH circle of hell (where torment repeats), which is for those who committed violence against the self, such as suicide and also profligates and “those who were too reckless in life”.
Lindsay: Okay guys, before we get too deep into theories and analysis — there will be time for that later! — let’s get back to broad strokes. A lot of people seem to agree that Part 17 was the “closure” that we needed and Part 18 ripped it all open again. Maybe Part 17 is the end and Part 18 is another beginning?
Matt A: As a mood piece 18 works, but as part of the series it fails to provide closure to any of the plots that we’ve been watching all season, such as they are. Obviously I don’t expect neat closure in a Lynch production, but it wilfully ignored all of the threads and characters leaving me wondering what the point of them all was.
Ali: I think 17 is the end you want and 18 is the end they want
Eileen: I don’t want 17 as the end though. It’s too neat a bow, and almost chintzy in it’s packaging, but by contrast, 18 is too unfinished and stark.
Lindsay: This is why some people think the sheriff’s department scene is a dream…
J.C.: I can agree with that. I think one is to make an argument for Cooper is the dreamer, and 18 is the one that makes the argument for Laura.
Eileen: But they’ve shared dreams before — what if they are both dreamers?
Jenn: They could be the “we”.
Lindsay: I wrote a huuuge meta last night about the two of them being the dreamers…
Eileen: I don’t think there is an ending or a beginning if it’s circular, really. We’re just seeing one version of a chronology that we’ve been told can be viewed in a different order. I think that any given way that someone comes up with to view it the loop would remain essentially the same. But that’s only if we consider this the definitive end of Twin Peaks.
Brien: A lot of people are saying part 18 was the first episode of Season 4, but I don’t really buy that. It was more like Cooper’s Fire Walk With Me. Or rather, as I’ve been saying, his Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive.
Lindsay: That’s what I meant about 18 being a beginning…that it sets up Season 4 or a movie
Brien: No, I’m saying it was the movie. It played out like one.
Eileen: I think it’s set up for a film or a 4th season but I don’t believe there is any intention of giving it to us.
J.C.: 18 opens up the realm of possibility. Kyle had said he’d do more in a heartbeat. So I think it could be viewed as the end END, or the end to a beginning
Ali: I think it’s the end and I’m comfortable with that. I could watch Missing Pieces-style extra footage though.
Eileen: I’m already growing comfortable with the way it is. But then there’s some fear in letting go.
J.C.: What if they filmed more and they just aren’t saying, in anticipation of something like the missing pieces.
Ali: Well I’m 200% sure there’s more footage…I think it’s safe to say that if they wanted to release extra scenes they exist.
J.C.: I think we need to be okay with the gift we’ve been given, but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to think there may be more story to tell. I feel good, but I also feel torn because now when looking at Season 1 & 2 & FWWM it almost feels tainted. You know what I mean?
Ali: I don’t agree that the return taints anything that comes before it. They are part of the same universe but they can be enjoyed individually.
Brien: They didn’t even happen now.
Ali: But they did because I can still watch them.
John: I don’t even slightly see how earlier seasons never happened because they did. Maybe Cooper’s stuck in some tesseract experiment or something but we saw them happen and we have it to refer back to any old way. This is just some Lodge experiment he’s still messed up in.
Eileen: If it’s a circular narrative, in a loop from the point with Cooper and the Fireman till the end of The Return, and he has to go back and try again because he failed to do what he was supposed to, then none if it got wiped out, it’s just Groundhog Day instead.
Brien: I’m focusing in on the specific things that bothered me. Things like the retcon of Judy, this meeting that Cole, Briggs and Cooper had, Bob being a physical entity that can be punched, stuff like that. Once I have those compartmentalised I’ll be better able to enjoy the rest of it.
Matt A: I was never comfortable with the amount of focus on Dougie but assumed there was a reason for it. I don’t feel with the speed with which Coop emerged then the finale happened that it did have a reason after all, other than to allow Lynch to play with pacing and mood.
Lindsay: I think I understand Brien’s point because I said the same thing when 18 ended: it kind of erased the central conflict that brought us all here.
Brien: My takeaway was that it all didn’t matter. I feel like they trained us to stop caring with the Roadhouse scenes, and now we aren’t supposed to care about the rest of the unfinished stories. They were ethereal and are now lost to time. Gone. Only Laura and Cooper, and maybe Diane, have any real weight in the story now.
Lindsay: …but the point (as I see it) is that you can’t ever fully erase the trauma that happened.
Eileen: Dale’s mission can’t work. It negates everything. Saving Laura from death is fundamentally opposed to her achieving salvation or ascendency in FWWM.
Ali: Maybe that’s why all these idiots trying to mess with time end up disappearing.
Lindsay: Oh, I definitely think that Jeffries knew what Cooper was doing wouldn’t work. I think Diane knew as well. She warns him as much when they’re driving toward the vortex.
John: The central conflict was “erased” but Laura will always remember her trauma, Cooper will remember investigating it, and from the look of things Diane remembered her trauma from DoppelCooper. Not to mention Cooper and DoppelCooper combined into a new Cooper. It all happened and there’s no erasing any of that.
Lindsay: And in remembering, it still continues to exist. In dreaming, even, things continue to exist. I think that is a very David Lynch thing to say: that dreams are 100% real. Twin Peaks, the town in the narrative, may have been a dream. Hell, Twin Peaks the entire TV show may have been a dream. But I think everything is really there. It all really happened.
Eileen: Amy still cries when her fiance Rory is erased from time in Doctor Who. She doesn’t know he ever existed but she’s still anguished because her soul knows he is gone. Trauma is a mark on the soul and that can never go away.
Lindsay: To refer back to what Brien said, I think everyone’s story has weight, and our problem with The Return is one on us. We don’t give enough credit to dreams. We think they’re silly and frivolous, but they’re not. “Sometimes dreams harken a truth,” Audrey said. I don’t think that was a throwaway line. I think that was Lynch speaking directly to us.
Eileen: I think it’s all like repressed memories. We’ve already agreed that a major theme of this season is Trauma, and one element of trauma is memory repression. Those people are still susceptible to depression, PTSD and other such things, because the trauma is still there even if the memory isn’t. Can we apply this to The Return?
Lindsay: Can we apply this to all of Twin Peaks even?
Eileen: Well, one viewing of FWWM suggested that BOB is the result of Laura’s repressed memories of her father raping her, so I think that would be fairly accurate
Ali: And if the return is Laura’s dream that reading of FWWM still holds.
Lindsay: Brien, is there anything that would rehabilitate The Return for you? Or is it too soon to tell?
Brien: Here’s the thing. It’s not that I hated it. I loved the season for sure, and the ending in Part 17 wasn’t great but I can live with it. And I loved the movie that was Part 18 completely disconnected from the rest of The Return. But the two connected together have definite issues, and I was really disappointed by all the dropped storylines.
Lindsay: That is something I hear loud and clear. So, then, what was the biggest dropped storyline that you wish they had cleared up?
Brien: I suppose it’d have to be Audrey. Though I was more interested in Red and Shelly.
Lindsay: Poor Audrey…she’s definitely my choice too.
John: I think Audrey needed more screen time since she was included at all…but if I had to pick for me only, I’d want to know more about Red and how exactly he was a) from the Lodge and b) messing with the lives of Shelly and Becky. You don’t double-connect a character like he was and then drop him, do you?
Matt A: Dropped storylines? Wow. Hard to pick one out of, well, all of them…
Probably Audrey. I guess Annie doesn’t count as they ignored it all season.
J.C.: Red (because he is totally the magician and I still think Tremond’s grandson grown up). And I would’ve liked to know where Audrey was. I also would’ve liked to see Ed & Norma’s happily ever after a bit.
Ali: I’m gonna go with Red
Lindsay: I want to come back to our discussion about dreams and some of the bigger theories that are floating around, and I think we can dig deeper into individual characters at some point too. But for right now, let’s wrap this up with some final thoughts.
Ali: Twin Peaks is frustrating sometimes, especially the finale, but it makes me feel more “things” than anything else on TV or in theaters so I think that’s enough.
Eileen: The hardest truths are the most important ones.
J.C.: I think that the finale can be interpreted in many different ways. And none of them are wrong. Lynch is the master of making you feel emotions. Some of them we’re ready to feel and some we aren’t. But that’s how the story stays alive. We continue to keep it with us.
John: It’s frustrating but there are two journeys with Twin Peaks: during and after. I (and I suspect everybody) would’ve wrapped things up differently. Now we’re on a journey from where we would’ve ended it to where Lynch and Frost ended it. We’ll learn about them along the way and we’ll learn about ourselves too. This is why the show was still alive ten years ago and why we just got more of it from Showtime.
Matt A: My initial reaction was that I’d just watched the end of an 18 hour lynch movie that had some twin peaks characters thrown in randomly. Happy on one level, but confused on another and somewhat sad that plot wasn’t a big focus in the return.
Brien: I’m realizing my issues are with the things I wrote about in Laura Is Not The Messiah. It’s the retcons.
Lindsay: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — there’s a beauty in this feeling of not knowing. And I think there’s a freedom to envision the thing we want right now. We all become dreamers in a sense, letting the story move through us as we work it out in our heads. That’s a pretty cool thing.
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I dreamt about the finale last night. I don’t remember the dream, but I woke up with the conviction that what we saw in part 18 was not another world or another chronology, but was “in between.”
I’m not sure what this means, so I’m putting it here
“One chants out BETWEEN two worlds, Fire Walk With Me”
A lot of complaining but little actual criticism or insight: sorry you were disappointed, if your expectations went unmet, but this reads as a pity party. For WHAT IT WAS, TP:TR was brilliant if you look at it for what it was rather than what YOU wanted from it.
The only time I’ve ever been disappointed by Twin Peaks – after having watched every iteration in real time as it was released along with multiple re-watches over the years – were the episodes from season 2 of which David Lynch was not involved.
Season 1, The Lynch episodes of season 2, FWWM and The Return were amazing for what they are – not for what I wanted them to be.
Thanks for the comment. This absolutely was an attempt to wrestle with our feelings about The Return, as many people did in many different venues over the last week. We didn’t have an agenda or any critiques to offer (mostly because this discussion happened two days after the finale aired and we were still processing it). This is a piece based on our initial gut reactions.
It’s wonderful that you didn’t feel upset or betrayed by this season but some people did and we wanted to give voice to that struggle because it is real. You don’t have to agree with what others are saying, and there’s no need to take offense to it either; these are opinions based on feelings, and those feelings are all valid. That was the point of this piece and the discussion that produced it. I’m sorry that it wasn’t what you expected.
I’ve been wrestling mightily with all of the questions, issues, interpretations, and theories raised by THE RETURN and am overall greatly impressed by the very thoughtful, genuinely insightful, and innovative commentaries already provided at this site and elsewhere. I’m suitably impressed with level of effort, intellect, and imagination offered therein. While those commentaries have unsurprisingly failed to provide one definitive clarifying “statement” about what we witnessed and what it means, the implication of that failure is that it was somehow deliberately designed by Lynch-Frost Electric–i.e., the resulting open-ended almost existential ambiguity, and proliferating speculations produced by same, were all along the artists’ primary destination for all of us, the ultimate or at least most global point of the wondrous narrative we were all given. That feels so right, so Lynchian, in so many ways. And admirable in so many ways already well articulated by others.
At the same, . . . another part of me (not my doppelgänger) is nagged by the simultaneous feeling that Lynch-Frost have also established for themselves specific answers to and explanations for the numerous specific loose ends (many of them major) they’ve left in the narrative’s wake. The kind of answers and explanations that could easily provide the basis for further exploration in a cinematic or televised sequel. In other words, I feel that there remains or lurks something leftover that makes this Lynch enterprise feel artistically unfinished, that suggests an even larger and more profound intent on Lynch’s part. Which makes me sound greedy, in light of the riches Lynch has already given us. Anyway, if I’m wrong, which could easily be the case, I worry that to some extent we (not simply our expectations) have been “played” in a game deliberately and amusingly designed to baffle us. That bafflement itself was the primary overall artistic goal. Which has implications both positive and negative as well.