I began Electricity Nexus by describing a scenario where Cooper and Laura are stuck within a black lodge time loop until one of them figures out how to shovel themselves out of the shit to break their half of their intertwined cycles. This still feels fundamentally true to me, and I’m using this as the base framework for this thought experiment, but there are two prime additions here:
1) Dale Cooper is finally confronting his shadow self by living the life of his shadow self.
2) Laura Palmer has been put into a witness protection program of sorts by the Fireman, and her identity is a near carbon copy of Shelly Johnson’s life.
First, let me verify why I think it’s a black lodge universe rather than an alternate timeline in our reality.
People are talking a ton about alternate realities being in play, possibly even Laura and Dale having entered our own reality (which could in fairness be explained by any number of things, including a VHS copy of the Twin Peaks Pilot that Andy Hazel discovered near the machine gun in Carrie’s house, so I’m not here to outright rule out that theory), but I think the clue has been hidden in plain sight just as so many things that are eventually proven true: Jeffries, who is now just as separated from the time stream as Dale Cooper is, creates an 8 from his supernatural machinery in the subliminal place known as the Convenience Store or the Dutchman, but the symbol is formed from a shifting set of lines that was originally shaped like the Owl Ring symbol. And based on what we know about the Owl Ring, we know that symbol is associated with a portal system that brings spirits to the Black Lodge.
Creating the number 8 from the Owl Ring symbol to me means that the infinite mobius strip loop is within the Black Lodge, or at least the Red Room. Especially as it’s Phillip Gerard, the most frequently occurring resident of the Red Room, who brings Cooper directly to this scene with Jeffries.
I posit Cooper officially made it out of the Red Room in Part 16, reentered our reality in Las Vegas, but actively chose to return to the Lodge Reality in this Jeffries scene. And everything from this point forward, including the Fire Walk With Me revisions, are within this reality rather than the main one of Twin Peaks. Yes, this means I believe Twin Peaks Seasons One and Two have not been written out of existence.
Now, let me verify why I think Cooper is living through the life of his Doppelganger:
As Hawk told Cooper back in Season Two, you confront your shadow self in the lodge. Cooper did this the first time in Episode 29 and the Doppelganger superseded his life. Within the Return, Cooper was able to return to our world, and was told along the way that one of the Coopers must die to restore a balance. But there was no actual confrontation. It all made perfect sense within the plot that Lucy could shoot DoppelCooper, and it makes enough sense that DoppelCooper would stay dead long enough for Dale to come in and still have time to put the Owl Ring on him (again, to return DoppelCooper to the lodge), but the confrontation still hasn’t happened. Cooper was not allowed a rematch thanks to the Fireman’s plan. Maybe the balance was restored between realities in that only one Cooper exists in Twin Peaks reality, but this does nothing to fix the imbalance within Cooper himself. Cooper was not a proactive participant in the Part Seventeen climax, not even with the defeat of Bob. He was unable to confront his Doppelganger nor the evil spirit to whom he promised his soul. This is not the way to become a fully unified Cooper. This is the way to remain incomplete.
That’s why I think the second half of Part Seventeen and the entirety of Part Eighteen is the beginning of their showdown, the starting moments of Cooper shoveling himself out of his shit. I may change opinions on many things about Twin Peaks, but I will not on this: Dr. Jacoby’s message is central to the story. He is the first character we meet in the real world in The Return, and it was shown over and over again that those who confronted the problems within themselves and used their agency to bring themselves above their circumstances were allowed happier endings than those of the cast who were stuck in loops of unsatisfying sameness. Dale Cooper was denied the ability to use his personal agency to shovel himself out of his shit, therefore we see him once again trying to save Laura Palmer. He may not be poised to rise above his circumstances yet at the end of this show, but thanks to the Fireman’s plan (in other words, an answer to “what was the point of all that Fireman superhero team stuff, anyway?”), Dale is finally able to do something he was unable to do before now: confront his doppelgänger when it is without the elemental force of Bob inside it.
How is Dale confronting his doppelgänger? By living his doppelganger’s life from within. RichardCooper, as far as I’m concerned, is Dale within DoppelCooper, slowly superseding control just as Dale did within Dougie. That clinical coldness? It’s DoppelCooper as he was when fresh on this Earth from the lodge. But for every step he takes in this do-over lodge reality, Dale is within him and able to make more compassionate choices, though like Dale was dormant within Dougie while still absorbing and remembering every experience, Dale’s personality itself seems unable to surface very often. But because of the information we received from how Dale was within Dougie, we can correlate that Dale will do the same within DoppelCooper, even if it takes 25 years to undo everything DoppelCooper did in our reality.
And it may take all 25 years as well. To defeat your shadow self, you have to live as your shadow, have the perfect courage to trust you can rise above your basest shadowy instincts. To defeat your shadow you accept your shadow, then your basest shadowy tendencies gradually atrophy until, using terms from Theosophy (which Frost borrowed heavily from when originating Twin Peaks’ mythology), it falls away like the basest levels of astral matter from the self and the self is ready to evolve to the next astral plane.
RichardCooper is Dale experiencing DoppelCooper’s life firsthand and step by step, living through his shadow self’s time on Earth. And Part Eighteen is Dale Cooper being presented with the origin story of his doppelgänger, witnessing how DoppelCooper was when he first left the lodge, though this time Dale is living through those events in his own way as well. This is a combination of Dale Cooper’s timeline after 25 years living inside the Red Room and DoppelCooper’s time from leaving the Red Room and the first moment we see him get out of that Mercedes in Part One. And this time they do it without there being a triumvirate made from the inclusion of the parasitic Bob. This time, Dale and DoppelCooper are a duality, and the battle for the nature of Dale’s soul is a fair battle.
Is this definitely DoppelCooper’s life they’ve jumped to? The Lost Highway-looking night driving should be your first indication. It’s THE hallmark image associated with DoppelCooper. And Richard’s car itself is a black Lincoln, extremely similar to the Lincoln that DoppelCooper crashes in Part Three (and though not exact, the cars are close enough for me to make a match).
Another clue that RichardCooper is the early life of DoppelCooper is the blatant western motif. RichardCooper began in Texas and the first duel we see is Richard going into a modern day saloon, Judy’s Diner, where he has it out with three cowboys. There’s a black hat, seemingly waiting on a rack for RichardCooper. This standoff, the gunplay, the taking of the guns, it’s as western a standoff as you’re going to get.
And how does DoppelCooper end? Shot in the back by a true lawfully good person with a gun during a standoff with the local sheriff. A local sheriff whose hat, mind you, jumps on his head just like they would have done in the old Westerns. Similar conventions, similar visual languages used for similar characters, to me means that we are witnessing the first days of DoppelCooper’s tenure on Earth by way of Dale’s understanding of the events.
DoppelCooper seems to know things about this experience as RichardCooper
Things get tricky when I start to think of DoppelCooper’s timeline in this way: It’s possible, as Dale lives 25 years within before being sent back in time 25 years only to become RichardCooper, that DoppelCooper thinks of himself as Richard Cooper, that the unnamed Mr. C’s first name is actually Richard. It’s possible he knows he’s 50 years old when he meets Richard Horne, and fairly likely he has somehow named his child after himself. I also think it’s more than possible that (like the time-displaced Jeffries) his memory may get slippery and he begins to forget why he was searching for Judy in the first place, just that he was searching for her and it is the most important goal he could possibly achieve. In our reality, it is heavily implied the Bob-infested DoppelCooper wanted to find Judy. We don’t know what the motivations are, but I’ve heard theories during the middle of the Return’s airing where DoppelCooper may have also been trying to achieve similar goals as the FBI (he only killed bad guys, for one thing). Correlation allows for a case to be made that RichardCooper’s motivations to find Judy are also DoppelCooper’s, are also Dale’s. Or based on how people remember things but also don’t remember things, it could be that DoppelCooper has since forgotten why he was trying to find Judy, just that it was very important to RichardCooper that this must be done.
How can DoppelCooper have experienced something that hasn’t happened yet or never happened?
How Could DoppelCooper have experienced what RichardCooper had even though he has Bob within him?
As 25YL’s resident Timequake Theory Guy, I feel the need to mention that Dale Cooper moving through time would make for quite the interaction between the lodge reality and our reality, and the scraping of the two’s proverbial tectonic plates would definitely make shockwaves strong enough to overwrite the makeup of DoppelCooper from doppelgänger/Bob to doppelganger/Dale, but I don’t even think I need to mention that here to make this new theory work. Time has always moved strangely in Twin Peaks, especially in the lodges.
There is always a Leland Palmer inside the lodge well after his physical self died, and there’s always a Laura Palmer in the lodge, And there’s also always a Dale inside the lodge, even from before he entered. Laura wrote down the dream she had in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer about meeting Dale in the lodge. If Dale’s in the lodge then, I bet he’s in there before he was even born back when Chief Twisted Hair was communing with spirits at the nexus of White Tail and Blue Pine mountains. And if Dale is an ever-present lodge presence that would mean that every iteration of Dale would be privy to every other part of Dale’s experiences as he would’ve always know it, much as CooperDougie was privy to DoppelCooper’s actions. You can see this when CooperDougie touches the mirror in the Jones residence and remembers his Doppelganger in the Great Northern looking into the face of Bob. They are all connected, a concept similar to Quantum entanglement, a concept favored by Lynch.
For Dale and all of his iterations, his experience of time could be happening simultaneously from a single point, exploding ever outward when he was split in two, just as the atom was split in New Mexico in 1945 and it tore a hole between our reality and the reality of the lodges,
just as the screams of Laura are identical whether it’s her inside the lodge or as Carrie outside the Tremond Residence. This happening-simultaneously thing seems to be reinforced by The Return regularly.
And that means DoppelCooper could easily be remembering the future confrontation between himself and Dale’s as RichardCooper even as he goes through his first few years in Earth’s reality as he built the criminal empire as we see it at the beginning of the Return. This is why DoppelCooper would feel he is specifically 25 years’ Richard Horne’s senior, and probably also why he makes it so Richard Horne is named after himself (you know, before he does whatever he does to Audrey to trap her in her own lodge reality prison).
I think it’s also possible, if DoppelCooper understands the reflection of RichardCooper as being his own earlier life, that DoppelCooper could blindly be looking for Judy, continuing RichardCooper’s quest without understanding why, just knowing that he WANTS to find Judy. Having no discernible reason why could be DoppelCooper holding his motivations close to the vest, or it could be what it looks like: he is blindly forging ahead without understanding why, just that he wants to.
And because this Doppelganger does not know why he does what he does, because he has only an empty purpose he’s borrowed from another side of himself, this lacking within himself allows him to be undone by one of the purest characters in the show, Lucy Brennan.
How does one atone for their shadow self?
By the same turn, RichardCooper is also a reflection of DoppelCooper’s experiences as understood by Dale. As equally as DoppelCooper is living through what he understands of RichardCooper’s quest, RichardCooper is Dale living through what he understands of DoppelCooper’s life within Dale’s body after the doppelgänger exited in Episode 29 of Season Two. They are inexplicably intertwined, and Dale needs to simultaneously extricate himself from and integrate into DoppelCooper if he has any hope of becoming a fully integrated Cooper, a character I assure you we have not yet seen within the scenes of Twin Peaks.
One of the first things he’s presented with is how DoppelCooper treated Diane. It didn’t happen exactly as tulpa Diane remembered her rape, but again, there is no Bob this time, and this is how Dale is experiencing DoppelCooper’s origin. And Diane appeared to be re-experiencing her past as well, though equally unable to make many changes. As I’ve said earlier, this is Dale Cooper making choices from with the exact steps DoppelCooper took through the world, not a carbon copy of DoppelCooper’s original experience. As I am positing this is Dale’s reclaiming of his soul, they have to replay the events that led to Diane’s rape but RichardCooper is passive rather than actively a rapist though Diane remembers how it went the first time (and herein is a case to be made also that in their sex scene Diane confronts her rapist, reclaims a certain agency within herself, and begins her own healing process from this point forward). There is more nuance than I am capable of in this scene, but I do feel they are trying to right wrongs here whether or not they achieve this. For one thing, instead of trapping Diane in the Dutchman presumably next to Audrey, Diane leaves on her own.
Dale is forced to take the same steps as DoppelCooper but he’s already making changes along the way. From within the cold exterior, he is influencing DoppelCooper in a more positive way that Bob had influenced DoppelCooper, and with enough time the shadow self may develop a conscience, or it could work in that Dale exorcises DoppelCooper from himself bit by bit as he plays DoppelCooper, I’m reminded of what John Pirruccello said during his interview on an episode of the Bookhouse Podcast. He said that playing Chad exorcised that Chad part of himself from him during the course of filming his scenes, Pirruccello says he is now a better person because of being in Twin Peaks. This is from an actor, and all he did was play an asshole, recognize the parts within himself that could come off as being an asshole, and he feels like he can leave those behaviors behind. Which brings me back to Theosophy’s tenants about the base astral matter that atrophies the less those base emotions are felt and encouraged. Can living as DoppelCooper exorcise the negative impulses and base astral matter of Dale Cooper from himself as he lives as his doppelgänger? I suspect yes. And I suspect this may be the beginning of a long process that may finally result in what we’ve always wanted: a Dale Cooper who’s defeated his doppelganger. And in 25 years, with a little faith and maybe a shovel, I think it’ll work.
Dale’s part in this puzzle has proven larger than I thought, so I’ll have to save Laura for next time. While Dale’s living in his life modeled after DoppelCooper’s, I think Laura’s living a life modeled after Shelly Johnson’s. I bet you’ll see it too now that I mentioned it, but if not I’ll make my case. And the Fireman will probably be mentioned.
Until then, I want to hear your thoughts on this…I’ve heard remarkably little in this way of thinking so far and I love it when you test my theories.
For further reading, here are the articles I linked to earlier in the article:
This Mystery has a blueprint: deciphering the obvious in The Return by Lindsay Stamhuis
And for more on western themes and what that means in a broader scale, read Mat Cult’s article Cowboys and Supermen – American Heroism in the Return