The following is a guest article by Wendy Davis!
In the first season of Twin Peaks, we are introduced to the guileless FBI Agent Dale Cooper, who is investigating the murder of Laura Palmer. Through his actions and dialogue, we learn that he is a highly intelligent, quirky, and noble character, with more than a fleeting interest in Eastern spirituality. He is the quintessential good guy, only bending the rules for the right reason and stoically resisting temptation. We trust in his unflinching moral code.
Cooper’s understanding of the human condition is demonstrated through his honorable actions toward his fellow characters. His empathy is magnified during the jail scene with Leland Palmer. When Bob leaves Leland’s person, the full awareness of his egregious actions leaves him writhing in horror. Leland tells Cooper how Bob seduced him as a child and pursued him throughout his life. The corruption of innocence creates a mixture of sympathy and fear within the viewer. It suggests that evil originates from a spiritual realm and swoops in to invade humanity.
This view of the human condition rationalizes degenerate behavior. It gives trespassers an ‘out’ for misguided actions; however, humanity has an obligation to defend against such evil intrusions. In the jail scene, Leland announces that Laura defended her psyche against Bob at the cost of her life. She knew if the darkness caught a foothold, she would be consumed. Leland was awed by her strength. He fell victim to the seduction of power because it resonated with his human desire to dominate and control. With Leland and Laura, we see spiritual attacks on a man with an abysmal moral code, and a sexually abused girl who turns to drugs and promiscuity for relief and a sense of control. It appears that demonic forces target broken individuals, until season two leaves us with a demented Cooper, damaged from his sojourn into the Black Lodge.
What was the weakness that allowed the good Cooper to be compromised in the Black Lodge? In a conversation with Harry Truman, he reveals that his former love, Caroline Earle, was his partner’s wife, but this tarnish adds depth to his character and their tragic love story is strangely endearing. The real chink in Cooper’s armor is his predictable pattern of rescuing the Damsel-In-Distress. He is in love with the rescue and his longing to do good becomes his flaw. Beginning with Caroline, his desire obstructs his devotion to duty and leads to destruction.
This pattern is repeated in the rescue of Audrey Horne from One-Eyed Jack’s. Cooper steps outside the boundaries of his charge and seeks vigilante justice. His actions save Audrey’s life, but result in his suspension. In a self-correcting move, he maintains a strict relational boundary with Audrey, prompting her comment that his only flaw is that he is perfect.
The pattern is repeated yet again with Annie, a former nun marked by a scar from a suicide attempt. She’s spiritually disposed with deep-seated wounds and Cooper believes he can help her, but his desire is ill-timed with Windom Earle afoot and insinuating himself into the lives of the community. Cooper’s obligation to duty is enshrouded by his attraction and his crisp identity from Season One becomes blurred.
Windom Earle banks on Cooper pursuing him when he abducts Annie and flees to Glastonbury Grove. Cooper assumes a messianic archetype by risking his soul and entering the Black Lodge to avenge Caroline, redeem Annie, and bring Earle to justice. Our hero’s soul is not annihilated, and according to Hawk’s lore, demonstrates perfect courage: courage, not the absence of fear, but the ability to act in spite of fear. However, Cooper’s presence in the Black Lodge renders consequences.
The alchemy of Cooper’s doppelgänger remains mysterious; Cooper’s wholeness is clearly fractured in the Black Lodge, but it is not destroyed. Bob frees him to leave, but he is surpassed by his shadow-self and the doppelgänger enters the world instead. Unlike Leland, who has a gaping hole in his conscience occupied by Bob, the good Coop’s soul still exists and is trapped in the Black Lodge.
The second season tragically ends with a bloodied Cooper laughing at Bob’s visage in the mirror. Annie is hospitalized and the story is unresolved. Twenty-five years later, we learn the bad Cooper continues to wreak havoc in the physical world and plans to outmaneuver his return to the Black Lodge. The bad Cooper, or Mr. C, is manufactured with Cooper’s replicated mind and an indwelling of Bob, resulting in a contamination of Cooper’s countenance, voice, and movements. He is the wolf in sheep’s clothing, stalking into situations and wielding death and destruction. There is no light in this avatar, only a pit of fury.
Our Special Agent is in the lodge, waiting for the cosmic exchange returning him to the present (or is it future, or is it past) to redeem the wrongs committed by Mr. C. The transfiguration fails as Mr. C. evades departure. At the same time, our Special Agent’s consciousness is dropped into another host, Dougie Jones, but the inhabitation glitches, due to Mr. C’s subterfuge.
In the context of mind, body, and spirit, Cooper’s replicated mind and Bob’s spirit are housed in Mr. C. Mr. C is searching for coordinates to a portal of Black Fire, a place of supreme death and destruction. The search falters and his intel is unreliable; he is not omniscient and he has departed from the Black Lodge with fissures in his being.
Dougie holds Cooper’s spirit and mind, but the glitch prevents Cooper from being fully actualized into Dougie. His wholeness is fragmented across two hosts, one being evil, and one being incapacitated. Dougie seems like an arbitrary avatar for Cooper until we learn that Janey-E is Diane’s estranged half-sister. In the earlier seasons, we infer that Cooper and Diane had an intimate friendship; he relied on her professionally, but many of his recordings were markedly personal. Similarly, Dougie relies on Janey-E to be his arbiter and mouthpiece. Although Dougie’s communicative challenges can be frustrating, he exerts a hefty psychic influence eliciting kindness from strangers, family, and coworkers. In the presence of Dougie, people demonstrate their higher selves.
There is one instance where Cooper’s former spark is ignited. During the attack by Ike the Spike, Cooper’s swift reflexes surge, set off by his ingrained motivation to save the girl. Dougie nimbly defends Janey-E, as fierce as she may be in her own right. This scene sustains hope that Cooper’s dormancy will eventually end.
Cooper’s resurrection by way of a self-induced electrocution remains a mystery, but he awakens from his coma completely intact. He charges forth knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. His goodness radiates as he drives Janey-E and Sonny Jim to the hypnotic theme song of “Falling.” This is our hero, who moves from a place of love and brilliant integrity, generous with compassion and grace to those around him.
The emotional tide rescinds as Cooper moves to the next challenge, which he cannot conquer alone. As Cooper makes his way to Twin Peaks, Mr. C has teleported to the Sheriff Station. Andy eagerly greets him, but he intuits that something is off. He tips off Lucy by yelling, “Very Important! Very Important!” Lucy fields a call from the real Cooper and rushes to the Sheriff’s office, gunning down Mr. C.
Lucy is a true hero, a David facing a Goliath, bringing down the baddest of the bad in a world where females are abused, tortured, and murdered. Lucy’s quirks and Andy’s idiosyncrasies provide levity in a dark story, but in this moment, her steadfast nature answers the call to action. There is a job to do and she executes it flawlessly.
As Mr. C dies on the floor, Cooper arrives and the major players congregate in the Sheriff’s office. As Bob bubbles out of Mr. C, Cooper perceives Freddy’s role and exhorts him to fulfill his destiny. A beating ensues resulting in Bob’s defeat. At first blush, it seems we should celebrate, but Cooper maintains a somber mood. Killing Bob was not the mission. The mission was and has always been rescuing Laura Palmer.
There is a half-sister to save, or in this case, recompense. Cooper’s impulse of rescue engages in regards to Janey-E and Sonny Jim, and with the golden seed, Cooper has a mechanism to live out this impulse. Cooper asks Mike to make “another one.” From a lock of hair, a new tulpa is conjured and what once was a problem, now becomes a solution. There are two Coopers.
Cooper now embarks on another supernatural quest. Upon entering room 315 at the Great Northern, Cooper travels back in time and intercepts Laura at Sparkwood and 21, leading her away from a brutal murder. The messianic archetype is fully realized as Cooper has rescued Laura from death, and it appears he has made all things right; however, in the world of Twin Peaks, few things are what they seem.
In the woods, Laura vanishes and Cooper is led to Jeffries, who unlocks a portal leading to Judy. Cooper journeys through and eventually finds himself in Odessa, Texas, where he spots Judy’s Diner. In the diner, Cooper’s rigid mannerisms suggest that he is a tulpa. His instinct to save the girl kicks in when customers harass the waitress; he effortlessly takes down the husky cowboys. He obtains an address from the waitress and arrives at Carrie Page’s home, who is a dead ringer for Laura Palmer. She doesn’t recognize him or the names and places he mentions until he says Sarah’s name. “Sarah” resonates with her and he offers to take her to her former home. Carrie Page is in some serious trouble, and she seizes the opportunity to flee.
After a long trip over dark highways, they enter Twin Peaks. Nothing looks familiar to Carrie and a strange woman answers the door at the Palmer house. The poignant conclusion portrays a confused Cooper, unsure of the time and place. In the background, Sarah’s eerie call for Laura resounds through the night. The voice triggers Carrie, and she releases a scream fueled by the garmonbozia of twenty-five plus years.
Laura Palmer was Cooper’s literal dream girl who beckoned to him from a spiritual realm. His heroic journey peaks and plunges and twists and orbits again. It’s an infinite cycle where the end is just the beginning. Her rescue represents the eternal battle of evil versus good, where the warriors shapeshift from the longings of the heart and supernatural forces.
By using doppelgangers and tulpas, Lynch and company deconstruct the human condition and recombine the aspects of self into new avatars, some evil with sharp minds, others dull with loving spirits. Wholeness is always fractured, but in each representation of self, there is a dominant guiding force. In these creations, we see evil prowling and devouring those in its path, but we also see the powerful persuasion of gentleness. Mr. C, the baddest motherfucker in the land is taken out by a secretary and a security guard, while Dougie is shepherded by a fierce wife, the Mafia, and a former boxing champ.
It is as if Lynch is adjusting the soul’s illuminance to see how people will play out. The human condition is light dancing with the shadow, but we must fix our hearts, or be consumed by the dark. As we navigate through Twin Peaks and our own lives, we hope that Major Briggs’ greatest fear is unfounded. Maybe love is enough.