Notes from the Bookhouse: The Final Dossier

If you’re looking for a spoiler-free version of this review, you’ll find it here! The discussion below will be filled with spoilers — you’ve been warned!

During my (admittedly brief) tenure so far as assistant librarian over at The Bookhouse, few books have come into our inventory with as much fanfare as The Final Dossier. Even I was swept up in this fever — literally, as the case may be, since I received my flu shot the night before the book came out and was hit with a number of nasty side-effects, including an actual fever, that made enjoying the book and writing my initial review of it more difficult than I originally anticipated. But you won’t hear me complaining! No siree! And not just because it drives Sheriff Truman up the wall — I’m so grateful to have this book at all, and I never look a gift horse in the mouth.

The contents of this book are interesting at first glance but not in the same way that those of last year’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks were. A surface reading allows us to discover what happened in the intervening years for our favourite characters:

  • Leo died after being shot, probably by Windom Earle;
  • How Dr Jacoby got his video podcast;
  • How Jerry Horne got into marijuana sales;
  • Donna’s life after the events of the 1989 Miss Twin Peaks pageant;
  • James’s life after his disastrous affair with the widow Marsh;
  • Lana Milford and her later connection to Donna and Donald Trump. No kidding…

On a much more sombre note, we also learn that Harry S. Truman is no longer Sheriff because he has been battling cancer, in secret, for the last little while. Audrey Horne hasn’t been in a coma all these years but hasn’t had an easy life either, raising a child on her own. She left town mysteriously after years in a loveless marriage and hasn’t been heard from since (rumours are that she is in a state facility). We learn that the Hayward marriage dissolved shortly after the events of the original series, that Donna went to New York to become a fashion model while Harriet went on to become a pediatrician and Gersten succumbed to the pressures of her own prodigious talent and the struggles of her family life and became a drug addict.

And we finally find out the answer to that ultimate question that’s haunted us for more than 25 years: How’s Annie? (She’s fine, by the way.)

Initially I was surprised by how much wasn’t in the book: only a few mentions of Bobby, none whatsoever of Red, and only the most passing glance at the Sparkle craze taking over Twin Peaks in the series — are these oversights on the part of Mark Frost or a sign that those things weren’t as important as we thought? It’s curious that Tammy didn’t spend any time looking into Dougie Jones or the mystery of his circumstances down in Las Vegas, either. Surely there are interesting things to be found in that family, especially if Janey-E and Diane truly were half-sisters. 

But then it hit me that there was more going on here beneath the deceptively simple narrative being woven by Frost through Tammy Preston. In the second-to-last chapter of the book, a bombshell revelation is laid at our feet: Laura Palmer did not die. Tammy spent a year combing through the files and compiling information about characters in a world where the central murder mystery that brought us all to Twin Peaks in the first place is not actually a murder mystery but a decades-old missing person’s case.

The histories we’re reading about the characters we love are not altogether the histories we should have received, all because Agent Cooper, it seems, did change the timeline when he diverted Laura in the woods that night. This book is living in an alternate timeline.

I love it when books do this — you think you’ve got the story straight, you’re turning to the last page, you’re nearly done, and there’s a twist so severe it gives you whiplash. And it rarely happens (at least in the books I choose to read — I’m a historical non-fiction kind of girl…); I was so shocked when I heard this that my jaw dropped open, literally. I had no choice but to go back to the start and re-read everything I had just read with fresh eyes, knowing that the continuation of the story we left in the Season 2 finale was not exactly the continuation of the story that we were getting in The Final Dossier. How did Cooper’s actions change the fate of the town he’d loved so much, and the people within it?

As it turns out, there are some curious inconsistencies within The Final Dossier. So I started a list. It’s not exhaustive — if you find more, let me know! — but it’s a start:

The origin of Shelly and Bobby’s relationship: There is no mention of this in the original series, and The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer actually spells out the opposite, that it was Bobby and Laura who were high school sweethearts and Bobby was cheating on Laura with Shelly. The argument could be made that The Secret Diary is simply unreliable, and I’m tempted to assume that it is, in large part because the memories and feelings of any teenaged diary writer, let alone one as troubled as Laura, are going to skew objective reality of the events in question (if objective reality is even something we can count on.) But to completely invert the actual reality of the origin of these relationships is a big thing to mistake. So could it actually be some kind of alteration resulting from Cooper’s finagling of the timeline? This raises more questions, as these are changes that happened before Cooper re-entered the past to lead Laura “home.” Did his actions cause events to change in both directions, forward in time and back? We’ll have to think about this for a while…

Cooper’s backstory: A few prominent inconsistencies crop up in Agent Cooper’s story, namely that his mother doesn’t seem to have died as we were told in The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes, and again where the story of Windom Earle is concerned (in that case, again, things get timey-wimey, with Earle spending more time in prison than would have been possible given the dates that Tammy rustles up when investigating the events in Philadelphia with Agent Cooper and Caroline.) Tammy does go to great trouble to tell us that “Diane” was responsible for transcribing the tapes that made it into the book, and that she heavily “redacted and modified” the transcript, owing to her own motives at that time (seeing as how we know she wasn’t the real Diane.) Would “Diane” have edited this information? Why? What difference would Cooper’s mother’s death or the dates of Windom Earle’s incarceration make on “Diane’s” dealings with Mr. C? I’m not sure I can ascribe these changes to “Diane” so quickly, but again, I need to think on this…

Annie is fine: Annie’s backstory is fleshed out and on first glance there is nothing supernatural about it — she and Norma are half sisters, the result of their father’s dalliance with the evil Vivian Smythe-Niles (as we knew her in the original series.) Rather than a disastrous romantic fling with a boy her own age, Annie’s first suicide attempt is the result of an attempted rape by her mother’s second husband. It’s tragic and colours her story differently than before. Everything progresses from there as we saw it, right up until the moment she reemerges from the Lodge in Glastonbury Grove. At this point, Annie’s story continues: she is hospitalized and recovers, to an extent, only to make a second suicide attempt a year later. At that point she is hospitalized in a private facility, where she remains to this day, essentially catatonic, though is described as youthful and placid as though she hasn’t aged a day. She doesn’t speak, save for one phrase on the anniversary of her return from the woods, at which point she says quite simply “I’m fine.” Her doctors say she is responding to auditory hallucinations; we know better. It’s supremely creepy.

Looking deeper, however, we find inconsistencies with her age: Annie appears to have aged 10 years between 1984 — when she first meets Norma at the age of 12 — and 1989 — when she arrives in Twin Peaks and is said to be in her early 20s. Both cannot be true simultaneously. Annie is either 17 in 1989 or else she can’t possibly be 12 in 1984. Did Tammy flub her research? It’s possible, but unlikely; say what you will about her characterization in The Return, but Gordon wouldn’t choose her to be part of his task force if she weren’t up to the task. Could it be that the effects of two timelines are wreaking havoc with Tammy’s research? She isn’t aware of the two timelines at this point, so it’s possible, but since Tammy hadn’t done any research before into Annie (she’s famously not mentioned in TSHoTP, remember) it seems unlikely that Tammy’s memories of Annie would interfere with the documentation she received (which include things like hospital records, which couldn’t possibly reflect both timelines the way someone’s memory of an event might.) Could Annie’s agelessness and the quirky timeline be a ripple effect of Annie’s time in the Lodge? That seems possible, too, and tracks with John Bernardy’s timequake theory, though in this case, like with Shelly and Bobby, the changes seem to extend both into the past and the future. It’s hard to follow, and warrants more research on our part.

Other characters’ backstories: There are other little things too — Eileen Hayward is listed as dying of pneumonia on one page and heart failure the next; Donna goes off to NYC shortly after the Miss Twin Peaks pageant in 1989 and then, a little while later, as soon as she turns 18 in 1992 (a fact which also puts her birth year off significantly); Ben is shown as having possession of land (which he sells to Ghostwood Prison developers) that TSHoTP showed him selling to Catherine (and which the original series showed him being swindled for by Catherine); Audrey is both the current owner of a hair salon (that Tammy was able to visit, or else how could she see the framed photo of Cooper on the wall?) and someone who shuttered her business four years ago; Audrey’s son, Richard, is said to have had a falling out with his grandfather over money in The Return, but in the book Audrey doesn’t let Richard have any contact with Ben; Annie’s catatonia is said to have commenced after a day of lucidity following the events in Glastonbury Grove, but in The Missing Pieces, she arrives at the hospital already cataonic; the list goes on. What do all of these seemingly unresolvable inconsistencies mean? How did they originate?

My attempts at explaining these things — if I may be so bold — come back to Lodge dynamics, myths and legends, and the world of quantum physics:

Cooper’s Women Problem: Tammy seems to be right on the money when she details Cooper’s “White Knight Syndrome”, and it feels important to note that Cooper being drawn to women in order to save them doesn’t preclude their falling into more danger as a result of contact with him. So it is with the three most important women we see him interacting with within the world of Twin Peaks: Annie, Diane, and Audrey. Tammy wonders if contact with the Lodge gives people the ability to exist outside of time; it would seem that this is what happened to Annie and Audrey, at least. Diane, too, seems to have been forced into a Lodge-space following her rape as well — recall her story of being taken to The Dutchman’s, which Tammy discovers hasn’t truly existed for decades and so, because we see it as the motel it once was in The Return, itself perhaps exists outside of time now — and though she breaks through into the real world in the end, she can’t really escape her trauma very well either, though she does her level best to face up to it with Cooper in the hotel room…which is another issue altogether, and one which I’ll have to get into at some point.

Sarah is Judy, Beelzebub is BOB, and both are utukku: At least these are all strongly implied — Sarah’s middle name is given as Judith, and she is confirmed to be the fricket girl from 1956; Tammy goes far enough in her descriptions of the ancient Sumerian utukku that we don’t have to make any tremendous leaps to reach the conclusion that these are the entities tormenting Twin Peaks. I’m not sure if there’s any other way of reading this, and it certainly is interesting. It helps to take the version of the mythology we used to have — that of Black and White Lodges as spirit planes beyond the land of the living — and elevating it to a scale that was first alluded to in TSHoTP, intertwining the story of this Pacific Northwest logging town with the myths and legends of ancient cultures and extraterrestrial happenings; now, we’re dealing in the realm of Sumerian demons. While I’m not wholly on board with the idea that Leland and Sarah were both inhabited for all these years, it does lend a certain bigness to their story that seems fitting considering what we saw in Part 8 of The Return. I’m still not sure how I feel about it though. On the one hand, it’s nice to have confirmation that my suspicion was right and the girl was Sarah (going back to an earlier article I wrote for 25YL, in which gut reactions turned out to be right more often than not, I’m pleased to add this to that tally.) But on the other hand, it puts Sarah Palmer in the wheelhouse of evil from the start. Judy has been infesting her since childhood, and all throughout the life of her daughter she was, like Leland, possessed by an evil entity to some degree. That they were supposed to unite on earth and that this union would produce an even more malevolent creature capable of destroying the world puts considerable pressure on any reading of Laura Palmer in light of The Return as well. It is going to make rewatching the original series quite difficult, but it’s something I suppose I will either learn to to live with it, or take a look at the ways in which time was rewritten to effect the end that the forces of evil wanted all along.

Laura Palmer is alive: This is the biggie. The one that underscores it all. Laura Palmer went missing. Tammy doesn’t remember it that way (or, rather, she now remembers it both ways) but that’s what most people in town remember…when you prod them a bit, anyway. It seems as though whatever Cooper did at the end of Part 17 had irreversible effects on the lives of Twin Peaks after all. But how is this possible? We have to abandon all notion of Newtonian physics and embrace the world of quantum mechanics — a theoretical framework which we know, from Martha Nochimson’s book David Lynch Swerves, has interested David Lynch since at least Lost Highway — in order to touch on what I think is a possible explanation here. It’s something I’m keen to dig into.

I have a lot to think about where it concerns this book and how it fits into the overarching mythology of the series. Going forward, I think that’s exactly what I’ll do here — I’ll try to come up with answers that satisfy me, and maybe that will spur you to come up with your own ideas to challenge mine, and we can get a nice dialogue going (over coffee and cherry pie at the Double R!) So look for that right here over the next few weeks. Until then, Peakies, this is your friendly Bookhouse correspondent signing off for another week.

What are some things that you want to know about The Final Dossier? What surprised you? What angered you? What confused you? Let me know in the comments!

Written by Lindsay Stamhuis

Lindsay Stamhuis is a writer and English teacher. In addition to editing and writing about TV and Film, she is the co-host of The Bicks Pod, a podcast currently deep-diving into the collected works of William Shakespeare. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner Aidan, their three cats, and a potted pothos that refuses to grow more than one vine.

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