The Palmers and the uncomfortable nature of their trauma are at the center of Twin Peaks, but thanks to Tamara Preston’s interpretation in The Final Dossier the reality of the Palmers’ trauma has possibly been redefined into the product of the demons Joudy and Ba’alzeBOB finding each other and mating. Is Twin Peaks still the same kind of story at its heart?
I do realize there are multiple ways (as there are with anything Twin Peaks) to read the Judy and Bob situation, but today’s column is working under the assumption it is now supposed to be true. Being honest, I’m really struggling with this and I really need need to write this column so I can explore why this path was suggested to be part of the greater Twin Peaks mythology in the first place.
I think the fundamental structure of Laura’s dynamics with her family is changed, and therefore herself and her experiences are also changed. I can’t comprehend why it was done. Suddenly it seems less about Laura being an incest victim and more about being the offspring of monsters. Laura being a victim of incest happens to be an effect of that but is no longer the primary issue. It seems like Laura is now being framed in a “larger” situation, and I don’t know how incest survivors should feel about that much less anyone who ever needed Laura to be a regular girl dealing with extraordinary circumstances. Because she’s not just a regular girl anymore if she’s born from demons and Firemen are imbuing her with golden life force. All the people Sheryl Lee said she made Fire Walk With Me for, the victims of incest and similar abuses, how do they feel about the cosmic-ifying of their fairly real-world-level struggles? Hell, how does Sheryl Lee read this?
I can be comfortable enough with one demonic character being part of the equation of Laura’s parentage because that means there’s a human being, Sarah, who was hoodwinked. There would be a level of secrecy involved that can keep Laura and her mother based in humanity her whole life.
But if Sarah too has lost her humanity along the way? Then there’s now a level of destiny to it for Laura. A ridiculousness, a level of Demons In Love that is just plain bizarre an angle to introduce into the story based on trauma. With this new take, both her parents know: Laura is a monster by birth.
It becomes something of an inheritance for Laura. She has inhumanity in her. Her father knows this. Her mother knows this. Laura may not, but instead of “there is a monster in this house” the story becomes “you are the offspring of monsters.”
Her entire nature becomes rooted in demon and she has to somehow deny her biology. Instead of “her life has been invaded by trauma” it becomes “her biology is literally monster.” Rather than a rogue agent who could just as easily be inhabited by monsters as she could grow into a normal woman, she near indisputably is the monster. And she has to realize it and overcome it but how is she supposed to overcome what she literally is made from? It changes the story entirely and it’s not a duality as much as it is about denying your self to become good. Because there’s something literally and fundamentally wrong with you in the first place.
The Palmer family’s trauma at the heart of Twin Peaks went like this: A father was raping his daughter. The daughter drowned her life in drugs and things that kept her too busy to absorb what was happening. A mother was incapable of interacting with it, much less able to stop it. It was complicated by the fact a demon was possessing the father and encouraging him to cater to his worst natures and attractions. But the daughter was mostly human because her father was (let’s say) 50% human and her mother was 100% human. She was raised as a human being.
If, as The Final Dossier heavily suggests, Sarah Palmer was inhabited by a form of demon herself since before she met Leland, that makes things much more complicated because then Laura was raised by two people who had demons within them. She is made from 50% monster, and she was raised by these monsters as well. Nature as well as nurture are severely compromised, and it does not bode well for Laura’s humanity.
I am not a fan of this potential retcon. It doesn’t exactly hamper Laura’s agency but it sure doesn’t help it, and I’ve been protective of Laura’s agency since Part Eight set her up as a potential Chosen One character. This choice to involve Sumerian God-Demons in the mythology seems more in the Chosen One lane than not, and it leaves me massively uncomfortable. It’s not a dealbreaker, but I’m not a fan of the choice by Lynch and Frost to make this a possibility. It’s got me making Bob and Judy comics just to try to force more humanity into this. I’m trying to understand, but it’s really difficult.
How is a regular human girl supposed to approach dealing with her situation if she potentially needs cosmic help from a Fireman to be able to get the bravery to confront her abuser? In Fire Walk With Me, Laura found the bravery inside herself. In Season Three it appears what she finds in herself is a demon center and help only from a golden globe that didn’t originally come from her. And the whole season’s mantra is shovel yourself out of the shit, so you know this can’t go well.
It’s all awkward. But is this, like everything else in Season Three (and Secret History, and Final Dossier), a purposeful misdirection? Does this have to do with an unreliable narrator even on this most central issue? Is anything safe from misdirection?
Is the point to undercut this central trauma and misdirect us away from it? It’s put right out there: Tamara Preston specifically talks about looking away after she herself just told us to look at Sumerian God Demons as the actual parents of Laura Palmer. Was her demon explanation a moment of looking away from the true issue?
Everything else in the book is undercut (Annie being mired in a backstory rife with season two mundanity masking the fact she’s a tulpa or an otherwise CooperDougie-like entity) so there is a consistency to base this in. The Diane Podcast mentioned how Lynch and Frost are actually telling a simple story in Season Three but they put all these plot threads in play and make all these wacky eyecatching characters so that we are distracted from the actually-straightforward plot. I think this take is spot-on, and the trauma associated with the Palmer Family is the important thing being misdirected away from in the Final Dossier.
Maybe this book (and less explicitly the ending of Season Three as well) is giving us the choice to forget the central trauma. We too can take this opportunity to look away. We can say “oh, it’s about that kind of monsters.”
We can get some rest, close our eyes, dream a little easier. And we get a chance to ignore the real monsters in play.
Tamara mentions the harm of looking away in the conclusion of The Final Dossier:
“Is the evil in us real? Is it an intrinsic part of us, a force outside us, or nothing more than a reflection of the void? How do we hold both fear and wonder in the mind at once? Does staring into the darkness offer up answers, or resolution?” Later on she writes, “The only answer I can console myself with is this: what if the truth lies just beyond the limits of our fear, and the only way to reach it is to never look away? What if that’s why we must keep going, why we can never quit trying to overcome it in every moment we’re alive?”
When she writes “How easy it is to quit, give up, lower our eyes. Look what happens to anyone here who lost the fight,” I can’t help but think she’s talking about Sarah. The “look away” stuff from Tamara may be the official metaphor of the book, and possibly Season Three. I’ve heard it mentioned on multiple podcasts that, specifically in reference to the Woodsman’s poem, the “white of the eyes” are revealed when you look away. This guess, as far as I’m concerned, has been proven absolutely correct.
Look away from the simple human horrors in Twin Peaks. Make it about Sumerian demons. Make it about anything else other than two parents actively making it impossible for their child to be safe in their own home.
Maybe that’s how monsters really are made.
To go along with Tamara’s Sumerian God Demons theory, I’ll do some looking away and throw in a few other reasonable possibilities for a moment.
As I’m proposing in my previous column that Twin Peaks is a hybrid lodge/reality space, it’s possible JudySarah is a Lodge version of Sarah associated with part of Laura’s lodge cycle loop as Laura digs herself out of her shit.
It’s also possible JudySarah is the only thing left of Sarah and she’s literally haunting regular reality’s Twin Peaks, specifically the Palmer House while the Tremonds are the current family living in it. The sound in the kitchen when Hawk was talking to Sarah in the doorway could have been Alice Tremond. Though also it could have been the real Sarah making a drink while JudySarah kept Hawk from entering. There are so many permutations worth considering.
But the one I keep coming back to is the first one: maybe Sarah is a monster.
Used to be, Bob was either a metaphor or he was real after all, it didn’t matter which. The darkness was always real and Laura and Sarah were too. Maybe in The Final Dossier it’s just Bob and Judy as metaphors, same as it ever was just with more demons. Maybe the monster in Sarah is Lynch and Frost’s way of implicating Sarah finally, acknowledging Sarah’s guilt after years of leaving her off to the side of the story. Maybe she became a monster after living with her guilt for 25 years. Maybe she’s opened herself to an evil spirit and it timequaked her into an overwritten state she must have retroactively always been in. Because after all, how could a mother let something like that happen to her own daughter? She must have been a monster the whole time.
Sarah showed the whites of her eyes to the trauma under her own roof just like in the 1956 scenes of Part Eight when she let in a monster and things got worse. This is the exact inverse effect of a golden shovel. Sarah is unable to forgive herself, and is trapped in a feedback loop of PTSD. According to Season Three patterns this means she’s doomed to remain looped in a cycle, stuck in place as trauma pummels her as she tries to turn away.
This is how monsters are really made: you look away. You close your eyes. You fall asleep. And it becomes a part of you while you’re too busy dreaming to realize where you physically are.
And it becomes so much a part of you that you must have always been this way. You can’t remember a time in your life when you weren’t a monster, so you must have always been one. It’s the only explanation you can come up with to tell yourself. It’s the only way you could let something like that happen to your daughter, and by your own husband no less. There’s no other way this could have happened, right? You must have allowed it, you must be the monster. You must be complicit.
If you’re Sarah, you may feel there’s no other way to read this. There’s no avenue you can take to forgive yourself. Because while you looked away from what was happening, Laura’s trauma became so much a part of you that all you can hear are screams, and there is nothing left of yourself. Nothing left to hold onto, just more things to hide from. The pain around you climbed inside you one night and it kept getting worse and worse, and it grew in you so long over so much time that you may as well be the thing a monster is wearing. You are hollow inside, and there’s no light left. You haven’t seen light near your life since your daughter died. Since then, the only thing that can find anything to smile about is the monster. So you let it.
I think the Seasons One and Two Sarah is who we thought she was: a human mother who has one human child and one compromised human/demon father undermining Laura’s upbringing from a place of secrecy. And this secrecy, this gaslighting of Sarah, has proven the perfect fertilizer for pain and suffering. Sarah became hollow, filled with darkness, as any mother of a murdered child would likely feel, from her core outward. And being Twin Peaks, this empty woman has become an empty chrysalis, ready to hold any demons inside that would feast on void, until it breaks through the barrier and seeds the world with an explosion of her grief.
So to answer the earlier question, I don’t think the fundamental trauma at the heart of Twin Peaks has changed. I think what’s happened is the trauma at its heart has retroactively changed Twin Peaks itself, both backwards and forwards through time. The monster inside Sarah, after it moved in, did some redecorating to the entire length of Sarah’s life. And oh boy is it a lot darker now.
Articles mentioned above:
Hysteria in Twin Peaks by Hannah Searson
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