Twin Peaks: The Return is an astonishing achievement. It decimated every convention of television in its makers’ quest to find something truly unique and powerful. Now that we have the show to hold as our own on Blu-ray and DVD, I thought it was a good time to express the reason for my intense love of the show, and hopefully help others to get to theirs. Twin Peaks doesn’t talk down to you. It doesn’t assume you’re a moron whose hand needs to be held all the way. The guiding, finger pointing and over-emphasizing to be found in most TV shows is replaced with a joyous and beautiful sense of mystery. I believe that this mystery is what makes Twin Peaks: The Return so powerful.
I have seen some people claim that the show is too complex for the average viewer, and while that may be the case with some literal interpretations of the show – timelines, cause and effect and so on – I do not believe that the viewer needs to be seriously intelligent to get to the heart of Twin Peaks. What you need is what you already have, even if you didn’t exactly know you had it. Twin Peaks: The Return is an instinctual work of art, and resonates so deeply with us for that reason. I don’t believe that David Lynch is particularly interested in throwing out crazy shit just for the sake of it, but I also don’t believe that his reasons for doing something is always a work of logical reasoning. He does what he feels like. As Joseph Campbell said, he follows his bliss, and wouldn’t you know it? Doors open. These doors are what so intrance me. Twin Peaks is a shared dream. In dreams we follow our instincts. Our greatest fears and hopes are expressed in technicolor, shimmering on the screens of our lives. This is what Twin Peaks gets to. A dream can be analyzed, but when you are in it, you don’t need any Freudian chatter to understand what is happening. You feel it deep in your heart.
The mystery is Holy. The question brings us closer to ourselves than any answers can. Twin Peaks was largely responsible for TV shows that venerate the mystery, two major examples being The X-Files which followed on from the original Twin Peaks in 1993, and Lost which premiered in 2004. In all of these shows, Twin Peaks included, a vocal contingent of the audience were obsessed with finding answers to the questions the shows provoked. While I understand the excitement to be found in theorizing and discussing, I always felt like these people were somewhat egregiously missing the point. What is inside the box is rarely as interesting as what could be in the box. This is not to say that Twin Peaks: The Return didn’t provide beautiful, sometimes terribly disturbing answers to questions it offered up, please don’t misunderstand me. It did. But the sense of mystery had to be maintained, at all costs, something that David Lynch and Mark Frost learned the hard way the first time around, when the murderer of Laura Palmer was revealed shortly into the second season. This was what killed the show the first time. When they returned to the world they created, they understood that the BIG mysteries had to be maintained throughout and not revealed until it was absolutely necessary. This is the reason why it took so long for Agent Cooper to return to us. That wait made it so much more powerful than it would have been if Lynch and Frost had given the audience what they wanted straight away. An answer is given, but a further question is offered up in artistic tribute to the Gods of creation. This is not simply to muddy the waters as some have claimed in ignorance, but instead to appreciate that a work such as this is a living thing, to define it in stark reality is to kill it. To take away its dreams and turn them into grubby reality is to commit a certain kind of murder.
David Lynch explores many themes in his work, it is true. I don’t believe however that he ever sat down and listed the themes and ideas he wanted his work to provoke. “A woman in trouble” was Lynch’s explanation of INLAND EMPIRE, which tells you a thing or two about how he approaches his work from an instinctual perspective. Lynch’s work leaves us with deeply emotional and profound feelings, but it never tells us that our personal interpretations of it are wrong. We share the dreamscape, and through the dream we direct it as we direct our own nighttime films. Sometimes it hits like a nightmare. Sometimes it is a wonderful escape from the drudgery of day to day existence. When Twin Peaks: The Return ended, some people were angry with it. For raising more questions than it settled, for being so savagely surreal and apart from our world. The end to me, is the end of the dream. Things are not where they are supposed to be. Have you ever had a dream where you go to your childhood home to find that someone else is living there? Someone whose face is alien to you, and whose words seem hollow? That snap, that scream, and we wake up and we find ourselves in our own bed, the possibilities of the dreamscape evaporating as our mind shifts back into the boundaries and limitations of reality. Sadness that it is over mixed with relief that we no longer have to navigate such a treacherous place.
The dream is the thing. The question of why leads us to our most profound understanding of what we are doing here on earth. Watching Twin Peaks The Return is like a degree in Philosophy, so thought provoking and challenging are the questions it raises. If we ever do discover the answers to those questions, it would seem like reality as we know it ceases to exist. This is the doom foretold in The Black Lodge. Opening the curtains and seeing what is behind it is a dangerous thing to do. You may not like the answers you get. I am reminded of the long existing philosophical debate over the existence of Free Will. Long story short, you probably don’t have ultimate free will, but what we mean when we use the term exists for all intents and purposes. As long as you aren’t aware that you don’t have free will, there isn’t a problem. When Coop went behind the curtain and discovered the mysteries of existence, it completely altered his perception of reality. This came with benefits – his ability to mess with the timeline and attempt a rescue of Laura Palmer – as well as serious dangers. After 25 years in this other place, he needed a serious jolt to embody Special Agent Dale Cooper again.
In order to get back to himself, he had to be born again in the body of a newborn. I understand somewhat why people were frustrated with Dougie Coop as a character, but I don’t agree with the criticisms that it was self-indulgent and unnecessary. It was the most necessary story element of the show and expressed so much about what drives Lynch and Frost to do the work they do. Dougie Coop is an innocent. He has endured the trials of the Black Lodge and has found himself back in the “real” world. It is interesting that Coop had to quite literally battle himself in order to become whole again. That Lucy, another pure hearted soul, was the one to kill Mr C is entirely in keeping with the belief that the innocent and pure of heart will be the ones who can defeat terrible evil.
While I have expressed a certain skepticism around theorizing, in order to reach a consensus on what “really” happened, I do not mean to suggest that personal theorizing is not encouraged. It is, immensely so. It is though a personal thing. What you believe in your heart after experiencing the dream is of the utmost importance. Just like a person can’t really tell you how to feel about a dream you had, no-one should be able to shout you down and tell you that you are stupid for not seeing it their way. My personal view on the ending of the show, apart from being a staggering and shocking end to the shared dream, is that it speaks on the persistence of evil, in spite of all of Coop’s efforts to right the wrongs committed against Laura Palmer by her father/BOB. We can’t undo what has been done, no matter how many dimensions we have access to. It happened. That scream echoing across dimensions and time a reminder that Coop has failed to erase and change the past.
This is powerful for a couple of reasons. First, because it opens the door for more Twin Peaks. Considering the scale of the artistic achievement – for Episode 8 alone, if for nothing else – and the immensely provocative and entrancing journey we experienced together, this is a good thing. Second, it says that it is the effort in keeping evil at bay that really matters, not the end result. This speaks on everything Frost and Lynch have to say about how we should behave to one another. Dougie Coop is a pure soul and we should follow people like him, not the wordy and shifty politician like shape of Mr. C. Mr. C tells you what you want to hear, and then he destroys you behind closed doors. Dougie Coop may not say much, but he will stick by you no matter what. This is something that I think was missed when people discussed Dougie Coop: it wasn’t a third kind of Coop, it was Coop in his purest form.
I believe that Twin Peaks: The Return is not only the greatest TV show of 2017, I mean obviously it is, but the greatest creative work in the history of the medium. If it’s a film, it is surely the greatest work in the career of David Lynch, towering over even the great dream trilogy of Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and INLAND EMPIRE. Which means that it towers over most film makers past or present. The mystery is venerated because it is through our moments of self-doubt, and self-examination that we can become better human beings. Through our own insecurities, our dreams and desires, we can find who we really are. We are not just a series of choices, we exist beyond the day to day reality of our lives. Somewhere out there, we might just find our own personal purpose. Twin Peaks: The Return is a call to keep looking, even if you are scared to death of what you might find. Be brave. Embrace innocence and optimism. Never sink to the belief that being cynical is a replacement for true insight and a good heart. The mystery is Holy. Thank the Gods for Twin Peaks: The Return.