The Fractured Self: Shattered Identity And Twin Peaks

The following is a guest post from Grant Piercy (@heathen_king on Twitter). Be sure to tweet Grant and let him know what you think!


“There are twists of time and space, of vision and reality, which only a dreamer can divine.” H.P. Lovecraft, The Silver Key

It’s been 25 years since the mirror fractured, since Dale Cooper smashed his forehead into a glass darkly and we recognized the face looking back was not his. In fact, it was the face of Twin Peaks’ greatest evil, that of Killer BOB, the demonic entity responsible for the murder of Laura Palmer, the inciting incident of the series. It was the most hopeless of hopeless endings—all good had been snuffed out, our paragon of virtue had been annihilated in his venture into the Black Lodge spirit realm, and what was left was only the worst in human nature.

Shortly thereafter, David Lynch gifted us with Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, a prequel film that contained some sequel elements—it let us know that there was still a good Dale, but he was trapped in the Black Lodge and couldn’t escape. Put that together with the statement of the metaphysical avatar of the murdered Laura Palmer earlier in that Season 2 finale, “I’ll see you again in 25 years. Meanwhile…” and you have the basic table setting of Twin Peaks: The Return. It would be in this series where we would have to reckon with the fate of Special Agent Dale Cooper and the town he grew to love—both the good Dale trapped in the Lodge, and the shadow self running amok with Killer BOB in tow.

Twin Peaks has always been about the fractured self, specifically in the forms of its chief victim and her murderer. Laura Palmer was a shattered victim of molestation and abuse who ached for her lost purity but rooted in the filth; her killer Leland Palmer had at least four sides of his personality, the wholesome father, Killer BOB, BOB-as-Leland, and the domestic abuser somewhere in between. Lynch has always been fascinated by the incongruity of the darkness that lives beneath the shiny surface—just take the introduction to Blue Velvet with its bright and sunny suburban facade with the battling insects beneath. Blue Velvet is, of course, Lynch’s precursor to Twin Peaks, starring the future Agent Cooper Kyle MacLachlan and his companion Laura Dern. MacLachlan’s hero Jeffrey Beaumont represents this duality; at one point Dern’s wholesome Sandy says to him, “I can’t figure out if you’re a detective or a pervert.” Beaumont responds, “Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out.”

However, neither in the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, nor in the prequel/sequel Fire Walk With Me, did we get the duality of our hero Agent Cooper. He was always a perfect and earnest representation of empathy, goodness, and purpose. He wouldn’t even give in to Audrey Horne waiting naked for him in his hotel bed! (And that’s just crazy.) That’s part of what was so devastating about that fractured mirror scene in the Season 2 finale—all goodness, all virtue, was corrupt and lost. As a matter of fact, Cooper seemed genuinely happy and mostly at peace in the town of Twin Peaks. He would partake in the daily sacrament of coffee and cherry pie, would salute his comrades with a hearty thumbs-up, and was genuinely enamored of the natural beauty of his surroundings. This was the place he belonged.

Home.

What caused the fracturing of Agent Cooper? At the end of Season 2, Coop ventured into the Black Lodge, a place he had previously accessed through his dreams. The Black Lodge is a purely metaphysical, cosmic realm inhabited by spirits who could possess the living such as BOB, MIKE (or his detached Arm, the dancing little person often encountered by Cooper), or the Giant that relayed clues to Cooper for how to capture BOB previously. Coop’s colleague in the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Hawk, described legends of the Black Lodge:

“The legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection. There, you will meet your own shadow self. My people call it ‘The Dweller on the Threshold’ […] But it is said, if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”

With this in mind, Cooper, that paragon of virtue, would need to confront his darker self, the inverse of his virtue and goodness. Does this mean that his deeper impulses and desires were things he suppressed? Were the things that defined the Dweller on the Threshold, who would come to be identified as the Doppelgänger, were they the evil within Cooper or an external definition, the polar opposite of his behaviors? Or were these aspects of his personality separated when he went into the Lodge?

Madness in the face of cosmic, metaphysical forces beyond comprehension is a common trope in literature, especially in the work of H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft wrote of a dreamscape populated by old gods and aliens, of woods, ships, and man-eating beasts. Lovecraft inserted himself into his fiction as Randolph Carter in a similar fashion as Lynch inserts himself as both Gordon Cole and Agent Cooper. This is somewhat important to compare the Carter of “The Silver Key” and the Cooper of The Return, which we’ll come back to.

Not only does the evil, BOB-powered Cooper exit the Lodge to wreak havoc on the world for 25 years, but the good Cooper remains trapped in the metaphysical realm for all that time. He loses most of his life for a forgotten purpose that’s never addressed in The Return, the rescue of abducted lover Annie Blackburn from the clutches of his mad former partner Windom Earle. Earle is annihilated by BOB in the Season 2 finale and Annie escapes, with only a brief mention merited in The Return. We know only that she “came out of that place” with the Cooper Doppelgänger. (Co-creator Mark Frost explained what happened to Annie in Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier—that she exited the Lodge, attempted suicide, and then became mostly catatonic for the next 25 years. She only speaks once a year, on the anniversary of the exit, to respond to the question Cooper asked in the Season 2 cliffhanger: “How’s Annie? How’s Annie?” She says, “I’m fine.”)

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So the Good Cooper had 25 years of his life robbed from him so that super-charged Evil Cooper could rape and murder his way to billionaire status in the real world. What we learn about the Doppelgänger in The Return is that he is a creature only of want, not need; he is trying to gain an audience with an extreme negative force called Jiao Dai (Jowdy in The Final Dossier, or Judy as it’s referred to in the various Twin Peaks mythos) as evidenced by his incessant search for coordinates; and that he’s acquired a massive amount of wealth that has augmented his ability to gain that audience. But we come to find out from Gordon Cole that Cooper himself was seeking that force prior to entering the Lodge—that he was seeking to “kill two birds with one stone.” So, in fact, the Doppelgänger was defined specifically by a desire within Agent Cooper. He was a creature of want, but did he have any will of his own?

Initially, the Doppelgänger can barely contain himself—in the Lodge he’s frenzied, laughing madly with BOB, smirking at the audience in a fourth-wall break, wildly chasing Cooper back toward the exit. When he gets out, he smashes his face against the mirror, repeatedly cackling “How’s Annie? How’s Annie? How’s Annie?” But the 25 years out of the Lodge have hardened the Doppelgänger. He’s cold, ruthless, and collected. He’s deadpan and world-weary. It’s almost as though he’s sick of dealing with kindergarten criminals in a world full of truckers. He’s gotten all in the world he could ever want, except being able to scratch that maddening itch from before Cooper entered the Lodge… the audience with Jiao Dai.

So the question is this: how much of the Doppelgänger is the real Cooper? The transmogrified form of Phillip Jeffries asks as much in Part 15 when it says, “So, you are Cooper,” after the Doppelgänger recalls the incident when Jeffries originally met the real Cooper in Fire Walk With Me.

But good facets vs. bad facets were not the only ways Cooper fractured. The Doppelgänger manufactured a Tulpa that served the purpose of redirecting the good Cooper when he exited the Lodge. Tulpa is an interesting word to use in the context of Twin Peaks; a Tulpa equates to “thoughtform,” both as the idea of a form conjured from thought as if out of nothing, but also specifically in Tibetan Buddhism, Tibet having been very important to Cooper prior to going into the Lodge. Note that a Tulpa in the Twin Peaks mythos is not the same as a doppelgänger, which is an inversion if the original; the Tulpa seems to be an extension of the original. This Tulpa was named Dougie Jones, and had a weakness for gambling and prostitutes, yet somehow married and produced a child. Being an extension of the evil Cooper, he has wants (greed and lust) that may or may not reflect the original Cooper.

The Douglas Jones Tulpa lives a life outside the good and evil struggle of FBI Agent Cooper or underworld kingpin Doppelgänger. He lives quietly in the suburbs of Las Vegas with his wife and son. He’s an insurance agent who works for a former boxer, Bushnell “Battlin’ Bud” Mullins. When Cooper takes the place of the Tulpa in the real world, he’s shuffled from place to place by others, nobody seems too surprised that he doesn’t talk much, and he finds simple joys in coffee and pie. Cooper as Dougie Jones represents the life not led, the quiet, domestic world of the 99%. He’s also sleepwalking as though he were a toddler learning how to operate in the real world.

It’s also fair to say Cooper-as-Dougie is a trauma survivor in desperate need of the safe space provided by the Jones household. Despite Janey-E’s initial shrillness (honestly a problem with several wife characters in Twin Peaks), she takes care of Dougie, nurtures him, and makes sure he gets where he needs to be until he’s comfortable taking the wheel. One of the recurring motifs of The Return is cars as methods of control. The Doppelgänger is often associated with night drives down dark roads (very much in line with the previous Lynch film Lost Highway)—Dougie on the other hand is constantly being driven by Janey-E or someone else (Jade gives two rides, the limo driver also provides two rides, etc), who even need to open the door for him and prod him out into the world.

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Kyle MacLachlan in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

The trauma survivor in the safe space is all about reconstructing the identity that’s been missing these last 25 years. From that first thumbs up to Sonny Jim, to the first cup of coffee, to the cherry pie that saved Dougie’s life—making himself whole again is not a quick or easy task. Many fans wondered why we needed to spend so much time with Dougie and Janey-E and the answer is that rehabilitation (or in other words, The Return) does not happen immediately—it takes effort, work, and time. Healing takes time.

On a meta-narrative level, when Laura Palmer said she’d see us again 25 years, “Meanwhile…” striking a pose was an awfully prophetic way of saying the show was cancelled and might come back someday. Show creators David Lynch and Mark Frost didn’t plan on bringing this back until meeting sometime around 2012/2013, noting that 25 year mention. The pause button had been struck for Agent Cooper as a character—he was trapped and they would leave him trapped until it was expedient to release him into the world again. It’s important to note the subtitle of the new Twin Peaks—The Return. A rash of media in recent years has attempted to return to the roots of their previous years, borne on a wave of nostalgia that began in the early 2000s. This wave of nostalgia either contributes to or is a direct result of a culture in arrested development, never maturing very far or moving forward in any conceivable motion. Instead of spawning new franchises and stories or investing in breakthrough artists, studios invest in more Star Wars movies or superhero films aimed at men who grew up during the great comic book boom of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Twin Peaks was another relic of a bygone era, that era being when the chronic abuse and murder of a high school girl was something genuinely shocking. Something like that occurred every week on the various Law and Order shows for a solid 20 years. The initial take of Twin Peaks was of how the murder of a girl impacted an entire town full of already quirky and lovable individuals, and the lawman that sought justice while falling in love with the town. The world has moved on; how could we return to that?

In The Return, Lynch and Frost wanted to highlight the dangers of such nostalgia and arrested development—to bring Cooper out of his limbo and maybe see what it would be like for him to grow as a person. Could he grow as a person? What would it take for him to grow? What life would facilitate such growth? It certainly wouldn’t be the home he’d sought after, the Twin Peaks of old with Harry and the gang, with occasional guest spots from his boss Gordon Cole or fellow agent Albert Rosenfield—no, that place doesn’t exist anymore. In the Twin Peaks of today, no one remembers Laura Palmer, high school kids are dying at an alarming rate according to the dispatch room in Sheriff’s Department, and a moral rot has set in amongst the morass of names drifting through the Roadhouse each night.

And then there’s the problem of what they released into the world. Mr. C, Dirty Cooper, the Doppelgänger, or whatever you want to call him, plays the role of an anti-hero that’s become all the rage in television since Twin Peaks originally went off the air. He’s quiet, brutal, and absolutely without affect—a commentary on the character archetype and perhaps the shows that followed in Peaks’ wake. He delivers brutal action just as a Tony Soprano or Walter White would, surrounds himself with pulpy hitmen-and-women directly from Quentin Tarantino films (it certainly seems intentional that Hutch and Chantal, played by Tarantino favorites and Hateful Eight co-stars Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh are dispatched in a particularly Tarantino manner when an unforeseen Russian accountant with an automatic weapon turns up outside Dougie Jones home and blows them away for parking a hair into his driveway), and carries on affairs with his accomplices (particularly Chantal and Darya, whom he murders) in an almost Don Draper fashion.

In the meantime, we hear about how this Doppelganger “visited” Audrey Horne while in a coma (raping her, and fulfilling the desire of the good, chaste Cooper in an awful inversion) and produced the terrible Richard Horne, further fracturing the self. Likewise, the Tulpa Dougie Jones produced an offspring with Janey-E named Sonny Jim. The Doppelgänger also visited Cooper’s old secretary Diane some years after the original Cooper disappeared, pressed her for information on the FBI, then raped her as well. We’re also then left to infer that he trapped Diane in a shadow realm on an ageless violet sea (likely near the fortress or within the fortress where the Fireman lives) without eyes or language, and manufactured a Tulpa to take her place on earth for the purpose of gathering information should Gordon Cole and Albert Rosenfield come knocking.

He’s been busy.

We come to learn the Doppelgänger was likely the phantom billionaire who funded the glass box that the “Experiment” (which looks like the creature that spawned BOB in the legendary Part 8) appeared within and which murdered Sam Colby and his girlfriend Tracey in Part 1. He tells us he is seeking the symbol on the playing card he shows Darya before murdering her, the same symbol that appears on a “living map” Hawk shows Frank Truman (and tells him he doesn’t want to know about). This thing, this extreme negative force might be inhabiting Sarah Palmer—it may have found her after breaking loose the glass box in Part 1—something is inhabiting Sarah, but it’s never made explicit what that thing is. In the fateful conclusion of Part 18, a whole Cooper (or at least a more-dark-than-good Cooper) seeks to traverse realities and somehow reunite Laura Palmer with her mother for some heretofore unknown reason… or rather, to take her home.

The glass box is an obvious metaphor for television or phone media, and it’s no surprise that this affectless anti-hero archetype is the one funding the endeavor. He’s funded it to capture the entity, just as the original Cooper wanted. BOB, on the other hand, wants Garmonbozia, the creamed corn embodiment of pain and sorrow in the Twin Peaks universe. Subtract that from the equation and all the Doppelgänger seems to be is a blank negative of the original Cooper, whose only purpose is to meet the extremely negative force that the original Cooper wanted to go after. He’s acquired all the wealth and power, gorged himself on the garmonbozia, he’s ensured his continued survival by substituting Dougie Jones for himself once Coop’s time in the Black Lodge is up… He says he’s a creature of want, but what does he want? Only what has already been determined for him. (The Final Dossier offers that a creature named Baal wants only to reunite with Jowdy/Judy, and the name BOB might be a bastardization of Baal.)

It might also be worth noting that the whole Cooper in this other reality may be named Richard (per the note left when he wakes up without Diane), the same as the Doppelgänger’s son. What relevance this has, I’m unsure—unless we perhaps return to the works of Lovecraft.

“What happened then is scarcely to be described in words. It is full of those paradoxes, contradictions, and anomalies which have no place in waking life, but which fill out more fantastic dreams, and are taken as matters of course till we return to our narrow, rigid, objective world of limited causation and tri-dimensional logic.” H.P. Lovecraft, Through the Gates of the Silver Key

In Part 17, a key is presented to Cooper, which he uses to enter a gateway that leads to a creature (the transmogrified Jeffries) who can return him to the past. His overlaid face slowly speaks: “We live inside a dream.” He thinks he’s able to change the past and erase the murder of Laura Palmer, but something goes awry… Laura altogether disappears from the narrative. He then returns to the Black Lodge, where he retraces his steps and exits in what we can only assume is present day since the “real” Diane waits for him. He identifies himself as the “real” Cooper, now mostly whole (after the Doppelgänger’s defeat and annihilation, as witnessed in the Lodge in Part 18.) I refer to him as only mostly whole because he’s manufactured another Tulpa to take the place of Dougie Jones, who speaks only one word: Home.

Lovecraft’s Randolph Carter cycle of stories shares a few plot points with The Return, which I’ll briefly summarize.

  • In The Silver Key, Carter has reached middle age and longs to return to the dream world of his youth (detailed in The Dreamquest of Unknown Kadath—what he considers his home). He is given a key, which, after returning to the area of his youth, sends him back in time to relive his life again from age 10.
  • In Through the Gates of the Silver Key, we discover that Carter has used the key to enter a higher dimension, where he meets the entity Yog Sothoth. The entity reveals the truth of reality to Carter; that there is not one but many Carters throughout all of time and space, and he can gain access to any of them through trajectory of consciousness. They are his relatives, ancestors, and descendants. His consciousness winds up in the body of an insectoid alien. He waits an unspecified amount of time (in a sort of cosmic arrested development) to try to regain his human body, waiting for the stars to align and a time to present itself.

My point is that in the former story, you have a middle-aged man wishing to return to a dreamworld of home, and in the latter story you have a man who is fractured because of his quest. Carter discovers that his ancestors and his descendants are also him, but not exactly him. The same could be said for the multiple Coopers and Cooper descendants of The Return:

  1. Cooper in the Lodge (a higher dimensional version?)
  2. Doppelcooper
  3. Dougie Jones
  4. Cooper-as-Dougie-Jones
  5. Richard Horne
  6. Sonny Jim Jones
  7. Billy, the drunken repeater in the cell*
  8. “Awakened” Cooper, closer to the Cooper we know from the original series
  9. The new Dougie Tulpa
  10. Cooper through the gate, in the other reality

*I include “Billy” here because the way he repeats the dialogue of others is a direct reflection of Cooper-as-Dougie, and may be the Dorian Gray-ish hidden and hideous portrait of Dougie.

These aren’t the only literary antecedents of Cooper. Jeff Jensen and Darren Franich, in their excellent podcast series on The Return, compared Cooper to the literary tradition of Odysseus (Ulysses in Roman), who returned home after a 20-year voyage. During some of that time he was trapped by the sorceress Circe. They mentioned the Ulysses of the Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, who, near the end of his life, decides to go back on one last voyage as he aches for the sea of his youth. This Ulysses also wound up in Dante’s Inferno, after he relates that men are meant to pursue virtue and knowledge.

The safe space of Las Vegas provides an interesting subtext to the journey of Cooper—the life he didn’t lead. We see him look in the mirror (to reflect on his life); we see him inexplicably crying as he looks at Sonny Jim; we see him almost reaching for something but not quite getting it when he tastes coffee, somberly gazes at the cowboy statue, gives a thumbs up, or tastes damn good cherry pie (the pie that saved his life). We also see the strongest assertion of Cooper in control after he awakens and declares, “I am the FBI.” When he says that line, it’s the most triumphant scene in the series—the Twin Peaks music swells, emotions are high, the entire series has led to that moment. It’s a declaration of self, authority, and righteousness. It’s also interesting that he so strongly identifies with an organization of the United States Federal Government, in a way declaring himself to be an extension of the government and the country itself.

We know the Federal Government is not always good—we have Dr. Amp to ramble at us about that—but with Cooper we see how much it wants to be good. Cooper has received his directives from on high—the Fireman has provided him with clues and guided him all along, MIKE and The Arm have attempted to steer him awake (and I actually wonder if MIKE’s reference to seeing the Face of God in the original series has been retconned here to being the face of the Fireman), and he has always operated in an unwaveringly moral way. Almost in the same way we believe the United States Government receives its authority from God and the people—or rather, let’s not say from God, but from a moral authority we believe to be The Law. So when he declares, “I am the FBI,” he asserts, “I am the Law.” Despite the moment of triumph, we know that such a declaration is a dangerous thing, isn’t it?

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Part 8. The Doppelganger is shot and left for dead by Ray Monroe, who we later come to find is a paid FBI informant. In this scene, the Woodsmen come to protect/heal BOB and the Doppelganger. After a startling performance from “the” Nine Inch Nails that appears to relate to Laura Palmer specifically, we witness a sequence beginning with the first Trinity nuclear bomb detonation at White Sands, New Mexico in 1945, which ushered in the atomic age. This also appears to have somehow birthed BOB; the Woodsmen are seen in the convenience store scuttling about, the Experiment/Jiao Dai spews forth BOB, and the Fireman creates a glowing golden orb with the face of Laura Palmer. Then a winged, insectoid frog figure crawls into a girl’s mouth after one of the Woodsmen lulls the area to sleep using a radio broadcast (which allows the girl to be susceptible to whatever the insectoid frog figure is—The Final Dossier makes it explicit that the girl is Sarah Palmer, Laura’s mother).

Sure, this sounds like nonsense. What we’re supposed to gather here is that man’s creation of the atom bomb caused a metaphysical reaction, an evil that was loosed on the world. If the conflict between BOB and Laura was a reaction to the bomb, then it stands to reason that the entire malaise of the Cold War was at fault in a sense. We see a couple of teenagers walking about in the ‘50s, sharing a chaste date that ends with a kiss, which is a far cry from the moral rot of the kids who appear to Bobby Briggs later in the series—one boy accidentally fires a pistol at the Double R diner from a van and the girl in the next car vomits and crawls toward Bobby like a zombie in a horror film. The youth are vile and screaming and nameless, compared to the wholesome couple of the ‘50s. When the bomb dropped in White Sands, New Mexico on July 16, 1945 at 5:29AM, the American Identity fractured.

In World War II, America had a unified and righteous purpose—to defeat the Nazis and the other Axis powers in Europe and the Pacific before their fascism could wash over the world. The means of ultimate defeat and statement of American supremacy was the atomic bomb that acted as a punctuation mark to the war, annihilating tens of thousands of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the blink of an eye—it’s no mistake that Lynch used a splintered version of the Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima as the soundtrack to the White Sands nuclear scenes.

This violent and genocidal act defined the remainder of the 20th Century. It was the line that had to be crossed to end the war—to achieve that righteous purpose—and declare American supremacy.

The specter of mutually assured destruction between the United States and the Soviet Union loomed over the coming generations, a Cold War of arrested development. The American identity, so righteous in the face of World War II, splintered into senior conservatives and young liberals in various forms. The straight-laced elders against the psychedelic hippie youth, which gave way to punks, new wave kids, goths, etc. David Lynch and Mark Frost grew up in the face of all that, watched it broaden and fall as Watergate destroyed trust in government and in institutions of the past. They made their statement about small town America and its seedy underbelly, which was so deeply affected by the murder of one young woman. And they wanted her to live again, to have a life she couldn’t have had, just like Dale Cooper got a chance to lead the life he couldn’t have had while the Doppelganger ran rampant in his place.

We might be able to deduce that the “real” Dale Cooper of The Return suffers from trauma-induced Borderline Personality Disorder (characterized by wild mood swings, dissociation, and black-and-white thinking), but it might be more apt to think that everyone in The Return suffers from this disorder. Cooper is the literal fractured identity, with one dark personality (Mr. C) and one light personality (the trapped or good Cooper). Once he supposedly succeeds in preventing the murder of Laura Palmer in Part 17, a “whole” Cooper with elements of both appears in the alternate timeline to Eat at Judy’s and find Carrie Page, who may or may not be Laura Palmer in disguise.

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But we also have various examples of other shattered identities. Audrey Horne was committed according to The Final Dossier. “Who I was I will never be again,” Eddie Vedder, introduced by his real name Edward Louis Severson, sings immediately before we find out that Audrey’s entire storyline has been a dream or a fantasy—she awakens, staring at herself in a mirror, surrounded by white repeating, “What? What?” Sarah Palmer suffered tremendous loss when her husband murdered her daughter after carrying on an abusive, incestuous relationship with her for years. She’s presented as having sunken into the depths of her trauma through chronic chainsmoking, alcoholism, and possible hallucinations. Something, probably Jiao Dai, is possessing her (and alternate Cooper needs to take Carrie Page home to her in the Part 18 finale). We have two Sheriff Trumans, the Harry of the original series and the Frank of The Return. We’re meant to contextualize one scene or set of scenes to apply to other storylines.

That finale is to be the last grand statement of Twin Peaks. We live inside a dream, and it was a damn fine dream, but it’s time for us to wake up and look ourselves in the mirror. Who is the dreamer? What does the dream say about the dreamer? “When you read this, I’ll be gone. Please don’t try to find me. I don’t recognize you anymore. Whatever it was we had together is over” reads the letter from Linda to Richard, whoever Linda and Richard may be—we’re meant to believe they are Diane and Cooper. Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer, the principle relationship of Twin Peaks, the investigator and the murder victim, are different people trying to return to a place that may or may not have existed. Like Randolph Carter, the effort to achieve this outcome has left Cooper out of time and trapped. Carrie Page recognizes the voice of Sarah Palmer asking for Laura and screams, a bomb of pain and sorrow that puts the lights out at the Palmer home forever.

It’s worth noting that when Cooper and Carrie Page confront the Palmer house in the final scene of the series, they are confronting the dweller on the threshold—literally the person who lives in the house at the threshold of their home. “The legend says that every spirit must pass through there on the way to perfection.” It’s there that we receive the names important to the mythology of Twin Peaks—Chalfont and Tremond (the names used in the appearances of the grandmother spirit and her magician grandson). The dweller speaks to someone else in the house to ask if they had information on who owned the house previously. No, we are meant to know that this is a façade, that Sarah Palmer/Jiao Dai is inside that house, that’s it’s the center of all evil in Twin Peaks, and the scream of Carrie Page overloads the electricity (the symbol of Black Lodge’s power), shorts it out, and the house goes dark. The power goes out.

All in all, Cooper had to reassemble and sacrifice himself in order to accomplish these last tasks—resurrect Laura Palmer and use her as a weapon against the ultimate evil, just as the Fireman intended when he shaped the golden orb. It’s not a terribly heroic end for our hero. It’s an avatar of female suffering being weaponized without her own agency. David Lynch took great pains to humanize Laura in the original series and in Fire Walk With Me. “I am dead, yet I live” were the words she spoke to initiate Cooper on this quest while within the Black Lodge. This has been a dangerous trope in literature (and especially the comic book world) for years… the female victim used to motivate the male hero. We’re not meant to think of this as a triumphant moment. Just like the atomic bomb dropped to end World War II, Laura’s scream against the house of her suffering marks the end of the conflict, but not a moral victory.

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Indeed, the only vestige left of Dale Cooper we know and love is probably the Tulpa of the replacement Dougie Jones, whose chosen home is with a family in Las Vegas instead of the dream city of his youth. He had been given the mission—to listen to the sounds, to remember 430, Richard and Linda, “they are in our house now.” Drop the bomb, fade to darkness. But he needed to get to a place where he could drop the bomb. That required reconciling all aspects of his self. But he was also only a tool of the greater cosmic forces beyond his comprehension.

The darkness always teemed with unexplained sound—and yet sometimes he shook with fear lest the noises he heard should subside and allow him to hear certain other, fainter noises which he suspected were lurking behind them.” – H.P. Lovecraft, The Dreams in the Witch-House

Grant Piercy is a self-published author. His first novel, The Erased, was released in 2012. His new series, I AM MERCURY, delves into multiple genres and multiple worlds — journalists digging for the truth, spies looking to obscure it, fugitives on the run from it, and protestors dedicated to it. These books are available from Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B007IDNB4O


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7 Replies to “The Fractured Self: Shattered Identity And Twin Peaks”

  1. Great article. The topic of fractured identity in “The Return” seems much to neglected in the discussions, and there is still enough to think about. I love this website.

    If we assume that there is only one Cooper, so to speak, it would be very plausible that he sacrified his ability to “getting home” with the creation of the new Dougie in the finale.

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