Invitation to Fear

Fear and love open the doors, but all perceptions or conditions must begin with the self. A path is formed by laying one stone at a time but remember: Hiding from your fear doesn’t make your fear go away. Not even the biggest fear of all – the possibility that love is not enough.

In this article, I intend to explore the concept of fear and love and what it means in Twin Peaks. The focus will be mainly on the journey of Agent Cooper in Season 2 and The Return. Other key players will be Major Briggs, Hawk, MIKE, BOB, Laura Palmer, The Giant and Windom Earle. We’ll be spending some time in the Black Lodge and look at concepts such as alchemy, the Self, and hermeticism. But one stone at a time – let’s start in Season 2.

Part 1 – Season Two: A new mystery

When the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer was solved (something that neither Frost or Lynch really wanted), Season 2 of Twin Peaks needed something new to replace it. Something was needed that was mysterious and big enough to affect everything and everyone in Twin Peaks – just like Laura’s murder had.

With Windom Earle’s wicked search for the Black Lodge on one side, we got Agent Cooper (and his troubled past), Major Briggs’ (with his research on the White Lodge), The Log Lady and Hawk (with their spiritual knowledge) on the other. This, briefly, became the new main mystery and the story that Twin Peaks needed after “Who killed Laura Palmer?”. Established slowly at first, the new mystery became bigger and more explicit about halfway through Season 2, and it culminated steadily towards the end. It is in many ways a classic narrative: A conflict between two opposites, parallel telling of different storylines followed by an escalation, and, at last, a dramatic confrontation between the two.

I know of Twin Peaks fans who say they lost interest when these changes occurred, sometimes mourning the original Laura Palmer murder mystery. I also know of fans who absolutely loved the new mystery, the characters and the stories involved. If you’ve read any of my previous articles I’m sure you can tell which category I fit best into. Surely did I absolutely adore the Laura Palmer murder enigma but yes, I did love the deeper mythology of Twin Peaks and the infinite layers of possible interpretations and symbolic meanings that came with the new mystery. OK, honestly, Windom Earle was never my favorite character, nor was Annie Blackburn. Or Zombie-Leo Johnson. (Or John Justice Wheeler!) Much has been (and will still be) said about them, about Miss Twin Peaks, and the chess game business, but for me, individual characters and pieces of the main story seem almost superficial when compared to the vast and mysterious mythology that lies behind Season 2.

In a way, the new mystery captured me even more than the “Who killed Laura?” question had done. Why? Well, Laura was killed. The answer to the question “Who did it?” lies in identifying the killer. Multi-layered mysteries that are filled with symbolism and rooted in mythology, however, don’t have simple answers like that. They are open to interpretation and designed to provoke thoughts for a long time, maybe forever. This notion of complexity appeals to me. In fact, I think it’s what ultimately made Twin Peaks interesting and unique enough for fans to keep discussing the series over and over again and ever since Agent Cooper’s mirror image showed BOB’s face back in 1991.

Behind the mythological mystery established predominantly in Season 2 lies a fundamental duality:

Fear – Love

The conflict between fear and love and their consequences came to dominate Agent Cooper’s spiritual development in Season 2 of Twin Peaks. But it also came to play a key role for Cooper (and his doppelganger) in Twin Peaks: The Return. It doesn’t matter that 25 years have passed – as it turns out, fear and love very much still “open the doors”.

Some of the characters in Season 2 spoke of fear and love in ways that stand out to me and make me recognize absolutely essential parts of the series’ supernatural mythology. All of the quotes have in common that they tell us – explicitly or between the lines – how to recognize and gain knowledge of the Self, how to express these insights to other people, how to perceive and access the otherworldly and/or how to behave when faced with the spiritual challenges. Probably the most important and descriptive of them all is said by Major Briggs in Episode 21 of Season 2:

Major Briggs says that fear and love open the doors to the lodges

This is followed by Agent Cooper’s line to Sheriff Truman:

“Fear and love open the doors. Two doors, two Lodges. Fear opens one, the Black. Love, the other.”

If we didn’t understand before, I think this scene helps us to do so. The state of mind and the mental level of the consciousness are as important as “the door” itself for anyone who wishes to pass through to other worlds. One who seeks access to the Lodges must understand that the own state of mind and understanding of the Self is crucial to whether one will fail or succeed.

Key quotes from Season 2

So what do we learn of the Lodges and of love and fear in Season 2? Let’s take a look at the key quotes and what they tell us. If you will keep in mind in what ways they might have been foreshadowing what was yet to come.

1. Fear as key. Finding the door isn’t enough. If you don’t have the key, the door won’t open. Josie Packard’s death is one example of when fear opens up a “door” – in this case described as a “crevice in time” created by Josie’s immense feeling of being scared for her life.

“[Josie] was trembling with fear. I would go as far as to say quaking like an animal. I might venture a guess to say that it was the fear that killed her. At the moment of her death I saw BOB. As if he had slipped in through some crevice in time. Upon reflection, I believe there’s a connection between his appearance and Josie’s fear. As if he was attracted to it. Feeding off it somehow.”

Agent Cooper to Sheriff Truman, Season 2 Episode 21.

“It’s fear. It’s fear, Leo. That’s the key. My favorite emotional state! … These night creatures that hover on the edge of our nightmares are drawn to us when we radiate fear.”

“We know where the entrance is. We know when the lock appears. Now we hold the key in our hands!”

Windom Earle to Leo, Season 2 Episode 21.

Windom Earle tells Leo that fear is his favourite emotional state

2. Facing fear is unavoidable for anyone who seeks perfection. The quote below is another very important clue to the mythology of the duality between love and fear. As I interpret Hawk’s words, it seems to be absolutely unavoidable to reach higher levels of consciousness without facing – and conquering –fear:

“Legend says that every spirit must pass through [The Black Lodge] 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 that if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.”

Hawk to Agent Cooper, Season 2 Episode 11.

The Dweller on the Threshold can be interpreted not only as a person’s actual doppelganger (like Mr. C is to Agent Cooper) but also as a metaphor for anyone who confronts their own fears. In this confrontation, one must face the darker, less desirable sides of the Self. Every insecurity, hesitation, inadequacy, confusion, and spiritual flaw must be seen, recognized, and ultimately accepted – without fear, hesitation or doubt. If this process fails (“imperfect courage”), the consequences will be devastating.

Parallels can be drawn to what I’ve previously written about the seven steps towards spiritual enlightenment according to Alchemy. Several steps include confrontations of the Self in different ways. This shows us the alchemical importance of refining not only the outer world into the purest of gold, but also, and perhaps foremost, the inner world of the Self – the metaphorical gold of the spirit:

Step 1: Calcination. The ego must be destructed. Detachment of material possessions. Humbling. Surrender of the hybris.

Step 2: Dissolution. Letting go of control, prejudice and personal hangups.

Step 6: Distillation. Letting go of sentimentality, Increase in purity to the highest form possible. Realization of a higher love and purpose. Ridding oneself of any insecurities.

Transmutation (the Alchemist’s path to a higher spiritual consciousness). Excerpts from Twin Peaks and Alchemy.

Just as in the hermetic thought system the key phrase is “As above, so below”. Roughly, it means that you can’t change anything around you if you don’t change yourself as well (and vice versa). Thus, if you try to pass through The Black Lodge before you’ve reached a higher spiritual knowledge you’ll be driven to fear and might lose your soul in the process.

“As above, so below. The human being finds himself, or herself, in the middle. There is as much space outside the human, proportionately, as inside. … Does our thinking affect what goes on outside us, and what goes on inside us? I think it does.”

Excerpt from The Log Lady’s introduction to the first episode of Season 2.

3. The spiritually-initiated may choose their reaction to The Dweller. This quote from Major Briggs is very matter-of-fact and straight-forward (as usually is the case with the wise and grounded Major):

“There are powerful sources of evil. It is some men’s fate to face great darkness. We each choose how to react. If the choice is fear, then we become vulnerable to darkness. But there are ways to resist. You, sir, was blessed with certain gifts. In this respect, we’re not alone.”

Major Briggs to Agent Cooper, Season 2 Episode 10.

These words, spoken to Agent Cooper, stand more or less by themselves. I do, however, have a few emphasizing comments. Firstly: The Major seems to suggest that some people have not only the fate but also the spiritual knowledge to experience and resist fear, evil and places such as The Black Lodge. Secondly: Briggs recognizes both himself and Agent Cooper as equals in this matter which suggests that he truly believes that Cooper is one of these “chosen” ones, just as he is himself.

4. Major Briggs is the guru. However, Agent Cooper and Major Briggs are not equally strong in spirit. Allow me to try to illustrate how Briggs’ and Cooper’s respective levels of spiritual insight differ by these quotes:

“Hiding from your fear doesn’t make your fear go away.”

Agent Cooper to Annie, Season 2 Episode 19.

Cooper recognizes that fear can’t be dealt with by ignoring it. This is important and true but it says nothing of what happens or how one should react when facing the fear – only that you shouldn’t hide from it.

“Garland, what do you fear most in the world?”

“The possibility that love is not enough.”

Windom Earle and Major Briggs, Season 2 Episode 20.

Briggs, I believe, have come way further in his own spiritual development. His strongest fear seems to be that love isn’t enough when confronting fear. If we are to believe what is said later, towards the end of Twin Peaks: The Return, the quote above is from a time when Briggs has already initiated a plan to find Judy (“the evil that men do”) together with Agent Cooper and Gordon Cole. He doesn’t doubt love, but maybe he has sensed that the strength of fear and The Black Lodge somehow is stronger than he had first anticipated?

Major Briggs knows about fear, just as Agent Cooper does. But, more importantly, Briggs also knows that the opposite to fear is love, and he lives accordingly. A few originally scripted (but later cut-out) lines from the camping scene in the woods clearly show who is the more spiritually developed one of Cooper and Briggs.

Major, this is a fascinating concept. The other side of love is not hate – but fear?

Absolutely. And fear is the absence of love.

For yourself as well?

All perceptions or conditions must begin with the self.

So when I let fear into my life, I’m not loving myself.

You are in direct contradiction to a state of loving acceptance; incapable of it. Direct denial.

Major Briggs, if I may ask a personal question… do you love yourself?

Very much.

Original script from Season 2 Episode 10.

To me, it is clear that Major Briggs is the stronger of the two, and that Cooper greatly looks up to his friend the Major. Briggs is the teacher, the guru and the inspiration for Cooper in his quest for higher consciousness. The Major believes that he was taken to the White Lodge during one of his disappearances in Season 2. If “fear and love open the doors” to the two Lodges it’s possible that Briggs’ level of enlightenment put him in the White. His transmutational refinement of the Self is greater than Cooper’s – and, unfortunately, ever has time to become before Cooper eventually enters the Lodge himself – the Black.

Agent Cooper does, however, make an effort to evolve after his and Briggs’ camping trip. He’s listened to what Major Briggs said, and now he’s determined to let love into his life again.

5. Invitation to Love. Between the time when he learns about fear and love from Major Briggs and the time that he confronts his own fears in the Black Lodge (and fails miserably), Agent Cooper opens his spiritual door to love. What I mean by this is that tries to prevent fear to be the stronger part by allowing love to enter his being.

“To be honest, I haven’t felt this way about anyone since Caroline. It’s taken meeting someone like Annie to realize how gray my life has been since Caroline’s death, how cold and solitary.”

Agent Cooper to Diane, Season 2 Episode 21.

Agent Cooper truly tries to implicate what he learned from Major Briggs not only when it comes to the romantic love. Just one episode after the campfire with Briggs, Cooper seems to surprise Agent Hardy (who’s been called in to investigate his alleged cocaine business) during one of their interrogations. Smiling, Agent Cooper tells Agent Hardy:

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, and I’ve started to focus out beyond the edge of the board – at a bigger game. … A sound the wind makes though the pines. Ascensions of animals. What we fear in the dark and what lies beyond the darkness.”

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about seeing beyond fear, Roger. About looking at the world with love.”

Agent Cooper to FBI Agent Hardy, Season 2 Episode 11.

But the love that Cooper allows himself to find, develop and explore with Annie turns out to be a potential danger. Personally, I’ve always found it a bit weird how Cooper once more falls down a similar “love trap” to one that he’s quite honestly been in before – and seemingly without noticing it himself. Think about how Cooper expressed several times that he failed to protect Caroline. That he “wasn’t ready” when the attempt on her life was made, because he loved her. With that in mind, what he tells Sheriff Truman becomes a subject for real concern:

“What is it, Coop?”

“Oh, just thinking about Annie Blackburn.”

“Well, bless your heart, I’ve never known your mind to wander.”

“Oh, Harry, I’ve been feeling this way all day. You know, I proceed as usual, my mind clear and focused and suddenly, out of nowhere, I see her face and I hear her voice.
Naturally, I try to reorient myself, come back to the task at hand, but the image remains. Sometimes I actually feel dizzy.”

Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman, Season 2 Episode 20.

But, as I see it, Agent Cooper have forgotten about the most important lesson from Major Briggs about love: “All perceptions or conditions must begin with the self”. In the quote above it’s clear that the subject of Cooper’s love is outside of himself and directed towards another person: Annie. The love, forgiveness, acceptance, and trust directed towards the Self isn’t there yet. Even if Agent Cooper indeed had planned to work on this important part of love as well, there wasn’t enough time to do so and to reach the higher levels of consciousness. Just days after this, as we all know, Agent Cooper entered the Black Lodge and he failed. Let’s take a look at how and why.

Entering the Black Lodge

It’s fair to say, based on what we can make of the quotes from Season 2, that when someone enters the otherworlds and spiritual realms the state of mind of that person plays an important part. With this in mind, ask yourself: in what state did Agent Cooper enter the Black Lodge by Glastonbury Grove in the last episode of Season 2? These are my thoughts on what went through Cooper’s mind when he opened up those red curtains:

Determination – to save Annie, but also to stop Windom Earle. Curiousness – what lies beyond? There might even be more clues to the Laura Palmer case there to find. We must not forget that the Palmer case is what brought Cooper to Twin Peaks, that its “conclusion” was mysterious and supernatural, and that Cooper keeps the case close to his heart. Love – for Annie. Fear – of the unknown, of BOB (whom Cooper knows probably resides somewhere in there), for Windom Earle – but also a strong fear of his own mistakes he made in the past – a fear of failing Annie, just as Cooper believes that he once failed Caroline.

Before we move on to look at what Cooper is faced with on the inside of the Black Lodge, ask yourself this: At the time Agent Cooper enters the Black Lodge, is he “seeing beyond fear”? Is he looking at himself with love? In other words: Is he self-confident, assured, trusting the Self, focusing on the task at hand? I don’t believe he is, unfortunately.

As inside, so outside

The Black Lodge is the Invitation to Fear. It functions like a house of horrors that Agent Cooper is entering it to take a tour. From what we see happen inside during the finale of Season 2 it seems like the place is designed to invoke fear, or at least try its best to, in anyone who visits. The questions are: Is Agent Cooper witnessing an outside dramatization of things that scare him, a scenario where he’s just an onlooker? Or is Agent Cooper’s inner feelings projected in front of him, therefore somehow caused by his own state of mind? It might be a mixture of the two, but as anyone might suspect I believe that the dominant part clearly is the latter of the two. This because just as BOB, the Black Lodge has the ability to “personalize” itself as well, and so what you will see inside of it is what you fear – whoever you are.

Who are you . . . really?

Laura and BOB, from Laura Palmer’s Secret Diary.

“As above, so below” is also “As inside, so outside” in the spiritual realm. The thoughts and fears of Agent Cooper’s inside are determining much of what he faces in the Black Lodge. The Lodge senses each of Cooper’s fear because not only “hiding from” but also hiding your fear from others won’t make it go away. The Black Lodge only makes the fear grow, and it is being visualized in front of your very eyes. I believe this Lodge “dramatization” is what’s called the Dweller on the Threshold. If you can’t face the Dweller with perfect courage (self-confidence, love, and trust), it will, as Hawk once said, “utterly annihilate your soul”.

Laura Palmer's doppelganger screams

What Cooper is confronted with inside of the Black Lodge is almost a perfect example of Dream Theory 101 (the nightmare chapter). Just like in a dream, people around him change appearances, behave unusually and only really have one thing in common: They are scary. This is Agent Cooper’s nightmare. The guilt of past mistakes, lost love, death, trauma, confusion, worry for the future – they’re all represented and played out right in front of him.

When the Man From Another Place tells Cooper that he’s got the “wrong way” Cooper does what he’s told, turns around and walks away. Why is he obeying? What would have happened if he had continued on trusting his gut feeling instead? Then, just after he agrees to do what Man From Another Place tells him is when he realizes that he’s bleeding from the gut (that is: he’s forced to relive his Pittsburgh trauma once more). Could this have been avoided had Cooper ignored the orders from the Black Lodge entities?

Windom Earles warped face and Annie and Cooper lay dead on the black lodge floor

Cooper even tells Windom Earle that he’s willing to sacrifice his soul to rescue Annie. To do such a thing wouldn’t be heroic or kind. It would, however, be the least loving act one could perform, and I think that Major Briggs would agree with me on this. If Cooper is willing to give away his soul to save Annie, that is the clearest sign of his lack of confidence, self-love, and trust. Without your soul, your Self, and your own essence, what good can you possibly do or be to yourself or others?

Agent Cooper, I love you and I always will, but you failed the test.

Cooper didn’t exit the Black Lodge that night, as we know. His doppelganger did, however, and that eventually lead up to Twin Peaks: The Return. (So I guess I forgive you, Cooper.)

Part 2 – The Return

25 years later, Agent Cooper finally gets to exit the Black Lodge. I’ve already discussed the importance of feelings when entering the Lodge, but the manner in which Cooper exits the Lodge has made me think a lot, too. The way out that Cooper takes in the beginning of The Return is far from an easy one. Was it really meant to be happening in that way? I’m not referring to how Frost and Lynch chose to write the story, of course, but to how Agent Cooper’s story just might have been affected by his own choices and fears. The storytelling is made as I see it so that this issue becomes important to consider. I’ll tell you what I’m thinking of by pinpointing some more important quotes, scenes, and imagery.

Hawk, Glastonbury Grove, Laura, and Cooper

The series of events I’ll begin with all take place in Part 2 of The Return. It starts with Hawk walking at night in the Ghostwood Forest with his flashlight. The Log Lady calls him and they talk for a moment. Hawk says that something is going to happen, and he promises the Log Lady that he will tell her about what he’ll find. After they hang up, Hawk reaches the Sycamore trees by Glastonbury Grove. The music in this scene is the exact same as when Agent Cooper entered the Black Lodge 25 years earlier at the very same spot. But the scene ends, and we never really an explanation for it, nor is it ever mentioned again. This was always strange to me. The Hawk by Glastonbury Grove scene seems to be out of context, like unfinished business – unless… Unless it’s actually part of a context already.

Consider this: When Hawk arrives at Glastonbury Grove the red curtains appear in the branches of the Sycamore trees. This is something we’ve seen before: Leland Palmer (in Fire Walk With Me), Windom Earle and Agent Cooper – they’ve all opened this door and entered the Black Lodge from Glastonbury Grove. Hawk isn’t seen entering, though, but it seems to be a fact that the door to Black Lodge is open at this time in The Return.

The very next scene is from inside of the Black Lodge where MIKE tells Agent Cooper “someone’s here”. Is MIKE is referring to Laura Palmer who enters the room after his line? Or is he referring to Hawk who is right by the open entrance, seemingly at the same time? When Laura appears, the first thing she tells Cooper (except saying hello) is that he “can go out now”. If the scene with Hawk indeed is taking place at the same time, the door to the Lodge is open, and Cooper should be able to finally exit his 25-year prison. If he had done so he would have found himself at Glastonbury Grove – the same place as where he entered – and Hawk would have been there to greet him. (The thought of this scene alone makes my skin goosebumpy.)

Laura Palmer tells Coop he can leave the black lodge

That doesn’t happen, as we all know. Instead of trusting Laura Palmer’s words, Cooper stays seated. 25 years earlier he chose to obey the Man From Another Place’s “Wrong way” command, and now he chooses not to act on Laura Palmer’s words. Why? It’s interesting to think about. When Laura sees that Agent Cooper isn’t responding to her advice she seems to change a little. She looks more frustrated, and she asks Cooper if he recognizes her. Cooper asks if she’s Laura Palmer. To me this seems like Cooper isn’t trusting his gut feeling, and that he’s afraid of making a mistake. Still, he is afraid. The fear is still present.

Only after Laura removes her face to reveal her inner light (almost as an act to finally convince Agent Cooper that she indeed is Laura) Cooper seems to be willing to listen to her advice. However, apparently, he’s still not willing to act on what Laura already told him just moments ago – “You can go out now”. Instead, he asks her when he can go, as if he’s still unsure of what’s the right thing to do. As if he’s waiting for a second permission. Laura answers by whispering something in his ear. It’s something that we don’t hear, that we still don’t know of and will probably never learn, but I’m convinced that the words are a key of sorts. Considering that the very last scene of The Return is a closeup of this moment, they probably mean a lot.

Cooper asks Laura when he can leave the black lodge

Whatever it is that Laura whispered to him, Cooper seems distressed by hearing it. Maybe she told him that it was already too late for him to leave? Did he miss his first chance by not trusting Laura when she told him he could go out? Once more, Cooper is existing too much in his head (analyzing and over-thinking) and too little connected to the gut feeling (trusting his conscious Self).

Remember what MIKE told Cooper once:

“The answer is not here, my friend” (Gesturing to Cooper’s forehead.)

“The answer his here” (Pointing to his heart.)

Maybe Cooper had a chance to exit the Black Lodge at the time of Laura telling him that he could. Maybe he would then have been greeted by Hawk at Glastonbury Grove. Maybe he would then have joined the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Departement in the quest to find what the Log Lady said was missing. And maybe that would lead them to Mr. C and changed the whole narrative. Maybe – maybe not. It didn’t happen that way, but Agent Cooper got to leave the Black Lodge, only this time in a different way.

Well, actually, in The Return he exited the Black Lodge twice – and comparing the two is quite interesting.

Cooper’s first exit

What happens during Cooper’s first exit (and what’s leading up to it in Part 2) is, in many ways, similar to what happened to him after he entered the Lodge 25 years earlier. He’s walking from room to room and meets different characters along the way. At one point Cooper tries to open up the red curtains, presumably in an effort to find the exit, but the door is locked. He’s forced to find another way out and he seems lost, just like he was 25 years ago.

Cooper tries to open the curtains to a room in the black lodge

Cooper meets Leland Palmer who asks him to “find Laura”. With that, not only does Cooper have to find his way out of the Black Lodge, but is also presented with an additional quest. For someone who’s already lost himself and who seems self-insecure to some degree, this might be another obstructing distraction of the spiritual challenge that Cooper is in. He leaves the room where Leland sits through a never before seen “crack in space” of sorts. It seems like he disappeared into a vertical opening in the red curtains. When Cooper passes through, electrical flashes are going off.

Then, at last, Cooper arrives at the corridor with the white Venus statue. At the same time (but in another room) MIKE expresses concern to The Evolution Of The Arm telling it that “something’s wrong”. This “something’s wrong” line is a sure sign in Twin Peaks that something indeed isn’t right at all. Just to mention one of many examples, Mayor Milford makes this exact comment (about a microphone) in a Season 2 scene where Cooper calls Annie “the Queen”. The statement is immediately followed by the appearance of The Giant who is silently warning Cooper from where he’s standing on the stage of the Roadhouse. Then, as now, something is very much off-balance. Things, as it seems, are not going according to plan.

Venus statue and the evolution of the arm with red drapes

In the Black Lodge corridor, the Venus statue transforms to The Evolution Of The Arm’s evil doppelganger. Its laughter is the same as BOB’s and its movements are threatening. This transformation from Venus to the evil Arm Tree (with elements of BOB, the very essence of fear) is highly significant. As I’ve previously written about, Venus is the Roman goddess of Love. In other words – in this scene, love literally turns into fear.

Cooper is shaken in the black lodge

And so this is how Agent Cooper finally gets to leave the Black Lodge after 25 years: He’s scared and chased out of it. If any part at all of the fear-love mythos what I’ve collected in this article is to be relied upon and believed, then to be really scared and afraid when passing through a spiritual “door” like this can not be a good thing. I can’t resist but to wonder: When Agent Cooper found himself falling helplessly through the non-exist-ence of the dark void moments later, did he then regret not trusting Laura’s seemingly loving message that he could leave – an advice that he chose not to act upon?

Cooper’s second exit

Fast forward to Part 18 of The Return. Agent Cooper is in the woods with Laura Palmer. It’s allegedly 1989 and he fails to bring Laura to safety when she disappears again from his grip. Upon realizing what just happened Cooper’s face looks equally frustrated, disappointed and confused. Suddenly he’s back in the Black Lodge again sitting in a chair with MIKE, who once again says “Is it future or is it past?”. They walk off to other rooms and many scenes from Part 2 are repeated or paraphrased again, only this time, many of them are horizontally flipped (like they’re mirror images) or slightly changed. We see the Evolution Of The Arm again, and Leland is there. In a way, we’ve gone full circle, but this time around things are very different.

Cooper chooses another path this time which suggests that he remembers his last attempt to exit the Black Lodge and has tried to learn from the mistakes he made in Part 2. Unfortunately, there is no Laura Palmer anywhere in sight to offer him the right time to leave the Lodge. This second time around Cooper instead changes his path after he meets Leland Palmer. Now he’s not disappearing curiously into the mid-air vertical crack of the red curtains. Instead, he’s walking with determined steps towards the next corridor. Before he reaches the door (that was locked for him the first time around), he raises his right arm and moves his hand in a turning wave-like way. This makes the red curtains move like water waves, and Cooper has no problem to pass through them this time.

Cooper raises his arm in the black lodge and the curtains flow open

And lo and behold, this time he ends up at Glastonbury Grove where someone is waiting for him. It isn’t Hawk – that chance went by and disappeared forever – it’s Diane.

Cooper leaves the black lodge and re-enters the circle of sycamores

One last thing to be said here: The way Cooper moves his hand in the Black Lodge the second time around comes again one more time. When He’s standing with Carrie Page on the street outside of the “Palmer” house (where he was greeted by Alice Tremond instead of Sarah Palmer) he seems to be more hopelessly lost than ever. In one last effort to try to make things go his way he again raises his right arm slightly and stumbles a few steps forward.

Cooper searches for an answer with Carrie Page

But nothing happens and nothing helps. This is when he turns to Carrie – the one he’s supposed to be helping – and asks her “What year is this?”. Agent Cooper is lost once more.

Part 3 – Conclusions and questions

“A path is formed by laying one stone at a time”, the Giant once said to Cooper. In Season 2 Cooper’s stone path that led him to the Black Lodge was rushed to be quickly laid and finished. Important stones and steps had to be skipped. I’m not saying that Agent Cooper is to blame for this. I’m not saying that he’s a failure just because he failed. The circumstances were such that there wasn’t enough time. Windom Earle tried to lay his stone path even quicker and so the situation was desperate. But I’ve always wondered why Cooper thought it was so important to find the Black Lodge and, at best, before Windom Earle did? If Annie wouldn’t have been kidnapped and brought to the Lodge with Earle, would Cooper have entered? Wouldn’t he have recognized that Windom Earle probably wouldn’t stand a chance against the forces of the Black Lodge, considering all that he had been told by Hawk and Major Briggs?

In The Return, why did Agent Cooper find it so hard to find it in himself to trust Laura Palmer when she told him that he was allowed to leave the Black Lodge? Is the Lodge a place where spiritual progression is halted? It seems to me that Agent Cooper wasn’t able to evolve much during his 25 years there based on his still apparent insecurity and hesitation (related to fear of failure and fear of trust). After Cooper spent some time outside of the Lodge, it seems like he was immediately able to consider past actions and their consequences, because the second time around he changes his path when he’s about to leave the Black Lodge again. So maybe this is the case. Maybe the Black Lodge is like a spiritual “vacuum” of sorts. If it is, 25 years suddenly seems like a million.

No, I’m not saying Agent Cooper is a failure. Nor am I in any way unhappy with the events of Twin Peaks and The Return unfolded. What I wanted to do in this article was to explore the concept of fear and love – a duality that I recognize as being fundamental to the mythology of Twin Peaks – and to see in what ways this concept have affected the characteristics, choices, and fate of Agent Cooper during Twin Peaks Season 2 and The Return.

“All things considered, being shot is not as bad as I always thought it might be. As long as you can keep the fear from your mind. But I guess you can say that about almost anything in life. It’s not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind.”

Agent Cooper, Season 2 Episode 1.

What do you think? Please join the discussion, share this article or leave your comments below.

Thank you for reading!


Written by Gisela Fleischer


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  1. Thank you for your many insights. I really enjoyed reading this. I was glad, even a little relieved, to see you link Hawk’s night hike to Glastonbury Grove to Gerard’s “Someone is here” and Laura’s “You can leave now.” That was how it struck me the first time I watched, but I hadn’t seen anyone else mention this until you did. It’s also a nice callback to season 2’s “Hawk, if I’m ever lost, I hope they send you to find me.”

    I don’t have things thought out well enough yet to put into words, but I feel the idea that Cooper was supposed to leave the way he came in and be greeted by Hawk is, to quote the Sage, “very important,” for getting a firmer grip on the entire Return story.

  2. You could even relate the apparent love that Cooper had developed for (and shown, in his own way) to Janey-E and Sonny Jim to his “easy exit from the Black Lodge in Pt 18. Great article!

  3. Great article, I wonder why Owl cave disappeared as a focus… OK no-one knew WE was up to his tricks reversing the owl symbol (yrev bad), but no one ever went back…. this highlights Coopers over confidence not hearing Andy recognise the drawing as a ‘real world map’ and I love the way in each series Andy and Lucy carry the redemptive theme for those humble/interested enough to pay attention… Cooper teaching Andy to shoot in S1 has the side effect of healing his virility… (multiplication of celotape and post-its, manliness in the eyes of Lucy for shooting Renault saving Harry.. only to be faced with the Dick Tremaine father problem… (and it is Dick’s fire/cigarette that brings all the water down on Leland’s death)…)… but Cooper totally ignored Andy when he is on the money about the map, too preoccupied with more important goals and Annie Blackburn… in fact Annie’s initials AB would signify the father, and Cooper’s overly mystical nature…black river of mystic = Blackburn

    Anyway I hear Lynch is hoping to do a film about a hole some way related to the Dakota pipeline controversy, so hopefully owl cave, chief Joseph and the like may be addressed there

    Sorry for a long rambling reply…..

    PS for what it’s worth I Sonny Jim Jones (JJ) as a Wheeler substitute… and Sonny Jim’s thumbs up reminds me of Drool Cup…. you have any traction with these ideas?

  4. Yet another brilliant article…

    However, one mystery remains…

    How is it possible you have not yet joined the blossoming Twin Peaks Twitter community?

    Kind regards,


  5. The first time Cooper tries the curtain exit, it’s locked. The second time, it opens, but the view is of the highway where Mr. C is driving. (And from above, too—maybe from the humming power line’s point of view?)

    Cooper looks nonplussed (he must have been expecting to see forest) but then seems to remember that he can go out once Mr. C comes back in. It looks like that’s what’s going to happen and Cooper will go through those curtains—maybe to where Hawk is waiting, since that’s where Cooper went in originally.

    However, we pivot away from this idea. Instead, Cooper gets dropped through the floor and floats around in the glass box in New York. At this time Sam and Tracy are still alive and at the guard’s station wondering where the guard went, implying that Cooper arrived not in the present but in the recent past. Does this mean he has a head start on the Experiment Model, so it has to chase him.? If so, he makes it safely to Naido’s steel cube without being intercepted, and the EM can pound on the walls but can’t get in.

    Anyway I wonder if Cooper could have gotten out through the exit that led to the highway in South Dakota? It didn’t look like anything was stopping him. His doppelganger certainly would’ve been surprised!

  6. The idea that Cooper couldn’t leave the Black Lodge because he didn’t follow Laura’s advice and didn’t trust his guts sounds seductive, especially in light of the roadmap to enlightenment he’s been given in previous circumstances. The fact that Hawk seems to be waiting for him at the behest of the Log Lady buttresses that idea. But you’re forgetting a very explicit thing The Arm says just after Laura disappears and Cooper sees the White Horse: “He must come back in before you can go out”. We will soon learn that “he” means either Mr. C or Dougie. When Mike says that there’s something wrong, this can only refer to the fact Mr. C has found a way, via Dougie, to elude reabsorption into the Black Lodge, something which apparently Mike and the Log Lady didn’t foresee.

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