in ,

“Is It Future, Or Is It Past?”: Pinning The Final Season 3 Scenes To Time

‘“Is It Future, Or Is It Past?”: Pinning The Final Season 3 Scenes To Time’ is now available on Audio, written and read by John Bernardy, exclusively for our Patreon supporters. For just $3 a month you will have access to our full library of Audio content, plus three new uploads every week. To sign up visit our Patreon page:

This time around, I’m looking at signs of Past and Future in the final RichardCooper and Carrie scenes of Season 3. I touched on it right at the end of my memory theory column where I suggested an angle for it being the future, which I’ll expand on after making a case for placing it in the past.

Now that there’s some room to stretch out and put a proper think on, I’ll say this: there are compelling arguments for both options, and I don’t think there is truly a correct answer to “what year is this?.” Per standard Twin Peaks operating procedure, there are countless data points with minimal connective tissue between them, and therefore we are left with Conjecture as a necessary tool. Which means there’s always room for error no matter how airtight our explanations feel to ourselves.

But that’s not to say we’re supposed to give up. Twin Peaks is a participatory narrative and we are still meant to explore the questions, hence what I do here in Electricity Nexus: sit between the proverbial mountains and document the energy heading in and out of the portal. Even though answers rarely reach completion, the exploration always yields growth.

Anyway, onto the exploration at hand.

Is it Past?

Not that far back…is it?

Dale went into the Lodge in 1989. If Gerard’s been asking him if it’s future or past, it’s implied that a time period before 1989 could be a possible option for Dale’s exit point.

It’s hard to base the year on architecture, fashion, or Cooper’s car, other than it’s at least the late ’70s. Though the rotary phone in Cooper’s Odessa hotel room implies it’s no later than the early ’90’s when I believe most places (including grandparents’ houses) discontinued them for good.

The Double R, based on Hank Jennings’ nighttime fight with Cousin Jonathon, used to be closed at night. It also didn’t have a RR-2-Go banner on its outer wall.

Per The Secret History of Twin Peaks, the Palmers didn’t move to Twin Peaks until the early ’80s. This could explain why “Alice Tremond” didn’t recognize the name Sarah Palmer. They might have yet to move to town.

Per Phillip Jeffries’ experiences in Fire Walk With Me, the first time he time-traveled he went two years into his future, which was the direction he was travelling in. It’s possible that Dale, having just travelled backward in time for the FWWM flashback scene, was propelled even further into the past based on the power of his own momentum.

Any or all of these details together can point to how Dale took Carrie into the past even earlier than 1989.

Is it Future?


Diane and Dale looking closer to their current age than their age around 1989 is almost proof enough it’s the relative future to the moment Dale entered the Lodge.

And what’s the price of gas got to do with the price of gas? Just current day prices in plain view, and therefore the implication it’s at least 25 years in the future relative to 1989.

Once Norma sold the franchise to Walter and removed her Double R from its rules, she could have easily (or even been forced to) removed the RR-2-Go banner on the side of the diner, and even gone back to only daytime hours of operation in the interim. Or depending how far in the future we go, the diner could even be under new management and rules.

The Tremonds, as a Lodge-associated last name, could be veiled over the Palmer House for this meeting with Cooper and Carrie at any time, but it’s also possible they’re the real owners of the house after all, two homeowners after Sarah leaves it.

Specifically, this could mean we are further into the future well beyond the year we saw Dale leave the lodge in Season 3 (25 years after 1989 or thereabouts). Beyond even what we can predict.

In my mind, Major Briggs’ journey through time implies the most for Cooper. Briggs’ 16 fingerprint hits over 25 years while remaining the same age implies Briggs skipped like a rock across time and only blinked in and out temporarily before moving forward yet again.

In my memory theory, I wrote how the Part 18 sex scene (specifically I read it as Diane’s confronting of her trauma in the hotel room) may have been a catalyst to put Cooper into a hibernation and the scene of Dale’s waking up to the note from Linda to Richard could be the equivalent of a hit of fingerprints on Cooper’s own journey ahead in time. He may not even know that he’s skipping, just like how Jeffries didn’t know what was happening the first time he lost two years of awareness.

Could Cooper, having seen Lodge Laura 25 years later, be seeing her again as Carrie in another 25 years? Meaning 25 years from now? Cooper may be so far ahead in time in these final scenes with Carrie that the town of Twin Peaks has no recognizable residents left.

It’s possible that’s how long it took for the town of Twin Peaks to heal enough for Carrie to end her Laura trauma in the final scene, and it’s more than possible that, much like Major Briggs, Cooper is now blinking into the time-stream to enact plans that come from the Fireman’s realm.

On Cooper’s path to becoming a floating head, he may be a Bodhisattva for people, as J.C. Hotchkiss has explained much more eloquently than I can, in a way extremely reminiscent of Dr. Sam Beckett on Quantum Leap.

And much as Jeffries was in a perpetual in-between state, it seems Cooper is entering into this sort of role himself, which takes the question of “what year is this?” in to a certain level of irrelevance.

Is there a third option?

RR diner

Much as there is units of three (think Pink Girls or Detectives Fusco) recurring regularly in Season 3, I believe there’s another state besides Future and Past. Brien Allen points out in his article here that there is a third state now: a state of balance between the extremes of duality. And I believe in the case of time, we already know what the third answer is: they are in the Present. RichardCooper and Carrie Paige are in their present.

When they drove past the Double R, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Aaron Hussey’s comment on Facebook about there being purple light present. Where is it? All over the pavement. And Cooper drives the car right through it off-screen on the way to their destination. And how was that purple light made? From the blending of the blue and red neon lights lining the Double R above the window level. Blue and Red, much as Jacoby’s glasses are meant establish a state of balance, gives its wearer’s world view a purplish hue. And balance, in the case of this metaphor, means that perfect state between worrying about what will be and what’s already happened.

This seems to be what is supposed to matter. You spend too much time looking forwards or backwards and you miss experiencing where you are. It’s the same message as how people deal with trauma: do not live in your past or you can not achieve balance and therefore you’re stuck in place. Shoveling out of the sh*t, my personal favorite metaphor in the whole show, is a metaphor for overcoming the past (and not being paralyzed by fear of the future) and living in your present.

We can try to pinpoint specifically where RichardCooper and Carrie are in the narrative timeline, but that’d be kind of like saying the Part 17 battle between BOB and Freddie was the only ending that mattered. And we all know there was a whole extra Part beyond Part 17, even beyond the FWWM flashback. Regardless of year, Cooper and Carrie are in their present at the end. That much we can agree on.

Written by John Bernardy

John Bernardy has been writing for 25YL since before the site went public and he’s loved every minute. The show most important to him is Twin Peaks. He is husband to a damn fine woman, father to two fascinating individuals, and their pet thinks he’s a good dog walker.


Leave a Reply
    • I almost said something about that but it seems like something Lynch wouldn’t care too much about (like the real name of the car dealership being in the establishing shot for when Mike Nelson chews out Steven) so I erred on less. But you’re probably right it’s worth mentioning.

  1. well done, as usual. looking forward to your next post. As you say, Briggs has been skipping around in time and space for all these years. Undoubtedly on a mission, he probably helped put into place certain events that would come into effect in the future. I suspect Briggs is more central a figure to the story than his limited time on screen would indicate. His prints were found in 16 places in the past 25 years. Have you considered where and when he made an imprint? For example, his last bodily manifestation was witnessed by Ruth and Bill and was set up by Briggs to provide a clue to the murder investigators to find Dougie. But there are other unusual and unexplained circumstances or clues that he may have planted, such as the fish filet in Bill’s car trunk and the missing guard in New York. Side note: perhaps Lynch intends a symbolic correlation between the image of Briggs’ disembodied head and the appearance of Cooper’s head observing the sheriff’s department in e17?

  2. I think that even if Cooper did not alter reality he still managed to create another version of Laura Palmer who needs to be saved. Laura was the perfect victim in many ways ; she was not trailer trash, or a secret or illegitimate child she was a bright, educated (honour roll if I remember ) and unsurprisingly attractive teenager from an affluent family with a dark troubled childhood that led to the lifestyle of drugs and later prostitution to fuel it. She is exactly the kind of woman that Cooper needs to save, over and over again.

    If Judy had not intervened we could have had a version of Laura who learned to overcome her ordeal over the years with Cooper’ s help of course. Of course if Carrie Page has woken up as Laura Palmer…..
    PS wouldn’t an episode of Twin Peaks written by author Neil Gai man be insanely good.

  3. I think when Philip Gerard and The Evolved Arm ask Dale “Is it future or is it past?” this is a trick question. Its purpose is to call to mind Mike’s poem from S1: “Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see…” When Dale refuses to respond to the question verbally, Philip Gerard seems satisfied.

    A non-verbal answer communicates Dale’s understanding that what we understand by the word “now” is not separate from other aspects of time. It’s also a marked improvement over his incorrect understanding in Part 17, when he says, “The past dictates the future.”

    I think you’re right to conclude that “now” is all that matters for someone in Richard/Dale’s situation. This calls to mind Laura’s reminder: “You can go out now.” After walking away from the Palmer/Tremond house, Richard/Dale seems to realize he’s in a Black Lodge illusion: he attempts to go out using the same hand gesture that parted the curtains in Part 17. When this doesn’t work, he tries to formulate a plan, but he’s got precious little to go on.

    The question “What year is this?”reflects Richard/Dale’s imperfect understanding in at least two ways. 1) It shows his plan to bring Carrie to the Palmer house was half-baked at best. 2) It shows he’s forgotten Mike’s poem, which Philip Gerard repeated for him in Part 17. It may also reflect Richard/Dale’s imperfect courage: all of his Laura-centric plans are means of avoiding the real task at hand, which is facing his shadow self and walking with the fire.

  4. As regards the “purple light” section of this article, I noticed on a recent re-watch one of the cars in the “night driving” portion of Part 18 seems to have red and blue taillights that blend to produce purple. I could be wrong, and I have no idea if it’s significant. The purple lights can be seen at ~39:50 in Part 18.

  5. And green lights (camera flare) like the ones that guide Dougie! At ~45:15 in Part 18. Blink and you’ll miss it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A llama walks between Cooper and Harry

Lynchian Humor: How We Laugh at Twin Peaks

In the Between