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The Unified Dream Theory of Chopping Wood Inside Podcast’s Murphy Hooker & Tom Wubker

A partial version of this theory was posted as part of this Black Lodge/White Lodge debate but this is the unabridged/expanded version that encompasses the authors’ complete idea.  


The further we go down the Part 18 rabbit hole, the more we live inside a dream. Odessa is the dream Laura Palmer lives inside as Carrie Page, just as Special Agent Dale Cooper lives inside a dream, first, as Douglas Jones in Las Vegas, then as the mysterious Richard in Odessa. How did we get here?

Decoding The Return’s finale is like trying to explain an abstract piece of art in 280 characters—it’s just not happening, Buster! Lynch and Frost constructed The Return to have numerous plot holes kind of like a Swiss cheese multiverse of mystery. But there’s one secret Lynch alluded to (in the guise of Gordon Cole) that may be the lynchpin to not only understanding the meaning of Odessa but The Return—namely, the ancient phrase, “We are like the dreamer who dreams, and then lives inside the dream.”

Who is The Dreamer?

Backwards drumroll…the Black Lodge. Ask yourself, what’s the difference between the dream world Coop and Laura first entered when (hello) they were both dreaming and the portal Coop entered at Glastonbury Grove at the end of the original series? They are “one and the same.”

The Black Lodge is an infinite void where time/space is nebulous, where doppelgängers exist, and Tulpa’s, dreams, and (oh yes) nightmares can be manufactured. Even more disturbing, the Black Lodge can seemingly inhabit the dark recesses of (not only) Cooper and Laura’s subconscious minds, but the collective unconscious of humanity, which is evident throughout The Return.

When Coop and Laura first meet, Laura whispers the secret of who killed her two days before she was murdered. “I am dead… yet I live.” Cooper perceives the dream happening 25 years in the future, when he’s trapped in The Black Lodge. Was this a dream? A vision? A time loop?

“Meanwhile…” when Cooper and Laura meet again in The Return, she whispers a secret that will lead Cooper to “saving” her in Part 17, causing an immediate rift in time (not only) in the Black Lodge, but also in the real world of Twin Peaks. With Laura now “saved” her presence in the Black Lodge becomes “non-existent,” and she is sucked into a manufactured Lodge dreamscape, which is represented (visually) by the infinite void revealed beyond the red curtains, foreshadowing not only Cooper’s Vegas journey but Laura’s Odessa nightmare. Just as Cooper couldn’t leave the Black Lodge until his doppelgänger returned, a dead Laura cannot return to Earth until she “wakes up” and the alternate “Laura never died” timeline becomes the official version.

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What Happens In Vegas, Never Happened In Vegas 

To unlock the mystery of Richard and Carrie in the dreamscape of Odessa, let’s examine the origins of the Black Lodge dreamer theory, where the idea of the Lodge replicating the real world first began, and ultimately how Cooper is able to penetrate Laura’s dream. 

Consider what Mark Frost was cooking up for the original series finale. Though Lynch discarded most of the script when filming the Black Lodge scenes, as written, once Cooper entered the Black Lodge there was only one scene in the Red Room. The rest of the action occurs in a timeline where Cooper experiences a Lodge manufactured reality that seems to mirror the real world. There’s a shabby motel where Cooper is given a key by his Father; scenes with Caroline and Windom Earle in Pittsburgh, and a scene of Cooper glimpsing his shadow-self in a black and white version of the Great Northern. Although these scenes were not written as a dream, it is plausible when Lynch and Frost teamed up to collaborate on Season 3, Frost would revisit the theme of an expansive Black Lodge. Combined with Lynch’s penchant for incorporating dream logic into the narrative of his recent films, it’s not a huge stretch to interpret Las Vegas and Odessa as extensions of the Lodge.

It would explain how Phillip Gerard and the Evolution of The Arm could so easily penetrate Cooper’s Las Vegas reality. They don’t need portals when they’re penetrating a Lodge dream. Why else would there be a Sycamore Street, a Merlin’s Market and Lancelot Court (evoking Glastonbury Grove), or multiple dream references, like when Janey-E calls Dougie “Mr. Dreamweaver,” or when Bradley Mitchum’s Cooper & cherry pie dream comes true? How else could the walking vegetable (Dougie) not get fired, divorced, or left for dead in the Vegas desert by the many Assassins circling his barely animate body? Everything in Vegas screams unreality. Even though we don’t see Big Head Cooper until Part 17, he is always there—dreaming among the shadows—watching everything unfold from the Black Lodge.

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Damn You To Hell White Knight Complex

When Mr. C is shot dead and returned to the Black Lodge, Cooper’s manufactured Vegas dreamscape should be over, but it’s not. After the bizarre events in Sheriff Truman’s office, Cooper suddenly finds himself in the Great Northern furnace room (with Cole and Diane) in the denouement of Cooper’s dream. Coop is now fully aware that he was ‘living inside a dream,’ and like Phillip Jeffries before him, a lucid dream allows Coop to penetrate the dreams of others, as well as future/past timelines.

By going back in time and “saving” Laura, Cooper will be rewriting history, erasing Laura’s death, but more importantly, negating his exile to the Black Lodge. If Laura never dies, none of this ever happens. That’s why Coop tells everyone in Sheriff Truman’s office, “The past dictates the future… now some things will change.” However, Coop does not realize it is impossible to reverse time within the Black Lodge where time itself is nebulous. 

That’s exactly what Phillip Gerard is trying to communicate to Cooper in Part 18 (“Is it future… or is it past?”) when Coop finds himself back in the Lodge, awake, whole, and ready to return to our earthly realm. But Coop doesn’t get it, not until the Evolution of the Arm asks him, “Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane?” and Cooper remembers Laura’s whisper and subsequent scream. If it wasn’t clear he needs to clean up the mess he made by saving Laura, Leland reaffirms it—“Find Laura.”

This may be hard to believe but Cooper, as we knew him from the original series, is barely awake, whole, and out of the Black Lodge for 5 minutes of screen time before he voluntarily goes right back in to find Laura. The only time Coop is awake and out of the Black Lodge is when we see him appear at Glastonbury Grove, up until he and Diane go full Lost Highway at the 430 marker —that’s it.

Why does Cooper see Diane at Glastonbury Grove? Think back to Part 2 when Hawk was walking through Ghostwood National Forest. He tells the Log Lady, “Supposed to be something happening here tonight.” That scene recalls Cooper’s remark to Hawk from the original series. “Hawk, if I ever get lost, I hope you’re the man they send to find me.” Cooper’s exit from the Lodge was supposed to happen that night, but Mr. C’s “I’ve got a plan for that one” prevented Cooper from leaving, and landed him in a Vegas dreamscape. After Coop saves Laura, a new timeline is created. That is why Diane replaces Hawk at Glastonbury Grove. “See you at the curtain call.” However, this new timeline is not yet ‘official’ – there’s still the matter of the little girl who lived down the lane.

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It Is In Our House Now

When Cooper and Diane drive to the 430 mile marker, Diane reminds Cooper he doesn’t have to go through with this—but Cooper is resolute. Laura is alive but trapped in a Black Lodge nightmare, and it’s all Cooper’s fault. The clues The Fireman gives Cooper in Part 1 are finally starting to make sense. Not only is ‘430’ a point of entry to where Laura can be found, but the subsequent clues are reminders of Coop’s failure to save her (“Listen to the sounds”) and a warning about Odessa—“you are far away”—suggesting Cooper is not only (physically) in another dream world but also far away from figuring out what the hell is happening.

As they cross over, there’s a telling moment where we see mirror images of Cooper and Diane on opposite sides of the car; Diane will soon see her double (hello Black Lodge) outside the motel where Cooper is checking in. And while Cooper’s double, Mr. C, is non-existent, his presence will be felt throughout the twists and turns along this journey. Traveling down a lost highway, Cooper and Diane don’t speak. They don’t even look at each other. There’s a feeling of dread. It’s all different. They are different… having entered Laura’s Black Lodge nightmare.

While Vegas is a fairly benign dreamscape for the Good Dale—for Laura, Odessa is the symbolic continuation of her tragic story, the nightmare she lived through in Twin Peaks. There are signs of physical abuse and death. The white horse (symbolizing death) Sarah saw in the original series and Fire Walk With Me manifests, not only outside Judy’s diner but inside Carrie’s home, where the corpse of a presumably abusive partner could be a substitute for Leland/BOB. Note the distended stomach and black residue as if the BOB bubble had recently left his body. More ominous is the #6 electrical pole outside Carrie’s house, which suggests the presence of Lodge spirits and foreshadows the appearance of Alice Tremond at the Palmer house.

Odessa is the manifestation of Laura’s hell, which Bobby told Dr. Jacoby about in Season One. Everyone and everything in Laura’s dream gets pulled deeper and deeper into the blackest nightmare, including Cooper and Diane.

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What Is Your Name?

When Cooper wakes in Odessa the next morning, Diane is gone. Ritualistic coitus with Cooper was too reminiscent of that night at her house with Mr. C. Although Diane is fully aware of the importance of Cooper’s mission – and how it all might be different for her, too, if he succeeds – the experience of another Lodge nightmare so soon after her escape is too much to handle. So Diane decides to wake up rather than continue the journey with a man she no longer recognizes. She pens a goodbye letter, using the names Richard and Linda, recalling another of The Fireman’s clues from Part 1. Why Richard? Cooper is still Special Agent Dale Cooper to Carrie Page and Alice Tremond (and has the FBI badge to prove it). Could it be a reference to his demon seed son that his dark side recently electrocuted back on Earth?

Cooper has learned how to penetrate Laura’s dreamer loop, just as Phillip Gerard penetrated Cooper’s dream in Vegas, but Cooper isn’t a Lodge spirit or even a black magician—so he’s at the mercy of (not only) Laura’s manufactured Black Lodge nightmare but his own troubled subconscious.

Memories, names, and places from his past are influencing everything he sees and feels. The sex scene with Diane evokes her rape by Mr. C. ‘Richard’ evokes Richard Horne, the “never been right” offspring of Mr. C and Audrey. Judy’s diner evokes the extreme negative force Major Briggs mentioned to Cooper and Cole. The name Carrie evokes Caroline, Cooper’s first love who was murdered by Windom Earle, while ‘Tremond’ and ‘Chalfont’ are reminders that Lodge Spirits are pulling the strings of this nightmare.

When Cooper leaves the motel it’s not the same motel he and Diane checked into. There’s a different car parked outside the motel—the same car Mr. C was driving in Part 3—another reminder of Coop’s shadow self. Cooper appears lost in Odessa with no GPS. He has no urgency to find Laura; he only stumbles on Judy’s diner, or was he lured there by Laura’s subconscious? Perhaps Cooper was expecting a visit from Phillip Gerard or the Fireman to give him a clue? But they are nowhere to be found. Cooper is alone on this mission, and he’s failing miserably. This is Hell—Judy style.

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Two Birds with One Stone

When Cooper finds Carrie, the name Laura Palmer has no meaning to her. It is Sarah’s name that triggers Carrie’s memory—just like Cooper is triggered in Part 15 when he hears the name ‘Gordon Cole’ watching Sunset Boulevard. Carrie doesn’t have the luxury of a fork and wall socket to “wake up” and “end her story.” Laura’s memories only begin to creep back into her consciousness during the long silent drive to Twin Peaks. “In those days I was too young to know any better.”

Wherever Laura goes in her own Lodge dream reality, the dark spiritual “mother” follows, whether at work (Judy’s diner), at home (electrical pole #6) or in the headlights that appear out of the darkness; lingering long enough for Coop and Laura to suspect they’re not alone on this nightmarish journey back to where it all began. Although the memory of BOB might be suppressed in Laura, he’s closer than he’s been in 25 years. Memories of the demon BOB are sitting right next to her in the car, hiding in the dark recesses of Cooper’s mind, which might explain his reticence. It is clear Cooper is coming to grips with the destruction caused by his doppelgänger but can Mr. C’s past be forgotten on any timeline?

Ultimately, Part 18 isn’t about Coop’s plan to kill Judy (you can’t kill evil); rather it’s about his salvation. As Richard and Carrie pull up to the Palmer house, it feels like they are, in fact, the “two birds” the Fireman and Gordon spoke of—and that Cooper’s plan all along was to “kill” the past. Yes, Cooper is trying to save Laura (once again) but he’s doing it to save himself. Cooper thinks if he can just get Laura to the Palmer house in Twin Peaks, she’ll wake from her Carrie Page stupor into the “official” timeline where she wasn’t murdered, and Laura will finally be free from the Lodge.

Cooper probably thought he would awake (too) in the same timeline as Laura where he never came to Twin Peaks. Since Laura wasn’t murdered, there’d be no crime for Cooper to investigate, so (conceivably) he’d never have entered the Lodge, and the 25-year nightmare of Mr. C would cease to exist. But what Cooper doesn’t realize is, no matter how many times he saves Laura, whether by time-travel, or Black Lodge dream penetration—she was murdered. That timeline will always exist, as evident in Laura’s haunting scream when the memory of that terrifying night in the train car returns. You can’t truly erase the past. Once a soul enters the Black Lodge, no matter if they are dead or alive, a part of them remains… forever. Loop de loop. 

Cue whisper. End credits.

 

If you like this, you’ll love the authors’ podcast Chopping Wood Inside. You can find it here.


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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.

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