Sex in Twin Peaks: The Return

This article comes to us from Lou Ming, who is expanding here upon ideas he debuted in the Twin Peaks subreddit. His bio follows the article.

It’s worth noting that in The Return there are exactly three scenes of couples having intercourse. Each of these instances share the same basic construction: a passive male mounted by a female, in what is sometimes called the “cowgirl” position. This happens (1) with Tracey and Sam in front of the glass box, (2) with Janey-E and DougieCoop home in bed, and finally (3) between Diane and Cooper in room 7 of the motel once they’ve crossed over.

Only one of these scenes has a demonstrably good outcome, with (2) DougieCoop having his first climax in a quarter-century and Janey-E probably enjoying the best sex she’s had in a long time. The other two instances lead to results both unexpected and violent. But my point isn’t that a moral judgment about sex and love is being made here. 

Three is an important number in The Return’s structure, and that, along with the fact that in 18 hours of Showtime’s Twin Peaks reboot only these three couplings are shown (with only Sam and Tracey’s episode 1 pairing being shot as a “hot” scene) indicates this isn’t just for titillation. And the identical, active position of the women in all three instances is no coincidence, so a closer look at this repetition is probably worth a look.

Tracey in Twin PeaksA “bad” girl.

(1) Tracey and Sam’s coupling is driven by the primal drive of lust. This is demonstrated by her determined effort to get inside the room with Sam. She visits twice, both times bearing gifts (free coffee) and she actually tries to memorize the access code to the entrance (an action repeated later by Diane, visually linking the two). On the second visit when the guard is missing, she pushes to go into the restricted area with Sam despite there being no escape if the guard returns. Ultimately a moot point, as it is during their coupling that a monster appears, the Experiment Model bursting free of the glass box, destroying them both.

Dougie and Janey-E lie in bed naked in each others arms after sexLove.

(2) Dougie and Janey-E’s lovemaking is exactly that, making love. This differentiates it from the other two. This is a husband and wife confirming their connection as a couple, not out of animal lust like Tracey and Sam, but as an affirmation of a connection within a framework of family and commitment. Dougie’s joy as he reconnects with the carnality of sex in an atmosphere of love is tangible. No evil comes from this pairing; in fact, a marked improvement is apparent for both partners.

Diane has sex with Cooper and its unpleasantNow entering Odessa.

(3) Diane and Cooper’s coupling is intentionally stilted, mechanical, and perfunctory. The participants assume their positions as a matter of course and its result is mysterious. As The Platters’ recording “My Prayer” fades away, we see Cooper awaken the next morning alone to read a “Dear John” letter addressed to, and signed by, names unfamiliar to him. 

This joyless, hedonistic approach to gratification is being shown to not create literal monsters, but to destroy happiness and identity, leading to a sad existence in a barren, desert landscape (the very kind of existential hell-dream a Carrie Page might endure as an escape from Laura Palmer’s reality of abuse and self-destruction).

Like Laura, Diane was raped by BOB inhabiting someone who cares for her. BOB’s arrival in both situations is preceded with “no knock, no doorbell,” in Laura’s case because BOB/Leland enters through her window (as seen in Fire Walk With Me). When we hear “Tulpa” Diane relate to Gordon her rape at the hands of BadCooper, we can hear it as a first-hand account of Leland’s rape of Laura as well.

Leland covers Teresa's face and asks 'who am I?' as they lie in bedWho am I?

One could also see an echo in Diane’s hands covering Cooper’s face during their encounter and Leland’s covering of Teresa Banks’ face asking the unanswerable “who am I?” in Fire Walk With Me. Leland acts out his desires with Teresa as Laura’s double. Leland probably played the same “game” with Laura to teach her to deny his identity. Diane’s actions also echo Laura’s active denial of who BOB really was, to try to cover or change his face to something unrecognizable while refusing to face him.


The Bomb

The intercourse motif is presented a fourth time in Part 8 as an abstraction in the explosion of the atomic bomb, the “intercourse between the two worlds.” 

This relationship is further emphasized by the appearance of The Experiment, echoing the Experiment Model released by the coupling of Sam and Tracey. We see the orgasmic vomit resulting from the atomic test. From the “mouth” of The Experiment comes a mass of eggs/seeds, and the orb of BOB unleashed upon the world.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the “climax” of the atomic bomb (with the Earth as the passive positioned male and the “other world” in the female, aggressive “Mother” position that ultimately births monsters) is specifically described in the meeting above the convenience store in Fire Walk With Me.

The experiment spews white liquid from its mouthMother is Coming.

I see the atomic bomb test witnessed in Part 8, the one with The Experiment spewing the evil into the world, as an abstraction itself. It may well represent the rape of Laura by her father, an act that birthed all the demons that plagued Laura in Fire Walk With Me; a bomb that went off in her life years before, releasing that evil into her reality and making her an active participant of her own corruption.

All that we see infest the world of Twin Peaks and beyond in The Return are monsters released from the mind of one teenage girl. Laura. The One.

A world once simple and innocent destroyed by a single unimaginable transgression.

An eruption that blows a hole through everything.


the arm shows bob his formica tableThis is a Formica table.

The Ring

Phillip Jeffries relates the story of the meeting above the Convenience Store to Gordon, Cooper, and Albert back in 1989 in Philadelphia as scenes from the meeting fade in between Jeffries’ exposition and video static. The Missing Pieces supplement on the FWWM blu-ray features this scene of the meeting uncut and complete. There is a lot of Twin Peaks mythology in this scene. Garmonbozia, Animal Life, the Two Worlds, The Ring, and the Formica Table.

The Man from Another Place describes the ring, and the Formica table. Like the ring, the table is green (“green is its color”), and there’s a visible hole in the tabletop, about the size of the ring’s signet. They are obviously of a piece.

a hole cut in the formica table

The formica table is an abstraction of the “wall” between the two worlds. A ring, made from a hole in the table itself, acts as the door on the passageway between the two worlds. It is through this opening also that BOB and the Man from Another Place pass through to the Red Room in Fire Walk With Me, perhaps for the first time. And with the ring, mortals can somehow be “wed” from the other side of the hole, wedded to the Black Lodge.

The hole in the Formica table itself has a double/abstraction. The same way BOB and the Man from Another Place go from the room above the convenience store to the Red Room through the hole in the Formica table, so the BOB orb and the roachfrog eggs release into “our” reality from the mouth of The Experiment itself. It is the maw from which the horror descends. 

BOB and the other negative entities as presented in FWWM are re-presented in The Return as the spew from the Experiment’s mouth in Part 8. In both cases, they are the entities that travel back and forth from the Convenience Store to Twin Peaks (and the Earth). BOB’s existence in both iterations confirms the connection between the two representations.

This hole could most literally be the damage done to Laura’s innocence, her virginity. Taken from her against her will by her own father, this is a fact she must deny, even to herself. So in her head there is BOB, there are Chalfonts, there’s a Jumping Man. All set loose through her punctured identity in a distorted representation.

Despite her role in Twin Peaks as a sort of saint, blameless for her situation, the fact is she created pain, chaos, and evil in her wake as a way of dealing with the hell that was her waking life, and she bears the guilt for those actions. Her destructive attempts to negate what happens to her at home leads her to become a cocaine addict (a distinct echo of the desire for garmonbozia, reveling in pain and suffering) ultimately manifesting as psychosis, evident in her last motorcycle ride with James.

That addiction drives her to manipulate Bobby Briggs to get cocaine for her, using sex to control him. This creates the situation where Bobby shoots and kills a man for baby laxative. Only a person whose real life was such a nightmare would find relief in the dream of Carrie Page who, it so happens, has a dead body with its brains blown out in her living room.


Dale Coopers image flickers then disappears from his chairThe Prequel Dream

In Part 1 Cooper sits across from the Fireman who teaches him the clues necessary to keep him on his path, the keys to his intuition: listen to the sounds, 430, Richard and Linda, and two birds with one stone. And although this is the very first scene of The Return, in linear time it seems to belong in Part 18, after Phillip Gerard tells Cooper he can “go in now.” 

After the Fireman says “you are far away” Cooper is then dispatched to the woods where Laura and James appear in black and white from Fire Walk With Me.

But first…


Cooper’s lessons begin with his arrival as Dougie at the Silver Mustang Casino, where he is taught by repetition that he will succeed by following his instinct, represented by the red room image above each winning slot machine. He also learns that following his intuition will not lead him to instant success, although he will create positivity and spread happiness in his wake. This is illustrated by the old lady gambler’s ultimate rise out of misery and her reunion with family (for this he receives a kiss that echoes Laura’s kiss in the Red Room) and the Mitchum Brothers change from murderous thugs to benevolent, jovial pals. 

Cooper brings his winnings home and, despite having blindly succeeded, receives a slap in the face because the actions required to create good results elsewhere created pain here at home, in this case for Janey-E and Sonny Jim.

The scene with DougieCoop standing on the sidewalk, outside the red door of his home with the chauffeur and the bag of money, mirrors and foreshadows the final scene with Cooper and Carrie Page outside the Palmer house (the same chauffeur will also deliver DougieCoop to a replay of this scene, with the Mitchum Bros and a life-saving cherry pie in a box). In each case he follows his intuition perfectly, yet he has no knowledge of what the Plan’s completion will bring, how the mission should end, or even what the end looks like.

The look on Dougie’s face when slapped by Janey-E, bears the same confusion as Cooper at the end of The Return. Through sheer intuition DougieCoop has become Mr. Jackpots, obtained, and now delivers, the redemption of the family right to the front door. 

Dougie is brought home by a police officer to Janey-Es houseDougie delivers the goods.

For all his troubles he receives a hard slap in the face. 

And as all these scenes parallel each other, one thing they tell us is that in his Dougie persona, delivering the goods is just the first step in setting things right. 

But like Cooper at the end of Part 18, he still isn’t fully awake.

Lou Ming is the digital tulpa of Michael Chatham, a musician, graphic designer, and writer. He has written for Guitar World magazine and designed for Marvel Comics and other publishers. His first exposure to David Lynch was seeing Blue Velvet at the Galleria Movie Theater in Fort Lauderdale, FL in 1986. After that, things were different.

Written by 25YL

This article was written either by a Guest Author or by an assortment of 25YL staff

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