I had the chance to bring back some memories with John Thorne recently when we looked back at Parts 1 through 4. We talked about expectations (or lack thereof), speculated about some of the lingering mysteries, and John reminisced about the opportunity of a lifetime: attending the Hollywood premiere of Twin Peaks: The Return on May 19, 2017. And, of course, we talked about the process of rewatching one year later.
LS: You had a really great experience that was unique amongst most of the fans of the series: you got to see Parts 1 & 2 at the actual premiere. Can you take us back to that night? What was it like to be there and to watch Parts 1 & 2 on the big screen, with cast and crew and the creators of the show themselves in the theatre with you?
JT: It was really quite amazing. It sounds kinda cliche but it was a dream come true. You know, I had spent so much of my life really thinking about and writing about Twin Peaks. I interviewed so many of the people involved with the show and I didn’t have any expectations that they would remember me or think about me but Mark Frost — a year ago today, in fact — sent me an email and said “I can’t promise this but I’m working on it but I think I can get you a single ticket to come to the premiere.” And I was just, you know, stunned. Sure enough he came through and I was able to go out there.
I stayed at the hotel where the actual theatre was showing it and was there throughout the day. And the cast started to arrive and I saw them earlier in the day and watched as Showtime was preparing the entire red carpet area decorating the hotel and decorating the theatre which was really — they were really going all out for the big Hollywood Premiere. And then yeah, I went in and there was a there was about a half an hour/an hour sort of meet-and-greet, mingle around with everyone which was really kind of amazing standing there. It was really very crowded, everyone was in the lobby of the theatre, and I almost couldn’t move at certain points — we were all kinda packed in. But I’m watching actors go by who were in the show and lots of other “famous” — you know quote-unquote — people who were there because it was a big event, they wanted to see Twin Peaks. And then I went in and sat down and it was just stunning. Kyle MacLachlan was literally two rows in front of me. Right in front of me. So I was able to look at him before the show started and, every once in a while, glance over at him and that was an eerie feeling to be sitting essentially next to Kyle MacLachlan while it was happening. And yeah, David Lynch was there, Mark Frost was there, and we watched the first two hours, Parts 1 and 2, on the big screen, which was a really nice experience. I would love to see the entire thing on a big screen at some point. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to do that. And so it was surreal, it was exciting.
It was sort of a culmination, in a way of all the work I had done with Craig Miller — who sadly could not be there, who passed away — with Wrapped in Plastic. I would say I was there you know kind of representing all of the fans. The fan representative who was in the audience. You know…and Mark Frost came up to me after, right after the credits rolled, he walked up to me and asked me what I thought. I said “I’m speechless.” I said “It’s great. I’m so happy. You guys did a great job.” And he said “It’s just going to take off from here.” So yeah then — I’m babbling on here — but then after that that we had a party that followed and so I was able to go and hang out with a lot of the new cast, a lot of them I didn’t know what they were playing. And they old cast — a few of whom actually recognized me which was really kind of nice. Dana Ashbrook and James Marshall sort of knew; Kimmy Robertson knew who I was. Yeah I got to chat with just about everybody it was so much fun! A lot of fun.
LS: So obviously you had to keep quiet for that 48 hours between watching it and the actual official air date. But what were you thinking before you saw Parts 1 and 2? What were you thinking you were going to watch for? Were you just going to go in there and experience the whole thing or were you looking for specific answers to questions or hints as to the direction they were going to go?
JT: I didn’t have any expectations that it had to be a certain way or that it required this or that to happen. I really kind of went into it like “Okay, what are you gonna — what are you guys gonna do.” And I was pleased. I really was. As I watched there were a couple things that I felt very certain — there were certain rules that I felt were in place. The first two hours kind of confirmed that with the evolution of the arm says to Cooper: “You can’t go about until your doppelganger comes back in.” I remember sitting there going “Yeah that’s exactly right. I expected that!”
I watched Parts 1 and 2 again when it aired 48 hours later which was which was really good. I mean, everyone had an opportunity at that point to see it as many times as they wanted. But there were a lot of things that — having seen it on the big screen, I had 48 hours, not a lot of time, I know — but there were things I could not go back and look at again. I had to try to remember. I was comparing notes with Josh Eisenstadt because you couldn’t look at it again. I was very very eager to see it again that Sunday night because then I could you know pause it if I needed to watch it again later check on things. So that was that was great. And then yeah I watched [Parts] 3 and 4 into the late hours of the evening on that Sunday night and I must say that was that was very hard to watch four hours and kind of make sense of it and think about it. I was overwhelmed by it all. By the end of that Sunday — in fact, early Monday morning — really I needed to go back and I did go back and watch three and four again when I was more awake and able to watch it with a clearer head.
LS: How many times did you have to watch the parts — not just Parts 1 to 4 but all the Parts — before you know you really felt like you had some kind of understanding of what was going on?
JT: You know I was writing about it too for The Blue Rose Magazine, so what I would do is I would watch — you know as we got a patter going, we had one hour a week — I would watch that when it came on Sunday night. I would watch it and then at some point during the week before the next Part came on I would watch that Sunday’s part again. And I would watch with the subtitles on, put headphones on and watch it on my computer usually. I’d watch it on the big screen the first time; the second time I would watch it on the computer with headphones on, with the subtitles on and tried to, you know, catch any thing I might have missed or think about something or confirm something. So it was always twice a week for sure; in some cases it might have been I watched it a third time. But always twice a week for sure.
LS: Were you doing any theorizing at this point or did that come later?
JT: For sure, I would take notes, trying to come up with what I thought might be happening or what I thought something might mean. But there were a lot of times where it was just completely and totally wrong, and I would have to delete paragraph after paragraph because it just didn’t fit with what the next Part would show. The next Part would either confirm or deny or confuse the matter even more so…yeah I was really, really engaged with them. I was trying to predict and come up with ideas and theories.
LS: There is this sense of just wanting to just experience it. It’s a push-and-pull I think for a lot of people — to want to kind of let it happen but also wanting to know what all of this means. You can really go deep and then end up missing like the bigger picture. But it’s really hard not to theorize because it’s Twin Peaks and that’s kind of what we do!
JT: That’s the beauty of Twin Peaks. That’s how it was at the very beginning. Back in 1990 when it was on, of course it was this simple mystery: “Who killed Laura Palmer?” But everyone would talk about it between episodes — “What do you think this means?” or “Is that a clue?” That was so much a fun part of Twin Peaks, to engage with it. And I’m really, really happy that they put the show on in weekly instalments rather than dumping the entire thing and making it a binge-watch experience. It would have been over so much faster. The way we had it, it was four months, the whole summer of engagement, and I think that they kind of knew — Lynch and Frost — that the fun part of a show like that is to be talking about it. That what we could do this time around — what we couldn’t do 28 years ago — was to get online, get on Twitter, and to see all this reaction in real time, people responding to what they just saw. I love that part of it. And that’s really what you guys do at 25 Years Later it’s what we try to do in the magazine, is to kind of keep that feeling alive, of thinking about it, talking about it, and trying to get people involved with it. That’s such a huge part of Twin Peaks, such a big important part of it, it’s that engagement.
LS: Oh one hundred percent! And I was going to ask that as well because I wasn’t around when the show originally aired — I was way too young to have known about this — but there were Usenet groups and stuff online in the early days of the Internet. How does that experience compare to this experience now? Was there a lot of similarity for you?
JT: You know, it’s very different really, because back then there was there was some internet aspect. It’s so limited. There were Web sites you could go on and you could see threads and discussion about Twin Peaks but not many people were doing that. There wasn’t that social media element there. You really had to rely on magazines, pretty much, or maybe occasionally something on TV. But you know if a magazine came out with a feature on Twin Peaks or an interview with an actor, you snatched it up and you read it. I think Wrapped in Plastic when we did that from 1993…1992 — through the nineties — it kind of served that purpose. So it was the place — among others — but it was sort of one of the main places where fans could kind of come together and write us letters, and we were interviewing people, and so there was that fan engagement there.
To be honest, as the World Wide Web became more prevalent that became the source of where a lot of fans were going and the magazine didn’t really have as much to offer. We were way behind on news. So that was part of why we stopped making it. Of course also there was no new Twin Peaks. But it was much different in the 90s than it is now because you just get on after a Part would air. When a Part would finish airing this past summer, I would spend the next hour on Twitter. It was usually a full hour, just seeing what other people were thinking, responding to it, it would generate new ideas — “Yeah, I didn’t think about that. What about this?” — and someone would notice something, and then I would run back watch it, you know…so that was very valuable. Really a great way to engage with it.
LS: And it definitely made that community feel like a community. I think, for a lot of people, that hour-to-hour and a half after a Part would air was just so busy! The notifications would come in and if you were paying attention there’d be thousands of conversations going on. It was so incredible to watch that happen. And it’s only now looking back that you realize how special that was.
JT: It was a special time and I’ve commented on it before — I mean maybe this summer with the Rewatch, there will be you know sort of recreate that atmosphere — but of course we’ll all know what’s coming. And there was something really unique about that summer of 2017 where we were all at the same place/same time, you know, in terms of the story. We didn’t know what was coming, we were theorizing about it, we were talking about it, really engaged with it, and we had to wait and that will really never happen again. It just won’t, unless somebody, you know, comes out of a cave and they’re a big Twin Peaks fan and they’re like “I don’t know anything about it!” and they watch it over 18 weeks but…you know the odds of that are pretty remote! New generations who will come to it, say, 10 or 15 years down the line, or the next generation who gets involved with Twin Peaks, they’re just going to binge watch it, and they’re not going to have that experience, which is the same thing in many ways — you know the original series, I watched that week to week. Sometimes in some cases it would go on hiatus and it would be six weeks. But we didn’t know who was coming back and, you know, that experience can’t really happen again.
LS: So you got to watch Parts 1 & 2 on the big screen; you had to watch Parts 3 & 4 at home. What were some of the like the biggest differences between watching it on the big screen as opposed to watching at home?
JT: A couple of things. The sound for one thing. We had this sound system in the theatre, so when we cut to that shot — the point of view shot of Mr. C driving at night — and that music, that heavy music…I mean, that really assaulted you when you were in the theatre. And I’m sure Lynch — in fact I think I may have even heard this specifically, and he was there — he probably made sure the sound was exactly the way he wanted it when it was playing. I think that is a big thing. The other thing is you know it showed I think it showed at 8 o’clock central time which is what I am. For me at 8 o’clock, in July, it’s pretty much still daylight out. And I have windows all around my TV room and seeing it in the dark — seeing in a dark theatre — was really different than seeing it on TV where there was still some daylight. I couldn’t wait to watch it later. I would watch it 8:00 when it came on so I’d turn off the lights and try to make it a darker room but I think that was a big–a really big factor and I think watching it, if we could ever see it — and I’m sure there’ll be opportunities in the future to see it all in a theater — you’ll have more of a…it’s just a different experience in the dark with a good sound system.
LS: And as you said, watching with headphones on helps because you’re isolating that sound. The sound design is so incredible — there are so many things that you don’t want to miss, but it’s easy to miss them if you’re just watching it on on your TV or with a terrible soundsystem or, heaven forbid, on a on a tablet or an iPhone right?
JT: I did it. I did watch one — I was on vacation during that four months and I had to watch — I had to! — because I had to watch it on Sunday night. I think it was Part 11 […] I watched it on an iPad and basically I was just getting the plot points, and I remember when it was over … I remember it just didn’t have the same impact. I watched it again when I got home and of course I had a different, really had a different feel when you’re watching on a big screen.
LS: There was a lot of talk about how there wasn’t a lot of Angelo Badalamenti’s music, especially in these early parts, and there were a lot of fans who were really disappointed that the music just wasn’t there. But what we got instead was this expansive soundscape built for us. Did that lack of music could surprise you in any way or did it make you appreciate that the attention to sound detail that was in The Return?
JT: You know it’s interesting, I know a lot of people noticed it right away. Scott Ryan, who does The Blue Rose [Magazine] with me, he was extremely aware of it and I think somewhat disappointed that the music was different. I was so concentrating on story and visual that didn’t make a big impact on me. I did certainly notice the incredible sound design [by Dean Hurley]. And you know you watch it with close captioning you see all the descriptive titles for the sound like “ominous whooshing” or you know the other interesting ways of describing it, and I noticed that. Obviously music was still vitally important and it was an element of almost every Part … I liked that approach that we would have this song at the end which would sort of bridge from whatever was happening in the Roadhouse to the credit sequence. Especially The Chromatics at the end [of Part 2]. Essentially we saw a two-hour movie while we were in the theatre and that’s how it ended with The Chromatics. It was almost magical the way that music came on. If I had to pick five favourite parts of Twin Peaks out of 18 hours, I would say that Chromatics piece at the end of Part 2 is one of the top five — top five or ten moments because it was just…it was just perfect.
You know what it also did — it’s kind of funny. I’m sure this happened to you as it happened to everyone. You’d be watching the show, and you’d be so into it you lost track of time, you know, where we were in the story and then they would cut to the roadhouse. “Oh no!”
LS: “It’s over?!” [laughs]
JT: And every once in a while they would trick us and they’d cut to the Roadhouse early and it wouldn’t be over. But most of the time it would cut to the Roadhouse and there’d be someone on a stage, and it’s like “Ugh! It’s over.”
LS: What stands out for you about Parts 3 & 4?
JT: The beginning of Part 3 was just amazing, when Cooper is in whatever that place is — the Purple Realm, or Naido’s Realm — and he’s kind of stuttering and time seems to be kind of disjointed. And he is trying to move forward and he keeps kind of bouncing back. I would say whatever that technique was — that editing technique that they used — that was just…when I first saw it just went “Wow!” You know if there’s any question that David Lynch can’t do something unique and new and surprising, that answer now is “He can.” So that was remarkable.
And then of course Part 4. Part 4 almost you know sticks out in my head because it was really the return to Twin Peaks at its heart. It was really the one where we went back. We saw Bobby for the first time. We were in the Sheriff’s station … we see Frank Truman and then of course the Laura Palmer case is being laid out on the table and it has such a strong connection to the old show that it just sort of made an indelible mark in my mind. I get in my mind you know a lot happens in Part 4 but I think Part 4 is the Sheriff’s station Part, you know, that’s the part where we’re inside and outside the station and we’re seeing the other deputies and we’re seeing the other side of the station and the old and the new together. That really stands out to me.
LS: That was something that stood out to me as well — how we see almost like there’s a front part of the station, which is Lucy not understanding cell phones, and then there’s the back room where there’s all this high-tech gadgetry going on.
JT: Yeah it’s true. It’s interesting how it almost seems like almost one side of the station was sort of the station of old. And it is kind of odd you’ve got Lucy at the front and she’s using, of course, an old-fashioned phone … and then you had…I think it was Maggie who was the dispatcher, sort of on the other side of the station, much more high-tech equipment. And they had a CSI unit sort of assembling — yeah, it really was stark. You had sort of the new and the old all in one building.
LS: Another thing that was interesting to me again with Part 4 was that we got to meet Dougie for the first time. And that, again, was very frustrating for a lot of people. I can’t speak for the whole community but I was expecting him to quote-unquote “wake up” at any minute. He drinks the coffee; “He’s gotta wake up!” He looks at himself in the mirror. “Oh this is gonna to be the moment when Cooper returns!”
JT: Oh, yeah yeah! Is Part 4 where he sees his son in the house? He’s putting on his tie?
LS: Yeah that’s in Part 4.
JT: Yeah I thought for sure he was going to wake up. You know there were some interesting things that happened there when he saw [Sonny Jim]. Cooper/Dougie puts his hand on his stomach — put his hand down, touches his stomach, like either where he got shot or … I don’t know why he does that but he does that. It’s deliberate. Obviously Lynch didn’t let anything go by that he didn’t want to have happen. So that was that was a very powerful moment.
You know the Dougie thing, I thought “Oh well this isn’t going to last.” And it lasted an awfully long time. And in retrospect I don’t mind it. I mean, at the time you know we were all “Come on, when is this gonna happen?” In retrospect, I have come to really appreciate the Dougie character a whole bunch and don’t mind. Again it’s that expectation thing. I sort of accepted it. It was like “Okay, this is what he’s going to be and it’s going to be awhile.” So I came to like Dougie a lot and I think Lynch and Frost probably felt Dougie was extremely important too because Cooper, near the end, says to Mike, the One-Armed Man, “We need to make another.” Dougie needs to exist still and he needs to go back to his family and of course that’s probably the happiest ending delivered other than Ed and Norma rate is that Dougie comes home. They embraced him.
LS: There were certain things that Cooper was doing through Dougie that I thought were important to underline especially in contrast to what Mr. C was doing.
JT: That’s exactly right. In fact, the more I think about it — and it’s only lately I’ve been sort of putting a few notes down, so I don’t have any theories to settle — but I get the feeling I guess that Dougie was more important in many ways than we thought. Again we watched it like “When’s he going to wake up?” But in some ways I think almost Cooper would rather be Dougie deep down. And he ultimately exchanges himself for Dougie and goes off into another world and Dougie gets this life. But is it Dougie or is it Dougie Cooper? We get a sense that maybe there’s an element of Cooper there and that he gets this happy ending. He gets the life he wanted. He gets a wife, he gets a child, he has friends, and he doesn’t have the burdens of all this other psychological baggage that Cooper did. And he has a happy life. I think in some ways that’s sort of the ultimate ending. You know, we all wonder “What happened to Cooper? Is he okay?” Well maybe he is just fine. He’s found a way to find a life — whether it is a real world or a dream world or whatever you want to call it, it can’t really be defined — but he’s going to live out a happy life with this Las Vegas family that he’s got.
LS: That’s a really nice way of looking at it.
JT: Yeah. I think there’s something to it.
LS: The other thing that the Dougie storyline does, obviously, is introduce this idea of manufacturing people [as opposed to doppelgängers]. I think it threw a lot of people for a bit of a loop. You talked about that in The Essential Wrapped in Plastic, in “Half the Man He Used To Be.” There was a split; Cooper split into two. Manufacturing, or a copy of a person, that’s a totally different thing. Did that throw you at all? Or did that add an extra dimension?
JT: Oh yeah. In fact, the first time they mention tulpas — I think Tammy Preston and Albert talk about tulpas — I was just like “Oh no, this is gonna be tough to figure this — What is this?” We had rules set down and we had, you know, certain patterns that played for all this time. Now we got something new. The short answer is “Yeah, it complicated it.”
LS: It will keep us talking about it for a long time. I mean obviously we’ve only had a year now to think about it and we still don’t have any answers maybe 10 or 20 or 25 years later we’ll still have no answers about it which is kind of exciting to think about.
JT: Yeah, I think that’s the beauty of Twin Peaks. We don’t have to have an answer-answer. In fact, if we had an answer-answer, if we had sort of a definitive answer, it wouldn’t have that lasting quality that it does. The ambiguity to it or the openness of it keeps it alive. We’ve seen a lot of shows come to an end and they kind of give us an answer or they give some closure, and we’re satisfied in the moment. It feels good. Like okay. We spent some time with the show and they kind of delivered…and then you kind of put it away. You know you move on and you don’t forget about it but you don’t spend a lot of time with it. And Twin Peaks is completely different. Twin Peaks is something — for fans, who were really into it — the fact that it doesn’t just give up all the answers or tie everything up keeps it very much alive. It’s still alive. So that is a great aspect of it.
LS: Mark Frost’s books give a little bit of a different take on the show. Of course it’s a different medium too, so obviously it’s going to have a different effect, but there are more concrete answers in his books than there are in this show. And it lends a little bit of a colouring to episodes if you read The Secret History of Twin Peaks or The Final Dossier, if I know Ray is an FBI agent, for example, and that he’s been double crossing them the whole time. So watching Parts 1 to 4 now, I was wondering if the books had any bearing on your interpretation or reading of the show?
JT: I have a lot of mixed feelings. I liked the first book a whole bunch, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, I thought was really this really amazing piece of work. I felt like The Final Dossier … I view it as the book I wanted in the summer of 1991. It sort of ties up a lot of those cliffhangers of the second season that the new Season 3 never really talked about. In that respect … we kinda got some answers about some less important but still significant subplots that were in Season 2. Other parts of it, I…you know I think it’s still open to interpretation. I don’t necessarily agree with some of what Tammy Preston tells us. We’ll say it that way; we won’t say Mark Frost told us, we’ll say Tammy Preston’s the one who tells us, and Mark Frost might even agree and say, you know, “That’s the character saying that.” It still allows for the openness.
It is a book. I guess really the only thing I consider to be canonical, if you want to use that word, is anything that was filmed. That would include obviously Season 1, Season 2, Fire Walk With Me, Season 3 but also The Missing Pieces and Between Two Worlds. Those might be all part of it. But all the books contradict one another and the show anyway. They always have. The diary is filled with all kinds of continuity errors. Certainly the Cooper biography has got all kinds of continuity problems and the two Mark Frost books don’t mesh with what we’ve seen. I think Frost was aware that and didn’t care and he just was like, “Here’s what I’m going to do.” They add colour to the narratives from a different perspective.
I certainly wouldn’t guess at any motivation on the part of Mark Frost, whether or not this was material he’d hoped they would have addressed in Season 3 or if he felt duty-bound to long time fans to, you know, get into this some more. I really believe that they Lynch and Frost together decided early early on not to bring Annie Blackburn into the story. I think that that wasn’t an accident or, you know, [they] just couldn’t make it happen. I think that they said, “We’re not going to address that.” So because they did not, it makes me wonder about those subplots in Season 2. Should we start thinking about them differently? And how were they thinking about Cooper in Season 3 versus Season 2? You know there’s certainly different ways you could come at Twin Peaks; the books are just one of them.
LS: Have you returned to the original series since watching Part 18?
JT: I watched parts of the Pilot because I’m writing about stuff so I have to go back and look. I watched Episode 2, the Cooper dream episode, from way way back in Season 1. I mean those are David Lynch directed pieces so they hold up; they’re still as fascinating to watch now even though I know parts of what’s going to happen later on in the story, they’re still incredible to watch. If I was going to spend time now, it would be to go back to Season 3 and watch more of that again. So many of the mysteries and the exciting parts of Twin Peaks are in Season 3 now.
LS: So…you enjoyed it. You enjoyed the whole run?
JT: Oh absolutely. I thought whole thing was just fantastic. The entire thing was unlike anything else we’d ever seen. I thought — well I’d always said that I really knew that if Lynch was going to return to Twin Peaks that it wasn’t going to be predictable and it wasn’t going to be something we necessarily expected to see. He was gonna do what he was going to do with it. So I kind of had that frame of mind going in, you know. Okay. They could do anything. I mean I was even prepared before it started that it might literally — I’ve actually said this in places — that he might literally start as if the original series had never run. You know…potentially Laura Palmer is still alive, which was sort of a weird foreshadowing, it ended up happening a little bit in the end. But I was prepared for anything to happen and so I kind of had an open mind and was willing really to let Frost and Lynch do whatever they wanted. So, you know…they did! They did whatever they wanted, and I was very happy.
LS: I think that’s that’s the mindset that the people who enjoyed it the most had. You just kind of had to roll with it and let them do what they’re going to do. And it seemed to work out best when you had that approach.
JT: I think so. I really think that’s kind of critical. Most of the people I know who didn’t like it were…they had an expectation. They wanted to answer certain questions or they wanted some closure or they wanted — I don’t know — they wanted the tone of the original series. I don’t know why they were thinking it was going to provide that! I mean I knew about people who watched the original series but never watched Fire Walk With Me and I thought “You don’t really know Twin Peaks then if you don’t know Fire Walk With Me.” And you know if you didn’t like Fire Walk With Me, odds are you probably wouldn’t like the new series.
LS: I don’t know how many people have actually gone through rewatched everything. It seems like it’s kind of either people were really upset at the ending and so they haven’t felt emotionally ready to dive back in again or they just haven’t had the time. It’s such an expansive project, right?
JT: It really requires a time commitment for sure — I mean, 18 hours is a lot. It’s good to do it like this where you got it planned and get people involved. And do it over the course of the summer. But I think you’re right I think unfortunately you know a lot of people are people I know very well who just were so unhappy with the way it ended like they are you know they’re not interested in it anymore. Which is too bad because I think it’s so great.
Because I couldn’t let it end there, John and I had a follow-up email conversation a few days later:
LS: In the Purple World scene, is Diane already trapped as Naido? If so, is it reasonable to assume that American Girl is also someone trapped inside? What do you make of Major Briggs’ head floating by in this realm as well?
JT: I believe Diane is an extremely important character in the narrative, but her presence is essentially hidden throughout. My feeling is that Diane has been trying to help Cooper for long, long time (maybe even before season 1 of Twin Peaks). This is what I wrote about Diane in my essay in Blue Rose 5:
If we look closely we can see reflections of Diane throughout: Cooper encounters Naido as soon as he escapes his banishment to the Nonexistent. This Diane is a physical manifestation of the “absent Diane,” the persona who existed on the other side of Cooper’s famous tape-recorder. In Las Vegas, Cooper finds himself married to Janey-E (Diane’s “half-sister”). This Diane is a manifestation of the “domestic Diane,” the persona of wife, mother, and loyal partner. Cooper also briefly encounters Candie, the physical manifestation of a “purely good Diane” in the same way that Dougie represents a purely good Cooper (and like Dougie, she cannot fully grasp the reality around her). Has Diane been following Cooper throughout his journey? If so, this might explain why she knows to be in the exact spot at the exact moment Cooper emerges from the Red Room.
As for American Girl, she could be anybody. Major Briggs’ presence is another mystery that relates to the plans designed to thwart Mr. C and help Cooper. But here I feel I need to comment on Cooper’s journey between Part 2 and Part 17. Here’s more from my essay:
The Evolution of the Arm tells Cooper he cannot leave until his doppelganger comes back in. The Arm says, “253 time and time again,” then orders Cooper to, “Go now!” Cooper hastily leaves, falls into slow motion for a moment, and then attempts to push through the curtains at the end of the adjoining hall. But Cooper encounters a barrier; he tries to push through but he cannot exit. So Cooper returns the way he came. He sees Leland Palmer who tells Cooper to “Find Laura.” Cooper continues to the curtain, but instead of parting the fabric and walking through he hears a buzzing noise and sees a flash of white light. Cooper then “phases” through the curtains. He doesn’t part them—he passes through them like a ghost. The first thing he sees on the other side is an image of overlapping Red Rooms, one sliding over the other.
I think a strong argument can be made that Cooper does not physically leave the Red Room until Part 18. The barrier he encounters and the phasing he experiences and the overlapping Red Rooms all hint at something else. Maybe an alternate reality. Maybe Cooper’s mind is leaving his body. Recall that Cooper cannot leave until Mr. C comes back in—and that does not happen until Part 18. It is also important to note that the world Cooper encounters in Part 18 is a more grounded, realistic place than the world as it is presented in Parts 2-17 (where surreal and inexplicable events are constantly occurring).
LS: What do you think Mr. C meant when he told Phyllis Hastings “You follow human nature perfectly”? Is there anything to make of the fact that she glitches as she’s shot?And what do you think the Woodsman doing next to Bill Hastings in the prison cell?
JT: To attempt to answer these questions, you really have to step way back and think about what Mr. C is trying to accomplish. He wants two related things: 1) he wants the coordinates to the portal near Jack Rabbit’s Palace so he can use it to 2) get to Judy/The Experiment. (We don’t exactly know why, other than he likely wants the power Judy can provide.) The schemes surrounding Bill Hastings all have to do with getting those coordinates because Bill Hastings and his secretary Betty made contact with Major Briggs and got those numbers. Phyllis Hasting could easily be a tulpa designed to assist Mr. C in framing Bill and murdering Betty, and the Woodsmen could be monitoring the situation to see if the plan is being carried out. But there are some still confusing aspects of this plot that I have yet to fully explain: Who really killed Betty? Was it Bill? Did he dispose of her body to protect the coordinates that were written on her arm? If so, why put Major Briggs’ body in the bed? (To provide the wedding ring clue about Las Vegas and Janey-E?) If Mr. C (or his cohorts) killed Betty, why did they not get the coordinates right from the start? I believe there are likely forces at work against Mr. C other than Major Briggs. The mysterious voice that claims to be Phillip Jeffries could be that force. It (they) may have killed Betty to keep Mr. C from the coordinates. These seem to be Black Lodge forces that want Bob back in the Lodge. A careful rewatch is likely necessary with some of these ideas and questions in mind.
LS: What do you think of the opening scene of Part 1 (“Listen to the sounds…it is in our house now”) in context of everything we see later on?
JT: Right now my instinct is that this scene takes place after the events of Part 18. Cooper is not wearing his FBI pin in this scene and I think that is important. I believe this Cooper is a transcendent Cooper who now sees himself as more than merely an FBI agent.
LS: There’s lots of chatter about the woman in the Red Room played by Sheryl Lee being Carrie and not Laura. Does this theory hold water in your opinion?
JT: I went down this path for a while. It’s true that the “Laura” we see has Carrie’s hairstyle. But Laura says explicitly in her scenes that she is Laura (what’s more, Lynch refers to her as Laura Palmer in behind-the-scenes footage). Still, I’m not sure this Laura Palmer is entirely trustworthy. She tells Cooper he can “go out now,” which contradicts the Evolution of the Arm who says he cannot go out until his doppelganger comes back in.