Cancelled Catharsis?

Is the Fire Walk With Me ending invalidated by the Season 3 ending?

“Black Lodge/White Lodge” is the occasional 25 Years Later version of the popular point/counterpoint style of debating, wherein two sides take opposing views and hash it out on stage. Here, we’ll be debating the finer points of Twin Peaks lore, in writing, for your reading pleasure.

Today’s debaters are: Josh Lami, Ali Sciarabba and Simon Baré.

The topic is: Is the Fire Walk With Me ending invalidated by the ending of Season 3?

Black Lodge: Josh Lami

I’m looking at the endings as the yin to the other’s yang.

The Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me ending is negated by Twin Peaks: The Return, if in fact either is considered an “ending.” Especially if it’s taken as a replacement and not a parallel. With a world like Twin Peaks having time travel pretty well confirmed, I can’t tell the viewer how to take anything. Was The Return’s ending a replacement for Fire Walk With Me or was it happening alongside? Who’s to say? But until either a fourth season or another film is announced, it’s probably safer to assume this is an erasure of the ending for FWWM, because that would mean The Return is in fact a definitive ending. Why come back 25 years later and make 18 hours of a series that is ostensibly just an Earth 2? It just seems utterly pointless.

In Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, we have Laura Palmer trapped in hell, but not the hell that might be The Red Room or The Black Lodge. Rather she’s trapped in the hell that is her life. She’s addicted to drugs, and if I can be all-too-revealing for a moment, I can say from personal experience, addiction is a hell I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Not to mention she’s dealing with sexual abuse at the hands of her father, while her mother stands idly by. That’s a different kind of hell, and one I thankfully can’t provide any personal insight on.

Her murder, while tragic, is also something of a release. Perhaps it’s not the release she deserved, but it’s the one she got. Something needed to make her pain stop. The wholesome option of exposing Leland, going to rehab and living happily ever after was looking less and less likely, as Laura descended further and further into addiction and being an accomplice to covering up a murder committed by Bobby Briggs. Or maybe that was just self-defense, but regardless, the cover up would make it look bad in court.

In any case, Laura dies, and sometime later (and we really have no idea how much later), Laura is joined by Cooper, crying tears of joy before an angel, having been provided in death, the sweet release she could never achieve in life.

I think I just subconsciously quoted From Dusk Till Dawn.

Now fast forward, rewind, however you want to get to the end of The Return, and watch out for Hector number 3, because there are time crimes being committed. I can’t say with 100 percent certainty what happened at the end of The Return, but one thing seemed clear to me. Cooper screwed something up. Or at least he seems to think he did. Everything seems so perfect as he leads Laura through the woods, everything is going to be OK. I got the distinct impression that Coop was leading Laura Palmer to the end of Fire Walk With Me, but when he turns around to make sure she’s still there, he appears surprised she’s gone. Some form of a plan B appears to ensue.

If the end of FWWM represents Laura’s release, which admittedly, that’s a subjective observation, I’d posit that the stranglehold her parental influences had over her emotional well-being is officially severed. She’s so happy because there is no more Leland, Sarah, Bob, or Judy ruling her existence.

When Cooper lost Laura in the woods, that release was taken back, or perhaps never realized. The end of Fire Walk With Me represents a positive conclusion in the story of Laura Palmer, sure, but does it represent a real one? Or is it one possible conclusion? Either way, The Return’s ending negates such a conclusion, however theoretical.

Laura’s residence in Odessa is a kind of limbo, I perceived. She’s been overwritten completely, in terms of identity and history. But she hasn’t been erased, not completely.

She’s my blank VHS tape with the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards recorded on it. Mom picked it up and taped a bunch of episodes of Touched By An Angel over it. The VMAs are still there, the information is still there, so to speak, you can even see remnants of it, but it would take a video professional a lot of time and energy to fix such a thing and that would cost way more than it’s worth. This isn’t the master copy of “The Zapruder Film,” it’s the VMAs for Christ’s sake.

But seriously mom, it’s been over 20 years and I’m still a little pissed.

In any case, back to Twin Peaks. James was never actually cool and it’s obvious if you watch… wait a minute…

Laura has been overwritten, like a twice-dubbed VHS tape, the data is still there but difficult to retrieve. We could really look at this as a possible neutral ending. Aside from Laura apparently having adopted the Jefferey Dahmer-esque hobby of leaving corpses around her house, — you do you, Laura. I’m here to theorize, not judge — quite frankly, Laura seems more emotionally stable than she did toward the end of Fire Walk With Me.

Cooper could have left well enough alone and let this poor, tormented woman live out the rest of her days as happily as The Black Lodge appears willing to allow, but he simply can’t resist his need to save the day. He sets out to take Laura back to Twin Peaks so everyone can live happily ever after.

It appears his plan is basically to pick Laura up, drive her to her old house, knock on the door, and… see what happens. I’m not trying to over simplify, but nearest I can figure, that was his move.

When nothing happens, Coop appears defeated, confused, and frustrated.

So. The hell. Were we.

But just before Twin Peaks ends with “welp…” Laura hears the voice of her mother, presumably connects some dots, and screams a scream that’ll make you wonder why they call Jamie Lee Curtis the scream queen.

The lights shut off, the Twin Peaks audience now wishes “How’s Annie?” was still their biggest problem, and David Chase would like a word.

It’s my position that Laura hearing the voice of her mother represents Laura going back to begin the cycle. Trapped once again in the cycle of sexual abuse and addiction. Twin Peaks: The Return is a rescinding of Miss Palmer’s beautiful ending in Fire Walk With Me. She either had it revoked, or it was a mirage all along.

One way or another, that angel and the happy tears isn’t happening.

Now my position is contingent on one very important point. It only works is The Return is the true end to Twin Peaks. If more is made, it’s entirely possible that this whole thing is one step in a longer plan. If so, maybe we will still get that ending. But Showtime said it was conceived as a one-off. If nothing else ever materializes, we have to assume this is the definitive ending of Twin Peaks. And it’s not a happy one.

However, I also want to posit one more theory. It’s also possible that The Return neither negated, nor secured the ending for Fire Walk With Me, but instead had nothing to do with it. Perhaps the ending of FFWM is a non-sequiter. Perhaps the ending of The Return is the non-sequiter. It’s really hard to say because Lynch is not only unafraid of throwing a random scene into his work just for the sake of doing it, it’s actually kind of his thing.

Evil Cooper gets killed and resurrected, then we watch a Nine Inch Nails video, followed by a nuclear explosion, a psilocybin mushroom experience, woodsmen, a poetry reading, and an amphibious winged creature making herself at home aside the tonsils of a child. Then we see Evil Coop walk back to town. So in the interest of full disclosure, I do feel there’s still at least some room left for interpretation of Twin Peaks.

Truth be told, I never saw the ending of FWWM as any kind of definitive ending, even when that was all I had. It always seemed a bit whimsical, a tease, even. As if to say: “is this what you were expecting?” Alternatively, I also considered it an image Lynch just personally wanted to see. As if to say “there’s so much unpleasantness in the world. Wouldn’t this be nice?” There’s a scene in The Return where Harry Dean Stanton’s character lets a man get away with not paying rent. Moreover, he gives the man an extra $50. What? That would never happen in the real world. It struck me then as simply a nice thought. Something that never happens in the real world, but that Lynch would like to see happen. Instead of wishing, he makes it so. Sure, it’s also character development, but for what? The character is obviously there because Lynch wanted Harry Dean in the show. He serves no function other than to stand around and be Harry Dead Stanton, and thank God.

No one needs an excuse for Harry Dean and Lynch needs an excuse for no one. It makes perfect sense and I’d like the show less without the character.

That said, it’s superfluous.

The ending of Fire Walk With Me always felt like that to me. Extra.

But still beautiful. That said, if it’s the definitive end up to that point, it sure as hell isn’t now. And either way, The Return negates it as something to take as an ending to Twin Peaks.

And with that, I drop the mic.

White Lodge: Ali Sciarabba

Like everything else in the Twin Peaks universe, the ending of the prequel film Fire Walk With Me is subject to interpretation. Many of us chose to read it as a happy ending for the long-suffering Laura Palmer. The angels hadn’t gone away after all—hers was there for her in the end. We see Laura laughing and crying, and she looks happy, though it’s not clear exactly why. Still, there is a general feeling of salvation for Laura at the end of her traumatic journey through life.

Like many others, the ending of The Return shook me. I could barely sleep that night, and for a long time I was unable to rewatch the final two parts of the series. But it’s been almost a year since the finale aired and I’ve been able to go back and revisit it and try to make sense of it all—at least, as much as one can when it comes to Twin Peaks.

The question of whether The Return invalidates the ending of FWWM is a good one and a tough one. For me, Fire Walk With Me is the most important part of the Twin Peaks universe because it gave Laura a voice in her own story. It did not shy away from the trauma that shaped who she was. Most importantly, it gave her what I chose to believe was a happy ending. However, the events of The Return necessitate a closer look at the ending of the film. While I don’t believe that the new season invalidates the ending, I do feel it requires a reinterpretation of what I thought the ending was.

I will admit to searching for an interpretation of The Return that suits my needs when it comes to giving Laura a happy ending, which seems a difficult task given how it ended. But I would argue that The Return is not the end of Laura’s story, but a chapter somewhere in the middle. The Return made it clear that time—at least, linear time—in the Twin Peaks universe is wonky at best. Is it future or is it past? We’ve been asked this many times before but the final two parts of The Return make it clear that it is the most crucial question in all of Twin Peaks, and not one we’ll ever get a concrete answer to.

In the case of Laura’s happy “ending” in Fire Walk With Me, I now see it as more of a beginning. I believe that, between Cooper and the angel, Laura learns that she still has a long and difficult path ahead of her, but that she has a vital part to play in everything. Many have argued that the Laura Orb that The Fireman creates presents an interpretation of Laura Palmer that takes away her agency and strips her of any power she had over her own life. I choose to believe that it’s just one more sign that Laura is The One, and I think that the end of FWWM is her discovering this fact.

Laura’s short life was filled with unspeakable evil over which she had no control, and I think she would feel empowered by the fact that, in the grand scheme of things, she is more important than she could have ever imagined. Of course, if Laura was given a glimpse through time at all that has happened and all that will happen—filling her with secrets, if you will—she would have also seen that she and Cooper are tied to each other, stuck in a loop where he tries and fails to save her. Perhaps Laura’s interpretation of failure is different from Cooper’s. Perhaps she sees a chance at living many different lives as a blessing, even if ultimately it all keeps coming back to the Palmer House in Twin Peaks, Washington.

But is that really where it ends? What year is this?

I don’t think that the ending of Part 18 is the end of either Cooper’s story or Laura’s story. Not to say that I think we will ever get more Twin Peaks, but that doesn’t really matter. What the ending of FWWM does is allow us to read the end of The Return differently, and not the other way around. If Laura knows everything—and I think her angel gave her answers she sought—then she knows how it all ends. She knows what is future and what is past. The fact that she’s both crying and laughing is understandable, because there is more suffering to come, but Laura always did have a dark sense of humor.

Bobby told us all: “Save your prayers, she would have laughed at them anyway.” And laugh she did, because the sheer absurdity of the situation is kind of laughable when you think about it, even (or perhaps especially) for a person like Laura who has experienced such darkness and has a connection to the otherworldly. She may be stuck in the Lodge and destined to get pulled in and out as Cooper fumbles his way through The Fireman’s plan over and over again, but The Fireman does have a plan, and she is a central part of it. If ever there was something to laugh and cry about, it’s that.


Red Room: Simon Baré

In this space, and debate, we are specifically trying to make sense of Laura’s journey, and the repercussions of Cooper’s actions in The Return on her final destination in Fire Walk With Me. The sticking point is the fear that Laura’s redemption and seeming salvation in Fire Walk With Me is negated by Cooper’s altering the timeline in The Return. This to my eye however is not what we are seeing.  What we witness at the end of Fire Walk With Me is instead a fragmentary moment of clarity experienced by Laura amidst a plethora of scrambled, refracted and looping transmissions, that reflect the splintered nature of this Twin Peaks reality and the personalities that reside within it.

This fragmentation is beautifully represented in the static employed by Lynch in Fire Walk With Me. It is first encountered at the beginning of the film, then after, during the death of Teresa Banks, superimposed over Cooper’s encounter with Phillip Jeffries, and again, when Laura is beckoned over by Mrs. Tremond outside the Double R Dinner. During all these scenes we are exposed to  realities, timelines, personalities, perception, and memory decoupled from linear reality and narrative that requires to be approached and understood through various interchangeable theories. These include split timelines, multiple universes theory, delusional self-projection, and trauma induced cognitive disassociation disorders. However no matter which combination of theories we use the time line always loops back on itself, changing incrementally, bringing variation but no definitive culmination, and always with Laura and Cooper finding themselves together again located in the Waiting Room.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 6.04.22 pm

This looping to and from the Waiting Room can be found in Fire Walk With Me, in the original television series and in The Return. Fire Walk With Me explicitly shows us that even before Cooper arrives in Twin Peaks to investigate her murder, Laura has already interacted with him, as well as with Annie, in a dream and transcribed a message from Annie into her diary. This encounter and the message simultaneously locates Laura, with Dale and Annie in the Black Lodge, as well as in her bedroom, and as such as being both alive and dead, and existing in at least two separate realities at the same time. In this instance the past does not dictate the future, the future is instead dictated in the past, and the looping nature of this reality is laid bare for all to see, well before Cooper meddles in his or Laura’s timelines. Am I saying that the loop invalidates the ending of Fire Walk With Me? No. It only invalidates the reading that Laura has somehow transcended her reality and been saved from the torment and the trauma she suffered.

At a personal level I was never completely comfortable with the ending of Fire Walk With Me because Laura’s agency and release was facilitated through a murder suicide pact, an act of self-negation that in no way corresponded with an enlightened acknowledgment of no-self or an acceptance of suffering and impermanence. Yes Laura prevented Ronette’s death but this was as much an act of will as it was of sacrifice. I was also always uncomfortable with the Judaeo-Christian iconography that seemed cosmologically out of place amidst the transcendentalism and pan theistic realms of Twin Peaks. (I am far more comfortable with the absurdism expressed at the end of part 18 and its re-colouring of all of Twin Peaks.) And again the happy-ever-after ending reading felt too simplistic when it is just as complicated as Cooper’s final scene with Carrie/Laura in The Return.  Laura’s trauma is too complex a thing to be resolved in one act of release, especially in a realm so ill-defined and lacking in finitude as that of the lodge realities.  Laura may have found a moment of respite while envisioning her Angel, which I prefer to see as a projection of herself, but afterwards, her traumatic existence would demand and require ongoing navigation and exploration before any form of reconciliation or peace could be got at.


The catharsis witnessed in this final Fire Walk With Me scene is in some ways an acknowledgment of repressed suffering and inner conflict. This sense of growing gnosis is however undercut by the uncanny way in which the scene plays out. How so? When Laura finds herself in the Waiting Room, she is initially overwhelmed. Cooper tries to console her, as she consoles him in similar circumstances, but it is the blue flickering light that heralds the Angel‘s presence that incites her ecstatic and complicated outpouring of emotion. While Laura laughs and cries the Angel rises into the air and pauses superimposed over the statue of Venus. This symbolism connects Laura’s to the Angel and to the goddess of love, fertility, prostitution and victory. And in this Goddess we find a further correlation through the name Laura, meaning victory, symbolised in the classical laurel wreath. This is where the image we see becomes something else and hints that the appearance of things are not what they seem. As the Angel rises and hovers on high it become entangled in a gesture, repetitively moving its preying hands backwards and forwards through an ongoing action and reverse action. This may of course just be a technical quirk of the optical process used to generate this superimposition. However we know that Lynch more often than not employs less than seamless effects to further narrative, and to engender an uncanny presence into his work.  In the scene just before this one we see another effect with the Man From Another Place magically drawing corn into his mouth. This shot was filmed in reverse with Michael J Anderson, forcing the corn out of his mouth onto the clean spoon with his tongue. When printed and edited into the film this footage appeared to show the opposite action creating an uncanny impression. This was done deliberately, is transparent and part and parcel of Lynch’s filmmaking tool box. Why then should we assume the Angel’s hand gestures is not created with the same intent, and that this glitch is emblematic of the glitching witnessed throughout The Return, within Sarah Palmer’s house, and heard in the gramophone music played by Senorita Dido, in what I assume is the While Lodge. At the very least this angelic repetition indicates to me that Laura’s catharsis is not the complete picture. It is instead indicative of a fractured relationship with reality and personality that suggests the cycle is not complete.

This same process is exhibited not only in Laura’s narrative but in that of Cooper, Audrey, Diane and Annie’s journeys. These are also traits exhibits by Laura well before The Return was conceptualised.  Between Fire Walk With Me and the Original Series’ Laura is both subject and object within the world of Twin Peaks[1].  In the original series she is the object of romantic and sexual projection, intrigue, and investigation. In this world she is and was many things to different people, but never herself.  As the subject of Fire Walk With Me we also see Laura performing and projecting herself in response to the expectations of others and the environments and circumstances in which she finds herself. We see this in an early scene when Bobby catches up with her after school demanding to know where and with whom she has been. In this scene Laura performs and projects two different identities into the world as if by flicking a switch off and on, moving from the cold and terrible Laura to the dutiful and loving girlfriend in an instant. This scene also plays out in other strange ways, with Bobby completely taken in by both Laura’s, arguing with her then making up on a dial despite the transparent and overt transition in her persona. It could be argued that Bobby is not seeing Laura but seeing what he wants to. This might seem reasonable however the scenes eye-lines are blocked in an unusual fashion with both characters seemingly looking straight past each other as if neither are there. This creates the impression that this is a rehearsed or fabricated reality taking place in Laura’s mind, allowing her the complete control of her reality she does not exercise in real life.

To my mind Laura only seems truly herself when she acknowledges this state of flux.  We see it in The Return when Laura removes the mask she wears and reveals what lies behind — perhaps the pure Laura or perhaps her absence. We see it again after she screams as Carrie outside of the Tremond House in Part 18, and returns to the Waiting Room where she again appears to be fully herself and able to negotiated this reality with ease. Yet for the most part Laura is a fragmented creature attempting to make sense of her circumstances, unable to put the pieces of her identity back in place. This is acknowledged by her in the Waiting Room scene with Cooper in both the originals series and in The Return when she tells him:

LAURA/CARRIE. I feel like Laura Palmer but sometimes my arms bend back.

COOPER. But you are Laura Palmer.

LAURA/CARRIE. I am Laura Palmer. I am dead, yet I live.

This fracturing of identity is also metaphorically signposted in the opening scene of Fire Walk With Me when the opening credits play over blue television static, which we later learn is located in Teresa Banks’ hotel room. The very room in which Leland  murders her.  But what is this static?  Static is a Lynchian trope used as a signifier of scrambled and confused identity and psychology, of violence, and as a symbolic marker of lodge realms and activity, through the conduit of electricity. Static, is also a marker of absence, the lack of a clear transmission signal, and an indicator of random electromagnetic and radio noise, generated by nearby electrical devices, radio waves, and cosmic background microwave radiation. This background radiation is a remnant of signals generated just moments after the big bang brought this universe into existence. It was generated in a maelstrom of colliding particles, electrons and protons, and emitted photons, that hurtled on through time and space into the furthest reaches of our reality.  While this static can be explained within the meta television/film commentary of Fire Walk With Me, it is also clearly employed in The Return, Part 8, in a cosmological and metaphoric sense through the imagery and sound employed to portray the trinity test. We also see this in Part 3, in the space Cooper falls through into the Mauve World, and again in the original series in Major Brigg’s print out of the COOPER, COOPER, COPPER signal captured by technology designed for listening to the same radio waves traveling through deep space.

Screen Shot 2018-05-28 at 7.16.28 pmFWWM: Laura Falling through space.

In Fire Walk With Me this process is also evident in Laura description of falling through space and bursting into flames, because there are no Angels to save her. It is for this reason that it could be argued that Laura dreams Dale, and other dreams, within a liminal space to help navigate and escape the trauma that has fractured her reality.  In this space Cooper plays the part of an imagined white knight Laura fantasies will come to her rescue.  In another dream she escapes the abuse of her father by embracing her death. And in another Cooper prevents her death. And in another she is spirited away by ambiguous and possibly monstrous entities that allows her to live another life away from that of her own. However no matter what reality she is placed in Laura is unable to find respite. The trauma is always with her and must be returned to and navigated for her to reform her fractured identity into a coherent whole once more.

The key to understanding this is I believe apparent in Cooper‘s objective to take Laura home. This is not about returning Laura to the sight of rape and abuse but instead something different. For Lynch the home is a space of mystery and the locality of narrative possibility, but more often than not the house and home are utilised as projections of self rather than as a physical locations or an address or a series of coordinates.

Throughout Lynch’s art and film work the home is invariably used as the locus of existential anxiety, mental instability and violence. “Peter Klaus Schuster writes, in his essay about David Lynch “The Uncertain House”, for Lynch “houses are participants in human drama”[2] … and that “houses and their inhabitants become identical, as implied by the title of Lynch’s painting Here I Am – Me as a House !”[3] and Who is in My Music House? This is apparent in almost all of Lynch’s film and art practice, and explored through characters like Henry, Diane, Fred, Pete and Dorothy, who like Laura are never at home within themselves or in the world[4].  As such Lynch does not deny us the so called happy ending of Fire Walk With Me but instead completes the journey, or rather makes that completion possible by having Laura recognise her own return and all that it implies. By coming back to herself Laura can now begin the process of reconstituting herself and re-coupling her identity to the frame of her body and fragmented psyche wherever it may be.  And perhaps when she is done the dissolute fragmented static flying through space can be reconstituted into a clear and coherent signal.


Baré, Simon. “This Is Me, My House (Negotiating Meaning Amidst the Betwixt and between of an Absurd Existence).” University of Sydney, 2016.

McGowan, Todd. The Impossible David Lynch . Film and Culture Series. Edited by John Belton New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Schuster, Peter-Klaus. “The Uncertain House: David Lynch in Hollywood.” In David Lynch – Dark Splendor , edited by Werner Spies. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2010.


[1] Todd McGowan, The Impossible David Lynch, ed. John Belton, Film and Culture Series (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007), 129-153

[2] Peter-Klaus Schuster, “The Uncertain House: David Lynch in Hollywood,” in David Lynch – Dark Splendor, ed. Werner Spies (Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2010), 116. The title of this painting provided the inspiration for the title of this thesis, 116.

[3] Baré, Simon. This Is Me, My House: Negotiating Meaning Amidst the Betwixt and between of an Absurd Existence. (University of Sydney, 2016), 4.

[4] Schuster The Uncertain House: David Lynch in Hollywood,”. 127

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