June 10th, 1991: Twin Peaks Season 2 ends with its final 2 hours being shown back to back on ABC. The first hour features much more of the cast with the second hour being primarily focused on Agent Cooper, where he is reunited with Laura Palmer (in Doppelgänger form) in the Red Room. Cooper’s journey in the second hour is complex, haunting and not only leaves fans pondering his future but also asking, “How’s Annie?”
September 3rd, 2017: Twin Peaks Season 3 ends with its final 2 hours being shown back to back on Showtime. The first hour features much more of the cast with the second hour being primarily focused on Agent Cooper, where he is reunited with Laura Palmer (as Carrie Page) in a time and space that can only be speculated about. Cooper’s journey in the second hour is complex, haunting and not only leaves fans pondering his future but also asking, “What year is this?”
Twin Peaks Season 3 was a journey unlike any other I’d ever been on before. An 18-hour film, split up into weekly installments was already different enough from a normal television viewing experience, but then there’s the issue of the content. During my initial viewing of the series, I, like most, spent a lot of time wondering when certain things would happen. When would Cooper be himself again and get back to Twin Peaks? When would we see certain characters reunite and give us those warm nostalgic feelings? Then there were larger picture questions, such as “What’s the end game?” and “What’s the story ultimately trying to accomplish?” — questions that a regular series would establish early and beat you over the head with. Not here, not at all. This story was large, complex and could in no way, shape, or form be digested in one viewing. Twin Peaks Season 3 was a tightly-wrapped gift that requires layers upon layers being pulled away through multiple rewatches to get to what Lynch and Frost were trying to accomplish. Even then, we’re not all going to see the same thing.
Parts 17 and 18 in a rewatch brings about a magic of sorts. I found myself much more invested in the moments themselves rather than focusing on trying to connect the dots of the larger story. One thing that I noticed was that they gave us what we wanted at times, but in the form we needed it in. When Mr. C had his season-long plan to find Judy at the Palmer house thwarted by The Fireman and wound up at the Sheriff’s station, our desire to see Cooper back there was toyed with. We got his double instead. Despite knowing what happens next, that feeling of dread and suspense when Mr. C sits across from Frank Truman is strong. Of course part of that comes from how well Lynch and Frost built Mr. C up as a villain throughout the season but also part of that is the feeling of emotional manipulation. We’ve watched 16 hours of this show now, wanting our Cooper back in the locations and with the people we associate him with. What we got was his double instead. In the back of our minds, we know 16 hours into this show that Lynch and Frost are capable of anything. Could Mr. C kill our beloved Andy or Lucy before Cooper can see them again? Will we ever get to see the reunions we long for? Emotional manipulation is a powerful tool, and Lynch and Frost are the masters.
Part 17, in particular, gave us so much of what we longed for the entire season. Every time I see our Agent Cooper run inside the Sheriff’s station, briefly acknowledging Andy, I feel an overwhelming sense of home, for lack of a better term. Cooper, in that hallway with Andy. It felt comfortable, it felt right, and it’s what I thought I wanted to see a lot of throughout Season 3. All of Cooper’s reunions were to happen in Part 17, all at once but taking place in an action-packed, mind-bender of a scene. We got to see what we wanted but in the form that we needed it. Brief and part of a larger purpose. I’d always known that Season 3 had it’s own Modus Operandi — it was never going to be a return to the Double R where the gang caught up on 25 years of stories over coffee and pie — but during a rewatch when I’m less concerned about plot, I can truly feel all of those feelings wash over me as Hawk nods at Cooper or Bobby Briggs stands before Cooper as a police officer and no longer the punk kid as Cooper last knew him. Maybe we thought we wanted these things in bigger, more drawn out doses but this story was taking us other places.
Perhaps the greatest example of Lynch and Frost taking what we wanted and giving it to us in a form we never saw coming was the final moments of Part 17. After Cooper attempted to change the course of events in 1989, we were treated to the sight of Joan Chen from the opening moments of the Pilot episode. Fans clamored for certain characters from the original series, wondering if there were unannounced cast members we would be treated to. By showing us the exact sequence of events from the pilot with Josie, Catherine, and the late, great Jack Nance’s beloved character Pete, every long time Peaks fan I knew nearly had their hearts jump out of their chest. Yes, people speculated over surprise returns, but nobody expected this, especially Pete. It made our hearts, to quote Cooper, so full, only to take that jolt of pure happiness and nostalgic warmth and twist it on its head. Pete didn’t find a body wrapped in plastic. He actually did go fishing, and now we went from pure bliss to questioning everything we knew. Emotional manipulation at its finest and I for one wasn’t complaining.
The sequence of events where Laura is pulled away from Cooper in the woods, followed by Sarah’s meltdown in her living room that concludes with Julee Cruise playing in The Roadhouse may be my favorite several minute period of all of Season 3, an opinion this rewatch really had me double down on. I didn’t have many criticisms of Season 3, but the one thing I longed for from the original series and Fire Walk With Me was that sense of truly terrifying suspense and that mood and atmosphere that Lynch directed Twin Peaks provides. You know, where something as simple as a streetlight can seem ominous? That mood and sense of suspense was largely absent from Season 3 except for in these closing moments of Part 17. Sarah Palmer brutally destroying the photo of her deceased daughter was eerily reminiscent of Leland dancing with Laura’s photo before breaking it and cutting himself, only replace Leland’s sadness with pure rage here. A callback of sorts with a startling new emotion on display, an act of aggression that truly left me unsettled and wondering what was going on in that house? Cut to Julee Cruise, singing a song that we Twin Peaks fans associate with death and damn, Part 17 has just taken me on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, and there’s still an hour left to go.
I never really thought about the symmetry of how Season 2 ended and how Season 3 ended until recently. To revisit a previous point, there’s simply so much going on narrative-wise that you need multiple viewings to get past the plot and really focus on the characters and the situations, or at least I did anyway. Having taken a step back from trying to connect the dots, it’s really no surprise that Part 18 focused so heavily on Cooper and Laura. They are the collective soul of this story, after all. There was always so much speculation as to how Laura would play into the Season 3 story, and despite her picture opening the credits every week, we still didn’t really know how she would factor into things until we got to these final hours. To have Part 18 be so heavily Cooper and Laura centric just felt right. Maybe they weren’t the “versions” of themselves we wanted to see together, but it was still our two heroes, coming together after their long strange journeys in the previous 16 hours to get here. If this is truly the end of Twin Peaks, it had to end with them.
Like the previous examples I gave of our desire for nostalgia being played with, “Richard” and “Carrie” is the greatest example at all. As the minutes drew closer and closer to the eventual ending of this final hour, it became more and more apparent that it was more about these characters than any major finale type event that could happen. While I never minded the several-minute-long driving scene, I’ve come to truly love it. Here we are, spending time with our two lead characters who are both confused and out of place so to speak and we are getting to bear witness to something that had only previously happened in dreams — Laura Palmer and Agent Cooper together. She is dead, yet she lives. There’s an emotional magnitude to that driving scene that is easy to overlook. The dead girl and the Special Agent she summoned in her dreams are finally together, wherever they are and regardless of who they think they might be.
Just like the premature ending to Season 2, Part 18 of Season 3 leaves us much the same — with an unclear but not exactly great looking fate for Agent Cooper. Granted, there is more hope for the character here than there was after the ending of Season 2, but from a storytelling perspective, the endings are very similar. So much has been made of the circular nature of the story of Twin Peaks and here is perhaps the greatest example of them all. Just like with all things Twin Peaks, I do not doubt that there is great meaning in the similarities between these endings. Perhaps I’ll spend my next rewatch trying to figure that one out.
Thanks to everyone who has participated in our #ReturnRewatch! From the live tweeting every Sunday night to these new articles on each Part and new exclusive cast and crew interviews every week, this has been a huge undertaking on the part of the 25YL team, and your participation and enjoyment made it all worthwhile.
If you would like to read some more of our theory and analysis style work on Parts 17 and 18, please check out the following!