Twin Peaks Season 3 has taken a lot of flack for not feeling like there are protagonists, antagonists, or even things they want. At the time, I knew it had to be purposeful, but all the same I couldn’t quite understand it. But over time, I’ve come to this conclusion:
I think Season 3 is all about how characters come to make the decision to break through their trauma and send their energy in a positive direction (to the Timeline, where the truth is that Laura dies) or a negative direction (to Lodgespace, where Carrie unrecognizably lives).
In Part 1, we looked at Season 3 as a state of reality situated between the Timeline (the material state of reality) and Lodgespace (the non-material state of reality). In Part 2, we looked at the in-between state of reality as if it were a mirror, then how it was likely formed by Dale Cooper and his doppelganger when they switched states of reality with each other. In Part 3, we explored how both the Timeline and Lodgespace are tethered onto this in-between state of reality, fortifying both its shape and its solidity.
And in this part, we’re going to look into how the characters we see in Twin Peaks navigate this shape of tunable reality.
The option for characters to choose between Timeline and Lodgespace is, as I’ve explained earlier, best exemplified by this exchange between Lucy and the Insurance Salesman in Season 3 Part 1:
Insurance Salesman: “I’d like to see Sheriff Truman.”
Lucy: “Which one?”
IS: “Sheriff Truman isn’t here?”
L: “Well, do you know which one? It could make a difference.”
IS: “Uh, no, ma’am.”
L: “One is sick, and the other is fishing.”
What happens to the salesmen after these words? He panics and leaves before choosing to speak to either sheriff. He didn’t know which one to speak with so he spoke to neither.
His indecision is a microcosm of every character struggle in Season 3: the characters are frozen in place by trauma and/or stagnation, and their biggest struggle is to break through the barrier that strands them in their personal and external trauma. Trauma freezes you in place. So does being stuck in a rut. Your energy is not flowing. It’s stuck in the middle, not part of the flow that goes between and through the material and non-material states of reality, what I’m calling the Timeline and Lodgespace. Scream. Break the dam. Your energy will flow again. You are no longer stuck between states. You are traveling again.
And once your energy begins moving, you can choose how to direct your energy, as best expressed by this dialogue between Hawk and Frank in Part 11:
Hawk: “[the symbol]’s a type of fire, more like modern day electricity.”
Hawk: “It depends. It depends on the intention, the intention behind the fire.”
I still firmly believe what I wrote in The Central Question of Twin Peaks: When confronted with trauma, do you look away or shovel yourself out? where I suggested that every character in Season 3 processes their trauma and then immediately leaves the story. Now that I’ve dissected the reality structure as I have in the first three parts of this exploration, I can finally offer you a plausible reason as to how and why this happens. Most of it involves tuning from the in-between state to either the Timeline or Lodgespace, which to viewers usually looks like someone remembering something.
Breakthroughs are a major focus in Season 3. Every time someone screams, you know someone’s broken through their wall and woken up. But it takes a lot to get to that moment. It takes a while. Remember how long it took Dale to wake up? Surely, Dougie drinking the coffee will wake up Cooper, right? Surely, sex with Janey-E will wake him up. That “damn good” pie with the Mitchums, right? Everything in Season 3 felt like the perfect trigger to get Dale Cooper back to us, but it wasn’t just one of those things. It was all of them, added together, adding weight until the veil was pushed back and Dale had no choice but to “wake up!”
We’re going to see the characters we remember this week, right? It took way longer into new Twin Peaks than we were expecting before we saw characters we were dying to see again (read: Audrey, Big Ed) and when they did arrive they were not announced with any major gravitas. They just showed up.
We’re going to have a breakthrough and energy will start moving in a positive direction now, right? It always takes longer than you think to heal, doesn’t it? And you never know you’re healed, you never know you actually processed your trauma, until you do. And you probably already did it before you realize you’ve done it.
I will show you here how the characters get to the point of jump-starting their energy, and how their breakthroughs allow themselves to see the Timeline or Lodgespace clearly enough that they decide to anchor themselves to one or the other, rather than the interminable state between, belonging to neither.
The Trauma Cycle – how characters were caught between
Trauma freezes energy. It stalls it to a hard stop. Stagnation, the force that puts Norma and Ed into Season 3, sets in. In terms of the energy flow as described earlier, it looks like this:
A character’s energy needs a shock to its system to be restarted. It’s what Dale eventually understood when he put that fork in the socket: he needed to restart his energy flow as part of the system of natural energy that he knew he wanted to be a part of again.
His cycle looked more like this:
Dale’s chronological path through dealing with his trauma was shown to us in Lodge loops, which I described in the second part of this exploration as follows:
- 1st Loop: Timeline-adjacent, but the one that interrupts the natural timeline events (such as Hawk not meeting Dale as the Lodge curtains in Part 2). This is also where DoppelCooper makes the glass box and amasses his criminal empire and wealth while Dale is in the Waiting Room.
- 2nd Loop: This begins with Dale leaving through Non-Existence, lives as Dougie Jones, and ends in all the superhero stuff at the sheriff station. This is the only loop that specifically mentions Judy, Freddie, an unofficial version, or any plan between Briggs, Cooper and Cole. It’s also the only loop that includes Sarah Palmer as a possessed woman, Experiment, Experiment Model, or the Fireman and Dido sending a Laura orb into the world through their junction point.
- 3rd Loop: This is a dark world where very few people are. As far as I’m concerned, this is the dream Margaret warns Hawk about, and this is the one where Laura Palmer is Carrie Page and Diane somehow becomes Linda as she likely detaches from the dream midway through. This is Dale’s hubris run amok as he ignores the fact of genuine history.
- There is a 4th Loop that just begins as well. It could be a full reset because it begins with the whisper from Laura rather than “Is it future or is it past,” but we may never know because it begins in the final credits of Part 18 and is currently unfinished. More on the 4th loop later.
I’ve broken down the stages each character uses to process their trauma:
And then I’ve matched it up to the timeline of Cooper’s loops, per Cooper’s greater arc of processing the trauma he incurred when he entered the Lodge:
Dale’s point of trauma in this case is the Episode 29 events in the Waiting Room. The moment that restarts his energy from that point is not the fork (that was a smaller point of understanding) but “what year is this?” Understanding that he’s disconnected from time is a trauma that Jeffries went through and that Dale is now going through. Dale is at a precipice in the final credits. Will he decide (at all) if he’ll use his energy for the positive, re-embrace the timeline and repent for the trauma he caused to the timeline during his loops (much as Ben Horne did in The Final Dossier for inviting the prison into the Twin Peaks area when he sold his land, and now tries to help where he can whenever he can) or will Dale choose to become a monster in the vein of like Phillip Jeffries, or be like Sarah Palmer, feeling like she must have been a monster and therefore invited a monster inside her retroactively.
Will Carrie’s scream wake Dale up (“Finally!”) or will he stay in the dark dream like little Denny Craig, who per Maggie in Part 4 took Sparkle, the bell rang (what was supposed to shock Denny’s system awake), and he just never woke up?
Last time, I focused mostly on Margaret’s words in Part 10 about a dream flowing like a river at her. This time I’ll be focusing on Lucy’s words about which Truman that Insurance Salesman wants to see, and Hawk’s words to Frank about the intention behind the fire, which I equate to the intention of your energy showing you the Timeline or Lodgespace.
Travelers and passengers
Margaret Coulson, in Final Dossier, spoke of passengers and travelers, and striving to be a traveler because a traveler embraces and fosters Light, both in oneself and in others.
I include this, which was from the Final Dossier Deep Dive here on 25YL:
“Don’t be sad. Be happy to have another day to do what needs doing.” It implies sadness is an emotion associated with being stuck in place. She goes on to say there is no light without darkness and we should make peace with that. And, whether we see that as a metaphor or fact “both tell us that time—and light, and darkness—move in cycles. We move through them, too, often as passengers, but if our eyes are open, there is much to be learned along the way. A traveler learns more than a passenger. When darkness comes, a traveler learns to be brave, for they know the light will return.”
Much as Cooper is going through the stages of trauma, or being asleep, everyone in Season 3 is one of the people Margaret speaks of in Final Dossier.
Travelers know who they are and are heading for the Timeline.
Passengers don’t take responsibility to know themselves and they allow darkness to cover them. Their energy remains stagnant when their bell rings.
In terms of fitting the concept of travelers and passengers next to Season 3 concepts, I give you these associations:
Most people in Season 3 spend time as both travelers and passengers, oscillating between the two outlooks not unlike that clock in the sheriff department unable to move backward to 2:52 (which would be 3rd Loop in this metaphor) or forward to 2:53 (1st loop), spending most of its energy in between them (2nd Loop). We also see this metaphor in the arm wrestling scene. It’s more comfortable to go back to the starting position of indecision.
Oscillations keep characters spinning in place, stuck in loops, or otherwise unable to break through to win the match or make the clock hands move all the way. How does someone punch the resistance in the face, so you can break through the logjam (or negativity) holding you in place?
By fixing your heart.
How do you go about fixing your heart rather than dying? With the tool introduced in the very first non-Lodgespace scene of Season 3: the golden shovel. And I assure you, the two coats(!) are absolutely necessary.
In Part 1 we saw the shovels arrive but didn’t know what they were or where they were going. All we knew by the end of the extended scene was that Jacoby wanted this delivery.
The next time we see the shovels, Jacoby is in his properly protective gear spraying a coat of paint.
Then we finally see Jacoby in his full Dr. Amp glory and we’re laughing our asses off. that’s what the shovels were for??
But then we see more Dr. Amp shows, and we even see the commercial again. And we feel the message in a different light.
Then we see Nadine using the advice in her own life and it bankshots into Ed and Norma getting together.
Think of the feelings evoked in you when you first watched these scenes as we look again at the shovel stages, this time against the thematically similar message of help delivered to Bobby in Major Briggs’ message pod. The pod contains a message which also involves a slow-reveal process just to see the message, and in its way the pod is also a physical microcosm of the path from trauma to understanding:
For yet more similarities, let’s line the shovel stages up against Dale’s chronological timeline, as well as the trauma cycle:
If you use a golden shovel, you choose positive energy. You choose life. You choose to be a traveler.
The process of readying the shovels mirrors how Dr. Jacoby readied himself, including two moves from Twin Peaks to Hawaii placed exactly even with where the shovels would be getting their gold coats:
Jacoby’s reason to first go to Hawaii was because his father was stationed there. He was also separated from his brother and father, who returned to Twin Peaks much earlier than he did. This lines up with a point of trauma, so perhaps the division of his family was an equivalent event in his life.
Eventually, after some spiritual quests (where per The Secret History of Twin Peaks he met a number of creatures that appeared to look like the Fireman) he returned to Twin Peaks, where he tried to help people as a psychologist but ended up not helping Laura Palmer at all. Near the end of SHoTP, as he realizes he’ll probably lose his license to practice, he says this:
But the truth is Laura’s death has broken me. My own belief system—the fantasy that I could hold these worlds in balance—inner life, outer reality—and bring the truth of one closer to the other, like some free-thinking hippie Prometheus, is shattered. What a hapless fool I’ve been. Actions have consequences. Whatever happens from here, whatever the squares decide about my professional fate, if I can survive this ordeal, find the strength to dig my way out of it, I make this vow: no more lies. Only truth. Straight up. To everyone.
This is most definitely Jacoby’s breakthrough point, and the reason he leaves for Hawaii for a second time. This matches up with the second coat, and the point where people scream to restart their stagnant energy.
From this point forward, Jacoby began learning all he could about helping people in multiple studies, and eventually he created his Dr. Amp persona and the golden shovel metaphor. This is how he was going to help. He wanted to help people reach the same conclusion he did: that living within a deception where actions don’t have consequences is not the answer. He needed to dig himself out of the shit. And he wanted to become a proverbial golden shovel to help others start their own process.
If you choose to use a shovel, it looks like this:
Call For Help
Jacoby almost literally became a golden shovel for Nadine. Let’s look at Nadine’s Season 3 arc matched up with the trauma cycle, as well as to the shovels:
Continuing to follow the bankshot, let’s look at how Ed is released by Nadine in Part 15, then goes through his own evolution:
There’s more of this helping pattern than just the straight line from Jacoby’s help. It appears every character connected to the Fireman finds a way to help someone. Carl Rodd, for example, helps the hit and run mom in her moment of need; his compassion frees her from being stuck in a loop of despair. Positive energy directed towards someone else is the help that allows the other person’s energy to begin moving again. And their energy can resume being part of the energy cycle between material and non-material universes or whatever you want to call it.
If I had to explain the full shape of a trauma cycle, it’d look like this:
I think Dale, as a full-on magician in Part 17, thinks he’s doing this kind of work:
Except he’s only in loop 3 at the time. He’s only here:
Dale thinks he’s helping, I honestly think that, but he is “far away.” He doesn’t even have his shovel yet. He needs to reach a certain point alchemy-wise to do the kind of magic he’s trying to do. Just like Jack Parson with his Thelema magic and the other ring wearers in Secret History of Twin Peaks, Dale’s hubris is outrunning his alchemic state.
Though really, it doesn’t mean Dale isn’t helping Laura anyway, it’s probably just not how he thinks he’s helping. After all, people being incremental shovelfuls of golden help along the way is exactly how help works in Season 3.
In Part 4, Lodge symbols hover over slot machines ready to hit jackpots for Dougie. Then Bill and Candy Shaker give him enough info to find where he lives, and Supervisor Burns reluctantly gives him his winnings and authorizes a limo ride home. So this gets Cooper-as-Dougie home to Janey-E, who receives the money and understands that she can pay for all the debts Dougie accrued that caused Janey-E nothing but trauma and stress. She was released by this money and then slowly but surely became more and more present and loving towards Dougie.
Here’s a quote from my Part 4 Rewatch article on the subject:
What we see in this casino portion of Part 4 is a number of small incrementally helpful steps from a number of people, little steps that on their own don’t go too far, that add up to Cooper-as-Dougie arriving at a location he initially didn’t know about with enough money in hand to pay for the previous debts of Dougie Jones. Call for help, indeed.
This is also a microcosm of how the plan to stop DoppelCooper comes together: The Log Lady helps Hawk to the Diary pages, which leads Bobby to the chair, which leads to Andy getting an audience with the Fireman, which leads to Lucy shooting DoppelCooper, which leads to Freddy knocking the BOB orb apart. There are no main heroes in this story, more so many people having smaller moments of heroism that add together into the positive energy that can overwhelm the darkness, or at least, as in the casino scene’s case, bring forth the light to those in need.
Honestly, compassion and everything related to help that Janey-E mentioned in her “we are the 99%” monologue is positive energy, but it’s also rooted in Love, which is called a key that “open[s] the door” back in Season 2. And negative energy can easily be equated with Fear, the other door key.
The Roadhouse- the perfect nexus of reality structure and personal accountability
When Dale gets lost in the 3rd Loop, he begins to become unrecognizable, known as Richard while Diane is known as Linda. They become part of the well-established name salad (Chuck and Tina and Billy, etc.) that is well on display during Roadhouse scenes. Each random we’ll-never-see-them-again character in the Roadhouse is either on the precipice of their own breakthrough moment like Audrey, or they’re there (whether to be a proverbial golden shovel or more weighing down) to help someone make a decision of where they’re directing their restarted energy positively or negatively.
Billy is an indicator of Lodgespace presence. He’s not a character per se but he is a landmark as the story proverbially drives through that part of town. The random characters who knew him either choose to step away from his drama, therefore tuning to 1st Loop on their way to the Timeline, while people who stay tuned into Billy’s kind of drama tune towards the 3rd Loop on their way to Lodgespace.
Proving itself as a state in the middle, every Roadhouse scene begins with one or more of three identical establishing shots, as if they’re intentionally trying to appear like it could be part of the same night, or that “it is happening again”:
- The parking lot – tunes to the in-between state (the 2nd Loop)
- The Bang Bang Bar sign – tunes toward the Timeline (by way of the 1st Loop)
- The Sign reflected in a puddle – tunes toward Lodgespace (by way of the 3rd Loop)
- If the parking lot is mixed with one of the signs, I think it connotes a shifting from the Timeline toward the in-between state, or from the in-between state toward Lodgespace.
The Bang Bang Bar sign
In Part 2, the parking lot is included in the establishing shot. Shelly and her friends are there as well as James and Freddie, and even Red and his finger guns. It seems like most things are normal, though the Owl Ring is present on the Chromatics’ guitarist, and Shelly voices that possible reversal “James has always been cool.” Why the parking lot along with the sign? As it’s the episode where Dale’s 1st Loop ends and 2nd Loop begins, the symbolic angle could be the tuning from the Timeline officially into the in-between state.
In Part 4, we only see Au Revoir Simone play. They are lit in purple light.
In Part 12, Abbie and Natalie at the booth are looking for Angela, who’s on the edge and off her meds and has been hanging out with (and dreaming of) a two-timer by the name of Clark. Angela’s off-balance and her friends mention she’s dreaming, however literally they mean. Angela’s not there because the bar and the women are tuned towards Loop 1 while Angela’s tuned negatively towards 3rd Loop. The ladies’ friend Trick shows up after almost being in a head-on collision with a car going the wrong way. He’s just out of house arrest, may have experienced a reversal as he arrived to the same positive tuning as his friends. After all, he’s just out of house arrest (a stagnation period) and that’s behind him now. He’s shoveled himself out of the shit. They’re heading to the Timeline.
In Part 14, Sophie is acting like a shovel for her friend Megan, who talks about a time she saw Billy bleeding out of his mouth, but then can’t remember the rest. It’s like she woke up from a dream; like she just stopped tuning towards Lodgespace for good. Right at this revelation, Lissie starts singing triumphantly with a lot of energy and her lighting is only yellow: a state of achieved intrapersonal alchemy personified by a scene, if you ask me.
Part 15 also includes the parking lot. It moves from being tuned towards the Timeline into being tuned in the middle when James and Freddie interrupt the otherwise banal scene of Renee, Chuck and their friends. When it really tunes towards Lodgespace-adjacency? When Freddie uses his glove and the music skips (two punches!). Later on we see a shot of the parking lot, where you could say it’s still tuned to the middle state, but then transitions to tuning towards Lodgespace as Ruby (whose energy is stuck in place as she’s waiting for someone) crawls along the floor and begins screaming (her breaking point) as the strobe light kicks in and it is implied she caves in to Lodgespace.
The Bang Bang Bar sign reflected in the puddle
In Part 3, we just see the Cactus Blossoms. They’re lit in blue with yellow lighting behind them, which I’d say is traditionally positive Timeline-leaning imagery. Is the visual code saying that Timeline and Lodgespace tuning exists together all at once?
In Part 5, we see a person walk straight through the reflection. The next thing we see is Richard Horne, so that’s easy to see as code for “we are now entering from the in-between into Lodge-adjacency.” Between his parentage and actions, it’s nearly impossible to argue. How else? The girl and her friends are frozen with inaction even as he threatens vile things I refuse to type here.
In Part 9, we meet Chloe and Ella. Both are talking in sparkle drug code about animals, and rash girl got fired and started the same exact job across the street. Sounds like a reversal that she noticed but didn’t understand, and that the two girls were going to continue this descent into Lodgespace darkness without even comprehending what they’re only barely noticing.
Just the parking lot
In Part 6, we just see Sharon Van Etton perform. She’s lit in blue and the curtains behind her are a purplish red.
In Part 7, it goes to the sweeping scene where we are likely seeing the Timeline symbolically swept away by the man sweeping the floor (with the red stage curtains looming in the back corner of the shot), clearing the space for what will come starting with Jean-Michele Renault’s call about high school girls, then the diner patron flip in the credits, then what must have always been in Part 8.
In Part 10, the Roadhouse is preceded by the foggy moon. Rebekah Del Rio sings No Stars against purple/red curtains.
In Part 13, James is lit in purple, as if he’s finding his proper balance, and we see Renee crying.
In Part 16, we see Eddie Vedder’s shadow first, then him. The rest of the stage is black except for his spotlight, and there’s some purple curtains in the light. Audrey and Charlie arrive and Audrey toasts to Billy, then dances to her named “Audrey’s Dance” from the original Twin Peaks Soundtrack, a previously-mentioned sign of Timeline presence. This is Audrey being tuned to the Timeline all the way, up to and including Eddie Vedder billed as his birth name (rather than the name we all know). Then, a fight breaks out and Audrey begs Charlie to get her “out of here”, and when she is in the white room with the mirror, the Roadhouse plays her song backwards in a full reflection of what they just played. The Roadhouse could plausibly be tuned to the 3rd Loop at this point.
I’ve now shown you the shape of an in-between state of reality, and I’ve shown you the ways characters can navigate the reality state. Where is left to go from here?
Next, I’ll show you how characters with larger Season 3 roles navigate their own particular stories and cycles of trauma or stagnation, all the while making my way back to explain the particularly complicated journey of one Special Agent Dale Cooper.
Thanks go out to Adam Stewart, T. Kyle King, Kylee Karre, Caemeron Crain, Brien Allen and Rob King for their tenacity in reading both parts of this theory and providing me feedback during my writing process.
Thanks also to Matt Armitage for rendering that never-ending trauma/intrapersonal alchemy loop for me.