Twin Peaks: Navigating between two worlds (Part 5 of 5)

Now that we’ve spent the first four parts looking into Twin Peaks reality and how to navigate it, we’re finally at the big questions: Was Dale Cooper following a plan? Did he take away Laura Palmer’s agency and/or blow up reality as Twin Peaks knows it? Is he dead?

Every interpretation of these questions’ answers seems to hinge on how you view Dale Cooper’s decisions to do what he did in Parts 17 and 18 of Season 3. I’ll have my take before too long, but this last part of my grand unified theory attempting to explain a Twin Peaks stuck between trauma and breakthrough will begin by looking into how characters with larger Season 3 roles navigate their story cycles of trauma and/or stagnation. How they reach their moments of breakthrough (and what they do with their restarted energy after that point) is absolutely integral to how I interpret the journey of Dale Cooper.

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. In Part 4, we looked into how the characters we see in Twin Peaks navigate that shape of reality by tuning to the various frequencies of Dale Cooper’s time loops.

What follows here will be a number of case studies applying that foundation to the stories of main characters.

As a refresher, I’ve made a case that Dale’s chronological path through the Lodge and his own trauma was shown to us in time loops, and that characters are tuned to the time loop where theirs and Dale’s points of view are sharing a common frequency.

These are my definitions of the loops:

  • 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.

Now let’s pick up where we left off last part: with Audrey Horne.

Character Breakthroughs


If I’m correct about Billy being an indicator of Lodgespace presence, this means his lover Audrey is trapped in a zone tuned to Lodgespace.

I mention this in Part 3 of my Final Dossier Deep Dive:

Her trauma is both tied to her father, which she seems to overcome by living a simple life and going into business on her own, but also to Dale Cooper’s Double. And as with Annie Blackburn and Harry Truman later on, she could not overcome the trauma incurred by her proximity to Lodgespace, and she remains trapped by it. This seems very much like how her father is trapped by pushing against the prison [that arrived when he sold the land to a shady unnamed company]’s darkness his whole life, except hers is on a spiritual/metaphorical level.

In Season 3 we see Audrey trying to tune from the 3rd Loop she’s synced with to the middle 2nd Loop where the Roadhouse naturally exists within Cooper’s loop tuning order.

Her trauma began with the bank explosion and rape by DoppelCooper. We see her stuck in her stagnant period; literally repeating the same scene with Charlie using different words, though her breakthrough moment of restarting her energy is when she screams “I hate you!” while attempting to strangle Charlie. This breaks her energy out of its stasis and she actually arrives in the 2nd Loop tuning and the Roadhouse. When she dances to “Audrey’s Dance”, this is Audrey being tuned to the 1st Loop for the first time in a long time.

She can almost feel the Timeline—almost chooses to send her energy in a positive direction—but then her song is interrupted by violence spurned on from strangers’ revealed infidelities (a major repeating theme in Final Dossier by the way), and she chooses to have Charlie get her out of there.

Which means she chooses to return to a negatively charged situation. It does not mean she’s chosen it for good; more so it implies a stalemate.

She can’t get out of her darkness quite yet, but now she’s gotten a taste of the 1st Loop. She’s seen part of the 1st Loop, therefore in the end of Part 16 we can see her body in what appears to be the real world, but the face we see speaking is the one in the frame of the mirror. Which means to me she’s officially fragmented. She has more darkness to push through, but she’s gotten through further than she has in a long time. And she’s not entirely tuned to 3rd Loop anymore; it looks like she’s just as much tuned to the 1st loop (in a way just like she is in Final Dossier), like she’s splitting the difference and hovering around the middle state of reality but never within it. But, since the bank explosion, she’s closer than she’s ever been.

Audrey's chronology within Twin Peaks in a diagram to show her personal growth.


An example of dipping into the darkness before turning it around at the last second? Norma.

In the early parts of Season 3, we see Norma mostly doing the Double R’s books in looped footage. She wants to help Shelly with Becky in a Part 5 scene but doesn’t do more than listen (because per pattern of help cannot be forced, merely offered until accepted). Otherwise, it’s mostly her sitting in that booth doing the books.

Per Final Dossier, she puts her entire life into her business rather than her personal life, therefore the Double R is on the same frequency as Norma. That’s why, when she’s so buried and resigned by her lack of self, the entire diner tunes toward the 3rd Loop at the end of Part 7. That was when Bing pokes his head in and asks if anyone has seen Billy, again a signpost of Lodge presence.

By Part 11, the Diner’s tuned to the darker loop so much that Shelly goes back to bad boys over family, gunshots break through the windows, and people just outside drive zombies to diner dates and lay on the horn.

In Part 13 we meet Walter, the symbol of the corporation that’s trying to turn Norma’s tried and true recipe for spiritual success into a standard money-hunting franchise. And the natural, organic, local ingredients that go into Norma’s pie are literally under fire for being too expensive. “You make them with love,” Walter says facetiously. “You’re a real artist, but love doesn’t always turn a profit.” The choice between the negative force of profit or the positive force of love is literally in play (I won’t even bring up how this is also David Lynch’s thought process on making movies and the Hollywood system because it’s already obvious which choice is positive and which is negative in his eyes).

But then in Part 15 Norma breaks through. She knows what’s causing the darkness. She hits her breaking point the same time Ed does. She releases herself from Walter and his business contract, and next thing you see is light breaking through the trees overhead of the Double R. How do we know this is Norma tuning to 1st Loop and then through to the Timeline? We never see her again in the show. Also, the Diner looks completely unattended when Dale and Carrie pass by it in Part 18 while within the 3rd Loop. She doesn’t belong near the “dream” anymore because she woke up. She fixed her heart.

Norma's chronology within Twin Peaks in a diagram to show her personal growth.


During the Part 12 grocery store scene, the same soundscape is used that was playing during Phillip Jeffries’ original FWWM scene (at the exact moment when he realizes he may be unstuck from time). What is happening to Sarah at this moment? She is realizing she’s being/has been re-tuned. And this is what I’d consider her breaking point, which we’ve established matches really well with Dale’s breaking point.

Were you here when they first came?

Your room seems different, and men are coming.

She’s talking about turkey jerky looking different. I assume a similar switch happened here as happened to the Double R patrons in Part 7, and Sarah’s so Lodgespace-tuned she can recognize the change. She could feel the “dream” coming at her like a river too (after all, she’s one of the gifted and the damned). The wave of the Lodgespace “dream” that hit in Part 7 seems like it began changing her before Part 12; plausibly during her origin in Part 8.

Here’s more from Part 12:

I am trying to tell you, that you have to watch out. Things can happen. Something happened to me. Something happened to me. I don’t feel good. I don’t feel good. Sarah, Sarah, stop, stop doing this. Stop doing this. Stop doing this. Leave this place. Find the car key. Find the car key. Get the car key. Get the car—get the god damn car key.

The repeating words really stand out typed like this. I know I’ve called this behavior PTSD before, and I still mean it, but the metaphor associated with repeating phrases leans towards looping; though it could also be that she is oscillating back and forth between loop frequencies. She could be saying the same thing on two different frequencies as she oscillates at her breaking point between 1st Loop and 3rd Loop tuning. She knows she needs to get away from where she is so she can calm down, but it ends up sounding a lot like Audrey’s “get me out of here”. It makes sense they’d be thematically linked, as they both literally gave birth to an actual child made at least in part of Lodge darkness.

Sarah’s breaking point does not bring out her strength like it does with Audrey. Sarah is not that kind of fighter. She instead later watches boxers on TV (a passive activity when she should be actively fighting for herself), and during a knockout punch the TV likely becomes a conduit for Experiment Model to take her over as I suggested in Coordinates (ft. the roving #6 Telephone Pole, Palmer Houses, Two Birds and a Stone). And the knockout punch was to Sarah, falling victim likely to Experiment Model.

How could she have pushed against the darkness? In that same Electricity Nexus I said DoppelCooper uses the coordinates to find the junction point that will take him to the Palmer House in Part 12, which immediately follows the grocery store scene. Instead of DoppelCooper meeting her, this is when Hawk meets Sarah, offers her help, and she refuses it, saying instead how it’s “a goddamn bad story.” Which matches up with other Lodgespace/3rd Loop-tuned folks talking about the story of the little girl who lived down the lane. Stories are not much different than dreams, and the “dream” is what Margaret warned Hawk about in Part 10. Hawk was tuned to 2nd Loop when he visited Sarah in Part 12 (and again we see an offer of help that could not move forward unless someone accepted said help), while Sarah was already talking in 3rd Loop tuning. Whether that sound in the kitchen was Experiment Model waiting for her or the grocery store bagboy stocking her kitchen with left-behind groceries, she was already tuned with negative energy in mind, ready to believe in a story instead of the life she lived. And hence we have Sarah meet the “Truck You” guy in a bar that belongs about as well as Sarah’s new nesting creature.

And what sealed Sarah’s fate? When did she make her decision to go full Lodgespace? When she tried to destroy the homecoming photo in Part 17. Despite her ability to remember everything from before and after re-tunings, and whether or not it was possible to do so, she actively chose to destroy the Timeline symbol of all Timeline symbols from her own house. And if that isn’t a definitive decision I don’t know what is.

From that moment we never see her again. We even needed new homeowners to sub in for her in Part 18, even as the house remembers Sarah’s voice. She chose the full “dream,” the darkness, and couldn’t come back to the 3rd Loop.

Sarah's chronology within Twin Peaks in a diagram to show her (lack of) personal growth.


Back to the lighter side of things, Lucy’s energy restarted at her breaking point, which involved two things from Part 4: her scream when she didn’t understand Frank’s sudden arrival, and Wally releasing her from maintaining his bedroom in what should be a study (this is the equivalent of Janey-E getting that money that released her from Dougie’s financial debts). In Part 9 she and Andy begin to make that study a reality by choosing a chair (from a motivation of love), and she even takes time for herself by making sure no one interrupts her on her lunch break. In Part 10, she tells Chad about a time when a clock stops, alluding to Part 17 when she chooses once and for all to intend her energy to the positive when she literally kills a force of darkness in DoppelCooper.

This is where Lucy’s tuning and her timepiece necklaces fit in; Kylee Karre of Between Two Worlds Facebook group discovered the timing when she was looking for multiple timelines, but it works well in this tuning theory as well. While Lucy’s stuck in place, she wears one timepiece. When she begins to move forward in Part 9 (and her energy is beginning to move), she’s tuned to the 2nd Loop and wearing two timepiece necklaces. Then when she shoots DoppelCooper she’s back to wearing one timepiece necklace, signifying she’s returned to being in the 1st Loop but this time by choice rather than being frozen in place there.

Lucy's chronology within Twin Peaks in a diagram to show her personal growth.

Dale was at the same point as Lucy’s Part 4 scream when he stuck a fork in the socket. You can see Dale’s energy flowing when he has a lapel pin on, but when his energy is stagnant and stuck in the 2nd Loop there’s no lapel pin. After that fork, his next scene is him waking up, with lapel pin present.

Even if you can connect the fork and the scream, remember it took Lucy 13 full parts to go from her energy moving to her decision to use it in a positive direction. It seems Dale’s got a ways to go beyond Part 18 (while still far away) before he has a true understanding to factor into a proper decision. Until then there could be any number of ups and downs, energy flowing or not.

I don’t think he’s lost to the darkness at all, no matter how bleak things felt in the end. Donna Hayward, in Final Dossier, was so entrenched in the darkness she needed a fourth stint in rehab before she turned her life around, but she did, and simplified while studying to be a nurse practitioner. She chose light almost after it was too late but she did it. If Dale needs the 4th Loop that begins in the final credits to properly choose light, then I’ll count Donna’s situation as precedent.

Becky and Steven

The best explanation of what happens when you tune yourself completely away from the 2nd Loop’s in-between zone comes from Becky and Steven, who (in addition to never being seen by us again) literally cannot see each other by the end of Season 3 despite both still being in the show—Becky’s tuned to 1st Loop and Steven’s tuned to 3rd Loop. And they can’t see each other at all. They’re standing next to each other looking in different directions.

Becky, in Part 5, hides from her problems in Sparkle and hears “I Love How You Love Me” playing while she is literally a passenger in the car. She tries to believe she has love with Steven, while Steven can’t get a job and turns Mike Nelson’s negative critique into “good feedback.”

In Part 10, we see Steven ready to take a swing at Becky. She’s fearful but not necessarily surprised. And Steven throws a coffee cup out the window. As I’ve mentioned in the previous part that coffee is a visual symbol of the Timeline, this is Steven literally throwing that symbol out of the place where he lives, essentially choosing darkness right then and there.

In Part 11, Becky’s breaking point happens with a scream and gunshots into Gersten Hayward’s apartment door. This unsticks her energy and she begins saying no more to Steven’s treatment of her. She also gets help from Bobby when he loans her the money to pay for the damage she did to the door, and this is the clean break from her trauma’s damage that she needs to restart and reset her energy. Meanwhile, Steven was there down some stairs at a different level altogether, literally and figuratively.

In Part 13, Steven’s been gone for two days, according to what Becky says to Shelly over the phone. The Part 11 call to Shelly (before the gunshots) could’ve been a tuning from 3rd Loop to 2nd Loop, but this call is definitely from 2nd Loop to 1st Loop as Becky is well on her way back to the Timeline. What seals the deal? Agreeing to go to the Double R and have pie with Shelly. The exact invitation, by the way, that could’ve brought Hawk to the Timeline if he’d taken Margaret up on her offer in Part 2 is exactly what Becky chooses for herself with Shelly and we never see her again. Tuned to positive energy, to the Timeline.

In Part 15, we see Steven and Gersten tripping out of their minds, heavily into the 3rd Loop tuning that involves nonsense words, and they’re literally lost in the woods. They keep talking about animals, as is customary with people hooked on Sparkle. He chose the darkness, Lodgespace. He chose to look far from the Timeline, so he doesn’t see Becky anymore. He kills himself in Season 3, but per Final Dossier both he and Gersten have disappeared, not died. (Tell me that doesn’t sound like the Laura Palmer ret-con in a nutshell.) They’ve been swallowed up by Lodgespace because they became passengers rather than travelers like Becky. Disappeared, just like Sarah Palmer wasn’t in her house anymore. You choose the darkness and you won’t be participating in any part of the material universe, even in the “dream.” You’re just enveloped.

Becky and Steven's chronology within Twin Peaks in a diagram to show their varying personal growth.

Diane and Laura

In How the Fireman “Brings Back Some Memories” I made a case for how a tulpa is a physically manifested memory of trauma unable to rest until it processes what happened to its body. In this case Carrie Page was created upon Laura Palmer’s murder and Diane’s tulpa would be created when Diane likely died in the Convenience store after DoppelCooper brought her there in the memory she recounted to the Blue Rose Task Force in Part 16. I made the case that the Carrie and Diane tulpas needed to reach a certain understanding before their original selves could go onto their next stage (say heaven or the like).

I still believe this is probably the case, but I could also believe that Dale Cooper could be part of their creation when Laura and Diane were no longer in the picture because he still needed them to play roles in his Lodge loops. In this case they are still plausibly memories of traumatic events, but perhaps their genesis is being sparked by a magician after they’ve already died.

I would also not be shocked if their states as Naido (Diane) and American Girl (Laura, which though unprovable I make a case for in Permutations of American Girl) were created to house the true versions of Diane and Laura so that:

  • The tulpas could exist (traditional takes on the tulpa concept need a living identity to create the thought forms).
  • The women’s actual souls would not be attached to the in-between state of reality formed by Dale.

Either way, the purple zone roommates end up feeling like they’re in a witness protection program of the White Lodge (and I apparently can’t let go of as a concept since I wrote about it in Laura Palmer is in the Lodge’s Witness Protection Program in a life modeled after Shelly Johnson.)

Structurally, Laura and Diane’s stories are nearly impenetrable, and as I’ve just proven, you can plausibly go many ways with their plots. But I’ve already explored how their roles work within the structure of reality that I’ve described in the five parts of this unified theory. You can find that exploration in Why Diane and Laura are the Heroes of Twin Peaks. I encourage you to read it if you’d like to know these women’s places in this stacked reality, for instance what Laura’s three screams mean in regards to her breakthrough moment.

In short, I describe their actions as protagonist-adjacent as they are actively trying to untie themselves from this “dream” (at least as of Part 18) so they can return to wherever it is they really belong. I also suggest that if they are able to remove themselves from Dale’s in-between reality state, which I believe they are doing in both active and subconscious ways throughout Season 3, that maybe no one will be there to anchor Dale Cooper (using sight as a tool of object permanence) within the in-between state. If this is true, and Laura and Diane do not tie Dale to the “dream” by seeing him in it, Dale will then unravel from his Lodge loops. And and he’s removed from his Lodge loops, therefore Lodgespace and Timeline will separate properly and fall into balance once more beginning with Dale’s 4th Loop.

Dale Cooper

Two trauma cycles

From the point of view of Dale within his “is it future, or is it past” loops, he’s within this kind of trauma cycle:

Dale's chronology in Season 3 as it relates to what he thinks his path is.

Being possessed would be a most excellent example of a major trauma that stops Dale’s energy in place. You can see him being in a state of hibernation in the Waiting Room. You can see his Dougie version as a pure receptacle of stalled energy. You can see Dale’s energy starting up again when he stuck that fork in the socket (complete with Janey-E’s not-understanding scream in the room), then becoming himself in Part 16 before he takes the path of constantly helping people (however suspect his methods may appear). You can really see him trying to be a golden shovel for people, from Diane to the Judy’s Diner waitress to Carrie Page. Except through it all he’s cold, fairly heartless, and lacking intuition as he does it. All of us fans agree in some capacity that Dale is a different guy, and probably missing something. Or at least he’s still calibrating as I say in The Dale/Mr. C showdown begins in Part 18 when Dale becomes DoppelCooper.

But I think the BOB-related trauma is only so much of the picture, and isn’t the focus of Dale’s trauma cycle as he intuitively seems to think it is. Much as Audrey had two levels of trauma, so too does Dale.

Audrey’s traumas are:

  • her real world trauma focused around her relationship with Ben Horne, which she overcame.
  • her Lodgespace-related trauma begun with her rape by DoppelCooper which led—just like with Sarah Palmer—to her birthing a child who was half Lodge. She had not overcome this at the beginning of Season 3.

While Dale’s traumas look like this:

  • BOB-related trauma, solved completely within Season 3, culminating in Part 17.
  • Then there’s the deeper trauma of losing all those years, as Andrew Grevas discussed well in Agent Cooper: My Thoughts & Theories on His Journey Throughout the Series. Dale’s is a deeper, longer-term trauma expressed best when he shed a tear through Dougie likely over the fact that he didn’t have a child of his own, and the child that he had was unknown to him.

Cooper’s BOB-related trauma cycle is entirely associated with the loops that begin with Phillip Gerard saying “Is it future, or is it past?”

This second, deeper-level trauma cycle of Cooper’s is the one that repeats with the Laura whispers.

Let’s Look at Dale’s loops chronologically again in this context:

Looking at Dale Cooper's likely time loops together in one diagram.

What does this mean?

Dale went through three cycles of Laura whispering to him:

  • The first cycle began with his Red Room dream from Episode 2 and ended with Dale entering the Lodge and “Meanwhile.”
  • The second cycle began with Dale needing to choose whether to tune to Laura’s whisper or to Phillip’s “Is it future, or is it past.” Instead of choosing to “go now,” Dale chooses to do the three Phillip loops within this second whisper loop.
  • The third cycle begins in the Part 18 credits with Laura again whispering to Dale. Hopefully Laura will sit Down next to Dale and once again say “You can go out now,” and this time he’ll do it. Because if this cycle of Laura whispers follow the same pattern as the other trauma cycles, it would match up just like this:

A diagram looking into Dale Cooper's chronology in Twin Peaks Season 3 in terms of time loops and trauma cycle.

Put most simply, the first cycle goes from the Timeline into the Lodge, the second cycle is from within the Lodge, and the third cycle goes from the Lodge back to the Timeline. Visually speaking, it’s personified by the shape of Cooper’s lodge loops:

A visual representation of the time loops Dale Cooper may go through in Season 3.

Recalibrating the metaphor to tie Dale’s trauma cycle to the Laura whispers, Dale chooses to follow a darker frequency like Norma and the Diner did between Parts 7 and 15 before he reaches the possibility for a similar re-tuning to more positive pastures at the end of Part 18. For one thing, the Laura Whispers cycles are literally part of the Timeline. The sun can still shine through in Dale’s next unseen scene just like it did outside the Double R with the Otis Redding music.

With all the “Is It Future, or is it Past?” loops happening in the middle, Dale is in his stagnant processing phase, where other characters like Norma and Nadine are shown doing similar looping behaviors. Dale’s loops are more literal, but they are well within established trauma cycle patterns. Alchemically, he’s only had his first coat but he is in his absorbing phase during the entirety of Season 3 save the last five minutes.

And most interestingly, while he’s doing this he is literally living out the poem.

Fire Walk With Me

Through the darkness of future past

The magician longs to see

One chants/chance out between two worlds

Fire, Walk With Me

The “Is it future, or is it past?” Loops begin with Dale refusing Laura’s “You can go out now,” and then the curtains fly away, revealing darkness and a white horse, which is equated with the white of the eyes now, which means looking away.

Dale is essentially flying into the darkness. As in “through the darkness.” And “future past” is the dichotomy Phillip Gerard just introduced with his “is it future, or is it past” loops. With that, there’s the first line of the poem.

“The magician longs to see” requires less dissection. Dale Cooper, able to open the red curtains with movement of his hand, is now the magician. And, he cannot see (likely because he is too “far away”), but he sure longs to. He wants, and possibly even knows he needs, to see.

“One chants/chance out” could be:

  • An action Dale takes: speaking out from the darkness, which I could see as everything that happens after he was reformed in black smoke when he replaced Dougie Jones, speaking from inside the lodge as a tulpa-like form within the world. And chanting typically repeats, or loops.
  • A possibility to leave. The one chance he needed to decide between was either believe Laura when she said “you can go now,” or believe Phillip Gerard when he comes up with this incredibly complicated explanation for why Dale can’t leave until his doppelganger comes back in.

“Between two worlds,” as far as I’m concerned, means Dale is in a state between the Timeline and Lodgespace. The material world and the non-material world, in this in-between reality structure.

“Fire, Walk With Me” can mean “energy not unlike electricity, flow through me because I intend to use you with a particular intention.” But just as the 4th Loop is unexplained and the 4th diary page is undiscovered, so too does the poem never explain whether the poem is meant for positive or negative intent. It can be used for either. But the more I write about Twin Peaks, the more I believe Phillip Gerard’s poem has a level of prophecy for Dale Cooper, and that we have seen it literally played out over the 18 Parts of Season 3.

What does it all mean for Dale? He may stay on Jeffries’ path and be absorbed by the Black Lodge, unstuck entirely from the Timeline, or he may turn things around and possibly even return to the Timeline when Laura tells him “you can go out now.”

The 4th Loop

So how does one decide which of Dale’s cycles is a primary one? It’s just like deciding whether Season 3 is a dream or in the real world, or whether Frost’s or Lynch’s interpretation is more important than the other. Which loop is the primary one? Neither. My preferred way to differentiate the Cooper cycles is this:

The Gerard time loops are of the purgatorial state exclusively dealing with trauma.

The Laura whisper cycles are of the alchemical state of evolution.

And as I’ve already described in Part 4, I’ve given the interrelated nature of trauma and alchemical evolution cycles a shape:

The cycle of trauma and intrapersonal alchemy and growth within Twin Peaks, in the shape of an infinity loop.

These two cycles are obviously related, but the darkness of the Gerard loops being nested right inside the cycle of Laura whisper cycles gives me hope that Dale is going in the right direction after all, even though all of Season 3 appears to point him straight towards Lodgespace.

I suspect Tamara Preston’s final statement in Final Dossier describes this exact coexistence:

Is the evil in us real? Is it an intrinsic part of us, a force outside us, or nothing more than a reflection of the void? How do we hold both fear and wonder in the mind at once? Does staring into this darkness offer up an answer, or resolution? What does it give us to hold on to? Does it reveal anything at all?

Or can the simple, impossible act of persisting to look at what’s in front of us finally pierce the blackness and reward us with a glimpse of something eternal beyond? Is that “heaven”? How do we manage it? The only answer I can console myself with is this: What if the truth lies just beyond the limits of our fear, and the only way to reach it is to never look away? What if that’s why we can never quit trying to overcome it in every moment we’re alive?

In the Gerard loops, did Dale Cooper pierce the darkness he was in? Did he finally move through the Gerard loops and move onto the last stage of the trauma cycle where he chooses which direction to send his energy? Did he take a long cold look at the evil in himself and alchemically exceed beyond the limits of his fear?

I suspect the answer is yes, because Dale’s breakthrough moment of “what year is this” is a much less wordy version of Jacoby’s realization from Secret History of Twin Peaks which I share again here:

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.

Dale, as I proposed in the first part of this exploration, brought the material and non-material universes closer to one another by switching states with his doppelganger. And he thought he could bring the dream logic of the Lodge onto the reality of the Timeline as if that could heal it. Much as Jacoby realized in 1989, I believe Dale is finally entering his final stage of processing trauma. The same one where Jacoby’s hubris breaks down and which leads, with time, to Jacoby’s understanding of how to truly help the world he resides in.

Because by Final Dossier, Tamara Preston now has this to say about Jacoby:

There is an air of the tarot’s “Magus” about the man—an ancient archetype of a magician who’s outlived or conquered the base temptations of life to reach a spiritual serenity while still maintaining the height of his powers. As I think of “Dr. Jacoby/Dr. Amp,” a character like Prospero comes to mind, a man in the last act of his life who’s survived the “tempest” of human turmoil and by doing so gained the ability to see beyond its commonplace illusions. A man who lives at one with nature and its pagan “spirits,” whose developed senses can now “pierce the veil” of existence and leave him able and willing to share the wisdom one mines from such hard-earned territory. (King Lear would be the tragic version, a privileged man who arrives at the same place through loss and hubris that will eventually cost him his life.)

I’ve thought for a while that the Lear reference was calling out Dale and his actions of traveling back in time, but Jacoby was in the same position as Dale during his breakthrough moment of SHoTP. Jacoby thought he could save a girl from dying. She died anyway. He learned from his mistake and started a cycle of healing and light within a Twin Peaks being drowned in darkness by the riverlike “dream” of Lodgespace Margaret was warning Hawk about in Part 10. And those people who he helped were able to re-tune themselves from the in-between reality right to the Timeline.

Dale has a chance to do the same kind of turnaround. Just because his metaphorical state of understanding has taken a literal foothold upon reality because he has the powers of a magician does not mean he can’t outlive or conquer his own base temptations to reach a similar spiritual serenity. He too can survive this “tempest” and see beyond the illusions he’s veiled over the Timeline.

I believe, much like the Season 3 characters, that we viewers have been presented with a choice of how to see the ending: do we choose to believe it’s moving in a positive direction, or a negative one? If I had to chart my own evolving understanding over time as a viewer, it would look like this:

My personal timeline of first experiencing and then comprehending the final scenes of Twin Peaks Season 3.

I choose to see Twin Peaks moving in a positive direction, freshly surfacing from a period of darkness. There is hope, both for Dale and for the Timeline. And there is also work ahead. Dale’s going to need more donuts.

Thanks go out to Adam Stewart, T. Kyle King, Kylee Karre, Caemeron Crain, Brien Allen and Rob King for their tenacity in reading all parts of this theory and providing me feedback during my writing process.


Written by John Bernardy

John Bernardy has been writing for 25YL since before the site went public and he’s loved every minute. The show most important to him is Twin Peaks. He is husband to a damn fine woman, father to two fascinating individuals, and their pet thinks he’s a good dog walker.


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  1. Like most, I assumed Lynch asking people what their interpretation is of The Return was the artist in him allowing the viewer to experience it on their terms and allow The Show to breath and take on a life of its own. Never once did I consider that his question could also be the point of The Return, or that both the positive and negative interpretations are both simultaneously the correct impressions, like the movie Clue with multiple endings that all work. In this case the endings are the lens you choose. Great work, John.

    Also, after a year and a half of evolving opinions and interpretations of the show, your article makes me think back to my first impression; which was that the underlying message that the show, and what the show kept referring to as “dreams”, was actually the battle between self-actualization and self-delusion. I felt all the experiences of the Coopers was a journey to “know thyself”, and when it came to Laura, well, before you can help others you have to first help yourself. My impression of “dreams” was less literal, and more along the lines of a waking dream, as in an inflated ego/deluded opinion of oneself, or a distorted lens through which one sees the world, and how it was Coopers job to self-actualize by understanding the consequences of his actions on himself and others. Reconciling the thematic impressions and the literal narrative were daunting, which is why I am impressed with your thesis and love that your notions of Timeline/Material vs Lodgespace/Immaterial mesh with my initial vague impressions of the show and what I personally thought they meant by “we live inside a dream”.

    • Wow you are majorly adjacent to my logic on all of this! I appreciate your thoughtfulness in this response, and am happy that you get exactly what I was going for!
      Actualization/dilusion does seem to be the major either/or that’s being described in everything. And your explanation of Laura makes more sense than most things I’ve seen ??

  2. Let me first say, with my first working week after the Christmas holidays, your essays were the comfort in the evening for me. 🙂 They align very well with my own ideas.

    Light and dark, good and evil, reality and dream (with dream=lodgespace)… The point of the TP finale for me is that you can´t differentiate between both of them anymore, and as you point out there were mix-ups all over the season.

    The Odessa world is clearly lodgespace, but here of all places the magic is gone. Cooper thinks he is doing good, without realizing his actions hardly (or soon) cannot be distinguished from evil anymore. Well, that´s why his FBI pin is flipped in part 18! He doesn´t see “good” is flipped around, but people like the waitress notice that something is off. More examples: The cowboys are wearing white hats… What is good and what is bad anymore? Is this dream or reality?

    But the question itself is the point. You need BOTH sides of the coin combined! Reality has to be the dream, as with Dougie, and the dream has to be reality. Light has to see the dark, and vice versa dark has to recognize the light within it.

    Cooper as Dougie identified ONLY with light, and Cooper afterwards as well. Light which pushes dark completely out of existence. Laura on the other hand had almost become darkness completely as the opposite
    So I think there is a symmetry here with Dale and Laura:
    1. Becoming one of the opposite duality poles almost completely
    2. The shock moment of remembering the opposite pole
    3. Trying to forget / eliminate the opposite pole, leading to Odessa mess
    4. Journey to combine both poles and become complete

    So, let´s compare Dale and Laura using these steps:
    1. Lucky Dougie and then Dale as ultimative hero with Deus ex machina in sheriff´s station / Laura as BOB in FWWM
    2. Dale remembering the actions of Mr. C in the sheriff´s station with guilt and shame / Laura remembering her angel with guilt and shame
    3. Spiritual suicide in both cases: Dale going back in time to save Laura and preventing himself from entering Twin Peaks and causing all the pain / Laura taking the ring, which forces Leland to kill her (as Bobby told us in the original series already, she wanted to die. Laura in the red room leads to her “bringing” Cooper to save her from being dead, i.e. splitting up as Carrie
    In other words: Cooper is trying to kill his “dark shadow”, Laura is trying to kill her “light shadow”
    4. Odessa and the central question: Why does bringing Carrie home not work? Because Cooper doesn´t see why Laura *wanted* to die in the first place. If he would see that, he would see that he wanted to die as well, figuratively speaking. He would develop compassion as he did as Dougie. Laura as Carrie would learn to accept help and deal with her trauma. Dale could bring back the light to her!

    Recently it hit me: Judy, is she the dream image of Laura, the homecoming photo? It almost has to be that way. Cooper sees ONLY the dream image of Laura, while Laura has LOST her own dream image, because she is trying to forget it.
    The dream is denial which leads to all evil. But the dream is also the dream of a better future and a better self. It depends on your choice. And that´s why Carrie is like an “unsuccessful” Dougie. She doesn´t recognize yet that the dreaming/escaping mechanism is simultaneously the way of creating a better self.

    So, with all the memory stuff you have described so well, there can only be one conclusion for me: Find Laura = Find Judy. She IS Judy. She tries to erase herself and kill the light. Forget the light. And Cooper has to bring it back to her. Each of them has to shovel themselves out of the shit in the end, BUT they need the other one as the shovel.

    That would be the opposites successfully “married”, with balance being achieved. One and the same! Two birds with one stone (which are the BOB orb and the Laura orb for me). A negative ending, which is positive at the same time. It will be better within the next time loop…

    I could even imagine that maybe they found Sarah in an earlier loop, for example, and she did a “Truck You” attack on the unprepared Carrie. Now it is already better, because Alice Tremond opens the door…

    Some other findings from me: Listen carefully to Laura kissing Cooper in the red room. There are some strange noises, and then a voice (which is Sarah´s for me) says “Whisper”. I could not help imagine that Cooper – don´t laugh – swallowed something from Laura in this moment, same as young Sarah swallowed the frog-bug. Did Laura transfer her light orb to Dale, which would be curse and blessing for him? Almost like a witness protection measure (ringing a bell?), so that he could find her again? Dale, with all his hubris and time loops, will be the one who makes her finally complete (and himself).

    Then, in one scene I accidentally pushed 1,5 forward speed with my Blu-ray player when Gordon was speaking. Very curiously he sounded like normal David Lynch talking! That quite hit me. It always seems as Gordon is shouting, but he is speaking SLOWER. Now, what to make of this?

    As I read your explanations with all the tuning in to the different frequenzies, I had an intuition: When the Cooper face says “We live inside the dream”, it is with the deep, low voice that we heard earlier from Mister C in the prison. However, the Jumping Man is clearly fast forwarded! Voices with different speeds, a sign that all things are out of sync, and have to be brought together! Cooper has not integrated his dark side yet, therefore the split with the face and deep voice. And when he climbs UP the stairs with Mike on his way being the ultimative savior, we hear high-pitched voice of the Jumping Man. Cooper going ultra-speed “good”…?

    I also must think of the scene with Gordon and Albert at the hotel door, after Gordon has seen Laura. We see Tammy approaching in strange slow-motion, and then Gordon has to adjust his hearing aid, as if he has to “tune in” to the softer Tammy, after all the dark talk with Albert.

    What do you think?

    Oh boy, I can write much, much more, but I am glad having found the time to write this for now! 🙂

    • That all can make sense to me ??
      I don’t completely agree with every particular of course, because Twin Peaks is like that (that’s why I try to stick more to the general overarching patterns whenever I can) but yeah things being out of sync and needing to come together makes sense ?? That’s all about Frost’s Jungian interpretation and even though Lynch doesn’t agree with that stuff conceptually he still interpreted in his own way with syncing frequencies. Lynch and Frost coming together just like the slowed-down and the sped-up ?? I appreciate you bringing that to my attention because while I intuitively understood that I didn’t quantify it at all!

  3. I do very much agree regarding the overarching patterns, which one SHOULD look about. It´s just a challenge to put it in a convincing text, without either being too general, or too specific. 😉 But of course there can always be different opinions about specifics, even while agreeing completely about core patterns.

    Funny about Lynch and Frost: I´m under the impression they agree more in content than they would admit, using words and explanations. Frost once said, Lynch wouldn´t even want to hear about the Jungian stuff. And that despite the fact that so much about Lynch´s material IS about that stuff in my eyes, with all the duality. But maybe he just doesn´t see it that academically, using the same labels and descriptions.

    In my opinion, it all comes together spiritually and psychologically anyways. As an artist you can get inspirations consciously or even unconsciously without operating under some “theory”.

    Anyways, isn´t it great that the dualities of the show even include the creators? A little pet theory of mine is that Lynch and Frost maybe deliberately create or “allow” doubt about who of them agrees to what, in order to show: Don´t mind us. What YOU know is valid. And in one interview Lynch said something about that he could share his theory (!), but of course he won´t.

    • Loved this series and am now going back through your previous TP articles — a treasure trove!

      I was wondering what you make of a few considerations:

      I have read a lot of theories that talk about Cooper “deciding” to leave the tidy finale in part 17, or to go “save” Laura, etc., and how these were erroneous and fateful decisions. But it’s always felt to me like he is following a pre-written script that he knows like the back of his hand, uploaded to his consciousness by the Fireman. E.g., he HAS to get to Richard and Linda, which is the doorway to Odessa and Carrie. Time back at the station was stuck at 2:52, and would never click forward to “the number of completion” had Coop attempted to stay there and “purchase some land” or what have you. It often seems it is only with resignation that he marches forward into all the world-jumping.

      Relatedly, when Laura is zapped out of the woods where she is being guided by Coop in the FWWM ret-con, her screams and the billowing sheets sounds are exactly the same as when she is zapped up and out of the waiting room… are these two scenes the same moment (listen to the sounds)?

      After Coop comes back out of the red room via his new hand-waving skill, there are at least 3 worlds or times: His drive with Diane in the 1940s or 1950s car: the empty world after they cross over the 430-mile mark (where the hotel has no other guests or attendant, is only one floor, and has a dirt parking lot), then the world of the new hotel in the morning (now two stories, paved parking lot, and shiny new modern-day car), where Coop takes particular notice of the Maersk cargo train cars… What do you make of those three realities/space-times, and Coop’s (need for) movement through them?

      And a million other questions I’ll leave out for now! LOL

      • I tend to think of Cooper being on autopilot, going through the motions, being a passenger, right up until “what year is this?” Which is him actively questioning his situation, and that active thing, rather than just assuming he’s on the right path already, is what starts his energy.
        Before then he just knows where he’s already been in his loops because he’s been on the path already.

        The Laura screams get a big exploration from me in Electricity Nexus #21 (Why Diane and Laura are the Heroes of Twin Peaks). I encourage you to read it especially since it sounds like you got a lot out of my reasonings here (Thanks for that!)
        In there, I basically suggest the screams are tied together as an aftereffect of her esentially discovering agency again.

        That 3rd Loop stuff begins in the 2nd Loop tuning and when they shift into the darkness that leads to the hotel is him tuning to 3rd Loop for sure, and from there may completely enter lodgespace. Dale’s moving further and further into dillusion (the “dream”) and further from the Timeline after he tried to save Laura in the “dreamy” past. All this stuff is easentially choosing to tune himself towards the most lodgespace you can get without completely giving into it.
        And then we’re left with the question of what he does with his last loop.

        At least that’s how I’m seeing it.
        Glad your curiosity is sparked by all this! I don’t expect to give you the answer you completely agree with but I’m so happy I can help you on your own trek ??

  4. HI John. Afraid I have little to say as I will need to re-read these articles multiple times to really understand them….
    But having been a skeptic of such grand theories before, and often getting bogged down after starting some of your articles….. your 5 parts here feel brilliant, and like they could be a key to Twin peaks, and maybe other Lynch works as well.
    The idea of “tuning” between worlds seems to make a lot of “sense” Of odd scenes that many would view and dismiss as pure Nonsense, or lazy writing/mistakes etc.
    It even seems “obvious” now you’ve said it and given so many examples of how we are shown , and even told (via the fire walk with me poem for example) what’s going on.

    It also brings to mind ideas like the consciousness /materiality seeming duality , Quantum Theory (Ideas explored in David lynch Swerves book ), Lynches own spiritual beliefs.

    I like that you see Dr AMP as very important , it’s due to him we get the most unambiguously happy ending … so he is vital to the series not just a Joke as some have it.
    (BTW…. people say Audrey gets no Introduction…. this is not true. the Last Dr Amp repetitious episode leads brilliantly into Audrey… from his talk of hell smash cutting to her repetitious “hell”)

    Guess I have many questions and observations. But here’s a couple that probably just betray my lack of understanding for what you say…

    If Dr Amp is so “enlightened” … why does he rant like a maniac ?
    You say Dougie has stalled/stagnant energy…. but he causes only great things for everyone around him… doesn’t this contradict your view of him?

    • Glad you dig this!
      A couple quick answers:
      Dr Amp is constantly shouting, think that means his energy is moving. It matches up well with other people’s screams. The jump starting of energy needs a shock to the system, and Nadine never screams herself yet achieves her balance anyway…listening to Amp actually shook her energy for her.

      And as far as Dale’s alchemical growth goes, he is stalled. But so is Norma when she disapproves of Becky (during that intervention scene for Becky at the diner) yet that seemed to help Becky change her tune even though Norma wasn’t ready herself.
      CooperDougie was essentially a blank slate that needed to be fueled by love and compassion in order to restart. And those around him that gave him love or compassion grew because helping is the best way to foster and grow positive energy.
      That’s my take anyway. Everyone’s on the same general alchemic path but not on the same section of the path.

  5. Hi, John… I came upon this linked from your “The Twin Peaks Ending: Does Dale Fix His Heart Or Die?” post earlier this week and have really been enjoying absorbing your line of thinking here. In this segment, you make mention of Cooper’s lapel pin and its connection to the loops. I would really love to see a larger analysis of this. I’ve watched the third season multiple times – several of which have been in single viewings of the entire season at a time. One of the things that i noticed during one of these entire season viewings is that the lapel pins on ALL of the FBI agents (except Tammy who does not wear a pin) CHANGE throughout the season – sometimes between scenes and in a few occasions WITHIN the same scene. There are (I think) three different pins: one is black design on a white background, one is white more intricate design on a black background, and one is white simpler design on a black background. It is difficult to get a good, close look at them at any point, but they appear to be designs associated with the Lodges from the caves in Season 2. The interesting thing about the pins is that the agents do not wear them consistently. That is to say, in some scenes, Albert, say, is wearing the complex white design pin and then in another the simple white design pin. More interestingly, sometimes the pin being worn changes within the same scene. This happens with frequency with Cooper’s pin when he is in the Lodges (I wondered if this may indicate different times), but it also happens on at least one occasion with Albert and Gordon (when they are on the plane with Diane over South Dakota; Part 7). Reading your analysis, it strikes me that this all corresponds to the time loops idea, though I would need to watch the season again with all of this in mind. Given your mention of the lapel pins above, I was curious as to your thoughts. Thanks and keep up the great writing/analysis.

  6. I believe I have found evidence that Laura and Sarah are diametrically opposed to each other in season 3.
    In part 2 Laura is in the Lodge. Laura tells Dale that she is dead and yet she lives. Then she takes off her face and bright white light radiates from her inside. In part 14 Sarah is in a bar (she’s outside the Lodge) where she takes off her face and shows her dark, dead inside. Sarah lives, yet she is dead.

    Dale seems to be attuned to Laura, his Doppelganger attuned to Sarah. Dale meets Laura in the Lodge and attempts to lead her home in 1989, then he attempts to lead her home from Odessa in her (dream?) incarnation Carrie Page in an unknown year. His Doppelganger would have traveled through the Jack Rabbit’s Palace portal to the Palmer house in 2017 (probably), where only Sarah lives.

    As for the question “who and where is Judy?,” I think Judy is both cause and effect, in all dimensions, in the Lodges, in the real world and at all times and loops. Judy is negativity in all its facets and different powers. Judy is the act of violence itself as well as the trauma that is caused by it. Judy affects the victims and also the perpetrators, as seen in Leland. Humans have the capacity to decide to withstand Judy and heal from Judy’s effects on them, but as in the series, Judy is hard to find. Humans may even decide to not see Judy at all, and rather stay in the dark, maybe because it is better for them to hide from Judy in the darkness of their own mind and soul. Or as in the case of Laura might even want to die to get away from the torture Judy inflicts on them.

    We’ve heard about meeting one’s own shadow self with perfect courage to not get one’s soul utterly annihilated when passing through the Black Lodge on the way to the White Lodge. I suggest that Laura had that perfect courage, hence the bright white light that radiates from her inside. But she’s still tied to Dale, and whatever it is what she’s whispering in his ears, it doesn’t lead him to a decision which liberates them from each other and from the Lodges. They are both tied together in loops, or at least loop junctions. And so is Sarah, but she seems much more far away from it all.

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