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How the Roadhouse Works in Twin Peaks Season 3

The Roadhouse was one of the most confusing aspects of Twin Peaks Season 3. Why did we keep meeting new characters that we never saw again? Was it part of the physical world or was it part of Lodgespace? Was there any sense to it or was it supposed to be random, like life? The Roadhouse has always had two aspects to its location. It’s a meeting place for Twin Peaks residents, but it also is a meeting place between the world and Lodgespace. On three separate occasions, the Giant even appeared there. The Roadhouse operates with a loose liminal status, and it’s always a conduit of emotion in Twin Peaks. Today, I will explore its role so we can get to the bottom of what its function is in Season 3.

What makes the Roadhouse different from other locations with liminal status such as the Red Room and the Great Northern? It plays music, which is frequency. In Frost’s modern books, sound is a force. In the Access Guide sound is a force. And Lynch is the sound editor for Fire Walk With Me and Season 3, proving the level of importance that kind of frequency plays to David Lynch as well.

With all of that, think how silent Twin Peaks Season 3 is on the whole. That has to mean something. Not even Cooper’s car in Part 18 seemed to have a radio, but in the Roadhouse, there’s always music in the air. In a show where so much of the sound frequency is flat or empty, the Roadhouse is always filled with active energy ready to be tuned to a frequency.

In Season 3, I absolutely believe that the Roadhouse works like a tuning dial that shows viewers how it transitions between a physical state (a positive frequency) and the liminal dream-adjacent state (a negative frequency). Why do I call the dream a negative frequency and the physical timeline a positive one? Because it’s not good when human beings spend all their time living in a dream instead of living their lives, while trying to delude themselves that the dream is their actual life.

The Roadhouse didn’t always have its Season 3 role in the Twin Peaks story, but it grew into it organically using a foundation of elements in Seasons 1 and 2 and Fire Walk With Me.

The Roadhouse in Twin Peaks Seasons 1 and 2

From the back of the Roadhouse you can see the tall giant on stage, in front of red curtains with a spotlight on him.When we first meet the Roadhouse in the pilot, it is a meeting place. Emotions rise to the surface here, like the initial explosion of violence after the tension couldn’t ratchet up further in the pilot.

Sometimes decisions also rise to the surface. And sometimes answers. The bail hearings for Leland Palmer and Leo Johnson happened at the Roadhouse, as did the Miss Twin Peaks competition. Ed and Norma met there to express their feelings, as did Donna and James.

And let’s not forget the Giant appeared there three times:

  • To alert Cooper that BOB was killing again.
  • To give Cooper his ring back.
  • To warn Cooper off Annie signing up for Miss Twin Peaks.

That last warning went literally on Dale’s deaf ears (he immediately kissed Annie as if he wasn’t acknowledging the Giant).

The middle message was received loud and clear…Leland and BOB were revealed and caught.

But that first one had everything, including Lynch in the director’s chair:

  • Cooper understood that the Giant was delivering some form of important message.
  • The emotion from Maddie’s death was also broadcast across the whole bar.
  • Bobby and Donna both knew something terrible had just taken place.
  • So did Margaret and the Elderly Room Service Waiter.

“I’m so sorry” indeed. There is a confluence in this scene where people’s own stories are tuned by the event taking place on the stage. Whether they could see the Giant or not, people tuned in to his frequency fully experienced that energy.

The Roadhouse in Fire Walk With Me

A closeup of Laura Palmer, against a background of a brick wall. Her expression is pained and heartbreaking.While the Roadhouse didn’t feature as a hub of the blatantly supernatural in Fire Walk With Me, it featured as a transitional point for Laura Palmer. It’s as if she entered from one frequency and left down a less positive frequency. That was her trajectory anyway, but it’s interesting how she speaks to Margaret outside, enters the Roadhouse, and decides from there not only to go on with her night of extreme debauchery but to allow Donna to come along, too.

Margaret began with this:

When this kind of fire starts, it is very hard to put out. The tender boughs of innocence burn first, and the wind rises, and then all goodness is in jeopardy.

Despite this, Laura decided to reveal that part of herself to her closest school friend. Donna’s innocence burns first, and then there we go. Laura transitioned from being aimless to deciding slowly but surely what her trajectory would be.

In Season 3, we see a number of people go through these doors, transitioning from being aimless to focusing on a trajectory. Some are in a positive direction, some are in a more negative direction, but as before the Roadhouse manages to be a focusing agent for anyone who sits at its booths.

The Roadhouse in Twin Peaks Season 3

The neon red gun blasting Bang and Bang, with Bar below them.

The Roadhouse plays a particular kind of role in Season 3. It’s always fluctuating, just as the sounds within it. And the people inside it are tuning themselves. People go into the Roadhouse with stagnant untuned energy, and by the time their scenes are over, we watch them re-tuning themselves. We’re watching them come to decisions while they sit in that booth, just like Laura did as she passed through it in Fire Walk With Me. And then they leave the stuck-in-the-middle Season 3 for good.

But it’s not fluctuating willy nilly. It moves between three states only. I think the shape of the three reality states has everything to do with Cooper’s time loops, but that doesn’t matter here. What does matter is that there is a positive frequency tuned towards the physical timeline, a negative frequency tuned towards Lodgespace, and a neutral frequency stuck directly between the two extremes.

The frequency tunes like a radio dial between the extremes, and it is up to every single character in Season 3 to restart their stagnant energy and choose to send their energy down a positive or negative path.

If you had to name the songs the random people in the booth seats are tuning to during their scenes, the positive frequency would be “Shovel Yourself Out (of the sh*t)” and the negative frequency would be “Drink Full and Descend.” All the Roadhouse scenes show us random characters picking one of those “songs” to listen to.

There are a number of ways the Roadhouse tells us what its initial frequency is for each of its scenes with its assortment of establishing shots.

  • If we are shown the parking lot, we are tuned to the neutral frequency.
  • If we are shown the Bang Bang Bar sign, we are tuned toward the positive frequency.
  • If we are shown the reflection of the Bang Bang Bar sign in a puddle, we are tuned toward the negative frequency.
  • If the parking lot is mixed with one of those Bang Bang Bar signs, I think it connotes a shifting from positive frequency to neutral frequency, or from the neutral frequency to the negative frequency.

Billy is an additional landmark to keep in mind. While you can go all sorts of places to verify his identity, think of his name here like someone’s mentioning a street sign in a bad part of town. As people associated with him are typically part of the dreamy Lodge-adjacent frequency, he signifies a reference to the negative frequency.

Establishing Shot: The Bang Bang Bar Sign

A neon sign, all in red. A pistol on the left, shooting the words Bang and Bang in a triangle shape. The word Bar is centered below them. These are scenes that begin or end on a positive frequency.

Part 2

Shelly and Renee sitting on the right booth seat, two other friends on the left booth seat. All are checking out someone across the room.Along with the Bang Bang Bar sign, the parking lot is included in the first establishing shot of Season 3. Shelly and her friends are at the booth, while James and Freddie enter. Even Jean-Michel Renault and Red (and his finger guns) are present. There are characters associated with positive and negative stories when we first see the Roadhouse again.

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 does the establishing shot include the parking lot along with the Bang Bang Bar sign? As it’s the episode where Dale creates his first Lodge time loop, we seemingly transition officially from the original timeline to this in-between state likely created from Cooper’s actions. The frequency is changing from positive energy to neutral energy. Characters are officially stuck in place.

Part 4

On a dutch angle, the three women sing into microphones. The woman closest to us is behind a keyboard.We see the Bang Bang Bar sign, but there is no scene including characters this time. We only see Au Revoir Simone play. They are lit in purple light. Purple light is a combination of Blue and Red, which are typically coded to the world (“Questions in a world of blue”) and the Lodge (red curtains) respectively.

The tuning of this scene is mostly positive based on the use of the Bang Bang Bar sign, but there’s nothing to associate within the scene in regards to the tuning. Maybe Lynch meant the tuning of this state for our moods.

Part 12

Abbie sits, looking to the side pensively, a few beer bottles in front of her already.

Abbie and Natalie are in the booth this time. They 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 is off-balance and her friends mention she’s dreaming, however literally they mean. I read this in a way that Angela is tuned towards the negative frequency, and she’s not in this scene because the bar and the women are currently tuned towards the positive frequency. Hence the Bang Bang Bar sign inclusion.

Angela’s tuned towards the negative loop because she’s with Clark, who is also two-timing Angela with Mary. And Billy is brought up by the women as someone who hates Mary. Billy is part of the negative frequency, therefore so is Mary, and therefore also Clark and Angela.

Meanwhile on the positive frequency—noted by the Bang Bang Bar sign—Abbie and Natalie are looking for their old friend from a different frequency.

Need more proof besides the sign that Abbie and Natalie are on a more positive frequency? Trick shows up. The ladies’ friend Trick slides into the booth after almost being in a head-on collision with a car going the wrong way. He’s got a lot of aspects that show him tuned to a positive frequency:

  • Unlike the car that almost ran him off the road, he’s literally heading in the correct direction.
  • He’s just out of house arrest. House arrest is a stagnant period (or being stuck in place) and a time of atonement for previous negative decisions.
  • “That’s behind him now.” Trick has atoned for his crime and he can start moving his energy in a direction. He’s shoveled himself out of the sh*t.
  • And now he’s reconnected with his friends. He’s connecting with the greater world outside his house (you’ll notice this is also repeated imagery).

Part 14

Megan sits at a bar booth, explaining a complicated story with her hands clasped in front of her.In the booth, Sophie is playing the role of a golden shovel for her friend Megan. Megan talks about a time she saw Billy bleeding out of his mouth, but then she can’t remember the rest, trailing off when she couldn’t remember if her uncle was there or not. It’s like she woke up from a dream.

Megan is the one tuning from a negative state to a positive one:

  • She came from where Billy was.
  • She appears to be forgetting the story like one does when they wake up and lose the thread of the story.
  • She is gathering with a friend who is offering her support.

When Megan trails off when she’s unsure if her uncle was there, she did so as if she’s leaving a dream behind. This is when Lissie starts singing triumphantly with a lot of energy, and the stage lighting is only yellow—the closest available color to gold.

And gold is a state of achieved intrapersonal alchemy personified by a scene if you ask me (and Mark Frost, and David Lynch). Megan is on her way, and Sophie’s helping her shovel.

Part 15

Freddie’s arm is outstretched, showing the green glove he just clobbered some jerk with.

Along with the Bang Bang Bar sign, the establishing shot includes the parking lot. I read this as moving from the positive frequency to the in-between as James and Freddie enter the otherwise banal scene, just like they did in Part 2.

Renee, Chuck, and their friends are having a normal night out, and James starts a fight when he’s obliviously over-friendly. When does the scene tune towards negative Lodgespace-adjacency? Both times Freddie uses his glove and the ZZ Top music skips when he makes impact. It’s like there was an electrical surge. These punches from the Fireman-imbued green glove messed with the sound system’s electricity, but it was also changing the scene’s positive frequency. It set the frequency perfectly for Part 15’s later Roadhouse scene when Ruby screams.

A chart showing where characters begin and end on a scale from Positive to Negative

Establishing Shot: The Bang Bang Bar Sign Reflected in the Puddle

The rippled reflection of the bang bang bar sign in a parking lot puddle, close up.

These are scenes that begin or end on a negative frequency.

Part 3

Two men sing into microphones while playing their guitars, while their background is lit in yellow.

We just see the Cactus Blossoms on the stage. 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? This one’s a bit of an anomaly.

Part 5

Richard Horne chokes a teen girl in one booth while her scared friends look on from the next booth.

We see a person walk straight through the reflection this time. The next thing we see is Richard Horne, so that’s a no-brainer to see as code for “we are now literally walking into negative Lodge-adjacency.”

Between Richard’s parentage and actions, it’s nearly impossible to argue we’re anywhere but a negative place…how else? The girl and her friends are frozen with inaction even as he threatens vile things I refuse to type here. How else? The band’s name is Trouble.

Part 9

Chloe at the Roadhouse, leaning forward in a booth while smiling about her unsavory lifestyle.

After the puddle-reflected Bang Bang Bar sign, 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. She literally crossed over from one side of the street to the other side, reminding me of Trick almost being run off the road by someone being on the wrong side of the road. The ladies are also using unrecognizable names for things that are obviously bad news, which sure sounds similar to a Richard and Linda moment to me.

The two girls were going to continue this descent into Lodgespace darkness without even comprehending what they’re only barely noticing. Nothing but negative energy here.

 

Establishing Shot: No Sign, Just the Parking Lot

The Roadhouse is in the back right, and we can see the parking lot from across the street.These are scenes that stagnate in neutral frequency or fluctuate between positive and negative frequency.

Part 6
Van Etten is Centered in purple, her background singer behind her, and red curtains at the back.

We just see Sharon Van Etten perform. She’s lit in blue and the curtains behind her are a purplish red. The fact that both red and blue are present and can’t balance themselves into purple tracks with my general thought on all of this.

Part 7

A wide shot of an empty bar with one man sweeping with a broom. Bartender is at the back cleaning the counter.

The scene immediately goes from the parking lot into the two-and-a-half minutes of sweeping. Here we are likely seeing the physical timeline symbolically swept away by the man with the broom (while the red stage curtains loom in the back corner of the shot), clearing the space for what will come starting with Jean-Michel Renault’s call about high school girls, then the diner patron flip in the credits—to the tune of “Sleepwalkin’”—then what must have always been in Part 8.

Part 10

Del Rio wears a black and white chevron dress, hands outstretched. Her band mates are lit in purple, and red drapes flank them.

After the parking lot, the Roadhouse is preceded by the foggy moon. Rebekah Del Rio sings “No Stars” against purple/red curtains.

As the song is both painful and beautiful, I’d say that exemplifies the indecision between positive and negative frequencies better than most things in the Roadhouse, because we as viewers are the ones unsure how to feel.

Part 13

Renee clutches at her hair nervously while in a booth alone.James Hurley is on stage singing, lit in purple as if he’s finding his proper balance, but we see Renee crying. She’s the one in an in-between point. Renee can’t seem to voice what she’s regretting, but she feels it just like Donna did during “The World Spins” in Season 2.

Part 15

A young girl sits alone at a booth, leaning on her hands, elbows on the table.Later on in Part 15, after Freddie’s punches skipped the Roadhouse’s sound system, we see the establishing shot of the parking lot again. You could say the Roadhouse is still tuned to the middle state but then transitions to negative Lodgespace tuning. Ruby—whose energy is stuck in place as she’s literally waiting for someone—crawls along the floor and begins screaming as the strobe light kicks in, and it is implied she caves in to Lodgespace.

Part 16

Audrey, arms outstretched while dancing in front of a purple lit room

Audrey’s appearance is where all the elements of Roadhouse behaviors come together. The scene begins with the parking lot establishing shot, then moves to the stage. After being introduced by his birth name—Edward Louis Severson—by the announcer, 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.

Vedder’s song “Out of Sand” feels like an invocation of change, much in the same way that Nine Inch Nails’ “She’s Gone Away” felt like a seance that ushered in the birth of evil in Part 8. The Roadhouse announcer also introduced that song, as well as Lissie, James Hurley, and the ZZ Top song. All of those moments introduced by the announcer involve a change of states, for what it’s worth:

  • Nine Inch Nails’ “She’s Gone Away” seems to act as an invocation to (a) revive DoppelCooper and (b) usher in the bomb and Experiment.
  • Lissie’s “Wild West” seems to usher in a change of frequency for Megan when she wakes up from her crazy bleeding Billy “dream.”
  • James Hurley’s “Just You” seems to bring Renee to a breaking point.
  • ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” involved a scene that was intruded on by Freddie’s Fireman-imbued green-glove glitching sound itself. It’s not at the scale of a nuclear bomb letting in Experiment, but it’s an intrusion of Lodginess all the same that invites a shift to the negative.

What change does “Out of Sand” usher in? One where Audrey has broken out of her version of house arrest. She’s like Trick in Part 12 in that way, except she treated the Roadhouse like the destination rather than an important stop on her journey. Her “home” could be “behind [her] now” as she reconnects to humanity, but the first thing she does after a song about all the sand of time that’s passed her by is choose to invoke Billy.

And Billy is a signpost of the Lodgespace dream. This means his lover Audrey chose to toast to the dream and her “lover” within it, rather than choosing her current situation. But what is her situation?

She’s been attached to Lodgespace thanks to DoppelCooper raping her, and she literally became adjacent to a Black Lodge portal when she gave birth to Richard Horne. This part of my analysis from The Final Dossier sums up much of it:

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, Audrey’s been a shut-in—like Trick and even more so like Sarah Palmer—and she’s at the Roadhouse. This means that from here she can either descend further like Laura did in Fire Walk With Me, or she can choose a positive path like some of the random Roadhouse characters mentioned above.

When was her choice made? When she toasted to Billy instead of to Charlie’s “us.”

At the Roadhouse, Audrey (left) and Charlie (right) toast their glasses to different things.

If I’m correct about characters making a choice between a positive or negative frequency throughout Season 3, Audrey did not decide to own up to the fact that she hated her life with Charlie. She chose instead to prefer her connection to the negative frequency. And that’s when everything got quiet and the announcer called out “Audrey’s Dance” by its name listed on the original Twin Peaks soundtrack.

Here we have Audrey at the crossroads of another choice:

  • Does she dance until she finds and accepts her true essence?
  • Does she get distracted by the negative energy of the barfight over infidelity (that mirrors the Freddie/James/Chuck fight from Part 15)?

At this point, Audrey gives into fear and retreats backwards, calling to Charlie—the symbol of the life she actively runs from—to get her “out of here.” This is when electricity sounds take her to the white room with the mirror, and the band in the Roadhouse plays her song backwards.

This tells me the Roadhouse was tuned completely to the negative frequency by the end of that scene, but Audrey wasn’t. She was able to escape the dream frequency with the aid of her connection to the physical world. But because she couldn’t entirely give herself to the situation she had in the physical world, she maintains a state in between both frequencies.

This stands to reason, as the establishing shot was just of the parking lot rather than including the puddle with the Bang Bang Bar sign reflection.
A chart showing where Audrey Horne begin and end on a scale from Positive to Negative

Based on this chart of Audrey, she is in a circular loop based more on her connection to Lodgespace as Richard Horne’s mother. Yet her interaction still fits well with what we’ve established already about how the Roadhouse tunes people to frequencies.
A chart showing where characters begin and end on a scale from Positive to Negative

I’m sure there are plot specifics that could use some refining, but if you look exclusively at the energy and frequencies of scenes, this exploration helped me understand how Audrey’s storyline fit in to the whole of Season 3. And in turn, understanding the flow of Audrey’s story helped me understand Cooper’s story progression throughout the season. How energy travels through the Roadhouse is the same way electricity flows through the season, and I feel this is the beginning of a solid roadmap for all of Season 3. Looking at it this way, I hope this helps justify why all those seemingly random Roadhouse scenes were included in Season 3 in the first place.

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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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