The Yin/Yang of Twin Peaks: Part 2 of 2

The Duality of Dale Cooper (Yang)

In the first part of this article I discussed the duality in the Palmer family and more specifically in Laura. The main points that will correlate with this second part are that each member of the family had their own version of a dark side to contend with, and the relationship between them was one of cause and effect. I also discussed what the potential cause of this turmoil was, what messages creators David Lynch and Mark Frost may have been trying to convey through these split personalities and how they constituted one half of the main part of the narrative.

The other half is made up by the yin/yang of Special Agent Dale Cooper, his investigation into Laura’s murder and where that takes him. When we first meet him at the start of the first season, he’s the polar opposite of someone you’d suspect of leading a double life or harbouring a dark side. Cooper is confident, direct, positive and wears his heart on his sleeve. Initially, Sheriff Truman acts as a kind of small-town version of the FBI lawman, but they end up being complementary to each other. He becomes a guide to Twin Peaks for Cooper, aiming his big-city talents in the right direction in the small town. Truman even quips at one point that he feels like the Watson to his Holmes, an apt description.

Cooper doesn’t meet his match in the story until someone from his past returns after he has followed him to Twin Peaks: Windom Earle. He’s the former agent and partner that taught him everything he knows. Cooper made the fatal error of falling in love with his wife, and when it was reciprocated, Earle brutally murdered her. He’s clearly unhinged but also brilliant and resourceful. He’s a shadowy reflection that encapsulates the biggest mistake from his past; he’s the Moriarty to Cooper’s Holmes, the Joker to his Batman.

Close Up of Earle with pale skin and black teeth

Their rivalry is also one born out of causality. It could be argued that Cooper created this evil mastermind through his past sins and this weighs on his conscience heavily with guilt. This opposition may seem fairly straightforward, but there’s more going on in this conflict than it seems on the surface. At one time, Earle was part of Project Blue Book, a government division that Major Briggs was an integral part of, which investigated strange phenomena. It was whilst carrying out research there that he discovered the biggest secret that Twin Peaks harbours: that in the woods surrounding the town, in Ghostwood Forest, there lies a gateway to another reality, The Black Lodge.

It’s Earle’s belief that this dark place contains a power that can be harnessed for evil if he can only gain access to it, and this is the real reason he has come to town. There’s certainly an element of fate to his and Cooper’s intertwined paths, and it’s only in The Black Lodge that they finally meet properly face to face since the aforementioned affair. Earle suffers a fate worse than death whilst in this place. His soul is taken from him by the devilish BOB—punishment, it seems, for meddling with powers he can’t wield or even comprehend.

With its opposite, The White Lodge, the two make up the heaven and hell of Twin Peaks. This makes them the root of good and evil, the yin/yang of this whole world. Some have even theorised that the geography of the town, with its two mountains, suggests that the reason these gateways are there is because two worlds are colliding on a physical level, as well as a metaphysical one. The Black Lodge is the iconic space with the red curtains and chevron floor that is home to “The Arm.” This is the same arm that MIKE removed from himself that bore the tattoo of “Fire Walk With Me.” After he fully reformed from his murderous ways, this was the act that symbolised his purification and The Arm now exists as its own diminutive person in this negative place.

Cooper sits in the Black Lodge with The Arm and Laura

Even though he makes his introduction into the show by giving Cooper many clues to help his case in a dream, from his actions in the prequel film Fire Walk With Me, The Arm seems to be an accomplice of BOB’s and therefore evil. However, in the finale of Season 2 and again in The Return, we also see that he has his own dark doppelgänger; so his loyalties are ambiguous but lean towards him overall being a force for bad.

Although not directly referred to by name, we see what is heavily suggested to be The White Lodge in The Return. It‘s a grand, old fortress on top of a tall island in the middle of an ocean, with an interior resembling a vintage theatre. This space and everything in it is monochrome and is where “The Giant” resides, referred to in this third season as “The Fireman.” He has always been a guide to Cooper, providing him clues to help his investigation and also trying to give him warnings of impending danger.

The Arm and The Giant do appear together in the Black Lodge in the finale of Season 2, but many other characters appear in this space as well and there’s no suggestion that they are in league with each other. There’s also a depiction of them standing together on the wall painting in Owl Cave. This could suggest that they’re perhaps two sides of a coin. As the cave painting is very old and one would assume that MIKE’s reformation is a fairly recent act, this could also be a prophecy of sorts. This is in a very similar vein to Deputy Hawk’s “living map” he reveals in The Return and both have been crafted by Native American culture.

The Giant stands in the White Lodge with Señorita Dido sitting behind him

So the most clear-cut examples of yin/yang in this world, the Lodges, each have their own respective guardian, that are opposites of each other in stature. Is their stark contrast in appearance a reflection of their character as well? It’s quite possible. If compared to biblical stories, it’s very fitting that the paragon of good would be a giant and bad, a dwarf; much like the representations of God as a giant figure in the clouds and Satan, who famously took on the form of a snake to converse with Adam in the Garden of Eden and lead him astray. This religious imagery also matches the way that The Giant sends Laura to Earth as a messianic figure in Episode 8 of The Return, whether this is done literally or metaphorically in the context of the story.

Ironically, it’s while Cooper’s pursuing Earle, his dark reflection and moments after the latter’s demise, that he’s faced with his true shadow-self. Hawk had forewarned him about the legend that says if one found their way into The Black Lodge, they would meet “the dweller on the threshold.” He also warned that “if confronted with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.” As much as it pains me to say, Cooper fails at this most poignant moment by fleeing from his shadow-self and is caught by him just before he can escape. This is the most catastrophic and harshest example of causality in the whole show.

When Hawk warned that he would “annihilate your soul,” he was quite accurate. Cooper’s shadow-self who’s dubbed “Mr. C” by a character in the first episode of The Return, is not only able to escape The Black Lodge and take Cooper’s place in the human world but also acts as a host to BOB and brings him along as well. This dual, evil entity is an autonomous being, unlike the ones that plague the Palmer family and he’s also not a tulpa, like Diane or Dougie (more on him later). He seems to be unique in the world of Twin Peaks, a villain that can only be released if one is able to find their way into the Lodge from the human world and fails the trial that awaits there.

Mr. C and Bob laugh maniacally together

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, Mr. C then spends the next 25 years systematically destroying everything that Copper holds dear. He starts by sexually assaulting the two closest women to him, Diane and Audrey, even though the latter was in a coma. He then builds a vast underground criminal network and amasses a great fortune whilst doing so. This wealth then facilitates the search for what he truly wants, the evil entity known as Judy. What he wants her for isn’t clear, but judging from a phone conversation they seem to have, a rivalry is hinted at. It’s also possible that he seeks to form a union with her, according to prophecies made about the ancient, evil deities they resemble.

Seeing as he does seem to be a part of Cooper, or a dark doppelgänger, perhaps he wants the same things that his better half wants, albeit for different reasons. We find out towards the end of The Return that Cooper had made a plan with Gordon Cole and Major Briggs before Mr. C escaped, one to try and find and capture Judy. Maybe Mr. C was sticking to this plan, trying to prove he could do what his good side couldn’t and therefore validating his existence. This is a common subject that has been explored in other great narratives, such as those in Fight Club and Mr. Robot.

Even though this is the most extreme and prolific case of duality in the whole show, it’s complicated exponentially more so, as both of these versions of Cooper will produce another double each. At different points, each creates a tulpa from themselves. Mr. C manufactures his first to take his place when he’s due to be taken back into The Black Lodge after 25 years for reasons unknown. In the finale of Season 2, whilst in the Lodge, Laura makes a reference to this length of time. This may be the next time that the stars and planets will align so the entrance to the Lodge will open again, or it could be for another undisclosed reason.

Dougie looks confused in the Black Lodge

Whatever the reason for his scheduled return, Mr. C makes plans to ensure he isn’t taken but his tulpa, Dougie, is in his place. His plan is successful and Cooper’s able to leave The Black Lodge and takes his tulpa’s place instead in the human world. Dougie has made a life for himself as a crooked insurance salesman with a wife and son. Although, he seems to be an awful husband and father, one who disappears for long stretches on benders of some kind, solicits the services of prostitutes and gambles himself into debt with the wrong people. After Cooper has spent time with Dougie’s family and has to part ways with them, he creates a tulpa from himself that should be a much better replacement for them than the original one.

Cooper’s surreal adventure and Laura’s story are the two halves that make up the main part of the narrative of Twin Peaks, what happens to one, effects the other. What she went through is what brought him to Twin Peaks in the first place, and the deeper he delves into the mystery of her life, the more this brings them closer together in various ways. Whether it’s the last scene of FWWM or the climax of The Return, their fates are intertwined and I believe it’s something of this nature that Laura’s whispering in Cooper’s ear in the Black Lodge.

On a metaphysical level, their stories are the tectonic plates that make up the structure of the show. Two very different characters and their narratives that collide but share similar elements. It’s this juxtaposition that’s the beautiful yin/yang of the show and what makes it so compelling. It’s no coincidence that each represents the characteristics of both aspects of the ancient Chinese philosophy perfectly:

Yin ( or 阴) = Laura – Negative, passive, female principle in nature. The moon, shaded orientation, covert, concealed, hidden; dark, wetness, cold and disintegration.

Yang ( or 阳) = Cooper – Positive, active, male principle in nature. The sun, in relief, open, overt, belonging to this world; light, dryness and warmth.

Laura whispers in Coopers ear in the Black Lodge and he looks shocked

“This concept of dualism, describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”

If this statement doesn’t summarise Cooper and Laura’s relationship that transcends different realities, I’m not sure what does. However, this foundation of storytelling also perplexes some viewers, as one minute they’re watching a whimsical period soap opera and in the next, an avant-garde, surrealist piece of art. Most people seem to like films and TV to be straightforward and easy to categorise, so something like Twin Peaks that challenges genres and what the medium is capable of, is always going to upset those with delicate dispositions and limited imagination.

So what do these countless examples of duality mean in the context of the world of Twin Peaks and what is Lynch and Frost using them to say? Well these questions are oxymorons in themselves as both creators subscribe to not explaining any part of the show, not in any depth at least. Frost is willing to discuss more than Lynch is and the latter’s famous for shutting down interviewers when they ask him to elaborate with a simple “No,” with a wry smile on his face. When either give away even the smallest nugget of insight, it’s discussed and dissected at length by fans.

All I can do is offer my own musings but I encourage you to come to your own conclusions with the exhibits I’ve concentrated and presented to you on this particular subject. For a start, nothing that happens in this show is by accident. The level of detail and the intricate references in everything, including imagery, plot and themes, are perhaps the most complex and meticulous in any TV show ever created. This is the reason why there are countless jokes made about trying to understand what it all truly means and why many have dedicated years to trying to figure it out.

Mr. C looks in the mirror and his face is morphing slightly to look like BOB

So it goes without saying that nothing is random in this show and what I can tell you is that Frost has a keen interest in Buddhism, and Lynch is possibly the biggest instigator for Transcendental Meditation the world over. With this in mind, it’d be safe to assume that both believe in certain principles that encourage one to know themselves deeply and maintain balance in all things and with nature. As the Log Lady said in her introduction to the Season 2 finale:

“Where there was once one, there are now two. Or were there always two? What is a reflection? A chance to see two? When there are chances for reflections, there can always be two or more. Only when we are everywhere, will there be just one.”

Of all the Palmer family and Cooper, it was only Laura who had the strength and fortitude to stave off her demons. This is why she’s “the one,” as the Log Lady put it, not physically but spiritually. Her parents and Cooper on the other hand, are all different examples of what could happen to someone who is set upon by their dark side and concedes, allowing it to take control. Audrey Horne even said of the latter that “his only problem was that he’s perfect,” so his story is a cautionary tale about knowing even the darker parts of yourself and accepting responsibility for them, as in the Jungian philosophy. I think Oscar Wilde put it best when he said: “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

The beauty of Twin Peaks is that you don’t have to know anything about it to appreciate it as fully as someone who has studied it all their life. Lynch considers himself a Painter first and foremost and has always described his film and TV work as “moving paintings.” The show can be viewed as one would look at an immense, intricate painting hung in a gallery; it’s not a necessity to know the motives behind what colours or type of paints he used to create the masterpiece. With this in mind, you can watch the show and just let it wash over you, as you would whilst listening to a symphony performed by a full orchestra.

Cooper comforts Laura in the Black Lodge

Written by Simon McDermott

Simon is a Script Supervisor/Script Editor. He enjoys developing and overseeing scripts to make sure that the best can be gotten from them. He also works as a Supporting Artist in Film and TV. He finds any way to get on to a set because it’s his favourite place to be.

He is also a qualified Hairdresser and a Writer. He has been writing in one form or another since having multiple poems published as a teenager but mainly writes reviews for gigs and concerts. His hobbies include Martial Arts Classes and Fencing.

Simon lives in a warehouse in Hackney Wick, London with his Swedish girlfriend and the cutest French Bulldog in the world.

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