“Comparing The Script and Final Version of Twin Peaks Episode 29” is also available in audio-visual format on the 25YL YouTube channel. Join us every day from January 30 to February 28, as we look at every episode of Seasons 1 & 2 for Twin Peaks Month.
When faced with the task of writing about Twin Peaks Episode 29, I had a very serious dilemma on my hands: What hasn’t been said about what was, once upon a time, the final episode of Twin Peaks? People have studied and dissected this mind-blowing hour of television for nearly three decades now, and there’s some truly marvelous work out there. In this article, I will be providing my thoughts and analysis on the Season 2 finale, but I want to go a step further and not only compare the shooting script to the final, filmed-for-television version but also look at what a potential third season could’ve looked like had the show continued back in 1991. Let’s rock!
The Past Dictates The Future
One of the biggest differences between the shooting script (which was written by Mark Frost, Harley Peyton, and Bob Engels) and the televised version from David Lynch was a return to the Pilot and other references to the past. Lynch brought back longtime collaborators of his, Jack Nance and Catherine Coulson (Pete and The Log Lady, respectively) for a scene at the Sheriff’s station, along with Ronette Pulaski, and in this scene reintroduced scorched engine oil to the narrative.
Lynch added a whole scene at the Double R Diner that allowed Major and Betty Briggs, Doctor Jacoby, Sarah Palmer, Bobby, Shelly, and Heidi to get into the episode. This scene would not only provide a sense of nostalgia but also lay the groundwork for a potential third season.
In this scene, Bobby proposes to Shelly, the beat of Heidi being late to work from the Pilot is re-enacted, and Sarah Palmer delivers a warning to Major Briggs. Someone, speaking through Sarah, tells the Major that they were in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper. This scene sets up a scenario where Major Briggs would be the only character with firsthand knowledge of Cooper’s fate and puts him in a position to lead the rescue mission, had the show continued. Of course, this would not come to be, and instead, we learned in The Return and in Mark Frost’s books that this knowledge made Briggs a target of Cooper’s doppelgänger.
This is purely hypothetical, but I did like the idea of Briggs, with all his insights and wisdom, leading an effort to not only stop Cooper’s doppelgänger but also rescue the Good Dale from the Black Lodge. That certainly could’ve made for compelling television had the show lived on back in 1991. Of course, the question would have also arisen as to who was speaking through Sarah. The first name that comes to mind is Annie. Similar to the warning she delivered to Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which was also about Dale being in the Lodge, it makes sense for Annie to seek out Sarah Palmer to be the vehicle for her “call for help” message.
Of course, Annie isn’t the only possibility here. In The Return, many speculated that the One-Armed Man is the person calling Cooper’s doppelgänger, telling him that he will be brought back to the Lodge soon so “he” could be reunited with BOB. If that’s indeed the case, then perhaps we could extrapolate that logic here, deducing that by tipping off Major Briggs that the Good Dale is trapped in the Lodge, that the “Bad Dale,” who had BOB with him, could be brought back to the Lodge, rectifying the fractured Lodge hierarchy.
Many Twin Peaks fans have long assumed that it’s Windom Earle’s voice speaking through Sarah, but that’s never made sense to me. Why would the character of Earle want to communicate with Major Briggs? Why would he want people to know where Agent Cooper was? Plus, the character is being killed off upon the completion of his task: drawing Cooper into the Black Lodge. Whoever was speaking through Sarah would need to be someone with a future on the show, and Earle will not have one. Annie and The One-Armed Man strike me as the most likely candidates.
I’ve Been Loving You
Another very noticeable change between the script and televised version of Twin Peaks Episode 29 is the Nadine-Ed scene, which also features Norma, Mike Nelson, and Doc Hayward. The scripted version relies a lot more on humor, with Nadine coming to as a demanding, bullying wife ordering Ed to throw Mike out of the house. Instead, David Lynch gives us something much more powerful and memorable.
The televised version of this scene is anything but funny. It’s tragic. It’s heartbreaking to see Ed and Norma come so close to their happiness, only to have it yanked away from them. It’s incredibly heavy to see Nadine come to and not play into a stereotype, but rather be full of fear and concern, a more realistic approach. If a person were to snap out of a trauma-induced fugue state like Nadine did, they would be disoriented and seeking something to ground them in reality. For Nadine, that’s Ed, who slips back into his role of caregiver without missing a beat.
There’s an emotional gravitas to this scene that’s on par with Nadine’s suicide attempt in the Season 1 finale. Eliminating humor and the “nagging wife” stereotype allows viewers to feel all of the characters’ pain, and that pain was abundant. It’s a safe assumption that had Season 3 happened in 1991, we would’ve been back to a Season 1 dynamic, only now Norma would be without Hank, who would be on his way back to prison.
The Horne Redemption Tour
Both Ben and Audrey Horne remain prominent characters throughout the original series, even when the writing for those characters isn’t always of the highest quality. Heading into the Season 2 finale, Ben is on a quest to have the truth set him free, and Audrey is trying to forge a path of her own in life.
Lynch left Audrey’s scene at the bank largely unchanged from the script. The most noticeable change is actually Lynch’s desire to make Dell Mibler’s scenes move painfully slow, something that is not at all outlined in the script. While not an earth-shattering change by any means, it is undeniable that Lynch makes the character memorable, instead of just being an extra in Audrey’s story.
Had the show continued in 1991, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where either Pete or Audrey die in the bank explosion, although Andrew Packard likely would’ve been killed here. His purpose in the narrative feels complete. With the lead character in the series, Agent Cooper, likely playing a villain, Audrey would’ve conceivably been needed more as a main character than ever, with her being arguably the show’s second-most popular character. What her role would’ve been is unclear, but her presence would be needed.
Now Entering The Black Lodge
It’s no secret that the scenes taking place in the Waiting Room/Black Lodge are the most dramatically altered by Lynch from the script written by Frost, Engels, and Peyton. The scripted version of the episode in fact looks nothing like what we see onscreen. Red curtains and chevron patterns are replaced by hotels, dentist chairs, and a heavy emphasis placed on the past of Agent Cooper.
The first noticeable difference is how characters enter the Lodge. In the scripted version, Cooper is chasing Earle through the woods and grabs onto his leg as he enters, taking him in with him. The element of choice is missing here. In the televised version, Cooper makes a choice to enter, which, dramatically speaking, makes the ending that much more significant. Cooper knows the risks and still chooses to go in. In the scripted version, he’s trying to prevent Earle from entering and winds up going in himself. It is, in a sense, an accident, which produces an entirely different emotional reaction to Cooper’s ultimate fate than if he calmly and boldly makes a choice to enter.
The scripted version of the Twin Peaks Episode 29 portrays the Black Lodge as a psychological hell of sorts, a place where your past is something you’re forced to confront. Cooper encounters his father at one point during his pursuit of Windom Earle, in addition to Caroline Earle. The climax of the Black Lodge sequences sees Windom attempt to barter with Cooper, much like in the episode’s final version, only here BOB emerges dressed as a dentist, complete with a large syringe. BOB is defeated by Laura Palmer, and as a consolation prize, BOB leaves the Black Lodge with Cooper, since he fails to claim his soul. This is in stark contrast to the televised version, where BOB leaves with Cooper’s doppelgänger, which of course will be a key component to the story in The Return.
There’s a lot to unpack here. To be blunt, using a cheesy horror trope such as a dentist is a complete betrayal of the BOB character. BOB is one of the greatest on-screen villains of all time (for many reasons, which I’ve written about here), but to put him in a silly cartoon-like scenario such as the one originally scripted would destroy the character’s aura as seen thus far. (although I would be remiss in not bringing up the infamous “BOB Ball” in Part 17 of The Return here). David Lynch rectifies this in the televised version, giving us a genuine portrayal of BOB and all of the terror the character is supposed to inspire.
While the idea of making the Black Lodge a place that can play on your memories and fears is an interesting idea, it also goes against the dreamlike logic previously established for the Lodge and Waiting Room. The mere fact that there’s a physical entrance to the Lodge also goes against the previously established notion that the Lodge could only be entered through dreams, which Lynch establishes early in Season 1. Frost made the race to enter the Lodge a major part of the plot of Season 2, following the revelation of Laura’s killer, which made it essentially impossible for Lynch to change that feature (it should be noted that Lynch would eventually embrace the idea of a physical entrance into the Lodge, as shown at the end of his film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me).
Another noticeable departure from the shooting script is a scene where Truman, while waiting for Cooper outside the Lodge, is confronted by a female knight of sorts, dressed in full armor. The scene is a nod surely to King Arthur, and it’s unclear whether or not this woman would’ve returned to the story or if it’s the Lodge’s attempt to lure Truman. In a previous scene, the Lodge seemingly lures Annie in with a vision of a smiling nun, playing up the more psychological elements of the Lodge, which differs from Lynch’s vision.
One thing obvious to me as I compared the scripted and televised versions of Twin Peaks Episode 29 was that by this point, Mark Frost and David Lynch had drastically different ideas of what Twin Peaks was. While I personally prefer what we would ultimately see onscreen, the scripted version is ambitious in its own ways. There’s an attempt to move the show in a post-Laura Palmer direction that could’ve potentially created longevity for the series, even if it felt different. Lynch opted for nostalgia and bringing things full-circle. Whether he wanted to say goodbye or just felt it was better, who knows? He’s not telling.
It’s interesting to think about what could’ve been. So many of the characters that have made the first two seasons of Twin Peaks what it is have already been killed off or written off by this point. To continue, the show would have had to be and look different. Mark Frost’s television sensibilities knew this, and he was looking ahead, while Lynch appeared to be saying goodbye. While we can piece together bits of stories about what a potential third season might’ve looked like, what we got was a powerful, hypnotic final episode and a script that we can study and daydream about. There’s something kind of poetic about that, considering that Frost continued the Twin Peaks narrative through books while Lynch was directing The Return. Twin Peaks Episode 29 almost foreshadows that, in a strange sense.
The original series of Twin Peaks is perhaps even more fun to dissect and study now that we have the 18 additional hours of a third series, a film, and two books to add to pull from, to compare, and to analyze. Even with all this new material to enjoy, the original series is still TV’s version of James Dean: a phenomenon that changed our lives in a very short period of time. Twin Peaks Episode 29 provides the perfect exclamation point to the journey.