In South Dakota, Gordon tells Albert and Tammy a secret he has kept to himself for years. Before he disappeared, Major Briggs shared with him and Cooper his discovery of an entity once called ‘Jiao Dai’, later called ‘Judy’, an “extreme negative force”. The trio had a plan to lead them to Judy, before something bad happened to both Cooper and Briggs. Phillip Jeffries, “who doesn’t really exist anymore”, told him that he was onto Judy before he disappeared. The last thing Cooper told Gordon was to do everything he could to find him if he disappears in the same way, and that he was “trying to kill two birds with one stone” – a phrase first uttered by The Fireman in Part 1.
He also reveals that Ray was an FBI informant, and that he told them Mr. C was looking for Briggs’ co-ordinates. They receive a call from Vegas, and are told that Cooper is on his way back to Twin Peaks. Ben Horne receives a call that Jerry has been found in Wyoming, completely naked.
Mr. C arrives at Jack Rabbit’s Palace, where he disappears into a vortex. He appears in the Fireman’s theatre, his image trapped in a cage, alongside Garland Briggs’ floating head. A screen behind them shows the previous location, then the Palmer household. The Fireman changes the image to a different location. Mr. C is transported there, realising he is outside the Sheriff’s Department. Mr. C meets Andy, who takes his “old friend” inside to meet with Frank. Mr. C declines coffee, which is never a good sign.
Chad sneaks out of his cell using a hidden key, taking a gun from the evidence locker. When Andy appears, he threatens to shoot him, but is taken out by Freddy’s hulk fist. Lucy receives a call from the real Cooper, and transfers the call to Frank. Realising something isn’t right, both Mr. C and Frank draw their guns, but Lucy is the one to shoot the doppelganger. Andy takes all the prisoners upstairs.
The woodsmen spirits appear and surround Mr. C, just as Cooper comes in. BOB is removed, and the orb begins to attack them. Freddy fulfils his destiny by shattering it to pieces. Cooper puts the ring on Mr. C, and his body disappears, the ring appearing in the red room. Cooper asks Frank for the key to room 315 at the Great Northern, and soon after Gordon Cole and the FBI arrive.
As Cooper’s face is superimposed over the screen, Dale tells them all that “there are some things that will change,” and then “the past dictates the future.” Cooper and Naido touch hands, and she reveals herself to be the real Diane. They passionately kiss. Looking at the clock, the second hand flickers between 2:52 and 2:53. The superimposed face says: “We live inside a dream.”
The group is shrouded in darkness, before Cooper, Diane and Gordon emerge together. As they reach the door James found in The Great Northern, the superimposed face disappears. Cooper uses his room key to open the door and steps through alone. The ringing sound becomes louder, and he tells them he will see them at the curtain call. He finds Gerard, who recants the “fire walk with me” poem. They both travel to the Dutchman’s to speak with Phillip Jeffries. We briefly see an image of The Jumping Man.
Cooper tells him “the date February 23, 1989” and Jeffries transports him to the day that Laura died, telling him “this is where you’ll find Judy.” The owl cave rune appears, then transforms into an ‘8’. We see scenes from Fire Walk With Me, as it is revealed that the unseen image in the darkness that Laura screams at is actually Cooper watching her from afar. In between leaving James and meeting at the cabin, she meets with Cooper. He takes her hand and leads her away, and her body, wrapped in plastic, disappears from the shore. He tells her they’re going home, and colour floods the screen.
In the Palmer household, Sarah Palmer wails, viciously striking Laura’s framed photo. As Cooper leads Laura through the woods he hears the sound that The Giant showed him in Part 1, before she disappears with a scream.
Julee Cruise plays “The World Spins”.
Mr. C sits, burning in the black lodge. Gerard makes a new tulpa of Cooper, which arrives at the residence of Janey-E and Sonny Jim, who greet the replacement with a hug.
After Laura’s disappearance in the woods, Cooper is back in the black lodge, where Gerard once again says “Is it future or is it past”. These scenes play out mostly the same as Part 1 and 2, but with some subtle differences, as shown in this comparison video. Speaking with the “evolution of the arm”, it asks “is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane?” This time, Cooper walks out of the lodge into Glastonbury Grove, where he entered in the season 2 finale. He meets with Diane.
The pair drive along a road in South Dakota, in what looks like the same stretch Mr. C was on during Cooper’s botched escape in Part 2. Diane tells him “You don’t know what it’s going to be like,” and shows some trepidation. They stop at exactly 430 miles, kiss because “once we cross it could all be different.” They continue driving, appearing on a road at night.
They arrive at a motel, and as Cooper goes in to get a room, Diane sees a doppelganger of herself, which then disappears. In the room, they have sex as The Platters’ ‘My Prayer’ plays, which we last heard as a woodsman spirit crushed skulls in the radio station. Diane covers Cooper’s face, which holds a cold and indifferent expression, with her hands.
The next day, Cooper wakes up alone. Left behind is a note that reads:
When you read this I’ll be gone. Please don’t try to find me, I don’t recognise you any more. Whatever we had together is over
Cooper exits the motel, which now looks completely different. Now in Odessa, Texas, he drives to a diner named Judy’s. Inside, Cooper asks whether there is another waitress that works here. He chastises a trio of men when they sexually harass her, attacking and disarming them when they try to start a fight. He gets the address of the other waitress and leaves.
Knocking at the door, he comes face to face with who he thinks is Laura, but she insists that her name is Carrie Page. She doesn’t recognise him or know anything about Twin Peaks. He shows her his badge, and tells her he wants to take her home, and she agrees as she wants to get away from some trouble, likely related to the corpse in her living room.
Arriving in Twin Peaks, they drive past the Double R Diner, but Carrie doesn’t recognise anything. Pulling up to what we know as the Palmer household, they knock at the door. A woman answers, and confirms that no Sarah Palmer lives there, nor does she know one. She owns the house, and mentions that it was bought from a Mrs. Chalfont. This woman’s name is Alice Tremond.
Walking back to the car, Cooper becomes disorientated. He asks: “What year is this?” Looking back at the house, Carrie hears the distant shout of “Laura.” She lets out a bloodcurdling scream. The lights in the house go out.
The credits roll over the familiar image of Laura whispering in Cooper’s ear.
Was this all Cooper’s dream? Was this a confluence of dream realities conjured up from those can’t live in theirs? Did Judy move Cooper to an alternate dimension? Does Twin Peaks, as we know it, exist any more? These are some interesting questions to ask, and ones that will no doubt flood the world with articles, essays, books, blog posts, tweet threads, and forums in the weeks, months, and years to come.
Frankly, I can’t deal with all that right now. Like many fans, I was left a little broken by the ending. Not frustrated, but left with a sense of finality that is deeply sad, exhausting and invigorating all at once. I believe we have even more to unpack here than we ever did with the original series or Fire Walk With Me, and while a fourth season is not out of the question, it is unlikely. This is the end, and like with much of Lynch’s work, letting it wash over you is key to understanding it, and the overwhelming feeling it inspires in you is key.
Saying that, after re-watching these final two parts of this 18-hour movie, there are a few things I can unpack. While the specifics of Cooper and Diane’s road-trip across different dimensions/dreamscapes/identities are convoluted, to me it seems more like an abstract way of exploring how these characters deal with trauma, something Twin Peaks has been about since the start. The original series was about a town that splinters after the death of a teenage girl, something its residents can barely comprehend even as the rupture exposes their own dark secrets. The prequel film, is partly about how someone deals with the world-shattering fact that their abuser and parent are one.
In Part 17, BOB is destroyed in a ludicrous and very sci-fi/plot-heavy way, then all the characters gather to hear Cooper’s Jeff Winger-esque concluding speech. It’s at this point that Cooper’s face is imposed on the proceedings, informing us that there is another level to these events we are yet to see, that something is wrong. The moment is robbed of catharsis of completion, while the clock’s second hand tremors, never able to quite reach 2:53, or as Cooper puts it, the numbers that add up to “the number of completion.” Things just can’t be resolved after events like these, trauma lingers.
It lingers in Diane, who asks Dale whether it is really him or not. She trusts his answer, and she takes his hand and kisses him, but when they sleep together all she can see is the cold stony expression of the doppelganger who assaulted her. Cooper, meanwhile, wants two things: to save Laura Palmer, and go home. But Laura is snatched away by a force more malevolent than he could have imagined, and he is lost in an unfamiliar place, even deeper into the mystery, maybe too deep. When he does get Carrie back to Twin Peaks, her scream shows the pain and sorrow is still very much present.
When Cooper awakens, in a different place entirely, it feels like it was all a dream. He still remembers, and still has his mission, even if everything he ever knew is seemingly gone, including maybe his own identity. Cooper, or Richard, seems a little different. When he stops at the diner, its significant that he takes the menu and the coffee without a word and barely any eye contact. This isn’t what Cooper would do. What’s remarkable about this final segment is the fact that it feels significantly different, all the way down to the filmmaking.
Lynch, a director who has a distinct style and tone to his work, has shown he can do things the traditional way before, with The Elephant Man and The Straight Story. In this new realm, he shows us again that he is capable of capturing beauty in a more familiar way. Everything from the sound of the breeze to the lighting feels more akin to the real world. There are still long silences in the dialogue, but now they seem like a genuine car ride without any peculiar tension.
This plane of existence feels more real than the last, and after getting so immersed in the world of Twin Peaks: The Return, now it looks even stranger by contrast. It’s like waking from a dream, and realising that what happened never felt so real as this. Reality is a lot more detailed, overwhelming, yet at the same time less intense, empty. It reminds me how I felt last year, when I left the cinema after watching Twin Peaks‘ first two seasons back-to-back, the outside world feeling both familiar and alien to me. It’s how many of us felt when the credits rolled this week.
In this way, it really does feel like an ending. The town of Twin Peaks didn’t stay the same, waiting for Cooper’s return, and he can’t change the past. The story is over, but the world is still here, and we have to live with the wounds. Everything keeps moving regardless of what happens, good or bad. The World Spins.
“Being in darkness and confusion is interesting to me. But behind it you can rise out of that and see things the way the really are. That there is some sort of truth to the whole thing, if you could just get to that point where you could see it, and live it, and feel it … I think it is a long, long, way off. In the meantime there’s suffering and darkness and confusion and absurdities, and it’s people kind of going in circles. It’s fantastic. It’s like a strange carnival: it’s a lot of fun, but it’s a lot of pain.”
Most Valuable Player:
Sheryl Lee – Laura Palmer / Carrie Page
Lee has always been phenomenal as Laura, and here she shows that she could somehow pull off looking and sounding like a teenage girl despite turning 50 this year. But she really impressed by playing Carrie Page, inhabiting a completely new character with the same skill that MacLachlan brought to the table with his trio of characters. And it really cannot be said enough, how spine-chilling those screams are. The final one sent vibrations through me.
- Recognise the names ‘Tremond’ and ‘Chalfont’? It’s worth having a refresher on what this refers to
- Carrie has an odd reaction to her mother’s name, as if its a memory of a dream. She also has a pale white horse ornament on her mantelpiece, and the ‘6’ pylon is outside her house.
- Richard’s behaviour seems like a combination of Cooper and Mr. C
- The owl cave rune, which we associate with the show’s supernatural side, transforms into an 8. 8 is the number of that room, and I can’t help but think back to the events of Part 8. Also, the ball moving through this loop (an infinity symbol on its side) can suggest the cycle of time
- “Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds, one stone” – is this all part of the Fireman’s plan?
- There are no woodsmen spirits once Mr. C disappears, even in The Dutchman’s, suggesting they were unique to him. Also, Gerard doesn’t speak backwards in the meeting with Jeffries.
- Cooper repeats two things Phillip says in Fire Walk With Me: “What year is this?” and “we live inside a dream”. It seems like Cooper might have undergone a similar confounding confrontation with evil as his fellow agent did, and this could suggest a return is possible
- If the “house” that the Giant said “it” had got into is the Palmer household
- Is the phone call that Mr. C received back at the start of the season actually from Judy? The voice told him “You’re going back in tomorrow, and I will be with Bob again.” and we know that BOB originated from this entity
- Some have said that the man we see in Odessa is actually a tulpa sent by Cooper. I’m not sure I buy this, but it is interesting
- This Indiewire article gives a good explanation for what occurred in these final episode
- Part 17 was in memory of Jack Nance, who appears briefly in the footage from the pilot
- In 2014 the real Palmer household was sold to Mary Reber. Reber plays Alice Tremond, the owner of the house in the finale
- The last time ‘The World Spins’ was played was the night Maddy was killed, another instance of Cooper being powerless to save someone
- Some damn fine words on the finale from Audience Everywhere’s Diego here
- And some more excellent writing on The Return from Matt Zoller Seitz on Vulture
- If you want to read a hopeful look at the ending, see Todd VanDerWeff’s piece for Vox
- The heartbreaking shot of Cooper walking with Laura behind him is reminiscent of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice in the underworld
- I love new Dougie’s chipper “where am I?” after he is created
- “Jiāodāi” in Mandarin means “to explain”, “to make clear”, “to finish”. This being the ultimate antagonist of what may be Lynch’s final work is fitting. A couple watching a box to see what happens were mauled to death… by the explanation.
- As far as I’m concerned, the show now has three perfect endings
- Creatives out there should take inspiration from Frost and Lynch. If they can pull this off, you can make your dream project happen.
- Edit: I just found this interesting comparison on Reddit, that shows that Andy saw some of the new reality in his vision, which may imply that this is all part of the Fireman’s plan
- Edit 2: This Reddit post points out that Alice Tremond keeps the interior of her house hidden from Cooper in the same way Sarah does with Hawk in Part 12
Line of the week: “DOUGIE IS COOPER!? HOW THE HELL IS THIS” / “I understand cellular phones now!”
Edited for content, 9/07/17