“Well, that was predictable” – the incredible ending of The Return

So, if you read my column last week, and you’ve watched the incredible, mystifying finale of The Return, then you’ll know I basically aced my prediction. Yep. I got every detail absolutely correct. Well, okay, not every detail. In fact, not a single thing I predicted came to pass. But right up until the last few seconds, I was convinced it would – it totally looked like Laura would return home to heal her mother and vanquish the evil forces that haunted her home town.

Coop was with me. He knew this healing was important too. He knew that Laura was the key to it all. He spent the entire last hour of the show trying to make it happen. It would have made perfect sense narratively, psychologically and supernaturally. But that’s not the resolution we got. It all unravelled at the last moment. Leaving us with…. Well what were we left with? What are we meant to make of the ending we were given? Here’s my hot take (and you can quote me): It was totally predictable. Yeah, you heard me. The ending to Twin Peaks: The Return was completely predictable.

Granted, I didn’t predict it. I don’t know anyone who did. But I do think, now we have the full picture, that there were enough clues to show us how this would go down. Please don’t misunderstand me – I do obviously have my tongue firmly in my cheek here – I’m not saying we should have known the specifics and I don’t mean “predictable” as a criticism in any way. This final double-bill was two of the most powerful hours of the most incredible show ever to be aired. But, the ending was definitely predictable.

Now, before I make a stab at backing up this audacious (and arguably stupid) statement, I want to take a moment to revel in the glory of having at least got one prophetic observation right – way back on August 1st, when I tweeted the following:

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Imagine my glee when, early in Part 17, Cooper’s message to Cole was finally shared and included the words: “It is 2:53 in Las Vegas, and that adds up to a ten, the number of completion.”

BOOM! At this point, I took it as a good omen of the highest order. I was on a roll. This was a sign that my theory about Laura healing her mother (and thereby the world) was bound to come true. I had tuned into the clues and symbols of this intricately and brilliantly plotted series and followed it through to an ending. I went on believing that I was right until the moment the closing credits rolled. But I made a mistake. I ignored all the signs. I was so keen to believe what I wanted to believe, that I missed the signals telling me it was never going to pay off.

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One big, red, obvious signpost that my ending was not where we were headed came in a scene towards the end of Part 17. Cooper, having gate-crashed the events of Fire Walk With Me in an apparent bid to change history, seemed to be leading Laura towards the gateway near Jack Rabbit’s Palace. But, in a blink, with a strange sound reminiscent of the one emanating from the Fireman’s phonograph, Laura was gone – replaced by a harrowing scream echoing through the trees.

Cooper was taking her to a point of resolution but the forces of the woods had other plans. This three-minute scene lays the blueprint for the entire final episode. In the last hour, he once again leads Laura towards a resolution and once again, that resolution slips like quicksilver between his fingers and out of reach at the last. The clues were there. I should have seen it coming. But I didn’t. Perhaps because I didn’t want to see it. I had a vision for how this should play out, and I stayed latched on to that vision. I was so fixated on the golden glow of my imagined ending, I couldn’t see the pitch-black absence that awaited me.

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This was mistake number two. The entirety of The Return has been based around undermining expectations – playing with the images and scenes fans of the show had spent a quarter of a century fantasising about. Why should the finale be any different? This is a show that made us wait five hours to watch lovable, super-smart FBI agent Dale Cooper drink coffee, and in that moment turned him into a drooling manchild. It is a show that took fan sweetheart Audrey Horne and hid her for almost three quarters of the season. And when she was revealed, she was locked in a “Waiting for Godot”-style existential nightmare, taking place outside the reality of the show.

The last 18 hours of incredible television should have conditioned me to expect nothing, to wish for nothing and to simply accept what I saw in a mindful, non-judgemental, transcendental state. We never quite got what we imagined was coming – but that didn’t stop the show delivering in spades. The Zone, the Mitchums, evil Coop, Part 8, Kettle-Jeffries, the ballad of Becky and Steve, the Mauve rooms – there have been so many unforgettable plotlines, characters and images in The Return – but none of it was the wood-panelled donut-fest we conjured in our mind’s eye. There’s a part of me that believes Lynch and Frost were creating a Buddhist bootcamp in The Return, which places such emphasis on patience, on letting go of what went before and of what we imagine is to come. And yet still I was wanting, wishing, longing for a specific outcome. I should have known better – it was obvious if I listened to the lessons the show had taught.

For anyone looking for clean-cut resolution, this final episode is a nightmarish cat’s cradle of hanging threads. Where is Sarah Palmer? When and where are Carrie Page and Dale Cooper? What will become of the ultimate evil, Xiao De (Judy)? Where did Audrey wake up? What’s the deal with “the little girl who lived down the lane”? What happened to Becky? And who was Billy? There are loads more. Unanswered questions, dangling plots, characters without context – The Return left us with a truckload. We felt so tantalisingly close to resolving some of these mysteries, but the show is, as it always was, “filled with secrets”.

But I feel I should have seen that coming too. Why? Because Lynch and Frost have past form on this. How did they choose to end it all the last time Twin Peaks came to an end, 25 years ago? Did they serve us up a neatly wrapped bundle, tied off with a bow? No! They ended with the mother of all cliff-hangers, iced with several more, smaller cliff-hangers and garnished finally, with a liberal sprinkling of unfinished plots and unanswerable questions.

And that’s the exact same mysterious confection they served up here – a lack of completion that still somehow managed to be powerfully jarring and unexpected despite the fact that I should have seen it coming from miles away. We all should have. I believe this is entirely by design. The creators are masters of evoking mood – their show can flip nimbly from knockabout comedy to white-knuckle terror to heart-warming humanity without ever missing a beat. And so, if the ending sets us adrift in an ocean of intense anguish, frustration, bewilderment and confusion, it does so because that is the feeling Lynch and Frost chose to leave us with. And why would they choose to end like that? I think it’s because those feelings will last longer than the fleeting pleasure a neat resolution would bring. That charged, ecstatic frustration we’re feeling, that’s called ‘mystery’. And the mystery of this ending will keep our minds and emotions engaged for decades to come.

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On top of the general air of ‘unfinished business’, there are also more specific parallels between the Season Two finale and the ending of The Return. When the original run ended with Dale Cooper replaced by an evil doppelganger, apparently possessed by BOB, we saw the forces for good had been outwitted at the last moment by the dark entities of the Lodge. And this, I think, is exactly what we’re seeing in Part 18. Once again, the Lodge inhabitants have got the drop on the good guys, planting their agents – the Chalfonts and Tremonds – in the Palmer house to confuse and confound the efforts of Cooper and Team Blue Rose. Our special agent has once again tried to take them on at their own game of tulpas, doubles, time-warps and dimensional gateways. He did so valiantly and manfully. But he has come up short a second time, unable to rid the world of Xiao De and her kin.

I wonder if Cooper, like myself, was too fixated on a single resolution, a single ending to this mystery. Was he blind to the signs, just as I was? Should he have been more transcendental, more mindful, more open? Would that have seen him through to a happier resolution? This certainly wasn’t the ending he expected. That much is clear.

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Nevertheless, Cooper should have seen it coming. I should have seen it coming. We all should have seen it coming. Heck, the Showtime posters for the show told us how this thing would end – “It is happening again”. And it did. It absolutely happened again. It had an impact unlike anything else on TV – again. It raised the bar – again. It changed everything – again. And it left us questioning, doubting, scrabbling to make sense of its mysteries – again. But still I didn’t see this ending coming. And I expect most of you reading this didn’t either. And that is perfect. We didn’t get the show we thought we wanted. But The Return has been staggeringly good, unlike anything that went before it – even Twin Peaks. We definitely didn’t get the ending we predicted or the one we thought we wanted – but we got one hell of an ending. It’s an ending that ensures people will still be discussing, theorising, unpicking and unpacking this incredible television series in 25 years’ time. Hopefully I’ll still be writing about it in 2042. Twin Peaks will live on – etched indelibly in our minds and our imaginations. And I think that’s exactly what Lynch and Frost would want. Twin Peaks began with a mystery at its heart and it has ended as a mystery in our hearts.

David Lynch has been quoted as saying “The more unknowable the mystery, the more beautiful it is”. Let’s savour this exquisitely beautiful, unknowable mystery like a velvety Bordeaux or a damn fine coffee, my friends. We will not see its like again any time soon. And that’s a prediction you can trust.

This article originally appeared on the 25 Years Later blog on 5th September 2017. You can read it in its natural habitat here.

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Supernatural psychology – the inner made outer in Twin Peaks

If The Return has taught us one thing, it is that viewers’ expectations and predictions are little more than play-dough to Lynch and Frost – material to be warped, inverted, exaggerated, mutated and flat-out ignored. I’m not complaining. The effect this has on the series is alchemical – giving us the solid gold television event we needed rather than the leaden fan service we thought we wanted. But as I wait for the last double-bill finale of this dazzling season, I will venture a prediction – despite knowing that I will likely be wildly wrong on almost every detail.

My prophetic theory is based on an idea that has been germinating as I watched The Return and pondered the original seasons of Twin Peaks. I’m certain it’s not an original observation. Now that it has occurred to me, it seems entirely obvious. What I’ve realised is this: many of the supernatural intrusions in the show are manifestations or surrealist expressions of the characters’ internal psychological states. It is like the inner worlds of the townsfolk burst through into their outer reality – expressed through super powers, visions, spirits and demons. This should come as no surprise, really. It is a trope that has been key to Lynch’s work since his first feature film, Eraserhead. The strange, unsettling locations, rooms, objects and characters which populate that film all act as expressions of the fearful mental and emotional landscape of the film’s protagonist – the shock-haired Henry.

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Similarly, in Twin Peaks, killer BOB acts as a manifestation of – and a metaphor for – the vicious cycle of abuse. Leland Palmer, we must assume, was abused as a boy. Seeing the ‘Wanted’ poster sketch of BOB, he recognises him as a figure from his own childhood, a man flicking matches and whispering threats. Later, when Leland perpetuates the cycle of abuse upon his own daughter Laura, he metaphorically becomes the man who harmed him. But in the mystical world of Twin Peaks this is expressed as a more literal transformation into his own abuser – through a form of demonic possession. In keeping with the real-world pattern of abuse victims later becoming abusers themselves, we also see BOB attempting to possess Laura’s soul and body in Fire Walk With Me – until she takes the Owl Cave ring, apparently forcing an end to the repetitious cycle through her own demise.

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We see these external manifestations of internal states around other characters too. Margaret Lanterman is a woman stricken with grief at the premature loss of her husband in a fire. She carries a log with her at all times and hears it speak to her, as though she has replaced the support and companionship of her late partner with an inanimate object. On the one hand, we can see this as a profound and poignant exploration of the “fear in letting go” and a failure to accept the death of a loved-one. But on the other, through the magical lens of the show, it becomes a weird phenomenon – the log is a genuine link to the ether and the Log Lady becomes a medium, channeling wisdom from the other side.

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Similarly, Nadine Hurley’s state of denial about her husband, Big Ed’s infidelity is manifested in a mental withdrawal, first into an unhinged obsession with drape runners and later – following a failed suicide attempt – into an immersive fantasy that she is back in high school, before the painful betrayal took place. And because this is Twin Peaks, Nadine’s regression is accompanied by an uncanny element as she develops an almost uncontrollable super strength, presumably representing the force of the suppressed emotions she will not allow herself to feel.

So we see that psychological and emotional states in Twin Peaks often manifest themselves as supernatural phenomena. And this brings us to Sarah Palmer. As the mother of Laura and wife of Leland, she has watched her world torn apart. Her home is ground-zero for the psychological trauma that is still reverberating through the town a quarter of a century later. First there was the loss of her daughter – a tragedy no parent should ever have to endure. Then there was the explosive realisation that her own husband – a man she loved and trusted – had not only murdered their child, but also subjected her to years of sexual abuse.

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Imagine Sarah’s internal world. These events caused an atomic blast of horror and trauma. Afterwards came the fallout and residual radiation of questions, uncertainty and guilt. Everything she sees will remind her of Laura or Leland. Sarah must wonder how she missed the signs of abuse, or if on some level perhaps she knew but couldn’t bring herself to face the truth. And if she did suspect – why didn’t she stop it while she had a chance? In her mind she is complicit in everything that happened. She feels intense, overwhelming culpability. She failed her daughter. She enabled her husband. Is she just as guilty as he was? Did she also kill Laura? All men must now seem deceivers and threats. Even the well-meaning, sympathetic looks on the townspeople’s faces become painful reminders of the horrors she has endured. Little wonder then, that she has turned to losing herself in drink to escape the dark ruminations of her own mind.

Sarah Palmer’s psychological landscape is a post-apocalyptic waste of twisted, jagged emotional wreckage. And in The Return, we see how that inner world has manifested externally in supernatural horrors. Her house – full of reminders of that terrible time – seems haunted by a strange presence audible when Hawk visits her door. Her television loops unnaturally in an echo of the destructive cycle of alcohol addiction. She suffers episodes of extreme distress at the slightest provocation – as she did at the store when terrible visions and prophetic utterances overtook her. And in the unforgettable and terrifying bar-room scene, when Sarah took her face off to reveal the inky black horrors within, this supernatural image allowed us to literally see how dark and tumultuous her interior has become. The violent way she dispatched the predatory male trucker – who symbolises everything that is wrong in her world – is a gory, horror movie expression of her raging psyche.

The shot of Sarah Palmer removing her face forms half of a classic Lynchian duality, echoing a scene much earlier in the series when Laura Palmer removed her own face. But while the mother’s unveiling revealed darkness and horror, the daughter was filled with a serene, pure light. It is this opposition, this mirroring inversion, which leads to my prediction.

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I believe Laura Palmer will heal her mother before the last two hours of The Return are over. Now, given that this is a David Lynch joint, I fully expect the healing to take place in a symbolic, surreal, dreamlike manner. But in plot terms it feels right. Stepping away from the supernatural side of the show, let’s consider what it would take for Sarah Palmer to move on from her horror, guilt and loss. Surely, if she could understand her daughter was now at peace, felt no malice and did not blame her for what happened, she could begin to forgive herself, to heal and to exorcise her metaphorical demons. I believe this is exactly the sort of process Dr Lawrence Jacoby would attempt to lead Sarah though, if he were still practising.

And so, that is what I think we will see in the finale. Laura will bathe her mother in a healing glow of loving forgiveness and the darkness – the literal demons of the Black Lodge – will finally leave her be. After 25 years of uncontrollable, destructive, relentless grief, Sarah Palmer will be able to return to her life and move on. At the same time as I’m making this prediction, I recognise that I will be, almost certainly, completely wrong about everything. It’s equally likely that we will spend the entirety of the remaining two hours watching Dick Tremayne wrestling a pine weasel from his face in extreme slow motion – accompanied by the sound of ominous whooshing. And do you know what? That would be totally fine too.

This article first appeared on the 25 Years Later blog on 29th August, 2017. You can read it in its natural habitat here.

Split in two – nature and technology in Twin Peaks

“Man is out of nature and hopelessly in it; he is dual, up in the stars and yet housed in a heart-pumping, breath-gasping body that once belonged to a fish and still carries the gill-marks to prove it. His body is a material fleshy casing that is alien to him in many ways—the strangest and most repugnant way being that it aches and bleeds and will decay and die. Man is literally split in two: he has an awareness of his own splendid uniqueness in that he sticks out of nature with a towering majesty, and yet he goes back into the ground a few feet in order blindly and dumbly to rot and disappear forever.”
― Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death

There was a great beauty in the original title sequence for Twin Peaks. The soaring majesty of mighty pine trees and roaring waterfalls was juxtaposed with the mesmerising vision of the sawmill, its blades pouring forth showers of fiery sparks as they were sharpened. It seems David Lynch finds beauty in both nature and industry. This duality has grown to become a core theme in The Return. The show is full of images of nature – trees, owls, waterfalls, rivers. But it is also full of industry and technology – The Packard Sawmill, strobing lights, crackling electricity. These two sets of imagery are being used to explore the idea that man is rapidly moving out of harmony with nature, and that this detachment could be a dangerous state of affairs.

This dualism of nature versus technology is echoed in many of the thematic oppositions explored in The Return: growth versus destruction, creation versus consumption, traditional wood-whittling pleasures versus modern high-tech desires, patience versus greed, enjoying versus wanting, love versus fear. The list goes on. In my column last week, I explored the possible impact of ancient Indian texts on Lynch’s work. It is interesting to note that those same Hindu philosophies also teach that man’s attempts to control, conquer and dominate nature move him away from his true spiritual path. The Upanishads explain that the five great elements of nature (space, air, fire, water and earth) make up everything in the world, but they also compose the human body. In Hinduism, there is no separation between man and nature, they are one and the same and should exist in harmonious balance.

Within the Twin Peaks mythology, one of the strongest symbols for nature and goodness is the tree. On arriving in the town in the first episodes of the original series, Agent Cooper is immediately entranced, enthused and invigorated by the “big, majestic Douglas Firs”. Throughout the series, Margaret Lanterman channels insight and assistance to the forces of law and order via her log. The White Lodge, a place of goodness, beauty and harmony, is shown, in Major Briggs’ memories, to be leafy and green – a lush image echoed in The Return when the Sheriffs find an entrance to the Lodge in a beautiful area of woodland close to Jack Rabbit’s Palace, filled with green vegetation. Both these scenes are also bathed in soft, golden, natural sunlight.
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The other side of this coin is the Black Lodge, a place strongly associated with crackling electricity, roaring fire and stark strobing electric lights. If the White Lodge is aligned to nature, the Black Lodge is closer to industry and technology. Among the denizens of the Black Lodge are the nightmarish, blackened figures of the Woodsmen – men whose job it is to fell trees. They are also shown in the memorably surreal Convenience Store sequence in Part 15 to operate mysterious humming, sparking machines – underlining their association with electricity.

While examining his map with Sheriff Truman in Part 11, Deputy Chief Hawk describes electricity – the force that drives the gadgets all around is – as “a type of fire”, but The Return is obviously not the first work to link fire with technology. The Greek myth of Prometheus stealing fire from the Gods and presenting it as a gift to humanity has long been interpreted as representing the moment that man left his natural state and moved towards the enlightened, modern human condition. Plato in particular has linked this story to an awakening in man – the birth of his ingenuity, creativity and inventiveness. And of course, the Prometheus myth is echoed in the fall of Adam and Eve, where accessing forbidden knowledge led to the first humans being cast out from their harmonious existence in the paradise Garden of Eden.

The cryptic and mysterious verse spoken by Philip Gerard/MIKE in Cooper’s dream sequence, during the first season of Twin Peaks, also makes implicit connections between fire and forbidden, arcane knowledge: “Through the darkness of futures past, the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds. Fire walk with me.” This poem joins the dots between fire and the dark forces of the Black Lodge, implying that humanity’s newfound Promethean insights can come at a terrible price.
Prometheus also has some interesting resonances in The Return, the most powerful of which came in Part 8’s flashback to the Trinity nuclear bomb test. This moment represents the pinnacle of man’s destructive ingenuity – the ultimate extension of Prometheus’s theft, when man harnessed his technological capability to split apart the atom, the very building block of nature. And by doing so, he unleashed the most terrible fire of all.

It is with good reason that the most respected biography of Robert Oppenheimer – the father of the atom bomb – is called American Prometheus. In the aftermath of the first atomic explosion, the American physicist famously said: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”. Interestingly, his quotation comes from Hindu scripture, a philosophy the scientist found fascinating.

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Bringing us back round to Hinduism highlights another set of interesting parallels. In The Roots of Hinduism, author Asko Parpola describes the mythological character Mātariśvan as “a close parallel to the Greek figure of Prometheus”. Exploring the origin and interpretation of the name Mātariśvan, he notes it has a “folk etymology associating the name with matar – ‘mother'”, as well as “atar – ‘fire'”. This mention of “mother” and “fire” together immediately conjures images of the Experiment (known by many viewers as ‘The Mother’), seen in Lynch’s atom blast sequence, birthing BOB in a stream of ectoplasm at the heart of the nuclear fire. Parpola goes on to explain: “I have no doubt the myth is also connected with the homophonous root math – “to whirl round, to rotate”. This link to whirling, rotating motions, in the context of The Return seems to suggest a connection to the swirling vortexes in the skies, acting as gateways to the Lodges, as well as the infamous fan in the Palmer household, a whirling object imbued with terrifyingly dark significance by several memorable sequences in both the series and the film Fire Walk With Me.

This consideration of man’s harnessing of elemental forces, his attempts to master nature, also calls to mind a famous phrase from Aesop: “It is with our passions as it is with fire and water, they are good servants, but bad masters.” When we ask fire to walk with us, we should proceed with care and caution, because the moment we become complacent, Nature reserves the right to rise up and remind us of her power.

Despite this warning, it is undeniable that bending nature to our will is also a force for great good, it is what separates us from animals and brings us advances in civilisation and society. The cutting edge of these unnatural advances in the 21st century is represented by all-pervading digital technology – in fact, the very device on which you are reading these words. Every year that passes brings new gadgets and advances to revolutionise the way we live.

It is notable that technology in The Return has been presented in a range of unusual and unsettling ways. It almost becomes a form of dark sorcery, in line with Arthur C Clarke’s famous third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.

In this 21st century world of Twin Peaks, we see strange occult technologies that can hack FBI servers, hijack the alarms in a prison and remove tracking devices from vehicles with bewildering ease. In New York, the glass box, surrounded by advanced digital cameras and lights seems to act as a techno-portal to the mystical Lodge spaces – a perfect fusion of magic and technology. Later, Cooper’s dark doppelganger Mr. C, seems hell-bent on stockpiling cellphones at every opportunity and the charred Woodsmen hijack a radio transmission, sending listeners dropping to the floor.

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The laptops, sockets, wires and devices are familiar, but their workings become alien and mysterious, magical and disturbing, through the warped lens of The Return. It is no coincidence then, that one of the most innocent, pure and good characters in the series, Sheriff’s Receptionist Lucy Brennan, lives in mortal terror of mobile telephones.

An especially strange conjoining of technology and magic came in Part 15 as we were finally reintroduced to the legendary missing FBI agent Phillip Jeffries. His consciousness now appears to inhabit a gigantic steaming kettle known as The Device. This bizarre contraption seemed to strongly echo the plumbing and machinery featured in Eraserhead, Lynch’s first film, which was entirely played out against a nightmarish, bleak industrial backdrop.

TANGENT: was it just me or did Kettle-Jeffries look a lot like the caterpillar from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland – especially when he started puffing out numbers? Not sure where I’m going with this – would love to hear what you think.

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But while electricity and other technologies are often portrayed as unnatural, dark elements, signifying humanity’s separation from the true path of nature, Twin Peaks also reminds us that sparks of electricity exist within us all. In the original series Cooper describes to Sheriff Harry Truman how the mind forms dreams: “acetylcholine neurons fire high-voltage impulses into the forebrain,” he said. “These impulses become pictures, the pictures become dreams.” Dream spaces, so often shown as frightening and so strongly associated with the Black Lodge, are actually caused by electricity in our brains. But we also know that “dreams sometimes hearken a truth”, so the issue is not completely clear cut. Our electrical dreams, like our electronic technology, may be unsettling, but they can also be a positive force as harbingers of enlightenment.

Dualities in Twin Peaks are – unlike the floor of the Red Room – never simply black and white, no matter how appealing this simplistic interpretation may be. It is not as clear-cut as “nature is good”, “technology is bad”. So while owls are obviously a part of the natural world, they are also strongly associated with dark spirits and Black Lodge entities in the show’s mythology. And while trees are often used in the programme to signify natural goodness – in other sequences, such as the drug-fuelled nightmare of Steven and Gersten in Part 15, they become an ominous foreboding presence. Similarly, trees are shown to be present at the woodland entrance to the Black Lodge – although the bare, skeletal forms of the Sycamores at Glastonbury Grove are a stark contrast to the verdant beauty of Jack Rabbit’s Palace. At other times, nature is shown to be just as hungry, brutal and destructive as mankind – we only need to look at the violent imagery of lions feeding in the documentary on Sarah Palmer’s TV to know this.

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And just as there are associations between the Black Lodge and nature, so too the White Lodge forces are shown to work with technology. The Fireman’s strange alarm bells seen in Part 8 and the levers and sockets in the floating ‘Mauve Zone’ are just a couple of examples. Entities linked to both Black and White Lodge spaces are able to travel through electrical wires and it seems the FBI are just as fond of control panels with blinking screens as their adversary Mr. C. Most recently, Dougie-Cooper’s major revelation, his awakening in Part 15, was (FINALLY!) brought about through contact with technology – watching a scene from Sunset Boulevard on a television.

These mixed signals are echoed by Lynch’s own words – the artist recognises that nature and technology overlap and bleed into one another. In his book David Lynch: The Unified Field, author Robert Cozzolino quotes the film-maker as saying: “I started falling in love with industry and flesh. No-one has gotten the power in cinema that I feel there is in industry and factory workers, this notion of fire and oil. To me, factories are symbols of creation, with the same organic processes as in nature.”

So it seems technology in The Return – and, by association, man’s drive to rise above nature rather than exist within it – is truly a double-edged sword. This is a tension that exists at the very heart of modern life – humanity’s progress is dazzling, our achievements wondrous to behold, but every advance brings new dangers and seems to move us away from a harmonious, simple, natural state. We must each make our own choices and maintain our own balance, much like Norma Jennings at the RR Diner. Do we choose franchises, profits and progress? Or do we choose natural, organic ingredients and love?

As always, we’d love to hear what you think about these ideas. Are there any important tech vs nature examples I’ve overlooked? Do you think my interpretation is wide of the mark? Let us know! Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or leave a comment below.

This article first appeared on the 25 Years Later blog on 22nd August 2017. You can read it in its natural habitat here.

Deceptive Diane

Was Diane telling the truth about her relationship with Janey-E?

I’m starting to think Diane can’t be trusted. As much as I want to believe the hard-drinkin’, hard-swearin’, reluctant Blue Rose Deputy is on the side of the angels, I can’t help feeling a creeping suspicion that she’s working to banjax the investigation.

Let’s get Scooby-Doo and review the evidence.

Our first clue was the text messages she has been exchanging with Mr. C. Initially, I was keen to believe she was playing him, or working with a hidden third party, but the longer it goes on and the longer she hides it from Cole and the Gang, the more it feels like she’s working with Cooper’s depraved shadow-self and against the feds.

The first messages they shared were cryptic missives about “conversation around the dinner table”. Later, dropping any pretense of a coded language, Diane tipped her accomplice off to the latest events in the FBI investigation – telling him about William Hastings and their planned trip to The Zone. At that stage, Albert revealed to Gordon Cole he had been tapping her phone. He relayed the message to him and the Deputy Director said he had known for some time all was not well with Diane: “I felt it when she hugged me, but this confirms it.”

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The FBI continued to monitor her communications and picked up another SMS exchange, with Mr. C asking: “Las Vegas?” – to which Diane replied: “They haven’t asked yet.” Given the dark Cooper’s mastery of black magic technology, I believe he knew their messages were being intercepted. Jeepers! On that basis, this question and answer were serving the sole purpose of deceiving the FBI – and represent the start of a campaign to divert the federal investigation over to Las Vegas.
So why would Mr. C want to send Tammy, Cole and Albert there? For the same reason that Old Man Travis didn’t want anyone hanging round the old abandoned fairground of course! He wants to ensure they are not in Twin Peaks when the vital time comes. He doesn’t need them meddling in his plans, whatever they may be. And so Vegas is a perfect diversion.

Mr. C is one step ahead of both the Lodges and the law at all times. He created Dougie Jones to trap the spirit of Cooper when the time came. I’m betting he also knew Dougie’s ring would end up in Major Briggs’ stomach, and that this clue would eventually come up on the authorities’ radar. He has played it to perfection and turned these events, which could have thrown a spanner in his dark works, to his advantage.

Which leads us to Diane’s latest, terribly convenient, revelation – that Janey-E Jones is her
And jinkies, guess what? They are already falling for it. Cole has alerted the Vegas Bureau that Dougie and Janey-E are suspects in a double-murder and should be considered armed and dangerous. This is the ultimate wild goose chase. I can’t think of anyone less dangerous than Dougie-Cooper.

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estranged half-sister, who just happens to be married to a man named Dougie. If Diane is in deep with Mr. C, which she obviously is, then we can’t take her word for it. She is merely helping to muddy the waters, offering the FBI the reddest of herrings.

When they get to Vegas, Diane and Mr. C know the Blue Rose Task Force will inevitably recognize Cooper and become embroiled in an even deeper diversion, throwing them further off the scent and probably landing our lovable, vacant Dougie-Coop in custody. All of this plays to Mr. C’s advantage. He needs to get to his coordinates, which indicate a location somewhere near Twin Peaks, without any interference from the feds, his ‘better half’ or any other damn meddling kids.

So, will the Blue Rose squad fall for it? Or will events in Buckhorn mirror Deputy Chad’s unmasking and detention – with Diane revealed as the traitor we know she is? Tune in next week, for the next thrilling installment of Scooby Doo’s Creeps, Freaks and Peaks.

This article first appeared on the 25 Years Later blog as part of a Black Lodge/White Lodge debate on 18th August, 2017. You can read it in its natural habitat here.

Eternal Stories from the Upanishads in The Return

“I thought when I started meditation that I was going to get real calm and peaceful and it’s going to be over. It’s not that way; it’s so energetic. That’s where all the energy and creativity is.” – David Lynch

David Lynch makes no secret of the fact that he is a deeply spiritual man. He’s a long-time practitioner of, and vocal advocate for, transcendental meditation. He believes the technique can bring enlightenment, inspiration, happiness and peace. Threads of this spirituality have always been woven into Twin Peaks, especially Cooper’s ideas about Tibet and his belief in intuitive investigation.

Part 14 of The Return put spiritual ideas firmly back in the spotlight, with a quotation from a philosophical Sanskrit text, part of which formed the episode title. As Cole related “another Monica Bellucci dream” (I love the idea that these are a recurring thing for him), he reported the Italian model and actress spoke a memorable phrase: “We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream”. This is a quotation from the Upanishads – a collection of Indian texts that contain the seeds of both Hinduism and Buddhism.

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More specifically, the quote seems to come from Eternal Stories from the Upanishads, translated by Thomas Egenes:
“Look Balaki,” the king said. “Do you see that spider?”
“Yes,” said Balaki, “I see the spider moving along its web.”
“We are like the spider,” said the king. “We weave our life, and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream.
“This is true for the entire universe. That is why it is said, ‘Having created the creation, the Creator entered into it’.
“This is true for us. We create our world, and then enter into that world. We live in the world that we have created. When our hearts are pure, then we create the beautiful, enlightened life we have wished for.”

The words spoken by Monica Bellucci have been important to David Lynch for some time now. He used the same phrase to introduce audiences to his film Inland Empire at the early screenings, more than 10 years ago. There are a number of ways we can interpret the passage in light of The Return. If we think of David Lynch as an artist, someone who has, along with Mark Frost, created the universe of Twin Peaks, then the moment he cast himself as Gordon Cole, he became the creator who “having created the creation … entered into it”. In those terms, Lynch is the dreamer, living inside the dream.

This idea seems to be borne out by the way Lynch speaks about film-making in interviews. “I like to dive into a dream world that I’ve made, a world I chose and that I have complete control over,” he said (The Solaris Effect: Art and Artifice in Contemporary American Film by Steve Dillon). This explanation of his cinematic work is almost directly paraphrasing the lines from the Upanishads.

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The passage about the dreamer comes from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad – the tenth in a canon of more than 100 texts. It contains an exploration of the human mind’s powers of perception and a meditation on the balance between imagination and reality. The book recognises that the human mind has the power to perceive the world as it is but also to fabricate the world as it wants to perceive it. The text ponders the fact that humanity faces a struggle to perceive the “true reality behind perceived reality”. Those familiar with David Lynch’s work will immediately see resonances in Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway and other works that seem to deal with idealised, escapist “dream-worlds” superimposing themselves over grim realities. It is not yet clear whether dream realities are at play in The Return, but there are plenty of hints and suggestions. Check out our ongoing series on dreams in The Return written by Eileen G. Mykkels and Lindsay Stamhuis here and here.

There are other parallels to be explored between the Upanishads and the new Twin Peaks. Take Dougie-Cooper for instance – the half of Agent Cooper left behind when pure evil Mr C was created, now living out the life of Dougie Jones, a sort of parody of modern suburban living. Dougie-Cooper is completely good. He might be a bit vacant, a bit of an empty vessel, but he seems incapable of harming anyone. He is oblivious to the assassination attempts and dark deeds that surround him. The only emotion he displays is enjoyment, prompted by life’s simplest pleasures; coffee, pie, sex, family. He has no fear, no hate, and no worries. He exists purely in the moment and everyone around him is reaping the rewards of happiness and success that knowing Mr Jackpots brings.

Could it be that through Dougie-Cooper, Lynch is trying to illustrate another aspect of the Upanishads – “When our hearts are pure, then we create the beautiful, enlightened life we have wished for”? It certainly appears that Dougie-Cooper is creating the life that Janey-E and Sonny Jim have wished for.

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In an interview on TMHome.com, Lynch described the positive effects that meditation had on his life: “For me, I got more and more happiness in the doing of things, ideas seemed to flow more freely. I felt more energy for the work and I began to see other people as people I liked more and more. I felt healthier and more comfortable in my body. The whole world suddenly looked better. You start really enjoy life. You look around and everything looks better. People don’t look like enemies, they look like friends. Things that used to stress you, don’t stress you so much, sometimes they make you giggle.”

This sounds like the ‘Mr Jackpots effect’ in action – Dougie-Cooper’s physical health has improved (much to Janey-E’s obvious delight), his relationships are better, he is succeeding at work and enemies all around him have become friends. His whole world really is starting to look better. And he has achieved it all by simply existing, in a pure, infant-like state.

Before we leave this topic, it’s worth noting that Part 14 made reference to another concept from Sanskrit texts – the tulpa, an idea that has its root in Buddhism. Learning about the first doppelgangers encountered by the FBI, in the original Blue Rose case, Agent Tammy Preston suggests the phenomenon might indicate “a tulpa”, a “thought form” mentioned in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

In her book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, Belgian-French explorer Alexandra David-Neel said: “A tulpa is a thought-form: a manifestation of intent in human form of our imagination… Once the tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its makers’ control. Tibetan magicians also relate cases in which the tulpa is sent to fulfil a mission, but does not come back and pursues its peregrinations as a half-conscious, dangerously mischievous puppet.”

This idea of a “half conscious, dangerously mischievous puppet” gone rogue and working to its own devious ends, struggling to remain free from control, sounds exactly like Mr. C – Cooper’s evil doppelganger. At every step, he is trying to stay ahead of the forces trying to reel him in. So far he has thwarted every effort to get him back to the Lodge – perhaps assisted by the fury of BOB’s momentum.

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As I write, in the wake of Part 14, it feels more strongly than ever that we are moving towards a powerful, spiritual climax at the end of the series. Will the forces for good be pure enough and strong enough to contain the evil that has broken free of the woods and invaded the town of Twin Peaks? It feels like the battles between good and evil playing out in The Return are a macrocosm of the inner struggles taking place within all of us. As the Upanishads say: “The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars. Fire and lightening and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not.”

This post originally appeared on the 25 Years Later blog on August 15th, 2017. You can read it in its natural habitat here.

Holding a mirror up to society in Twin Peaks: The Return.

For 25 years, Lynch and Frost left their audience with a chilling image etched into its mind’s eye. The hero of the Twin Peaks saga, Special Agent Dale Cooper, was shown with his head bleeding, grinning eerily into a cracked mirror, where the face of demon BOB was leering right back at him. But this final, unforgettable image of the series wasn’t the first time we’d seen BOB’s presence revealed in this way. On several occasions Leland’s inhabiting spirit was shown staring back from a looking glass – in the hallway of the Palmer house or the rear-view mirror of his car. And in the terrifying train-car scene, at the climax of Fire Walk With Me, Lynch briefly showed BOB appearing to invade Laura’s reflection.

It’s a startling vision, and one that has already been revisited in The Return when Mr C looked into a small mirror on the wall of his prison cell. Watching his reflection morph subtly and strangely into BOB’s creepy visage was a brilliant, unsettling and memorable moment. This idea that a mirror, in its reflection, can reveal something that is otherwise hidden is fascinating. In some ways it’s a metaphor for art – which can reveal hidden truths about the human experience simply by reflecting our world back at us.

If we accept that this form of mirroring is one of the primary functions of creativity, it seems natural then to explore which aspects of our lives Lynch and Frost have chosen to reflect upon in The Return. One of the most interesting facets of Twin Peaks in 2017 is that it does seem to contain some fairly overt comments on modern society, something that was not always obviously present in the original run.

The examples that most immediately spring to mind are Lawrence Jacoby’s ‘Dr Amp’ rants. His web broadcasts might tend towards the caricatured, “tinfoil hat” end of the social commentary spectrum, but they nevertheless contain overt reference to the evils of rampant capitalism, globalisation and political corruption.

A similar, yet more subtle, comment on 21st Century life comes in a scene showing Norma talking with her business manager (and partner) in a booth at the Double R. We learn that the Twin Peaks diner could make more money if Norma was willing to compromise on her policy of sourcing “natural, organic and local” ingredients. This conversation, and her resistance to putting profit over quality is a quiet yet strong statement about a tension that exists all around us in consumer society.

In a previous episode, when shots were fired outside the Double R and Deputy Bobby Briggs sprang into action, the events that followed were read by many as a possible commentary on American gun control. Outside the diner, Bobby found a distraught, furious mother admonishing her partner for leaving a gun loose on the floor of the car, where their son was able to grab it and fire indiscriminately out of the window. The father and son are quietly defiant in the face of the pandemonium they have unleashed.

Lynch has always been fascinated by the secret darkness hiding behind the respectable face of society – the grotesque bugs lurking in the lawn behind the picket fence. And when The Return holds a mirror up to society, these examples seem to suggest the true face revealed in the looking glass is one sliding headlong into greed, corruption and violence.

But Lynch and Frost’s view of the world has never been unrelentingly negative. They have always made time for moments of extreme happiness and joy – often found in the enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures such as coffee or pie. So far in this article we have ignored Dougie-Cooper’s plotline – notably the main home of coffee and pie in this new Twin Peaks world. Over in Las Vegas, Cooper’s good half has been acting as a mirror to the world around him. His habit of repeating back the words he hears makes him a literal reflection of the people he meets.

If Mr C represents all the bad that was in Agent Dale Cooper, then Dougie-Cooper is pure goodness. It appears that losing negative attributes like selfishness and greed has also robbed him of his agency. He drifts through life, literally pushed here and there by those around him. He vacantly echoes the kindness and warmth shown to him, oblivious to any frustration or ill-will in the world. And by reflecting the light and ignoring the shade, we see that positivity is multiplied in an apparently infinite feedback loop. Anyone who steps into the aura of Dougie-Cooper starts to win at life’s lottery. He’s not known as Mr Jackpots for nothing.

Thanks to him, the elderly lady in the casino wins big on the slots and gets her life back. After he uncovers insurance fraud, the Mitchum brothers enjoy a massive insurance pay-out, which leads in turn to Candie’s breathlessly joyous presentation of valuable gifts to Battling Bud. Sonny Jim has received a brand new gym set thanks to his father’s newfound reflective goodness and long-suffering wife Janey-E Jones has been on the receiving end of a bag of cash, a brand new car and a greatly reinvigorated sex life. But most importantly, aside from all the material ‘winnings’, everyone Dougie-Cooper touches becomes happier.

Knowing that Lynch is a life-long devotee of Transcendental Meditation, it is tempting to read something about a mindful existence in Dougie-Cooper’s story. He is moving through the world, living purely in the moment, neither planning nor reminiscing. He is the very essence of ‘just being’. And look at how he has changed the world for the better. Despite the conspiracies and assassination attempts that surround him, Dougie-Cooper remains uncorrupted, turning life into a conga-line of happiness with his blank, reflective positivity.

So perhaps the mirror image world Lynch and Frost present is not so bad after all. Perhaps it is merely what we make of it – representing a balance, a choice we must all make every time we look in the mirror. Do we give in to the dark, or do we let our inherent human goodness wrap us in its golden glow? In Twin Peaks, as so often in life, it seems what we project into the world is reflected straight back at us.

[EDIT: Since writing this article, another piece of reflective magic has taken place in Twin Peaks. I cannot post this article without at least mentioning in passing the strange reflection glitch in the scene of Big Ed Hurley eating his dinner alone at the Gas Farm. What is means, we cannot be sure, but I worry that it is not a good omen. The fact that Ed himself seems to notice the anomaly makes it even more disturbing. All we know for sure, is that when the reflection and the reality slip out of sync, it’s never a good sign in the Twin Peaks universe.]

This article was first published on the Lynchian Times blog on August 13th, 2017. You can read it in its natural habitat here.

Manufactured people – Q&A

Question by Linda D: How many other people may be “manufactured” or illusory other than the original Dougie? Janey-E and the kid, maybe the whole insurance company, the casino, all of Las Vegas.  No one acts normal, not even close to normal there, reminds me of the Truman Show.  Fake families, fake friends, fake home, etc.

This is a good one. A lot of The Return definitely feels unreal. Things are happening out of sequence. The Lucky Seven insurance apparently works 24/7. Dougie-Cooper drifts through life accidentally avoiding sniper fire. It’s all a bit too dreamy, but let’s not forget that Twin Peaks has never presented a naturalistic world. Consider the amazing electro-boogie student at the high school, the table of 200 donuts for a sheriff station with a staff of six or Ben Horne’s lengthy Civil War therapy sessions. These are strange, overblown moments, but they definitely take place in the real world (of Twin Peaks). So I feel like we should proceed with caution before calling out all weirdness as evidence of illusion. Reality in Twin Peaks is amped up, intensified, saturated. The colors have always been more vibrant, the behaviors more eccentric, the events more exaggerated than our own world.

But we do know that fake people are in play in the Twin Peaks universe. The evidence overtly suggests that Dougie Jones was manufactured, presumably by Mr. C, in 1997. He had established a life, with a job and a family, but it was all founded on a falsehood – he was never a real person. And so his existence, which Cooper inadvertently slid into through an electrical socket, feels like a strange parody of modern life. But I don’t think that means the whole thing is a Truman Show-style illusion. I’m not saying I know for sure, just that explanation just doesn’t feel right to me.

It’s also worth recognizing that Las Vegas is, even in real life, an exaggerated, surreal, neon bauble of a place. It’s pretty easy to start wondering what’s real and what’s not just walking down the strip. It’s a city that trades on its fantasy and theatricality. You run that through the filter of Twin Peaks and what you get will immediately be intensely abnormal. I get that the Jones family’s house seems oddly ‘show home’-ish. I know that Candie is profoundly, breathlessly, wonderfully weird. I realize that the ‘Midas effect’ of everyone around Dougie-Cooper suddenly hitting life’s jackpot seems too good to be true – but this has always been the way with Twin Peaks, right from the start. This is a weird, wild world where FBI agents come face to face with llamas, where fish find their way into percolators and where a woman’s soul can become trapped in a wooden drawer handle. You add that level of weird to a town like Vegas and you’ve got a heady cocktail, but it’s not necessarily a ‘mocktail’.

That said, the fact that Dougie Jones was manufactured means that, in turn, Sonny Jim is the son of… Well, what exactly is he the son of? A doppelganger? A shell? A fake person? And what does that make Sonny Jim? To quote Kris Kristofferson: “He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction”. I say he’s partly truth, because one of his parents, Janey-E, seems completely real to me. I realize that opinions in the fan community differ wildly on this. But when I see her, I see all of us. Janey-E is trying to make her way in the world, doing the best she can for herself and her family. She shares our frustration at being part of “the 99 percent” and “living in a dark, dark age”. She wants the best from her man and the best for her son. I think she’s too relatable to be fake.

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But we know for sure Dougie Jones was a fugazi. And logic tells us that Sonny Jim must therefore be at least semi-fake. That’s about all we know for sure. So now let’s climb aboard the conjecture train. Sitting comfortably? Then off we go!

Audrey Horne. Oh, Audrey. The dreamy teen femme fatale I crushed on so hard in my adolescence, when the original series aired. Lynch and Frost made us wait 12 long hours before we caught a glimpse of her and then what did we get? We got a frankly baffling situation. Having had only two scenes with her and Charlie, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions, but I’m thinking what we’re seeing is not really real. Whether it’s a roleplay therapy, a dissociative fugue state, a coma dream or something else is not yet clear. But what we’re seeing is almost certainly some sort of unreality. The setting is too contrived, the dialogue too unusual, even for Twin Peaks. Personally, I’ve been blown away by Sherilyn Fenn’s performance so far and I’m thrilled she was given such a perfectly Lynchian role for her return. So, while we all know Audrey Horne is not “fake” per-se, I don’t think we’re seeing the real Audrey in these scenes.

There’s also mounting proof that all is not as it seems in the town of Twin Peaks. Some have made fairly convincing arguments that the time-hops and glitches we’re seeing in the town could be evidence for parallel realities. And if that’s the case – if the entire town has split in two just as our beloved Cooper did 25 years ago – then how can we be sure what is real and what is fake? Will the next five hours give us any solid answers, or will there just be more questions, more possibilities? There’s a big part of me hoping it will be left wide open, because speculating and theorizing is just so much fun. I’m starting to feel like we shouldn’t even care what’s real. To quote Cyhper in The Matrix: “I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.”

This article first appeared on the 25 Years Later blog as part of their 200th Post Q&A feature on August 13th, 2017. You can read it in its natural habitat here.