Episodes 17 & 18
In May of 1990,, ABC aired the “Twin Peaks” Season 1 finale, and frustrated viewers who’d expected the show’s creators David Lynch and Mark Frost to resolve the “Who killed Laura Palmer?” mystery. In June of 1991, “Twin Peaks” Season 2 also ended with more questions than answers, and stuck fans with a cruel twist, revealing that heroic FBI Agent Dale Cooper had been replaced by an evil twin. So if you were confounded by the way the third (and perhaps last-ever) “Twin Peaks” season wrapped up last night … well, call it tradition. Whether by circumstance or intent, this has always been a TV drama that eschews tidy resolutions.
What makes Season 3’s sucker-punch especially powerful though is that it comes as something of a surprise. For the better part of an hour, the first half of the two-part finale seems poised to put a festive bow on nearly everything that’s come before, pleasing everyone who cheered last week when the ready-to-rock Agent Cooper emerged from a summer-long fog. But everything sours quickly at the end of the episode, and in the following one.
All in all, these were two mesmerizing hours of television, but because they follow Lynch’s usual dream-logic, they’re not always plain about their meaning. Here’s a nutshell interpretation of what they literally depict:
In the first hour, Cooper’s dark doppelgänger Mr. C is finally forced back to the Lodge that spawned him, thanks a combination of Lucy’s deadly marksmanship and Freddie Sykes’s supercharged punching power. Cooper then uses knowledge he’s apparently acquired during decades in limbo to seek a more lasting justice, by jumping back in time to prevent Laura Palmer from being killed. But while he does steer her away from the scene of her murder, the effort ends with Laura disappearing into the darkness, screaming in terror.
In the second hour, Cooper takes off after Laura, journeying with his former colleague Diane Evans (also now back to her real self) through one of the nebulous portals that dot the American landscape. They stop for the night at a motel, and in morning he wakes up to a goodbye note written from “Linda” to “Richard” — suggesting that both he and Diane slipped into new identities after passing through the wormhole. Cooper eventually finds someone in Odessa, Texas who looks like Laura but goes by the name Carrie Page. He tries to bring this woman “home,” but when they get to Twin Peaks they discover the Palmers’ old house is occupied by other people. Carrie becomes as panicked and soul-sick as Laura used to be when she was at that address. She screams again. And so “The Return” ends.
I can only guess at what this all means, based on clues dropped throughout “Twin Peaks,” as well as in the prequel film “Fire Walk with Me.” Bear with me while I repeat some of what I think we know.
Gordon Cole explains that the mysterious “Judy” his old partner Phillip Jeffries talked about is an ancient entity, whose name is pronounced “joo-day.” This might be the same malevolence we’ve seen as “Bob,” inhabiting Leland Palmer and Mr. C. If so, he/she/it would be one of an array of otherworldly beings who’ve been exerting a crude influence over humanity, largely via dreams, portents, and doppelgängers. Other shadowy figures have included the Fireman, the Arm and the old lady sometimes called “Mrs. Tremond” or “Mrs. Chalfont”
Which brings us to the show’s final minutes, where we find out that the Palmer home’s new owner (played by Mary Reber, who actually owns the real property) is named Alice Tremond, and that she bought the house from a Mrs. Chalfont. It’s possible the Palmer house itself is one of these “soft places” around the world, where humans and immortals pass back and forth, leaving scenes of violence and misery in their wake. This would explain why both Laura and Sarah Palmer were frequently plagued with terrifying visions while walking up and down their stairs.