Twin Peaks: The Return was one of the highlights of the 2017 television season. 25 years after the original series aired on ABC, Showtime gave us the opportunity to revisit this strange and wonderful town full of quirky characters and mystical goings-on. Back in June, I reviewed the launch of the new Twin Peaks, so I wanted to take a little time at the end of the journey to look back at some of the more important themes and character developments. Twin Peaks: The Return gave us some amazing moments: Agent Tammy Preston getting initiated into Blue Rose investigations (giving her, and the audience, a bit of backstory about the Blue Rose origin); Deputy “Hawk” Hill finding the missing pages of Laura Palmer’s secret diary; Sherrif Andy Brennan getting taken via the vortex to the Black Lodge and given clues by the Giant; Andy and Lucy shopping for a chair online (seriously, I loved that scene!); and even Lucy questioning whether the chocolate bunny she ate could be a clue to the mystery. It was an insane ride through the brilliant landscape that is David Lynch’s mind. But amidst the many great moments, there were some clear standouts that deserve special attention.
Below are my picks for the Top 10 moments from the 2017 season of Twin Peaks.
10. Big Ed and Norma Finally Get Together
One of the great love stories of Twin Peaks was that of Ed Hurley and Norma Jennings, sweethearts since high school. At the time of the original series, Big Ed had been unhappily married for years to Nadine, who had had a crush on him in high school. Nadine proved to be a bit of a psycho monster, belligerent towards Ed and obsessed with creating silent drapery runners. An unsuccessful attempt at gaining a patent for her silent drapes led Nadine to attempt suicide.
In 2017, now the owner of a shop called Run Silent, Run Drapes, Nadine became an avid follower of former psychiatrist Dr. Jacoby’s web broadcast. Going by the name Dr. Amp, Jacoby was hawking gold spray-painted shovels and encouraging his listeners to “shovel yourselves out of the shit!” Nadine evidently took this plea to heart, purchasing a golden shovel and displaying it in her shop window. At the beginning of Part Fifteen, Nadine marched across town to Big Ed’s gas station and announced that she would no longer stand in Ed and Norma’s way, giving him her blessing to go be with her.
In a series as dark and twisted as Twin Peaks: The Return, seeing Ed and Norma finally able to bring their decades-long love to fruition was a much-needed ray of sunshine, and was one of the sweetest moments in the history of the show.
9. “Dougie” Takes Down an Assassin
Douglas Jones—aka Dougie—was introduced in Part Three, played by Kyle MacLachlan. Dougie was a pretty average guy: a successful mid-level Las Vegas insurance salesman, a wife and a kid (Janey-E and Sonny Jim), somewhat out of shape, occasionally enjoying the company of a hooker, and with a gambling problem that has accrued massive debt. But, you see, none of that is real. Dougie is, in fact, a tulpa—a constructed being, a doppelganger. Essentially, Dougie Jones was a placeholder in the real world for FBI Agent Dale Cooper, who was trapped in the Black Lodge. At the same time, another doppelganger, commonly referred to as Mr. C, an evil construct under the control of a malevolent being known as BOB, was released on Earth. As Cooper finds his way out of the Lodge, Dougie ceases to exist and Cooper takes his place, though in a catatonic state. He spends numerous episodes being led around through Dougie’s life by friends and family, who assume him to be Dougie.
It’s not until Part Seven that we see the first glimpse of the real Cooper. As “Dougie” and Janey-E (a gutsy, take charge but devoted woman played by Naomi Watts, inarguably one of The Return‘s MVPs) leave his workplace, they are suddenly attacked by a hired assassin wielding a gun. Still in his catatonic state, Cooper’s training and instincts kick in and “Dougie” springs into action, taking down the assassin and wrestling the gun from him. The wait for Cooper to properly and fully emerge in the real world would take the rest of the season, but this was the first hint that we got that yes, “our” Cooper was indeed locked away, buried deep inside, struggling to get out.
8. The Log Lady Says Good Night
Margaret Lanterman became one of the original Twin Peaks’ most iconic and beloved characters, with her red-rimmed glasses and the log that she carried around at all times. The log, you see, had messages for people.
When Twin Peaks returned in 2017, the news that Catherine Coulson would be appearing in the series was met with enthusiasm. Having passed away in September of 2015, her appearance in the first two episodes was a bit of a shock—thin and frail; white, scraggly, short-cropped hair; an oxygen tube feeding into her nose, seemingly on her deathbed—but the recognizable glasses and log were there, and the same cryptic messages from beyond. Episode One carried a dedication to Coulson in the closing credits, so one would be forgiven for thinking that these were the only scenes that she’d filmed. It was quite a surprise, then, when Episode Ten rolled around and we were unexpectedly treated to two more episodes of puzzling communications to Hawk.
And then came Episode Fifteen. The Log Lady calls Hawk to give him one final message: that she’s dying. She implores Hawk to remember all that she’s told him. She says that he knows about death, “that it’s just a change, not an end.” Still, she admits, “there’s some fear . . . some fear in letting go.” She closes the conversation with her customary “Good night, Hawk,” and he repeats the greeting. Once she hangs up, though, he whispers “Good-bye, Margaret.” He then calls all the Sherriff’s Department staff into the boardroom and delivers the news of her passing to them. A shocked silence falls over them. Sherriff Truman removes his hat. Lucy weeps. The scene shifts to an exterior shot of Margaret’s cabin in the woods, and its interior lights go dark forever. It’s a lengthy, poignant, heart-wrenching send-off for one of the show’s most beloved characters and actresses. Having already dedicated Part One to Coulson, Part Fifteen carried a very different message: For Margaret Lanterman.
It’s a shame that Coulson never got to reunite with her former cast members, that all of her scenes took place over phone calls to Hawk. But with production on the new series having begun in late August 2015, Coulson passed away mere weeks later. These scenes had to have been the first thing on Lynch’s to-do list; it must have been his priority to get as much as he could from her while he could. Which means that Coulson was literally on her deathbed. And the Log Lady saying goodnight to Hawk is, in actuality, Coulson saying goodnight to the audience.
7. Phillip Jeffries Finally Arrives!
With the news that Catherine Coulson would be in the new series, that Lynch had somehow managed to film scenes with her before her passing, hope ran rampant that David Bowie would also appear, reprising his role as FBI Agent Philip Jeffries. With his weird, southern American accent, Jeffries first sauntered into FBI Director Gordon Cole’s office in the 1992 movie Fire Walk With Me announcing that he’s seen things and that he wasn’t going to talk about Judy. Who was Judy? No one seemed to know. He indicated Agent Dale Cooper and asked Cole “Who do you think this is there?”
As the full cast list for Twin Peaks: The Return was released on April 25, 2016, Bowie’s name was not on it. That didn’t quench the audience’s hope or desire, though. What if an appearance, a complete surprise, had indeed been shot? That’s exactly the kind of thing Lynch and Bowie would do! After all, Lynch shot scenes with Catherine Coulson, and Bowie passed away nearly a year after her. It’s completely feasible, right? Even just a voiceover? Alas, while Lynch had made public that he’d fully intended for Jeffries to have a major role in the new series, Bowie’s final year on Earth was an incredibly busy one, recording and producing his final album, Blackstar, released two days prior to his death, and creating, rehearsing and premiering a new musical, Lazarus, based on his music.
Fan speculation was fueled even more once the new series premiered and Jeffries had such a prominent role in it. His character was referenced numerous times. He was clearly active somewhere in the background. Mr. C received a phone call that he was expecting from Jeffries (it turned out to be an imposter).
Jeffries does finally make it onto screen, though, initially in a dream sequence. Cole relates to Tammy and Albert that he’d had a dream about his interactions with Jeffries in 1992, and clips from Fire Walk With Me are used to include Bowie. David’s one line of dialogue included in the sequence—“Who do you think this is there?”—is redubbed by actor Nathan Frizzell as “Who do you think that is there” (matching one of the alternate takes of Bowie’s original scene). As the season wears on, Jeffries makes further appearances beyond the confines of archival footage, with Frizzell providing his dialogue, and is represented on screen as a large, black, steam kettle-type of contraption (or, as Bowie fans dubbed it, a “tin machine”), continuing to interact with other characters, pushing the story forward, and even re-mentioning Judy. Only in Twin Peaks could an iconic performer be replaced by a voice double and a large, black, metallic contraption.
It’s clear that Lynch had an integral role for Bowie in mind, one that couldn’t simply be written around once Bowie proved unavailable, and it’s one of the genuinely sad notes of Twin Peaks: The Return that David Bowie was unable to take part.
6. We finally meet Diane
“Diane, 7:30 am, February twenty-fourth. Entering the town of Twin Peaks. Five miles south of the Canadian border, twelve miles west of the state line. Never seen so many trees in my life.”
Throughout the original Twin Peaks, viewers became very familiar with Diane, Dale Cooper’s secretary in the FBI, from a series of dictations that he would address to her. But she never appeared on screen—until The Return. When we finally do meet her, she’s nothing at all like what we’d expect: foul-mouthed, bad-tempered, chain-smoking and heavy drinking; in the book The Autobiography of F.B.I. Special Agent Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes, Cooper describes his secretary as “an interesting cross between a saint and a cabaret singer.” The lady we meet in The Return is neither.
After Cooper’s disappearance 25 years ago, his doppelganger Mr. C paid a visit to Diane, asking her questions about FBI activity in the time he was gone. Thinking this to be the real Cooper, she assumed he was just anxious to get caught up on all he’d missed. As they kissed, she began to realize that this wasn’t her Cooper; he sensed her growing fear and raped her. In one of the greatest performances of her life, Laura Dern portrays a distraught Diane relating this harrowing encounter to Gordon, Albert and Tammy.
But once again, we learn that this isn’t the person we think it is—this Diane is a manufactured being, like Dougie Jones. After Mr. C’s violation of her, he takes Diane to a convenience store—a location that we know to be a hub of evil activity and a portal to the Black Lodge—and she is copied. The Diane that we’ve seen all season long is, in fact, a tulpa. The real Diane emerges after the real Cooper wakes up, and the two meet in the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s Department. There is a care, a tenderness, a familiarity between them that is palpable. When one talks about the MVPs of Twin Peaks: The Return, the conversation isn’t complete without mentioning Laura Dern and her brilliant portrayal of Diane Evans.
5. The Creation of BOB
The first sixteen minutes of Part Eight play out in pretty expected fashion, closing with a fantastic performance of “She’s Gone Away” by “The” Nine Inch Nails. But wait, what about the other 44 minutes? What we’re treated to (or, some might say, subjected to) for the rest of the hour is pure, unadulterated David Lynch in short film form. Beginning with the detonation of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945 in White Sands, New Mexico, accompanied appropriately by Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (an abstract orchestral work composed in 1960 by Krzysztof Penderecki depicting the horrors of the atomic attack on Hiroshima), what follows is one of the most unnerving pieces of television ever created.
Amidst the chaos of the A-bomb test, a featureless humanoid figure in space vomits out a spew of nebulous matter, and a black orb containing an image of BOB emerges from the regurgitation and descends to Earth. The ultimate human horror was the catalyst for the birth of the evil entity that has caused all of Twin Peaks’ troubles. Woodsmen scramble around the convenience store, crush skulls, and recite weird verse (“This is the water and this is the well. Drink full and descend. The horse is the white of the eyes and dark within.”) that puts an entire town to sleep. And a large half-amphibious bug hatches from an egg and crawls into the mouth of a sleeping girl.
But what we also witness is the Giant and a woman called Senorita Dido in a castle-like structure on the Purple Sea. The Giant reviews footage of the atomic test and the birth of BOB, and then levitates, emitting a golden cloud from which a golden orb forms. The orb floats down to Senorita Dido, and within it she sees the face of Laura Palmer. She kisses the orb and releases it, and it too descends to Earth. Was Laura created to be the equal and opposite of BOB? To be the good force to counteract his evil? If so, then it makes sense why he tormented her so and corrupted everything around her during her life, and eventually killed her.
In total, it’s 46 minutes of Lynch unfettered by convention or expectation. It’s visual narrative in its purest form, dense and thickly layered with meaning. It’s challenging, even to the staunchest Lynch fan. It’s like Lynch’s version of 2001: A Space Oddity, his own Eraserhead, and echoes of The Wizard of Oz all combined into one soup. And it’s completely and totally unlike anything else on television. It is to Showtime’s credit that Lynch was allowed free reign to create such a stunning, perplexing, and beautiful sequence.
4. Audrey Awakes
Audrey Horne was a key figure in the original Twin Peaks. Daughter of business mogul Ben Horne, Audrey (played by Sherilyn Fenn) was a fellow student at Laura Palmer’s high school (though the two weren’t friends). While she was initially painted as a bit of a troublemaker (the series begins with her derailing a major business deal her father was negotiating), she eventually took on the role of social activist. With Audrey not appearing in Fire Walk With Me due to a schedule conflict with Fenn, the last we saw of Audrey in the original series was her chained to a vault door in the Twin Peaks Savings and Loan to protest their role in building a country club on the location of Ghostwood National Forest, a project that was originally spearheaded by her father. She was gravely injured in a bomb explosion at the bank, putting her in the hospital in a coma.
Fans anxious to see Audrey in the 2017 revival had a good long wait—she didn’t appear until Part Twelve. Now unhappily married to a man named Charlie, a man she clearly despises, she’s also carrying on with someone called Billy, who has gone missing. Audrey tries to convince Charlie to go with her to the Roadhouse to look for him. There was no explanation of or even acknowledgment of what happened 25 years earlier. When had she awakened from her coma? When had she married Charlie? Who the heck was Charlie anyway? Even weirder is that over the next few episodes, the couple continues to have the same argument, never actually leaving the house to go to the Roadhouse. What’s going on here? Is Audrey stuck in a time loop? Is she still in her coma from 25 years ago?
In Part Sixteen, Audrey and Charlie finally make it to the Roadhouse, at first seemingly contradicting the coma theory. They find seats, Charlie orders two martinis, and Eddie Vedder croons away. Then, in an almost dreamlike fashion, the MC announces “Audrey’s Dance,” and the dance floor clears a space for her. Swept up in the music, Audrey moves and sways to the song the band is playing, recalling a similar scene (and using the same music) from Season One in the Double R Diner. Audrey is roused from her reverie as a fight breaks out in the crowd. Fearful, she dashes over to Charlie and pleads with him to get her out of there. Suddenly, the scene shifts and we find Audrey, disheveled, in an all-white room wearing a white gown, staring at herself in a round mirror, clearly shocked and terrified. What’s going on? Is she in the hospital? Has she just awoken from her coma? Is it purely coincidence that she awakens at almost the same moment that Agent Cooper does?
Sadly, we never did find out, because that’s the last we see of Audrey in the new series. It really seemed like her storyline was leading up to something big, like a tie-in with Cooper. With Audrey completely absent from the final two episodes, though, we’re left hanging once again. Maybe if a Season Four ever appears, which both Lynch and Showtime have not ruled out, we’ll find out Ms. Horne’s fate.
3. “I am the FBI!”
Fans waited all season long for Cooper—the real, proper FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper—to emerge from his catatonic state and take his rightful place in the story. Throughout the season, Kyle MacLachlan delivered the performance of his life as the evil doppelganger Mr. C, as the Cooper “placeholder” Dougie, and as the mostly unresponsive Cooper being led around through Dougie’s daily life. And while it was great to see so many characters from the original series put in appearances in the new show, what was missing was FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, the undeniable heart and soul of Twin Peaks.
In Part Fifteen, Coop is sitting at his dining room table eating cake. He begins to explore items on the table, something we’d not seen him do before. He picks up the television remote and turns on the TV to find the movie Sunset Boulevard playing. Someone in the movie mentions the name ‘Gordon Cole,’ which jolts the submerged Cooper into action: he sticks a fork in a wall socket and electrocutes himself. He’s knocked unconscious and ends up in the hospital in a coma. In the following episode, Dougie’s family waits by his bedside, distraught. In a moment when no one else is in the room, MIKE (a spirit similar to BOB, but who had renounced evil and cut off his arm which was tattooed with a malevolent mark) appeared to Cooper as he suddenly awoke, fully restored, “100 percent.” “Finally,” MIKE commented, echoing every audience member’s enthusiastic sentiment. His family and coworkers come back into the room, shocked at his sudden recovery. Dougie’s boss, Bushnell Mullins, tells him that FBI agents are on their way, looking for him. Cooper quickly gets dressed, has a doctor give him the okay, and announces that he’s leaving the hospital. “But what about the FBI?” Mullins inquires as Cooper moves to exit the room. Cooper stops, turns to him with a wry smile on his face, and in one of the greatest punch-your-fist-in-the-air moments in television history, says “I am the FBI!” Cooper was indeed back—100 percent!
The Return isn’t just about Twin Peaks returning to the small screen, or the audience returning to the show, even though it encompasses both of things. What it’s really about, though, is FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper’s return from the dark side and into the real world. This is David Lynch playing the long game. It took sixteen episodes, but man, when Cooper finally came back, it was the greatest feeling in the world.
2. Cooper Saves Laura
With Cooper back in action, Part Seventeen was an absolute whirlwind: A surprise explanation of Judy (she’s an ancient evil spirit originally called Jowday); an encounter between Mr. C and Sherriff Truman; the real Agent Cooper phoning Sherriff Truman and tipping him off that Mr. C isn’t him; Lucy taking out Mr. C (who knew that Lucy was such a crack shot?) before he can take out Truman; Cooper arriving at the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s Department, reuniting (most of) the old gang from the original series; there’s a final showdown with BOB and he’s destroyed; and the eyeless Japanese woman Naido is revealed to be the real Diane Evans. Whew! And that’s just the first half of the episode!
Cooper visits Jeffries, who sends him back in time to February 23, 1989—the night of Laura Palmer’s murder. We’re treated to footage from Fire Walk With Me and the original series pilot, but with modern day Cooper inserted into the storyline. He observes the last time Laura saw James Hurley, the boy that she was in a secret relationship with. She jumps off of James’ motorcycle and runs away, sobbing. Leo, Jacques, and Ronette wait for her, but before she encounters them, she meets Cooper in the woods. She vaguely recognizes him, as if from a dream. He holds out his hand to her; “where are we going?” she asks. “We’re going home,” Cooper tells her. As he leads her through the woods away from the scene of her murder, everything changes: her plastic-wrapped corpse disappears from the lakeshore; Pete Martell kisses his wife and says he’s going fishing, just as we saw in the series pilot, only this time there’s no body for him to discover, the event that initiated all the events that we’ve witnessed on the show from 1990 until now. History has been rewritten, and for one brief moment, it seemed that Laura had been saved from all the darkness that had plagued her troubled life. And it was an incredibly beautiful and magical moment.
But nothing in Twin Peaks is ever that simple, and in the episodes’ final moment, Cooper looks back to find that Laura has disappeared. As he scans the area for any trace of her, he hears that familiar, soul-wrenching, terrified Laura Palmer scream.
1. That Ending . . .
After the carnival ride of the previous three episodes, with twists, revelations, and connections galore, Twin Peaks: The Return ends its 18-episode run on a very quiet, slow-paced, intimate, and very perplexing manner, featuring a great deal of silent driving. To say that the finale was divisive is an understatement. To say that it has generated an unprecedented amount of discussion and fan theories is to sell it short.
In the final 30 minutes of the episode, Cooper finds himself in Odessa and tracks down a woman that he thinks is Laura Palmer (played, of course, by Sheryl Lee). She says her name is Carrie Page and she has no recollection of Twin Peaks, nor has she ever heard the name Laura Palmer before. But her mother is called Sarah and her father is Leland. Cooper convinces her to travel with him to Washington to take her to what he assumes is her childhood home. When they arrive, though, nothing about the town or indeed the house seems familiar to Carrie. They knock on the door and someone who is decidedly not Sarah Palmer answers. The woman, Alice Tremond (played by the house’s current real owner, Mary Reber) reports that no one named Sarah Palmer has ever lived there, and that she purchased the house from a Mrs Chalfont.
Perplexed, Cooper and Carrie turn to leave. They walk toward Cooper’s car, but he hesitates. He turns, sensing something is wrong, and asks aloud, “What year is this?” Carrie turns to face the house as well, and very faintly in the distance, hears Sarah Palmer calling out for Laura as on the day that Laura had died. Carrie becomes shaken, to the point of terror, and once again screams that familiar, soul-wrenching, terrified Laura Palmer scream. The lights in the house suddenly flash and everything goes dark. End of episode. End of Season. Possibly end of series.
So what happened? Are they in the wrong time? Did Cooper saving Laura from her death damage the timeline? Did he at some point cross into an alternate reality? Those thoughts, and many more (including a fan theory that the final two episodes take place simultaneously and watching them side by side illuminates clues to their combined meaning) will fuel discussion boards and Facebook groups for a long, long time. Will we ever get an answer? I wouldn’t count on it. Even though a fourth season isn’t an impossibility (both Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee have said that they would return if it happened), it’ll be years before it would materialize. We will have to be content with the uncertainty, with the questions, with the crazy speculation. That’s exactly how David Lynch wants it.