This post will contain SPOILERS throughout.
How did we get here? A few years ago it seemed impossible for Twin Peaks to return. Then the news broke. We knew, eventually, that it would be 18 hours and that David Lynch would direct it all. Then it was about waiting. And waiting. When it arrived I don’t know if many people could’ve predicted fully the journey ahead; the strange intersecting paths that Mark Frost and David Lynch had prepared for us. And even if you could have foreseen the bulk of it; the battle between good and evil, Douglas Jones, tulpas and everything else, I don’t feel like anyone saw Part 18 coming.
This hour is going to frustrate some people terribly. They’ll call Lynch a fraud, attribute the show’s defiant swerve to pretentiousness or calculated evasiveness; that Lynch and Frost don’t know the answers to their riddles, so have created a new set to keep us off the scent. That they’re pulling a LOST on us. We all wanted varying degrees of closure after all this time. My argument would be that parts 1 through 17 gave us just that. We learned the fates of many. We got a solution to Dale Cooper’s predicament in the Black Lodge. Part 18 is about the future, as slippery a concept as that may be.
Also consider this; Twin Peaks has thrived as a mystery show. The mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. The mystery of the Black Lodge and, throughout season three, the mystery of how Dale Cooper would return and stop his evil doppelgänger. Part 18 sets up a new mystery. It’s a petition for a fourth season. Hopefully a successful one. If not? Then Twin Peaks bows out now as it did once before; entirely on its own terms, a song in the night, half remembered come morning.
A key point of contention for many; Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) doesn’t appear again. We last saw her waking at the end of Part 16 which many assumed would be a cliffhanger the show would resolve. It remains a cliffhanger. But the nature of what happened to Audrey may be key to the greater mysteries that Lynch and Frost are leading us toward; questions about the very nature of reality and perception, and where it is we call home. The Wizard Of Oz has recurred in Lynch’s cinema. It is echoed throughout Part 18.
Another running theme throughout season three has been duality. Doubles, reflections and echoes have been everywhere, most notably in the main storyline of Agent Cooper’s doppelgänger. Part 18 takes this preoccupation and boldly throws it outward. We know that the Black Lodge is a reality running beside our own; but what if all of our reality (including the Black Lodge) had a double? Bill Hastings and Ruth Davenport were searching for the zone. Dale Cooper might’ve found it. If the finale of season two confounded viewers by showing them a whole new world, season three repeats the same trick by making ours an unknowable place.
While Evil Cooper burns in the Black Lodge, Gerrard (Al Strobel) conjures a new Dougie tulpa. Dougie is reunited with Janey-E (Naomi Watts) and Sonny Jim Jones (Pierce Gangon) thus bringing resolution to their story. In 1989, Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) leads Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) through the woods but she disappears. In the Black Lodge, Cooper met Laura Palmer and she disappeared there as well. Both times screaming terribly. Cooper remembers that Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) told him to find Laura. This is ostensibly his present quest. My instinct is that Sarah Palmer – or whatever possesses her – has altered reality to defy Cooper. Now he has a long journey ahead of him. Oddly, Grace Zabriski is credited as being in this installment but I don’t recall seeing her.
“Is it the story of the little girl that lived down the lane?” The Arm asks Cooper, prefiguring the sense of a journey ahead and of a mystery girl. Cooper emerges from the Black Lodge (note how he has now mastered this place; able to open the door to Glastonbury Grove with an insider’s knowledge). In the woods outside Twin Peaks he is reunited with Diane (Laura Dern). He is now back in the present. They ask one another if they really are themselves (it’s worth checking after everything that they’ve both been through!).
They don’t return to the others at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station. In fact, nobody else from the show’s history is seen again. Cooper and Diane drive down a desert road. They are on a new path now, the new journey. They approach some pylons and Cooper notes that they are exactly 430 miles from Twin Peaks. In Part 1, the Fireman told Cooper “430”. Diane asks Cooper if he’s sure he wants to do this; what they’re doing is clearly dangerous or unpredictable. Lynch bypasses the conversations that explain to the audience what they’re doing; better to show than to tell. “You don’t know what it’s going to be like.”
Despite Diane’s reservations, Cooper wishes to proceed. He feels the electricity. They are at an opening. A gateway of some kind. They kiss, as once they cross, “it could all be different”. Diane agrees to go. In Twin Peaks terms, they’re off to the land of Oz. Suddenly they are driving at night; Cooper and Diane have crossed over to a parallel world. Part 18 teases the audience with suspense; there are several long, drawn-out scenes of people travelling without speaking. As viewers we eye the clock. How can this resolve in the remaining minutes? The inaction prickles us, deliberately.
Diane and Cooper arrive at a motel. While Cooper is in the motel office getting a room, Diane sees another version of herself near the entrance. This is entirely possible if they are indeed visitors in a parallel universe; there would be another version of both of them here. However, when Cooper emerges, the double has gone. In the motel room, Dale orders Diane over to him. His tone is a little off, as though there’s an element of Evil Cooper to him. Nevertheless they kiss and Lynch cuts to a lengthy sex scene between the two of them set to The Platters’ “A Prayer” which also featured in Part 8 when we visited 1956. The recurrence of the song makes us question when this is, but objects in the room rule out the 50’s. Diane covers Cooper’s face with her hands while they make love.
In the morning Cooper is by himself. He finds a note and reads it. It is addressed to Richard from Linda. He is Richard. Diane is Linda. In this place they have different names, different identities. “Richard and Linda” was another clue told to Cooper by the Fireman in Part 1. This completes the appearance of all three clues. This is the note:
“Dear Richard, When you read this I’ll be gone. Please don’t try to find me; I don’t recognise you anymore.Whatever we had together is over, Linda.” Diane appears to have been taken over by the Linda persona.
Richard/Cooper leaves. He is in the town of Odessa. He drives around until he sees Judy’s Coffee Shop. He still remembers his mission, clearly. Cooper’s methodology has always included intuition and chance, so he stops at the diner. Inside, he intervenes when a waitress is harassed by three cowboys (a nod to Mulholland Drive perhaps?) and asks for the address of the diner’s other waitress, who apparently hasn’t been to work in three days.
The address leads him to a small house that is very similar to the one Cole and co. visited in Part 11 when the vortex appeared in Buckhorn. Outside it is the same telegraph pole that has previously been seen at both the Fat Trout Trailer Park and at the crossroads where Richard Horne causes a hit and run accident. Richard/Cooper knocks at the door and Laura Palmer answers…. except she isn’t Laura Palmer; she’s never heard of her and says her name is Carrie Page.
Carrie is a woman in trouble (surprise, surprise) and because she is in danger if she stays in Odessa, she agrees to go with Richard/Cooper to Twin Peaks. Carrie responds to the name Sarah but doesn’t seem to believe the rest of the story she’s being told. Inviting him in briefly, we learn that there is a dead man in her home. He appears to have been shot. Together, they drive north again as Richard/Cooper is intent on reuniting ‘Laura’ with her mother Sarah. His understanding seems to be that if this is done in this reality, then perhaps events in ours will become unified and his mission to save Laura will have been completed. He doesn’t verbalise this, though. As before, we are left to makes our own connections, our own assumptions. They travel in long silence. Carrie worries that they are being followed. A scene at a gas station in which they rejoin traffic suggests something else. A procession in the afterlife. A ghost world. The time on the clock ticks down.
They arrive together back in Twin Peaks in the middle of the night and drive to the Palmer residence. Carrie doesn’t recognise the house. Undeterred, Richard/Cooper knocks at the door and a woman we’ve never seen before answers. She is Alice Tremond (Mary Reber – the actual owner of the Palmer house in real life). Confused, Richard/Cooper asks her who owned the house before her. Checking with her husband, Alice says the name was Chalfont. Chalfont and Tremond were both names used by the old woman and her grandson in season two and in Fire Walk With Me, suggesting their influence and by extension the influence of the Black Lodge can be felt here. Dejected, Richard/Cooper apologises for his disturbance at such a late hour and goes back down the steps to the street. A thought dawns on him, “What year is this?” he asks and Carrie Page screams and the lights go out. The show ends.
It’s a stunner, that’s for sure. A conventionally structured show might’ve waved goodbye with a sweeping montage of all it’s characters, or by at least acknowledging the place that the season has brought them all to in some way. Twin Peaks has never been that show, even during it’s most predictable moments, and season three certainly hasn’t kept to any supposed rulebook. Part 18 explodes with incredible new questions, and one can readily envisage a whole new season ahead in which Cooper tries to get back to the ‘real’ world and locate the true Laura Palmer. This installment has been written, produced and directed with that idea in mind. It is the germ of something new, the seed of future endeavours.
Will they ever be realised? Who knows for sure right now. But like it or loathe it, Part 18 delivers on the promise set out to long-term fans. It is fascinating, contrary, unsettling and restlessly curious ‘television’ exactly as the show always intended to be. Lynch articulates less about his mysteries these days. There are fewer hand holds and no safety words. Putting yourself in his world(s) is a matter of faith. That faith was already rewarded time and again in 2017. What this hour does, is ask us to hope for the opportunity to experience those feelings again. There’s no Audrey. There’s no glass box. No dirty bearded men. No Woodsman. But there’s a whole new world out there. A dream inside a dream.