(Spoilers, sweetie. Read at your own risk.)
Twin Peaks is over. Very likely forever, although that hardly bears thinking about. I can keep hoping that another miracle will happen, and Lynch and Frost will sign on with Showtime again for another season, but I should probably face the fact that they, much like life, don’t give the smallest shit about my hopes and desires and expectations. Or yours. Or anyone else’s. Not that they should. They, much like life, owe us nothing, and in spite of that they’ve given us hours of entertainment, characters to love, challenges and puzzles to work through, beauty and terror, and elation and heartbreak and laughter and tears.
And now I need to sort through my feelings and reactions if I am going to be able to rejoin society as a productive member. It seemed like the easiest way to do this would be in writing.
I’m not proud of it, but I would guess I’m not alone in the fact that my initial reaction as the final credits rolled was a cacophony of bewilderment, panic, anger, and betrayal. (Again, much like my reaction to many real life events.) That was it? What was I supposed to make of that? Was Carrie really Laura? Where was Sarah? What happened to Audrey? Did any of it really happen within the show’s universe, or was everything, from the first moment of the pilot, to the final end credits, someone’s (Audrey’s?) psychotic fever dream? The last finale was an accidental cliffhanger, but this one was deliberate – how could they do that to us? And above all, I wanted a happy ending for Dale Cooper, dammit!
But it wouldn’t do to stay in that place.
It makes as much sense to demand of Lynch, especially, that the story meet my expectations and serve my desires as it does to demand the same of life. Which, as we’ve already established, does not give a shit about our happiness. To make those demands would miss the point entirely.
And in any case, it’s not like there wasn’t ample warning:
“Salvation’s more than I can afford.”
“A fragile existence with echoes of wrath.”
“Cut along the length but you can’t get the feeling back.”
“Who I was, I will never be again.”
These are just a handful of the lyrics that most stood out to me from the musical selections played at the Roadhouse, from Rebekah Del Rio’s No Stars (written by David Lynch himself), Nine Inch Nails’ She’s Gone Away, The Veils’ Axolotl, and Eddie Vedder’s stunningly moving Out of Sand. To say nothing of James Hurley’s reprise of Just You. Nostalgic fan service? Sure. But also tainted by the absence of Donna and Maddy. Together forever in love? Not so much. James ended up middle aged and still single, and, perhaps following in the footsteps of the uncle who more or less raised him, pining after an unavailable woman.
These songs all pointed to loss and decay and disappointment. I’ll admit that I ignored the warnings, or at least downplayed their significance. Of course there would be some degree of loss and disillusionment. We were coming back after two and a half decades. Cooper, stuck in the Black Lodge for all that time, couldn’t get those years back. I knew to some degree that it would, at best, be more of a story about picking up the pieces the best we can after loss and pain, and, yes, our own mistakes. It’s the kind of story that has a particularly poignant resonance in my own life at this point.
I underestimated just how deep into despair and hopeless nihilism Lynch and Frost were going to pull me.
These are only the thoughts that I have right now in the first 24 hours after watching. I’m sure my perceptions and conclusions will evolve with time and repeated viewings. But as of this moment, here’s what I believe are the main takeaways: Cooper’s fatal flaw is the hubris of believing that he can fix everything and save everyone. Nothing represents that for him more than saving Laura. But Laura’s death, as it happened, meant something. She sacrificed herself, and in undoing that, Cooper did not do the world (or Laura herself) any favors.
I am not sure whether the Lodge spirits that led him in that direction (namely, MIKE and The Arm) were actually positive influences. The Twin Peaks world is unreliable – we can’t even trust the timeline of events – and I think it would be a mistake to take it as a given that any of the supernatural elements (with the possible exceptions of the Fireman and Señorita Dido, who seemed wholly benevolent) are actually helpful entities. MIKE’s recitation of the Fire Walk With Me poem when Cooper went through the boiler room door at the Great Northern makes me think that Cooper was probably wrong to trust him.
The owl cave/infinity loop reveal points to Cooper now being trapped in an endless limbo of repeatedly trying and failing to right past wrongs. He will never be able to save Laura, because she was not meant to be saved. Whether he’s the dreamer or not, he’s living inside the dream, and doomed never to resolve it, because it’s unresolvable.
Did the showdown in the Sheriff’s office actually happen? I’m honestly not sure. It all seemed a little too easy, and the superimposed Cooper-in-the-Lodge face points to it being a dream. On the other hand, “it was all a dream” endings are also too easy. On the other hand again, it would not exactly be an unprecedented ending for David Lynch. Debating this is probably going to be my own infinite looping limbo. Regardless, whether or not BOB was conquered, there is still evil in the world, the atomic bomb can never be undone, and any victory over evil is only ever going to be temporary.
That said, the ending does not undo the delight of Bobby Briggs growing up to be a stand-up guy, or of Shelly still being a sweet little doll who gives free pie to nursery school teachers despite her horrific taste in men, or of Carl’s act of kindness for a tenant who was selling plasma to afford rent, or of the Mitchums and Candie and Dougie and the girls parading ecstatically through the Lucky 7 offices, or of Cooper declaring to a dumbfounded Bushnell Mullins that “I am the FBI,” or (and this is a big one) of Ed proposing to Norma over the soaring vocals of Otis Redding.
(Cooper may be trapped in an eternal nightmare limbo and Audrey may be institutionalized and/or dreaming the whole thing, but I will NOT let you take Ed and Norma away from me, Frost and Lynch.)
My point being, my ultimate philosophical conclusion from Twin Peaks is that, yes, death is inevitable, evil can never be truly vanquished but only held at bay, happiness is temporary and elusive, and even though death is only a change rather than an end there will always be some fear in letting go; however . . .
None of this negates love and joy and beauty.
That’s how I’m making sense of it at this moment.