Lost In The Bang Bang Bar

Is It Future Or Is It Past?: Stuck In The Eternal Return With Twin Peaks: The Return “Parts 17 & 18”

Well, hello there, dearest Filthy Dreams readers and Twin Peaks fanatics! It’s a good thing we made so many sandwiches! Sadly it’s time for one last jaunt to get Lost In The Bang Bang Bar for Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 17 and 18. I hope to see all of you again–every one of you. 🙂 ALL

“Shadow, take me down
Shadow, take me down with you
For the last time
For the last time”
Chromatics, “Shadow”

“The sun comes up and down each day
The river flows out to the sea
Love don’t go away
Come back this way
Come back and stay forever and ever
The world spins”
Julee Cruise, “The World Spins”

Between the first musical performance in Twin Peaks: The Return–Chromatics’s dreamy torch song “Shadow”–and the last–Twin Peaks’ resident chanteuse Julee Cruise’s “The World It Spins,” an essential shift happens. While both songs are imbued with highly aestheticized longing and a sense of futility, Chromatics’ insistence on finality “for the last time” switches to an ever-revolving, endless sense of continuity “the world spins.” This change is an important one for understanding–or even coming to terms with–the unyieldingly tragic and haunting vision of the conclusion of Twin Peaks: The Return.

But, this is what we wanted. Before the show aired, all I wanted was a finale of Laura Palmer screaming, no resolution and perhaps, a front row seat to nihilistic Lynchian horror. And boy, did Parts 17 and 8 deliver!

More than just a send-off to the biggest mind-fuck on TV, Parts 17 and 18 also acted as an apt and, as Lynch would say, “beautiful” conclusion to Lynch’s cinematic career, merging themes, imagery and a stubborn refusal to resort to stable subjecthood or plot into two frustrating and destabilizing hours. From sounds of a train whistle and the whooshing of fan blades, reminiscent of the sounds repeating through Inland Empire and Lynch’s song “Ghost Of Love,” to the de facto Blue Velvet reunion of Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan in a car together, Twin Peaks: The Return masterfully combined and sometimes, surreally echoed almost all of Lynch’s previous work.

Aww, The Return and Blue Velvet

Yet, the last two episodes raised more questions than they answered, which certainly pissed off more than a couple viewers on the Interwebz. But, what did they expect? The first half of Part 17, however, really seemed as if Lynch and Frost were finally going to tie things together neatly–a hilarious but perhaps slightly cruel bait-and-switch.

The episode opens in South Dakota with the FBI agents after they sent tulpa Diane back to the Lodge (“I couldn’t do it, Albert!” “You’ve gone soft in your old age”…”Not where it counts, buddy”). Gordon explains the genesis of this Judy everyone’s talking about. Gordon recalls, “Major Briggs shared with me and Cooper his discovery of an entity, an extreme negative force called in olden times ‘jiao de’ over time it’s become Judy…The last thing Cooper told me, ‘If I disappear like the others, do everything you can to find me. I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone.’” After finishing The Return, we can only assume that these two birds are both vanquishing BOB or Judy and saving Laura.

Receiving a call that Cooper was actually Dougie and is heading to the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station, the FBI agents “pack it up” just as Bad Coop makes his way to the station by way of Jack Rabbit’s Palace and the White Lodge. Now, even though Andy incorrectly recognizes Bad Coop as Coop (“Agent, Cooper, is that you? Agent Cooper, it is you! We were just talking about you!…Everyone’s going to be so happy to see you.”), there is clearly something off with this Coop since after Sheriff Truman offers him coffee, he says, “No thanks, I’m alright.” Red flag!

Just in time, Cooper descends on the sheriff’s station with the Mitchum brothers, Candie and the girls just as Lucy kills Bad Coop while Andy, remembering his task given by the Fireman in Part 14, brings the entire cast of characters–Freddie, Naido and weirdly, James from the jail into the room. Freddie hulk smashes a black blob containing BOB and a glimpse of Leland Palmer, Cooper puts the Owl Cave ring on Bad Coop, sending him back to the lodge, and Naido transforms into Diane, wearing a tacky ass red wig and black and white fingernails. It’s all a little too perfect. As MIKE would say, “Something’s wrong.”

What isn’t wrong is the Mitchum brothers’ reaction to all this madness. At one point, Bobby walks in and asks, “What’s going on around here?” Bradley Mitchum deadpans, “Took the fucking words right out of my mouth!” Same, Bradley–there’s no amount of Bloody Marys that can prepare you for this scene.

Reality, however, starts to break down albeit slowly. As Coop stares at the eyeless Naido and sees Diane, the close-up of his shocked face overlays the action in all the subsequent scenes at the station. Time, it seems, becomes stuck in a repeat as the minute hand on the clock begins to tick back and forth. “We live inside a dream,” reverberates the giant Cooper face, repeating a line spoken by Bowie’s Phillip Jeffries in Gordon Cole’s office from Fire Walk With Me.

This dreamlike state is further emphasized by Coop’s final goodbye at the station. Turning with Diane to all the characters who stand in a row, he says, “I hope to see all of you again–every one of you.” Both painfully surreal and anticlimactic, it’s reminiscent of Dorothy leaving Oz in The Wizard of Oz. Even Candie and the girls’ outfits, as well as Diane’s pink bathrobe, look similar to Glinda’s eponymous pink.

Like Lynch’s frequent references to Sunset Boulevard, The Wizard of Oz remains a constant influence throughout his cinematic career–both obvious like in Wild At Heart and more subtle including numerous callbacks to the film in The Return. By harkening back to Oz, Lynch, essentially, sets up the world of Twin Peaks as, at once, real and imagined–a dreamlike state.

Rather than returning home like Dorothy, though, Coop goes back to Fire Walk With Me in an attempt to bring Laura home, thinking he can change the past (“The past dictates the future”). Lights flash in the sheriff’s station and Coop yells out, “Gordon!” We see Coop, Gordon and Diane walk through darkness to the boiler room of the Great Northern where apparently Coop’s old room used to be. “I’m going through this door. Don’t try to follow me–either of you,” says Coop, before he says farewell to both Diane and Gordon, a moment in which Lynch literally says goodbye to this beloved character. Before he enters the room, Coop says, “See you at the curtain call,” revealing a sense of the vaudevillian, which, from the final song and dances at the Roadhouse to Sarah Palmer’s almost campy, face-opening performance at the bar, has extended through the series. Not to mention Lynch’s other films (Think Ben camping “In Dreams” in Blue Velvet).

Walking through the door, Cooper reunites with One-Armed MIKE who repeats his lines from the original series: “Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds: ‘Fire Walk With Me.’” Throughout the final scenes of Part 17, lines, images and scenes repeat from the entire Twin Peaks universe. Like Lynch’s perpetual skipping record, it’s a series of repetitions, echoes and eerie déjà vu-like experiences that range from MIKE yelling “ELECTRICITY” like in Fire Walk With Me to the return of the Jumping Man passing MIKE and Coop on the stairs.

And this constant looping of sounds, phrases and scenes matters significantly to the end of the series as Phillip Jeffries shows MIKE and Coop. After Coop asks for the date February 23, 1989, the day before Laura Palmer’s death, Jeffries says vaguely, “Did you ask me this” and turns the Owl Cave symbol into an infinity loop. With a ball in the loop, marking perhaps the place in time we’re currently at, he moves it back. Though Coop doesn’t know it then, this infinity loop also shows how trapped these characters are in an endless cycle.

Prompted “you can go out now,” Cooper enters a black-and-white version of a scene from Fire Walk With Me as Laura fights with James and runs off into the woods (“Open your eyes, James. You don’t even know me. There are things about me even Donna doesn’t know me”). Coop hides in the bushes and watches for a long time–I get it, I love that scene too. We see Laura scream into the woods (“I LOVE YOU, JAMES!”), but instead of meeting Leo and Ronette Pulaski, setting off the events of her death, she runs into Cooper. “Who are you? Do I know you? Wait, I’ve seen you in a dream,” she says as he reaches for her hand and guides her through the woods. “Where are we going?” she asks. “We’re going home,” he, in another Dorothy-esque line, assures her. We see her body wrapped in plastic on the beach disappear in a burst of electricity and static, as well as the opening scene of the original pilot. However, rather than finding her body on the beach, we see Pete Martell, played by the late Jack Nance who starred in Eraserhead, happily fishing.

But, as poor Cooper soon finds out, there’s no changing history. “The past dictates the future,” as he said earlier in 17. Though BOB is gone, Sarah Palmer is now the host for Judy, as she makes horrifying animal-like screams and stabs Laura’s homecoming photo repeatedly with a knife. Judy, or jiao de, still wins, as it will forever and ever. Laura, in the woods with Coop, disappears, screaming as Julee Cruise plays “The World Spins” in the Lodge. Man, after all these years, Laura can still scream.

The scene, with Laura disappearing in a blood-curdling scream, occurs again (and possibly again and again) in the beginning of Part 18, which shows us that Cooper, poor guy, is stuck in Jeffries’s loop. Rather than a satisfying conclusion, what Lynch gives us in Part 18–other than a whole lot of crazy–is a direct, uncompromising vision of the eternal recurrence, also known as the eternal return. Get it? THE RETURN.

For a refresher on the eternal return, since I reference it frequently on Filthy Dreams as one of our personal favorite philosophical theories, let’s turn to Nietzsche who poses the horror of this constant inescapable repetition of experience in The Gay Science: What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine’” (341). The first one Nee-chee.

Before descending into pure Lynchian horror with the Black Lodge scenes from Part 2 repeating again (“Is it future or is it past?”), Part 18 does give us the momentary satisfaction of seeing a new Dougie tulpa arrive at Janey-E and Sonny Jim’s red door just as Cooper promised in Part 16, as well as Bad Coop sitting in the Lodge on fire. Enjoy it because that’s all you get as Part 18 runs through a best of the Black Lodge with the Evolution of the Arm (who repeats a line from Audrey, hinting at her similar repeated fate in the Lodge: “Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane? IS IT?!”), Leland Palmer (“Find Laura”) and Laura’s coy whisper.

Wandering through the Lodge, Cooper parts one of the red curtains and sees Diane in an forest of sycamore trees. “Is it you? Is it really you?” And bang! Diane and Coop are on a desert road, driving us to another show all together. Like the Fireman told Cooper in Part 1, “Remember 430” and at exactly 430 miles, Cooper and Diane crossover to some other dimension or world (“Once we cross it could all be different.” “Let’s go.”). Suddenly, they’re driving down a winding lost highway at night. Are they still Diane and Coop? Who the hell knows–it’s reminiscent of the sudden subject shift in Lost Highway. Pulling into a highway motel, Diane waits in the car while Coop gets a room and sees herself step from behind a pole. Yikes.

They, then, proceed to have the scariest sex I’ve ever witnessed to The Platters’ “My Prayer,” the same song in which the Woodman reigned head-crunching terror in New Mexico in Part 8. Waking up, Cooper finds a note from Linda, not Diane, referencing him as Richard–the names foretold by the Fireman in Part 1. Don’t ask me to even theorize about the Diane/Coop, and later Richard/ Linda scenes. I don’t know. It’s Lynch–just buy the ticket, take the ride.

The entire point of this long drive is to find Laura or really, a woman living in Odessa named Carrie Page, played by the same Sheryl Lee. Cooper arrives at her door asking for Laura and she responds, “You’ve got the wrong house, mister….no, I’m not her.” Repeating her father and mother’s name, it seems like there’s a faint recognition. “Strange as it sounds,” says Cooper, “I think you’re a girl named Laura Palmer. I want to take you to your mother’s home–your home at one time. It’s very important.”

Carrie agrees since, “I got to get out of dodge anyway.” Letting him in, he sees both a dead guy who she likely shot in the head and a little white horse figurine, mirroring the image of the white horse that repeats throughout the series (“The horse is the white of the eyes and the dark within”). With long and tense shots of driving down the highway at night, Carrie and Cooper sit in mostly silence with the exception of some cryptic observations by Carrie: “In those days, I was too young to know any better.”

Arriving in Twin Peaks, Cooper takes her to Sarah’s house and who opens the door? Well, not Sarah. In fact, it’s a woman who has never heard of Sarah. She explains she bought the house from a Mrs. Chalfont and her name is Alice Tremond–both names of a woman that Laura Palmer delivered Meals On Wheels to in the original series and was seen in the convenience store with the Lodge spirits in Fire Walk With Me.

Knowing he fucked it up, Cooper walks into the street dejected as not-Laura watches. Crestfallen, he looks at her and says, “What year is this?” (“Is it future or is it past?”). She doesn’t respond and instead looks up, and hears Sarah Palmer screaming “Laura!” It sounds exactly like the moment from the pilot when Sarah thinks Laura just isn’t waking up in her room, but really, she’s dead on the beach. Laura/Carrie reels back and screams as the house flashes with electricity and the lights go out. What does this all mean? Likely that Laura’s still probably doomed.

The final image Lynch and Frost leave us with is a darkened closeup of Laura whispering to Cooper in slow motion in the lodge. With focus on his stunned face, we see Coop caught in a circle–in the eternal return. Cooper is doomed–an infinity loop of trying and failing by a punishing circular universe.

But, despite this tragic end, there’s also an upside. As the Man from Another Place says about Laura in the Lodge, “She’s filled with secrets.” And these secrets are the true joy of Twin Peaks, and in fact, all of Lynch’s oeuvre. Even as early as the 1970s, Lynch was poo-pooing explanations and solid conclusions. In an interview with Stephen Saban and Sarah Longacre from 1977, he declared, “When you go to a mystery film and they tie it all up at the end–to me, that’s a real letdown. In a mystery, somehow in the middle it’s all opened up, and you can go out to infinity trying to form your own conclusions. There’s so many possibilities. And that feeling is, like, real neat to me…” What Lynch left us viewers with is exactly that–infinite possibilities.

See you at the curtain call.

One thought on “Is It Future Or Is It Past?: Stuck In The Eternal Return With Twin Peaks: The Return “Parts 17 & 18”

  1. Hi Emily,
    I’ll try my best to help about the events unfolding after Diane & Coop went to the other world.
    He even says it from the start: things might be way different when they cross over.
    And so they were. It doesn’t even matter, that’s my guess, that they were Richard and Linda.
    The important thing is, I think, that everything is changed, except him. Well… Only he acknowledges this fact. Everyone else ate totally different persons. That’s why Linda writes in the note that she doesn’t recognize him anymore. Perhaps their relationship has almost become to an end, after years of marriage.
    And the top of the cake is the fact that Richard (Cooper) talks to Linda, not calling her like that, but instead Diane (he had hoped they’ll be the same people). So Linda thinks he’s at least been with another woman, and in the heat of the moment calls her by the wrong name.
    Imagine having sex with your spouse, and hearing him/her calling you by another name, lol.
    So, that’s that.

    Now… Regarding his visiting Laura…
    The whole big conclusion I came at is, in this other world all characters are doomed ones from other parallel worlds, including this one (I mean ours, where also the original Twin Peaks is part of). At most, with a vague chance of regaining lost memories, let’s say.
    Which is what happens to Laura, I think, when Coop step by step tries to tell her about her mother, father, Twin Peak, etc, on her doorstep.

    And yeah, the ending saw me almost in tears, too, realizing that also he is now doomed there.
    When you think that all he wanted, granted that he had discovered a way to get Laura back, was to save her and bring her back to her family…
    I mean, I think that’s how the original series ended. At least, its meaning. I think he disappeared, to go search for her.
    And now this! It would leave anybody helpless. Better said hopeless.
    Imagine the fact that he even wished to return home to where Dougie’s family in the real world was. That was a perfect family to be with, you know. Now he won’t get that either.

    I would name this one more a romantic adventure. In the sense of the old classic writers, years 1700-1800, where their characters were childishly trying to do good, but to no avail. Not knowing what they’re facing, or how strong the bad can be. Nostalgic characters aswell.

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