How the End of Twin Peaks Addresses the Realities of Nostalgia

*THIS IS AN OBVIOUS SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO STILL HAVEN’T SEEN ALL OF TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN. GO FUCKING WATCH IT, BLOW YOUR MIND AND THEN READ THIS*

Regardless of what we want to call David Lynch and Mark Frost’s latest season of Twin Peaks, for however much it frustrated those who just wanted more of the original series, it has been an incredible ride. Ultimately commenting on the passage of time and nostalgia more than expected, Lynch and Frost eschewed wrapping things up with a bow better than we could’ve hoped for. Rather than indulging in what most revivals are intent on doing, Twin Peaks offered something mostly new with old faces.

Willed back into existence by a feverish fandom and the lingering feeling of unfinished business on Lynch’s part, the latest Twin Peaks has been an absolute treat. Surpassing expectations, the creative duo behind the show offered up some landmark television and some truly bizarre but wonderful twists and turns. The braindead Dougie, the reprehensible Richard, and a series of truly inspired recasts of characters now played by objects rather than people.

The first part of the two hour finale, ‘Part 17’, offered a conclusion to the story of this latest, and most likely last season. With the exception of a few threads left unresolved, Lynch and Frost gave fans an ending far happier than the ending of season two. The sheriff station is safe, Bob is finally gone, and Cooper is finally back where he belongs. But as soon as this ending comes, something new makes itself known. Cooper, vanishing behind the door responsible for the humming that’s haunted the season, walks into the unknown.

Suddenly, placed into the night Laura Palmer was killed, Cooper offers a hand. Guiding her, he promises they’re going home. The show suddenly cuts to the opening shot of the series, but this time Laura’s body doesn’t sit by the log she was found, wrapped in plastic. Pete, the man who stumbled across her body in the early hours of the morning, simply goes fishing. It seems that Laura is going to be freed of her torment, but instead Cooper looks behind him as he leads her through a dark forest and sees that she’s gone.

Sheryl Lee’s operatic scream is heard once more, solidifying that whatever happens she can’t be saved. The first half of ‘Part 17’ is almost traditional finale affair, with tense confrontations and good defeating evil. But then Lynch and Frost start wading slowly towards the deep-end, moving quicker and quicker into the thick of it in the lead-up to ‘Part 18’. What comes next is perhaps one of the most striking, confusing, and downright bizarre episodes of television ever aired. ‘Part 8’ be damned, this final hour of Twin Peaks is the most audacious thing David Lynch has put to film.

Got a Light?

In ‘Part 17’, Albert Rosenfield quips to Lynch’s character Gordon Cole, “You’ve gone soft in your old age.” Cole, the woman and wine obsessed character he is, responds, “Not where it counts buddy.” On the surface, a simple penis joke alluding to Cole’s nature, but in reality a comment on the man playing Cole himself. Just as the audience gets the conclusion we’ve been waiting for, or at least the promise of one, Lynch disorients us. The little vignettes from around the town of Twin Peaks throughout the season only further served to reiterate that not everything in life gets wrapped up, just as in this incredible show.

But perhaps more worryingly, the final shot of the show speaks to an even greater upset. No matter what happens, you can’t retrieve what’s irretrievable. The reason Twin Peaks came back, ultimately, is because the past can’t be left alone. Lynch and Frost couldn’t leave it alone, the fandom couldn’t leave it alone, and Cooper himself couldn’t leave it alone. The progression of time brings with it many losses, and just as Lynch wants to right the wrongs of his past, so does Cooper in stopping, or at least attempting to stop, the murder of Laura Palmer. Lynch has said that one of his biggest regrets is caving to the demands of ABC executives demanding him and Frost reveal the killer, long before he was even ready, or willing to do.

But that which is done is done. The last confounding thirty minutes of show, in which Cooper is transported to what appears to be an alternate reality, make this point clear. Cooper, acting differently than usual, attempts to find Laura Palmer when he wakes up in Odessa, Texas. He successfully finds where she lives, but it’s not really her. Despite wearing the same face as Laura, this is a woman by the name of Carrie Page. Just as the season itself, a new entity with an old face.

As fans willed the series back into existence, did Cooper do the same for Laura Palmer? There’s a lot about the season that’s familiar in some ways, but it’s very different in tone and how it’s structured. Cooper didn’t get what he expected, and neither did fans of the show.

With a dead body sat in her living room, it doesn’t take much convincing for him to bring her to Twin Peaks, despite her immense confusion at his insistence she’s Laura Palmer. The lengthy drive is nerve-wrecking, lingering for almost too long. When he arrives in Twin Peaks after dark, the town is lifeless. He brings her up to the Palmer household, but Sarah doesn’t answer the door. Leland doesn’t even answer the door. Instead it’s someone we’ve never seen before.

Distraught, Cooper walks back down to the road, asking “What year is this?” Just as everyone dismissive of Twin Peaks coming back probably asked, he’s asking the wrong question. He’s not out of time, he’s out of place, trying to fix the wrongs of the world when the world just wants them left as they are. Carrie, hearing the distorted yelp of Sarah Palmer calling out for Laura, lets out a blood-curdling scream. The lights in the house go dark, and the screen fades to black.

This hurts more than any conclusion given prior, because it speaks to the notion that what is done can’t be undone. Cooper is just following the plan he’s had since the moment he woke up, but he isn’t willing to share what that plan is. Not revealing key information is what made this season so fantastic, and it’s also what made it so divisive, too. In his quest to defeat the evil force that is Judy, an entity which may or may not be inhabiting Sarah Palmer, he failed.

Judy, a step ahead of him, foiled his plan to right the wrongs. Maybe… it’s not entirely clear, actually. But really, that’s how things should be. The reveal of who killed Laura Palmer can’t be changed, just as Cooper can’t save Laura from tragedy. Lynch and Frost, for all their regrets in how they handled Twin Peaks in its second season, can’t take any of it back. Even if the world of Twin Peaks isn’t on a linear path, the real world is. We got a story that mostly ended with ‘Part 17’, with the proceeding episode offering up a new mystery that’ll likely never be solved. Dangling threads be damned, this was a hell of a way to go out, if it is indeed the end.

A lot has been said about how the new Twin Peaks is different than the original two seasons, but that’s the point of ‘The Return’ in general. The past can’t be changed, but we can revisit it. Digging it up, however, never goes how we expect. Nostalgia longs for the return of what we love, but when it does resurface are we fools to expect the same thing?

Joe Price

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