TV review: Twin Peaks – The Return, Epsiode 17 The Past Dictates The Future

John Preston

*contains spoilers*

My intention was to review the final two hours of Twin Peaks – The Return in one go – my final column about this haunting, irritating, very slow and frequently beautiful show. Having seen both episodes, and they air as stand-alone parts unlike the two-part premiere, I’ve changed my mind.

Philip Jeffries says in the first of these episodes, ‘It’s slippery in here. Say hi to Gordon, I’m sure he knows the unofficial version.’ Gordon Cole is played by David Lynch and like Jeffries in his teapot, Twin Peaks is just a vessel for Lynch’s views on pretty much everything.

Episode 17 is the ending of Twin Peaks in many ways. Had that been the case, viewers would be satisfied that some of its many story lines had been surprisingly neatly wrapped. It is compact in its first half and the second reframes the original mystery and even Julee Cruise closes the episode – what more could a fan ask for?

It’s nostalgic, hints at hopefulness as a possibility and surrenders to superhero fantasies. Special Agent Dale Cooper returns, and in minutes wrongs are righted and cockney Freddie demolishes demons with his turbo-powered green glove. But this is only one ending and this is David Lynch.

Things start where they left off, possibly a first – and last – for the show, with the Blue Rose posse still reeling from the shock of tulpa Diane. Gordon fesses up and tells Albert that he had discussions with Cooper and Major Briggs that he kept from him for over a quarter of a century. This reveal confirms that Judy, or…, is not a person but an entity that is an extreme force of negativity and that a plan was being hatched that could lead Cole and the others to it.

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The phone rings and the penny finally drops that Dougie Jones is, or was, Cooper and the message relayed to Cole is that Cooper is making his way to Twin Peaks. Evil Coop has also been deposited outside the Sheriffs Station by way of the White Lodge and upon entry trips up by not knowing which Truman he is being introduced to and also by refusing coffee – definitely not Cooper then.

Drawing his gun on Truman, Evil Coop meets his death by being shot from behind by Lucy. Minutes later, Special Agent Dale Cooper arrives, accompanied by the entire Las Vegas casino crew.

In the cells below the station Andy, who reconnects to the vision implanted by the Fireman, takes Freddy, James and Naido up to Harry’s office. Following the woodsman’s appearance (who dislodges Bob from Evil Coop’s belly), hell literally breaks loose. Lynch doesn’t handle an action scene like this well and Freddy’s glove which has to smash Bob (now a hyperactive black ball of evil – just not scary) into small pieces has all the sophistication of a silly and long-retired video game.

After Evil Coop disappears into the Black Lodge, Naido steps forward and a connection is made with Dale. His stuck face is transposed onto the screen from this point on and this is triggered by the realisation that Naido is in fact Diane. They kiss as the entire ensemble watch on and Cooper says, ‘There will some changes, the past dictates the future,’ whilst the wall clock is stuck between 2.52 and 2.53 and cannot move forward. The superimposed Dale repeats the words ‘we live inside a dream’ from episode 14 and then, terrifyingly, the light in Truman’s office suddenly darkens to black – something the characters are also aware of. Dale yells ‘Gordon!’ and we’re somewhere else.

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It’s an imposing image, even if Laura Dern is wearing a fluffy pink dressing gown with her new red wig. David Lynch walks slowly towards us with his two favourite actors as it becomes ever difficult to separate the show from the performers, AKA the Blue Rose task force minus Albert and Tammy. Cooper uses the key from his old hotel room at the Great Northern to enter the boiler room at the same hotel. He tells Diane and Gordon not to join him and disappears behind the darkness of this next new world.

Dale is met by the one-armed man and they go and see Jeffries who gives Cooper access to the past and he arrives in the woods behind Laura Palmer and James Hurley on the night that she gets killed by her father. This is footage from Fire Walk With Me and is technically clever stuff and, merging old footage with new, Cooper leads Laura away from Leo, Jaques and Ronette and towards the White Lodge. She recognises him from her dream (who is the dreamer?) but then Cooper turns around and he is no longer holding her hand. The woods echo with her scream.

There are two significant occurrences that take place during their short walk together. Cooper initially appears to successfully reverse the past and Laura’s body is no longer washed up onto the shore, wrapped in plastic. This is shown to us via the pilot episode from 1989: Jack Martell goes fishing and in the distance the scene has been altered. With Laura’s body erased, the history of Twin Peaks has been rewritten – is this why the lights go out in the Sheriff’s office? Judy may have taken occupation of Sarah Palmer. This arc has only strengthened as the show has progressed, to the point where the reference of ‘mother’ creates fear and dread.

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Sarah Palmer is reintroduced to us in season 3, alone, watching a TV nature programme where a lion is ripping a water buffalo apart. Something in this natural and violent act resonates with Sarah and the sounds of the animals mimic the sounds she now makes as she smashes the iconic picture of her daughter to pieces with a broken bottle. This scene is unsettling on many levels and can be interpreted in more than one way. It is also the most frightening sequence, bar one, of the entire third season. Using Sarah Palmer in the same way Bob used Leland, Judy appears to destroys Laura’s second chance of a happy ending – one way or another.

The giant told Cooper to ‘listen to the sounds and remember 430, Richard and Linda and two birds with one stone’. Gordon confirmed that Cooper wanted to kill two birds with one stone and then we hear, finally, the click the gramophone makes (‘the sounds’). Just before Laura disappears this sound is heard, only once, and is not at all representative of the action of someone being absorbed into the the ether. Why this sound? Purely to confirm that Cooper has failed the task – the sound is irrelevant, it’s the failure it represents that is significant, and then the inescapable consequences.

And this isn’t the Special Agent that we want. It’s not the Dale Cooper that saved Audrey from One Armed Jacks in season 2; the handsome superhero who literally answered her prayers. This is the first big crack shown in Cooper since his very late return to Twin Peaks. If he’s no longer the same person from 25 years ago, and change is inevitable, then maybe he is the same as us. Episode 17, glorious, brilliant and confident in its own right, is preparing us for that possibility and the final hour will take us one step further to a truth we may not be prepared for.

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.