Twin Peaks – The Return Episode 18 ‘What is Your Name?’

John Preston

*contains spoilers*

The last ever hour of Twin Peaks, as it currently stands at least, is an amalgamation of David Lynch’s enduring obsessions. Mark Frost has written every episode alongside him but in episode 18 we see a pure, unadulterated Lynch that could be shown as a separate film in itself and which would stand confidently alongside any of his films from the last 30 years.

For many, though, this will be at the root of any issue taken with the conclusion of a show where many craved a resolution to the ‘where’s Annie?’ cliffhanger of 1990’s season 2 only to presented with another, more oblique one.

For all its naive, awkward and sometimes silly comedy (and there has been a lot this season), references to cherry pie recipes and reconciled romances that span 25-years, Twin Peaks is a horror show about abuse. In its already rightly revered eighth episode, it explicitly showed the origins of Bob, and it was through the evil that men do in the real world – our world.

As the giant warned Cooper decades ago ‘it is happened again’, and it is. Twin Peaks portrays a terrifying world and David Lynch wants you to know that it’s not just confined to a TV show or film. There are no easy answers.

‘What is Your Name?’ is relatively simple to re-cap, as opposed to understand, especially following the action-heavy plot reveals and conclusions of the previous hour. Diane and Dale are reconnecting to a relationship we were never privy to. It appears that they have done essential work together in respect to the Blue Rose cases and when Dale asks her ‘do you remember everything?’, it is established that their reunion may now create importance results.

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They cross over to another dimension on the motorway, prompted by a massive power pylon, which Diane is nervous of, but Dale is convinced it will help provide the answers they require. Part of this involves them having sex at a motel and, as is often the way in so many of Lynch’s films, this leads to identity confusion and neurotic compulsions coming to the fore.

‘What do I do now?’ Diane asks Cooper. Music acts as our guide here: ‘Listen to the sounds.’ As they have sex and The Platters’ ‘My Prayer’ begins to play, the soundtrack to the Woodsman’s mantra in episode 8, which has the same effect on the FBI agents with both losing themselves deeper in confusion.

By morning Diane has disappeared and Cooper reads the note she has left him. She doesn’t recognise him any more and has left him – this is addressed to Richard and signed Linda. Cooper seems confused by these names (‘Richard?’) and this is our first, proper warning that Cooper, now Richard, has failed to recognise the Fireman’s warning (‘Remember, Richard and Linda’) and has succumbed to the seemingly unavoidable forces of the Black Lodge.

Cooper/Richard leaves the motel, which is now a different motel and gets into his car, also a different car. He seems aware of this change and as he approaches a diner called Judy’s we see that he is in Odessa, Texas and these scenes lose all semblance of the show so far: no score or soundscape and no fictional diners (Judy’s exists) or gas stations.

This is a contemporary and lonely America, with no creative flourishes. After defending a waitress from three macho locals he asks for the details of the other waitress that he is certain works there. This other waitress opens her front door and it’s Sheryl Lee the actress, or as Richard/Coop address her, ‘I believe you are a girl called Laura Palmer.’ She insists she isn’t, her name is Carrie Page (the still missing page from Laura’s diary?). However, considering she has a dead man in her living room his insistence that they travel to Twin Peaks together seems an opportune offer.

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At this point of the episode I was checking how much time was left before the show ended (15 minutes or so and the pace was glacial, even for Twin Peaks). How on earth could this end with any kind of resolution for all the many, fascinating plot arcs? Obviously, it couldn’t and I began to feel weird about this whole experience.

I realise now that this was intentional. Another long car journey at night followed and eventually Carrie and Richard pass the Double R diner and we are in Twin Peaks, but this is Twin Peaks where the past we know has potentially been erased or at least changed (‘some things will change’) where Norma and Shelly may have never have existed.

Richard, who still believes he is Special Agent Dale Cooper, leads Carrie/ Laura up to the door of the Palmer household but the person who opens the door has never heard of Sarah Palmer and in fact is the person who really owns the house, in our reality.

They both walk down the steps and stand silently in the road. Cooper/Richard literally stumbles forward, ‘what year is this?’ he says and these are his last words. In the last 15 seconds of the show Carrie, who has re-awoken fully as Laura, starts to shake and hears the haunting ‘Laura!’ her mother says in the pilot episode, when she thinks she’s still alive. She screams and the entire Palmer house blows a violent, white fuse and the screen cuts to black.

Cooper has been rendered impotent and Laura can never escape her fate: evil trumps good – it is happening again. As bleak, nihilistic and inexplicably unsettling an ending I cannot remember and I did not ever expect – more fool me.

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When I watched this final shot I was horrified. Not only at the appalling situation that the two (or is it four?) characters were in but because it was all over and so much had not been answered. There was no reference to Audrey Horne at all, and this set-up alone demanded answers to so many questions; but what if we know enough already? It was established last week that she is either in Twin Peaks or she is somewhere else altogether – more sad and like so much of Lynch’s work, you just go with your gut. No return to Jack Rabbit’s Palace for the sheriff’s department, which was established weeks in advance and gained traction and importance each week. No confirmation as to who swallowed the frog-wasp and what exactly Senorita Dido’s role is, nor with the 119 woman.

I’m annoyed, certainly, but also in awe of this show’s outrageous audaciousness.

‘What year is it?’ will likely be the show’s definite question, and it’s perfect. Lynch and Frost decided on this ending and built a show around it. We must think about why. There was no pressure for a conclusive or early ending this time -Showtime allowed the couple free reign.

I don’t want any new Twin Peaks for a long time – probably a good thing as it is unlikely, though not impossible, that it will once again return. I cannot recommend it to everyone in the way I could the first season of the show which was accessible, just, as pure entertainment. Many will hate the heightened and unnatural acting style frequently employed, the long minutes of complete silence and the genuine oddness of locations and situations.

Twin Peaks – The Return then is for dreamers. Those who find humour in the bizarre and see that real horror is just a breath away. It’s a very special escape from the world it comments on and one that feels like it could have gone on forever and ever. I miss it already.

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.