Twin Peaks: The Return (2017)...*Contains Spoilers!!*

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Jerry Horne, Oct 3, 2014.

  1. Wounded Land

    Wounded Land Forum Resident

    My thoughts have crystallized a bit regarding the whole thing. This is a long post, so please forgive me in advance.

    Cooper is dead, probably as the result of violence in Philadelphia, along with Caroline, his archetypical damsel-in-distress. He is in between life and death, coming to terms with his choices, preparing for reincarnation. The "Richard" persona at the end of Part 18 was a big clue, I think. This is who Cooper really is. His Boy Scout side and his Mr. C. side are aspects of his true personality. The death of Caroline seems to be the the primal event in Cooper's life that set the pattern for how he relates to women: she was his original woman in distress. After her came Laura, then Audrey, then Annie, then Laura again. I suspect that on some level, this woman was Diane (hence the overwhelming significance of this character in the Return), regardless of what her actual name was (Diane/Caroline/Linda).

    Cooper's inability to accept the existance of suffering leads him continually to create suffering. For example, in Season 2, Bob is back in the lodge, but Cooper's entrance into the Lodge allows Bob to escape again. By the end of FWWM, Laura has attained peace by denying Bob access to her soul and accepting death instead, but Cooper can't understand that Laura has attained a state of blessedness and tries to free her completely from suffering by preventing her from ever being killed. This (through some unexplained and, frankly, irrelevent mechanism) causes Judy to wrench her from the Lodge and cast her into some other reality. Cooper tries again to save her, and at the end we realize that we are right where we started: with Laura (enlightenment) and Judy (suffering) engaged in their cosmic struggle.

    I believe that the repeated footage from Part 17 and Part 18 were clues that Cooper is stuck repeating the same actions over and over again as he learns (or fails to learn) from his mistakes. I also think that the first words of the series spoken by the Fireman ("Remember: 4-3-0, Richard and Linda, etc.") were not instructions but precisely what the Fireman says: a plea to remember. "I understand," says Coop. "You are far away," says the Fireman, i.e. "No you don't!"

    Lastly, I believe that what we are seeing onscreen throughout the series are multiple levels of consciousness: Coop's obviously, but also Audrey, Big Ed (I don't believe that reuniting with Norma is reality), James (no way is his performance reality), maybe others. BUT...this consciousness is actually all Coop's consciousness: the man stuck in a dreamstate, himself but not himself, trying to obtain his heart's desire of saving the girl.

    Think of it in terms of levels of reality. These are levels more in a sense of metaphysical dependance than anything else. All really exist and interact with each other.

    Level 1: Dale Cooper is a FBI agent whose actions cause the death of his love, Caroline. Let me pause here to note that Windom Earle may not even be a "real world" character because he is, in a sense, a doppleganger or inverted model of Cooper (both are FBI agents, brilliant, and have an interest in Tibetan occultism, etc.). If this is true, one possibility that presents itself is that Cooper himself killed Caroline/Diane (and thereby revealing the darkness of his psyche). The obsession with doubles (and triples) throughout the show is leading me seriously to consider the idea that Cooper may have murdered her (the creation of the double is a psychological defense mechanism). I suppose what really matters is that Coop wanted to save Caroline, and failed. The Richard persona we see in E18 is the closest approximation to this Cooper that we see in the show.

    Level 2: Cooper's bardo-state after his death, awaiting his rebirth. His initial self-conception is one-sided: this is the too-perfect Cooper from the original series: gallant, noble, selfless. He becomes involved in the Laura Palmer case, which is a stand in for the unresolved karmic question of his previous life: who killed the girl? His inability to come to grips with his dark side leads ultimately to a fracturing of his consciousness: the two sides of Cooper are split into two characters (GoodCoop and DoppelCoop).

    Level 3: Audrey/Ed/James whatever. Tulpas of Coop's consciousness, becoming autonomous and dreaming their own realities. Audrey, a stand-in for Caroline, is dealing with the fact that she was assaulted by Mr. C (standing in for Earle, Cooper's original doppelganger) but is in love with the perfect Cooper who would never hurt her. Her own fractured dream-reality is depicted in E12-16, in which she desperately wants to escape the mental prison she has constructed for herself, but can't manage it. This "reality" is shaped by the one who dreamed her in the first place (i.e. Coop), who himself cannot escape from his own bardo-prison. He wants to move on, but cannot face the reality of his true self.

    We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream. Having created this reality through his thoughts and actions, Cooper now lives inside it. Interestingly, David Lynch does exactly that by giving Cole such an important role. That's one more level of reality (Level 0?), in which Lynch's chief obsessive concern (the woman in distress) is acted out in fictional form (cf. Blue Velvet, Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire, etc.). We live inside a dream indeed!

    I do believe that there are some elements that are more "objective," for lack of a better word (much of Episode 8, for example). That is, not everything we see in the series is in Cooper's mind, but represent some other level of reality (maybe even what we would call "the real world") that is nevertheless interacting with Cooper's reality. As Lynch is fond of reminding us, we dwell an in infinite universe of consciousness.

    One last thing: in Buddhism, bardo, the intermediate state between life and death, lasts 49 days.

    Season 1: 8 episodes
    Season 2: 22 episodes
    The Return: 18 episodes


  2. The Zodiac

    The Zodiac God's Lonely Man

    I like it. This is the most clearly written explanation I've read.

    And the sound...the clue is not the sound, which occurs when Coop loses Laura, it is the REPETITION of the sound that matters.
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  3. cboldman

    cboldman Forum Resident

    Hamilton, OH USA
    That's a great keepsake, and it also reminds me of a point from ep. 17 that has nagged at me: Cooper said in no uncertain terms that Major Briggs told him that Sheriff Truman would be holding the room key. Yet, we witnessed the chain of events that brought the key from Cooper's own pocket to Frank Truman. How do we reconcile Cooper's statement against that?
  4. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    What I find so odd about this theory is that it eschews what's blatantly stated in favor of what's never stated.
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  5. Wounded Land

    Wounded Land Forum Resident

    Please say more!
  6. drumzNspace

    drumzNspace Forum Resident

    New Yuck City
    Like it says "we live in a dream" and "is it future or is it past" but never says "is it live or is it dead" :bone::D:bone:.
  7. Wounded Land

    Wounded Land Forum Resident

    No, that's a good point. I think the analysis works if we just assume a dream space, but for some reason I can't totally put my finger on it seems like more than that. I should note that the bardo state in Tibetan Buddhism can refer to the period between births but can also refer to a dreamstate.

    I totally don't buy the science-fiction analysis that I get from people. No way Lynch would do that.

    EDIT: I think one of the things that I clued into was the sense of repetition from the series. That to me implies some sort of karmic cycle more than just a simple dream.
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  8. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    To be clear, I'm not outright disputing your theory. Rather, I'm wondering if people are a little too eager to jump down rabbit holes as opposed to starting with what at least appears to be the obvious. Take Lost Highway for instance. It's been described by Lynch himself as the fantasy world of a mental patient, basically. Your first clue? It opens on the Bowie song "I'm Deranged". It's almost comically literal. Here's another example: Lynch describes Mulholland Dr as a story that takes place in the "city of dreams"--and the movie seems to quite blatantly take place in a dream world or multiple dream worlds. Likewise, Lynch is on record saying that he thinks the reality we live in is a dream.

    Meanwhile, has he ever mentioned the term "bardo" once? That's not to say he isn't working with the notion (Inland Empire certainly gives off a bardo vibe)--it's to ask the question: why are so many viewers willing to take that route when there seem to be so many more immediate interpretations supported by both the content and Lynch himself? Why go there first when three separate characters practically look directly into the camera and say: "we live inside a dream"? In other words, can't "bardo" be the metaphor and "dream world" be the reality? As much as "bardo" is a dream-state, isn't every dream similar to an "afterlife" in that it exists outside of time/space in a manner of speaking? Can't Coop be in limbo without having died on our plain beforehand?

    All this said, you do raise some great points and again I'm not saying the bardo stuff doesn't work, rather that the idea of characters inhabiting some sort of unconscious landscape has more direct implications theoretically supported by the content itself. If nothing else, it allows you to scale up accordingly until you do arrive on our plain and see it as one more level in the dream world that Lynch refers to. Regarding your broader theory (Philly, Caroline, etc), I would ask the following questions:

    1) Why would Lynch--who more or less had nothing to do with season 2 and claims to never have even read Secret History--hang the entire arc on a season 2 backstory?

    2) Why would Lynch feel the need to make an entire prequel about Laura Palmer--featuring a scant cameo from Coop--if Laura is basically a stand in? Why would Laura Palmer be in the golden orb in episode 8 if again she's just some sublimated figure in Coop's afterlife?

    3) Where is one shred of evidence that Coop "died in Philadelphia"? Where is one inference?

    4) Why do you think episode 18 seems to bring us closer to surface or closer to "our" reality? What do you make of "Judy's Restaurant" being the place where Carrie Page works?

    As for my own ideas, I've pretty much stated my current interpretation already (definitely subject to change--heck, one day I might be the one going on about bardo, limbo, etc). The only thing I would add is that I'm no longer convinced it's Doppelganger Coop at the motel with Diane.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
  9. frozen-beach

    frozen-beach Forum Resident

    I don't know why people are going all the way back to Philadelphia for him to have died. Why not at the end of season 1 instead when he got shot?
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  10. Bowie Fett

    Bowie Fett Forum Resident

    Los Angeles, CA
    I love this thread :love:
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  11. The Zodiac

    The Zodiac God's Lonely Man

    I can go either way.

    The way Coop flinches when Bob mentions Pittsburgh makes me suspicious. And the fact that Bob knows about Pittsburgh in the first place.

    My eagerness to accept the 'cleansing his soul between death and rebirth" theory is so I can stop thinking so hard and hurting my brain. After all these weeks I'm pretty exhausted, mentally.
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  12. GentleSenator

    GentleSenator what if

    Portland, OR
    i don't want to derail your spirited debate as i'm really enjoying what you and WL are saying, but even if DL hasn't read Secret History, isn't that sorta irrelevant if the author of said book is also the co-writer of the show? i see frost as an architect of sorts and lynch as the one who brings it all to life. let's not let MF off the hook here.
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  13. clashcityrocker

    clashcityrocker Forum Resident

    Great White North
    Having listened to almost every podcast about Twin Peaks this week, reading this and other forums. I'm pretty played out theory wise. But last night I watched David Lynch:The Art Life a 2016 doc that follows Lynch in his Hollywood studio non-stop painting and smoking while he reminisces about his past. It really comes down to his ethic: "You drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, you paint, and that’s it." His paintings are enigmatic, violent, innocent while his past reflections of loving but strict parents mixed with bizarre incidents some which he can't even talk about all the same themes he reflects in The Return. My point is this was an 18-hour work of art that obviously has many interpretations. So keep the theories coming. Is it a social commentary, a dream, etc. it'll go on forever like any great art but David Lynch will keep painting, drinking coffee and smoking as long he is able. Long may the smoke float in the air...(but does he know smoking will kill you?)
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  14. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    As both The Return and the season 2 finale would go to show, I would suggest it's Lynch who has the final word to an extreme. In fact, I'm not even sure the two guys are always operating on the same page. I think Frost tries to play up the historical/military/sci-fi angle while Lynch is far more concerned with the dream world/good and evil angle. Additionally, I think Frost might be an "architect" in that he helps fill in gaps, keep things consistent, put scenes together and yes, create backstories and characters, but that it's Lynch who ultimately crafts the mythology we see on screen. That's not to mention that virtually every important aspect of Twin Peaks is far closer in spirit to Lynch than anything Frost has done previously or since, except for maybe the nuclear stuff which Lynch didn't tiptoe around when adopting (presuming, of course, they didn't come up with it together or that Lynch didn't come up with it himself). In other words, I'm not suggesting it's completely beyond Lynch to adopt a storyline that Mark Frost theoretically created and then cultivated, I'm suggesting it doesn't really sync with what we've seen thus far, especially when again there are virtually no hard sign posts indicating as much. If Pittsburgh or Philly or wherever was of such importance, Lynch would usually drop some kind of hint--he's not that abstract in my experience. Of course there's still The Final Dossier around the corner so who knows.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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  15. GentleSenator

    GentleSenator what if

    Portland, OR
    fair enough!
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  16. Wounded Land

    Wounded Land Forum Resident

    These are great questions, and I'm not sure that I have thought through everything you bring up, but I'll give it a shot. Forgive me if I don't answer all of your questions.

    There is no way that Lynch thought all this up in advance. I believe that the initial framework of the story (the Lynch master story of the woman in distress) was the initial inspiration, and then as it developed Lynch began to impose this other narrative on top of it. I think we tend to forget today how jarring FWWM was, because it seemed to be taking the TP setting in a strange new direction. I believe that Lynch was seeing possibilities that he didn't imagine at first (as a quick example, Laura's scream is so important only because Sheryl Lee's actual scream is so terrifying). The kids today would say that this is all a retcon. I think Lynch himself would describe it as an intuitive unfolding of themes subconsciously present in the text.

    Re: the location of Cooper's death: I said Philadelphia and I should have said Pittsburgh, which is where Caroline died. My bad. I chose that point because it seems to have some connection to Caroline and Windom Earle (as @The Zodiac says above, it is directly referenced in S2 in a lodge scene). But I suppose it doesn't really matter where it happened. I don't think that he died at the end of S1, however, because the Coop persona we all know and love was already established throughout that first season. I think that the Richard persona (which is sort of halfway between Coop and Mr. C) is closer to his reality. I do, think that the shooting is a dream-reflection of his own death. I have no proof of this beyond an intuitive grasping at connections that may or may not be there.

    With respect to part 18, I don't think that the world we see there is necessarily an expression of what I called "Level 1" reality, but that the character of Coop was closer to that reality. Also, as I said, there is already a connection in Buddhist thought between the state between death and rebirth on the one hand and dreams on the other. They are both bardo states. Perhaps my use of the term created more confusion than was necessary.

    The reason why I am heading towards interpreting TP:TR in this way is that it seems exactly like the kind of thing DL would do as what was probably the last major work of his lifetime: revisiting some of his favorite characters and explore his favorite themes. It just seems so right that he would have discerned this deep and completely accidental structure to the entire TP corpus, as if reality can't help but assert itself.
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  17. Wounded Land

    Wounded Land Forum Resident

    I loved that documentary! And long may the smoke float indeed!

    I know that it's dangerous to read an artist's biography into his work, but the more I listen to Lynch talk about his art or his life, the more I feel like I understand what he is saying in his films.
  18. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    Except everything you're saying works just as well as a dream structure, which is far more in sync with what Lynch has done (and said) up to this point. Again, I'm not refuting your interpretation, rather wondering why you (and legions of others) are so fixated on what's never presented as opposed to what's blatantly presented. Why not start with the scant "clues" that are actually given and work from there? Instead, it seems almost everyone would rather start with the abstract and ignore the tangible. They'd rather synchronize episodes and declare that Coop is dead based on virtually nothing other than a few key terms that never even came from Lynch's mouth (but admittedly still gel with both his TM-inspired philosophy and his overall aesthetic). I guess what I'm saying is that the concept of "bardo" should be where you end, not where you begin, and you should arrive there based on a relative wave of consistency. Bear in mind that doesn't mean the show itself isn't somehow a meditation on life/death. But at least you're working with the material that's presented to you. Compare the end of Twin Peaks to the end of Mulholland Dr and you'll see a few striking similarities. Am I saying Lynch is exploring the exact same idea? No. I'm saying it's at very least a place to start that works within context and doesn't require the viewer to bring outside ideas to the table. Furthermore, The Return, the original series finale and FWWM don't really contradict each other in any meaningful way I can think of. So yes, Lynch had to work out some kinks to make the story work, but it would appear he's been on the same page regarding Twin Peaks for a long time.
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  19. NickCarraway

    NickCarraway Forum Resident

    Gastonia, NC
    I'm 54. It was all a retcon.
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  20. Wounded Land

    Wounded Land Forum Resident

    Haha...I think my issue with this is that the term "retcon" is inherently negative (I think), whereas what I presume DL is doing I view as a positive thing.

    Let me give you an example from music, the only creative medium I really understand from the inside out. I am finishing up an album right now. The music consists of a number of songs written across many years, in many different musical contexts. Some of the songs contain contributions from other people (both musically and lyrically), some has been written by me exclusively. As I was grouping these songs together to make the album, I began to perceive certain patterns that I didn't see at first. There are repeated lyrical themes and echoes of musical elements that have led me to view the entire album in a way that nobody intended at the beginning of the process, including myself! This realization, in turn, led me to make different artistic choices with the record than I had planned on, because of a "narrative" I perceived there that was in no way intended from the start.

    This seems to me to be a parallel to what I feel DL did with TP.
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  21. Wounded Land

    Wounded Land Forum Resident

    I see what you're saying. To me, for all of it to be a dream, with a two-story reality, is a little too on the nose for DL at this point in his career. At the same time I know that I can't prove this in a way that you would likely accept. It's really more intuitive based on things like:

    -I see a straight line from Lost Highway to Mulholland Dr. to Inland Empire to TP:TR, with each step along the way developing the core idea to a greater and greater degree
    -the scope of TP itself keeps expanding, from S1 to S2 to FWWM to TP:TR
    -an understanding of "we live inside a dream" to mean "we live inside a vast web of consciousness," not something more literal
    -an uncanny sense that all the action in TP is revolving around a single fundamental question that is of intense significance to Cooper
    -the fact that once I entertained the possibility of this being the case, it felt like the entire show snapped into focus in a way that it hadn't before

    I am very analytic when it comes to music, but with film I must confess I am way more intuitive (there's that word again). I am open to being persuaded, but to view this as all a dream just doesn't feel right to me. It seems inconsistent with my experience of the show. I'm not sure I can articulate it any better than that.

    Lastly, let me just clarify my statement about the original run of TP and FWWM: I don't think that there are any contradictions in terms of plot, characterization, etc. But the tone of the work and the emphasis on Laura's interaction with the lodge are, in my opinion, significantly different from the series. I hated FWWM for a long time because it just didn't feel like TP to me; it felt like DL fan fiction in the TP universe. I've completely changed my tune on it, but I needed to get some distance from it before I could a) appreciate it for what it is and b) see how it fits into the overall structure of DL's narrative.

    Btw, I am absolutely loving this conversation.
  22. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    Yes, the tone is markedly different for sure.

    The "dream" stuff is far from simplistic in nature, and makes something like Inception look downright pedestrian by comparison. Entailed in Lynch's post-1989 output is not just a potential map (notice how every work is basically named for a place) to his own brain (which in part runs on electricity by the way), but a much broader discussion about "the universe itself as dream" and "art as dream" and "artist as God" and "reality as yet one more level of consciousness". James Joyce touched upon similar themes in Finnegans Wake and likewise folded time onto itself, and I don't think anyone on the planet would say Joyce took the easy route. And while I'm not opposed to the "bardo" interpretation, I actually find it to be far more simplistic because it doesn't need anything to support it aside from "intuition", apparently. That is to say it doesn't really need anything to run on. Questions like why does Carrie Page work at Judy's Restaurant, or what significance is there to Carrie/Laura hearing her mom call her name at the end, or what does the nuclear bomb stuff have to do with Coop's journey, suddenly become meaningless and easy to explain away because it's all just "bardo stuff" or "Coop backstory stuff". Even the Lodges become more or less meaningless. That said, I'll admit it would be very cool if some hard clue emerged pointing squarely toward the afterlife--but without that clue I just don't see the point in making the jump. It feels like something that's too easy to grab onto because of catch words like "bardo" and "Tibetan buddhism", while the actual content comes off as more preoccupied with sub-realities (i.e. dreams within dreams), duality, parallel dimensions, infinity, forces of good/evil, and how those things might relate to the living mind, the universe itself and yes, the cycle of life and death.

    PS. I will add that all this talk about Coop getting stabbed in Pittsburgh does make me think of that scene in the original finale where Windom Earle stabs (and then un-stabs) Coop, but it's still not how I interpret that scene.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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  23. Cokelike-

    Cokelike- Forum Resident

    Columbus, Oh
    Regarding Judy's Restaurant, did anyone else think of the Quantum Leap finale, where Sam ends up at a place called Al's Place?
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  24. Wounded Land

    Wounded Land Forum Resident

    I think that we both agree on quite a bit: that much of what we see in TP is a projection of Coop's consciousness into another level or layer of reality different but not necessarily separate from the "real world." If we agree on that, then whether or not Coop is dead and dreaming or just dreaming doesn't matter that much, I don't think. Either way, we have to view much of what we are objectively presented on the screen as the subjective experience of Cooper. Maybe we can leave it at that?

    As to your Judy's diner question, it is a double of the Palmer house: you have to go to the place where agony is consumed (Palmer home/Judy's diner) to find what is missing (Laura/Carrie "The Missing" Page). Your thoughts?
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  25. bopdd

    bopdd Forum Resident

    Portland, OR
    This is where it gets tricky and speculative. I think we're seeing a "shared dream world" that has the ability to trap the very people who are dreaming it up. I think such a phenomenon was potentially made possible by the introduction of parallel dimensions/entities after the nuclear explosion. I think the dreamers are Carrie, Coop and Linda and that they're populating the Twin Peaks world with names, events and characters, while also remaining stuck in that world due to outside forces like Judy. And while the name Judy is potentially just a name (derived from the diner), the force she represents is much more than a name.

    In some ways, I feel like what we're seeing in episode 18 is a step up from the deepest level of the world in which all these characters have been trapped. No longer stuck in the Red Room/Black Lodge, Laura wakes up as Carrie in a dimension that's closer to "our reality", but is still not reality. Meanwhile, Coop wakes up as Richard (his dreamer). However, having achieved enlightenment or awareness Coop retains his memory--it's almost like a fictional character co-opting his own creator. We are one now step closer to "our reality" (which according to Lynch is itself a dream) and potentially seeing source material for the previous world (hence Judy's diner). Places like the White Lodge are further away by virtue ("you are far, far away").

    From there it gets even more ambiguous. Some might say that the show ends on a positive note and that Carrie/Laura is finally waking up, and that Coop asks a question like "What year is this" to make Carrie aware that she's dreaming. Others might say the ending indicates that Coop/Laura are still stuck in an infinite loop and that Judy (that is to say the force Judy represents) has still trapped them. I like to take the more optimistic approach, given how The Giant (who influences from afar) anticipates the events.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2017
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