Twin Peaks: The Return, Parts Seventeen and Eighteen

“Electricity!”

As I write this, Kim Jong-Un is showing off his nuclear capabilities, Houston is just starting to wring itself out, and America is still reeling from the discovery that the problem with removing Confederate monuments is that you unearth all the white supremacists who were lurking in their shadows. The world, in other words, is a terrible place. And David Lynch knows it.

For sixteen and a half hours, Twin Peaks: The Return seemed like it was about the return of Special Agent Dale Cooper. Waiting for his reemergence from the tulpa Dougie kept us on the tenterhooks of boredom for months. But “Part Seventeen” showed us how necessary Cooper is.

Because of Cooper, the world is a better place. As Todd VanDerWerff argues, Cooper has a positive effect on the people around him, from the Mitchum brothers (criminals with hearts of gold) to Lucy (who finally understands cell phones and is a great shot). His arrival in Twin Peaks allowed a confluence of events to occur in the sheriff’s station. That confluence led to the defeat of Bob and return of RealDiane.


But “Part Eighteen” indicates that the title of this series is about another return: Laura Palmer. After Cooper—with a little help from his friends—solves the problem of Bob, he travels back in time to see the events of the night Laura Palmer died. He leads her away, and although she can’t follow him completely, he makes enough of a change that she does not die. The shot of her body, wrapped in plastic and flickering out of existence, was beautiful.

Did Cooper create an entirely new timeline, rewriting 25 years of history? Did he create a pocket universe in which he is “Richard” and Diane is “Linda” and day becomes night as you cross an invisible boundary? It’s irrelevant, because whether this is a new world—a tulpa reality—or the same one, rewritten and re-dreamed, Laura is alive and living under the name Carrie Page in Odessa, Texas.

Sigmund Freud argues that trauma leads to a “repetition compulsion” in which the traumatize person is compelled to repeat or revisit the traumatic occurrence. It’s a trap that can—but does not always—become a coping mechanism. Viewed in that light, “Part Eighteen” begins to make some sense. Cooper—both as Dougie and as himself—has been repeating key moments throughout the series. Dougie’s affection for coffee and pie help anchor him. More broadly, Janey-E and Sonny Jim are a way for Cooper to cope with the grief over the loss of his wife. In “Part Eighteen,” his interaction with the waitress in the Odessa diner made me think of his first encounter with Annie, when she recommends “teetotaling and prayer” for a hangover. Twin Peaks: The Return is Dale Cooper’s problematic and complex engagement with a Freudian repetition compulsion that sometimes leads to catharsis.

But “Part Eighteen” shows us something worse: when repetition is just more trauma. Carrie Page didn’t have her life together. She had such a hard time keeping her house organized that a dead man, shot in the head, wound up on her couch. Cooper wanted to bring her back to Twin Peaks, to reunite her with her mother. To say it didn’t end well is an understatement.

I want to say that Laura’s final scream is a beautiful moment. In response to the agonized cry of her complicit yet grieving mother, Laura finally—after 25 years of being a silent image—gets a voice, and that voice shuts down the electricity both in the house and in the cosmic sense that the One-Armed Man talks about.

But I don’t think that’s what happened here. This is a show that always balanced the metaphysical and the personal. In “Arbitrary Law,” the episode in which law enforcement closes the Laura Palmer case, Sheriff Harry S. Truman says, “This is way off the map. I’m having a hard time…believing.” Cooper responds, “Harry, is it easier to believe a man would rape and murder his own daughter? Any more comforting?”

No, it’s not. Lynch disposed of the metaphysical in “Part Seventeen” when Freddie punched Bob’s deathbag. “Part Eighteen” returns us to this show’s origins: the rape, torture, and murder of a young woman who had been sexually abused for countless years. It is a scream not of catharsis but of recognition. Cooper erased Laura’s death, but he could not erase the rape and abuse. Instead, with all the good intentions of the good man he is, returned her to the scene of the crime and reawoke all the pain she lived through. In doing so, Cooper reminds Laura, and Lynch reminds us, of the impossibility of peace and joy in such a fallen world.

Or, to paraphrase TulpaDiane: “Fuck you, David Lynch.”

Damn Fine Coffee

• So, blond Diane was a tulpa.

• Naido, the woman with her eyes sewn shut, was really Diane. There’s almost an anagram thing going on there.

• I thought the bit about how Phillip Jeffries doesn’t really exist in the “normal” sense of that word was a beautiful homage to David Bowie.

• Audrey is trapped in her own personal hell, huh?

Thomas and I are going to post a season wrap-up thing at some point, although it might take us a while. We’ll use that as a way to think not just about the two-part series finale, but the long and winding road that got us there. I’ve certainly got a lot to say about how much time we wasted.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

2 comments:

TJ said...

What a bumpy ride this was!!

I can't think of any good conclusions from this so here just goes random thoughts...

- Absolutely loved the first couple of episodes.

- I am amazed that almost the whole original cast showed up again, except for a couple, most notably Lara Flynn Boyle. Was she not re-invited?? Probably not.

- I couldn't stand Dougie.

- I tried to resist...but I got bored.

- I still love Audrey's dance.

- Didn't it all feel very yesterday? The whole storytelling was very Twin Peaks -90-ish x 4, and that was, well, 25+ years ago. We've had a LOT of dream sequences/alternate realities since then...

- Lol at the dead guy at Carrie Pages's place.

- Was disappointed that there wasn't a big "reunion" at the bar where all the cool artists played this season.

- The best thing about this TP revival was probably that I now have Au Revoir Simone on my playlist.



TJ said...

Au Revoir Simone - the best thing about Twin Peaks 2017

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJo6mQ8uMy8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zO0tBgYM5Vg