Sep 05 2017

Fire Walk With Me

Published by at 2:33 am under Twin Peaks

“I’ve told my tale all the away to the end, and am satisfied. It was (I set my watch and warrant on it) the kind only a good God would save for last, full of monsters and marvels and voyaging here and there. I can stop now, put my pen down and rest my weary hand (although perhaps not forever; the hand that tells the tales has a mind of its own, and a way of growing restless). I can close my eyes to Mid-Word and all that lies beyond Mid-World. Yet some of you who have provided the ears without which no tale can survive a single day are likely not so willing. You are the grim, goal-oriented ones who will not believe that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination no matter how many times it has been proven to you. You are the unfortunate ones who still get lovemaking all confused with the paltry squirt that comes to end lovemaking (the orgasm is, after all, God’s way of telling we’ve finished, at least for the time being, and should go to sleep). You are the cruel ones who deny the Grey Havens, where tired characters go to rest. You say you want to know how it all comes out. You say you want to follow Roland into the Tower; you say that is what you paid your money for, the show you came to see.

“I hope most of you know better. Want better. I hope you came to hear the tale, and not just munch your way through the pages to the ending. For an ending, you only have to turn to the last page and see what is there writ upon. But endings are heartless. An ending is a closed door no man (or Manni) can open. I’ve written many, but most only for the same reason that I pull on my pants in the morning before leaving the bedroom – because it is the custom of the country.

“And so, my dear Constant Reader, I tell you this. You can stop here. You can let your last memory be of seeing Eddie, Susannah, and Jake in Central Park, together again for the first time, listening to the children’s choir sing ‘What Child Is This.’ You can be content in the knowledge that sooner or later Oy (probably a canine version with a long neck, odd gold-ringed eyes, and a bark that sometimes sounds eerily like speech) will also enter the picture. That’s a pretty picture, isn’t it? I think so. And pretty close to happily ever after, too. Close enough for government work, as Eddie would say.

“Should you go on, you will surely be disappointed, perhaps even heartbroken. I have one key left on my belt, but all it opens is that final door…

What’s behind it won’t improve your love-life, grow hair on your bald spot, or add five years to your natural span (not even five minutes). There is no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single one to equal ‘Once upon a time.’

“Endings are heartless.

“Ending is just another word for goodbye.”

-Stephen King, THE DARK TOWER, Book VII.

Just so you know, I’m going to spoil the fuck out of a lot of things here.

My odyssey with Twin Peaks began at the beginning.

I’d been a fan of David Lynch since I saw The Elephant Man. I’d liked his adaptation of Dune, even though it is not without problems. Visually, it has a lot to offer, and I still think it helps to have read the books. Blue Velvet, however, was my first introduction to the horror that he could bring to the surface. And, of course, there was Eraserhead (which I love very dearly).

Hearing that David Lynch was going to be making a foray into television scared me. “This could either be great, or it could suck.”

Thankfully, it was great. Insert all of the clichés here: “It changed everything! It wasn’t like anything else on TV!” etc. etc. All of the statements we’ve heard over the last quarter century in regards to how much of a game changer it was are true.

(and, I expect, we’ll be saying it for the next quarter century, as well).

Re-watching the original series and the film Fire Walk With Me with my wife (even as we’d already begun The Return), I was amazed at how well the show stood the tests of time (some of Donna Hayward’s fashion choices notwithstanding). I was also amazed at how dark the show was, and how none of the brutality surrounding the deaths of Laura Palmer or Maddie Ferguson, and the near death of Ronette Pulaski had lost its forcefulness.

But the thing that always stuck with me was the end of the series.

How had Dale Cooper failed?  How did this happen:

Deputy Hawk described the Black Lodge as follows:

if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.

And this is how we wound up with a BOB-infested Doppelgänger Cooper.

At 2:28, Cooper’s courage falters.

He tries to recover it, but he never really does. His downfall is inevitable.

Dale Cooper failed. Remember this.  I’ll get back to it. It’s not a value judgment – I love Cooper as much as anyone – but if we look at it realistically, Cooper’s courage was imperfect. The Lodge and its inhabitants (real or imagined) got under his skin.

At one point in the original show, we were told “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” After the show was cancelled, some of us jokingly hoped that we might return, but I don’t know that I, at least, actually expected it.

And here, slightly more than 25 years later, we find ourselves again.

Not to be “hipper than thou” about this, but I believe one has to be at least a Gen X’er (or older) to fully appreciate what it means to return to this show after a quarter century. Some critics have remarked that our memories of the show are an almost warm nostalgia, framed in our heads at VHS resolution, soft around the edges. Fans seem to divide among those who want cherry pie and coffee, and those who want to understand the workings of the Black Lodge (honestly, one of the most unique cosmologies since Lovecraft, in my opinion).

We grew up with Laura Palmer, James Hurley, Bobby Briggs, Mike Nelson, Audrey Horne, Donna Hayward, Maddie Ferguson, and Shelley Johnson. Big Ed Hurley and Nadine, Dr. Jacoby, Major and Betty Briggs, Leland and Sarah Palmer, Norma Jennings, Harry Truman, Andy, Lucy, Hawk, Margaret Lanterman, Ben and Jerry Horne, Pete and Catherine Martell were our parents, our neighbors, our aunts and uncles. If some of these characters were a little outlandish at times, it made them that much more realistic. If the situations weren’t like anything we’d ever been in, they were that much more realistic because they were contextualized by realistic situations (murder, incest, skipping school, high school drama), realistic people, realistic reactions (grief over Laura’s death). The town and its inhabitants became family. 

You can’t go home again.

Or, as Dale Cooper said, “things may be a little different.”

And they are. Dropping in on the town of Twin Peaks 25 years later, we see much that is the same, and much that has changed. Uncle Ed still pines after Aunt Norma. Bobby’s gone and become a police officer! Who would have thought? Shelley’s still at the diner. James has come back to town and settled into a steady job. Life moves on, with or without us.

We’ve all gotten older. We all have more “life” under our belts. We have more mileage. We’re not the same people we were when we left Twin Peaks 25 years ago. To expect everyone there to be the same person is foolish.

Remember this. Because it’s going to be important in a bit.

The Return started off with Dale and the Giant sitting [somewhere], and Dale being given some advice.

“Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.”

After Cooper finally wakes up and returns to Twin Peaks, and we all get the ending we wanted (now might be a good time to re-read the Stephen King quote I posted at the top of this), Cooper fails again.


It’s not enough for him to come back to this reality. He needs to right a wrong. And the subtle trick that Lynch and Frost pull on us is that we think we want him to right this wrong. We want him to fix things. It’s DALE COOPER! The savior. Dale, unfortunately, is flawed like the rest of us – continuously trying to atone for a sin that cannot be undone (the death of Caroline).

But not everything and everyone needs saving, I’d posit.

With the assistance of The Artist Formerly Known as Philip Jeffries, Cooper goes back in time to save Laura Palmer.

In episode 8, we witness the birth of BOB, and the subsequent creation of Laura Palmer. We assume that she is sent to Earth to counteract the malevolence that is BOB.

If she was there to counteract BOB, I think we’d all agree that she did a pretty poor job of it. Again – not a value judgment – just an observation.

But what if we’re mistaken? Or, what if she was more successful than we’d thought?

BOB inhabited her father, who repeatedly raped and ultimately murdered her. I think one could make a strong case for the Palmer house to be one of the “soft” spots in the world – and, honestly, who knows what’s going on with Sarah?

So, Laura didn’t do such a great job of counteracting or combatting BOB. She died.

Only logical to want to bring her back, and “set things right,” isn’t it?


And this is where Cooper fails a second time.

We think we want Laura back. Cooper thinks it’s the right thing to do.

But we don’t, and it isn’t.

Laura was supposed to die.  Her role in this wasn’t co combat or counteract BOB.

She was bait.  She was the bait that would lure BOB into a series of actions that would eventually end up with him being taken down by Freddie (not Dale – Dale, much to his chagrin, is not the hero either).

Cooper intervenes after Laura leaves James on the motorcycle. Laura (presumably) never makes it to the cabin with Jacques and Leo and Ronette. Laura is presumably never murdered.

Laura is never murdered. No crime to solve. Life goes on in Twin Peaks. Cooper never goes there. “Things may be a little different.”

Laura is never granted the release of deathHer role as “bait” is taken away from her, and that is far worse.

By not dying that night (as horrible as that death was), Laura would continue to be raped by BOB, used by Jacques and Leo, and the rest of the town, and God knows what else.

Laura was the sacrificial lamb. And the good that came from her death (the eventual unmasking and punishment of Leland, Ed and Norma getting together, Dale and Annie, the saving of the Pine Weasel) was undone. History was erased. The town, the people, our memories were all irrevocably altered (one wonders if things like the weird crowd-shift in the diner was part of the temporal re-adjustment rippling backwards (forwards? sideways?) from Dale’s intervention.

This is almost a reverse of the movie Donnie Darko, where Donnie realizes he is the sacrificial lamb and commits to the role (even though the good that came from him temporarily dodging the role – Patrick Swayze’s character being convicted of child pornography) is later “erased.”

What happens next is admittedly murky.

Dale and Diane go 430 miles and “cross over” [somewhere]. Diane leaves Dale (“Richard and Linda”), and Dale finds Carrie Page who may or may not be Laura Palmer.

Dale (again, certain that he is doing the right thing) brings Carrie to Twin Peaks, to the Palmer home.

Except it’s now inhabited by the Tremonds. Who bought it from the Chalfonts.

We might hear Sarah’s voice inside the house and Carrie begins to scream in the way that only Sheryl Lee can pull off.

Dale realizes something is very very wrong.

“Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.”

This wasn’t advice. This was a warning. A warning as to what would happen if he did it.

And Dale failed the test.


He told the Giant/Fireman that he understood, but he didn’t. He couldn’t.

The tragedy of Dale Cooper isn’t just the hubris or the certainty (“I am the FBI!”) that he is the ultimate force for good (he didn’t even vanquish BOB, really). One would think that Dale would have learned something in 25 years.

Except he couldn’t. 25 years life experience on Earth is considerably different than 25 years in limbo. He’s older, but not wiser. Not at all.

Cooper fell prey to what Charles Tart calls the “Obvious Truth Fallacy” (see here)

“In many [Altered States of Consciousness], one’s experience is that one is obviously and lucidly experiencing truth directly, without question. An immediate result of this may be an extinction of the desire for further questioning. Further, this experience of obvious truth, while not necessarily preventing the individual investigator from further examination of his data, may not arouse his desire for consensual validation.”

And this too is tragic. Cooper was robbed of essential life experience, and again thought he could take charge in  the agendas of the various entities (this is different from, say, Andy -or even Freddie- who met the Fireman, and had no illusions about how to comprehend Him) and bend them to his will/desire to “set things right.”

To be fair, perhaps we should blame the Giant/Fireman for not being clear. Perhaps we should consider whether Philip Jeffries has gone native, and was messing with him.

I think, however, this ascribes motivations that are inappropriately human to the various entities of the Lodge(s) and [Elswhere].

The workings and inhabitants of this (these?) realm(s?) have been brilliantly portrayed as so alien and other, that I honestly don’t believe they can be measured in human terms. They simply are, much in the same way that Lovecraft’s Old Ones are. They have their own incomprehensible agendas that may or may not occasionally intersect with the concerns of humanity.

There are two potential explanations for the ending that I would like to focus on.

One is that Cooper is now trapped cycling through endless alternate realities, trying to right a wrong that didn’t need righting, and creating more wrongs in the process. If you’ve ever seen the Simpsons Tree House of Horror episode where Homer travels back in time and accidentally kills something, setting off a chain reaction that he keeps trying to fix, you get the idea.  That would be hell indeed.

Another option is one that my wife brought to my attention, which is that at mile 430, Dale and Diane “crossed over” into a dream (“Who is the dreamer who dreams the dream?”) that Laura (presumably one who had been saved by Dale that night) was having. Carrie is Laura’s dream self. Of course Laura knows all about Tremonds and Chalfonts from her Meals on Wheels tour of duty. Sarah’s voice, calling for Laura to wake up causes Carrie (the dream self) to panic and scream, because she knows deep down that she’s not supposed to be there. She’s not supposed to wake up that morning, because she’s supposed to be dead.

Cooper’s question – “what year is this?” is irrelevant.

Things are way more than “a little different.”

Is this Cooper’s purgatory? The world’s?  Or is that just trying to pin human motivations on Lodge denizens again?

On a meta-level, is it commentary on the entertainment industry’s constant cycle of revivals and reboots?

Did we really want a Twin Peaks revival, or did we just think we did? (Okay, honestly, I did, and I’m more than happy with how it all turned out)

We didn’t get our resolutions. We know that Ed and Norma had a happy ending (at least potentially until Dale mucked things up again). We briefly “got the gang back together.” We even got the Dale Cooper we thought we wanted back, and got to meet Diane (finally!), and have Albert and Gordon again.

But like life, it’s messy, and incomplete (what’s going on with Audrey?!)

I don’t know where the story can go from here. My own guess is that, like Billy Pilgrim, Cooper will become “unstuck” in time, flitting in and out of universes and timelines like Philip Jeffries (or Garland Briggs), and not talking about Judy, until his soul takes up permanent residence in the Lodge, evolving into some other form like Jeffries, and the arm.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

I suspect that when we see him again, he won’t be him.

And the world is a darker place.

And very, yrev different.

Dale and Diane move in with Mrs. Chalfont, and live happily ever after (just kidding)

Further Thought: Is it the future or is it the past?

The opening scene to The Return also fits perfectly at the end of the series.

The Fireman’s words are no longer advice, or even a warning. They become admonishment.

The sound is “in our house now.”

This is the same sound we heard when Laura disappeared in the woods after following Dale away from her impending demise. The ramifications of Dale’s actions have now reached into the [Elsewhere].

Dale acknowledges that he understands (does he? finally?), and is sent “far away.”

Through the darkness, of future past…

And Another Thing:

I say that Cooper failed, originally, by showing imperfect courage. Perhaps this is harsh. Perhaps the forces aligned with the Fireman (I hate to assign values such as “good” and “evil” to these entities, because I think they operate in a manner that is less simply defined) were playing a long con. Laura was bait. Cooper was a better containment vessel for BOB than Leland was, and needed to be used to hold him until Freddie could come into existence.  Not quite the hero’s journey we’ve come to expect, and suggests that the Entities from Elsewhere are playing a far bigger chess game than even Windom Earle could comprehend, which is why he was removed from the board too. Earle’s flaw was also hubris.

We are all just collateral.

We may, in life, be lucky to catch a glimpse of the Game, but we will never be one of the players.

The rules are beyond mere human comprehension and value.


One response so far

One Response to “Fire Walk With Me”

  1. Paulo Motaon 07 Sep 2017 at 8:05 pm

    I really liked reading what you wrote. I think differently, but I loved what you saw in the series and talked about. Specially the last lines.

    Btw why no one (I keep talking about this over and over, and nobody talks about this), notices that Cooper speaks normally in the Fireman’s House and in the Black Lodge, different much much different than the others that have that odd phonetically quality (the talking in reverse thing).
    To me this is a proof that Cooper is the dreamer. But I loved the idea that in the end Laura is dreaming. It does makes sense, but I don’t understand, why would she be “dreaming” if she was saved. Because if Cooper saves her, but she vanishes… she never gets home. Something is a little off and where does she go ? I think the proof is in the first episode (or second) when she does scream in the Lodge (the same scream) and the curtains open up, we see the horse in the void and then it stops with the lodge pattern.

    Also if Laura is the Dreamer why does cooper turn around before we hear a sound!
    (I keep saying this) the wild cards are hidden, DKL has something in mind, for sure!

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