Twin Peaks gave us a shifting meditation on loss of life

You possibly can’t go house once more. The ultimate scene of Twin Peaks: The Return affords probably the most literal interpretation doable of this outdated idiom, couched in a sometimes Lynchian abstraction, when Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) makes an attempt to convey Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) again to her mom’s home—the quixotic righting of a quarter-century-old mistaken, the alternative of the lacking piece that allowed the darkness lurking beneath this placid Pacific Northwest city to interrupt by way of—solely to seek out that every little thing’s modified. It isn’t Laura’s house anymore; it belongs to a “Mrs. Tremond,” and even she’s not as we bear in mind. Laura’s not Laura both, even when she screams like her.

Even Cooper isn’t himself—not likely. He’s crossed so many thresholds and inhabited so many “tulpa” variations—not a lot fire-walked between worlds as fire-straddled them—that we will’t be fairly sure which one stands earlier than us now. As he tells Diane (Laura Dern) earlier within the episode, earlier than they drive throughout some mystical line within the sand, “As soon as we cross, it may all be completely different”; their softcore intercourse scene that follows and Cooper’s waking as much as discover he’s a person known as “Richard” confirms as a lot. Worse, even Cooper’s ostensible hero’s return within the earlier episode was undercut by a close-up superimposition of his personal face whereas he intones, “We stay inside a dream,” implying that we will’t belief something we’re seeing. It seems like Twin Peaks, however… is it?

That’s a query quite a lot of followers grappled with throughout the whole 18-episode revival, with this present that always appeared like Twin Peaks, and—within the strains of Angelo Badalamenti’s rating that steadily broke by way of the alien, ambient buzz—sometimes sounded like Twin Peaks, however so usually, steadfastly refused to be Twin Peaks. And if David Lynch and Mark Frost’s revival of the sequence could possibly be stated to be “about” something, it was in regards to the impossibility of ever doing that. Twin Peaks has existed in our imaginations for 25 years, even because it has been endlessly recycled and picked aside, its recognizable strains churned into apparent imitators and costume events and tote luggage. All through all of it, Twin Peaks has lingered in our minds regardless of this limiting nostalgia that’s been pressured upon it, primarily by resisting the precise form of tidy ending a decades-later sequel threatens. Twin Peaks isn’t Mayberry; you possibly can’t simply return there. And never for nothing, however its corrupted-innocent excessive schoolers are actually middle-aged; lots of its gamers are lengthy retired from appearing; a few of them are useless.

So naturally, when the sequence was first introduced, quite a lot of followers had some speedy reservations. How are you going to reprise a sequence that was primarily based on such a nigh-supernatural confluence of expertise and timing, with a lot of it dictated by what Lynch calls his “completely happy accidents”? How do you recreate its unusual atmospheres and idiosyncratic quirks, that are by now completely folded into our popular culture lexicon, with out making a pandering facsimile of itself? How do you go house once more, when “house” exists immutably, safely ensconced in a collective dream? (Particularly when, instantly, Jim Belushi resides there?) You possibly can’t, and The Return—its topic paradoxically telegraphed proper there in its deceptively innocuous title—was all about Lynch and Frost telling us that.


The phrase “meta” doesn’t actually look like in Lynch’s vocabulary; he’s lengthy resisted the concept of his artwork as allegory, doesn’t wish to reveal his personal intentions lest it affect the viewers, and brazenly regards his personal concepts as messages channeled from the good unified subject. But the very fact stays that quite a lot of the most important concepts he “catches” whereas he’s quietly sitting and listening usually have some bearing on his personal life: the formative childhood traumas that cracked open Lynch’s suburban idyll in Blue Velvet; his paranoia about fatherhood and the surreal ugliness of life in Philadelphia in Eraserhead. There’s a lot about Twin Peaks: The Return that implies it’s equally about Lynch, now 71 and teasingly “retired” from filmmaking, marking the passage of time between himself—and us—and these worlds he created, and making peace with the concept that we will by no means absolutely return there.

There are a lot of methods of deciphering The Return, in fact; we’re only some days into the subsequent 25 years of articles, books, and Oberlin programs it should encourage. However this one is likely to be probably the most satisfying, no less than emotionally: In all its thrilling, sometimes maddening elusiveness, the actual closure Twin Peaks gave us was the prospect to say goodbye.

“ about loss of life—that it’s only a change, not an finish.”

This was very true in its inclusion of actors who’ve died because the present’s unique run, and people whom we all know now have been dying on the time: Frank Silva as BOB; Jack Nance as Pete Martell; Don S. Davis as Main Garland Briggs; David Bowie as Phillip Jeffries; Catherine Coulson as Margaret Lanterman, a.okay.a. The Log Woman; Warren Frost as Doc Hayward; Miguel Ferrer as Albert Rosenfield. In lots of of those circumstances, “inclusion” is definitely too gentle a phrase. A few of them amounted to little greater than sentimental cameos: Frost popping up through Skype to trade some dad jokes with Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster); Marv Rosand, whose Double R line cook dinner Toad is simply identified to diehards scouring DVD deleted scenes, however however popped up right here to take a bread supply from Becky (Amanda Seyfried); Nance, tugging heartstrings by popping up in archival footage from the pilot alongside the lamented (however not late) Piper Laurie and Joan Chen.

Catherine Coulson as The Log Woman (Screenshot: Showtime)

However a few of these ghosts additionally turned out to be main gamers, to the purpose the place the highlight The Return afforded them—and the shadow of their deaths that surrounded it—felt like deliberate commentary on the gulf of time, the impossibility of traversing it, and the misplaced items that, like Laura Palmer, can by no means be put again. This intentionality is most deeply felt in Coulson’s scenes, which Lynch filmed, fairly remarkably, on the very starting of manufacturing in September 2015, solely weeks earlier than Coulson would die of most cancers on Sept. 28—and so secretively that even her agent was surprised by it. In her conversations with Hawk (Michael Horse), Coulson’s Margaret—frail, missing hair, a breathing tube beneath her nose—says a series of protracted goodbyes that feel movingly direct, gazing into the camera at Lynch (a friend and collaborator since his early short films), as well as at us, which gives her pronouncements the tinge of last testament.

“You know about death—that it’s just a change, not an end,” Margaret says in her final lines. “There’s some fear in letting go. My log is turning gold. The wind is moaning. I’m dying. Good night, Hawk.” There is special meaning in hearing these words from The Log Lady, who became the de facto “voice” of Twin Peaks when she recorded a series of Lynch-scripted intros for its initial Bravo run in syndication, where she teased out—sometimes ominously, sometimes playfully—the show’s more metaphysical questions, becoming the most recognizable embodiment of the show’s spirit. That voice is fading now, The Return said; the spirit is moving on. The subsequent moment of silence Hawk holds for Margaret around the sheriff’s department conference room is also for us, grieving not only for The Log Lady, or for Coulson, but also for Twin Peaks itself, and the times we have shared together.

Knowing that Lynch filmed those scenes first, one imagines it couldn’t help but color the entire production—which was already being assembled under the onus of time running out—with an added aura of finality. Miguel Ferrer was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, and his condition reportedly worsened in 2016, to the point where NCIS: Los Angeles wrote his illness into his character. But rather than sideline Albert—or even use him relatively sparingly, like he was in the original series—Lynch brought him to the fore, keeping Ferrer close at hand as the most frequent recipient of Lynch’s own dialogue as Gordon Cole.

Photo: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

“I fell deeply in love with Miguel on the latest Twin Peaks,” Lynch told The New York Times after the actor’s death in January. “I liked him before, but it wasn’t deep love. I just didn’t know him that well. This time I fell in love.” And indeed, as Albert and Gordon exchange their respective confessions about the past, bringing up things they’ve kept from each other for decades, that love is felt implicitly, even when the two are just discussing cold cases. Again, there is the sense of goodbye.

Their deaths give them—and the show—far greater resonance. They are the shadows of the dream we’re now struggling to retrace.

Garland Briggs, whose portrayer Don S. Davis died in 2008, similarly became a much larger presence, mostly by being scattered across various dimensions: Briggs was a naked, decapitated corpse who turns up in South Dakota; a ghostly, floating head who occasionally drifts across the void; and, most effectively, a father still capable of moving his son, Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), to tears from across the span of decades and the divide of death. In the original series, Major Briggs was an outward hardass who revealed himself to have a great inner well of enlightenment, and whose greatest fear is “the possibility that love is not enough.” In The Return, Briggs is love—a benevolent spirit still sharing messages from beyond, still putting people on their path. Death is not the end, but a change.

Screenshot: Showtime

The loss of David Bowie in January 2016 came right before he was meant to film the reprisal of his swamp-accented Fire Walk With Me character, Agent Phillip Jeffries. Most showrunners would have just written around it; Jeffries, though beloved for his David Bowie-ness, is a character who opens more questions than he answers—questions he explicitly didn’t want to talk about, and which could have easily been addressed without his direct participation, or elided altogether. And yet, Lynch made those questions and Jeffries central to The Return, resurrecting Bowie as a giant teakettle (a literal Tin Machine) and giving him what appears to be the final word on the show’s overarching mythology as he fills Cooper in on Judy, sort of, from beyond.

Screenshot: Showtime

As great as it would have been to see Bowie again—to discover that his “death” was just a setup for the greatest TV cameo ever recorded—as with Major Briggs, it’s hard to imagine his character having as profound an impact if it were being performed by a living man. The loss of Bowie and Davis adds a melancholy subtext to their characters being trapped inside their respective spiritual holds. Their deaths give them—and the show—far greater resonance. They are the shadows of the dream we’re now struggling to retrace.


Jeffries was the first to declare, “We live inside a dream,” way back in Fire Walk With Me, as we looked upon Bob, Mike, The Man From Another Place, The Woodsman, and Mrs. Tremond and her grandson et al., cooking up a batch of garmonbozia above the convenience store. (Goddamn, how I will miss writing sentences like that one now that the show’s over.) But Cooper’s “We live inside a dream” also parallels a scene set earlier in The Return, when Lynch’s Gordon recalls a far more pleasant dream he had about Jeffries’ dream—one that featured a cameo from Monica Bellucci.

Aside from telling us a lot about Gordon’s taste in women, the sequence—like the real-world owner of Laura Palmer’s house turning up at the door in the finale—marks a rare intrusion of our reality into Twin Peaks’ carefully quarantined dream world, as disarming as a needle drop on ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man.” And while Lynch would probably blanch at the phrase, it can be interpreted as the show’s most meta commentary. “We are like the dreamer who dreams and lives inside the dream, but who is the dreamer?” Bellucci asks Gordon/Lynch, before pointing over Lynch’s shoulder to the younger version of himself. I doubt Lynch ever intended the scene to be read this bluntly, but there is certainly something here suggestive of Lynch’s extratextual role as the show’s creator, now living inside his own dream.

Laura Dern and David Lynch (Photo: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime)

Like Albert, Gordon has a notably bigger presence in The Return, interacting with just about every major character and narrating the plot’s myriad twists in much the way Cooper did in the original show. His more central role takes on greater significance when you consider that The Return’s cast wasn’t just a reunion for the Twin Peaks cast, but also assembled players from Lynch’s vast repertory company. Robert Forster, Naomi Watts, Patrick Fischler, and Brent Briscoe (and had she not turned it down, Laura Harring) from Mulholland Drive. Balthazar Getty from Lost Highway. Chrysta Bell, from his side gig as a musician. Along with some new additions—including actors, like Tim Roth and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who seem like they should have been in a Lynch movie—The Return was a homecoming for Lynch’s far-flung flock. Most notably there is Laura Dern, whose role as Diane comes close to creating some Grand Unifying Theory Of Lynch by bringing her into an another intimate pairing with Blue Velvet love interest—and Lynch’s other longest collaborator—Kyle MacLachlan.

In what will surely go down as one of The Return’s most analyzed sequences, shortly after Cooper utters that line about living inside a dream (and says to those assembled, “I hope I see all of you again”), we watch as that trinity—Lynch, Dern, and MacLachlan, the dreamer and his muses—enter an abstract plane, where a door yields to Cooper’s nostalgia-evoking Great Northern hotel key. Before Cooper passes inside, returning to the season’s earliest scenes, back to the beginning of the loop—back to the very beginning of our collective love of Twin Peaks, heralded by Mike greeting him with its famous, cryptic poem—Cooper turns to Lynch and Dern and says, “See you at the curtain call.”

Twin Peaks: The Return was that curtain call. You can’t say the series was solely about Lynch bringing his players out for one final bow, or saying farewell to us, or even grappling with the enormous, occasionally burdensome legacy of his most famous creation (though the scene of a crazed Sarah Palmer stabbing Laura’s prom photo definitely had the ring of catharsis). The show is far too rich in meaning for just that; we can start writing our think pieces now, and I’ll see you again in 25 years, when we still haven’t talked it all out yet.

But the entire season was littered with enough nods to Lynch’s past—returning faces, recurrent themes, visual references to his films and paintings (Twitter user @ramontorrente has done an excellent job of cataloging these)—that it definitely lends itself to being read as a distillation of his entire body of work, which he then closed the door on by removing its hinges. By creating the uncertainty of a loop, he gave Twin Peaks an elliptical, open-ended closure—one that extends its mysteries and allows those players to go on playing in our imaginations forever, wondering whether Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) ever finds her way out of her mind trap, or whether Cooper’s machinations truly altered the timeline and what that means for the Palmers and the rest of the town, or if Sheriff Truman ever gets to see Jesse’s new car. The uncertainty renders it immortal, existing beyond time and death, where no matter when you’re watching it, you can’t even be sure what year it is. It will always be confounding and oblique; it will always be Twin Peaks.

If you know anything about Lynch, it’s that he is a devout practitioner of transcendental meditation; if you know two things, it’s that he treasures The Art Life, never happier than when he is going through the many granular motions of a restlessly toiling painter. In both disciplines, he preaches and practices finding the joy in the moment, taking pleasure purely in the work. To resolve that work, to be finished with it forever, would be the end. This is death. Instead, he gave Twin Peaks—the people within and without it, those living and gone—the gift of change, to always be working, to remain eternally unfinished. You can’t go home again, it tells us. But The Return isn’t about looking backward. It was about the dreamer, happy to still be dreaming the dream, for as long as we are still able.

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