Analysis by David Johnson
“The Good Dale is in the Lodge, and He Can’t Leave”
In 2006, near Washington, D.C., I went to a reading and discussion David Lynch was giving around his first book, “Catching the Big Fish.” The reading itself was extremely, comically short—just one or two brief sentences. But the Q and A session was lengthy, and Lynch was generous with answers.
Even though Twin Peaks was–in Lynch’s own words–“dead as a doornail” at the time, I had one question burning in my mind. It was a question that had stayed with me ever since the Season Two finale aired in June of ’91, and the series ended with one of the most shocking television cliffhangers of all time. It lingered through the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and haunted me for years:
“Does Coop ever make it out of the Black Lodge?”
It was a question I wisely decided not to ask. Even if I had, I’m certain that Lynch would not have answered it. He does not like to give direct answers about his work. But, in 2014, with the surprise announcement of Season Three, I thought I’d soon have an answer.
“It is Happening Again”
Once a week during the spring and summer of 2017, we were treated an hourly dose of the new season of Twin Peaks. Fans were, by turns, confused, intrigued, disappointed, and delighted. For me, it seemed to rewire my brain in a profound way. I thought about it constantly, to the point where it invaded my dreams at night. I’ve never been so consumed by a work of art.
When it was over, fans and critics seemed more bewildered than ever. Season Three ended with the enigmatic and impenetrable Part 18. As I write this, a year since it aired, there is still little critical consensus about what actually happened in Part 18, much less what it could mean.
For me though, after a year of thinking about and rewatching Season Three, it has become much more coherent and meaningful. Season Three was written as a single piece, and directed as a giant 18-hour movie. The ability to watch all 18 parts in rapid succession has allowed me to see the shape of a larger narrative, and digest the season as a whole.
In my view, Season Three has elevated Twin Peaks to the top-tier of Lynch and Frost’s work. It is novel-like in its breadth of character and story. It is funny, absurd, abstract, triumphant, heartbreaking, and profound.
But still, it continues to confound. Part 18 in particular has not been cracked, and I feel this confusion has prevented Season Three from being appreciated as a true masterpiece.
While I will discuss Season Three as a whole in this essay, I will also focus closely on Part 18. I’ll provide my analysis of what I think happens and why, and how it relates to the overall themes of Season Three. To my knowledge, this interpretation has not appeared anywhere else.
I believe that Lynch and Frost want us to be detectives and grapple with the mystery in their work. It is only through mystery that we continue to ask questions and engage with their ideas throughout the years. They will not connect the dots for us. But I do believe they want us to put the clues together. With that comes the underlying assumption that they’ve provided enough clues to form a coherent interpretation. As artists, I think it would be irresponsible for them not to do so. But I believe they have with Season Three, with supreme artistic efficiency.
In studying Season Three closely, I have found that my initial question has been reframed in a profound way. Much to my surprise, Season Three makes the question–“Does Coop ever make it out of the Black Lodge?”–much more important than the final answer. For it is a question we can ask not only of Coop, but of ourselves.
“Behind All Things are Reasons”
When Twin Peaks re-aired in syndication, David Lynch shot introductions for each episode. These introductions featured Catherine Coulson, in character as the Log Lady, talking directly to the camera in her strange and poetic way. Many of these introductions touched on the themes of Twin Peaks. As these introductions were written by David Lynch as well, they can be seen as providing valuable insight into the show.
In the introduction to the first episode, the Log Lady states:
I carry a log, yes. Is it funny to you? It is not to me. Behind all things are reasons. Reasons can even explain the absurd.
Do we have time to learn the reasons behind human beings’ varied behavior? I think not. Some take the time. Are they called detectives? Watch, and see what life teaches.
There is a reason behind things, which can explain even the absurd. I think this is a fundamental technique in Lynch’s works—he presents the absurd and invites us to act as detectives and understand the reasons why.
We see this over and over again in Season Three. Characters act in bizarre, almost comically frantic ways. But then we see what could be the reasons why:
- In Parts 5 and 6 we see Frank Truman’s wife’s over-the-top rants about a leaky faucet and a car in need of repair, only realize that her behavior is driven by her son’s suicide.
- We repeatedly see an FBI supervisor in Las Vegas scream hysterically and hilariously at his subordinate, only to realize that it he might be mimicking Gordon Cole, perhaps thinking that’s the way things are supposed to be done.
David Lynch invites us to look at the bizarre, ask why, and understand “what life teaches.” This is important because understanding can lead to empathy and compassion. If you scratch the surface on David Lynch’s films–even beyond the striking examples of The Elephant Man, Fire Walk with Me, and The Straight Story–you will see that there is a rich vein of compassion running through them. For more on this, see the essay “Fix Your Hearts or Die: The Startling Empathy of David Lynch,” linked below.
Looking at what seems enigmatic and bizarre, and asking why, is a key to understanding Season Three.
“A Dark, Dark Age”
A major cause of absurd, bizarre behavior in Twin Peaks is the darkness that has enveloped the area and is spreading to other locations.
The final episodes of Season Two strongly hint at this oncoming dark age. Several characters—Cooper, Annie, a patron at the Double R– find their hands shaking uncontrollably, with the strong sense that something ominous is coming. Near the end of Season Two the Mayor Twin Peaks states, “This is not right, there’s something wrong here,” over a montage of disturbing images from the town. The montage culminates in the Black Lodge opening and Bob stepping out into the physical world.
Season Three implies that the dark age is here. There is a general feeling of stress and tension underlying the action. In Part 1 we get a comically absurd sense of the criminal plots just beneath the surface in Buckhorn as Hank Fillmore schemes with Harvey and Barney’s brother Chip. In Part 13 we see Las Vegas detectives who have become so numb that they no longer take note of the violence taking place in the other room as a suspect is being processed. As one of the Mitchum Brothers states in Part 16, after a shootout in a housing development in Las Vegas, “People are under a lot of stress, Bradley.”
Janey-E, an on-edge wife and mother trying to keep her family together while married to the gambling, unfaithful tulpa of Mr. C, states repeatedly how much stress she’s been under. In Part 6, while confronting criminals trying to get money from her, she says:
What kind of world are we living in, where people can behave like this? Treat other people this way without any compassion or feeling for their suffering? We living in a dark, dark age, and you are part of the problem.
In Mark Frost’s book The Final Dossier, the Log Lady repeatedly refers to the dark age we are currently experiencing. And In Part 10, she states:
Hawk, electricity is humming. You hear it in the mountains and rivers. You see it dance among the seas and stars, and glowing around the moon. But in these days, the glow is dying. What will be in the darkness that remains?
There is a reoccurring visual motif in Season Three of the moon being completely covered by clouds and darkness–a striking symbol of the dark age. We see it:
- Twice in Part 8, after the Bob orb emerges from Mr C., and again when the frog-moth emerges from it’s shell
- In Part 10 after the Log Lady’s speech about darkness above, right before before Rebekah Del Rio’s song “No Stars”
- In Part 12 after Hutch and Chantel assassinate Warden Murphy
- In Part 15 after the Log Lady dies
“That Which is, and is Not”
Jeffries and Cooper, both of whom have travelled to the interdimensional spiritual world in Twin Peaks, repeat the phrase, “We live inside a dream.” Darkness is the time for dreams, and there is a strong indication that in this dark age the spirits who live in the spirit world are leaking into the physical world.
As The Log Lady continues in Part 10:
Watch and listen to the dream of time and space. It all comes out now, flowing like a river—that which is, and is not.
In Season Three, those who live inside a dream and those who live in the physical world become intertwined and confused. It is difficult to tell which characters are real, and which are dream or spirit entities in disguise. We see the Experiment, Bob, the Woodsmen, Cooper’s doppelganger, tulpas, Naido, and many others characters from the spiritual dream world loose in the physical world.
This confusion often occurs in the Roadhouse. We see scenes there that seem to take place completely in physical reality, others that hint at the presence of spirits, and still others that seem to take place completely in a dream dimension (more on this later). The Road House seems to be a nexus where the two—that which is, and is not–intertwine.
This is not unique to Season Three though. In Episode 14 of Season Two we’re told that there are owls at the Roadhouse. Previously, in Episode 8, we were told that the owls are not what they seem. We consequently see The Fireman there several times, assisting Cooper. In Episode 14 he warns Cooper that “It is happening again, ” as Leland/Bob murders Maddie. In Episode 16 the Fireman gives Cooper back his gold ring back, helping him remember the dream where Laura revealed her killer. And in Episode 27 he warns Cooper about involving Annie Blackburn in the Miss Twin Peaks pageant. Julee Cruise’s performances in the Roadhouse have a decidedly angelic quality. In Fire Walk With Me she seems to be speaking directly to Laura, with her song “Questions in a World of Blue.” It is not difficult to imagine that she is from the spirit world as well.
The confusion about what is real and what is not has spread to the entire town. In Part 14 disgraced deputy Chad Broxford finds himself in a Twin Peaks jail cell next to a character identified as “Drunk.” He has a large, strange wound on his cheek and appears to be bleeding from his nose and mouth. The only language he produces is to mimic the last words of those around him, not unlike Dougie/Cooper. The character is decidedly otherworldly.
While it is possible that the Drunk was sent by benign spirits to keep an eye on Chad, and alert Andy and the others of an escape attempt, it equally possible that the drunk is there to torment Chad. The Drunk’s repeated phrases seem to drive Chad crazy, causing mental anguish. And the fact that the Drunk seems to be bleeding from his nose and mouth is telling, as we will see below. For more often than not, what we see in Season Three are dark, Black Lodge-type entities who torment others and feed upon their suffering.
This appears to be what’s going on with the frantic woman in the car in Part 11. While being stopped due to an accidental shooting near the Double R, she screams to Bobby Briggs about a sick child, being late, being worried about seeing an uncle, and having “miles to go.” As Bobby tries to calm her, a bizarre, zombie-like child rises up in the seat next to her, spewing some type of horrible liquid from her mouth.
While the zombie-like child is beyond strange, the reference to an “uncle” is curious. It might link this episode to another figure who seems to be central in the torment of several other Twin Peaks residents: Billy.
In Part 7, a character named Bing runs into the Double R like a man possessed, asking if anyone has seen Billy. After a moment he runs out again, continuing his frantic search.
Later in Part 14, in the Roadhouse a character named Megan relates a story about Billy jumping a six-foot fence and running into her kitchen while bleeding from the nose and mouth. Curiously, she twice mentions that she can’t remember if her uncle was there at the time.
Megan identifies her mother as Tina. That fact, along with the anecdote about Billy, links Megan’s story with Audrey Horne’s. In Part 12, Audrey states that she hates Tina, and that she going to the Roadhouse to search for Billy. She argues with her husband Charlie for several scenes before going to the Roadhouse. In Part 16 we will come to realize that Charlie is some type of dark entity and that Audrey has been experiencing some form of Black Lodge dreamworld.
In Fire Walk With Me, it is established that the Black Lodge entities feast upon garmonbozia, which is defined as “pain and sorrow.” Those who have experienced extreme amounts of pain in their lives are particularly vulnerable to these entities, as they are great sources of garmonbozia.
Considering Audrey’s particularly painful past, she makes an extremely tempting target. Audrey has a dysfunctional family life, with a neglectful, criminal father. She has a schoolmate who was murdered. She was kidnapped and held hostage by gangsters. She had someone murdered right in front of her, and was almost killed herself by a lethal dose of drugs. She was later blown up in a bank explosion, and then raped in ICU by an the doppelganger of the man she adored. Finally, she was left to raise Richard, this evil entity’s child, alone. Judging from Richard’s behavior, we can only imagine the violence he wrought upon her.
In Part 12, Charlie finds exquisite ways of torturing Audrey—claiming to be too busy and too sleepy to help her find Billy, relaying confusing stories, finally calling her nemesis Tina to talk about Billy, and refusing to tell Audrey the shocking thing that Tina said to him. In later scenes Charlie doubts her when she questions the nature of her reality and Charlie’s identity. He keeps her in an almost constant state of agitation.
Audrey seems intuitively awareness of her situation. She knows she’s not herself, and that she belongs somewhere else. But she’s been so damaged by the violence in her life, that she almost willfully retreats into the security of this fantasy with Charlie, as a way to protect herself from further violence. “Do you want me to end your story, too?” Charlie asks her, when she begins to push on the boundaries of her dreamworld. “What story is that, Charlie? Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane? Is it?”, she replies. In retrospect, I think “the story of the little girl who lived down the lane” can be interpreted as a scenario where a woman in a dreamworld is slowly antagonized to the point where she releases garmonbozia for a Black Lodge entity. We will see this story mentioned again, and play out again, with Carrie Page in Part 18. More on that later.
It is only when the random violence of daily life intrudes upon her dreamworld as well that she asks Charlie to get her out of there. The illusion breaks. With electricity humming around her, Audrey finds herself in an institutional-looking white room, with white clothes and no make up,. She stares into a mirror, full of terror, and presumable releasing garmonbozia for the Lodge entities to feast upon.
“I Love How You Love Me”
In Part 14 Megan mentions that although she was avoiding the “nuthouse” (interestingly Chad also refers to a “nuthouse,” while in prison with the Drunk), she was “getting high in my room–flying in my own room.” This reference points to another extreme danger from the Black Lodge, especially to the youth of Twin Peaks.
In Season Three the dark entities appear to torture the inhabitants of the Twin Peaks through the spread of the drug “Sparkle”–Chinese designer drugs, as Sheriff Frank Truman calls them in Part 4. Bobby implies that it is strange that he cannot find the source of these drugs and cannot figure out how they are getting into town. He has every trail covered with video surveillance. “Every known trail,” Sheriff Truman reminds him. I speculate that there is a supernatural, Black Lodge source for these drugs.
The Roadhouse, a nexus where where the natural and supernatural intersect, also seems to be the center of drug dealing in Twin Peaks. The drug dealer Red is seen in there, working with Roadhouse bartender and leader of the local prostitution ring Jean-Michel Renault. We also see Red’s drug runner Richard Horne pay off Deputy Chad Broxford at the Roadhouse.
In Part 6 there is a bizarre drug meeting between Red and Richard. During the meeting Red performs a strange magic trick, altering reality or perception to make a coin seem to freeze in the air, then appear in Richard’s mouth, and finally return to Richard’s hand. In Episode 9 of Season Two, when Donna brings food to the elderly Mrs. Tremond (more on that name later), we meet her red-haired grandson, who studies magic. He makes creamed corn disappear from Donna’s plate and magically, supernaturally, appear in Mrs. Tremond’s hands. In Fire Walk With Me, Mrs. Tremond and grandson are firmly established to be supernatural entities who attempt to draw Laura Palmer into the Black Lodge. Considering the use of supernatural magic, the red hair, and the age of the two characters, I think a strong case can be made that Red is Mrs. Tremond’s grandson, and that the Sparkle he spreads has a Black Lodge origin.
We can also infer that Cooper’s doppelganger Mr. C is spreading these drugs as well, and that perhaps they were a key to building his criminal empire. We can deduce that Mr. C got his safety pin-scratched playing card, with the symbol of Judy on it, from the drug-addicted “1-1-9” women living across the street from Dougie in Las Vegas. She has the same type of playing cards and a safety pin on the table in her room. It is not a stretch to imagine that Mr. C traded drugs for further information about Judy. The symbol on Mr. C’s card is very similar to the symbol we later see on Hawk’s map and on Briggs’ slip of paper.
The fact that she speaks backwards after her drug use—calling out “1-1-9” instead of “9-1-1” during an emergency–indicates that there is most likely a Black Lodge origin for these drugs. As Mark Frost states in a recent Salon interview, those with one foot in the other world tend to speak backwards. Perhaps that is how she learned about Judy.
In Season Three, we see that drug use is starting to have a devastating effect in Twin Peaks, especially to the youth.
In Part 4 we hear about the overdose of high schooler Denny Craig during a wrestling match, because of these drugs.
At the end of Part 9 there is a brief scene in the Roadhouse with two young people, Ella and Chloe. Ella has a severe rash, and talks about getting fired from her job for getting high. Most strikingly though, Ella mentions that “zebra’s out again,” and later asks, “Have you seen that penguin?” Both zebras and penguins are black and white, a color scheme strongly associated with the Black Lodge. Ella’s constant scratching implies that she is in bad shape, and headed down a dark path.
We see the most devastating effects though in Becky and Steven Burnett. In Part 5, in a striking shot while sitting in a car with red upholstery (another color strongly associated with the Black Lodge), we sense the profound euphoria that Shelley Briggs’ daughter Becky experiences while high. We get a strong indication of the love she feels while on these drugs. But shortly afterwards we also see the consequences of drug use. Becky begs Shelly for money, only for Steven to blow it all on drugs. We see Steven try to apply for a job while high, only to fail. In Part 10 we see the fear and abuse of their life in the trailer park, as a result of drug addiction. In Part 11 we see Becky’s violent reaction when she realizes that Steven has been unfaithful to her with another drug user, Gersten Hayword. Becky grabs a gun and steals Shelly’s car. She puts her mother in danger, as Shelly hangs on for dear life while Becky tries to drive away. Becky then risks killing someone as she fires blindly into Gersten’s apartment.
The final sequence in the woods with Steven and Gersten, in Part 15, truly demonstrates the depth of pain and sorrow that drug use causes in Twin Peaks. In a scene of profound despair, Steven, while high and sitting under an enormous tree with Gersten, prepares to commit suicide. He rambles on about turquoise, lightning in the bottle, and the rhinoceros. He becomes incoherent as Gersten, who appears high as well, tries to talk him out of it. Steven, while loading his gun, asks if Gersten will join him. She declines. When they are interrupted by Cyril Pons though, played by none other than Mark Frost, Gersten runs around the tree. We hear a gun shot, and it is strongly implied that Steven has killed himself. The camera focusses on Gersten, and we see her intense anguish. The enormous, ominous trees surrounding Gersten seem to soak up the garmonbozia.
What happens when the dark entities create suffering, particular among the youth in Twin Peaks? I believe Hawk provides the answer when he explains his map in Part 11:
(pointing to the fire symbol)
Looks like a campfire, what is this?
It’s not a campfire, it’s a fire symbol.
What’s that mean?
It’s a type of fire, more like modern-day electricity.
It depends. It depends on the intention behind the fire.
(pointing to a symbol of blackened corn)
What is this?
It’s corn, it’s fertility, but it’s black, diseased or unnatural. Death.
If you put these two symbols together, you get this.
Fire, or electricity, seems to give these entities power in our world. The more electricity they have, the more they can impact our world. It can be good or bad, depending upon the intention behind it.
Suffering youth are represented in Hawk’s map as diseased corn–corn that has been affected by something unnatural. When it comes in contact with electricity, it creates black fire. Tortured and suffering youth, addicted to unnatural drugs from the Black Lodge, will create a lot of black fire, and provide a lot of power for these dark entities. The more suffering they can create, the more black fire they will have, the more ability they will have to impact our world, and create further suffering. It’s a vicious cycle.
Because there is a lot of black fire, these dark creatures are running rampant in Twin Peaks, and reality is beginning to blur. It is truly a dark age.
But there in one entity in particular, an “extreme negative force,” who is the greatest threat of all.
“It is in Our House Now”
Season Three begins with a scene between the Fireman and Agent Cooper. I think one can make a strong case that the scene takes place in the White Lodge. As we know from Season Two, the forces of goodness reside in the White Lodge. In Season Three the Fireman appears to live there:
Agent Cooper. Listen to the sounds.
We hear scratching sounds from a phonograph [Note: these are the exact same sounds we hear when Laura is pulled away from Agent Cooper in Parts 17 and 18].
It is in our house now.
I think this scene indicates that the true big bad of Twin Peaks, Judy, has entered our world and has taken up residence in the Palmer house. It is of grave concern to both the Fireman and Agent Cooper.
In Part 17, Gordon Cole gives us information about Judy, and reveals that he’s known about her for twenty-five years:
Before he disappeared, Major Briggs shared with me and Cooper his discovery of an entity—an extreme negative force, called in olden times,“Jowday.” Over time, it’s become, “Judy.”
After Briggs revealed the existence of Judy twenty-five years ago, Gordon, Cooper and Briggs formulated a plan that could lead to Judy. This is clearly a retcon of Season Two, since Judy was probably not conceived of at the time, but I think it’s a good one. It easily could’ve happened during Episode 19, when Gordon has returned to Twin Peaks. Briggs has become disillusioned with his superiors at the Air Force, and suspicious of their motives. He has also gone to the White Lodge himself, and received a download of information that he was slowly beginning to understand. He also has data he’s been collecting at Listening Post Alpha. So he would’ve had the knowledge and the opportunity during this episode to relay information about Judy to Gordon and Cooper. During this episode Briggs also wholeheartedly agrees to help Cooper with his investigation.
The plan that could lead to Judy is not explained. I believe that Lynch and Frost want us to reflect upon the path to evil, and infer a plan ourselves. At its heart, I believe that Twin Peaks is about the battle between good and evil. As we do in our daily lives, as viewers we must contend with those two elemental forces and find our own way.
“You Don’t Ever Want to Know About That”
We know that Mr. C is after Judy. He reveals as much to Daria before he kills her in Part 2. Mr. C knows what Cooper knew at the point he entered the Black Lodge at the end of Season Two. So, from the discussion twenty-five years ago mentioned above, Mr. C knows that Garland Briggs has information about Judy. I think we can infer that that information includes coordinates to a portal that could lead to Judy.
When Mr. C emerged from the Black Lodge, he met with Garland and presumably asked about Judy and those coordinates. During that meeting though Garland sensed something was terribly wrong. He hid the coordinates in a secure military database, and in a chair in his home, in a manner that only his son Bobby could figure out. He gathered information for the dossier revealed in “The Secret History of Twin Peaks.” He then destroyed Listening Post Alpha and the data it collected, faked his death, and went into hiding for twenty-five years.
Mr. C doggedly continued his search for those coordinates for twenty-five years. He also constructed a glass box around a portal in New York, in an attempt to capture what comes through. There is a lot of unexplained equipment and wiring around the box, perhaps to immobilize whatever comes through. I believe Judy does indeed come through, on Cooper’s trail and looking for Mr. C. She destroys the box, causing great fear in the young people watching it. She murders them. She then takes up residence in what I believe is her former host and carrier, Sarah Palmer, and waits for Mr. C to come to her.
“I Will Be With Bob Again”
Why does Judy want Mr. C? I believe she wants Mr C because he is carrying Bob. She wants Bob back because Bob has collected garmonbozia for twenty-five years with Mr. C, and she is determined to get it.
If we accept the premise that Judy is the true big bad of Twin Peaks—and I think the evidence for this is very strong—then I think we can infer that she is also pulling the strings in the Black Lodge. I think we see this play out near the end of Fire Walk With Me.
After killing Laura, wrapping her body in plastic, and setting it adrift, Leland, with Bob, returns to the Black Lodge. In the Lodge Leland is separated from Bob. Mike reconnects with the Arm and says, “Bob, I want all my garmonbozia.” Bob sucks blood out of Leland’s stomach area, and seems to reluctantly through it on the floor of the Black Lodge. It is absorbed, and appears in the form of creamed corn. That creamed corn, which has been established to be garmonbozia, is ingested by an entity of some kind. We see a monkey speak Judy’s name immediately after the corn is consumed. I think we can conclude that Judy spoke through Mike and the Arm once they were reconnected, demanding the garmonbozia that Bob had collected, and that she was the one who ate it. Therefore, I believe that Bob is a collector of garmonbozia, and that his job is to give it to Judy in the Black Lodge.
Bob is expected to return the garmonbozia he’s collected, but he appears to have tried to take it for himself before. At one point in Fire Walk With Me, the spirit Mike accuses Bob of stealing garmonbozia: ”You stole the corn! I had it canned, above the store!”
So Judy wants Bob so she can get her garmonbozia. As Ray Monroe states in Part 8, after seeing the Bob orb emerge from the injured Mr. C, “It could be the key to what this is all about.”
Following the natural order of the Black Lodge, Mr. C and Bob are expected to return after a twenty-five year excursion to collect garmonbozia.
As we learn in Part 4, Mr. C has been impersonating Cooper during this time. He either tricks Jeffries into asking Albert for information about the FBI presence in Columbia, or impersonates Jeffries to get the information. Mr. C then uses it to kill the FBI man there and build his criminal empire.
There are strong hints that Mr. C, carrying Bob, enjoys the garmonbozia he’s collecting. In Part 16 Diane states that he liked the fear she exhibited before he raped her. In Part 13 Mr. C seems to get pleasure out of toying with the gang leader in Montana during their arm wrestling match, before killing him. Likewise, he also seems to enjoy the intense fear he creates in Daria before killing her in Part 2.
After Daria is dead, Mr C contacts who he believes isJeffries from his motel room. It is not Jeffries on the line, though. I strongly believe that it is Judy on the other end of the connection.
During the call, Judy says, “I missed you in New York.” I think this is referring to her appearance in the glass box in New York in Part 1, where she escaped and killed the two kids who were watching it.
She then mentions that he met with Garland Briggs, acknowledging that she knows that Briggs told Cooper (and by extension, Mr. C) about her existence. She then says she just called to say goodbye, noting that he is due to be pulled back into the Black Lodge and that she will be with Bob again.
But Mr. C though, apparently working with the other doppelgangers in the Black Lodge, creates a plan to prevent his return to the Lodge. He creates a tulpa, Dougie. The Black Lodge seems to use vomited garmonbozia to locate those it wants to pull back into the Lodge. When the Black Lodge comes calling, Mr. C holds his garmonbozia in, refusing to vomit it. Meanwhile, the Dougie tulpa spews his out. The Dougie tulpa is then pulled into the Black Lodge, instead of Mr. C and Bob.
At some point Judy seems to realize that Mr. C is after her as well, and decides to wait for him. As mentioned above, she takes up residence in the one who I believe carried her from New Mexico to Twin Peaks, her previous host Sarah Palmer.
“Woe to the Ones Who Behold the Pale Horse”
Sarah Palmer, like Audrey described above, is a very good generator of garmonbozia: her daughter was raped and murdered by her husband, who later died by suicide. In Episode 10 of Season Two, after being told that Bob is gone, she replies, “so is everything I loved.”
Sarah also shows herself to be a conduit or medium of sorts, with a connection the Black Lodge and its entities. In Season One she has visions of Bob. In the finale of Season Two she channels Windom Earle, who speaks from the other world: “I’m in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper.”
In Episode 8 of Season Two, we see the pale horse for the first time. As Sarah Palmer crawls downstairs, before losing consciousness and just before Leland/Bob kills Maddie, Sarah has a vision of a pale horse.
In the introduction to that episode, the Log Lady states: “Woe to the ones who behold the pale horse.”
It’s been documented that David Lynch often turns to the Bible for inspiration, as he did while shooting both Eraserhead and Inland Empire. In Chapter 6, Verse 8 of Revelation from the King James Bible, there is a sentence which may shed light upon the symbol of the pale horse:
And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him (216).
I believe that the pale horse is another indicator of Judy’s presence. The pale horse appears during times of intense suffering in the Palmer residence—when Laura is raped in Fire Walk With Me, and when Maddie is killed in Season Two. In Part 8 of Season Three we see the event which summons these dark entities to our world–a nuclear explosion. It is like a Pandora’s Box has been opened. At the end of Part 8 we hear horse sounds, after it is strongly implied that Judy has entered our world as the frog-moth. Having crawled into Sarah Palmer’s mouth, she will be carried to Twin Peaks.
“Go to Twin Peaks… and There You Will Find Your Destiny”
Judy’s plan to wait for Mr. C and Bob at the Palmer house is thwarted by the Fireman when, as described in Part 14, he contacts Freddie, tells him where to get the supernaturally powerful green glove, and instructs him to go to Twin Peaks and find his destiny.
Mr. C, with the correct coordinates in hand, gets to the portal that will take him to Judy. The Fireman then intervenes, sending Mr. C to the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station instead, where Lucy with her gun and Freddie with his green glove are waiting for him. Mr. C is shot, and Bob is destroyed during an interdimensional fist fight. Cooper sends Mr. C’s remains back to the Black Lodge with the green ring.
Once Bob is destroyed, Cooper immediately moves on to his primary assignment, the one given to him in Part 1 by the Fireman–stopping Judy. Cooper asks Sheriff Truman for the key to his old room in the Great Northern, which is the one thing that had been sent through with him when he when he re-emerged in the physical world in Part 3. It is a key to his past, and a key to finding Laura before she is murdered. But he also has another key with him, and it is one that will lead him to Judy. That key is Diane.
“Do You Remember Everything?”
In Part 17, Cooper sees Naido in the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s station. The Sheriff’s Department had found the eyeless, speechless, supernatural Naido at the portal near Jack Rabbit’s Palace, following clues left by Garland Briggs. Andy has brought her upstairs from a cell below, presumably following instructions the Fireman gave him during his visit to what I believe is the White Lodge.
Immediately after Cooper sees Naido, we see a large, superimposed image of Cooper head, his face frozen with a look of something like awe, shame, and remorse. This image remains on screen for most of the time leading up to his arrival at the Great Northern boiler room.
I think this image indicates that there are two Coopers–one in the “unofficial version” timeline, and one that is in the spirit world, outside of time. I think this image indicates that the Cooper in the spirit world, outside of time, can access to the power of the Black Lodge. It also shows his remorse at how that power has been and will be used.
We’ve already seen that once a person enters a place in spirit world, like the Black Lodge, that that person can communicate with the physical world at any point in the timeline. That’s why Annie can send Laura a message in Fire Walk With Me, and Cooper can appear in her dreams.
In Part 17 Cooper is ready to use the power of the Black Lodge. But he has also seen what the pure distillation of his dark side is capable of—violence of every kind. Once free, and without hesitation, Mr. C had acted upon Cooper’s repressed desire for both Audrey and Diane, sexually assaulting them. Seeing Naido, he is reminded of what his dark side can do—hence the look of profound shame on the superimposed image of Cooper and in the look Cooper gives Naido when he first sees her in the Sheriff’s station.
While he is fully aware of the power of the Black Lodge, his task now is to use it. In Jungian terms, he has confronted his shadow. He must now integrate his darkness and use it in his quest for good—to stop Judy.
He touches Naido’s hand. I believe the next sequence of images implies that the Cooper in the spirit world uses his control over the Black Lodge to reveal Diane’s true spirit, hidden beneath the mask of Naido. Presumable Mr C created Naido as a way to contain the real Diane. After raping her and taking her to the Convenience Store, Mr C hid her away in Naido’s eyeless, voiceless body. He then replaced Diane in the physical world with a tulpa he created, who could work for his interests. At some point, Naido made her way to the White Lodge, where she assisted Cooper in Part 3 and fell into space, ending up at the portal near Jack Rabbit’s palace. I also believe that Naido is somehow able to hack into the tulpa Diane, sending Mr C coordinates and telling Gordon, “I’m not me” and that she’s in the Sheriff’s station.
Naido’s face is burned away and Diane’s true face appears. Her hair and nails reflect the color scheme of the Black Lodge, a constant reminder of her association with that place. Cooper in the physical world smiles when he sees her. The Black Lodge, with Cooper’s superimposed image over it, hums with power.
Cooper asks Diane if she remembers everything. She says she does, which is critical—her memories of the rape are a vital part of the plan to get to Judy.
“We Live Inside a Dream”
Before the timeline Cooper leaves the Sheriff’s station with Gordon and Diane, we hear Cooper’s superimposed image say, “We live inside a dream.”
Phillip Jeffries had said this phrase when he visited FBI headquarters in 1989, before disappearing into the other world. And the spirit from Gordon’s dream, in the form of Monica Bellucci, said something similar: “We are like the dreamer who dreams, and then lives inside the dream.” It’s notable that Gordon mentions that Cooper was there, indicating that Cooper dwells in the spirit world as well.
I believe in the metaphysical realm, spirits can create their own worlds, and then occupy them. These dreamworlds can intrude upon and impact our physical reality. This is something we’ve seen throughout the season, and discussed above. But the fact that it’s a dark age indicates that it is a dark dreamer impacting our world.
When Monica asks, “But who is the dreamer?”, Gordon gets an uneasy feeling. He remembers Phillip Jeffries’ visit to FBI headquarters, where Judy was first mentioned.
Our dreams create our reality. Some are capable of creating powerful dreams that have great influence over all of us.
I think there is a strong implication that we’ve been living a world influenced by Judy’s dreaming. The dark age and the bizarre things it has brought are due to Judy’s influence. The black fire she and her entities have created, through suffering, has only given them more power to implement her dream. And she must be stopped.
But there are other dreamers, including the Fireman.
When Cooper’s superimposed image states, “We live inside a dream,” I think it implies that he, like Jeffries, lives in the spirit world now. In the spirit world he not only has great power, but he can also impact the timeline at any point. Hence, he can free Diane from her prison in the Black Lodge. He can also transport his timeline self, along with Diane and Gordon, to the boiler room in the Great Northern Hotel. The superimposed image of Cooper looks very much like the superimposed image of Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz, when she makes snow fall on the poppy field, waking Dorothy and the others. [It is one of several nods to The Wizard of Oz in Season Three, including golden orbs, the use of black and white, and references to “going home.”]
The timeline Cooper says his goodbyes to the others at the Sheriff’s department, and disappears along with Diane and Gordon. Once in the boiler room, the timeline Cooper prepares to enter the spirit world and take the battle to Judy.
“Fire Walk With Me”
After saying goodbye to Gordon and Diane, Cooper pointedly says to her, “I’ll see you at the curtain call.” This indicates that he is aware that Laura will be taken away, and that a new timeline will be created. He had already seen Laura getting pulled away in Part 2, from the out-of-time perspective of the Black Lodge. “There are some things that will change,” he told Hawk before leaving the Sheriff’s station, “The past dictates the future.” He knows that he will meet Diane again in the new timeline–after his experience in the Black Lodge, at the point he was originally supposed to leave, before Mr C, the doppelgangers, and the tulpa intervened.
Cooper opens the door to the boiler room, a mythological place of transformation, and prepares to enter the spirit world. Why is a door to the spirit world located in the Great Northern? We know that the building is made from haunted wood from the nearby Ghostwood forest. And we know that spirits can inhabit the wood. In Season Two, Bob seems to have trapped Josie’s spirit in that wood, in the form of a drawer pull. The spirit of the Log Lady’s husband seems to reside in the wood she carries, as inferred from Episode 6 of Season One and “The Secret History of Twin Peaks.”
Mike is waiting for Cooper on the other side of the door, most likely responsible for the tone emanating from it. In fact, Mike and the Black Lodge have aided Cooper all season long:
- In Part 3 Cooper’s receives Black Lodge visions showing him which slot machines to play to win jackpots.
- In Part 6 Mike sends Cooper visions telling him not to die and to wake up.
- In Part 7 the Arm advises Cooper to “squeeze his hand off!” during the attack by the hitman Ike Stradtler.
- In Part 11 Mike directed Cooper to buy the cherry pie that saves his life from the Mitchum brothers. Bradley Mitchum had learned about that pie in a dream.
Cooper receives a lot of supernatural help in Season Three. Interestingly, much of the less-overt help is associated the the letter “Z”–perhaps referring to dreaming. It’s unclear if all this help comes from Mike and the Arm only, or if there is another source at work as well. Maybe the spirit world Cooper assisted the timeline Cooper at the following points:
- Tracey, the girl who brings coffee in Part 1, has cups with a “Z” prominently displayed. She distracts the man watching the glass box long enough for Cooper to be pulled from box before Judy can arrive.
- A light is shown on insurance salesman Anthony Sinclair during their staff meeting, indicating that he was lying.
- Lights are shown on the insurance documents Cooper takes home, indicating a criminal conspiracy.
- The shop where Cooper buys the cherry pie that saves his life is “Szymons.”
- In Part 16 the Polish Accountant, who takes out the hitmen sent to kill Cooper, works for “Zawaski, Accounting, Inc.,” which is prominently displayed on the side of his car.
After incanting the Fire Walk With Me poem, Mike uses electricity to transport both of them into the spirit world.
Mike leads Cooper into another dimension, a dimension with a close connection to the woods around Twin Peaks. They walks down an interdimensional hallway which leads to a staircase. It is the same staircase we saw through the Buckhorn portal and which Mr. C accessed through the Convenience Store. After Cooper and Mike gone up the stairs, we see the figure of the Jumping Man frantically come down the stairs. Presumably it indicates that Judy is alerted to what Cooper and Mike are doing. We’d seen the Jumping Man before in Season Three, when Mr. C went up those same stairs. Screen grabs show that it is Sarah Palmer’s face behind the Jumping Man’s mask. We’d also seen the Jumping Man before, in Fire Walk With Me, around Leland. I believe he is an indication that a Lodge entity has taken control of someone, using that person as a mask. In Fire Walk With Me Bob was hiding inside Leland, but in Season Three is Judy hiding inside Sarah Palmer.
In the spirit world, Cooper and Mike go to the Dutchman’s to see Jefferies. Cooper states that he wants to go to February 23rd, 1989, the night Laura Palmer died. Jeffries finds the right point in time, telling him he will find Judy there. We see in Jeffries’ smoke the Owl symbol, a symbol associated with the Black Lodge. The Owl symbol then turns into an infinity sign, representing time. This shows that the timeline where Judy exists has been going on forever, and will likely continue forever. Evil is infinite.
“There might be someone,” Jeffries says. The use of the word “someone” in this manner is very specific language, and seems to indicate Laura’s spirit. In Part 1 Mike says, “Someone is here,” referring to Laura’s spirit.
After finding the proper point in time, Jeffries pointedly says, “You can go in now”–more specific language, in this case used to describe entering the Black Lodge. When the timeline changes, we will find Cooper back in the Black Lodge again. Jeffries tells Cooper to remember. He is most likely referring to the Fireman’s instructions from Part 1: “4-3-0. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.” The Fireman had told him to remember this as well. Mike transports Cooper back in time, again using electricity. Cooper appears in the woods in Twin Peaks, where James and Laura have stopped the bike on the night of her death, just before she runs off into the woods.
“We’re Going Home”
Why did Cooper choose the night of Laura’s death to intervene? He could’ve gone back years earlier and prevented her suffering. He could’ve exposed Bob before he did so much damage.
Laura is full of garmonbozia at the point when Cooper arrives. She has been raped by Leland/Bob for years, and she has just realized that Bob had been masking the identity of her father all along. She has been numbing herself with sex and drugs. She questions the goodness of her own nature. She realizes that Bob wants to possess her, and she would rather die than let that happen. She indicates to Bobby at one point late in the film that she is going home, presumably referring to death rather than the Palmer residence. She is at the height of her “loneliness, guilt, shame, confusion and devastation of the victim of incest,” as David Lynch describes it in Lynch on Lynch (185).
If Cooper takes her back to the White Lodge at this point, it will deny Judy the maximum amount of Laura’s garmonbozia. All the work that Leland/Bob did will be for nothing.
The reason Cooper intervenes when he does is because Laura is filled to the brim with garmonbozia, and is therefore extremely valuable to Judy.
“We’re going home,” Cooper says ambiguously when he meets Laura. He is most likely referring to the White Lodge. We know from Part 8 that Laura’s pure, incorruptible spirit came from the White Lodge. Cooper leads her towards the portal near Jack Rabbit’s Palace, a portal that has been shown to be an entrance to the White Lodge. I think he knows that Laura won’t end up there, though. He’s already seen her get pulled away, from his Black Lodge perspective in Part 2. And that is part of the plan.
Ultimately, I think Cooper sees Laura as a weapon in his fight against Judy. In the Black Lodge Laura’s spirit revealed the blinding white light beneath the mask of her face. Light destroys darkness. And we’ve also seen the intense darkness that lurks behind the mask of Sarah Palmer’s face. I think Cooper believes that Laura’s light can destroy Judy’s darkness. Therefore, I do not believe that Cooper intends to send Laura back to the White Lodge and take her out of the fight against Judy.
The Fireman is also aware that Laura will not make it to the White Lodge. In Part 14 the Fireman shows Andy an image of the telephone pole outside Carrie Page’s home in Odessa, revealing that he’s aware that Laura will end up there.
Cooper prevents Laura’s death by stopping her from going off with Leo, Jaques and Ronette. Doing so changes the timeline, and prevents the release of garmonbozia we saw in Fire Walk With Me when Laura was killed. The death which began the series is erased.
Judy is enraged by this. In the Palmer residence, she lashes out at Laura’s picture. But Laura’s spirit is indestructible–the picture refused to break. Evil may be infinite, but so is good.
Judy then moves to take Laura away. As Cooper leads Laura though the woods, we hear the sounds that the Fireman played for Cooper at the start of Season 3. We hear curtains rustling, Laura screams and then is pulled away before they can reach the portal near Jack Rabbit’s Palace.
As mentioned above, Cooper had already seen this event from the out-of-time Black Lodge perspective. In Part 2, after Laura’s spirit whispers to Cooper in the Black Lodge, we see the curtains rustle violently. We hear the exact same scream as Laura is ripped away and hidden beyond the curtains, deep in the darkness of the Black Lodge dimension. As Cooper moves into that dimension he sees a pale horse, indicating Judy’s location. When he “crosses” with Diane in Part 18 he will look for a pale horse.
When Laura is ripped away the timeline changes. She becomes a missing person, rather than a murder victim.
Mark Frost has stated that he was inspired by Greek drama when writing Season Three. The Greek playwright Agathon is quoted by Aristotle as stating: “This only is denied to God–the power to undo the past.” Cooper changes the past with his actions, and, as Mark Frost points out, it has unforeseen and unintended consequences.
“Is it Future, or is it Past?”
There is a 25-year time jump, and we see Cooper in the Lodge again with Mike, as we first saw him in Part 2. The events of the “unofficial version” –most of Season Three–have been changed in the new timeline.
As confirmed in The Final Dossier, Cooper still came to Twin Peaks, this time to investigate the missing person case involving Laura Palmer. And he still disappeared into the Black Lodge at some point.
As in Part 2, Mike asks Cooper if it is future or past. Cooper notices that Laura is not there, staring at the empty chair she occupied in Part 2.
Mike leads Cooper to the Arm, who asks, “Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane? Is it?” This is exactly the same thing that Audrey asked Charlie, as she was questioning the nature of her reality. This implies that Laura is in a similar situation to Audrey’s; that is, she is being tormented in a dreamworld for garmonbozia, which turns out to be the case.
Cooper remembers that Laura’s spirit was taken away after she whispered something to him. Cooper then walks into a room with Leland’s spirit, who tells him to “Find Laura.”
“A Place of Almost Unimaginable Power”
Cooper demeanor changes as he moves into a hallway in the Black Lodge. Cooper walks very mechanically, almost robot-like, with a menacing look on his face. He moves one hand back and forth and opens the curtains, at the same spot where he was denied exit in Part 2.
His movements and the result suggest that he has incorporated his shadow and mastered the dark side. It has given him the power to open the curtains of the Black Lodge. Cooper now appears to be a master of the two worlds.
Cooper learned to use the power of the Black Lodge in the “unofficial version,” freeing Diane from Naido. He now uses it to exit the Lodge, where Diane is waiting for him.
“Richard and Linda”
It is not explicitly stated how much Diane remembers from the “unofficial version” in this new timeline. Perhaps she knew to be at the entrance to the Black Lodge at that particular time because she remembered, or perhaps she’s there because Hawk told her to be there. Hawk was there at the same time in Part 2, when Cooper ‘s exit was stopped by Lodge doppelgangers. Regardless, Diane is waiting for Cooper in this new timeline as he emerges from the Black Lodge after twenty-five years.
We then see Cooper and Diane following the Fireman’s instructions at the beginning of the season (“430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone”), going 430 miles from Twin Peaks. I think the vintage car they drive reflects a state of innocence–David Lynch often uses a 1950’s setting to imply innocence, regardless of what darkness lurks beneath the surface.
Diane begins to doubt their mission, asking Cooper if he’s sure about what he’s doing. We can sense her unease. Cooper, confident in his mission, asks to kiss her. After the kiss Diane agrees to continue. Perhaps she gets some reassurance about his nature when she kisses him. The same thing happened in Part 17 after she emerged from Naido. And her kiss with Mr. C caused Diane to know he’s evil. At the very least the kiss shows a long-standing desire between the two.
They “cross,” going through a portal which leads them to a desolate night landscape, filled with tension. The dynamic between Diane and Cooper changes, as if they are influenced by the dark world they have entered. I believe they have entered Judy’s dimension. We saw an indication of where this could be in Part 2, when Laura’s spirit was taken away and Cooper stared at the darkness beyond the curtains of the Black Lodge.
They reach a small, one-story motel and Cooper goes to the office to check in. While Diane stares in his direction, she briefly sees a double of herself, staring back.
This might indicate that she is somehow aware of the “unofficial version,” and her rape in that timeline. The fact that she still has red hair and black and white nails indicates that somewhere she retains her experiences in the “unofficial version,” despite the fact that it occurred in another timeline and is most likely buried deeplt within her psyche. Unconsciously, she also may be beginning to split from the painful thing she is about to do–disassociating from the trauma she senses is coming. Perhaps she senses the path that will lead to her to identify herself as “Linda,” and to see Cooper as “Richard.”
“Come Over Here to Me”
Cooper and Diane enter hotel room number 7. Of course, 4-3-0 adds up to 7. It is David Lynch’s lucky number, and, in numerology, the number of the spiritual quest. “Turn off the light,” Cooper says to Diane. “Now it’s dark…” as the demonic Frank Booth would say in Blue Velvet, a David Lynch film starring both Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern. Diane asks, “What do we do now?” and Cooper replies, “You come over here to me.”
Cooper and Diane have arrived in Judy’s dimension, but now they need to call her to their location.
Diane and Cooper begin to have sex, in a very unsettling and disturbing scene. As we know, Cooper’s doppelganger raped Diane, and Diane appears to relive the trauma while having sex with Cooper. She cries and is extremely emotional and disturbed during this scene.
Considering Diane’s red hair and black and white nails, the scene also become a powerful representation of Cooper’s embrace of the Black Lodge. Cooper of course sees this as a necessary action for the greater good–the garmonbozia that results from it will begin sequence of events that will lead him to Judy.
In Part 8 we see the Woodsmen, Bob, and Judy enter our world, called by a nuclear bomb explosion. In Part 18 Judy is called by something much more intimate—our best man Agent Cooper intentionally inflicting profound suffering upon Diane, a character he cares about deeply.
The Platters song “My Prayer” accompanies both scenes in Part 8 and Part 18, and is an absolutely perfect choice. It draws strong parallels between the two sequences. There is a sense of innocence to the song, yet it can also be read as describing evil’s corrupting influence: “When the twilight has gone you come into my heart, And here in my heart you will stay….” In both scenes innocence is lost, and evil is on its way.
Cooper seems to consciously switch off his empathy for Diane in this scene, in order to complete his mission. He is cold and passionless. He allows Diane to cover his eyes during sex—an indication that Cooper is beginning to lose his vision and, in some ways, himself.
“This is Where You’ll Find Judy”
David Lynch’s works often deal with the nature of evil. In the beginning of INLAND EMPIRE, a character played by Grace Zabriski—the same actress who plays Sarah Palmer—tells Laura Dern’s character a parable:
“A boy went went out to play. When he opened his door, he saw the world. As he passed through the doorway, he caused a reflection. Evil was born. Evil was born, and followed the boy.”
The desire to participate in the world inevitably brings with it evil impulses. Lynch seems to be saying that evil is an inescapable part of human nature and human experience. Clinical psychologist Jordan B Peterson, quoting Russian writer Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, states “the line between good and evil runs down every human’s heart.”
In Part 8, a Woodsman, while holding the fracturing skull of a terrified disc jockey, sends a strange message to the other dark entities who feast upon garmonbozia: “This is the water, and this is the well,” he says. That is, humans are full of suffering, but humans are also the source of suffering—the water and the well. He continues: “The horse is the white of the eyes, and dark within.” In a manner of speaking, Judy, the extreme negative force associated with the pale horse, lies within all of us. She resides within our hearts, in a sense. It is no coincidence that we see the “extreme negative force” enter a child at the end of Part 8. Evil is born of the mere fact of participation in the world.
“A Plan that Could Lead Us to Judy”
While evil resides within the human heart, there are ways to get closer to it, to bring it out and manifest it in the world. One of the ways we see dramatized in Season Three is to decrease our empathy for our fellow human beings. By not caring for others, we take steps towards evil and towards Judy. The less we care, the closer we get to evil. A nuclear bomb might be considered the ultimate expression of a lack of empathy, and in Twin Peaks we see that the detonation of the first atomic bomb calls forth the evil entities which haunt the town and the world.
In his book Nuremberg Diary, G.M. Gilbert, a US Army psychologist responsible for Nazi prisoners during the Nuremberg Trials, wrote:
In my work with the defendants I was searching for the nature of evil and I now think I have come close to defining it. A lack of empathy. It’s the one characteristic that connects all the defendants, a genuine incapacity to feel for their fellow men.
Evil, I think, is the absence of empathy.
In his book The Science of Evil, Simon Baron-Cohen calls this “empathy erosion.” Empathy erosion begins when people start to treat others as if they were objects. Baron-Cohen links this trait not only to the horrors of the Nazis, but to atrocities all across the globe.
In Part 18, we see Cooper begin to treat Diane and Laura as if they were objects–as pawns or weapons in his battle against Judy. Consequently, there is a loss of empathy in Cooper. He becomes harder.
“I Don’t Recognize You Anymore”
In his work Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche has a warning for those who battle evil:
Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
Spending so much time in the presence of evil—Cooper was in the Black Lodge for two twenty-five year stints—and going down an evil path changes you, even if your ultimate goal is to fight evil. We see that in Cooper in Part 18. Cooper starts down a dark path and it changes him. His demeanor is harder. His voice becomes more Mr. C-like. Despite having great feeling for both Diane and Laura, he begins to act as if they were both objects. And in doing so, he takes steps towards Judy.
“I’m Not Me”
The question of identity has been a central concern in David Lynch works, especially Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and INLAND EMPIRE. That concern is equally present in Season Three of Twin Peaks. The season deals with doppelgangers, tulpas, and possession by evil entities. At different times during Season Three both Diane and Audrey, realizing something is wrong with who they are and their realities, cry, “I’m not me!”
Season Three explores how the darkness of our environment affects us, impacting our actions, our mental states, and our identities. Some of the central questions of Season Three are: Who are we? And, in this dark age, what have we become?
After his sex scene with Diane in Part 18, the question is: what has Cooper become in his quest to stop Judy?
“Cooper, Cooper, Cooper”
Cooper’s journey shows us the path to Judy—the less we care about others, the closer we get to evil.
But has Cooper himself become evil? I’d say no.
First of all, it is important to remember that Diane, at least in the “unofficial version,” seems to be a conscious and willing participant in the plan that will lead to her suffering, in another timeline and in another dimension.
Secondly, Cooper’s actions were part of a plan to stop a greater evil, a malevolent force which is wreaking havoc upon Twin Peaks and the world. Peterson defines evil as “the conscious effort to produce suffering when suffering is not necessary.” While Cooper intentionally causes suffering, it is both allowed by Diane–in at least one dimension and timeline–and necessary for the greater good.
By embracing the darkness within himself and decreasing his empathy, Cooper becomes a third persona–no longer the Cooper we know from Seasons One and Two, but not Mr. C either. He becomes a third version of himself.
“What the Fuck Just Happened?”
The sex between Cooper and Diane was an intentional ploy to attract Judy with a massive release of garmonbozia. It is an explosion of pain and sorrow that will draw the dark entity to it. And even though Diane was raped in another timeline, the pain and damage it caused transcends time and space. We see this in Part 12 as well, when Albert knocks on Gordon’s hotel room door. Before seeing Albert, Gordon has a vision of Laura’s pain. That pain is real and is out there, in the ether, beyond the boundaries of time and space. Diane still has the memories of her pain deep within her being, and she cannot help but release them when she has sex with a person who resembles the man who raped her.
Cooper wakes up and the world had changed. “We are like the dreamer who dreams and lives inside the dream.” The dreamer has come and created a new dream now, a new world.
Diane assumes the identity of Linda, presumably repressing the memory of Diane. We saw similar character arcs in Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive and INLAND EMPIRE–in each of those films lead characters assume separate identities in an effort to escape their actions and their situations. Linda now sees Cooper as Richard. She breaks it off him, telling him not to find her and that she doesn’t recognize him anymore.
Cooper goes outside and notices that the motel is different, and his surroundings are different. His vintage car is gone, reflecting a loss of innocence, replaced by the same model car that Mr. C drove.
He takes the car into the town of Odessa, Texas, where he notices the “Eat at Judy’s” coffee shop, with a small white horse for kids out front. He goes inside looking for Laura. The waitress there, Kristi, tells Cooper that Laura isn’t there. She tells him it is Laura’s third day off—a definite Christ reference.
Three cowboys in another booth begin harassing Kristi. The dreamworlds created by these dark creatures are not happy places. Cooper intervenes though, coming to her rescue. It is a definite sign he’s not Mr. C, but rather something that has integrated both the light and dark aspects of his personality.
After shooting and disarming the cowboys—it seems that everyone in Judy’s world is armed and violent—Cooper puts their guns in the deep fryer. He warns those in the restaurant that the hot oil might ignite the bullets, threatening everyone inside. He gets Laura’s address and continues his quest to find her.
“The Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane”
Cooper drives to Laura’s address. Outside of her house he sees a telephone pole with the same markings–the distinctive number 6—as a pole that was in the Fat Trout Trailer Park in Deer Meadow, where Agent Chester Desmond disappeared after finding a green Black Lodge ring underneath the Chalfont trailer. A pole with identical markings was near the accident where the little boy was killed by Richard in Part 6. In Fire Walk With Me, we heard the Arm’s whooping sounds coming from this pole. Andy sees the pole in Odessa in a vision when he visits the Fireman. Cooper hears black fire electricity coming from it when he arrives at Laura’s house. It seems clear that the pole is a conduit transferring black fire back to the Black Lodge.
Cooper knocks on her door. Laura answers, but she is not Laura—she identifies as “Carrie Page.” Just as Diane became Linda, Laura has assumed a new identity in this dreamworld. And Judy has a definite reason for this.
Judy seems to have tortured Carrie all these years in this dreamworld. When Cooper identifies himself as an FBI agent, Carrie ask excitedly, “Did you find him?” It is never made clear who was missing, or why she wants the authorities to find him. But she needs to “get out of Dodge” for some reason. Strangely, there is a dead body in Carrie Page’s house, along with guns, indicating some type of criminal activity. Perhaps this refers to the man Bobby shot in Fire Walk With Me, while Laura was with him, in a drug deal gone bad.
She seems to have made a meager living as a waitress and a caretaker, judging from the equipment by her door. She tells Cooper that she has no food in her house. And of course she works at Judy’s diner, and wears a necklace with an upside down horseshoe, indicating bad luck.
Carrie doesn’t recognize Cooper. Neither does she recognize the names “Laura” or “Leland.” But she does recognize something when Sarah’s name is mentioned. She knows something is not right. And because she needs to leaves town, she agrees to go with Cooper to Twin Peaks.
Before leaving Cooper notices something odd on Laura’s mantle. There is a large blue plate with a white horse in front of it. To the right of it there is a smaller globe, which looks like Earth.
I think this detail is critical–it indicates that Judy, Cooper, and Laura are somewhere beyond Earth.
Carrie and Cooper leave for Twin Peaks. Cooper believes he’s taking Laura there to confront Judy. He thinks that the light in Laura will destroy the darkness in Sarah Palmer. But Judy is smarter than that, and has other plans.
“Is Someone Following Us?”
Carrie and Cooper make the long trip to Twin Peaks. The dread builds as we anticipate a final confrontation between light and dark, good and evil. As I mentioned, Twin Peaks has always been about the struggle between these two forces, and we seem to be building to a climax.
Carrie’s dread increases as she believes they’re being pursued, perhaps by Judy. A car turns around to follow them and for a long while we see the headlights of the other car behind them. Eventually the car passes and Carrie relaxes a bit.
As Carrie drifts off to sleep, we get hints that Laura’s identity is beginning to break through. Perhaps referring to her time in Twin Peaks, she says: “In those days, I was too young to know any better.”
The dread builds further as they approach Twin Peaks and we anticipate the confrontation with Judy. As they drive through town we see the Double R, but notably it lacks the “RR to Go” tag line we’ve seen in Season Three. They approach the Palmer house, but it too is slightly different than what we’ve seen in Season Three–the yard is well maintained, where Sarah Palmer’s yard was overgrown, showing signs of neglect.
Carrie doesn’t recognize anything she sees. Nevertheless, Cooper takes her by the hand, as he did in Part 17, and leads her towards the Palmer house. He is attempting to complete what he started when he first took her hand in Part 17. The dread becomes almost unbearable as they knock on the door.
A woman we haven’t seen before answers the door. Cooper seems surprised and confused that it’s not Sarah Palmer/Judy. The woman doesn’t recognize Sarah Palmer’s name and says that Sarah is not in the house. The woman gives her name as Alice Tremond, and says that the home used to owned by someone name Chalfont. Both the names Tremond and Chalfront are associated with places where Black Lodge entities have lived—in Episode 8 of Season Two and in Fire Walk With Me, respectively. Those names indicate that an evil entity was once there, but is no longer. “Alice” of course might also refer to Alice in Wonderland.
Cooper apologizes for disturbing her. We hear the wind blow as they return to the street. Wind in Twin Peaks, I believe, is a sign of Judy.
Cooper then begins to slowly realize that something is gravely wrong. He stares at the ground, walking very oddly walk in the street. Something about his movements seems similar to the way entities move in the Black Lodge. “What year is this?” he says, echoing Jeffries’ confusion when he appeared in the FBI office in Fire Walk With Me. He seems to realize that he is unstuck from time and lost, just as Jeffries got unstuck from time and lost in Fire Walk With Me, after following Judy.
Laura stares at the house, and we sense that her memories are awakening. We see the terror grow exponentially on her face.
Judy provides the spark that is needed to start the explosion of garmonbozia, by calling out “Laura!” We heard Sarah make the same call in the pilot episode.
The entire horror of her life as a victim of incest comes rushing back and Laura’s terrified screams echo into the night. Cooper spins around in shock, perhaps realizing that they’ve been manipulated by Judy. With Laura’s cry, we, as viewers, are taken back to Laura’s pain, and to the start of the series.
With the release of garmobozia, the dream ends. The purpose of the dream was to get Laura to relive her trauma, and release the overwhelming pain and sorrow she feels as she remembers what happened to her. By finding Laura in Odessa and making the long trip to Twin Peaks, Cooper enabled this. He led her to the place where her trauma began, helping her slowly build her garmonbozia to the point where it could explode in a final terrifying scream.
Cooper unknowingly helped Judy get the garmonbozia she was denied when Cooper interfered with the timeline and prevented Laura’s death. But I believe Judy was not the only one manipulating Cooper in these final scenes.
“Two Birds With One Stone”
As discussed above, at the start of Season Three the Fireman gave Cooper a vague set of instructions, which he seems to comprehend:
Richard and Linda.
Two birds with one stone.
In Part 17, when Gordon Cole reveals his knowledge of Judy to Albert and Tammy, he indicates how Cooper understands the final phrase:
Now, the last thing Cooper told me was, “If I disappear, like the others, do everything you can to find me. I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone.”
Since Bob and Judy are the two evil entities that we are aware of, it’s likely that Cooper means he’s trying to destroy both of them, and that perhaps his plan is his “one stone.”
When the Fireman gives his first two instructions, Cooper probably thinks they are part of his larger plan to destroy these two entities. Going 430 miles from Twin Peaks and becoming Richard and Linda are necessary steps in his overall goal of killing two birds.
“I understand,” Cooper says, after hearing the three instructions. But for all of Cooper’s assurance, he may have misunderstood what the Fireman was saying to him. “You are far away,” the Fireman says to Cooper. Perhaps he was far away from understanding as well. Perhaps it’s Cooper’s hubris that led him there, believing that he can destroy these two powerful entities himself. While we see Cooper do god-like things with the power of the Black Lodge, it is hubris to think that he can operate at the level of Judy and the Fireman. Or that he can destroy evil once and for all. Evil, our myths tell us, can never fully be destroyed. Without evil there is no good. Without darkness there is no light. Hubris was a great sin in Greek drama, and, as stated above, Mark Frost was inspired by Greek drama when writing Season Three. It seems likely that Cooper is guilty of hubris.
The Fireman is very likely aware of what is going to happen, and of Cooper’s ignorance, and yet sends him 430 miles anyways. Why? What could this accomplish?
We’ve already seen that Laura—the representation of good–cannot be destroyed. Likewise, as stated above, I think that Judy—the representation of evil—cannot be destroyed either. While Bob was obliterated, he is something that was vomited up from a source that looks a lot like Judy. Perhaps Judy, in all the forms she takes, is the ultimate source, and therefore indestructible.
While it may not be possible to destroy evil, it is possible to lead it away from us.
The Fireman obviously has a plan to counter Judy, and I speculate that that plan is to draw her away from “our house,” away from Twin Peaks, where it is doing so much damage. When Cooper and Diane crossed, I believe they travelled to another place, away from Earth. The white horse in front of the large, planet-like plate on Carrie Page’s mantlepiece indicates that Judy is there, and not at the smaller Earth-like globe. The pale horse, a sign of Judy, has gone to the other, larger globe. Judy has been pulled away from Earth by the promise of Laura’s garmonbozia, and Cooper is needed to help release that garmonbozia.
By “two birds with one stone,” the Fireman might’ve meant that his plan, his “one stone,” was to pull Judy away from “our house” and nullify the damage she was doing on Earth by sacrificing “two birds”—Laura and Cooper.
I believe the Fireman intended to satisfy Judy’s insatiable need for garmonbozia with the suffering of his pure and indestructible creation, the Laura orb.
In Part 8, when the Fireman is first alerted to the fact that Bob and Judy are headed to Earth, he goes into a dream-like state, generating the Laura orb from his mind. The Fireman’s female counterpart, Senorita Dido, then kisses the orb with great love before sending it to Earth. The kiss is an act of compassion, but it also might give her the strength she needs to endure the suffering she is destined to face.
While in the Black Lodge in Part 2, Cooper asks Laura’s spirit when he can go. Laura’s spirit kisses Cooper compassionately, as Senorita Dido had done with her. She is perhaps giving Cooper the strength he needs to endure his own trials against dark forces. She whispers something in Cooper’s ear, to which he says, with sadness and resignation, “Huh.” Laura’s spirit is then pulled away into the darkness beyond the curtains of the Black Lodge.
We see the shot of Laura’s spirit whispering to Cooper again at the very end of Part 18. It is the final image of Season Three, which highlights its importance. We can only speculate about what she said to Cooper when he asked, “When can I go?” I speculate that she said “Never.” That their destiny will be to forever battle against this darkness. That while they may never win, they will hold it at bay by fighting it for an eternity. Just as Hell is bottomless, Judy’s need for garmonbozia is endless. But Laura’s supernatural origin gives her an unlimited capacity for suffering, and the unlimited strength she needs to take it and endure. The more she recognizes her essential goodness, as she did at the end of Fire Walk With Me, the better she will be. Cooper’s desire to do what is right is also endless, and he will never give up that fight. Perhaps the Fireman realized that, in theory, Judy could be occupied with these two forever. That for an eternity she could create scenarios with the forces good, evil, and a human (or humans–Diane is there, maybe Chet Desmond is there as well) trying to navigate the two. That while Laura’s suffering and the Judy’s need for suffering would never end, neither would Cooper’s attempts to alleviate suffering. That it’s a potentially endless battle, just as the clash between good and evil–the struggle at the very heart of Twin Peaks–is also endless.
“Laura is the One”
Twin Peaks shows that even the best of us, which Cooper represents, can take steps on the path towards darkness. But it also shows us how to turn away from that path.
While Cooper becomes harder in his quest to find Judy, Laura’s cry in the final moments alerts him to the fact that he’s been helping to feed Judy all along. Laura’s scream reminds him, and us, of her pain and suffering. The final image of Season Three implies that we should listen.
In Episode 4, Bobby Briggs delivers an impromptu speech at Laura Palmer’s funeral:
You damn hypocrites, make me sick! Everybody knew she was in trouble. But we didn’t do anything. All you good people. You want to know who killed Laura? You did. We all did.
In a famous quote attributed to Edmund Burke, he states, “All that’s needed for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.” Empathy can lead to compassion, and inspire good people like Cooper to take action against evil. But not having empathy and compassion allows evil to grow.
In the end, Laura’s scream is a cry for compassion. Her great value to the world–and possibly the reason she was sent to Earth–is that through her suffering she will open our hearts to compassion. It is through compassion that evil will ultimately be defeated. In that sense, Laura is clearly a Christ-like figure.
In the Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell states of Christ that “the Son of God came down into this world to be crucified to awaken our hearts to compassion…” (143).
In Twin Peaks, there are many inescapable references that point to Laura’s Christ-like nature:
- The Fireman creates Laura as a being of pure light and sends her Earth, in response to dark forces invading Earth. Laura reveals her nature to Cooper when she removes the mask of her face and the pure white light of her being shines forth. Christ is also referred to as the light.
- In the final scene in Fire Walk With Me, Laura has a vision of an angel as she’s stuck in the Black Lodge. She realizes the goodness of her nature, after doubting it the entire movie. When The Fireman shows Andy images in Part 14, we see Laura in the Black Lodge framed by two angels. Christ too had an essentially good, divine nature.
- Laura’s spirit tells Cooper twice that “Sometimes my arms bend back.” This refers both to being tied up but also to a pose resembling Christ on the cross. Albert mimics this pose when he describes how Laura was tied up.
- In Odessa, Kristi the waitress says that Carrie, aka Laura, has gone for three days. Christ was gone for three days after his crucifixion.
- In the end Laura body and spirit are resurrected. First Cooper goes back in time and saves her from death. Judy takes her away to Odessa and masks her spirit with the Carrie Page persona. Cooper helps resurrect Laura’s spirit by returning her to the Palmer residence, where her memories come flooding back.
Laura was sent to Earth in response to our greatest sin–the use of atomic weapons, which attracts forces of unspeakable darkness. She dies combatting these forces, before being brought back to life. In this sense, like Christ, she dies for our sins before being resurrected.
Just as Christ suffered in order to open mankind’s hearts to compassion, so Laura suffers. When Laura screams at the end of Part 18, we are reminded of the point of Twin Peaks in the first place—to understand, empathize with, and have compassion for the hidden suffering of Laura Palmer.
And compassion for one can lead to compassion for many. As the Log Lady states in the introduction for the pilot episode of Twin Peaks: “The one leading to the many is Laura Palmer. Laura is the One.”
“The Good Ones”
While Twin Peaks starts with an exploration of Laura Palmer’s life, it quickly expands to explore the lives of others in the town. And while Laura’s journey is designed show a way out of darkness by awakening compassion, Season Three provides many examples of ways we can pull ourselves out of the darkness:
- Perhaps one of the funniest ways that Season Three illustrates this is through Cooper’s Dougie arc in Las Vegas. When Cooper comes back to the world in Part 3, he returns in a low-functioning, zombie-like state. One of the few things he can do is to parrot the last word that was spoken to him. He has to be led around by others, with little self-drive. In this state Cooper allows others the space to speak for themselves and deal with their own problems. He appears to be listening, even though externally he is simply repeating the last thing they said. His parroting behavior is not unlike psychologists who allow their patients to reveal their own issues, and discover their own solutions, simply by repeating their questions back to them. In this way the zombie-like Cooper becomes a better partner for Janey-E, and a better father for Sonny Jim. His behavior allows the Lucky Seven insurance salesman Sinclair to come to terms with his own corruption and repent.
- Dr. Jacoby, through his hilarious and bizarre YouTube persona Dr. Amp, encourages others to “shovel yourself out of the shit.” He sells golden shovels as symbols of this effort. He encourages his listeners to take responsibility for their own problems and find their own solutions. Nadine takes this to heart, ending years of suffering for her husband Ed, and setting him free to pursue the love of his life, Norma.
- After Laura’s death, and before his disappearance, Garland Briggs shared with his son Bobby a vision for his future. Bobby responded to this positive vision and encouragement by turning his life around. He turned away from drugs and crime. In Season Three, we learn he has become a respected and trusted member of the Twin Peaks police force and a valued community member.
- Bobby and his ex-wife Shelley give their daughter Becky the support she needs to turn away from the dark path her husband Steven is on, a path that will eventually lead to his suicide.
- Sheriff Frank Truman demonstrates a tremendous amount of patience and steadiness when dealing with his wife, who is severely destabilized by the suicide of their son. His patience is tested only by a tribute from Lucy and Andy’s son, Wally Brando.
- Lucy and Andy, with their choice of a chair, demonstrate that sacrificing and making the ones you care about happy is more important than getting what you want in the short term. They seem to have found the secret to a happy life together.
- Even the previously villainous Ben Horne is attempting to pull himself out of the darkness. We see him taking care of his brother Jerry when he becomes lost in the woods after tripping out on his own drug-infused bread. We see him pay for medical expenses incurred from the violence of his grandson, Richard. We sense his remorse at his own failings as a parent, as he tells a story about his father giving him a bike. And finally he rebuffs his subordinate Beverly when she attempts to initiate an adulterous affair with him–although he appears to give in after a conflict over money with his ex-wife Sylvia. Some things never truly change.
- The real master of empathy and compassion in Twin Peaks though is Carl Rodd, the owner of the “New” Fat Trout Trailer Park. In Fire Walk With Me he says he’s “already been places”–implying interactions with Black Lodge entities. In Season Three we see him follow a definite path away from darkness. We see his comforting a mother after her child is run down in the street by Richard. We see him spring into action to help Shelley after her daughter Becky runs off with her car and a gun, calling Bobby Briggs to intervene. And we see him refuse to take rent from a trailer park resident who has been helping around the property and selling his plasma for food.
In many ways, Season Three is a virtual empathy machine. In most cases, the passage of time has made these characters wiser, more responsible, and more compassionate. As demonstrated in Twin Peaks, time can be a great teacher. It makes us who we are.
“But Who is the Dreamer?”
In the real world beyond Twin Peaks, we too are living in a dark age, contending with time and the forces of good and evil. Increasingly we live in a world of tribalism, lacking empathy and compassion for those outside our own tribes. This is a path that will lead us to Judy and to darkness.
Who is the dreamer? In reality, we are all dreamers. We dream our lives and live inside those dreams. But what type of dreams will they be, dreams of evil or dreams of compassion? Will Judy or the Fireman inspire our dreams?
We are living in a dark age, but we can choose a different path.
At the end of Season Three, I’m back to the question I had when the season began. But now the question is more important than the answer, because it is a question which applies to all of us.
Does Coop ever make it out of the Black Lodge?
But more importantly, will we?
Film and Television Projects:
Blue Velvet (1986)
INLAND EMPIRE (2006)
Mulholland Drive (2001)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)
Twin Peaks, Season One, Two and Three (1990-91, 2017)
Baron-Cohen, Simon. The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origin of Cruelty. New York: Basic Books. 2011.
Campbell, Joseph. The Power of Myth. New York: Anchor Books, Doubleday. 1988.
Frost, Mark. The Secret History of Twin Peaks. New York: Flatiron Books. 2016.
Frost, Mark. The Final Dossier. New York: Flatiron Books. 2017.
Gilbert, G.M. Nuremberg Diary. New York: Farrar, Straus and Company. 1947.
Lynch, David. Lynch on Lynch. Ed. Ed Rodley. London: Faber and Faber. 1997.
Lynch, David. Catching the Big Fish. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin. 2006.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. New York: Pinnacle Press. 2017.
The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: Meridian. November 1974.
Online Resources and Articles:
Log Lady introductions. Twin Peaks Wiki.
Agathon. The Quotations Page.
Vasquez, Zach. Fix Your Hearts or Die: The Startling Empathy of David Lynch. Bright Wall/Dark Room. August 25, 2017.
Reed, Ryan. The Last Word on “Twin Peaks” by David Lynch’s Co-Creator Mark Frost. Salon. November 7, 2017.
Peterson, Jordan B. My Message to Millennials: How to Change the World—Properly. Jordan B Peterson YouTube Channel. November 8, 2016.
Burke, Edmond. The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is That Good Men Do Nothing. Quote Investigator. December 4, 2010.