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I think we can all agree that season three of Twin Peaks was nothing short of magnificent. However, few can agree on what actually happened. While this may sound insane to anybody who is not yet caught up on the series (do your homework!), those of us who did stick it out to the end were left perplexed by the ending of the finale. While, at least for me personally, the ending seemed to make sense in the way that it felt right, there was really no rational explanation for what we had all witnessed. The ending of episode 17 felt to many to be an adequate ending, so we all knew we were in for something special when we continued to episode 18. From the mad moments in both episodes—such as the jump of Frank's hat when Lucy shot Mr. C.—to the intense, dark ones—such as Carrie (Laura?!) and her haunting drive to Twin Peaks, as well as that resonating scream, we were in for a good ride.
I have drawn charts, diagrams, tables. I have scoured the internet and searches through the depths of my brain but I cannot figure out a cohesive, chronological explanation for what we witnessed. Therefore, this will be less of a theory and more of a critical evaluation of the final two episodes.
Ever since the airing of the finale there have been more fan theories about what really went on than I can possibly count. It is my opinion that there was no better ending to this series than something guaranteed to ensure we talk about it for a long time afterwards, and that the way it was done in some form of cyclical structure made my inner perfectionist happy. There was a sense of completeness to the finale. Fan theories have ranged from the whole series being a dream, to complex calculations about what year it is. Having read so many of these that my head was spinning, I decided to figure out exactly what my opinion was. Initially after viewing, I didn't think to hard about it (for my own sanity!), and I wanted to explore other options with an open mind, before I came to my own conclusion. However, coming to any conclusion at all proved far more difficult than I expected it to be.
For me, the idea that the whole series was a dream didn't ring true. While I see that it makes sense as a way of explanation—especially with the scream Laura makes in the final scene being identical to that in the original series—it seems like a cop-out, and something that seems pointless when you think of it from a narrative point of view. To me, the everlasting question "Who is the dreamer?" was philosophical and not intended to be answered, much less intended to be explanatory. It can be argues that the same can be said of "What year is this?" but I don't see it that way. I think, instead of being a cheap solution to an unsolvable narrative, it is a question that sends chills down the spine, and can be used to form an explanation of the series.
The Chalfont/Tremond situation is the aspect that I find most confusing about the whole puzzle. I feel like without that, we could be able to assume the issue really was one of being in another time, possibly even one where Laura Palmer was not raised as Laura Palmer, and was possibly even born to another mother. What strikes me about this, is that because of the name of the woman who know owns the Palmer house and the name of the woman who previously owned the Palmer house, we could quite possibly be in another timeline, and another dimension where things don't necessarily happen chronologically. To this end, Carrie Page may never have lived as Laura Palmer. It is possible that Cooper managed to edit the timeline so far back that she may not even have had the same parents, and yet somehow is in some way the 'same' person. Laura is the one.
It is therefore my opinion and my interpretation that what we see is as follows:
One simple thing: I believe the reason Cooper's 115 key works in the "basement" could easily be explained by a refurbishment and subsequent development above the great northern, and the old bedroom could now be on a lower abandoned level. This wouldn't make much sense, but it would explain it. But this still wouldn't explain how Cooper knew where the door would be!
And Mike, the one-armed-man, why does he live here? Has he gone back into this world to join the spirit of BOB (these are not rhetorical questions, if you have an idea do let me know!)?
Philip Jefferies, a kettle? While we have all been reassured that Philip Jefferies in indeed not intended to be a kettle, it is difficult not to think of him as such. I suppose in my head his spirit is still alive, and he had to sacrifice his physical body in order to obtain extra-terrestrial powers and knowledge. For he certainly seems to know an awful lot. He knows where to find Judy, that Gordon Cole will remember the unofficial version of events, etc. This says to me that he has gained some powers in exchange for his physical self, although why this might be is not clear. Judy as something itself, well, I suppose we had that explained. I see Judy as the means for time travel and ability to alter the timeline, however some people perceived Sarah Palmer to be housing Judy, and this seems like it could also be plausible.
I think we can all agree that the scene where we see re-used footage from Fire Walk With Me in black and white is beautiful. The syncing of Laura's scream to Agent Cooper's presence feels cinematically perfect, and gives me chills on every re-watch. Although I must admit, second only to Bob's unusual destruction and demise, the hardest part of the whole season for me was accepting that Laura Palmer is in fact alive.
Next comes the question, why does Cooper lose Laura's hand in the bridge between episodes? It is my interpretation that in messing with the timeline, Cooper did save Laura, but he made it so that she would no longer be where she was when he found her, due to the different events that would have occurred. However, these events would have changed AFTER this moment, as obviously Laura is still alive when he leads her away, so perhaps he changed more than he realised.
Sarah Palmer's frenzied stabbing of Laura's photograph symbolises two main things for me. Firstly that Laura can not be destroyed. No matter how much she attacks the image with glass her photograph remains untarnished. She is safe with Cooper now. Secondly, that Sarah is angry because if she is indeed Judy, the power
Opening with the conclusive imagery of Mr. C. burning and "Dougie" returning to his family, I had a feeling things were about to take a sudden change form the first time I watched this episode... Surely, Lynch and Frost wouldn't make it this straightforward for us? And of course, this assumption proved correct with what happened next.
The relationship between Cooper and Diane we see ever since they find themselves in a room together is... strange. Initially I thought nothing of their relationship, but after some thought (when my mind finally stopped reeling!) I realised it was odd. Cooper mentioned Annie to Diane several times in series 2, and there was never any sexual context between them until now. However all in all they have known each other of a long time and they used to be work partners, so I suppose it's not so strange. I also suspect Diane may have always had feelings for Cooper. The biggest baffle is what they "cross" in their car. The scenery becomes immediately dark and they seem to be somewhere new entirely. At the motel, Diane doesn't seem concerned that she sees a doppelganger of herself. My theory on this is either that they have entered a new timeline where a version of themselves already exists, or Diane has seen so many crazy things that she is unfased. The fact that the two of them sleep together in the motel raises a question: did they do this because they wanted to, or did they do this because it opened some kind of spiritual pathway? The music playing in the background is the same as that playing during the radio station takeover in episode 8. It could therefore be symbolic of spiritual change. But the way Diane says "What do we do now?" makes the act of sex seem like more of a formality that a choice.
Upon Cooper's awakening, two things are noticeable. Firstly the note naming them Richard and Linda, and then slightly more subtly the fact that he is leaving a different motel to the one they entered. This supports the idea that their sex changed something and perhaps allowed them to properly be in the new timeline. As to what became of Diane, I cannot tell you. Perhaps in whatever world this is, she serves a separate purpose somewhere else.
Cooper (Richard?!) is now on a mission, "Find Laura!" How exactly he tries to do this seems to me to depend a lot on him using his intuition.
Perhaps Richard and Linda are who they really are, in the real world they created as Diane and Cooper, where everything is different. She might not recognise him anymore, as she doesn't remember the "official" version where she was Diane? Throughout all of the rest of the episode, Cooper doesn't seem to act like himself. He is not chirpy, nor so enthusiastic. But there is no mistaking him for Mr. C. He is slow, as though all of this shifting between worlds and lodges has damaged him in some way.
If Carrie Page really is another incarnation of Laura who lives instead of Laura, then her life seems to have turned out almost as tragically as that of the real Laura Palmer. She is living in fear, expecting the FBI, living with a dead man in her front room, desperate to escape from her town. It is worth noting at this point that Sheryl Lee's acting is superb, keeping up tension throughout every single one of her scenes. Her on-screen chemistry with Kyle MacLachlan is nothing short of stunning.
Her petrifying scream in the final seconds and the way the electricity blows out of the entire street seems to show some power that Carrie holds over electricity. If this is true, whoever she is, she has the essence to overpower the evil that travels through electricity This is a triumph. To me there seems to be something so perfect about the ending that I can't quite put my finger on. Something that feels right about Cooper and Laura being at the Palmer house and Laura hearing Sarah's call and Alice Tremond answering the door to them of a house she bought from Mrs. Chalfont. I can't explain why but the ending feels euphoric to me, and the scream is so perfect, as is the haunting idea that we have absolutely no idea what year it is. Where has Cooper taken Laura?! There is no trace she ever belonged in Twin Peaks now.
I suppose what we can take from all of this is the positive that Laura Palmer is alive... if you find that a positive anyway!
Despite everything that has been said though, there are really only two explanations for what really happened. One is that there is no straight narrative, and Lynch and Frost (let's be real, I suspect much of this aspect was Lynch) just created scenes that felt right to them. And the other is that there is a full narrative, but Lynch and Frost deliberately didn't give us quite enough clues to figure it out for ourselves, therefore leaving us guessing forevermore while they sit on their tidy narrative that makes perfect sense. It could even be a little bit of both.
Tantalizingly, we will probably never know what Laura whispered in Agent Cooper's ear. But this is a mystery that I enjoy. It isn't something I'm desperate to know, and I like to imagine she makes everything clear with one simple sentence (there's a good chance I'll spend the rest of my life hunting for what that sentence may be).
I am in love with the mystery.