Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Down the Rabbit Hole: Thoughts on Season 3

If there is a lesson to be learned from Twin Peaks: The Return, maybe it's to realize that everything changes. Sometimes in order to shed the weight of the past you need to let go of it, otherwise you get trapped in its loop. There is no going back. You can't go home again. Love it or hate it, by Part 18 of Season 3 it was clear that there are no true answers, only ideas, perceptions, and assumptions. It was a great cerebral ride that drew it's curtain call with more confusion than conclusion, but within that maybe a little haunting closure too.  

When parts 17 and 18 aired I was ready to not necessarily receive answers to everything, but to feel a sense of cohesion with the entire 18 hours. Instead, I was scratching my head in befuddlement. I have loved this show since I was a kid. Its return mattered to me, and yet my beloved Lynch and Frost murdered Twin Peaks before my very eyes. Are they just cruel? Do they really hate their fans that much? After such a terrific and engaging season, why would they choose to end it like...that? These were all questions I wrestled with. However, after thinking about it for awhile, as well as rewatching parts 17 and 18 a few times, I'm starting to feel differently.

The Return seems to be a beautiful homage to Lynch's body of work. On a whole, Season 3 was highly enjoyable, entertaining, and enigmatic. It offered modern reinvention with a retro flare. Fans got a true "Lynchian" experience, with fewer cups of coffee, far less pie, and none of the dreaded Season 2 plot disasters. From start to finish, Twin Peaks Season 3 was beyond the beyond. That is not to say it was without flaws, but what those flaws are or aren't truly depends on the individual.

My Observations & Interpretations

I contend that when Sarah/Judy/Mother smashes Laura's picture, it is not only a demonstration of frustration on the part of the entity in the story, but it is also Lynch/Frost, and maybe even a little bit of Sheryl Lee, smashing the iconic imagery of the original show into oblivion. I honestly think this is the most pivotal scene of the whole return for that reason. I feel it's fair to say that David Lynch, in particular, is a director who, although he never talks about it or admits it, has always expressed himself through his work. I feel like there may have been some pressure on Lynch/Frost to revive the show to what it had once been, but instead they decided to totally reinvent it. 

From the beginning of Season 3 many scenes appeared to be in a non-linear order. The structure of The Return in and of itself plays like a filmic puzzle. Some have suggested watching FWWM, then part 18, then the original series, then Parts 1 through 17. I find that interesting, and I might try that at some point. However, for now I'm taking it as it was aired. Plus I think looking at in the order it was aired makes certain things come together a bit more in hindsight. For example, at the end of Part 7 there was a lot of discussion about the how the final scene in the diner seemed to completely switch with different customers when the credits rolled. At the time there was much debate on whether that was just a mistake or whether it was a clue.

Looking back now, I don't think it was either. I think it was all part of the time looping Cooper was doing and the changes that occurred because of his actions. I think the same is true for many of the Sarah Palmer scenes in the Palmer house. First we saw her watching her television entranced by a nature show where lions kill a bison. Then we see her obviously looping during a scene where she's watching a boxing match. Then at the end of 17 we hear her moaning in the background, and then see her smash Laura's picture. I think it is possible those scenes were all on the same night. The other scenes we saw of her at the liquor store, talking with Hawk at the door and finally in the bar where she kills the, "truck you," guy, I believe came after.

 I always looked at the Dougie storyline as a journey Cooper's soul had to take to find himself. From the point in which he was made, "Non-exist-ent," in the Black Lodge, I felt he may have been asleep or on another plane of existence. Maybe it was all real, maybe it was all a dream, your guess is as good as mine. There's no doubt hardcore fans will discuss this for years, and in that way The Return is truly a gift. However, it does seem now, given the ending, that we spent a lot of time on Dougie and it didn't really have anything to do with the overall mythology of the series or FWWM. In some ways that's frustrating, but in other ways it was so much fun to take Dougie's journey that it was well worth it. Would the Dougie story have been more satisfying if it had gone on for let's say 6 episodes vs. 13? Or would it have been more satisfying if it had been broken into two separate seasons? I guess that depends on the viewer. It aired how it aired.

The Roadhouse scenes at times were fun, and at other times were a bit arduous. Perhaps they served as a method of demonstrating some of the troubled townsfolk in Twin Peaks. The music seemed to offer connections to the story, but outside of that I think the Roadhouse scenes just described the various lost souls that lingered in the town. Were they all part of someone's dream? Were they all tulpas or doppelgangers? I don't think we have enough information to answer those questions. Twin Peaks has a darkness in the woods, which is unique, and may have effected everyone, maybe that's all the understanding we'll ever have.

The Return seems to be a vehicle for Lynch/Frost to put their personal commentary about politics, and the state of the world today in a visual context. There is a sense that Lynch's adherence to Transcendental Meditation and Frost's political stances played heavily in The Return. From societal issues such as gun violence, drugs, infidelity, domestic abuse, and the destructiveness of atomic bombs to journey's of the subconscious on purple seas, entering worlds through electrical outlets and dreams, Season 3 was daring us to look deeper all along. Lynch/Frost weren't going to give the answers to those larger questions, because they don't know them either. I think they were telling us the answers are within all of us; with understanding comes enlightenment. "Dig yourself out of the shit!" Or perhaps I've had too little sleep, too much coffee, and way more Twin Peaks on the brain than is truly healthy. I'm still debating whether the ending was purposely ambiguous to give fans something to debate for years to come or a creative ploy to bring the show back for another season, maybe both.

By essentially undoing Laura's murder, hasn't she been sentenced to an endless looping cycle of abuse, doomed to repeat growing up in a house of horrors for infinity? I think that is my biggest issue with the ending. FWWM essentially suggests that Laura finds her angel in death and is free, thus her murder, although horribly tragic, had a purpose. What happens to that idea if Cooper stops her death? And who is to say she doesn't get killed at a different point in time despite his efforts? I believe that in The Secret History of Twin Peaks it says Laura died when she was 18, not 17 as it was in the original series. Could that mean she dies no matter what Dale does?

After Part 8 I think most fans, including myself, were under the impression that Sarah was the girl who had the flying creature crawl into her mouth. In the original series, although gifted with precognitive abilities, I always felt Sarah was truly devastated by Laura's death. Why would Leland need to drug her if she was inhabited by evil as well? I suppose you could argue that there is a juxtaposition effect to the story if Bob and his mother were both inhabiting the parents of Laura the one chosen to combat them. Given the reflective symbolism throughout Twin Peaks I can see why the idea of Sarah being the young girl with the bug in her mouth makes sense. But I think it's also possible that what happened to Sarah happened after Laura and Leland died. She was alone in that house, a house that seems to have a power in itself. I think she was vulnerable, in pain and perhaps allowed herself to be inhabited. As she states during the Turkey Jerky scene in Part 12, "Something happened to me!" but when that something truly occurred is still unknown.

I feel Laura or more likely, Cooper, is the dreamer within the context of the story. But I really don't think we have enough information to conclusively answer that question either. About 8 months ago I made a brief recording (4:18 minutes in), along with other fans in the community, stating our hopes and predictions for Season 3. Listen here --> Fan Predictions Podcast it's a short listen, and was fun to remember what I had said. Many of my wishes were granted in Season 3. Even more fun to recall that I said I thought Season 3 would either be a dream or maybe a time loop. I had been on a Lost Highway kick earlier this year, which made me gear up for the potential that new Twin Peaks could all be a dream. Mark's book (Secret History) had me thinking about time loops and time travel. Funny that Lynch and Frost sort of offered both scenarios to the viewer and let us, the fans, dictate our own interpretations. In that way I'd say, "we" are the dreamer.

In Part 17 during the extended scene in Frank Truman's office, I had the impression that we were experiencing Cooper's multiple time loops happening at the same time. In particular the scenes with Andy and Lucy, and how Andy placed Lucy in the right spot to shoot Mr. C gave me that feeling. When Cooper's face is transposed over the screen it seemed like that might be a call back to the first scene of he and The Fireman in Part 1. The Fireman tells him, "It is in our house now." Cooper first questions, "It is?" Then he appears to think for a moment. The Fireman tells him it can not be said aloud right now, but I think he shows Cooper in his mind's eye what is to come. When we see Cooper's face transposed over the screen in Part 17, I believe it's reflective of that moment. Similar to how he showed Andy important things in Part 14. That was just my take on the scene, but I think it can be interpreted in different ways.

Cooper has always been a flawed hero. It's sad to think that after twenty-five years in The Black Lodge Dale Cooper didn't learn from his mistakes, but maybe that's true of human nature. Dale emerged from his time as Dougie Jones with renewed vigor and certainty. He immediately jumped into action to execute his plan with Gordon Cole, The Fireman and apparently Major Briggs. However it seems that he forgot something along the way. Perhaps that something was that he never truly confronted his doppelganger, Mr. C. Let's not forget that failing to face his doppelganger with courage is what got Dale trapped in The Black Lodge in the first place. Maybe, and this is purely speculative on my part, he needed to finally face down that fear, but Lucy and Andy beat him to the punch. Could that be why the clock failed to reach 2:53? Did Dale arrive too late? He wasn't even the one to defeat bubble Bob. In an odd, but enjoyable, turn of events, it was green gloved Freddy who took Bob down.

Nikola Tesla, the inventor of AC (Alternating Current) in the late eighteen hundreds, had many theories about the power of electricity. including that through the use the electricity, and the earth's magnetic fields, it was theoretically possible to travel in time. It is said that Tesla even claimed to have seen the past, present and future at the same time after being struck by electricity. I find it fascinating how Twin Peaks plays with electricity, and its potential connection to time travel. It is my sense that David Lynch, an admitted fan of Tesla, is demonstrating Tesla's theories, in his Lynch way of course, on film.

There is an ancient theory about a supposed energy grid that surrounds the earth. Within this theory there is said to be points on the earth where great power can be harnessed. For example, it has been suggested that Stonehenge and the Great Egyptian Pyramids were built on some of these points. Connecting these points are supposed lines, or pathways, referred to as ley lines. I always felt the grid on the cover of The Secret History of Twin Peaks was a depiction of this. Is it possible that Twin Peaks exists at one of these points? Dale had to reach exactly 430 miles under a group of large power lines to reach his otherworldly destination with Diane. I feel like Lynch demonstrates the ability to cross over into other worlds, times, dimensions or dreams, depending on how you interpret it, as literally moving through electrical wires, crossing over great distances. That is the fundamental difference in Tesla's AC (Alternate Current) over Thomas Edison's DC (Direct Current), which was the dominate method of power at the time, AC allowed for electricity to travel far greater distances. Perhaps in Lynch's world those distances can cross over space and time.

In one of the more uncomfortable sex scenes in Lynch's collection, Diane and Cooper's love making was indeed a head scratcher. It's a particularly long scene in which Diane appears to grow increasingly more upset as the experience goes on. Cooper's face seems almost Mr. C like. So much so that she needs to cover his eyes to finish the act. In Mark's book (Secret History), he mentions the power of sex magic. Read --> here for more on this theory. Is it possible they were trying to open a portal, and Diane either didn't think it would work and/or was disgusted with Cooper and/or herself for what they were doing?

I've been looking at most of Part 18 like a prequel to Season 3 in the same way FWWM is to the original series. Is Richard Cooper's true identity? I'm not sure, and I hope not, because I don't like the idea that Cooper isn't really Cooper at all. Although many of have said, and I agree, that Richard seems to embody qualities of both Mr. C and Cooper. I'd like to think Richard is to Cooper what Carrie Paige is to Laura, which I suspect is just a variation in either a different dream or a different dimension. I'm speculating of course, but it was interesting that Carrie Paige lived under the number six electrical pole.

Laura's scream is not only a harrowing sound of terror, but perhaps it is also the whole point; the Garmonbozia of the world. Maybe nothing ever truly changes, and history just repeats itself in different variations. That thought would make any of us want to scream. Cooper tried to bring Laura home, but it didn't work. From the moment Cooper showed up on at Carrie's doorstep something didn't feel right. Carrie showed a moment of recognition at the name Sarah. The horse figurine on her mantel, and even the dead body in her living room, all seemed to point toward a symmetry to Laura's life.

On the long car ride from Odessa to Twin Peaks, I felt like there were shades of Laura bleeding into Carrie. Particularly when she says she didn't know better when she was younger. That comment, to me, had an undertone of abuse or trauma. By the time they get to Palmer house and discover Alice Tremond owns the house, and purchased it from the Chalfonts, it seemed to point to something supernatural afoot. Finally Cooper asks what year it it with a blurred 'Dead End' sign in the background, Carrie hears the faint call of Laura's name by Sarah from the original pilot, and screams in terror. Was she truly waking up at that moment?

In the original series we learned that Laura whispers, "My father killed me," into Dale's ear. However in the final moment of Part 18 when the credits role we see Laura whisper something unheard to Dale that clearly upsets him. It's a direct call back to their identical scene in Part 2 where Laura immediately screams and is sucked off into nowhere. Is it safe to assume that's the true beginning of the loop? Is it future or is it past? What year is this? Does that depend on the number of completions? And what does dear Laura say to Dale? I suppose there will be endless memes created by fans for years to come with potential phrases, but the truth is we will likely never know for certain. Some of us might love the potential in that, and others might find it maddening.

Final Thoughts

So many of my hopes for the new season were realized that no matter how mixed I feel about the ending, it doesn't take away from all that I adored about it. I had a blast all summer long, didn't you? I'm choosing to take away a lesson about moving forward from Season 3. Twin Peaks, old and new, will always hold a special place in my heart. They are both reflective of a time in entertainment history. They both mark a point in my life as well. It might sound silly to say, because of course I have other interests, hobbies and passions, but for some reason the power of Twin Peaks has always, and I suspect always will, haunt me.

Season 3 of Twin Peaks is a television miracle. That it returned at all after all these years is amazing, let alone that Lynch directed 18 hours exclusively written by he and Mark Frost. That's an amazing accomplishment. Creative freedom is a rarity in television. We wanted David Lynch and we got him. I think acceptance is important. Lynch and Frost took us down their rabbit hole and it was a beautiful journey. Twin Peaks can never be what it once was. It had to be something different this time around. The calls backs to the original series were there, but it's a different age. Perhaps instead of offering any conclusive ending, Twin Peaks offered us the possibility of endless theorizing with references to a variety of religions, historical factoids, literary masterpieces, paranormality, and politics. Perhaps the ending Lynch and Frost gave us was just an abstract meta concept; it was simply the : - ) ALL.