The 'Twin Peaks' Finale Doesn't Care If You're Mad

The beautiful and maddening finale proved that David Lynch isn't interested in giving us a resolution.
September 4, 2017, 1:51pm
Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

I'm not sure I can do a better job of recapping the last two episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return, and indeed the show as a whole, than my friend Brad: "Well, that was certainly a show on television."

Like I said last week, Lynch thrives on playing with time: he loves an excruciatingly drawn-out scene, one that feels like you're way too high and convinced something bad is going to happen in a second but the second lasts an hour. He believes very strongly in too much of a good thing, or at least too much of a thing: moments just keep on going and going even after you're more than ready for them to stop. That explains the silent drive from Texas to Washington in "Part 18," which I joked was happening in real time. But it also kind of explains "Part 18" as a whole.

"Part 17" was, by any sane measure, the end of this series. Yes, there were so many questions left unexplored: What's going on with Audrey? (I have a theory.) What's up with Sarah Palmer? (I have a theory.) How the hell did Jerry Horne walk from Washington to Wyoming? (I do not have a theory for that.) But there was also resolution of a kind: Lucy shooting Doppelcoop, Freddie justifying his existence on the show and in the world by punching the BOB-cancer to death, Diane released from her...enchantment? (Hey, I had that theory too! Except I have no idea how or why it happened). Diane and Coop kissing, for better or worse. (I wrote "personally I don't think they should kiss" six times in my notes in increasingly desperate fonts.) We saw the new Dougie, broadly hinted at last episode, created and dispatched to his Las Vegas home. We found out, rather anticlimactically, who—what—Judy is, and we got a better sense of how the vortex/wormhole/mechanism works.

And then Coop was back in the woods of Twin Peaks on the night of Laura's death, watching events unfold, and then actually influencing events, changing them, taking Laura by the hand and leading her away from where Leo and Jacques were waiting. And maybe I wasn't crying yet, maybe I wrote "you can't make her not be dead, Coop, it doesn't work that way," but then it worked that way. He led her through the woods and her body on the beach flickered and faded, and Pete (Pete!) came into the kitchen and gave a sulky Catherine an unwelcome kiss and we'd been here before and he went out to fish and there was nothing on the beach, nothing there. Nobody's dead, Harry, wrapped in plastic. If you weren't crying you care less about Twin Peaks than me.

I cried right through the curious, troubling scene of Sarah smashing her daughter's picture with a bottle; right through Laura disappearing and Coop listening to her disembodied screams. Of course there were going to be strange, upsetting ramifications to what just happened, of course there were going to be loose ends left untied. But I felt like this was a fitting conclusion, even a beautiful one.

And then there was another episode.

Credit: Suzanne Tenner/Showtime

If you didn't know, now you know: David Lynch isn't interested in giving you a resolution. Or rather, he'll give it to you, and then just keep giving, feeding you past satiation and continuing to pile on mystery after resolution after mystery until you're nauseated from it, like some kind of demonic sushi boat carousel that just won't stop bringing you fish. A beautiful conclusion, even one studded with unanswered questions, is not a maximally interesting conclusion. It's the interesting conclusion that keeps you coming back in 25 years.

I hope you're not hoping I can tell you what happened. I know as much as you. Dale Cooper, one of him, came out of the Lodge, either after going back in or perhaps after never coming out in the first place. (Time is weird here, and that's an understatement. The Lodge scenes recapitulated the ones we saw early in this season, that's all I know for sure. Is it future or is it past?) He and Diane drove to a location exactly 403 miles from something else (the Trinity test site?), and as they did so they passed abruptly from day into night, and then there was a horrible sex scene I don't approve of during which we heard the song (did they hear it too?) that played on the radio in "Part 8," in 1956, as everyone in New Mexico fell asleep and the frog-fly thing forced itself down the throat of a girl who might have been Sarah Palmer. When they woke up Diane was gone and also possibly Diane was Linda (like "Naido," this has many of the same letters as "Diane"), and both Cooper's car and the motel, formerly 50s-era, looked a lot more modern. Cooper sounded awfully Doppelcoop-ish as he searched for the address of a waitress at Judy's Diner, so that we all felt our hearts in our throats even as he was beating up jackass cowboys and deep-frying their guns, but then the waitress was Laura Palmer but not Laura Palmer and there was a dead body in her living room and Coop suddenly sounded much more normal but maybe it was only by comparison.

Cooper (who seems to still be Cooper even though Diane/Linda's note called him Richard, unless of course he's bad Cooper, or the new tulpa) drove Laura, or Carrie, to Twin Peaks, where the woman living in her house was not Sarah Palmer but Alice Tremond, who bought it from a Mrs. Chalfont—both aliases used by a woman who shows up in both original Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me and is probably not a human being. If you think that sentence was a mess, you should see the show. Back in the street, Cooper stumbled and wondered "what year is it?" (Not only do I not know the answer, I don't even know what year he thinks it is. What's more surprising to him—the 50s car and motel or the modern ones?) Laura/Carrie heard Sarah calling from the house, and screamed so loud the lights blow out. That's it. That's the end.

Photo courtesy of Showtime.

It's a riot of raw-edged new mysteries and time jumps and silence and off-putting sex. It upends the current mythology but also reaches back and digs up even older, dustier mythologies that have barely been touched all season. It's not beautiful, or satisfying. It's a fucking mess. I'm crawling the walls. It's perfect.

Was it brilliant? Was it infuriating? Did I love it? Did I hate it? Yes to all. "Yes to all" is, after all, more or less David Lynch's M.O. (MODUS OPERANDI). I don't know what to make of it, and right now, I don't really want to. It's actually broken through the natural post- Peaks desire to make a crazy-wall covered in tacks and photos and string. I want to know the answers, and at the same time, I don't want to know or even think about them. I just want to let this percolate, like a fish in coffee, for another 25 years.

Part of me wanted this to be satisfying, of course—I mean, at least a little satisfying, a little beautiful, like the ending of "Part 17." But I've always known, deep down, that people who are looking to be fundamentally satiated should watch a different show. If a television series is like a meal, in that it could be satisfying or nourishing or delicious, Twin Peaks is 18 courses of complicated molecular gastronomy soils and foams. You will never be full, and if you eat nothing else, you'll probably get kwashiorkor—but you will also be constantly surprised, and delighted, and disgusted, and confused, and you'll talk to all your friends for weeks about it, and nothing else will look or taste exactly like it ever again.

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