(SPOILER ALERT: I don’t explicitly say out loud what happens in the final episode of Twin Peaks, but if you’re in the middle of the series, I’d advise you not to read on. The element of surprise is important.)
I am really quite upset right now.
There’s this guy I know. Well, I don’t really know him per se, but I see a lot of him. He’s lionhearted, honest, respectful and undeniably good looking. Well-dressed in a suit every single day. There’s this one weird thing where I always see him talking into a voice recorder to some lady called “Diane,” but I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Oh did I mention? He’s a Special Agent for the FBI. Yes, Dale Cooper is my paramour; how doth my heart move when he speaks!
Here’s the problem. The last I saw of him, he was in the forest just outside Twin Peaks at this place called Glastonbury Grove. One minute, he’s there, and the next, he disappears behind some red curtain. The next time I see the guy, he’s all bloody and lying on the ground next to this other girl, Annie Blackburne. The next day when he wakes up, all he does is ask how Annie is, and then says that he has to brush his teeth. I just don’t understand. Where has Dale gone?
I hate horror films, but I love David Lynch because there is something truly special about the way that his works disturb me. They make absolutely no sense and complete sense at the same time. I’m never quite sure why I’m afraid sometimes, because in Lynch films, nothing ever pops out at you. (Except that one part in Mulholland Drive). Instead, there are slow pans down empty hallways, or a long shot up a staircase at a rotating ceiling fan, a low drone, barely noticeable, that hangs over everything. These images will haunt me forever. There is a purpose to everything in a Lynch film, and if something happens by mistake (like the very character of Bob in TP), it becomes part of the story. Lynch goes by very strict rules, but the rules are written in chalk on the dusty floor of the Black Lodge, so everything can change in an instant.
Take the character of Special Agent Dale Cooper. He is the hero of the story, sent to Twin Peaks to solve the murder of the Homecoming Queen, one Laura Palmer. A no-nonsense crime-solver, he finds endless happiness in a Damn Fine Cup of Coffee, a slice of cherry pie and the crisp smell of Douglas Firs.
The final episode in the series is perhaps the most frightening thing I have ever seen. I am in awe of the fact that this aired on prime-time television, and applaud Lynch for going where no other director has ever, or will ever go on TV. He uses excruciatingly long steady shots, ties up no loose ends and, to the uninitiated, ends the show with an episode that doesn’t many any sense.
The episode, rather explosively, peels away every other story arc until it’s just two, as the Log Lady’s final introductory remarks predicted. Whomever the two could be: Laura Palmer and Coop, Coop and Bob, Coop and his own reflection in the mirror — the show truly ends with Lynch and his audience. He leaves us with an image so frightening, so heart-crushingly defeating, that we have no choice but to accept it. We can start the series from the beginning again, but it won’t change the inevitable, and that’s painful.
I’ve read the original script and I now see that the show could not have ended any other way. Ultimately, Coop gives his soul to save the woman he loves. His acts are motivated by love, not fear. Even though his fate is beyond tragic, it speaks to a character who always chose others over himself. What is the fate of Dale Cooper now? While in a sense we’ll never know, the Lynchian world is intrinsically connected. Audrey shows up in Wild at Heart (however, only to die again, this time from a massive head wound). When Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) looks at himself in the mirror in Lost Highway, much like the last time we see Coop, we see the reflection head-on and the back of his head is facing us. Allegedly, that’s the head of Kyle MacLachlan, as if transferring his role of Lynch’s twisted alter ego. I know that the real Coop, the good Coop is still stuck in the Red Room, and maybe one day he’ll get out.
Meanwhile, I’m despondent, but I could go for a cup of Damn Fine Coffee.