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This weekend, we finally return to Twin Peaks. On Sunday, Showtime’s revival of the cult mystery-horror-romance-comedy-soap will begin, with a two-hour premiere (and two more hours available to Showtime subscribers.) It’s been 26 years since the fascinating, frustrating, utterly unique second season. It’s been 25 years since the elliptical prequel Fire Walk With Me, still the only film to feature Kiefer Sutherland and David Bowie and Harry Dean Stanton and a talking monkey. And it’s been three weeks since my colleague (and life-long Peaks theorist) Jeff Jensen and I started our recap/theory/therapy podcast, A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks.
We’ve spent the last few weeks looking back at the original series. Now, we can all look ahead. On Monday, we’ll begin our weekly look at the new season. Eighteen episodes, all directed by David Lynch, all co-written by Lynch and Mark Frost, with a cast of familiar Peaks faces, plus everyone else you can think of, and also Eddie Vedder. To mark this momentous moment before we descend into the splendid madness of the new season, Jeff and I recorded a special episode answering some burning questions from listeners. Listen to it below, and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts to hear new episodes every Monday.
Because Peaks is a show that demands rampant theorizing, we’ve been encouraging listeners to email us their thoughts about the show at firstname.lastname@example.org. The inbox was so full that we couldn’t get to everyone, but I wanted to take this space to call out my favorite theory about the new season of Twin Peaks, from listener Nathan Buck. (NOTE: This message has been slightly edited to avoid a spoiler)
I look forward to hearing your Season Three theories. I’ve recently wondered if the new episodes will treat Twin Peaks as the rebooted Invitation To Love: in other words, what if Twin Peaks is a show within a show, a spiral of meta quantum physics with a healthy wink-wink stirred into the cauldron? As for other theories… What if Cooper emerges from the Black Lodge into a parallel universe where Laura was never killed? Think about it: Cooper returns to the mystery – ‘Who didn’t kill Laura Palmer? Why is Laura still alive?’ All kinds of quantum mechanics & string theory at play! It hits the reset button, flips everything on its head, allows for original characters to return or not, allows Lynch and Frost to focus on whatever storylines they damn well please, fits the whole doppelganger/yin-yang theme, and explains ‘I’ll see you again in 25 years’. As in literally, in the flesh.
There is so much to love about this idea. The season 2 finale of Twin Peaks played openly (albeit opaquely) with the idea of doppelgangers. Inside the Black Lodge, Agent Cooper met a version of Laura who was not Laura – or anyhow, who seemed to be a different aspect of the Laura we thought we knew. He saw a blank-eyed Leland Palmer, who smirkishly declared, “I didn’t kill anyone.” And Cooper finally met a variation of his own self – a dark half who took claim of his body.
Fire Walk With Me played with the notion of doppelgangers, but with even more obtuse and tantalizing possibilities. That film began with Chris Isaak playing Agent Chester Desmond, an FBI man who decidedly wasn’t Agent Cooper yet who found himself embroiled in a situation that directly recalled Cooper’s actions in Twin Peaks. (As we discussed in our last episode of the podcast, Jeff’s a proponent of the theory that Chet Desmond is Cooper’s dream of himself. I’ve started to wonder if Gordon Cole grows tall attractive FBI agents in a top-secret laboratory somewhere in Arizona.) And of course, a core of the series’ central myth is the idea of a Black Lodge and a White Lodge – opposite yet the same, possibly even occupying the same space.
We’ve long suspected that the new series would present us with some further clarity on precisely what Agent Cooper has become. But here’s an intriguing notion: A whole doppelganger universe, full of familiar faces but with one obvious change. The meta-reality is an interesting idea. It’s a descendant from the early inklings of DC’s multiverse. Barry Allen became the Flash of one world partially because he was such a big fan of a comic book character named “The Flash” – who was actually a living, breathing human being named Jay Garrick in an alternate reality.
This leads inevitably and awesomely to the possibility of an entire Twin Peaks multiverse. This could retroactively explain some of the wilder elements of the second season. (Perhaps there is a Twin Peaks world where Little Nicky the Devil Child rules supreme.) But it also leads to the possibility Nathan brings up: That the fundamental mystery of the show has been flipped, and that the mystery of Laura Palmer is now “Why isn’t she dead?”
Throwing around words like “multiverse” feels a bit too on-the-nose, given this show’s fundamentally romantic preference for mystery over textual clarity. But it’s clear from Fire Walk With Me that Lynch, at least, is fundamentally fascinated with Laura Palmer as a character. Bringing her back to life would allow the show’s creators to explore genuinely new ground with her as a genuine character, and not just as an avatar for the show’s ideas. It could also circle back around to one of my own personal pet theories about the overall narrative of Twin Peaks: The possibility that Dale Cooper, as heroic as any protagonist can ever be, will ultimately become a more problematic or even antagonistic figure. It was easy to theorize that, say, a “Bad Dale” would play a role in this new season – “How’s Annie! How’s Annie!!!!” – but what if the man we may understand as “the Good Dale” also finds himself in a moral quandary, forced to do something wrong for the greater good?
Let’s game this out, following Nathan’s logic. Dale emerges from the Lodge, and the world is all different, and Laura Palmer is grown-up, a single mother still living in the town where she was born. Every other element of this world has become unfamiliar, we’re talking the bad 1985 from Back to the Future 2 or whatever Flashpoint is. Dale figures out that the fundamental “problem” with this world, in some weird indirect abstract way, is that Laura Palmer didn’t die… which means he has to kill her… which is a problem because in this new world Dale has fallen in love with Laura Palmer. It’s a City on the Edge of Forever!!!
Except it will probably be even more complicated than that. And we can’t wait! For more crazy theories, subscribe to the podcast and listen to the episode above. Then check out our first official after-show podcast episode on Monday, and be sure to follow the EW Facebook Page tonight, where I’ll be hosting the official Facebook Live Pre-show at the Twin Peaks premiere in Los Angeles.