A Twin Peaks Podcast mailbag: Dougie, Diane, and a new theory of time
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You've got questions about Twin Peaks? We've got answers! Or, probably, more questions. In the first six hours of the Showtime revival, we've been given a sprawling global narrative, flipping across time zones, between dimensions. There are three Agent Coopers, maybe more. Mysteries sprout new mysteries. What was that black box in Buenos Aires? Who is the anonymous billionaire financing the glass cage in New York? Is Amanda Seyfried playing the new Laura Palmer? Is [insert name of new younger character] the child of [insert name of beloved original series character]? Um, like, David Bowie, question mark?
We've been busily digging into the show on A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks, which is a podcast about Twin Peaks. (You can subscribe and listen to past episodes here.) Listeners have been filling our inbox with questions, concerns, clarifications, theories, and at least one selfie. At the one-third mark in the season, we figured now was a great time to dig into the mailbag. You can send your big ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now – let's talk Dougie!!!
So after 6 episodes of the new season, I think I'm ready for Cooper to come back. I know these are just fictional characters that aren't real but… I'd really like to see Dougie suffer a slow, horrible, painful death. #DieDougieDie —Myst from Chicago
Stray thoughts as I watch Twin Peaks: 1) I feel like I've been watching Coop as Dougie for 17 years of my life. 2) However, it's actually therapy for me. I'm seeing myself in him. Seeing that I'm not who I'm supposed to be, not doing what I'm supposed to be doing. 3) I want to hug David Lynch, and I want to punch David Lynch. 4) When you talk about "Nez Perce", make sure you pronounce it properly: "Nay Pair-SAY." It's French for "pierced nose." —Phil Mahoney
Two emails that tell the tale of Dougie Jones, the Cooper no one was expecting and not everyone wants to keep. He took me aback when we first encountered him in Part 3. I wanted my Classic Cooper, dammit! But I quickly warmed to Dougie and the humanizing comedy and themes that came with him. I was engaged by the ideas he represented — the critique of American materialism and busyness, the value of innocence, and the metaphor for David Lynch himself, which I explored in detail in my recap of Parts 3 and 4. Phil, I'm with you: I like how Dougie forces me to slow down and just sit with him. Dougie has also been a vehicle for artfulness that's worth our praise. I think Kyle MacLachlan's performance is just wonderful, and Dougie's slowness makes him a perfect subject for Lynch's long-take observational/absurdist comedy. As Vikram Murthi argues at Vulture, there's something delightfully subversive and correctively disruptive about making a character like Dougie the organizing element and chief protagonist of a television show right here, right now. His blankness and flux capture a transitional period for male characters on TV. We're suffering from anti-hero exhaustion, but where do we go from here? Would moving backward, to recover elements of classical genre heroism, be worthwhile? Or does TV try to evolve toward something new, complex, real? I also think Dougie participates in the show's interrogation of nostalgia in the broader context of the show's thematic interest in mortality. Okay, so we want to see Agent Cooper again. But why do we want to see that? <iframe src="https://art19.com/shows/e744e1c0-95b7-4c13-a6b0-30d09dab7a32/embed?playlist_type=latest" scrolling="no" width="100%" height="460" frameborder="0" class="" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
All that said, I get the sense the audience reached a tipping point with Dougie in Part 6. Some of you are all-in on Twin Peaks being all about Dougie. Others, like Myst, are #DieDougieDie. I confessed in my recap to feeling torn. I can roll with Dougie as long as Lynch and Mark Frost can keep him interesting. But I am wondering if they are drawing out Dougie — and delaying Cooper's full restoration — simply to fill the time the show must fill. And I think these teases of Cooper's consciousness might be more interesting and compelling if they built upon each other, if they suggested that Cooper was coming back by degrees. Instead, right now, they just feel like teases, which makes me sympathetic to the complaint of some that the show is meanly trolling the audience. I dig Dougie. But the stakes are rising on his continued presence.
I just wanted to point out that "Max Von's Bar" is probably not a reference to Max Von Sydow but almost certainly a reference to Max Von Mayerling, the character played by Erich Von Stroheim in Sunset Boulevard (which is also, of course, the source of the name Gordon Cole). Keith Uhlich pointed this out in his MUBI recap. I think the idea is that Diane's relationship to Cooper is analogous to Max's role as "faithful servant" to Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard. – Mike Smith
Great catch, Mike! Sunset Boulevard seems like an urtext for Lynch, an early vision of inside-Hollywood showbiz horror. Fading silent film star Norma Desmond (played by fortunately-less-fading silent film star Gloria Swanson) could be the distant matriarch of some of Lynch's most memorable heroines. Norma's La La Land dreams suggest a more decadent Diane Selwyn. And the collapse of Norma's true personality into her celebrity persona link her to Nikki Grace, the actress Laura Dern plays in Inland Empire. (Dern also plays three or four other characters in Inland Empire; tragically none of them are named Dougie.)
I'm intrigued by Mike's idea that Diane is Cooper's version of Max. In Sunset Boulevard, Max serves various strange purposes in Norma's life. There's something paternal about him, and whimsically romantic; he was her director and her husband, and now he lives in thrall to her, maintaining her illusions (and keeping her alive.) The connection could confirm that Diane and Cooper were romantically linked at some point — which would itself reference back to Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan's romance in Blue Velvet.
The Sunset Boulevard link also complexifies our understanding of what this show is doing with Agent Cooper. Is he meant to be a Norma Desmond, a declining vision of a nostalgic past, a falling star? Will Diane's arrival "save" Cooper — or will it somehow entrap him? Like Jeff was just saying, we're all excited at this point for Cooper to be Cooper again. ("Investigate Something In Twin Peaks, Already!" seems to be the rallying cry.) I wonder if, with this throwaway bar name, Lynch and Frost are cluing us into some deep melancholy. To echo something Jeff just wrote: Would Cooper becoming Cooper be a step backward?
I am disappointed that the bar isn't named for Max Von Sydow. I was really hoping we'd get a cameo from a playing-himself Max Von Sydow, mixing Diane and Albert a couple of his world-famous Max Von Sydecars. (Recipe: 1 part Cointreau, 1 part lemon juice, 2 parts cognac, garnish with 3 teaspoons of garmonbozia.)
I was a devotee back in the day — Twin Peaks happened in my high school years, and I was obsessed and read the secret diary and even listened to the tapes of Agent Cooper that they released somewhere in there. I probably watched Twin Peaks maybe a year after the American release (I was living in a suburb of London at the time) and with no internet, and having only four television channels, I somehow missed any of the fan culture that was happening around Twin Peaks. What I am finding extremely fascinating right now is that with the announcement of the return, I am finding out 25 years later that there is a whole giant group of us that exists that I somehow didn¹t really know about. Listening to the both of you talk about Twin Peaks reminds me so much of the analysis and the rewatching that my friend and I did in high school, and I love it.
But I have to admit that I am so excited about hearing people talk about Twin Peaks and about seeing familiar faces and just about the existence of a new season that it's hard to just focus on the story of the new season. Listening to your two episodes post the debut, I also had a thought about what happens to a television show where the viewers are experts? The first two seasons were surprises and new information, but now, most of us Twin Peaks fans have watched the first two seasons multiple times and have had over two decades to think about it. Does this give David Lynch more artistic freedom? Can he go deeper into his mythology because he's dealing with experts? How do you succeed when in some ways, your audience is more expert than you?
Which somehow leads to my big question about this season — which questions do we NOT want answered? —Shoko Kambara
Shoko Kambara wrote us a long, lovely letter (thanks!) that gave us an interesting question to ponder: "Which questions do we NOT want answered?" I immediately think of two things:
1. The Black Lodge. I'm captivated by the weirdness of this otherworldly place and its supernatural denizens, and I hope we see more of it as the series progresses. At the same time, I hope we don't see so much of The Black Lodge that it loses its mystique. LynchFrost should tread carefully if they feel a need to explain what The Black Lodge means and how it works. I always find that the occult mythology of mystery-driven, supernaturally framed TV serials becomes less vibrant and too simplistic as it passes from ambiguity and abstraction toward clarity and concreteness, and it never winds up as coherent as you want it to be. I hope The Black Lodge forever remains something we interpret and debate.
2. Dougie before Dougie-Cooper. Over the past couple weeks, there's been mention that Dougie was prone to "episodes" of being "disoriented" even before Dougie Jones was replaced in this realm of existence by Eraserhead Cooper. These nods to Dougie's past invite us to wonder what Dougie used to be like and how Dirty Cooper (who allegedly "manufactured" Dougie as a dummy version of himself) made him and used him over the years. If Twin Peaks wants to fill in the blanks here, I'll take the backstory. I am curious! But I don't feel the show needs to satisfy that curiosity about Dougie history or Dougie mechanics in order for me to understand or enjoy Dirty Cooper. Just the profoundly simple and despicable idea that this is a guy who'll do anything to survive — who sees people as tools and equipment, things to use and abuse for his own flourishing — tells me everything I need to know. I'll be perfectly content if LynchFrost leave the details to our imagination.
What if the Red Room scenes are actually shown backwards, where Cooper would be the one actually doing reverse speech, which could explain why he doesn't speak backwards;, Laura is FALLING toward the Lodge instead of getting away from it, and the arm turns into the tree that turns into the MFAP? Is that how the ring gets BACK on the pedestal? Are the two "times" happening in reverse order of each other, with Cooper going forward and getting older, with BOB heading towards his roots in Twin Peaks past? Could Dirty Cooper actually end up being Bob at the end, and then that Cooper/Bob goes back to the lodge and reverses direction? (This last part makes little sense, I know.)
Could explain, somewhat, how agent Cooper can dream of Laura before meeting her. Hell, it might even be a constant boomerang effect, allowing Bob to be the constant with the palindromic name. –Jon Morel
This is a wildly ambitious attempt to express some heavy fourth-dimensional multi-plane geometric storytelling in 152 words. I salute you, Jon! And I think I understand about half of what you're getting at. We should remember the very first words we heard inside the Red Room this season: "Is it future… or is it past?" That question was asked by the One-Armed Man, and was an echo from another unstuck-in-time dream sequence. In Fire Walk With Me, the Man From Another Place says the same thing. He's talking to Dale Cooper, kind of, but also to Laura Palmer, kind of: two characters who have never properly met, yet who seem linked together in eternity.
Watch the cast discuss the show's odd universe and the upcoming revival in the new