By Darren Franich
September 03, 2017 at 10:00 PM EDT
Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME
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The final two parts of Twin Peaks: The Return explored every cosmic corner of the show’s established universe, and then mapped out a few more. I’ll be discussing the finale tomorrow in my podcast with Twin Peaks high priest Jeff Jensen, who is currently working on his full recap of the finale (UPDATE: Read the full recap here). For now, here are the main talking points. Apologies in advance for almost certainly misunderstanding 86.7% of what happened. That was exactly as confusing as Inland Empire.

We’re All in the Sheriff’s Station.

Still recovering from his surprise over the Diane-Tulpa, Gordon told the Blue Rose Task Force a final secret. Years ago, Major Briggs confided in Cole and Cooper, telling them about an “extreme negative force” called “Jowday.” That’s an old name, though. In an episode where a few main characters changed names, perhaps it was some early signposting when a character played by David Lynch informed us that this ancient negative entity — the Experiment? — was now called “Judy.”

As if following a schedule, Gordon spoke to Bushnell Mullins over the phone — one Boss-of-Cooper to another! — and the Blue Rosers made their way to Twin Peaks. Just in time, too. Mr C. arrived at his beloved coordinates, which seemed to be the same oil-slick wormhole nexus the Twin Peaks policemen visited, where they found Naido. Mr. C went through a wormhole and was…

somewhere. It looked to me like that Cosmic Space Castle Movie Theater where the Fireman lived in Part 8. Mr. C was there, with the floating head of Major Briggs. The Fireman changed the scene on the movie screen to a location right outside of the Sheriff’s Station, and sent Mr. C back to Earth. Was this what Mr. C had wanted? Did he ever really know what he wanted? Is Major Briggs up in that Space Castle now, with the Fireman and Señorita Dido?

Things moved together quickly now. Mr. C walked in and sat down in Sheriff Truman’s office. In the jail, Chad broke out — but was stopped from killing Deputy Andy by the redemptive force of Freddie’s green fist. And that was a prologue of coming events!

RELATED: Hear the latest from EW’s Twin Peaks podcast

When the real Agent Cooper called Sheriff Truman’s office, there was almost a Mr. C/Truman showdown — but then noble Lucy shot the bad man in the back. Enter the Woodsmen, yet again performing their strange resurrection/exorcism rite, yet again bringing the BOB orb out of Mr. C’s body. Agent Cooper ran in then, seemed to recognize Freddie. He told Freddie to, well, do that special thing that Freddie does. And then Freddie, who has a green rubber gardening glove that grants him superhuman punch-strength, battled the floating orb of BOB. (God, I’ve waited my whole life to write that sentence!) He punched it down into the ground, FLAMES. He punches it into pieces, and they ascended into the air.

“One for the grandkids!” said Rodney Mitchum. Agent Cooper wasn’t done yet, though, and here perhaps we should note that what followed was set against a half-dissolved image of Agent Cooper’s face. A sign, perhaps, that reality was fuzzy, or that we were in a dream of some sort. That Cooper-face first appeared when Cooper stared at Naido — and Naido became Diane, the real Diane, with red hair! This reunion was emotional for both of them. (Even knowing nothing about the original Diane/Original Cooper relationship, the scenes between Laura Dern and Kyle MacLachlan referred back, sometimes heartbreakingly, to their onscreen relationship in Blue Velvet.)

It was right about then that Candie offered everyone sandwiches, and there was a sense of triumphant unity, but Cooper wasn’t done. “There are some things that will change,” he said. “The past dictates the future.” And then he said, “I hope to see all of you again. Every one of you.”

And then the lights started to flicker and the earth seemed to quake and Dale called out to Gordon and Gordon called out to Dale. And then…

Journey Into the Past.

Deep within the bowels of the Great Northern, we heard that strange sound. There was Dale, and Diane, and Gordon — the holy Lynch trinity, father and son and Holy Laura Dern. Dale told Diane he’d see her “at the curtain call,” and opened a door with his old Room 315 key. Then he was with the One-Armed Man, walking through the corridors of the Dutchman. He found the magnificent tea kettle that was Phillip Jeffries, who showed him some familiar symbols — the Owl Cave ring, two triangles atop each other. They became an 8, or an infinity turned on its side, or two circles. (Two Earths? Hey, I’m struggling here!)

And then Phillip Jeffries sent Dale back. February 23, 1989: the night Laura Palmer died. Like Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II, Dale watched events we recall from a previous movie. Scenes from Fire Walk With Me played out in black and white: Laura and James, the street light, Laura running into the woods. We saw Leo and Jacques and Ronette, waiting for Laura.

This time, she didn’t arrive. In the woods, she found Dale, who promised to take her home. And then history changed, maybe. We saw the Packard-Martell household the next morning, Josie at her mirror, Catherine looking on with resigned boredom as Pete set off fishing. He did not see Laura Palmer’s body. She never died, maybe.

But somewhere else, somewhen else, Sarah Palmer was in her house, screaming, smashing the picture of Laura Palmer. This seemed to cause…something. In the past, Dale tried guiding Laura to what looked like that same wormhole-nexus, nearby Jack Rabbit’s Palace. He held her hand through the forest, and for a moment they looked so much like Laura Harring and Naomi Watts toward the end of Mulholland Drive, one leading the other through the shadows. (I think the homage was intentional; we were being led to a very Mulholland Drive shift in the narrative.)

But Laura disappeared. There was that sound the Fireman played for Agent Cooper, that thing that was “in our house now.” And there was a loud scream that sounded to me an awful lot like the scream Laura let out in the Red Room back in the season premiere. Part 17 ended with Julee Cruise singing “The World Spins.” For the moment, not quite understanding anything, I was wondering: Did the future Laura, the revenant spirit we saw in Part 2, decide that she didn’t want the past changed? Or was this the work of Judy — Jowday, a malevolent spirit, housed within Sarah Palmer? It certainly seems, to judge from Pete Martell fishing happily, that Cooper changed the past. But did he save Laura? Did he save himself?

Or…did he damn them both, all over again?

Or Is It the Future?

Cooper was back in the Red Room — perhaps he traveled there through the nexus wormhole after Laura disappeared? Or perhaps whatever force took Laura away also sent him back to the Lodge space?

We saw scenes play out that we almost recognized from Parts 1 and 2. Certain things were changed, though. This time, the talking tree merely introduced itself as “the arm,” not “the evolution of the arm.” And, the tree quoted Audrey Horne: “Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane?”

Once again, Dale found Leland Palmer, who told him to “Find Laura.” (I found myself wondering, this time: Was that a command that anyone should follow? Hasn’t Leland Palmer done enough to Laura by now? If Leland says “Find Laura,” perhaps the correct action is to do the precise opposite?) And Cooper left the Red Room, seeming to be in greater control of his faculties than ever. He emerged into Glastonbury Grove, where Diane was waiting for him.

And then they went…elsewhere. Four hundred and thirty miles away, to some lonely desert road full of electricity. Diane seemed uncertain about their mission. Things would change on the other side; that much was clear. Dale drove them through…something. A rift between worlds? Between times? Between dreams? It was nighttime, and they got to a motel. Diane seemed to see herself, elsewhere.

They went into Room 7, and had sex, and the way the camera lingered on Diane’s face made you wonder just whose story the show was telling now. Agent Cooper’s face seemed oddly solid, stone faced – a face that made him look a lot like Mr. C. Diane covered up his face with her hands, almost unable to look at him. Was she seeing the face of the man who raped her? (Notable: The music that played in this scene was The Platters’ “My Prayer,” the song on the radio in Part 8 that preceded the arrival of the Woodsman.)

The next morning, Cooper woke up. Diane was gone, if she was even Diane. There was a note on the table, calling Cooper “Richard,” signed “Linda.” It was yet another reference back to the Fireman’s codes in Part 1 — 430 for “four hundred and thirty miles,” Richard and Linda. And we had heard “two birds one stone” early in Part 17. That, it seems, was Cooper’s plan, long ago. What was that plan, precisely?

Cooper walked outside in the sunlight. He was in a different motel than he’d gone to sleep in, and he had a different car. He was in Odessa, Texas, of all places. At a local diner, called Judy’s, there was a waitress named Kristi — played by Clint Eastwood’s daughter Francesca! She was being harassed by cowboys, and Cooper put a violent end to that, tossing their guns into the fry cooker and asking Kristi for the address of the other waitress who worked at Judy’s. Yes, Dale Cooper was asking for coordinates, and his behavior in this scene seemed to suggest that some elements of Mr. C had found their way into whatever Dale Cooper we were watching now.

Cooper followed the coordinates and he found…a grown-up Laura Palmer. Except her name was Carrie Page, and she had no idea what Cooper was talking about. Cooper wanted to bring her back to Twin Peaks, to see her mother. Carrie heard an FBI man offering to drive her somewhere, and it was good timing, because she had to get the hell out of Dodge. There was a dead man inside her house, head freshly blown off. “Ridin’ with the FBI just might save my ass,” said Carrie.

It was a long drive to Twin Peaks. They stopped at a gas station. Carrie unfurled a few words of woe. “I tried to keep a clean house, keep everything organized,” she said. “I was too young to know better.”

They arrived back at the Palmer house. They knocked on the door. (You might recall that monstrous thing, in Part 3, knock-knock-knocking on Naido’s door.) A woman answered the door. She didn’t know of any Sarah Palmer. When Cooper persisted, she asked her husband who they bought the house from. Someone named Chalfont, apparently — Chalfont, of course, being one of the names of the elderly woman/grandson duo that appeared as Black Lodge Denizens years ago. They went by another name: Tremond. And perhaps it’s notable that this woman said her name was “Alice Tremond.” Alice, like through the looking-glass. Tremond, like maybe some Black Lodge elements are in play.

Cooper was confused. He walked out to the street with Carrie. He stumbled. He asked: “What year is this?”

(I’m already seeing some theories online that this whole sequence was set in the distant past…but at one point Dale and Carrie stopped at a Valero gas station advertising prices that looked pretty contemporary to me.)

And then Carrie looked at the house. There was the sound of someone calling “Laura!” Was it Sarah — that same scream we heard in Part 17? Was it Donna, calling to Laura — a moment that Gordon Cole seemed to relive in the Mayfair hotel corridor many episodes ago? (I’m honestly asking; need to rewatch again and also drink more coffee.)

And then Carrie screamed.

Or perhaps we should say…

And then Laura Palmer screamed.

The lights went off in the Palmer house, and everywhere. The End.

Or Is It?

The end credits rolled over an image which will now retroactively define the whole season: Laura, in the Red Room, whispering something disturbing into Agent Cooper’s ear. What was she whispering to him? Are we meant to understand that this cycle is repeating? Is the Laura in the Red Room an equivalent being to “Carrie,” or is she our old poor dead Laura, or some other being entirely? Did Cooper actually save the life of Laura Palmer? And if so, then why did this final chapter end with Cooper bringing Laura back to the point of her greatest trauma?

Or, given Lynch’s love for Vertigo, perhaps we should read this differently. In the end credits, Sheryl Lee was credited twice, once as Laura and once as Carrie. Was this final act about turning Dale into poor Jimmy Stewart in the back half of Vertigo — turning a living woman into a dead one?

The Happy Ending.

Came earlier, and maybe you don’t even think it’s too happy. But a red door on Lancelot Court opened, and a freshly grown man named Dougie hugged his wife Janey-E and his son Sonny Jim. So something’s well that ends well.

Reminder: We’ll be talking the Twin Peaks finale on the new episode of A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks. Expect some fun surprises this week!

In Conclusion, the Hornes. Jerry’s in Wyoming with no clothes. Ben’s working on bringing him home. Audrey is

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