(Twin Peaks, Season 2 and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me)
The following week’s episode 10, directed by Lynch and written by Robert Engels (the two would combine talents on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), is a solid effort, though it does not present any of the inspired setpieces that highlight each of the other installments the director personally guided. Still, even an “average” Lynch episode has its rewards. As Cooper enjoys his breakfast at the Great Northern Hotel, he speaks of the former rulers of Tibet, known as “the happy generations,” while a cheery barbershop quartet serenades the diners. The FBI man, and Lynch, understand the age-old threat of malevolent forces that would supplant joyful Tibetan rulers and shatter their culture, as the Chinese Communists did, or would endanger the pleasant scene of breakfasters relishing good food and music, as does something in the dark woods of Twin Peaks. Indeed, Cooper’s mood shifts toward concern and fear as he learns that his former partner, Windom Earle, has escaped from an asylum. And Cooper is surprised by the pang of emotion he feels when he’s told that Audrey is missing (we know that she’s being held against her will at One-Eyed Jack’s). The agent’s tendency to “dwell on the contents of her smile” is the beginning of the storyline that would have developed a romance between Cooper and the high schooler, a relationship which Kyle MacLachlan found unseemly and talked Lynch into abandoning. Episode 10 also launched the connection between the doings in Twin Peaks and extraterrestrial activity, as Major Briggs tells Cooper that the agent’s name and the phrase “The owls are not what they seem” are linked in recorded radio signals (“COOPER”) from outer space. The further development of this extraterrestrial plotline, which Lynch did not endorse, showed the director that the world of Twin Peaks that he loved so much was not as subject to his control as he would like. As this episode scans the communicative skies, it also may have inspired future X-Files creator Chris Carter, especially as Major Briggs declares, “Any bureaucracy that functions in secret inevitably lends itself to corruption.”
Laura’s best friend, Donna Hayward, is interested in secrets, especially the ones that would shed light on her best friend’s murder. In her girl-detective mode, Donna takes on Laura’s former Meals-on-Wheels duties, hoping to gain information while visiting homebound town residents. At the home of old bedridden Mrs. Tremond (Frances Bay), Donna has an entertaining experience. While chatting with the woman and her young grandson, who’s studying magic, the creamed corn on Mrs. Tremond’s plate vanishes, then appears cupped in the boy’s hands, then dematerializes completely. Donna appreciatively responds as though she’s witnesses a well-done trick, but we, who have beheld more of the town’s paranormal space-time properties than she has, know that the magic is real, a visual manifestation of the multidimensional currents that course through Twin Peaks. The grandson is played by Lynch’s eight-year-old son, Austin, who was named after the director’s beloved grandfather. The boy has the face, hair, speaking style, mannerliness, and black suit and white shirt of his father. It’s a telling point that Lynch chooses to have his own flesh and blood portray a magician. In the Lynch-authored poem Cooper hears in his earlier dream, “The magician longs to see,” the FBI agent, with his uncanny deductive abilities, is that magician—as is Lynch, who wants to see things that are hidden and, through his artistic conjuring, show them to us. For Lynch, one who makes magic is a metaphor for one who makes art. Both tap into powers of spirit and pull a tangible conclusion out of the air that wasn’t there before: As Cooper says to Harry Truman at a puzzling crime scene, “Sheriff, a picture is forming.” Cooper’s abilities may seem like magic to his fellow mortals, but he, in turn, is mystified by the deeper necromancy of the Giant, the Man From Another Place, the Red Room, and BOB, and it will be his ultimate test to try to fathom its methods and meanings.
It is indeed a black art that enables BOB to inhabit the uncomprehending Leland and make him kill his own daughter. Episode 10 is the first to overtly link the two males, as Leland recognizes BOB’s face on a police poster and remembers him as a boyhood neighbor.
Cooper is both challenged by Twin Peaks’ mysteries and soothed by the town’s old-fashioned, kinder, and gentler way of life, which reflects Lynch’s idealization of the 1950s. Sensitive biker boy James, equipped with his electric guitar and two microphones, and his girlfriend Donna and Laura’s cousin Maddy aren’t out in the garage stoned senseless, screaming anarchic punk anthems. They’re safely and soberly ensconced in Donna’s living room, with good old Doc Hayward upstairs, singing a slow song that could have come out in 1955, in which Lynch’s simple lyrics say it all: “Just you, and I; just you, and I; together, forever; in love.” The song is soulful, so they aren’t smiling, but they seem to embody that Tibetan “happy generation” spirit Cooper referred to. Lynch’s artistic intuition tells him, of course, that this is the perfect time to add emotional discord and fear to the scene. There’s a reverb echo in James’s sound system, so he’s singing with two voices. And, as he faces toward his love, Donna, and Maddy, who looks so uncannily like his lost love, Laura, it’s like he’s singing to multiple women. Seeing the eye contact between him and Maddy, Donna is upset and breaks off the song, and James goes to comfort and reassure her. Alone in the living room, Maddy feels the comfy space become charged with menace as Lynch mixes a breathing sound into the soundtrack and BOB enters. Moving directly toward Maddy (and us), he creeps bent over like an animal, stepping over the barriers of the sofa and coffee table and lunging his face into ours. He vanishes as quickly as he came, but we have the terrible feeling that Maddy has a demon suitor who lusts to tell her, “Just you and I, together, forever.”
The next episode that Lynch directed, number 15, does indeed consummate Maddy’s terrifyingly unwished-for relationship with BOB. This outstanding installment, written by Mark Frost, conveys the same all-consuming dread and sadness that the co-creators brought to their series’ pilot episode. In this episode, Lynch revisits one of the fundamental dynamics of his artistic sensibility: a perfect home world invaded by contagion. For Leland and Sarah Palmer, niece Maddy, who looks just like their dear Laura, has been a consoling presence who’s helped fill the void left by their daughter’s tragic death and eased their period of traumatized grieving. Lynch positions Maddy snuggly between Sarah and Leland as Louie Armstrong sings “What a Wonderful World,” his words evoking the idyllic, before-the-fall town in Blue Velvet and the imagery of Lynch’s own childhood memories: “trees of green, red roses too, clouds of white, skies of blue.” As the three sip after-breakfast coffee, Maddy announces that she’s going to head back to Missoula, Montana (Lynch’s birthplace), to resume her own home life. Leland reacts with avuncular understanding, which surprises the women. But we, the viewer-detectives, note that Leland’s “I’m happy, everything’s fine” demeanor often seems to mask more agitated and disturbing subterranean feelings.
The vinyl surface of the “Wonderful World” record glows white with the same reflected morning light that bathes Maddy’s, Leland’s, and Sarah’s loving-family tableau. That night, however, the living room is empty, and the now-shadowed record clicks and clicks endlessly long after the song is over. No longer broadcasting love and goodness, the dark, unstoppable spiral of the spinning record is like a black vortex waiting to suck in souls. The endlessly circling disc and its sound recall the incessant, oppressive mechanical poundings of other Lynch films, and it foreshadows a primal theme of Stephen King’s 1998 miniseries Storm of the Century: “Hell is repetition.”
Across town, at the Road House bar, Cooper has a vision of Julee Cruise singing on stage being replaced by the Giant, who gravely tells him, “It is happening again.” Everything that the Giant has previously told the agent has come true, so Cooper ponders the full weight of his spiritual helper’s ominous words. But what could be happening, now that Cooper’s got Laura’s killer, Ben Horne, locked up in jail? Horne may have violated his marriage vows and any number of society’s moral codes, but he didn’t murder Laura, who he had been sleeping with. How can it be that Cooper has made such a big mistake? The agent has demonstrated his keen ability to discern meaningful patterns within clusters of seemingly random events. As a police detective in Lynch’s 1997 film Lost Highway says, “There’s no such thing as a bad coincidence,” but Lynch and Frost know that this isn’t always true. In a world where Absolute Knowledge is hidden behind a fog of uncertainty, it’s comforting to believe that we can combine the small glimmers of truth we see into an approximation of the everlasting Light that will illuminate our correct path of action. This practice has stood Cooper well in the past, as it has his creator Lynch, whose life’s work is built upon synthesizing thoughts and feelings that occur together into expressive artistic structures. Lynch likes to let his mind drift into that childlike, dreamy state in which the associations, coincidences, and correspondences the world sends him have magical significance; but he also knows that, of the four times he’s presented a movie at the Cannes Film Festival, the fact that his left shoe was untied has only won him one Palm D’Or.
All the signs that Cooper’s read have told him that Ben Horne is the killer, so having the unscrupulous tycoon behind bars should put our FBI man at ease, but instead he’s edgy and hyper-alert as he sits in the Road House. It’s as though a kind of atmospheric disturbance generated by the Palmer house’s rotating ceiling fan and spiraling record turntable, and the horror about to be unleashed there, have galvanized the air all over town. Before passing out, the drug-groggy Sarah Palmer sees a white horse, a traditional symbol of death, in her living room. In an ancient Chinese legend, the Yellow Emperor used magic to imprison the cosmic forces of chaos within mirrors, but it was known that someday the spell would weaken and our human world would suffer a terrible invasion. Now, as Leland admires his image in a living room mirror, Lynch and Frost give us the payoff we’ve waited months and hours for: Reflected back at the smiling patriarch is the lasciviously grimacing BOB. Even if we’ve suspected that Leland had sex with and killed his own daughter, this moment of revelation is stunning, as is the realization that Leland, as BOB’s unwilling human host, has been a victim along with Laura.
While we’re off-balance from receiving this dramatic news, Lynch hits us with one of the most disturbingly violent sequences ever shown on non-cable television. Maddy, smelling the stench of burnt motor oil that emanates from BOB’s murderous frenzy, and fearing there’s a fire in the house, runs into the living room and right into Leland’s attack. Wearing white surgical gloves, he bloodies her face with a single hard punch and, as she babbles and cries in a delirium of pain and terror, he pulls her slumping, gasping body against his chest and spins her in a ghastly dance. Leland alternately weeps and calls Maddy Laura as though she’s his dying daughter, and manifests as BOB, who with guttural animal sounds hungrily nuzzles her throat. Then, enraged that Maddy, his consoling surrogate-Laura, wants to leave him, Leland yells, “You’re going home to Missoula, Montana,” and fatally smashes her head into a photo of a serene mountain lake. Another Lynchian character with a will to stifle others’ freedom, BOB-as-Leland has shown Maddy that he is the ultimate controller of her comings and goings. But if he had been getting what he wanted from Laura, by enjoying her sexually for years, why did he kill her? Lynch will delve into this mystery in his Twin Peaks feature film.
For now, the director makes us register the full impact of a dear young life extinguished. Maddy may have wanted to be like her fast-living, darkness-dabbling cousin Laura, but she wasn’t, and Lynch saturates the final moments of episode 15 with a poignant mood of innocence snuffed out. The harsh white light that has supernaturally linked the hellish doings at the Palmer house with Cooper and the Giant in the Road House fades, as does the Giant, but both locations remain awash in sadness. We now know the tragedy that the BOB-possessed Leland has been living, and at the Road House, Donna feels responsible for the suicide of recluse Harold Smith, and toughie Bobby Briggs realizes that his scheme to enjoy domestic bliss with Shelley, that’s subsidized by Leo’s comatose condition, isn’t going to work. Donna and Bobby have their own problems, but as agitation and pain distort their faces, they seem poetically to be responding to Maddy’s death. And the old bellhop from the hotel who stood interminably above Cooper after he’d been shot comes over and tells the FBI man “I’m so sorry,” as though the agent has lost a member of his own family. Cooper doesn’t know that Maddy’s dead. He doesn’t know that Leland kills young women. Try as he might to read the vibrations in the room, he doesn’t know what has just happened. Lynch has spoken of his characters and he himself being “lost in confusion,” and for a person of Cooper’s abilities to be in such a state indicates the magnitude of the mysteries he is facing. It is a sad night, ruled by evil and loss and indecipherable happenings, but our hero does not bow his head and slink away in defeat. Lynch leaves us with one of his archetypal headshots, and one of Twin Peaks’ most iconic close-ups, as Cooper’s alert, pale face, tilted upwards, scans the air for signs and meanings. Behind him, red curtains materialize, and his head slowly fades into them: The Red Room will be his ultimate destination and challenge.
Episode 15 aired on November 10, 1990, and Cooper won’t set foot in the red Room until June 10, 1991, in the Lynch-directed second-season finale. During these twenty-eight weeks, ABC consigned Twin Peaks to the death-zone slot of Saturday night, put it on hiatus for two months, and saw its viewership decline to only 10 percent of TV-owning households. Laura’s murdered body was found in the April 8, 1990, pilot episode, and her case wasn’t wrapped up until episode 17, shown on December 1. In the time frame of the town, only eighteen days passed, while viewers had to wait eight months for the mystery’s resolution. Fans of the show were happy to absorb the narrative at Lynch and Frost’s slow-for-TV pace, while less-committed viewers felt frustrated, angry, and exploited. Without the emotional dynamo of the Laura Palmer case to drive the series, and since Kyle MacLachlan was unwilling to let his Dale Cooper fall in love with teenage Audrey (some say MacLachlan’s jealous lover, Lara Flynn Boyle, who plays Donna, influenced his decision), Twin Peaks’ various writers launched a number of lower-voltage subplots that weren’t able to sustain a mass audience’s interest. It seemed that Twin Peaks couldn’t win: Viewers deserted the show both because Laura’s murder wasn’t being solved, and because it finally was resolved. Also, since the show presented such a complex and voluminous intertwining of plot threads, quirky characters, unfamiliar cosmologies, and paranormal happenings, it was dauntingly difficult for a casual viewer to drop into Twin Peaks in mid-stream and understand what was going on. The show was indeed “TV like you’ve never seen it,” but also TV that was too different, challenging, and provocative for many to want to see.
Most commentators agree that Twin Peaks’ second season scattered its creative energy all over the landscape while trying in vain to regain the intense, inspired focus of season 1. Still, even though it was firing on less than eight cylinders, the show provided enough engaging material to keep its loyal followers watching. They witnessed a Mark Frost–written passage where Agent Cooper tenderly guides the dying, head-wounded Leland into a redemptive spiritual light in which his beloved Laura dwelled. They saw scheming land-grabber Ben Horne, (deliciously played by Richard Beymer) descend into madness, recover his psychological bearings by elaborately acting out tableaus of the South winning the Civil War (reverse the flow of history, reverse the course of your life) and emerge as a zealous environmentalist who chomps carrots instead of his usual foot-long cigars. And writers Mark Frost and Harley Peyton paid due respect to the multitude of impulses warring within Ben by having him declare, “Sometimes the urge to do bad is nearly overwhelming.” Since daughter Audrey doesn’t get to consort and cavort with Cooper, and probably be prime victim material for BOB, she does enjoy an emotionally closer, full-fledged-adult relationship with her father. Twin Peaks is rife with family dysfunction and upheaval: Even the stable and secure Hayward household is about to be rocked as Donna discovers that nefarious Ben, not good old Doc Hayward, is her real father. So it’s gratifying that there’s a new warmth and mutual respect between Ben and Audrey, but how can we not miss the Audrey who cut a swath through town with impish attitudes and pranks, rather than grown-up behavior? Still, even though she wears gray power suits and takes high-level meetings in Seattle, she’s able to give us a major surprise, for this schoolgirl with a gale-force air of sexual knowingess, whose tongue can massage a cherry stem into a blissed-out knot, is still a virgin.
While Audrey is discovering sex and love with the preternaturally pretty Billy Zane, Cooper, with the biggest smile we’ve seen on his face, is falling for diner waitress Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham), who’s fresh from a convent where she’d sought solace from an unhappy relationship that drove her to slash her wrists. Good guy Cooper sees Annie as a beautiful young woman who he can rescue from sadness, but he’s also drawn to her for a very Lynchian reason. Because she’s been cloistered away from the wide, wide world, she now sees things the way a child does, the way Lynch likes to. For Annie the world is new and amazing, and mundane occurrences have a wondrous significance: “music and people, the way they talk and laugh, the way some of them are so clearly in love.” And she has a Lynchian sense of the balance between known and unknown worlds: “It’s like a foreign language to me; I know just enough of the words to realize how much I don’t understand.” Drawn to Annie’s innocent, life-discovering viewpoint, Cooper feels that by embracing her they can each start afresh on the road to love and redeem their own personal romantic tragedies.
Cooper had been in love and having an affair with Caroline, the wife of his psychotic former FBI mentor and partner, Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh), who stabbed Caroline to death and is now lurking in the woods of Twin Peaks waiting to destroy our hero. If BOB, who says little but terrifies much as he evokes the timeless primal power of animalistic evil, is a Lynchian villain, then the brainy, verbose, multiple-disguise-wearing, chess and social game-playing Windom Earle is a Mark Frost malefactor. (As Lynch says, “Windom Earle is all Mark Frost.”9) Earle is like a mastermind villain out of the Sherlock Holmes books, whose cerebral malevolence is spiked with a wicked sense of humor and who relishes the theatrical flair he employs to stay at least one step ahead of Cooper. If Earle is an earthly spark of evil adept at destroying human flesh, then BOB is a roaring fire who spans worlds as he devours the very marrow of human souls. This is the “incomprehensible” power source that Earle covets, and which his scholarship has told him resides in the Black Lodge, a spectral dimension which relates to Major Briggs’ extraterrestrial monitoring and which is the source of the town legend’s ancient darkness. Earle’s mission is to gain access to the Lodge and obliterate Cooper in the process, which brings us to the secondseason finale, scripted by Mark Frost and chief writers Harley Peyton and Robert Engels, and directed by Lynch.
Lynch’s working procedure when making one of his own films centers on the actors and technicians “tuning in”10 and harmonizing with his fundamental conception of the project. He considers others’ suggestions and sudden intuitions as part of the process, but he hews to the core of his original inspiration. Working on a weekly TV series with a multitude of collaborators frustrated his natural modus operandi: “There are other directors, other writers, other things that come in. It may be fine, but it’s not what you would do.”11 And whatever he wants to do is the motivating principle of Lynch’s art. The director felt that “Cooper is real close to me; he says a lot of the things I say,”12 and earlier in the series Lynch felt that Frost and some of the other writers weren’t striking the proper Cooperesque note of awestruck terseness in the agent’s speeches. It’s more than a casual remark when Lynch, playing FBI boss Gordon Cole, tells Cooper to lose those colorful, open-collared plaid flannel shirts and get back into his crisp, black Federal Bureau of Investigation suit.
Peggy Lipton, who played Norma Jennings, notes that as the second season progressed Lynch was “no longer as involved as he had been,”13 and “tensions and dissentions began to divide the Twin Peaks family.”14 It is a measure of Lynch’s distance from the day-to-day shaping of the show that, when we total up the entire two seasons of Twin Peaks, he has four writing credits, while Frost, Peyton, and Engels together have thirty-two. When it came time to direct what turned out to be the final hour of Twin Peaks that would ever be broadcast, Lynch could not abide the all-important conclusion of the script that his colleagues handed him: “It was completely and totally wrong.”15 Lynch and Frost had conceived and launched the show in a perfect synchrony of creative energy but, in Lynch’s judgment, Twin Peaks had wandered off course, bogging down in a swamp of conventional soap-opera plotting and cerebral, prosaic, rationalistic philosophy. Knowing that his relative lack of hands-on participation had contributed to this sorry state of affairs, he dipped into his rich pool of inner vision, determined to give Twin Peaks a final jolt of magic and poetry.
First, he gave his old friends, Eraserhead colleagues, and former husband and wife Jack Nance (Pete Martel) and Catherine Coulson (the Log Lady) their only face-to-face scene of the series. Then, after filming written plot elements in which benign Doc Hayward brutally attacks Ben Horne for announcing that he is Donna’s real father, and Audrey is in danger when a bank blows up, Lynch threw away the script and spontaneously created a heartfelt fantasia on what he considered to be the key Twin Peaks themes.
Throughout the series, Cooper’s masculine, heroic quest has been aided by the feminine intelligence, courage, wisdom, and vision of the Log Lady, Sarah Palmer, Audrey, Donna, Ronette Pulaski, and Laura, who finally makes sure he remembers her whisper about Leland being her killer. And now the Log Lady, with her news about the scorched motor oil being “an opening to a gateway,” helps Cooper slip through the forest’s red curtains into the Black Lodge.
Windom Earle, with the kidnapped Annie in tow, has proceeded Cooper, certain that the agent will come to rescue his love, and thereby fall victim to Earle’s Black Lodge–enhanced evil power. Frost, Peyton, and Engle’s script had the season’s final confrontations occurring in an abstracted black-andwhite location that melded a doctor’s office with a throne room, but Lynch knew that he must return to that ultimate seat of mystery, the Red Room.
Cooper has visited this Lynch-imagined place in dreams, but now he’s really there, breathing the air contained by the red-curtained walls as his polished black shoes click on the zig-zag-power-field-patterned floor. As the poem has it, Cooper has been the seeker who “longs to see,” and here he’s met by a vocalist (the legendary Jimmy Scott) who seems to personify the Black Lodge’s secrets as he soulfully sings, “And I’ll see you, and you’ll see me,” implying that all will be revealed. The singer also ominously intones, “I’ll see you in the trees,” recalling the way that Josie Packard’s spirit, thanks to the gloating BOB, ended up imprisoned within a wooden drawer knob: The Black Lodge is a place charged with great danger as well as potential knowledge.
In the last thirty minutes of Twin Peaks, Lynch gives us a profound gift by making the red-curtained rooms and corridors of the Black Lodge a place beyond Cooper’s and our absolute comprehension. At first we’re able to keep track of which room the agent is in by noting the placement of a white marble Venus statue in the corridor outside, but then the signpost statue is gone, and it’s impossible to know which way is backwards or forwards, and Cooper is able to enter the same room from different directions. After disorienting Cooper’s familiar sense of space, Lynch brings time into the mix by having the agent receive a cup of coffee that, within a few seconds, turns from liquid to solid to a viscous sludge that oozes slowly from the cup like one of Salvador Dali’s melting watches. Further confusion is added when the Man From Another Place (the dancing, backward-talking dwarf) tells Cooper that the Great Northern Hotel’s old bellhop and the Giant are “one and the same,” or is it the Giant and the man From Another Place that are the same—or all three?
The little man also says that the Red Room contains the doppelgangers, or shadow-selves, of people Cooper is familiar with, and as the agent traverses corridors and rooms, he has some scary and mystifying encounters. The doppelgangers have creepy white eyes, and Cooper meets a pale-pupiled Laura, who screams at him; Leland in his sly “I didn’t do anything wrong” mode; and Caroline, Cooper’s former love who was slain by her cuckolded husband, Windom Earle. Then Annie and Caroline seem to interchange places, evoking Cooper’s guilt and pain over his adulterous part in Caroline’s death and linking it with his anguish over the way his love for Annie has made her a potential victim of Earle and the Black Lodge. Has Windom Earle absorbed enough of the Lodge’s power to be able to torment Cooper by manipulating these images of Caroline and Annie trading places, or is some higher authority trying to break down our hero’s stalwart sense of righteous self-possession?
Earle thinks the force is with him and bossily tells Cooper he’ll let Annie live if the agent will give up his own soul, which Cooper agrees to do. However, BOB, and probably Lynch as well, is tired of wordy windbag Earle trying to usurp the Black Lodge’s power, and the demonic entity growls “Be quiet” in his face. Asserting his dominance, BOB tells Cooper that Earle had no right to make such a bargain. And, facing the terrified Earle, tears his soul out, which Lynch visualizes as a flame shooting up out of the villain’s head. Flaming souls feed the fire that walks with BOB, as does fear. Cooper is usually cool under pressure, but his psyche has just received two major blows: He’s been wracked with guilt over the perverse way that his love for both Caroline and Annie has put them in harm’s way, and, in darkness whipsawed with white-hot flashes of malevolent electricity, he’s seen BOB’s ferocious, soul-stealing power close up.
Cooper’s face remains calm, but inside he’s beside himself with agitation. Lynch has said that the Red Room reflects the mindset of the person experiencing it. When Cooper first visited the Room in his dream shortly after arriving in Twin Peaks, he was falling in love with the young, beautiful, murdered Laura, so his encounters were pleasantly mysterious. It was a place of “good news” with “music in the air,” where the Man From Another Place smiles sweetly, as did Laura, who kissed Cooper and told him her biggest secret. And now that Cooper’s actually in the Red Room, and has, for the past weeks been immersed in the dark side of Laura, Leland, and the whole town, and has been reminded of some of his own profound mistakes and failures, the Room has become a head-splitting locus of disorientation and fear. Our intrepid, resolute, single-minded hero has lost his way, and the Black Lodge is able to pounce on his vulnerability, splitting him in two, so that a shadow-shelf Cooper cackles with BOB and chases the terrified good Cooper down the red corridors.
And yet, behold: An unconscious Cooper and Annie materialize back in the real-world woods, where good old Sheriff Truman has been keeping a vigil all night. Again and again in his work, Lynch projects a sense of home disrupted and then reconstituted. A feeling of homecoming and reunion permeates the endings of Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, and Wild at Heart, and now, Cooper wakes in his familiar bed, surrounded by Doc Hayward and Truman. This tableau makes the world of Twin Peaks seem once again safe and secure, as Lynch evokes the ending scene of his beloved The Wizard of Oz, in which far-traveling Dorothy awakens to find family and friends at her bedside. Cooper’s first words are “How’s Annie?,” and Truman reassures him that she’s doing fine in the hospital. As if to certify the restoration of order over chaos, creature-of-habit Cooper gets up to enact one of the simple ritualistic pleasures he (and Lynch) so appreciates, and that keep his life centered.
Alone in the bathroom standing before the sink and mirror, Cooper picks up his toothbrush and paste and starts to squeeze the tube. But, with the significance of a cosmic disruption, he’s gripped by an uncivilized, animal impulse, and empties the whole tube in the sink. Then, to our horror, he smashes his head into the mirror, causing two trickles of blood to stain his forehead, for now Cooper, like the rest of Twin Peaks, is marked by doubleness. Then, to end the season and the series, we see the most dreadful sight Lynch could imagine: the feral face of BOB leering in the mirror back at Cooper, just as the evil one reflected back at Leland. The last thing we hear is our normally sincere and caring hero mocking his own recent words of loving concern (“How’s Annie?”) with a sneer and laughing and laughing like a man possessed.
There weren’t many Twin Peaks viewers left to witness Cooper’s sad and tragic last moments on the air. The series’ premiere had attracted an audience of thirty-five million, while its finale only managed to scrape together six million. The show finished a distant third in its time period, beaten by sitcom reruns and a rerun of Northern Exposure, a much less challenging and daring Northwest small-town show with quirky characters and occasionally surreal storylines that some called “Twin Peaks for beginners.” When the first season ended the year before, so many fans wanted to watch the finale in the series’ spiritual home, the Snoqualmie Valley of Washington State, that they filled the big dining room of the Salish Lodge (Twin Peaks’ Great Northern Hotel) to overflowing. This year, there were barely enough supporters to fill the booths at the little Mar T Café (the show’s Double R Diner). As that last, disturbing image of Cooper faded into the eleven o’clock news, the fans’ reactions were mixed; “The show started off plain and simple and then really went off into the bizarre”16; “How could David Lynch do that to Agent Cooper—it just really hurt”17; “It’s the evil that I really like”18; “They kept leaving more strings untied—there better be more to come”19; and “To show that even Cooper could succumb to BOB was a perfect way to end.
Greg Olson/ David Lynch/ Beautiful Dark