Twin Peaks: The Return Parts 17 and 18 recap: A finale for the ages

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Mar 25, 2021, 2:00 PM EDT (Updated)

This week on Twin Peaks, storylines come together, a strange meeting occurs, and the future is uncertain. Let's rock!


The short version: "The past dictates the future."


OK, so this recap is going to be a little different. Generally speaking, I try my best to recount the actual events of the episode and parse out what they mean, which with Twin Peaks is pretty important. I ... can't do that this time. My brain is just mashed-up creamed corn right now, as I'm sure yours is, so the best I can do is try to summon up some sense of meaning from what I just saw. I'll do the best I can.

So, first of all, it really feels like the show's not over, right? The crazy Audrey twist we got last week isn't resolved, the Sarah Palmer monstrosity is still a bit confusing, and we still don't know exactly where or when Dale Cooper is. Granted, it's David Lynch we're talking about. He could very happily leave well enough alone anytime he damn well pleases. It doesn't feel like he'll actually do that this time, though. It feels like there's more to this story, even if (the ratings have often been dismal for Showtime) we never get to see it. Even for Twin Peaks, it feels like there are too many pieces missing. And I know this because I watched it three times, just to be sure.

Where to start? Well, if we're talking about memorable plot points, we almost have to start at the end. "What year is this?" sets off a whole host of new questions even as we were just hoping for some answers, and that's the Twin Peaks way. So, did Cooper and "Carrie Page" time-travel? When he and Diane went into that motel they were in an older car than the one he left in. Or, what seems like a more prominent possibility: Did Cooper dimension-hop? He wakes to the note to "Richard" from "Linda" (so that mystery's finally solved ... sort of), meets an alternate version of Laura Palmer, and then arrives at what seems to be an alternate version of the Palmer home. Alternate dimensions are well established as part of Peaks lore, as is the transformative power of electricity. So, whatever's happening and whatever's about to happen, it would seem that Cooper isn't in the same world anymore. 

The show's trademark phrase even includes a hint: "One chants out between two worlds ..."

What's particularly interesting is that all of this happens after what felt like the show's primary conflict is actually resolved. Freddie found his destiny, and his destiny was apparently to literally punch BOB to pieces. The show's main villain (or at least who we thought was the main villain) is gone because of this kid with the green glove, and the DoppelDale has been banished back to the Lodge thanks to Cooper and the Ring. As "Part 8" established for us, BOB is a primal, monstrous force drummed up by the very engines of apocalypse. He's ferocity incarnate, but somehow Freddie was able to banish him. BOB managed to kill Laura Palmer in the show's inciting incident, but it always felt like Laura died for a reason. In that moment it felt like everything this show has been building to was finally fulfilled.

Only it wasn't ...

When Cooper became himself again, rising from Dougie Jones' hospital bed with a sense of purpose and forming some kind of plan with MIKE, he seemed to know exactly what he had to do in a way that no one else could fully comprehend. We knew a convergence was coming. We knew the DoppelDale was headed for Twin Peaks, as were Gordon, Albert, and Tammy. It all seemed to come down to this single confrontation. Then that confrontation passed and we still had a lot of show to get through, because Cooper's role in this massive saga wasn't just to defeat his twin and BOB. It was something bigger.

It was, apparently, an effort to undo the death of Laura Palmer, or to at least provide the universe (multiverse?) with a replacement. At this point it's very hard to tell if he succeeded, but we at least know that some kind of impact was made. We see Laura's plastic-wrapped body vanish as Pete Martell heads out to fish. We see Cooper transported back to Laura's final night, taking her hand out of the darkness and attempting to free her from doom. Then ... Laura's gone.

Does that mean he, in fact, didn't save her? Does that mean Laura has to be the sacrificial lamb in any version of this reality? In "Part 8" we learned that Laura was not just a self-destructive teenager who got in over her head. Laura was created with a purpose, conceived by the Fireman in an effort to combat the darkness that is BOB. Perhaps her death remains necessary. Perhaps Cooper can go back and try again to pull her out of those woods. Or perhaps "Carrie Page," with a restored memory of her other life, can enlighten our intrepid FBI agent.

At this point I've spent a lot of time trying to parse out the central mystery of this finale, but there are so many other mysteries to discuss. What the hell is going on with Sarah Palmer? Is Laura actually still dead in the original universe? And, of course, there's still the issue of Judy, the "extreme negative force" who just might be at the center of this whole thing. It's a mind-melting experience trying to hold it all in your head at once, and perhaps we're not meant to. 

We may never know what follows that shattering scream at the end of the finale. We may never know what comes after the lights went out in the Palmer house. For all the critical love it's gotten and all of its devotees, Twin Peaks has not been a ratings smash this year. Even if Lynch and Frost have more story to tell (Frost has a book, The Final Dossier, coming out next month), we might not actually get to see it. Even if we do, it might not make sense.

But you know what? I'm happy. I'm baffled and exhausted and frustrated like this is the end of a very twisted love affair, but I'm happy. I'm happy because a major premium cable network that could have just been trying to find another Game of Thrones imitator instead gave us 18 hours of David Lynch weirdness and let Lynch and Frost do this Their Way. I'm happy because I got to go back to the RR for a little while. I'm happy because the story continues, even if only in our minds. I'm happy because it was damn good coffee. I'm happy because those trees are really something.


I really only have one complaint: Not enough Hawk.


- You guys, there are ... just so many of these this time. I'm sorry in advance.

- Mrs. Chalfont is the old woman with the magician grandson, the woman who doesn't like creamed corn. In Fire Walk With Me she's established as a kind of benevolent spirit who once lived in Fat Trout Trailer Park. She has another name too: Tremond. Spooky.

- We still don't have a clear answer about what happened to Becky, and I'm worried about Shelly.

- If nothing else about this episode makes you happy, at least take solace in knowing Janey-E and Sonny Jim got to be with Dougie again.

- "How the hell is this?" is a phrase I repeated through most of the episode.

- LUCY! I'm amazed my neighbors weren't beating down my door, I was yelling so loud.

- “If I disappear, like the others, do everything you can to find me.” Even before the Palmer case, Cooper was aware of something. There's a bigger battle going on that we've only scratched the surface of.

- Was Naido Diane the whole time, and if so how did she get to that place?

- Of all the weird cameos and callbacks we got during this, who was expecting Josie Packard?

- February 23, 1989.

- The Experiment is, as far as we know, still out there.

- "A Blue Rose case, most definitely."

- We still have no idea what's going on with Audrey.

- The Fireman moves DoppelDale from place to place. He physically transfers him. How far does that ability go?

- Major Briggs is far more than just an observer in all of this.

- Again, LUCY! LUCY! LUCY!

And ... that's it? Thanks for joining us for this weird summer. Go have a slice of cherry pie and, should this bizarre show somehow return, we'll be there.