The final episode of the Twin Peaks revival. Does David Lynch end the series on a high?
This is the second of this week’s reviews, covering the final installment in the Twin Peaks revival. You can read my review of the penultimate episode, Part 17 here.
The final episode in the odyssey that was Twin Peaks: The Return was an interesting experience; given how David Lynch and Mark Frost revolutionised the format of the show just as they revolutionised television in the 90s, we were never going to get a straightforward, nostalgic conclusion to the series. But the way the show ended – or perhaps didn’t end – has left fans divided. Masterpiece or disaster? It kind of depends on who you ask.
For me, Part 18 was both wonderful and frustrating, though it has improved in my mind now that I have had some time to digest what happened. With the defeat of evil Cooper and Bob, the failed attempt to save Laura Palmer and the ethereal voice of Julee Cruise signing out the end of Part 17, we had had the conclusion to the revival of Twin Peaks we were looking for. Part 18 was something different, an emotional coda that felt very much like the next stage of Dale Cooper’s journey as much as a tragic end after his triumphant return to life in Part 16.
The episode played as a conclusion, only for Lynch to play on our expectations. Phillip Gerrard disposing of evil Cooper in the Black Lodge and replacing him with a new tulpa of Dougie was really the only piece of wrapping up Part 18 achieved, giving Janey-E and Sonny Jim that family reunion they deserved. With good Cooper’s attempts to save Laura possibly failing, he journeyed back through the Black Lodge, relieving the events of the first three episodes and emerged in the grove to be reunited with Diane. This moment left us with plenty of questions. Would Cooper save Audrey? Would history be altered? Would Laura Palmer be alive?
Instead, Cooper and Diane drove 430 miles and made a momentous decision to drive through a spiritual void and seemingly change history. Lynch gave us no answers, streamlining the events of the finale into one long road trip for Cooper. Diane and Cooper made love, seemingly for the last time and things changed drastically when he awoke; a message to Richard from Linda telling him he had changed and asking him not to look for her was all that awaited Cooper in the morning.
Richard and Linda had been mentioned in the first episode and this part suggested, somewhat uneasily, that Cooper’s actions in the past had made an irreversible impact on the present. Was he in fact now Richard and not Dale and was Diane Linda? Had he altered their very lives? This was not the Cooper we saw spring to life in Part 16; instead Kyle Maclachlan gave a subtle variation on his FBI character. Diane’s observation of her mirror self at the motel where they spent their final night together suggested another doppleganger. Even his car had changed in the morning, suggesting that perhaps he had fallen asleep in one reality and woken up in another.
But Lynch didn’t give us answers, giving us no hint of Diane’s fate, forcing the audience to question everything that was happening. By the time he encounter the three Texas hicks in Odessa and took them down for assaulting a waitress, the episode had taken a rather drastic turn. “What is going on?” they demanded, echoing the audience’s sentiments – and mine. There was a semblance of linkage to the rest of the series. The diner – Judy’s Cafe – was surely a sign that Cooper was close to finding Jowday / Judy, the evil that had birthed Bob back in Part 8. And that path brought him to Carrie Page.
It was wonderful to have Sheryl Lee back to play a role in the Twin Peaks revival, having been such a huge presence as both Laura Palmer and Maddy Ferguson in the original. And she was brilliant here, a troubled waitress who took the chance to follow Cooper to Twin Peaks even though she had no recollection of that name, her parents or the town. The bizarre case of the dead body in her apartment was another random event littered throughout the series. After a long, long road trip (the episode felt unnecessarily devoted to shots of empty highways), they arrived at the Palmer house, only for Lynch to pull the rug out from the audience one last time.
It wasn’t Sarah Palmer, but Alice Tremond (played by the houses’ real owner Mary Reber) that opened the door. Despite Cooper’s attempts to discover Sarah’s location, it seemed she was not part of this place, the house belonging to Mrs Chalfont previously, Keen fans will of course that the old woman spirit from the original series and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me went by both those names. Coincidence? Perhaps or more likely Lynch messing with the audience’s heads before Cooper asked the dreaded line “what year is this?”.
Carrie – or Laura – hearing Sarah call out her name from the house and screaming was a disturbing as Cooper’s possession by Bob at the end of season two. It was a chilling end to the revival and yes frustrating too, leaving the audience to wonder what Cooper had done to end up in this new time period / reality where everything that had taken place before had seemingly been wiped out.
Yes it serves as a hook for a potential fourth season, though it is probably unlikely. Lynch has made no attempt to suggest he has more story to tell as Cooper’s fate it seems is to end lost in reality and time as a result of his actions travelling through the spirit world. Saying goodbye to Diane and Cole and the end of the last episode may really have been the last time he was seen alive in the world we know.
It makes for a bleak and uncomfortable end to Twin Peaks, though it is hard to imagine anything less from Lynch and Frost. It is an end that sits better with me over time; I’m fine to have the unanswered questions that the final scene leaves, but it also feels like some plot developments have been thrown away. What really happened to Diane? And Audrey – as great as Sherilyn Fenn has been – was utterly wasted by the revival; was she raped by evil Cooper, resulting in the birth of Richard as many fans have suggested? Is she spending her days in a psychiatric facility? Her fate will leave me with a bitter taste in my mouth and I would almost have preferred not to have seen Audrey at all.
But Audrey aside, the revival allowed us to get a glimpse of old favourites from time to time, seeing Bobby’s growth as a person, Nadine making a success of her drapes, Ed and Norma finally getting together. But these were largely snippets in a wider story. It was a joy to see the Log Lady, in a very bittersweet final performance by Catherine Coulson while Miguel Ferrer gave us the gift of more Albert Rosenfeld before his death too. But we also got great new characters into the mix too. Most importantly, it opened up the scope of Twin Peaks well beyond its original murder mystery setting.
Kyle Maclachlan has been a revelation this season while David Lynch has given us something truly special indeed. Episodes like Part 8 will go down in television history. It’s been an emotional, mesmerising and sometime frustrating rollercoaster of a series, but I feel privileged to have watched it. Yes it ended as dark and tragically as the original run, but would you have expected anything less?
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