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[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the Twin Peaks: The Return finale.]
Imagine a Twin Peaks in which Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) never existed, a world where Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) was never summoned to sample the world’s best cherry pie and hot coffee, a world where the murderous entities of the Black Lodge kept their influence away from the Palmer household, assuming such a household ever existed.
That’s the world we’re left to ponder in the final episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, director David Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost’s sprawling Showtime sequel to the original Twin Peaks, which was canceled in 1991. The first series ended on a massive cliffhanger, with Cooper trapped inside a dark dimension known as the Black Lodge, while an evil doppelganger escaped into the world in Cooper’s place wearing his face. The Return focused much of its energy on returning to the show’s original status quo, but ended up taking a hard left turn into yet another new world of sorts, one in which our beloved federal agent was left stranded with “Carrie Page,” a woman who may or may not be Laura Palmer.
It was a confusing conclusion for a show that frequently trades on confusion, an ending that’s left us with many more questions than answers. Here, we present a large handful of those burning questions — 18 of them, to be precise, the same number as the amount of hours comprised by Lynch and Frost’s revival.
1. “What year is this?” It’s the question that will surpass “How’s Annie?” as the most frustrating final note in Twin Peaks lore. The final moment of the series leaves us wondering what world we’re witnessing. Is it future, or is it past — or is it an alternate dimension? The world may never know.
2. Which Cooper is this? The enthusiastic optimism Cooper is best known for was almost entirely washed away from the man in the final episode of the series. But he wasn’t completely cold and calculated, either. Is this the original Cooper, is it the doppelganger, is it some fusion of the two, is it someone else entirely? MacLachlan’s final performance is deftly disorienting, exactly as Lynch likely intended it.
3. What did Laura whisper to Cooper? The final image of the season is Laura whispering to Cooper in the Red Room, as the credits silently roll along. What did she say to the man that sent him on the path he followed in the finale?
4. Who are Richard and Linda? In this alternate universe, it would seem that Cooper and Diane (Laura Dern) have new aliases of their own: Richard and Linda, names that were first mentioned by the Fireman (Carel Struycken) in “Part 1.” Any relation to Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), perhaps? Or should we forget all about Evil Cooper’s evil son, now that he’s been shocked to bits?
5. Did Cooper successfully resurrect Laura? The first part of the finale features Cooper hopping back through time, witnessing the events of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and effectively rescuing Laura from her fate at the hands of Killer BOB. We then see the opening scene of the series, except this time Laura’s wrapped-in-plastic corpse disappears. But then we end the series in this dimension where Laura and the Palmers may have never existed. So, what gives? Is Laura still alive in some other world out there, or has she completely ceased to ever exist except in the minds of an unstuck Agent Cooper?
6. What’s up with Sarah Palmer? Many fans looked at the events of the epic “Part 8,” and walked away thinking the bug-monster crawling into the little girl’s mouth was actually entering the vessel of Laura’s mother, Sarah (Grace Zabriskie). The fact that Sarah opened up her own face and took a big bite out of a guy’s throat a few episodes ago certainly helps bolster that theory, but unfortunately, we probably won’t ever really know what it is that’s fueling the Palmer matriarch’s monstrous behavior.
7. Where in the world is Audrey Horne? Sherilyn Fenn’s return in The Return was perhaps the most perplexing arc of the entire series, a real accomplishment all things considered. The last time we see her, she’s standing in some sort of white room, staring at a mirror, her exact whereabouts and conditions unknown. Is she in an asylum? Is she in a coma? Is she in the Black Lodge somewhere? Your guess is as good as anyone’s.
8. Who the heck is Billy? Throughout the series, and through all of Audrey’s scenes, there are questions about a missing man named “Billy,” a character we never actually meet — at least, as far as we can tell. Maybe Billy and the drunk with the battered face in the Twin Peaks prison cell are the same person, but honestly, who can say? The Billy of it all stands out as one of the strangest red herrings in the entire series.
9. What was going on with the Manhattan project? The first episode of The Return features a massive box in the middle of New York City, through which an angry entity eventually appears and slices some faces into unrecognizable messes of flesh. Who was funding that project? Doesn’t seem like it was Audrey, as we speculated once upon a time. Doesn’t seem like we’ll ever know, either.
10. Did Freddie actually kill BOB? It was incredibly satisfying watching him smash the orb that boasted Frank Silva’s snarling visage into several different pieces, but the shards disappearing into the ceiling above leave us with the sickening suspicion that BOB isn’t dead after all — his influence has likely only spread even further. If it makes things happier to view BOB’s fracturing as the character’s final death, great! Go for it. We’ll just be over here, nauseous at the prospect of hundreds of new human vessels for one of the most menacing monsters in television history.
11. Whom did Carrie kill? The newest Laura Palmer doppelganger had a rotting corpse in the middle of her apartment, a gunshot wound to its noggin. Who was this person, and why was he decomposing in Carrie’s home? Bring on season four for the answer.
12. How upset is Joan Chen? She wrote a letter to David Lynch asking for a Twin Peaks comeback, and she got her wish, in a manner of speaking. The finale flashes back to the first ever episode of Twin Peaks, which includes scenes of Josie Packard. Somehow, archival footage doesn’t seem like enough of a satisfying resolution to the Josie-is-a-doorknob of it all.
13. How many different versions of Diane are out there? In the “alternate universe,” or whatever world we’re calling the one we saw in the final episode, Diane sees the spitting image of herself lurking outside of the motel. The next morning, after she sleeps with Cooper, Diane is gone. There are now at least two active Dianes, not to mention the “tulpa” killed back in “Part 16.” How many more Dianes are out there in the world?
14. Where in the world is Wally flippin‘ Brando? And yes, you are advised to read that question to the tune of Rockapella’s Carmen San Diego theme song. This is not a serious question, because Wally more than served his purpose as a bright shining beacon of levity in the season’s early going, but one should always wonder where he is on the dharma known as the open road.
15. How happy are you that Dougie Jones still exists? If the answer is anything other than “extremely happy,” then you truly have no soul. If nothing else, Twin Peaks delivered a happy ending for the Jones family. This is the most important victory of them all.
16. What is Jerry going to wear? Really, we’re just thrilled that Jerry survived watching Evil Coop from a distance during the events of “Part 16.” If he had died then, it would have simply been too brutal to bear.
17. But seriously, WHO IS BILLY? See: “answer” to question eight.
18. Will we ever return to Twin Peaks again? Sadly, it does not seem likely, though now more than ever, Twin Peaks: Return of the Return feels extremely warranted. But perhaps it’s for the best if it never comes to pass. The heart would not be able to handle Cooper ending up trapped in yet another inescapable dimension of darkness.
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