Spoilers for Twin Peaks: The Return episode 18, ‘What Is Your Name?’, follow.
— Michał (@radiustachyon) September 4, 2017
He’s done it again. David Lynch, that dratted tease, fooled us all into thinking we might get some answers by the end of Twin Peaks: The Return. Alas, lying in wait was nothing but confusion and wonder. Just as season two did all those years ago, 2017’s long-awaited revival series finished on the mother of all cliffhangers.
In the final scene of last night’s concluding episode, Special Agent Dale Cooper – who recently awoke from his season-long slumber – went back in time to save Laura Palmer from being murdered. He seemingly succeeded and returned to the present in order to reunite the now middle-aged Laura with her mother. Everything looked set for a heartwarming final few minutes but Lynch, of course, had other ideas.
Having traced Laura to a grubby, little flat in Texas, Cooper was disappointed to find a Carrie Page living there. She looked, talked and walked like Laura, but had no clue who he, or anyone else he mentioned, was. Initially disconcerted, Coop pulled himself together and convinced new Laura to accompany him back to Twin Peaks, Washington, to meet her still-grieving mum Sarah Palmer. When they arrived and knocked at the Palmers house a strange woman answered, tersely informing the pair that Sarah Palmer never lived there and she and her husband bought the property from a Mrs Chalfont. A long silence followed before Cooper finally spoke (“What year is it?”), Laura screamed and we cut to black. The credits rolled.
What does it all mean?
Luckily, a clever user on 4chan might have already cracked it. Their Twin Peaks fan theory runs as follows:
Basically, the entire final scene post-Cooper saving Laura was one of her dreams. If you listen closely you can hear Sarah Palmer call to her daughter in the background. Fans are claiming this matches the audio from the first ever episode when Sarah first discovers Laura is missing (her body is found by the river). This time Laura isn’t dead though, as Cooper went back in time and saved her. Instead, her mother’s voice acts as a call from the real world for her to wake up back in 1989 at the beginning of the entire Twin Peaks narrative – thus bringing the plot full circle.
For the most part, this theory does make sense. Lynch is definitely the type of filmmaker that would trash his whole story just as it reached its conclusion and he’s used dream sequences in the past (Mulholland Drive, Eraserhead). But, as is the way with Peakies, some fans aren’t buying it. They’ve invested a lot of time in this surrealist nightmare and the thought of it all being for nought doesn’t fly. No siree bob.
Ultimately, we’ll never know for sure the outcome of the Twin Peaks franchise. Mostly because Lynch doesn’t want us to ‘work things out’. His films are deliberately formed in a dense and opaque structure, full of twisting tales designed to keep you guessing. It’s not ideal, but would really you have him (or Twin Peaks) any other way?