The Twin Peaks finale left me sad and empty. But what if the show ended on a positive note? This is my “happy ending” theory.
Reading time: 16 minutes
First — spoiler alert.
As I finished watching season 3 of Twin Peaks, being a fan for so many years, I felt disappointed and empty. So many side stories left unanswered, especially Audrey’s story. And Dale Cooper’s failure to defeat Judy, the ultimate evil. Ouch.
A few days passed, and little by little, two questions started to form in my head:
- What if David Lynch and Mark Frost actually gave us answers to everything?
- And what if each and every scene is absolutely crucial to the main plot?
I had to take a closer look:
Wally Brando and Why Lucy Shot Mr. C
For me, it started with Lucy Brennan:
How come she decided so quickly to accept the fact that there are two Coopers whilst talking to Dale Cooper just briefly on the phone, despite not understanding the basic concept of how cell phones work (let alone the concept of supernatural doppelgängers) — and then decide to pick up a gun (she’s not a violent person) and just blow Mr. C away in the sheriff’s office?
In my mind, Lucy would only use a gun to someone she knows is pure evil. And what could Mr. C had done to her that she didn’t remember until she talked to Cooper on the phone?
Well, the most precious source of Lucy’s affection is her son, Wally Brando. Wally did only make one appearance in the show, and gosh, that was a weird appearance. He can’t spend too much time with his parents; he has to be away for long stretches at the time. Still, both Lucy and Andy are just so immensely proud of him.
Wally is clearly inspired deeply by both Marlon Brando and the Godfather movies, which is quite cliché for a Lynch/Frost character. And for some reason, it’s important for Wally to pay his respects to Sheriff Truman in a mannerism that could only be described as an attempt at acting out a bad script. Why, why, and why?
In one of Lucy’s earlier scenes, we see a photograph on her desk portraying her family. Except it’s a family with poorly made cutouts of their heads, thus suggesting that something is false about their family — something that Lucy and Andy can’t deal with.
Now, we know that Mr. C wreaked havoc in Dale Cooper’s absence. What if Mr. C killed Lucy’s and Andy’s real son?
- Unable to cope, Lucy would repress her memories and find it even more difficult to evolve with the times. She did struggle to cope with technology from the start — but not understanding the concept of cell phones after 25 years of working as a receptionist?1
- In an effort to help, the first Sheriff Truman hired an actor to play their son, out and about experiencing adventures in the world and loving his parents very much, whilst keeping both Lucy and Andy on staff, despite them being delusional.
- The second Sheriff Truman was then charged by the first Sheriff Truman to manage the situation, making sure that Wally paid his “parents” the occasional visit. In his first meeting with Wally, it’s clear that he finds the whole situation peculiar.
- “Wally” is therefore not Lucy and Andy’s real son, just an aspiring actor (and not a very good one). This is why he runs through the obvious movie clichées!
- Right after Lucy, almost instinctively, has shot Mr. C, she suddenly understands how cell phones work, indicating that she’s back to her senses with a functioning memory. But due to the strangeness of the situation and what happens in the room directly after, she hasn’t just yet realized that her son is actually dead.
I watched the Wally scene again with this new theory in mind. And it convinced me:
“Wally” is an actor, Lucy and Andy are delusional, and Sheriff Truman is in on the craziness.
Now, suddenly, every line of dialogue in that scene seems brimmed with unspeakable pain behind Lucy’s and Andy’s smiling faces. And the scene beautifully foreshadows Lucy’s bold actions in taking out Mr. C, the most central of the dark characters in the season:
Now, if the most “pointless” scene carried such weight for the plot and I totally missed it — what else had I been wrong about?
The Ending: “What Year is This?”
At the ending of Twin Peaks season 3, here’s what I, at first, thought went down:
Dale Cooper has a plan, but it isn’t to defeat Mr. C. and send him back. As events unfold, Mr. C will be shot by Lucy and the guy with the glove will punch out the BOB orb. Cooper’s real mission in Twin Peaks is the key to his old room at The Great Northern. There, he plans to find the final piece of the puzzle and put his and Major Briggs’ original plan back into play.
Cooper finds Philip Jeffries in his “non-existent” state and Jeffries opens a doorway in the infinite time loop. Cooper travels back in time to save Laura Palmer from being murdered, but something happens and she disappears. Cooper travels back, meets up with Diane, and together they travel, as per the Fireman’s cryptic instructions, to a portal. They go through and in this alternate universe, they find either Laura with a memory loss — or just her counterpart on this alternate timeline. The fact that she doesn’t seem to remember anything seemed to suggest the latter.
Cooper ignores the murdered man on “Laura’s” sofa, maybe because he understands that everything Laura does is on him, too, or because he got a bigger fish to fry; the evil “Judy” residing in Sarah Palmer, Laura’s mom. Cooper takes Laura to Sarah’s house, potentially to make sure that Laura destroys Judy. But Sarah/Judy isn’t there!
By saving Laura, Cooper created an alternate timeline, and now he’s forever stuck there while Judy is still in the original timeline. Cooper slowly realizes that he seems to have ended up in the wrong place by asking:
“What year is this?”
Game over. Judy wins. Laura screams in terror.
The Scream Weapon, Laura is the Dreamer, and Garmonbozia
I had to watch the Twin Peaks season 3 ending again.
Right before Laura screams, there’s a faint call, almost sounding as if Sarah is shouting “Laura” from a far distance (which she also shouts in the first season prior to meeting BOB). Whatever this makes Laura remember, it makes her scream at the house, completely knocking out all the electricity in the house. If Judy, in fact, was in the house, would this have killed Judy? Likely, yes.
Laura was after all the Fireman’s weapon sent to Earth to kill Judy.
How does one kill Judy? According to many fan forums, Judy is derived from jiào dé, which is Chinese for “to outshout.” Maybe that’s why Laura’s been screaming throughout the series — it’s her weapon against the ultimate evil; all of her pain and sorrow compressed into a devastating blow. All the lights going out in the house suggest that both Cooper and Laura succeeded in fulfilling their arcs.
Sound and sound waves are a recurring theme throughout the series. Maybe it’s the kinship between sound and electricity as wave forms that allows travels between worlds — and be used as weapons, as well.
Yes, I think that the Twin Peaks season 3 finale gave us closure — and ended on positive note.
Well, it doesn’t make sense for Cooper to just go and have Laura kill Judy in an alternate timeline, while Judy lives on in the original. (Also, I believe that Lynch and Frost would consider an alternate timeline solution to be cliché and lazy storytelling.) But since Laura clearly gets her memory back in the final scene, this means that she is the same Laura that Cooper went back in time to save — and not some alternate timeline counterpart.
- Who, then, put the Laura there to live out 25 shitty years?
- And where is “there” in this scenario?
- Who took Laura out of Cooper’s hand there in the woods, 25 years ago?
In the forest scene, there’s a familiar sound right before Laura vanishes into thin air. It’s the sound the Fireman plays to Cooper while clearly instructing him (and us), “remember this sound.” The Fireman, who created Laura, was the one who extracted her. hence, it seems like Cooper succeeded also in this mission.
But where did the Fireman put her? Where did Cooper and Diane go when they passed through the electricity portal 830 miles from Twin Peaks to “kill two birds with one stone”?
Wherever it is, it ought to be a place under the Fireman’s control, a place hidden from the world and from evil forces. This seems to suggest that they didn’t end up in an alternate timeline, but rather in an another dimension linked to Laura’s memory — within her own dream, in a sense.
Cooper and Diane didn’t travel to another timeline, but into Laura’s dream.
This could explain why the diner in Twin Peaks has the original sign when Cooper and Laura drive by on their way to Sarah’s house: Being “tucked away” for 25 years, Laura wouldn’t know about the diner’s franchise efforts, and thus wouldn’t know about the new sign. We wouldn’t either if Lynch hadn’t shown us the story of Norma’s expansion plans.
“Dreams” are a familiar Twin Peaks concept and since they’re created by electric signals in our brains, it makes sense for them to be more easily accessible for spirits.
When Cooper and Diane drive into Laura’s lucid dream world, they’re using a classic car simply because they’re expecting to travel in time. Cooper may have spent 25 years on the other side, but he may be unaware of the possibilities for humans to travel into dreams. It’s yet another trick up the Fireman’s sleeve!
Cooper’s plan is audacious; travel back in time and find Laura (the stone), use her as a weapon against Judy (bird one), and close the portal in the Palmer residence (stone two). But, he also needs Judy to follow them.
When Cooper wakes up alone at the motel and walks outside, the motel looks completely different. As if 25 years had passed! And his car is now a modern day black sedan. And when he meets Laura, she’s 25 years older, too. “I’ll see you again in 25 years,” right? It’s difficult for the Fireman to manifest such time displacements in the real world, but in a synaptic dream where he’s in control? Well, that’s more likely.
This means that Judy isn’t inside Laura’s dream to begin with. Cooper and Diane must lure her in.
This is why Cooper and Diane must have sex with each other, even though it pains Cooper to ask this of Diane. She cares for Cooper greatly, but she was also raped by his doppelgänger, Mr. C. The idea is that their pain, in combination with sex2, will lure Judy to follow them into Laura’s dream.
Because lodge spirits feed on human fear and suffering. The negative energy is literally food to them, called garmonbozia. It’s a golden substance that looks like creamed corn and it’s mentioned in this scene:
Jeffries doesn’t really know what year it is.
And sex seems typically linked to negative energy in Lynchian storytelling. Both Laura and Ronette Pulaski were raped. And Mr. C is certainly no stranger to sexual abuse; he rapes Diane and he likely rapes Audrey while she’s comatose at the hospital due to the explosion at the bank — and together they spawn a troubled son, Richard Horne.
When Audrey Finally Wakes Up from Her Coma
The idea of living inside “dream worlds” could also explain Audrey’s story line:
We never get to see Audrey wake up from her coma. What if she gave birth to her son, Richard, while still comatose? If so, Audrey would still be living inside her own dream. A dream in which she’s gone crazy — not unlikely given her family history.
Also, nothing in Audrey’s “reality” seems to suggest that she’s living in a modern world (or that she’s aware of having a son):
Audrey tries to get to the Roadhouse, a common portal in the world of Twin Peaks.
At the Roadhouse, she needs garmonbozia to “break the spell” — her sexy dance, the bar fight, and her panic. When she says to Charlie (likely a watcher commissioned by the Fireman), “Let me out of here!” she wants out of her dream. This is why she wakes up in a clinical environment wearing white; she just woke up at the hospital after being comatose for 25 years.
Who Answered the Door and Why is Cooper Confused?
The woman who opens the door to Cooper and Laura (at what they believe to be Sarah Palmer’s house) seems like just a random person. But two names are disclosed, Tremond and Chalfont. In Twin Peaks lore, those are not just random names; they are thought to be lodge spirits. Maybe the Fireman had them take turns in guarding the portal — or preventing Laura from going through and putting herself at risk?
I think that Mrs. Tremond knew exactly who Cooper and Laura were when she opened the door. And I think she knew, as per the Fireman’s instructions, that Judy would soon appear in the house and that her own sacrifice is near. Together, they only have “one chance” for Laura’s scream weapon.
now, why isn’t Cooper in on the details of this plan? Well, the Fireman isn’t exactly known for speaking plainly. He’s a need-to-know type of guy. He probably just instructed Cooper to take Laura to her house, which he did.
What Happened in Twin Peaks when Laura Disappeared?
If Cooper succeded with his plan, albeit not exactly the way he had envisioned it, then what happened in the real-world Twin Peaks if Laura didn’t die?
Well, Pete didn’t find her laying on the beach, but instead, she vanished in the woods that night after her fight with James on the motorcycle. Leland didn’t murder her, but Laura would still be non-existent. And the only one remembering the “unofficial version” (in which Laura indeed was murdered and found wrapped in plastic) would be Gordon Cole (that’s Lynch himself, of course).
But things would sure be “different,” as foreshadowed by Cooper in his final visit to the Twin Peaks sheriff’s office. Not perfect, but a lot better without Judy, thanks to Cooper, Laura, Major Briggs, and the Fireman.
If anything, my hope is that Lucy and Andy’s real son is alive and well in the “official version.”
If two people ever deserved a good life, it’s Lucy and Andy.
The Fate of Cooper, Diane, and Laura
Finally, will Cooper, Diane, and Laura ever be able to return to the real world?
Well, Cooper doesn’t even know what year he’s in right now, not even that he’s inside Laura’s dream. And I don’t think he had an exit strategy going in. But he’s been in and out of lodges and dreams for a quarter of a century now.
If anyone can find a way out, it’s Cooper.
Also, It seems as if the Fireman has placed doppelgängers for both Cooper and Diane in Laura’s dream. Diane already saw her doppelgänger outside the motel and somehow figured out their names — Linda and Richard3.
Since Diane’s doppelgänger was waiting for her at the motel, it’s plausible that Diane went out to speak with “herself” later that night when Cooper was asleep. It’s fair to assume that Diane’s doppelgänger instructed her to write a note with the Fireman’s second clue.
And since the Fireman has been the protector of good and played the long game all along, I see no reason why he wouldn’t aid Cooper in bringing Diane and Laura back.
The David Lynch and Mark Frost Way
If a girl is attacked in the woods and she pulls up a gun and shoots her attacker, the audience needs to be aware of the fact that she’s carrying a gun.Or if she finds a gun laying on the ground, we need to know how the gun got there and provided with a plausible explanation why the girl happened to find the gun in a big forest at exactly the right time. Or else we, the audience, will feel cheated by lazy storytelling.
I’m struck by the notion that David Lynch and Mark Frost hates lazy storytelling above all else.
Twin Peaks is a masterclass in telling incredibly advanced stories — made even more challenging by being told in realms where the audience can’t rely on what they already know.
In most commercial storytelling, we are rarely introduced to scenes that aren’t immediately set up and thoroughly explained to us. Lynch and Frost show us that a story can be told without any lazy shortcuts, without editing out all the idiosyncrasies of a narrative. Because those small idiosyncrasies are the interesting stuff, the stuff that truly matters.
After all, Lynch and Frost could’ve just brought Cooper back in the first episode of season 3. But in this universe, traveling between worlds is no easy feat — and it always comes at a cost. It takes integrity and storytelling skills to allow 17 episodes to pass before bringing back the central character to the storyline.
I understand now that not a single frame in Twin Peaks is out of place — they all serve a central purpose for the plot. The next step? Figuring out what the hell that scene where someone sweeps the floor of the Roadhouse for several minutes.
Bringing every little piece together — be patient, please.
Any theories on Twin Peaks? Please share in the comments.
- Lynch has allegedly stated that Lucy is not a dimwit.
- Sex and pain is the ultimate nourishment for all dark forces in Twin Peaks, including Judy. In the opening of the third season, we’re waiting to see a glimpse of the supernatural in a big glass box, but it isn’t until a couple has sex in front of it until a female shadow appears — and kills them.
- The Fireman actually mentioned these names to Cooper early on in season 3, so these characters are there on the Fireman’s orders.
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