The return of Twin Peaks is a lot to process. After each episode, Uproxx’s Alan Sepinwall and Keith Phipps attempt to hash out what we all watched.
Alan: Keith, at first, I was glad that the holiday weekend meant our final Peaks conversation would be postponed a day, because I felt I needed more time to process The Return‘s conclusion. I thought a lot about it, and I read eloquently written, highly laudatory finale reviews by my old pal Matt Zoller Seitz and your former colleagues Noel Murray and Todd VanDerWerff. Ultimately, though, the extra day wasn’t really necessary, because my feelings this morning are exactly what they were on Sunday night: a mix of wonder (primarily at the first half of “Part 17”) and frustration (at most everything that happened after Cooper left Frank Truman’s office). This is often the combination I get from watching the works of David Lynch, but ideally the ratio is far more in favor of wonder than it was here.
Now, I wasn’t shocked or angered by the non-conclusion, because I’d come to expect it from both the larger Lynch canon and from Twin Peaks in particular, which infamously ended its ABC run on a cliffhanger. (Or did it? We’ll get back to that in a second.) But there is opting not to resolve your story — not to resolve many of your stories, in fact, and I look forward to reciting my list of stories The Return introduced and then forgot about — and there is devoting a massive chunk of your final episode, apparently ever, on a couple of silent road trips that seemed to be occurring in real time, and then ending with such little emotional or narrative closure. There were times in The Return where Lynch’s self-indulgences still felt in service to a particular mood, but a lot of this played to me like an artist realizing he was about to say goodbye forever to his most famous creation, and trying so hard to elongate his final moments with it that he lost his grip on it altogether.
I recall feeling similarly as a teenager watching Cooper’s endless wanderings through the Black Lodge in the final ABC episode, and initially read “How’s Annie?” as a defiant gesture aimed at a network that had long since stopped supporting the show. But in the years since, I came to accept it as an actual ending, even if it wasn’t the one I wanted: good tries hard, as always, but darkness triumphs, as always. Finis.
Maybe in time I’ll come to accept the puzzling encounter with the woman in the Palmer house (played by the home’s actual owner, in a nice touch for a part of the finale that seemed more visually tethered to the real world than the rest) and Laura’s scream similarly. I can construct plausible theories about what happened: the Jeffries tea kettle sends Cooper back to prevent Laura’s murder, and in the process he creates an alternate timeline where she is somehow Carrie Page (and Cooper and Diane are now Richard and Linda), or that spot on the desert highway simply transports Cooper and Diane to a parallel universe, or some combination of the two. But the way in which the concluding sequence unfolded — both the driving sequence that put the old Black Lodge curtains scene to shame for how long it kept going and going and going, and then Cooper’s utter bafflement at meeting Alice Tremond — sucked away most of my emotional investment in the story, and made the whole thing feel like a set-up for a fourth season (Twin Peaks: The Return Returns?), even though Showtime has said there are no plans for one.
There’s so much more about the finale — and the season as a whole — I want to talk about with you, Keith, including that aforementioned list of danglers, plus how improbably powerful it was to watch a random English guy in a gardening glove punch a floating rock with Frank Silva’s face on it, but let’s start with that ending. You’ve told me you loved every bit of the finale, so tell me more about why. What were you feeling as Laura screamed and we cut to the credits?
Keith: I’m glad we had a little time to process this one, too, and I feel like I have needed it. (And, before I forget, we should add Sonia Saraiya’s Variety review to that reading list. This finale really brought out the best in our TV writers.) My first thought, like yours, is that the finale scene was an unexpected set-up for another season (or a feature film or whatever) and that I’d be disappointed if such a thing didn’t happen. There’s a lot of unfinished business and, wait, what was all that anyway? Then I started to think this would be an appropriate place to end it. To my eyes, these last two episodes are a case of Lynch and Frost trying to split the difference between fans’ expectations and less expected final episode. “Episode 17” brought much of the cast of characters together in one place at last and mostly settled up the business of the main plot. Bad Coop gets turned into a Bob madball and disintegrates into little pieces.