Welcome back to TV Timewarp, in which we spend Wednesdays revisiting each episode of a late, beloved series. Brian Collins, Evan Saathoff (aka Sam Strange) and I have made our way through every episode of Mark Frost's and David Lynch's Twin Peaks, which aired on ABC from 1990-91. It wasn't always easy, but we did it. We did it for YOU. And then we whined and bitched and moaned about it a lot.
You can follow along the entire series here.
And at last we’ve reached the final two episodes of Twin Peaks, a show that ends with what is possibly the ballsiest, most fuck-you of a conclusion in television history. Not a goddamn thing happens in this finale, and I actually love it. What did these guys have to lose? ABC didn’t even give them a two-hour finale (notable after both premieres and the season one finale were all double-length episodes), and they were on their way out for good. They might as make their goodbye as bleak and esoteric and unresolved as narratively possible.
But first, the penultimate episode, “Miss Twin Peaks,” in which I feverishly screen-capped nearly every single minute because this pageant is pure gold. Dance numbers, pantsless costumes, Donna's hideous updo, earnestly inane speeches, a pregnant lady doing the splits, something called “contortionist jazz exotica,” drama, intrigue, suspense! I truly love the Miss Twin Peaks pageant.
And in the final two episodes, Coop and Co grow ever closer to discovering the location of the Black Lodge, what Harry once referred to as “the evil in these woods.” The map on the wall of Owl Cave gives hints as to its location, which Windom Earle is also furiously hunting. Does it matter? No. Nothing in these last two episodes matter. It’s just beautiful nonsense. All of a sudden we’re talking about Laura Palmer and BOB and Josie and Ronette Pulaski and the Log Lady again. Twin Peaks goes cyclical in this strange way that could never be considered continuity because none of it makes any actual sense.
It’s a lyrical resolution rather than an actual resolution - repetition of theme and images and dialogue (the scene with Bobby and Shelly and the German waitress at the RR Diner exactly mimics a scene from the pilot), all of which lead up to nothing. Absolutely, definitively, in-your-face levels of nothingness.
If it sounds like I’m complaining, I’m not! I admire the sheer gall of Twin Peaks’ ending this way. It’s just really hard to write about because, I’m not kidding, legitimately nothing happens. Not only does nobody on this show get a happy ending, most of them don’t get any ending at all. Except Lucy and Andy, I guess. It’s really easy to make dumb people happy. But everyone else on this show is either miserable or in a state of perpetual irresolution.
For instance: what happens with the Haywards? Donna finds out that Ben Horne is, in fact, her dad, but not her “daddy” because that honor resides with Dr. Hayward. We know this because Donna cries over and over, “You’re my daddy! You’re my daddy!” and makes us all super uncomfortable. Then Dr. Hayward throws Ben into the fire, Ben gets a concussion or has a seizure or dies - it’s unclear - and Doc, one of our only sane, measured characters in Twin Peaks, wails at the sky in a display of unhinged lunacy. And that’s it.
What happens with Leo and Shelly and Bobby? Shelly and Bobby flirt weirdly at the diner and talk about getting hitched before Shelly reminds us she’s still married. We get a one second flash of Leo tied up in the woods and moaning Shelly’s name...and that’s it.
What happens with Nadine and Ed and Mike and Norma? Nadine hits her head during the Windom Earle-initiated chaos at the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant and all of a sudden forgets that Season Two of Twin Peaks ever happened. That lucky bitch. Now Mike is heartbroken, and I guess Ed and Norma won’t get married after all. And that’s it.
What happens with Audrey? She wears a beautiful red dress, stares into a fire, nails the line “From the bottom of my heart, I don’t want to be a bathing beauty,” enters the pageant anyway and then...dies in a bank explosion? She actually dies in a fucking bank explosion with Pete and Andrew. And that’s it.
What happens with Catherine? Nobody knows. And that’s it.
And what happens with Coop, my beloved Coop? The heart and soul of this show, the character in whom Twin Peaks has invested the most time and energy? He spends almost the entire finale dicking around in the majestic weirdness of the Black Lodge, running into Evan’s girlfriend Maddy, Laura, the idiot room service waiter, Leland, Annie, Caroline Earle, Windom Earle, the Man From Another Place, BOB and a really groovy singer before escaping and maybe saving Annie (but we don't actually see her revived, so who knows) - and then we learn that he’s possessed by BOB. And that’s it. That is fucking it. That is the end of the entire series. Special Agent Dale Cooper has been possessed by BOB. The end.
Listen, that is nuts. I mean, yeah, it’s crazy, but I also mean it’s testicles. This finale has BALLS. You complained that The Sopranos didn’t have a satisfying ending? Jesus, this finale has taken giant leaps backward over everything the series has established before. It’s like Twin Peaks actually never happened. It’s like Twin Peaks ate itself.
You guys, Twin Peaks HATES US. And like any girl with daddy issues, when someone treats me with cold indifference, I find myself desperate to impress them. LOVE ME, TWIN PEAKS. I’m sorry I’ve said so many bad things about you over the past three months! Come back! Come back and make sense! BRING ME MY COOP BACK!
As a boy with daddy issues, I’m more inclined to tell Twin Peaks to go fuck itself. People talk about LOST and The X-Files when it comes to bad endings. This episode definitely belongs among these titans of disappointment. Instead, people actually talk up this ending like it’s something worth waiting for. Stranger still, some find redemption for Twin Peaks’ truly atrocious second season in this last hour.
It’s true that Coop spends a good amount of time in The Black Lodge. These sequences really are fun. Few things in this world curdle my blood like Laura Palmer’s weird scream. I love seeing Leland again. And... I guess it’s nice to see Caroline, even though I don’t know her.
But, you know, Coop doesn’t actually do anything in the Lodge. I guess that’s not fair. He offers his soul to save Annie. But am I the only one who wishes Coop actually interacted with the Lodge more? He drifts through it almost comatose, which makes a certain sort of sense, but think about how much more all of this should mean to Cooper. Think about what his journey here could say about his character. Even at its best, Twin Peaks is like being so content in a shitty life that you never think to compare it to all the good stuff you’re missing while drinking Natty Light and watching Wheel of Fortune before pulling out the couch bed.
Speaking of Annie: “Her?” She won the beauty pageant? Do people even know who she is? The other girl had sex with Dick Tremayne to win. That he didn’t vote for her nearly constitutes rape. Why the fuck did Annie win anything? Why not give it to Caroline, Coop’s dead lover, while they’re at it?
Like Meredith said, everyone dies in this episode. These deaths are so random and sudden, it’s almost like a big fat “I told you so” to people still lying to themselves about the show’s quality. Audrey and Pete’s death is so stupid, you almost can’t believe it just happened. Ditto for the almost absurdly awful scene between Doc Hayward and Ben Horne. Ed and Nadine are maybe back toge... fuck it, let’s just cut to a different scene.
This show sucks. I’m so glad we did this because I used to have a middling-to-high opinion of it. Rewatching it now definitely shows me the error of my ways. I strongly dislike Twin Peaks. Even this supposedly great finale stinks up the place.
Was there every any suspense that Lucy would pick Dick Tremayne for her baby’s father? When she picks Andy, even Dick is like, “Oh good, this stupid bullshit storyline is finally over.” We’re just lucky Andy didn’t suddenly die for no reason. This was actually a pretty good week for Andy. Not only does he get to become a dad, but he gets one last hurrah of being a better investigator than Special Agent Dale Cooper. I can’t believe I used to think Cooper was cool. Instead he further proves the old adage: “White dudes who spiritually reference Tibet are full of shit.”
Anyway, I’m so glad to be out. No James, Josie, Hank or Harold this week, so there’s that. Next week will be fun. I am as blank as a fart.
Yeah, I have been told since the day we started that “The back half of Season Two sucks, but the finale is amazing," or something along those lines, and now I know that those people are damnable liars. I can only assume that since Lynch directed the episode himself that it benefits from the Pavlovian response his stuff gets, just like there are people who will try to tell you that Inland Empire is a good movie, when in fact it’s actually worse than this.
Because otherwise, how can anyone be satisfied with this finale? I’ve seen shows that were canceled in between seasons that tied things up better than this did, when they presumably had at least a couple weeks notice to shoot the final scene in a reasonable manner, as opposed to launching what would have been the only interesting thing Cooper has done all season (being infected by BOB), knowing that it would never go anywhere. It’s like Lynch and Mark Frost are going out of their way to be dicks, and yet some folks still defend it as brilliant. What am I missing here?
And it leaves more characters’ fates in question than even the S1 finale, another dick move. I suppose there’s no way in hell that Pete could have survived, but did Audrey die too? Might she have been protected somewhat by the bars and such on the door she was chained to? Horne might be dead too, but if so I assume Doc wouldn’t go to work the next day, checking up on Coop. Hell, I couldn’t even tell if Earle perished - isn’t this some sort of dream world? Nice to see Ray Wise again though, whatever the hell that was about. The nice thing is, since the show had long since abandoned any storylines that I actually cared about, it didn’t actually make me ANGRY that I was left with blue balls - mostly just kind of scared that we somehow missed an episode after this one and we’d be here another week before we get to the movie, which is a prequel so it isn’t likely to resolve anyone’s fate.
Thus, I must admit there were sparks of the old Peaks here and there, like Laura’s disturbing screams in the Black Lodge, and the nutty finale to the first episode, with the strobe FX and Earle disguising himself as the Log Lady, which looked so good I actually started questioning whether Ken Welsh was playing her all along. And it’s kind of charming that the storylines that are resolved are sort of sweet, like Bobby and Shelly reuniting and seemingly happy (except for the non-divorce from Leo part of it), and Lucy shocking the world by choosing Andy over Dick to be the father of her baby. It’s easy to see how these things would play out in future seasons, especially if you consider its soap opera wannabe nature - the baby would be Dick’s; Leo would refuse the divorce and try to make it work, etc. As for Nadine/Ed/Norma - same thing - they’d be left trying to reconcile, Norma would go back to the diner and maybe fall in love with the now single Cooper... who knows. The point is, these storylines at least reached some sort of conclusion, instead of ramping up the stakes and leaving it at that forever.
Also, damn the show for not expanding on the Bookhouse Boys. Not only was it a fine way to give Everett McGill something to do besides look bewildered at whatever nonsense Nadine was up to, but it was something that could unify the cast a bit. One of the biggest problems with this season is that everyone was in separate storylines - nothing intersected or gelled together. As a result, you have characters who never once interact the entire season, not to mention leave many of them by the wayside - Catherine doesn’t even appear in the final episode, and a few others only appear for a moment. Obviously, there wasn’t time to have a little coda for every single character (another of its problems was that it had too many damn cast members), but they can at least APPEAR and DO SOMETHING. This is why Prison Break remains the most satisfying finale ever - they knew in advance it was over, they finished up the action stuff with about 20 minutes to go, and indeed did give a proper sendoff to every main character (and then a bonus DTV movie that cleverly went back six months and offered a condensed version of what would have been the show’s fifth season). Lynch knew it was over and opted to bring even more characters into the mix!
Well, at least I finally saw it all. If you recall back to the beginning of our recaps, I pointed out that I had seen the first couple episodes in the past, and even a couple others out of context, and was happy that this weekly column would “force” me to stay on target and finish all of its episodes. And at first, I was excited for more - at least once I ended up watching the next episodes the day the previous week’s column went up - but as time went on it got less and less enticing, something I’d put off until the day Meredith would send her first volley. Really hoped I would have liked it more, but at least I never have to feel like I’m missing out on something truly wonderful again - the next time someone tells me that the second season stumbles but recovers by the end, I will know that they are full of shit. Thus, this was all worthwhile!
Now on to the movie! I’ve heard mixed things, but just the fact that it’s a prequel that leads into the point of the show I actually enjoyed means I’m actually excited about Twin Peaks again for the first time in months. Plus: Harry Dean Stanton! Nothing with ol’ Harry can be altogether bad.
That's right, we have Fire Walk With Me next week, so you're not off the hook yet! I actually remember very little of that movie, only that it's kind of a crazy mess. Entertainingly crazy mess? Let's hope so! See you next week, and thanks for sticking with us this long.