'Twin Peaks: The Return' Finale Review: Parts 17 And 18

(Each week, we're going to kick off a discussion about Twin Peaks: The Return by answering one question: what was the best scene of the episode?)

The second season of Twin Peaks ended on a cliffhanger so severe it was borderline cruel, instantly establishing itself as one of the most unforgettable moments of television in the medium's history. More than two decades later, creators David Lynch and Mark Frost were given the resources to continue their story with total creative freedom. So how did they choose to end this season – and possibly the series as a whole? Read our Twin Peaks finale review to find out.

We'll get to the Laura Palmer/Carrie Page stuff in a few minutes, but first, let's go back and talk about Part 17 for a little while. FBI Chief Gordon Cole reveals that he's been keeping a secret from Albert for 25 years: Cole, Agent Cooper, and Major Briggs had a clandestine plan to locate an "extremely negative force" in the universe known as "Jowday," aka "Judy." Cole and his Blue Rose task force finally get the information they need about Dougie Jones (and a message from Cooper relayed by Bushnell Mullins), pointing them toward the Twin Peaks sheriff's station.

DoppelCooper visits his final set of coordinates and gets sucked into the Lodge, only to then be spat out in the sheriff's station parking lot. Andy and Lucy welcome him happily and introduce him to Frank Truman, who immediately recognizes something's fishy. But when he receives a call from the real Cooper when he's sitting face to face with DoppelCooper, Frank's too slow on the draw; he would have been done for had it not been for the quick thinking (and quick trigger finger) of Lucy, in one of the best hero moments any character has had on this show. Then we come to the moment we've all been waiting for.

Everyone converges on the Twin Peaks sheriff's station as DoppelCooper lays shot, and they all (including Hawk, Cooper, the Mitchum Brothers, James Hurley, and Hulk-hand Freddie) witness the woodsmen – those sooty homeless-looking spirits – appear and reconstruct Bob's spirit into a floating orb that emerges from DoppelCooper's stomach. Freddie recognizes that this moment is his destiny, and he gets into a brawl with Bob, finally shattering it with the superhuman strength in his hand. Cooper puts the ring on DoppelCooper's body, sending him to the Lodge once and for all, leaving Rodney Mitchum to drop one of the best bewildered lines of the season: "One for the grandkids."

Around the time Cooper's face was superimposed in the background was when the episode became a bit harder to follow for me. "There are some things that will change," he says. "The past dictates the future." As soon as Cooper makes physical contact with Naido (the eyeless woman), it's confirmed that she is a version of Diane (seemingly the original...but don't ask me how that happened). Cooper and Diane passionately kiss, and the superimposition of his face vanishes temporarily; when they notice the time (2:53, natch), Cooper's distorted voice says, "We live inside a dream."

Look, I'm not going to pretend to have come up with a nice and easy answer for what these episodes mean only a few minutes after watching them, because this is a David Lynch property and there's a certain amount of purposeful ambiguity and room for interpretation that will reward repeat viewings and deeper study. But that moment seems crucial to understanding the story Lynch and Frost are trying to tell, and I'm going to need to see it a couple more times to wrap my head around all of this. On first viewing, though, it seems as if a potentially viable reading is that everything that follows is a dream in Cooper's head. And hey, it might not be a dream. I'm just spitballing here. This show isn't exactly straightforward, you know?

Cooper tells everyone he hopes to see them again some day (season 4, anyone?), and the very next scene sees Coop, Diane, and Cole transported into the bowels of the Great Northern, where Coop's old room key inexplicably unlocks a door and takes him to the Lodge, where Mike utters the "Fire Walk With Me" chant and takes him to Phillip Jeffries. The symbol from the ring morphs into a 3D number 8 that rotates in the air, perhaps teasing the alternate world he's about to enter. "You can go in now, Cooper," Jeffries says, and then bam – all of a sudden we flash back to scenes from Fire Walk With Me, in which Laura and James are in the woods together. Her words take on a different meaning after seeing how The Return has developed:

"Open your eyes, James. You don't even know me. There are things about me...even Donna doesn't know me. Your Laura disappeared. It's just me now."

When I first saw FWWM, I assumed Laura was speaking metaphorically. But having seen how prevalent the idea of doppelgangers has become in this fictional universe, I'm wondering if maybe her words should be taken a little more literally. Anyone else wondering if this might not be the real Laura? It's just a theory for now, but I think it's worth considering. In any case, this time around, Cooper is there watching the two of them in the woods, and after Laura spots him, he actually guides her away, preventing her murder in the process. Holy shit. But as he leads her through the woods, Laura disappears, screams bloody murder, and the episode ends. (Note: I'm not entirely sure how they filmed this. At first I thought it might be a deleted scene with a digital Cooper added in, but now I'm thinking it was probably modern-day Sheryl Lee young-ed up through makeup or CG.)

Twin Peaks finale 2

Laura's disappearance seems to launch Cooper back into the Lodge, repeating scenes we've seen before, until he meets up with Diane and exits the Lodge. The pair drive exactly 430 miles away, and they talk about how things could be different once they "cross" into wherever they're going. They traverse an unseen boundary, crossing from day into night, and things are indeed different on the other side. They enter a motel, Diane sees a doppelganger of herself, she and Cooper have weird sex (Diane covers Cooper's face with her hands, possibly to avoid remembering when DoppelCooper raped her?), and then Cooper wakes up alone in the morning to discover a note referring to a "Richard" and "Linda," and when he leaves the motel, it's an entirely different building than the one he entered. I'm sure there's purposeful symbolism there, but again, two episodes of this show back-to-back is A LOT, so I'm going to need a few more minutes to sort out what that could be.

Later, Cooper stops by a diner called "Judy's," and thwarts a couple of creeps who are harassing a waitress; he steals their guns, kicks one of them in the balls, and shoots another in the foot. Standing up for the downtrodden is in Cooper's DNA, but shooting one of those guys in the foot struck me as a bit beyond what such a straight-laced, by-the-book character would do in that scenario. Not to mention he's waving his gun around willy-nilly, and dropping the other guys' guns into the fryer seems unnecessarily dangerous. This didn't seem like normal Cooper behavior to me, and even the way he spoke to the waitress he helped seemed a little off. Maybe all those years in the Lodge have had more of an impact than we've previously seen, or maybe there's something else going on here on a whole different level that I'm not even tapping into yet.

The Best Scene of the Finale

The encounter at Judy's leads Cooper to a house in Odessa, Texas, where he finds a woman who looks just like Laura Palmer. She claims to be named Carrie Page, but when Cooper asks to take her to Twin Peaks to reunite with Sarah Palmer (something he calls "very important"), she takes a look at the dead guy in her house and agrees to come along. Clearly, Laura/Carrie has her own set of troubles she's looking to escape.

But when they finally arrive, "Carrie" says she doesn't recognize the house, and Sarah isn't home – someone named Alice Tremond answers the door, and says her family purchased the home from a woman named Mrs. Chalfont. As someone who's only watched all of the Twin Peaks episodes and FWWM one time, I recognized the latter name as the same one taken by the creepy grandmother and her grandson who clearly have ties to the supernatural realm. But when I looked up that character, it turns out she also went by the last name of Tremond...and yet again, I find myself in a position in which I'm not quite equipped to understand exactly what that means. Cooper wonders aloud what year it is, but when his road trip companion takes one look back at the house and screams – a moment that gave me chills – it confirmed to me that this is the real Laura, someone who's spent her whole life repressing traumatic childhood memories of being raped in that house by her father/Bob when she was in high school. It's a dark ending, and one that also leaves us with a lot of questions about how else the world has changed if Laura didn't die all those years ago.

As with much of Lynch's filmography, it's up to us to do the heavy lifting and figure out what the work means to us. Not every loose end is wrapped up (pour one out for the Audrey Horne storyline), I'm on record as despising almost all of the Dougie Jones subplot, and there were plenty of moments in which I doubted whether this was anything other than a vanity project for Lynch, but having seen it through to the end, it was all totally worth it. There are images from The Return seared into my brain that I'll remember forever, and even if the show never comes back for a fourth season (and considering how low the ratings were this season, season 4 seems unlikely), Sheryl Lee's final, haunting scream will pierce my thoughts for years to come.

What did you think? Did The Return live up to your expectations?