‘Twin Peaks’ Season 3 Finale, Episodes 17-18: Who is the Dreamer?


Well, THAT happened!

By now, I think it’s safe to say, as a near-lifelong David Lynch fan, I’ve come to expect the unexpected from the out-there director, but even by his standards, that “Twin Peaks” finale was pretty out there, albeit not necessarily in the way anyone might have suspected it would be. It just goes to show how, even at this relatively late period in his career, he continues to catch us off-guard. The question is: how did people feel about it?

As per usual, I’ve largely stayed away from outside talk, wanting to formulate my own opinion of what went on in the show and what it all means, so I’ll have to leave that alone for now, but I did take a cursory glance at Twitter, and the general consensus seems to be somewhere between mind blown and somewhat disappointed.

Of course, anyone expecting a tidy wrap-up from Lynch, even with co-creator Mark Frost vaguely reining him in, was bound to be let down. Lynch doesn’t tend to do close-ended stories, and rarely ever has. “The Elephant Man” and “The Straight Story,” both of which are adaptations of real-life events, are among the rare exceptions, and even they are pretty out there.

Before we get into the “what does it all mean?” of it all, let’s break down the individual episodes. Feel free to skip to the end, if you want my interpretation of the events, but keep in mind, I will be doing some theorizing along the way, this being my final recap and all. That said, as the saying goes: Let’s Rock!

Episode 17

We begin with Gordon Cole (David Lynch), in a quiet moment, lamenting that he wasn’t able to pull the trigger when Diane drew on him, Albert (Miguel Ferrer) and Tammy (Chrysta Bell). He admits that something else has been troubling him: a secret he’s kept for some 25 years. It seems that, before he disappeared, Major Briggs (Don Davis) shared with Cole and Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) his discovery of an entity he dubbed “Jowday” (possible misspelling).

This extreme negative force eventually became to be known as “Judy.” The three hatched a plan to get to Judy, but something happened to Major Briggs, and subsequently Cooper. The also-missing Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) likewise was onto it when he disappeared. Before he went missing, Cooper told Cole, if he did mysteriously vanish like the others, to do everything he could to find him, as he would be trying to “kill two birds with one stone.”

Of course, this saying harkens back to the premiere, as it was something The Fireman (Carel Struycken) told Cooper early on, in tangent with mentions of Richard and Linda and the number 430, both of which will come into play in the next episode. I suspect that Judy may be the creature we glimpsed in the box in the premiere episodes, as well as in the infamous Episode 8, the one that “gave birth” to BOB, also dubbed “The Experiment” in the credits. It may also be lurking within Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie).

Cole mentions a paid informant by the name of Ray Monroe (George Griffith), who, in his last report, mentioned that Cooper was looking for certain coordinates from Major Briggs. We, of course, now know that to actually be “Mr. C,” aka “Bad Coop.” Cole admits that he has no idea whether the plan they concocted is unfolding properly or not. At that moment, the phone rings and it’s Agent Headley (Jay R. Ferguson), reporting that he finally found the “right” Dougie Jones, and that he was in the hospital, but had now disappeared.

Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray) overhears and relays the message Dougie, aka the “real” Cooper gave to him before he left: “I am headed for Sheriff Truman’s. It’s 2:53 in Las Vegas and that adds up to a 10, the number of completion.” Cole tells Tammy about this, who looks up the info on Dougie Jones, which is all that has happened to him as of late on the show, more or less. Cole lights up and says he knows where they need to go.

Back in Twin Peaks, the drunken man (Jay Aaseng) in the jail cell starts to fall asleep and Chad (John Pirruccello) starts behaving suspiciously. He stops when the drunk man wakes up and eyes him. We eventually see that he’s hidden a key to the jail cell in his boot, which he will later use to escape, but for now, he stays put, as Naido (Nae) begins to make weird noises again and the drunk man imitates her, with James (James Marshall) and Freddie (Jake Wardle), also still incarcerated, at a loss as to what’s going on.

Ben (Richard Beymer) gets a call, informing him that Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) has been found mumbling and incoherent and naked in Wyoming, saying that his binoculars “killed someone.” Ben says to the police officer, who says that Jerry hasn’t been charged with anything, that he’ll send someone for Jerry ASAP. This proves to be the last we see and hear from either Ben or Jerry, sadly.

Mr. C. heads to Twin Peaks, eventually arriving at the same location as Jack Rabbit’s Palace, where he parks and walks up into the woods, heading to the other set of coordinates he was given, which this time prove to be accurate. There is smoke and electricity in the air, and everything starts to flicker, including Mr. C. himself, as he approaches the same area we saw Andy (Harry Goaz), Hawk (Michael Horse), Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), and Sheriff Truman (Robert Forster) in previously.

A portal starts to open up and Mr. C. disappears into it. We see the theatre-like structure from before that the Fireman lives in the same building of, aka the “Lighthouse.” Inside, we see Major Briggs’ floating head and Mr. C’s, which appears to be trapped inside a rectangular cage. The Fireman sees where Mr. C. came from on a huge screen, then glimpses the Palmer house. He swipes left, and a forest appears, and the caged Mr. C. floats towards it, going into the golden horn-like device and eventually going through it, where he is deposited into that location.

It turns out to be right outside the Sheriff’s Station at Twin Peaks, which confuses Mr. C. Then Andy, who is outside, spots him and excitedly invites him in, mistaking him for the “real” Agent Cooper. As this happens, in the jail cells Naido becomes more agitated, and the drunk falls asleep again, allowing for Chad finally escape. Meanwhile, Mr. C. meets the new Sheriff, and goes back to his office.

Shortly thereafter, Andy stops dead in his tracks and seems to remember something “very important.” Chad unlocks another door in the back and goes into a locker room, where he fetches a gun and loads it. The drunk wakes up and begins to claw at a wound on his face, becoming more and more agitated, along with Naido. Andy comes in and Chad pulls a gun on him, but Freddie seizes this opportunity to use his “Hulk” glove to smash open his jail cell door and slam it right into Chad’s face, knocking him out.

Andy cuffs Chad to a nearby cell door and gathers everyone but the drunk and leads them upstairs. Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) gets a call upstairs from the “real” Agent Cooper and freaks out somewhat, frantically calling Truman to get him on the line. As Truman talks to Cooper, Mr. C. realizes the jig is up and goes to shoot him, but shockingly, Lucy shoots Mr. C. from behind, causing him to miss Truman by the skin of his cowboy hat, which flutters up from the wind caused by the bullet whizzing by it.

Lucy says she “gets” cell phones now, whatever that means. (You’ll recall she flipped out when the Sheriff called her and continued to talk to her as he walked into the Sheriff’s station, freaking her out in an early episode.) On the phone, Coop warns Truman not to touch Mr. C’s body, even if he’s dead. The Sheriff warns Hawk not to do so as he arrives, shocked to see what appears to be Coop dead on the ground.

Suddenly, the lights go dim and the Woodsmen appear, doing their thing on Mr. C. to heal him. As before, the bubble-like object containing BOB arises from his body, just as the real Cooper arrives, along with Andy and the rest of the people from the jail cells. Cooper spots Freddie and asks him his name, and upon getting it, tells him his destiny has arrived: he needs to hit the BOB bubble as hard as he can.

Upon “hearing” this, the BOB bubble attacks, but Freddie eventually gets a good shot in, pounding it into the ground, where it bursts into flames. Another ball arises from the hole in the floor, and attacks them again. This time Freddie successfully manages to vanquish it altogether, knocking it into a bunch of pieces which vanish into the air. Coop springs into action and places the infamous ring on Mr. C’s finger, and Mr. C. also vanishes. The ring reappears, separately from Mr. C, on the floor of the Black Lodge.

Cooper asks for the hotel room key for 315 that Ben gave the Sheriff, which a still-stunned Truman hands over. Cole arrives, along with Bobby. Both want to know what is going on. As Coop explains, the Mitchum brothers and their ladies pass out food! Coop says that the info Major Briggs gave him led them here this day. He says: “Some things will change. The past dictates the future.”

As this happens, an overlay of Cooper’s face appears on the screen for some reason. Might it be a Coop from another time, overseeing these events? Is he the “dreamer” that is dreaming up all of this? Or is he trapped inside a dream? Cooper approaches Naido and touches a hand to her hand, as they hold them up in front of them. Her face disappears and at first, we see only darkness, then the inside of the Black Lodge and the infamous jagged patterns of the floors.

Then, we see what appears to be the “head” of the “arm tree,” which splits open, like an avocado, revealing a seed-like thing inside, which hovers in the air in the Black Lodge. Then Diane’s face appears and she is “released” from the seed. Diane (Laura Dern) appears in Naido’s place at the Sheriff’s Station and her and Cooper kiss passionately. She identifies him as the “real” Cooper this time, and he does the same with her. He asks her if she remembers, and she says she recalls everything.

We catch a glimpse of the clock and see that it is 2:53 pm, and it seems to be stuck there. The hovering Coop says: “We live inside a dream.” The one in the Sheriff’s office says he hopes to see all of them again, then disappears, along with Diane and Cole. The three of them reappear in the basement of the Great Northern, where we saw James at one point in a previous episode, eyeing a certain door there. Cooper approaches it and uses the key Truman gave him to open it.

Coop tells them not to try and follow him, no matter what happens. He says his goodbyes to Diane and Cole and goes through the door, saying: “See you at the curtain call,” as he goes. Coop finds Phillip “Mike” Gerard (Al Strobel) there, waiting for him. He recites the famous poem that begins: “Through the darkness of future past…” that we’ve heard time and again on the show, then he and Mike press forward into the dark.

The sycamore trees appear, and we’re now in the room above the convenience store, where Mike and Coop ascend the stairs. As they exit the room, the “Jumping Man” (Carlton Lee Russell) appears on the staircase. They appear at the motel Mr. C. was at previously, and go to the same room that Phillip Jeffries was in- or rather, the teapot that speaks for him, or whatever. Coop feeds him a specific date: February 23rd, 1989- the night Laura Palmer died.

Jeffries says he’ll find it for him, but notes that it’s “slippery in here.” Jeffries says to say hello to Cole if he sees him, saying that Cole will remember the “unofficial version.” I assume he means the living embodiment of Jeffries, as in the Bowie version, though he might mean the “unofficial version” of events that have transpired, given all the crazy stuff that’s gone down. Jeffries tells Coop that “this is where you’ll find Judy.” He adds: “There may be someone. Did you ask me this?”

I think that maybe Jeffries is here confusing the real Cooper with Mr. C. and is actually replying to something Mr. C. asked him at this moment, but when I went back and checked, I couldn’t find a question that lined up with this replay, though perhaps “Why did you send someone to kill me?” might fit the bill. Whatever the case, the symbol on the ring appears, then separates into two diamonds on top of one another, then this becomes an eight, or an infinity symbol.

A dot on the bottom half of the number/symbol moves around until Jeffries is satisfied: “There it is. You can go in now. Remember: electricity.” As he says this last word, Mike joins in and we hear that by now familiar crackle. Then we go into a flashback, in black and white, of Laura (Sheryl Lee), as she leaves her house, Leland (Ray Wise) angrily watching her go. The events of that night unfold as they did, with Laura meeting with James, but with one big difference: Cooper is there, lurking in the woods.

At one point, just as in the movie, “Fire Walk with Me,” Laura screams out of nowhere. Now we seemingly know why: she spotted Cooper in the woods, watching over her. It’s a pretty neat twist that ties in neatly with the original movie. Later, Laura hops off of James’ bike and goes into the woods. This time, Cooper intercepts her before she can meet up with Leo, Jacques and Ronnette. Laura remembers him from her previous dream. Coop reaches for her and she takes his hand.

We flash forward to the scene in which Laura’s body was found, wrapped in plastic, washed up on the shore near Pete Martell’s house, played by Jack Nance, to whom the episode is dedicated. Only this time, the body disappears before he finds it, implying that Cooper saved Laura’s life. As this happens, B&W fades into color and the scenes from the pilot episode play out, only this time Pete merely goes fishing and nothing happens.

Cooper leads Laura through the woods, telling her he’s leading her home. Back at the Palmer house, we hear weird screaming, and suddenly Sarah rushes into the room, grabs Laura’s framed photo- the also-infamous one shown throughout the series- and grabs a bottle, smashes it and repeatedly thrusts it into the glass frame, shattering it. The scene repeats on a loop, seeming to imply that time is stuck again.

As this happens, Cooper and Laura approach the place near Jack Rabbit’s Palace, but before they can get there, she disappears. Coop looks back and hears her terrifying scream once again, but there’s no one there anymore. It ends abruptly, and we end on a shot of the woods where she once was, as Julee Cruise appears in her place, with her band, playing in front of the red drapes, the song “The World Spins” as the episode draws to a close.

Now, for some people, this might have been a decently solid place to end the season, as it closes the door on certain things: BOB is defeated, Laura doesn’t seem to die, but the door is left open just enough for more to transpire, should the show return yet again, but, as I mentioned, Lynch doesn’t do tidy endings, so there’s still one more episode to go. Let’s take a closer look.

Episode 18

This episode is a much-quieter, far more enigmatic entry, that all but ensures that fans will go on puzzling about this show and what it all means for years to come- unless Lynch sees fit to “return” for more. Showtime seemed to indicate that they were open to the possibility of another season, but had no plans to continue at this point, which may have more to do with Lynch and Frost than Showtime, who, by most indications, were basically pleased with the results and the ratings, which got them their highest subscription rates to date, which is saying something for a service that launched way back in 1976.

We open with Mr. C. on fire and in a chair in the “waiting room” at the Black Lodge. Black smoke emerges from where he sits, and that is the last we see of him. Meanwhile, Mike prepares, as per Coop’s request, a “new” Dougie from the ball bearing and lock of Coop’s hair. With a flash of electricity, he appears, and asks “Where am I?” Before he can get an answer, he reappears in Vegas, at the door of his home, where he rings the bell and is greeted by an overjoyed Janey-E (Naomi Watts) and Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon). At least THEY get a happy ending, lol.

We return to Twin Peaks past, as Laura disappears again as Cooper leads her through the woods. Cooper disappears as well, then reappears in the Black Lodge, where he is confronted by Mike: “Is it future or is it past?” he asks yet again. Who knows at this point? Mike disappears, then reappears in the corner, waving Coop towards him. Coop follows and they end up in the room with the “arm tree,” which repeats some of what it said, only with a slight difference this time.

Instead of saying it’s the “evolution” of the arm, it simply says it is the arm, period, then repeats a line of dialogue from Audrey: “Is it the story of the ‘Little Girl Who Lived Down the Lane’? Is it?” This is as good a place to mention as any that Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) never reappears in the show, so we never get to find out what was up with her in that white room. Was it the White Lodge? A hospital? Was she awakening from a dream? Or her coma? Who can say?

We return to the scene in which Laura whispers into Coop’s ear, but we still don’t hear what she says. We never do, either- not this time around. It’s like “Lost in Translation” all over again. Le sigh. Laura screams that blood-curdling scream again and disappears into the air. Coop walks across the room and sees Leland, who says: “Find Laura.” Coop leaves, this time striding with assurance, implying he’s starting to get the hang of this place.

He waves a hand as he walks down a hallway, and a red drape flutters in a non-existent breeze, which he seems to have caused. He enters, and there’s a room filled with sycamore trees, with Diane waiting on the other side. He exits the lodge, into the ring of trees, just as he entered there so long ago. Diane asks if it’s really him and he says yes. The drapes disappear, and only the trees remain, as they leave.

Diane and Coop hit the road, as she asks him if he’s sure he wants to do this. “You don’t know what it’s going to be like,” she warns. He says he knows, and that they’re at that point now, he can “feel” it. They drive precisely 430 miles, then stop. Coop gets out and looks around, feeling the electricity of the many towers all around. “This is the place,” he tells Diane. He asks her to kiss him and she does. This Coop somehow seems more confident, almost brash, as if he had a touch more of Mr. C. in him than before.

“Once we cross, it could all be different,” he says. She doesn’t reply. They drive into the area and sure enough, electricity crackles and it is suddenly night. They stop at a motel and Coop checks in while Diane waits in the car. While waiting, she spots a doppelgänger- or is it a tulpa? – of herself, lurking in the shadows. She doesn’t mention it to Cooper when he waves her into a nearby room.

Diane turns on a light, but it’s insanely bright- too bright- and Coop tells her to turn it off and come over to him. She does, and they kiss, then eventually make love. Might we actually be seeing a flashback of sorts? Is this actually Mr. C. and Diane, with her tulpa waiting to replace her in the wings, and what we’re seeing is actually the night Mr. C. raped her? This might explain why she covers up his face with her hands as they make love- she senses something is off.

Regardless, the next morning, Coop awakes to find Diane gone. There’s a note on the night table, but it’s strangely addressed to “Richard” and signed by- you guessed it- “Linda.” This understandably confuses Coop, who doesn’t seem to recall the Fireman’s message. Maybe it hasn’t happened yet? He reads the note aloud: “When you read this, I’ll be gone. Please don’t try and find me. I don’t recognize you anymore. What we once had together is over.”

A confused Coop goes outside, and is even more thrown to see that he’s in a different motel than he went to sleep in, and a different car is waiting for him outside, but he nonetheless has the keys to it and gets in and leaves. We see him drive into Odessa, presumably in Texas, though not for sure. It seems like Texas, though, and judging by the distance he later travels, it would make the most sense.

A diner called Judy’s catches his eye, presumably for obvious reasons. Coop still seems to recall certain things. He goes in and talks to a waitress (Francesca Eastwood, daughter of Clint), and asks her if another waitress works there. She says yes, but it’s her day off, but adds that she hasn’t been in for a few days. A group of nearby cowboys mess with her, and Coop tells them to back off. One of them approaches Coop with a gun and threatens him- yep, it’s Texas- and Coop easily disarms him and kicks him in the yahoos.

His buds come running and he shoots one in the foot and demands the other put his gun on the ground, which he eventually does after first denying he has one. Coop knows better. He grabs all of their guns and tells them to stay put and dumps all but one into the deep fryer, warning the cook that they might discharge, due to the heat. The cook wisely backs off. He tells the waitress he’s FBI and asks for the absent waitress’ address, which she gives him.

Coop leaves, as one of the cowboys asks: “What the f*ck just happened?” He speaks for all of us, I think, in general. Indeed, he’s one of several throughout both of these episodes that says something like that. “What the hell is going on?” “What’s happening here?” Hey, I can relate. I think Lynch and Frost are messing with us each time, so I doubt it’s unintentional that a variation of this question crops up all over these last two episodes.

Coop arrives at a house marked 1516 and pulls over. He knocks on the door, and who should answer but Laura Palmer herself, only older and Southern. She asks if he “found him.” He doesn’t know who she means, and she says she’s Carrie Page, not Laura Palmer. He mentions Sarah and Leland, suggesting that she might have changed her name, but she doesn’t remember them either, though the names give her pause.

She asks him what’s going on, and he says it’s difficult to explain. You’re telling me! He says he thinks she used to be Laura Palmer and he wants to take her back to her home in Twin Peaks. She’s skeptical, but agrees to come, likely because she’s got a corpse in her living room, shot in the head in a chair. Coop hardly reacts- what could surprise him anymore at this point? But he does notice a white horse on the mantle, so that’s something.

Laura packs, ignoring a ringing phone in the background. She says she doesn’t have any food. He says they’ll get some along the way. Where are the Mitchum Brothers when you need them? Paging Candie! Coop shows her his badge when she hesitates, and that seems good enough for her. They drive for a long time, stopping for gas along the way. At one point someone seems to be following them, but the car passes them eventually.

Carrie/Laura laments the life she led, seeming to explain why she killed that guy, saying she tried to keep the house clean and everything in order. “In those days, I was too young to know any better,” she says, indicating that she married too young. They finally arrive in Twin Peaks, but Laura/Carrie doesn’t recognize anything, including the R&R Diner and her childhood home.

Coop escorts her to the door, but when someone answers it’s not Sarah or Leland. It’s actually Alice Tremond (Mary Reber), a name that should ring a bell for longtime viewers. If that doesn’t, then certainly the former owner of the house will: Mrs. Chalfont, who also went by Tremond. Mrs. Chalfont used to live in the Fat Trout trailer park with her grandson, and had encounters with both Laura and Donna. She was also the one that gave Laura the painting which caused her to dream of Cooper and the Black Lodge.

Alice doesn’t know any Palmers, nor does she know who owned the house before Mrs. Chalfont. Cooper apologizes for coming at such a late hour and they leave. Coop hesitates in the street, thinking to himself. He turns to Laura/Carrie and asks her what year it is. Laura hears someone calling her name- her mother? She lets loose that hideous scream once again, as all the lights go out in the Tremond/Chalfont/maybe Palmer house, and then in the streets as well, and we are submerged in darkness.

We end with a repeat of the scene with Laura whispering into Cooper’s ear, but no audio still, and that’s all she wrote. Roll credits. What the what just happened? Let the theorizing begin!


I found it really interesting that Lynch and Frost gave us an episode with lots of action, confirming a lot of theories and even allowing for a battle to the death of BOB, before a nifty backtracking sequence that dovetailed beautifully with the original movie in a way that sort of brought to mind the first two “Insidious” movies and the unexpected way they tied in together. Episode 17 was pure fan service, and then some.

Then, in typically atypical Lynchian fashion, he proceeds to upend everything we thought we knew in the following episode and ends things with a total non-resolution, and loads of unanswered questions. What happened to Audrey? Or Becky? Who were all these other random characters we encountered, and what was their significance, if any? Did a lot of what transpired even happen?

Or did it take place in an alternate dimension or timeline of sorts? Does that timeline still exist? If so, can it be undone? Will what Coop is up to now with Carrie/Laura affect what happened in the “other” timeline? Or is it the same timeline as what happened, only in a different year? Might this Cooper eventually become the dreaded Mr. C, disgruntled that he didn’t change things the way he wanted? What was the deal with the Richard and Linda thing? Were we seeing multiple timelines or dimensions throughout the series?

Honestly, I don’t really care that much, nor am I disappointed by the way it ended. I said early on in my reviews that I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t get a proper resolution, or if it ended every bit as open-ended as it did all those years ago, with Coop trapped in the Black Lodge. Basically, that’s what happened, only Coop was seemingly now trapped in an alternate dimension, Laura (maybe) at his side. I think. Who knows?

Yes, I’ll allow it was a bit frustrating not getting certain answers, or getting to spend so little time with the “proper” Coop, or in Twin Peaks, the town, itself. But I’ve always maintained that, with Lynch and Frost, it’s all about the journey, not the destination, and that rings all the more true now. On the plus side, even if the show doesn’t go on- and I genuinely hope it does- we still have Frost’s follow-up novel, “Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier” to look forward to, which should wrap up at least some of those loose ends. Maybe.

I’ve no doubt that some people are going to be extremely frustrated by all of this. As viewers, most of us are used to getting all the answers, eventually, and if we don’t people tend to drop out of watching a show. (See “Lost” or “Pretty Little Liars,” but for two examples- both of which were “Twin Peaks”-influenced, I might add.) Even if we get answers, sometimes they’re disappointing- see also “Lost.”

To that end, I don’t really care if Lynch and Frost answer all the questions we might have. I’m not sure they could, really. But it would admittedly be nice to get a little more, and if no new season is forthcoming, perhaps the book will suffice. Hopefully, Lynch and Frost have more plans in store for us. It probably doesn’t help that a good chunk of the cast is no longer with us, and if the season was good for anything, it was a last chance to say goodbye to some of them.

Personally, I think Lynch and Frost are just waiting to see how people react to this season before they consider doing more. Lynch always maintained that he loved the world of “Twin Peaks” and would do it forever if he could. It’d be great if that proved to be the case. But either way, this was such a fun ride, and even if we all have a LOT of questions that may well go unresolved- hey, at least we’ve got a good 25 years more worth of questions to try and puzzle out. I’m good with that. It worked the first time around, right?

I’d like to thank all of you for joining me on this journey. It’s been great, and I’ve loved checking out theories online after I wrote my articles, to see how mine stood up against other people’s. All in all, I think I did alright, figuring some things out, and being way off base on others. Whatever the case, I loved trying, and I haven’t had so much fun with a show since “Lost” and personally, I enjoyed this even more, lack of answers be damned.

Be sure to chime in down below with what you thought of the show as a whole. Maybe on down the line, once I’ve had a chance to mull things over- and read the next Frost book– I’ll do another column to address things further. Until such time, thanks for reading, and hope to see you for Season 4! 🙂