Should “Twin Peaks: The Return” return for another season?
Ask any “Twin Peaks’” fan, and the answer is obvious. Of course it should! Sunday’s finale achieved what certain finales occasionally do, which is to leave fans in a place where their bearings are off, their minds unsettled, their hopes and dreams unfulfilled. Their hero, Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), ends with one baffled line, “What year is this?” while Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) ends with a bloodcurdling scream. Then, fade to Laura long ago whispering in Coop’s ear, and watch his face fall, as the horrible truth is revealed.
Saving Laura was futile, after all, because Laura needed to save herself.
We’ve had great, inconclusive ends in TV past — “The Sopranos” leads the pack — but “Peaks’ ” last moments felt off for viewers, as if their — our — own cherished theories collapsed in an instance.
What would we have rather had Laura do in that instance? Throw her arms around him, say thank-you-for-saving-me, then cue to Coop’s smile, followed a swelling coda of violins? A happy ending would have represented a profound misreading of what David Lynch and Mark Frost had intended all along.
So what then did they intend? I really don’t think “Peaks” had much (if anything) to do with the oft-mentioned Eternal Battle of Good versus Evil . . . Yup, there was a “good” Coop and his evil twin (the “twins” of “Peaks,” if you will) suggesting “good” and “evil” were separate entities within the “Peaks” universe, and that good had to triumph over evil. That’s more of a comic book interpretation of “Peaks,” and an inadequate one.
So . . . drumroll. here’s my theory of what “Peaks” was really about all along: It was an exploration of both Lynch and Frost’s deeply held interests in Eastern mysticism, notably the seven levels of transcendental meditation, paralleling the seven levels of consciousness. (They’ve discussed all this before, and so have other commentators, so Google away).
If you think of Coop’s TV journey as an allegory roughly parallel to Lynch’s journey as an artist, then both achieved the sixth level, but not quite the seventh.
What then are these seven levels? (What follows are simplifications, and probably over-simplifications. But in the interests of space and time...)
The first is deep sleep.
The second level comprises the dreams we have during sleep.
The third level is a wakeful state, where we realize that we just had a dream, but don’t realize — per tenets of Hinduism and Buddhism — that we are still in a dream.
The fourth level is waking up from the third and realizing that the third was also a dream. This is also the state where the person who achieves it witnesses his or her soul for the first time. When Buddha was asked, “Who are you?” he replied: “I am awake.” (Which is, by the way, the meaning of the word “Buddha” — to be fully awake.)
The fifth level is one in which the individual recognizes that the entire universe — the whole shebang — is unified, from the atoms in your body to a galaxy light years away.
The sixth level is when you can look at any mundane object — say a chair — and realize that it contains the secret to all of reality.
Finally, Nirvana: the seventh level, when differences between self and object collapse, and you become one with the universe.
Recall Coop’s final words to Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) years ago, at the close of the ABC series: ”Your soul has set you face-to-face with the clear light, and you are now about to experience it in all its reality, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky. . . . ”
That, friends, is the seventh.
Cooper — like Buddha — understood that “good” and “evil” had no separate reality on their own, but existed only in the third level, where humans struggled with all the grubby stuff we deal with, like greed and desire. The aim of human life is to become a “Bodhisattva” — a person who is about to achieve Nirvana, but holds off just long enough to help other humans. He or she does so out of pure love and compassion.
And that friends, is dear, lovable, compassionate Coop. He wanted to save Laura. In the finale, he attempted to.
Now, let’s go to the finale. Coop had saved Laura’s life in the previous episode (recall the erasing of her body on the beach, after BOB was destroyed) which leads him to find her in the present. To do so, he and Diane (Laura Dern) follow the numbers. First, they drive 430 miles. Then, he finds Laura’s street address in Odessa (1516), and then he stares at the electric utility pole. It has the number “6” on it.
I submit that Coop believes he has found all the meaning he is looking for in those numbers, and it’s just a matter of simple arithmetic to prove that. 4+3 equals 7. 5+1+1 equals 7. 6+1 equals seven. The meaning of that 6? Coop knows that the entire universe is one, bound by energy — which is electricity, of course — and perhaps this says to him that by saving Laura, “7” awaits him . . .
Laura — he quickly discovers — is in a terrible place. There’s a dead guy on her couch, and rigor mortis has set in. Even her necklace is an upside-down horseshoe, meaning the luck has run out.
He takes her back to Twin Peaks.
More numbers: Many years ago, Laura told Coop in the Red Room, “I’ll see you in 25 years. . . . ” Again, he does the math. 2+5 equals 7, which is more confirmation (to him) that he must save Laura . . . in the year 2015 (25 years after the ABC series ended.)
His final words are, “What year is this?”
Laura stares at the house, then lets out that bloodcurdling scream.
Sorry Coop. It’s 2017. You’ve landed in the wrong year. No Nirvana for you or Laura.
In several posts this year, I’ve suggested that it’s a fool’s errand to find meaning in “Peaks,” but to just sit back and enjoy the glorious ride. Nevertheless, we do need to parse for some meaning to figure out whether the series should come back.
Should it? It’d be wonderful if it did, but Lynch and Frost have probably said all they wanted to. The inconclusive wrap was precisely where they wanted to end up, its meaning both obvious, cautionary and ambiguous. To wit, it’s up to each person to ascend the individual levels of consciousness, but Laura had squandered all her chances. Even Coop couldn’t save her in the end.
Sorry fans, but I suspect “Peaks” may be done — forever.