Eternal Return(s)

It is in our house now. When is now and what is our house? Where and when – spacetime. Season 3 comes back, over and over again, to these questions during its 18 one-hour parts. Where and when stands Dale Cooper at the end of part 18? For that matter, where and when does he stand at the beginning of part 1? There are no easy answers to these questions, but it is nonetheless possible to recognise overall patterns in the structure of the season that inform us about what is happening. After all, the season is known as “The Return“, which is a crucial hint to the way we’re intended to “read” it.

I believe that the cyclical nature of The Return, which has been pointed out by many, and the echoes spotted between parts 1 and 18 – such as the two “sex magick” sequences, the one between Sam and Tracey in part 1, and with Cooper and Diane in part 18 – do not sum up the complexity of the connections at work. I would argue that parts 1 and 18 are looped, with many visual and thematic resonances taking place along the way (as we will see), but also within themselves, the beginning of each part being linked to its end and vice versa.

To begin, let’s dive into the overall loop between the first and the last part of the season. It is not surprising that season 3 starts and ends with its two “peaks”, Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer, creating a perfect stitch for this Möbius loop:

As we move forward in part 1 and backward in part 18, we reach a second visual, audio, and thematic echo between the two extremes of the show: a teenager runs yelling just outside Laura’s high school as her murder is about to be announced, and Carrie’s horrifying shriek is a response to remembering her sad fate:

In the context of the links drawn between the first and last parts of The Return, the Fireman’s comment “It is in our house now” refers to the Palmer household, in which Judy/Sarah appears to have taken residence. We will see later that the house in question might also indicate a different building when considering the echoes between the beginning and end of part 1, further below.

The passages into the New York loft through a giant glass tube in part 1 and into the town of Twin Peaks over a bridge can also be seen as a response to each other. One takes us out of Twin Peaks into the loft and the other back to Twin Peaks:

Sam’s steady stare through the glass cube is reminiscent of Cooper viewed through his windshield on his night journey back to the Northwest Pacific:

Moving forward (and backward), we reach the moment when Ben Horne introduces Beverly PAIGE to his brother, while Cooper meets Carrie PAGE on her doorstep:

We then get to an interesting visual connexion between Buella’s cabin in the woods and Carrie’s house in Odessa, which generates fascinating echoes when superimposed. The geometry of the images appears to fit precisely as well as the positioning of their various elements, such as the two men seated on armchairs at the right, and the door from part 18 through which Ray and Darya exit in part 1:

While Mr C teaches the guard from Buella’s place a lesson, Cooper/Richard does exactly the same to the three cowboys from Judy’s diner in Odessa:

Another stunning visual correspondance is the moment when Cooper arrives at Judy’s which, when superimposed over its counterpart from part 1, a shot of the glass cube in New York, gives the feeling that he is trapped in the cube:

The camera’s pan right towards the toilet in part 1, following the New York loft’s guard sudden disappearance, can be connected to the pan left of part 18 in the motel room, right after Diane’s departure:

The central moment of both parts are the “sex magick” rituals performed by Sam and Tracey in New York, and by Cooper and Diane in… the motel room. While Sam and Tracey’s sexual intercourse summons Judy in the glass cube, it is very likely that Cooper and Diane’s “Babalon Working” (re)creates her antidote, Laura/Carrie, the Moonchild:

The telephone and power lines stretching over the sky of Buckhorn in part 1 echo those of part 18, where Diane and Cooper “cross over”:

The blinking white line on Hawk’s black telephone finds a visual equivalent in Cooper and Diane’s black car, when they “cross over” (telephone lines are means of transportation in the Twin Peaks universe for the Lodge entities). Diane’s red hair is echoed on the phone itself, next to the flashing line:

As the police enter the Hastings home near the end of part 1, the new Dougie Jones tulpa arrives on the doorstep of his Las Vegas home:

Finally, the blinking flashlight from detective Macklay intermittently illuminates the finger in William Hasting’s trunk at the closing of part 1, while MIKE electrically (intermittent light) creates a new tulpa from Cooper’s hair:

There are certainly other visual and thematic correspondances between parts 1 and 18, but this brief summary I hope helps to better appreciate just how closely they relate to each other. The links are multifold, intricate, and span the duration of the entire episodes. One could argue that parts 1 and 18 have been meticulously sewn together, encompassing the whole of the season between themselves. It is a work of high precision, both from the point of view of the scripts and the images. The final editing must have proven extremely difficult, with so many junctions and echoes. The connections don’t end here, though: not only do the two parts echo each other in a continuous loop, but they also have been conceived as mirror images of themselves, their beginning connected to their ends with multiple bridges in between.

Here is a selection of superimposed images stressing the numerous reverberations at work during part 18. Note the moments when Cooper tries to save Laura in the forest echoed by the unsuccessful visit with Carrie at the Palmer house; the moment right before crossing over to a new dimension when Cooper feels the “hole” between realities with his hands, linked to the hole in the third eye of the man in Carrie’s living room; the recurrence of the mirroring between Diane and Laura next to Cooper, in his car or in the motel / Carrie’s home, etc. This is not a complete list of all the possible twinnings between the forward and backward viewing of the episode, but such a gallery should help to visualize the reality of this loop.

The same can be said of part 1, as will become apparent when studying the superimposed images below: the synchronicity of the Fireman’s advice to “remember” coupled with William Hasting’s sudden remembering; the X shape on Hawk’s boxes resonating with the giant X on the top of the New York glass cube; Laura’s finger snapping connected to the severed finger in Hasting’s trunk, etc.

One specific superimposition is of particular interest: the one connecting the Fireman’s speech from the opening of part 1 with the arrest of William Hasting near the end of the episode. People have now been speculating for over 4 years about the mysterious sounds heard on the gramophone and about the meaning of “it is in our house now”. I have a proposal in response to these questions. I have long played with the idea that the sounds corresponded to telephone sounds, telephones and telephone lines being of the utmost importance in Twin Peaks. But following the mirror logic developed in this post, I now believe that the house in question is the police station / jail cell in which Hastings is locked up. The fact that this happens near the end of part 1 also means, paradoxically enough, that it takes place close to its beginning too. “It” is in our house now, now that Hastings is in prison – “it” being the evil that has taken possession of his body, the wolf that appears on his door knocker (without forgetting the Kafka portrait that hangs inside his home). The wolf is in the sheepfold, “our” house because both Cooper and the Fireman are policemen, trying their best to bring order and justice to the world.

Which brings us to the famous sounds. One needs to listen to the sounds made by the prison cell lock, when detective Macklay locks Hastings up. When isolated, sped up to match the length of the Fireman’s sound, and slightly filtered to make them sound more “insectoid”, there is little doubt that we are dealing with the same sample. I have tried to make this clearer in the following video, but as I am no expert with audio manipulations, the end result is still slightly different from what is heard coming out of the gramophone. Nonetheless, the tempo of the sounds is identical, and I believe it is just a question of finding the right filter now to come up with a similar result as the one used in part 1.

The same sound is heard once more during The Return, in part 17, when Laura disappears from behind Cooper (and from reality) in the Twin Peaks forest. It would seem that the jail door was closed at that moment and that Cooper, Orpheus-like, was indeed unsuccessful in breaking her out of her hellish prison back into reality.

One does not escape their fate so easily, there are guards manning the prison door who intervene before one can return safely home.

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