One of the reasons why I insist that it makes sense to continue describing season 3 as The Return, whether or not David Lynch likes it (and by the way, he himself calls it The Return several times in his autobiography Room to Dream), is because it resonates with what takes place in the season. In addition to being a return to the series Twin Peaks, season 3 also highlights multiple themes and characters focused on returns in its 18 parts. It is most interesting to study the various famous “returners” it evokes, from Odysseus to Rama, from Jesus Christ to The Sandman. One of these “returners” who appears to have been missed, though, comes from one of Mark Frost’s favorite authors: Alexandre Dumas. “I liked big books. Sir Walter Scott and James Fenimore Cooper at eleven. I checked out Ben-Hur at the library and worked my way through that, by Lew Wallace, who’d been a Civil War general. Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, Dumas—they all thrilled me” (Conversations With Mark Frost, David Bushman). The character in question is named Edmond Dantès, and he is the hero from Dumas’s famous novel The Count of Monte Cristo (a very big book indeed).
What does this character from a 19th Century adventure novel (1844) have in common with what takes place in The Return? The novel actually begins with its own return: Napoléon Bonaparte’s return to power after he had been exiled to the island of Elba in 1815 (a return known as the Hundred Days, which led to the apocalyptic battle of Waterloo). This is meant to mirror what happens in the novel to Edmond Dantès, who escapes from jail after having been wrongfully imprisoned, acquires a fortune, and sets about exacting revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment. It is not difficult to see how this reflects what takes place in season 3 surrounding Dale Cooper: imprisoned in the Red Room, acquires a fortune in Las Vegas, trying his best to right his wrongs as the season progresses.
The novel begins with Dantès bringing the ship Pharaon into dock at Marseilles. In a former blog post, I have described in detail the many ways one can connect Twin Peaks with Egyptian mythology. I especially noted how Cooper himself could be seen as a pharaoh of sorts, something made especially clear in part 4 when he wears his tie on his head, reminiscent of an Egyptian ruler’s headdress. If Cooper is the equivalent of Dantès, it makes sense that the latter would be the captain of such a vessel.
Dantès is about to get married to his Catalan fiancée, Mercédès. It is worth noting that in our first encounter with Mr. C, in part 1, he is at the wheel of a… Mercedes!
In chapter 2, after having spent some time with his old father, Dantès does meet his fiancée again. It is in part 2 of The Return that Cooper sees Laura, his otherworldly partner, again in the Red Room.
Chapter 2 ends with these words, highly reminiscent of Twin Peaks: “they sat down under the budding foliage of the planes and sycamores, in the branches of which the birds were singing their welcome to one of the first days of spring”. The weeding is indeed going to take place at Easter: ““You see, Mercédès,” said the young man, “here is Easter come round again; tell me, is this the moment for a wedding?”” — a moment of the year of the utmost importance in season 3.
But as Edmond and Mercédès are about to get married, he gets arrested in chapter 5 because of a conspiracy driven by those who are jealous of his success.
It’s in chapter 7 that Dantès gets interrogated about his alleged crime (being a Bonapartist traitor).
As a result, he gets sent to the Château d’If in chapter 8, a fortress and prison located on the Île d’If, off the shores of Marseille (a place reminiscent of Alcatraz, in California). In The Return, Yankton and Las Vegas are very much depicted as prisons of sorts for Mr. C and Cooper. But in part 8, it’s the Fireman’s peak that closely resembles the Château d’If.
But can this place be described as a prison? One brief scene from part 18 tends to prove this is the case, when Mr. C is kept behind bars there…
Between chapters 15 and 16, Edmond manages to communicate with his next cell neighbour, the Abbé Faria (“The Mad Priest”). The latter, a middle-aged Italian prisoner, has dug an escape tunnel exiting in Dantès’ cell. Knowing himself to be close to death from catalepsy, he tells Dantès the location of a treasure on the Island of Monte Cristo. Cooper manages to leave his Las Vegas prison in a very similar fashion, crawling to an electrical outlet as Dantès used to crawl to remove the rocks from the tunnel in his cell.
Finally, it’s in chapter 18 that Faria tells Dantès about the treasure on the island, while it’s in part 18 of The Return that Cooper finds Laura/Carrie again and tries to bring her back home. Dantès, who has spent altogether 14 years in le Château d’If, manages to escape and finds the treasure in question. He then becomes the powerful and mysterious Count of Monte Cristo, and he enters the fashionable Parisian world of the 1830s to take revenge on the men who conspired to destroy him.
I hope this short blog post has convinced you of the links between The Count of Monte Cristo and Twin Peaks: The Return. I strongly encourage you to read the novel — you won’t regret it! A few years ago, I visited the Château d’If with my wife. If you travel to Marseilles, you should definitely go there too. It’s only a short boat ride away from the port and well worth a look.