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TWIN PEAKS Revisited: Series Finale – ‘Beyond Life and Death’

TWIN PEAKS Revisited: Series Finale – ‘Beyond Life and Death’

After thirty weeks and and nearly eight months, here we are: the final episode of  Twin Peaks (although not the final Twin Peaks Revisted, there is still the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me left to cover.) This episode was written by series co-creator Mark Frost, along with Harley Peyton and Robert Engels, but director David Lynch, returning to the series after a long time away, re-wrote almost everything they did, so he’s ultimately responsible for almost everything you see in this episode. If this is your first time reading these recaps, all the previous Twin Peaks: Revisited columns can be found right here, so you can catch up before its all over.

Episode 30: “Beyond Life and Death” – Aired June 10th, 1991

The final episode opens inside the Sheriff’s station, as Andy and Lucy attempt to comfort one another after the disaster that was the Miss Twin Peaks Pageant, where Annie was kidnapped by Windom Earle. Lucy frantically tells Andy “the lights kept going out, and it’s so dark. I thought about hand signals, but what good would they do us now??? And what about the baby? What if the lights kept going off when I’m about to have the baby…” Lucy starts getting hysterical, but Andy interrupts her and tells her that he would be there and help her have that baby “in front of God and everybody.” Lucy kisses Andy and tells him that she loves him. And at least one couple in Twin Peaks gets their happy ending.

Meanwhile in the conference room, Cooper, Harry, and Hawk stare at the Owl Cave petroglyph, which they now know is a map to the Black Lodge. Cooper sees the symbol of fire on the map and makes the connection to the note written in blood at Laura Palmer’s murder scene, and mutters to himself “fire…Fire, walk with me.” Pete Martell then enters the room, and declares “Grand Theft Auto!” and tells the men that the Log Lady stole his truck, and drove off toward the woods. Cooper informs Pete that was Windom Earle in disguise, and that the real Log Lady would be there any minute. Truman tells Coop there’s a circle of twelve sycamore trees in Ghostwood Forest called Glastonbury Grove, similar to the drawing on the map, and Hawk says that’s where he found the ripped-out pages from Laura Palmer’s diary.

When the Log Lady finally does arrive, she says her husband gave her a bottle of oil from a “gateway in the woods” shortly before his death, and gives it to Cooper. The jar smells like scorched engine oil, which is the odor Dr. Jacoby said he smelled when Leland Palmer killed Jacques Renault. Hawk brings in Ronnette Pulaski, the survivor who witnessed Laura’s murder (and who hasn’t been seen since the very start of the second season) and she instantly freaks out when she recognizes the smell from the night when Laura Palmer was killed.

Using Pete’s stolen truck, Windom Earle arrives in a dark grove with the kidnapped Annie, who asks him if he’s going to kill her, then why not just do it and get it over with? “There’s plenty of time for that, but I do like the fear I’m feeling,” replies Earle. Windom knows that fear is the emotion that opens the key to the Lodge. He pulls Annie out of the car, as she tries to comfort herself by reciting Psalms from the Bible. They reach a circle of trees, and Annie seems to fall into a trance. Suddenly, a red curtain appears in the circle, and they vanish behind it.

At Big Ed’s house, as Doc Hayward treats Nadine and Mike for their injuries (a sandbag fell on Nadine’s head at the Miss Twin Peaks fiasco), Ed and Norma are dancing and smiling together, which seems really strange since Norma’s sister Annie was kidnapped and is missing. As Mike tells Nadine that he realizes that he loves her, a confused Nadine suddenly regains her memory, and seemingly has forgotten everything since her suicide attempt and subsequent second puberty, and is mortified to see Ed with Norma. She starts screaming for her missing drape runners and collapses onto the floor in tears, once she confesses to Ed that she’s really 35. Mike apologies to Ed for letting the whole relationship with Nadine get out of hand. As Nadine cries on the floor, Norma looks devastated. Unlike Andy and Lucy, poor Ed and Norma don’t seem to get their happy ending.

Doc Hayward arrives home, only to find his daughter Donna packing her bags getting ready to go, in tears having learned Benjamin Horne is her biological father. Ben and Donna’s mother try to get her to listen, and Ben says he only wanted to tell the truth, and to be a good person. Doc Hayward sees his daughter crying and distraught, and furiously tells Ben to get out of his house. At the same time, Ben’s wife Sylvia arrives (a character who has been totally absent since the third episode of Season One!) and tells him to stop trying to mess with this family and to leave them be. A furious Doc Hayward punches Ben, and he falls over and slams his head on the fireplace and hits the floor unconscious, blood pouring from a gash in his head. Are we to assume that he’s dead?

At the Martell home late at night, Andrew Packard sneaks into the kitchen and switches out the safety deposit box key with an identical one, realizing that the key goes to a vault in the local Twin Peaks Savings and Loan, and hoping nobody notices. At the same time Pete finds him and just acts disappointed that his brother in law is so untrustworthy.

Cooper and Harry find Pete’s truck in the woods. As they continue to walk into the forest, Cooper says he must go on alone, and leaves Harry behind. Cooper hears the call of an owl and sees the pool of oil in the circle of trees. Harry watches Cooper disappear behind a red curtain which magically appears and then disappears. Truman, ever the skeptic about BOB and all the “mystical mumbo jumbo” of Cooper’s, has now seen too much to be a non-believer anymore.

Cooper walks into the mysterious red-curtained room, and it is identical to how it appeared in his dream back in the show’s third episode. The Man from Another Place, or MIKE, dances into the room and sits on a chair. A man sings a haunting jazz tune about sycamore trees, as the lights flicker on and off ominously. As the man finishes his song, he vanishes.

Andy arrives in Glastonberry Grove to join Harry. They wait all night long, and after 10 hours, they’re still waiting for Cooper to come out. Andy keeps asking him if wants coffee, or food, or pretty much anything, and Harry just says “yeah” to anything Andy says, and just keeps staring at the Grove, almost as if in shock.

Audrey walks into the Twin Peaks Savings & Loan bank and chains herself to the bank vault, as a form of civil disobedience in protest of the Ghostwood Estate project and its environmental effects on the local ecology. Dell Mibler, the very old, very senile and very slow-moving bank president, has a tough time taking in just what the hell she is trying to tell him, especially when Audrey gives him instructions to call the local paper and the Sheriff’s office to report her act of civil disobedience.

As Audrey chains herself to the vault, Andrew and Pete arrive with the safe deposit key, intending to open the box left to Andrew by Thomas Eckhart. As Dell Mibler ever so slowly walks away, Andrew opens the box to find a bomb, which is triggered by the safe deposit box being opened. Right next to the the bomb is a note reading: “Got you, Andrew! Love, Thomas.” It explodes, blowing out the bank windows, and we see Dell Mibler’s glasses and bills of money fall on the trees nearby. Thomas Eckhardt got his final revenge on Andrew Packard, even from beyond the grave. And poor Audrey was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At the Double R Diner, Bobby and Shelly are making kissy faces at each other at the counter, seemingly happy and in love, as Bobby sees his father, finally recovering from his ordeal in the woods, along with his mother Betty in a nearby booth. Bobby proposes marriage to Shelly, while she reminds him that she’s technically still married to Leo. Bobby says that Leo is probably out having “the time of his life in the woods” and we then cut to a quick flash of Leo, who at that moment is still holding out in Windom Earle’s tarantula death trap. Heidi the waitress walks in late, saying she couldn’t get her car started, in an almost exact replay of a scene from the pilot episode. Dr. Jacoby arrives with a dazed-looking Sarah Palmer who delivers a message to Major Briggs, saying in a strange, slowed down, creepy voice: “I’m in the Black Lodge with Dale Cooper. I’m waiting for you.” It seems Earle is using Mrs. Palmer’s psychic abilities to taunt Major Briggs into trying to rescue Cooper from the Lodge.

In the Black Lodge, the red-suited MIKE tells Cooper they are in “the waiting room” and offers Cooper some coffee. MIKE tell Cooper, “when you see me again, it won’t be me.” Suddenly, Laura Palmer appears, wearing the same dress she did in Cooper’s dream, saying she’ll see Cooper again in 25 years, and then vanishes.

The old and senile room service waiter from the Great Northern then appears, making Indian whooping noises, and then brings coffee to Cooper. He is replaced by the Giant who sits down next to MIKE, saying “one and the same.” This confirms that the room service waiter is the host body to the giant, much as Leland Palmer was for BOB, and the one-armed man was for MIKE. Then MIKE begins to rubs his hands, and a strange noise permeates the air. Cooper starts to drink the coffee only to find it frozen, then suddenly liquid, and finally it becomes black sludge. MIKE says “Wow, BOB, wow.” and then “Fire walk with me.”

We see an explosion of flames, and hear a woman screaming in a high pitched voice, and as the lights begin to flicker again, Cooper leaves the room, entering another one that looks exactly the same. Finding it empty, He returns to the first room, where MIKE is pointing at him and says “wrong way.” Cooper goes back to the second room. He sees MIKE there, laughing in a creepy maniacal way, saying, “another friend”. Maddy Ferguson then appears, and says “watch out for my cousin,” then vanishes.

Cooper returns to the first room which is now totally empty. A scarier version of MIKE appears, with his eyes pupil-less and white, and says “doppelganger” and twitches. An evil-looking Laura doppelganger appears, also with white eyes, and says “meanwhile,” and begins to scream a terrifying scream at the top of her lungs. For a brief moment, you can see a flash of Windom Earle’s face over Laura’s, as if he’s controlling her.

Scared, Cooper runs out of the room and returns to the other one. He is bleeding from the chest and has trailed blood on the floor, possibly from where he was shot at the end of Season One. He stumbles back to the first room, and sees a woman lying on the floor with a version of his own body. It appears to be Annie, with her throat slit and with blood all over her dress, in a similar way that Caroline, Cooper’s lover and Windom Earle’s wife, was killed.

As the lights begin to flicker again, Cooper then walks into another identical room, this time he sees Annie looking fine. She tells him “I saw the face of the man who killed me. It was my husband.” When Coop refers to her as Annie, she says “Who’s Annie?” and transforms in Caroline Earle. Caroline is then replaced by a screaming Laura, and then finally Windom Earle. Annie watches as Windom and Coop finally confront each other face to face, and then disappears.

Windom laughs, and says if Cooper gives him his soul, he’ll let Annie live. Without hesitation, Cooper says ‘yes’, and Windom Earl stabs Cooper. There is a burst of flame and time rewinds. BOB takes control of Windom Earle, who tells the screaming Windom over and over to be quiet. He says that Earle can’t ask for Cooper’s soul, and so he will take Windom’s soul instead. After a burst of flame emerges from Earle’s body, Windom Earle goes silent, seemingly dead. Cooper leaves the room and an evil doppelganger of Cooper appears from behind the curtain.

Suddenly, the doppelganger Leland Palmer appears in the hall between the two rooms and tells Agent Cooper “I did not kill anybody.” The doppelganger Cooper comes into the hall and laughs conspiratorially with Leland. The good Cooper runs back and forth between rooms, and it seems he can’t get out. The doppelganger Cooper catches up to Cooper, and BOB’s face shows up looking straight into the camera and starts laughing. A whole day has passed, and Harry finds Cooper and Annie’s unconscious bodies lying in the forest by the circle of trees as the red curtained gateway to the Black Lodge vanishes.

Cooper wakes up in his bed at the Great Northern Hotel. Cooper asks how Annie is doing, and Harry tells him that Annie is at the hospital and will be just fine. Cooper gets up out of bed and tells Harry and Doc Hayward (who isn’t in jail, so I guess he didn’t kill Ben Horne?) in a strange, emotionless, matter-of-fact way, that he needs to brush his teeth. Once in the bathroom, he begins to squeeze the tube of toothpaste into the sink, seemingly with anger. He slowly raises his head up, looks straight into the mirror and smashes his head into it, blood pouring from a gash in his head down his face. BOB’s face appears in the mirror looking back at him. As Harry and Doc Hayward knock on the door asking if Coop is OK, Cooper repeats over and over, “How’s Annie? How’s Annie??” and laughs uncontrollably. In the end, Agent Dale Cooper, one of the most virtuous protagonists in pop culture history, is corrupted by the very essence of evil.

Episode Trivia

– Although the script is credited as written by Mark Frost, Harley Petyon and Robert Engels, David Lynch is the un-credited co-writer of the series finale. In fact, he took almost everything that was written for the Black Lodge sequences and completely re-wrote them from scratch. The original sequences in the Black Lodge are almost totally different in the first script.

In the original script, The Black Lodge is an alternate version of the Great Northern and not the Red Room, Windom Earle has a lot more dialogue; there is no backwards-talking; Laura Palmer appears only for an instant and does not speak; and The Black Lodge singer, The Little Man from Another Place, the Giant, the old room service waiter, Maddy Ferguson, and Leland Palmer do not appear at all. Windom Earle’s ultimate fate is also different; he ends up shackled to a dentist’s chair with BOB as his torturer. The idea of Coop being possessed by BOB at the very end was Harley Peyton’s idea, and was meant to set up a cliffhanger for the a third season.

– The mysterious Black Lodge singer who sings the haunting song ‘Sycamore Trees‘, which was written by Lynch, is actually Jimmy Scott, a jazz vocalist famous for his unusually high contralto voice. He had some success in the 1940’s and 1950’s, before more or less becoming a forgotten act. His unusual singing voice was due to his having a rare genetic condition called Kallmann’s syndrome that stunted his growth, and prevented him from reaching puberty, leaving him with a high, undeveloped voice.

– Although Audrey appears to die in the bank explosion cliffhanger, had there been a third season, it was going to be revealed that she had lived. There was even talk of developing a spin-off series for Audrey Horne, probably since her relationship with Cooper had been killed off by Kyle MacLachlan. That series would have featured a wide-eyed Audrey heading off to Hollywood to become an actress, and she would have gotten swallowed up in a world of noir-style intrigue.

The show was eventually filmed as a pilot nine years later, but with an unknown actress named Naomi Watts in the part meant for Audrey. The pilot for series, named Mulholland Drive, wasn’t picked up by ABC, as the suits at the network thought it was too weird (what were they expecting from the man who gave them Twin Peaks?) A French production company fronted the money to give the pilot a new ending some two years later, and the movie that resulted ended up being one of David Lynch’s most lauded films, and he received an Oscar nomination for it. And it all started as a potential spin-off for Audrey from Twin Peaks.

-Although many former cast members return for the series finale, missing for some reason is Piper Laurie as Catherine Martell, as well as James Marshall and Joan Chen who had left the series earlier in the season. However Joan Chen did film scenes for the Black Lodge sequences for the final episode, but they were cut for time.

-Although by the time filming began on the final episode the writing was on the wall that the show would be ending, Lynch and Frost were recommended by the certain execs at ABC to throw as many cliffhangers into the finale as a way of getting the top brass to renew the series, which was their strategy in Season One. It obviously didn’t work this time.

Final Verdict

The contrast between this episode and the previous ten or so is drastic to say the least; with David Lynch behind the camera again, it doesn’t just feel like Twin Peaks again, it IS Twin Peaks again. This finale goes down as one of the strangest and most surreal (as well as most frustrating) things ever broadcast on mainstream American television, and it’s a small miracle it ever aired at all, much less on a weeknight on ABC back in 1991. Even at age 16, which is how old I was when it first aired, I know I’d witnessed something unprecedented, even if I was so angry and frustrated at all the unresolved cliffhangers that I threw my shoe at the television.

Lynch immediately brought everything back to the beginning, making the whole series feel like a complete story, despite the many cliffhangers, and redeeming the second half of Season Two. Characters that haven’t been seen since the first half of the series, like the entire Palmer family, as well as Ronette Pulaski and even Benjamin Horne’s wife, make return appearances. Lynch explicitly ties in the Black Lodge/White Lodge mythology that has been so crucial to the back half of the series right back to the the Laura Palmer mystery from the first seventeen episodes, and to the Red Room of Agent Cooper’s dream. By having BOB dispatch of Windom Earle so easily, it can easily be read as Lynch saying “forget this Windom guy-the real villain of this whole piece is BOB.”

When the show aired, some 14 months after it premiered, the buzz around the show couldn’t have been more different. Only hardcore fans were left watching (some 10 million, a decent amount now, but a pittance in 1991.) The show was deemed an “experiment that failed” and television went back to being more conservative and safe than ever before. In contrast to Twin Peaks, America embraced CBS series Northern Exposure, which was a lot like Peaks on a surface level, but with all the quirk and none of the edge. It was essentially a neutered version of Twin Peaks, but it ran for five seasons. When Peaks ended, Mark Frost was quoted as saying they didn’t change television “one iota.”

Except that wasn’t exactly true. It took time, but the influence of Twin Peaks began to be felt, first in more obvious shows like the X-Files, but eventually also on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which combined genres like horror, comedy, and soap opera, although in a totally different way than Peaks did. By the time the great cable TV revolution started in the early 2000’s, with series like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Mad Men and many more (all shows driven by auteur creators like Lynch and Frost, every one of which cites Twin Peaks as a huge influence.), the show’s long-term legacy had become obvious. It’s not a stretch at all to say that Golden Age of Television we live in today was birthed twenty-five years ago with Twin Peaks.

It’s also doubtful that the demand for Twin Peaks would be even near what it still is today if this final episode directed by Lynch hadn’t been so amazingly brilliant, with layers of imagery to find meaning in (and be given nightmares by) and leaving fans with a hunger for more, and with endless speculation as to what the hell happens next. Had Twin Peaks wrapped with a nice, neat bow, I believe people would be far more skeptical about next year’s return of the series to Showtime, but since Laura Palmer told Dale Cooper she’d “see him again in 25 years” there is some part of fandom that was always hoping it would happen. And now, almost exactly 25 years after Coop smashed his head against the glass, it really is. But it was Lynch’s amazing final hour that left us all wanting more.

Episode Rating: 5 burritos out of 5



While this may be the end of the television series recaps…there is still one more, very crucial, very divisive chapter of the Twin Peaks saga left…David Lynch’s 1992 prequel film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Join us next week for the real finale of Twin Peaks Revisited.

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