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“Twin Peaks: The Return” came to an end after 16 indescribable hours with a mind-bending two-part finale that is bound to leave fans hunting for answers and drawing up theories for months to come. Whatever questions viewers had heading into Part 18 were thrown aside as Lynch ended his grand saga with a baffling trip to the past…or maybe the future…or maybe an alternate reality…and ended on a final image so terrifying and so tragic that it provided the most essential ending imaginable for the series.
The finale all came down to the series’ most important figure: Laura Palmer. Cooper entered the Black Lodge and was granted entry into the past from Phillip Jeffries. Suddenly the viewer was back watching Laura and James break up during the climax of “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” only Cooper was there this time watching from afar. He was able intercede before Laura made her way to Ronette, Jacques, and Leo, and then history seemed to change before our eyes. Laura never made it to the train car where she died in “Fire Walk With Me,” and the viewer saw her dead body on the beach from the very first episode disappear. Had Cooper succeeded in saving Laura Palmer?
The answer Lynch provided might just be the most baffling, transfixing, and nightmarish sequence he’s ever done. As Cooper was guiding Laura to safety in the past, she disappeared from behind him. Fans are already speculating that Judy, the negative entity Gordon Cole spoke of at the start of Part 17, felt Cooper’s precense in the past and sucked Laura into a dream world or alternate dimension.
Wherever Laura went, Cooper was right after her. His mission has always been to “find Laura” and save her, and so Cooper entered a strange new world with a different name (Diane’s letter addressed him as Richard) and tracked down a woman who looked exactly like Laura but in this world was Carrie Paige. Cooper wanted to bring Laura/Carrie home to Twin Peaks, and it’s here where Lynch decided to end his series: Carrie Paige, realizing her life as Laura Palmer, shrieks at the top of her lungs; the lights in the Palmer house go out, and the camera cuts to black.
No matter how head-scratching all of these events seemed, Lynch’s final image was incredibly clear: Laura Palmer’s fate is forever doomed and Cooper will never stop trying to save her, no matter what timeline or plane of existence he’s forced to wander through. Laura’s shriek was the same one viewers heard in Part 2 (Cooper couldn’t bring her back from the Red Room) and in Part 17 after she disappeared from Cooper’s hand in the past, and by ending the series on it Lynch suggests her fate is sealed no matter what. Laura Palmer is destined for tragedy; she’ll never stop shrieking.
The last moment was a heart-shattering reminder that Laura may never be able to be saved, and yet in some ways it was also optimistic; evil pervades, but good never gives up. Laura’s fate can’t be reversed in the Red Room, or in the past, or in another dimension/timeline, but that doesn’t mean Cooper won’t stop trying and fighting for her. The finale followed the FBI agent on two failed missions to find Laura and save her, but Lynch wants viewers to find something admirable in Cooper’s continuous efforts to shatter Laura’s fate. Before Cooper went through to the past, Jeffries’ smoke made the shape of an infinity sign, and it’s clear by the last shot that Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” world is a continuos loop where good will never stop trying to defeat evil.
The last shot becomes a microcosm for what “Twin Peaks” has always really been about — evil is inevitable, good is steadfast — and in this way it’s the most fitting ending Lynch could’ve crafted. He didn’t give fans the reckoning they hoped for (just when it seemed good triumphed over evil in Part 17, the last hour made it clear it wasn’t that simple), but he did suggest that good will live to see another day to vanquish evil. For a “Twin Peaks” series finale, that’s a damn perfect ending.