Twin Peaks Episodes 17 and 18 Recap: David Lynch Just Went Back and Changed Everything in the Finale

With this show, you just never really know anything for sure.

Part 18
Suzanne Tenner

We’ve reached the end of Twin Peaks: the end of Agent Dale Cooper (but also, thank god, the end of the perversity of 16 episodes of Dougie Jones) and Laura Palmer. Let’s get the main stuff out of the way: Bob is defeated and Cooper goes back in time to save Laura, but the world is forever changed, and we end up back where we started this season. That is, we really have no idea where we are, once again, left with Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer. This week is sure to bring analysis galore about what it all meant, but for now we are breaking down what was truly a WTF episode. Let’s also get out of the way all the red herrings that never got realized: Where was Audrey? What was the Experiment? Was Sarah Palmer possessed? Was Richard Horne Bob’s son? And who is the dreamer? We may never know the answers to those questions, but many more are answered below.

Dana Ashbrook, Miguel Ferrer, David Lynch, Chrysta Bell, Robert Knepper, Jim Belushi, Kimmy Robertson and Harry Goaz in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

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Episode 17

Just after Diane’s tulpa disappears, Gordon reveals a secret of his own: before Major Briggs disappeared, he shared his discovery of an entity, an extreme negative force, with Gordon and Cooper. It was nicknamed “Judy”. (Recall that Jeffries, in his machine-teapot state, mentioned this, too.) They put together a plan to discover it: Jeffries knew about it, too, but he disappeared, and so did Cooper and Briggs. Cooper apparently said, If I disappear, do everything you can to try to find me: “I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone.” Ray was in fact a paid informant, and passed on to the FBI that Cooper/Bob is looking for coordinates from Major Briggs. At the hospital, Bushnell Mullins passes on the message from Douglas Jones to Gordon about his identity.

“Dougie is Cooper?!” Gordon exclaims. And of course Lynch gives himself this line. “A blue rose case most definitely.” They head out to… guess where.

In the holding cells at the sheriff’s in Twin Peaks, Naido is freaking out and Freddie watches with interest.

At Jack Rabbit’s Palace, Bob/Cooper shows up. These must be the other coordinates that he got, and the same hole opens up in the sky that did for Andy. He arrives in a strange black-and-white realm with the Fireman, and a projection of Major Briggs—it appears to be the theater from episode eight where they created the orb of Laura Palmer. It picks up Cooper/Bob in one place and puts him down in another, at the sheriff’s. Inside the cell, Naido is freaking out; clearly, Bob/Cooper is the one who was after her. Andy runs into Bob/Cooper outside and takes him in. Chad, still locked up, has a key hidden in his shoe (why didn’t he use it before?) and busts out. Chad pulls his gun on Andy but Freddie (remember his glove?) punches Chad out, saving them all.

Jake Wardle in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

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While Bob/Cooper meets with Sheriff Truman, with sinister vibes, Lucy gets a call at the desk from… real Cooper! Now the bit about Lucy having problems with the phone all makes sense. She calls in to Hank to put him through, and Hank figures it out, too. There’s a showdown as he and Bob/Cooper try to shoot first when, out of nowhere, Lucy, decked in a frosting-pink ensemble, shoots Bob/Cooper!

“I understand cellular phones now!” Lucy says. Ha! Cooper tells Hank not to touch the body, and Andy moves the inmates—most importantly, Naido and Freddie. Moments later, the Woodsmen come to try to put Bob back together again as they did in episode eight, and Cooper arrives just in time.

Michael Horse, Robert Knepper, Jim Belushi, Harry Goaz, Kimmy Robertson and Kyle MacLachlan in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Courtesy of SHOWTIME

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A black orb with the face of Bob starts attacking Cooper. Cooper calls for Freddie. “This here’s my destiny!” he answers. The orb attacks Freddy, and he punches the orb until it erupts into a ball of fire. The glove is still no match for Bob, who continues to attack. With a final, powerful blow, the orb finally breaks apart into tiny black pieces. I want to remind everyone that Freddie, the random character who’s British and who appeared a few episodes ago, defeated the evil spirit of Bob with his magic green glove. Let that sink in. If only Freddie had been around 25 years ago, Laura Palmer would be fine! I’m personally disappointed there will be no showdown of the multiple Coopers. It feels like we jumped the shark here.

They put the ring on the doubled husk of Cooper that Bob had been using, and he disappears into the Red Room, as promised.

Everybody now! Bobby Briggs arrives, along with Gordon, Albert, and Tammy. And the Mitchums and Candie, Mandie, Sandie, etc, too.

“Now there are some things that will change,” Cooper says in a come-together speech. “The past dictates the future.” Cooper’s face is superimposed over the screen for this whole bit. He touches Naido, who you’ll remember he first met on his way out of the Black Lodge, and her face burns away to reveal the Red Room, and then the face of Diane, who appears in the flesh, with a red-fire bob. Naido was in fact Dian— the real Diane, who Bob replaced with a tulpa. They proceed to make out. Awesome.

“I hope I see all of you again,” Cooper says as we hear the line about living inside a dream, as the room turns to darkness. Diane, Gordon, and Cooper all walk into a dark night. Cooper has his key to the Great Northern back, and opens it goes inside a room, telling Diane and Cooper not to follow. He tells them, “See you at curtain call.” Mike is waiting for him, and brings him to the Dutchman’s, the motel realm where Philip Jeffries lives, in his machine-teapot form. “This is where you’ll find Judy,” Jeffries says and conjures something like electricity that spirits Cooper and Mike away. (Again, Judy is something we really only just found out about this episode.)

Now we’re in a black-and-white universe. It’s season one, when Laura and James rode away on a motorcycle. But this time, Cooper reappears in the woods and follows Laura when she runs away to meet Ronette Pulaski the night she got killed. So instead of Laura going en route to her original fate, Cooper intervenes, and saves her. Laura remembers him from her dreams. Twin Peaks is Back to the Future.

Then, in the scene from the first season when we saw Laura’s body, it no longer exists: where it should be washed up on shore, water has been CGI-ed in. At the Palmer home, in what is the future (or is it the past?), Sarah Palmer smashes Laura’s portrait with a knife. Cooper is still leading Laura through the woods (how is this happening??) and they hear Sarah’s screams. The woods fade away into a performance by Julee Cruise, a David Lynch regular. End of act one. It’s all around a great episode. And really, things could have ended here and I’d be satisfied—with the major exception of Freddie, who beat Bob so easily.

Julee Cruise performs in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

Suzanne Tenner

Episode 18

Bob arrives in the Red Room, burning black smoke. Mike attaches Cooper’s hair to the seed from Dougie Jones, and we see how tulpas are created. A Cooper grows out of the gold ball, and gets sent back to Janey-E. Brilliant.

Meanwhile, the real Cooper leads Laura through the forest, but when he turns, she’s no longer there—only the sound of screams.

Cooper is back in the Red Room. “Is it future or is it past?” Mike says, just as in the first episodes of the revival. Cooper follows him into the halls, and back to the Arm. (This was in the second episode, too.) We have shots of Cooper seeing the 25-years-older Laura, when she whispers to him, but then she shrieks, spirited away. Leland Palmer is there, too—again, this is all from the beginning. Or was it really the end? This time, when Cooper enters a strange forest beyond the curtain, Diane is there. He assures her it’s really him, and the room melts away.

Kyle MacLachlan in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

Suzanne Tenner

They drive down a highway in a bright desert daylight, to a place 430 miles away. Cooper stands beneath electrical towers– this is the place. “Once we cross it could all be different,” he says. They drive through and emerge on a dark road, eventually pulling up to a motel, where Cooper goes in. Diane watches and sees another version of herself appear and disappear. In the motel room, they have sex. This is about the last thing anyone expected (let alone, eh, wanted or needed?) from a Twin Peaks finale. Good thing it’s painfully long!

Cooper wakes up in blue sheets; we almost never see anything blue, a clear “blue rose” reference. Diane is gone but has left a note addressed to “Richard,” in which “Linda” describes leaving him. (At the beginning of the season, the Fireman told Cooper to remember Richard and Linda.) When Cooper (Richard?) leaves, he seems to be at a different motel. Maybe he’s in the future again. Or, rather, an alternate present.

He drives through what is Odessa, Texas, where he spots a coffee shop called Judy’s in front of a shipping yard, so he goes in. It’s an old-school diner, and when Cooper sits down for coffee, he asks the waitress about if there’s another waitress—after a series of hijinks, he ends up getting the other waitress’s address.

Cooper drives up to a rundown place near an electrical tower. And the house belongs to none other than… Laura Palmer. But that’s not her name. It’s Carrie Paige. Cooper says her parents’ names, Leland and Sarah, and that means something to her. She agrees to go with him to Twin Peaks, Washington, where he says he will deliver her to them. She invites him in while she packs; there’s a dead body (!) and, on her mantle, a white horse we’ve seen before in the Red Room and in Fire Walk With Me. They drive for a long time, long enough for me to scroll through images of many Twin Peaks finale-themed cherry pies on Twitter and actually miss that sex scene.

Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

Suzanne Tenner

Brief breakdown: Laura Palmer, who lived, ended up waitressing in Texas, and is possibly a murderer. What sort of life did she get to lead? Did she really turn out that differently than we might have expected? We have A LOT to wrap up in 10 minutes. Or, given it’s David Lynch—not. They pass over a bridge and into Twin Peaks, where the Double R still exists. But Laura doesn’t remember anything. (By the way, what the hell happened to Audrey? WHO WAS BILLY? Ugh.)

They arrive at the Palmer house and—no kidding—the Palmers don’t live there. The new owners, the Tremonds, bought it from the Chalfonts. Note: Mrs. Tremond, aka Mrs. Chalfont, was an elderly woman who lived at the Fat Trout, and whose trailer was the place the ring was found when Desmond disappeared in Fire Walk; later, when Cooper goes to investigate, it appears she never existed. “What year is this?” Cooper asks. Laura starts to scream and the lights go black. We get a shot of Cooper in the Red Room, as Laura whispers to him. Roll credits.

It’s in many ways a perfect ending. These last few episodes have the gravitas so many this season were lacking. And it’s because they lacked Cooper and Laura Palmer, with whom this all began, at least for the audience. In the end, Cooper can’t figure out Twin Peaks or Laura Palmer all over again, in an alternate reality where the rules have changed. He’s fated to repeat the past and the future—in a larger sense, audiences are similarly meant to cycle back through the cultish show over and over looking for meaning, while enjoying the ride. And that’s always been the point. We’ve spent the whole season trying to follow, but viewers don’t watch Twin Peaks to figure it out: they watch to keep guessing amid utter weirdness, for its being like nothing else on TV, in the 1990s, today, or wherever we are.

A Field Guide to Recognizing Your Favorite Twin Peaks Actors Now, 26 Years Later

Though Kyle MacLachlan has since starred in other cult series, even when he was Charlotte’s impotent husband on Sex and the City and a murderer on Desperate Housewives, he’ll always be known as Special Agent Dale Cooper, a man never too far away from a slice of cherry pie or cup of strong, black joe. (No word yet on whether Diane will be returning, too.)

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Death be damned, Laura Palmer is coming back with a bang by starring in all 18 episodes of the new series—that is, unless Sheryl Lee, whose first post-Peaks role was Salome opposite Al Pacino, and who has since showed up in Winter’s Bone and Woody Allen’s Café Society, is simply reprising her role as Laura’s suspiciously identical cousin, Maddy.

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Dana Ashbrook has kept up acting with a steady roster of smaller films, including 2012’s The Agression Scale with Ray Wise, aka Leland Palmer, and more than a few appearances on Dawson’s Creek, presumably making him more than up to the job in reprising his role as the annoying ultimate bad boy Bobby Briggs—even now that his hair’s gone gray.

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Though she’s now a long way from a schoolgirl, the ever flirtatious Audrey Horne may have a chance at getting together with Coop after all, especially since actress Sherilyn Fenn has been keeping up her acting chops on shows like Gilmore Girls and Shameless (not to mention appearing on the cover of Playboy in the ’90s).

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At 70, Peggy Lipton scarcely seems to have aged since she last played Norma Jennings, the owner of the Double R Diner, though she has since raised another actress, her daughter Rashida Jones.

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Richard Beymer‘s eyes seem only bluer than ever since the now 79-year-old actor last turned up as Benjamin Horne, Audrey’s father and the owner of the Great Northern Hotel (not to mention an appearance in West Side Story, which helped to earn him a Golden Globe for New Star of the Year that he shared with Warren Beatty). Not that viewers have been able to appreciate them: Twin Peaks is only Beymer’s fourth on-screen appearance so far in the 2000s.

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From blue streaks to twin top knots, Kimmy Robertson seems to have as much appreciation for an out-there hairdo as Lucy Moran, her curly-haired secretary in the sheriff’s office. Robertson has since lent her high-pitched voice to shows like Batman and The Simpsons, plus appeared onscreen on an episode of Drake & Josh—all good practice for appearing on all 18 episodes this season.

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Like Leland Palmer, Laura’s potentially murderous father, actor Ray Wise has since gone gray, a new look he’s shown off in shows like Mad Men, Fresh Off the Boat, Gilmore Girls, 24, and How I Met Your Mother. That’s range.

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Another face who’ll be showing up in the full series, Mädchen Amick has lately turned up on Riverdale, plus a host of cult shows like Mad Men, Gossip Girl, ER, Gilmore Girls, and Dawson’s Creek. Fortunately for her character, the waitress Shelley Johnson, though, her abusive husband Leo won’t be back.

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Since playing Deputy Hawk, one of the most reasoned voices in the sheriff’s office, Michael Horse has gone on to not only appear in shows like Malcolm in the Middle, but pick up a full-on artistic career as a jeweler and painter.

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Though Michael Ontkean has maintained his curly head of locks since starring as Sheriff Harry S. Truman, the actor, who last showed up in The Descendants in 2011, has decided to leave Coop hanging and won’t be returning to Twin Peaks.

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Lara Flynn Boyle won’t be returning to this season but she’ll always live on as Donna Hayward, Laura’s best friend of sorts who was never short on spectacular sweaters.

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Russ Tamblyn‘s daughter Amber has since gone on to become an actor and even director herself, but Tamblyn has kept up an acting career of his own since playing the ever eccentrically-outfitted psychiatrist Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, recently picking up roles in films like Django Unchained.

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Like the actor who plays fellow bad boy Bobby Briggs, James Marshall, aka James Hurley, Big Ed’s nephew who can’t get enough of riding his bike, has also gone gray, but still showed up on-screen with a few films and an appearance on CSI.

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Like her on-screen daughter, Laura, the grief-stricken Sarah Palmer will be returning for all 18 episodes, although actor Grace Zabriskie has turned up in shows like Charmed and Big Love.

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Fittingly, like her beau Sheriff Harry S. Truman, sawmill owner Josie Packard won’t be returning to the series—like fellow mill worker Piper Laurie, aka Catherine Martell, David Lynch apparently never asked her back. But actor Joan Chen has been looking young as ever lately in shows like Netflix’s Marco Polo.

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Related: W‘s recap of Part 16 of Twin Peaks.

Related: The 10 Totally Singular Moments of Before the Finale Before the Finale

Read all W‘s Twin Peaks coverage here.

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