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Twin Peaks season 3 finale explained (spoiler alert)

The owls are not what they seem.

As I finished watching season 3 of Twin Peaks, being a fan for so many years, I felt empty and dissatisfied. So many side stories left unanswered — Audrey Horne’s story especially.

And Dale Cooper’s failure to defeat Judy, the ultimate evil. Ouch!

A few days passed, and little by little, two questions started to form in my head:

— What if David Lynch and Mark Frost actually gave us answers to everything?

— What if each and every scene is crucial to the main plot?

And out of all the characters, it was the lovely Lucy Brennan who sparked my interest.

Here’s why:

In the finale, Lucy decided to accept the fact that there are two Coopers (one good, one bad) based on a brief telephone call with the real Dale Cooper. To me, this made no sense.

Bear in mind that Lucy has severe difficulties with the concept of how cell phones work (let alone the concept of doppelgängers) — but still she immediately picked up a gun (she’s not a violent person, mind you) to blow Mr. C away.

Was this just sloppy storytelling?

lucy brennan twin peaks
Lucy. With a vengeance.

In my mind, Lucy would only use a gun to hurt someone if she knew that that person had severely hurt someone she loves.

If so, what could Mr. C have done to hurt Lucy so bad?

When an actor portrays a bad actor it all gets strange

Above all else, Lucy and her husband, Andy Brennan, love their son, Wally Brando. The third season of Twin Peaks did go to great lengths to illustrate this fact.

Wally did only make one appearance in the show, but gosh, what an appearance he made!

Wally, who shows up on his motorbike, is clearly inspired by Marlon Brando, which is quite the cliché for a Lynch/Frost character. 

For some reason, it’s important for Wally to pay his respects to Sheriff Truman in a mannerism that could only be described as an attempt at acting out a bad script.

Why, why, and why?

The fake photograph on Lucy Brennan’s desk

In one of Lucy’s earlier scenes, we see a photograph on her desk portraying her family.

twin peaks wally brando picture
Fake news.

Except it’s a family with poorly made cutouts of their heads, thus suggesting that something is false about their family — something that Lucy and Andy can’t deal with.

Now, we know that Mr. C wreaked havoc in Dale Cooper’s absence, right?

What if Mr. C killed Lucy’s and Andy’s real son?

Lucy stopped evolving. Unable to cope, Lucy would repress her memories and find it even more difficult to evolve with the times. She did struggle to cope with technology from the start — but not understanding the concept of cell phones after 25 years of working as a receptionist?1

The bad acting. In an effort to help, the original Sheriff Truman hired an actor to play Lucy and Andy’s son. And he’s out and about experiencing adventures in the world and loving his parents very much, despite being so uncomfortable in their presence.

Time to clean out their dead son’s room. The second Sheriff Truman was then charged by the first Sheriff Truman to manage the situation, making sure that Wally paid his “parents” the occasional visit. The purpose of this particular meeting is to allow Lucy and Andy to clean out Wally’s room.

Sheriff Truman just shakes his head. “Wally” is therefore not Lucy and Andy’s real son, just an aspiring actor (and not a very good one) trying to earn a few extra bucks every now and then. Still, you can see how both Sheriff Truman and “Wally” are taken aback about the seriousness of the situation.

Deep down, Lucy knows, she’s no dimwit. Right after Lucy, almost instinctively, shot Mr. C, she understands how cell phones work, indicating that she’s back to her senses with a functioning mind. Deep down, as a mother, she knows that her son is actually dead.

I watched the Wally scene again with this new theory in mind. And it convinced me:

Lucy and Andy’s real son is dead — and Mr. C killed him

Now, suddenly, every line of dialogue in the Wally scene seems brimmed with unspeakable pain behind Lucy’s and Andy’s smiling faces.

And the scene beautifully foreshadows Lucy’s bold actions in taking out Mr. C, the most central of the dark characters in the season.

If the most “pointless” scene in season 3 of Twin Peaks carried such weight for the plot — what else had I missed?

I had to go back to the beginning.

Was I wrong about everything?

“What year is this?”

In the Twin Peaks season 3 finale, here’s what I, at first, thought went down:

Dale has a plan, but it isn’t to defeat Mr. C. and send him back. As events unfold, Mr. C will be shot by Lucy and the Guy with the Glove will punch out the BOB orb. Dale’s real mission in Twin Peaks is the key to his old room at The Great Northern; there, he plans to find the final piece of the puzzle and put his and Major Briggs’ original plan back into play.

Dale finds Philip Jeffries in his “non-existent” state and Jeffries opens a doorway in the infinite time loop. Cooper travels back in time to save Laura Palmer from being murdered, but something happens and she disappears. Cooper travels back, meets up with Diane, and together they travel, as per The Fireman’s cryptic instructions, to a portal. They go through the portal and in the alternate universe where they emerge, they find Laura with a memory loss.

Cooper ignores the murdered man on “Laura’s” sofa, maybe because he understands that everything Laura does is on him, too, or because he got a bigger fish to fry; the evil Judy residing within Sarah Palmer, Laura’s mom. Cooper takes Laura to Sarah’s house, potentially to make sure that Laura destroys Judy. But neither Sarah nor Judy is there. Bummer.

By saving Laura, Cooper created an alternate timeline, and now he’s forever stuck there while Judy is still in the original timeline. Cooper slowly realizes that he seems to have ended up in the wrong place by asking:

“What year is this?”

Game over. Judy wins. Laura screams in terror.

But all of this is wrong, I think.

Enter the Fireman’s ultimate scream weapon

All the lights going out in the Palmer house suggest that both Dale and Laura succeeded in fulfilling their arcs — to kill Judy.

I had to watch the Twin Peaks season 3 ending again:

Right before Laura screams, there’s a faint call, almost sounding as if Sarah is shouting “Laura” from a far distance (which she also shouts in the first season prior to meeting BOB).

Whatever this cue makes Laura remember, it makes her scream at the house, completely knocking out all the electricity in the house.

If Judy, in fact, was in the house, would this have killed Judy? 

Yes. Yes, it would!

Laura was the Fireman’s weapon sent to Earth to kill Judy.

twin peaks laura palmer screaming
Screaming is Laura’s weapon.

How does one kill Judy?

According to many fan forums, Judy is derived from jiào dé, which is Chinese for “to outshout.”

Maybe that’s why Laura’s been screaming throughout the series — it’s her weapon against the ultimate evil; all of her pain and sorrow compressed into a devastating blow.

Sound and sound waves are a recurring theme throughout the series. Maybe it’s the kinship between sound and electricity as wave forms that allows travels between worlds — and to be used as weapons, as well.

Let’s dig deeper, shall we?

Remember that bug in Sarah Palmer’s throat?

Did The Fireman foresee the coming of events and plant his weapon, Laura, on Earth?

Well, The Fireman did send a bug through time and that bug crawled down Sarah’s throat before Laura was born, remember?

And this is probably why evil forces had Laura killed in the first place; after all, she was mankind’s only weapon against Judy.

With Laura dead, The Fireman had to orchestrate an elaborate scheme to outmanoeuvre Judy and her minions while at the same time guiding Cooper back in time to retrieve Laura (the ultimate scream weapon).

If true, then that’s pretty darn cool.

And there’s plenty more to suggest that this is, in fact, true.

Laura Palmer is the dreamer of this dream

Ponder this:

Dale and Diane didn’t travel to another timeline, but rather into Laura’s dream.

It has been suggested that the Laura that Cooper and Diane goes to find is an alternate timeline version of Laura, but I don’t buy that for a second.

First of all, that would be lazy storytelling and that’s not what Frost and Lynch are about.

Secondly, Laura clearly gets her memory back in the final scene which means that she is the real Laura that Dale went back in time to save.

two critical questions:

— But, who took Laura out of Cooper’s hand right there in the woods, 25 years ago?

— And why, then, put Laura in that strange place to live out 25 shitty years?

In the forest scene, there’s a familiar sound right before Laura vanishes into thin air. It’s the same sound The Fireman plays to Dale while clearly instructing him (and us), “remember this sound.”

The Fireman, who assisted in creating Laura, was the one who took her away in the forest.

Complicated? Yes. Lynchian? Yes.

Let’s look at Laura and Dale’s journey to “Laura’s realm” again:

Laura gets murdered by evil forces in Twin Peaks. Cooper manages to disturb these evil forces to a degree, but he ends up being possessed by BOB turning him into Mr C. The Fireman “saved” Cooper by keeping his mind with him for the next 25 years.

After 25 years, it’s time to deal the finishing blow to Judy. The Fireman reinstates Cooper into a doppelgänger, Doug.

After being quite disorientated for a while, Dale is sent back in time and he saves Laura from being murdered. Right, no question marks here.

But then, right there in the woods, Laura is taken away by the Fireman. Now, it’s her turn to be stashed away with a memory wipe for 25 years while everyone else’s life in Twin Peaks proceeds as if Laura’s body was never recovered instead of found wrapped up in plastic.

This explains why the diner in this version of Twin Peaks has the original sign when Dale and Laura drive by on their way to Sarah’s house:

Being “tucked away” for 25 years, Laura wouldn’t know about the diner’s franchise efforts, and thus wouldn’t know about the new sign. (We wouldn’t either if Lynch and Frost hadn’t shown us the story of Norma’s expansion plans.)

In short: It’s not an alternate timeline. It’s back to normal, but without Laura this time.

All of this must have been foreseen by the Fireman. Laura even told this to Cooper in a dream — “I’ll see you in 25 years”.

Rather than solving her murder, it seems like Cooper succeeded in saving Laura Palmer’s life. Not bad, right?

Well, there are still questions in need of answers.

— Who took Laura out of Dale’s hand right there in the woods, 25 years ago?

— And why, then, put Laura in that strange place to live out 25 shitty years?

— And if Laura is not stashed away in “our” world, then where is she exactly?

Let’s look at these questions beginning with the last one.

Wherever Laura is hidden away by the Fireman, it ought to be a place under his control, a place hidden from the world and from evil forces.

Did she end up in an alternate timeline, then?

Yes, we are like the dreamer who dreams

“Dreaming” is a familiar Twin Peaks concept and since they’re created by electric signals in our brains, it makes sense for them to be more easily accessible for spirits.

Could the Fireman simply have put Laura in a dream?

Twin Peaks dream world
From Gordon’s dream. The woman is talking about Laura!

The café scene where Gordon Cole get some clues states it clearly:

“We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.”

Okay. Let’s go with the idea that Laura is the dreamer who lives inside her dream.

So, when does 25 years pass within Laura’s dream?

At the motel in Laura’s dream, when Dale wakes up alone and walks outside, the motel looks completely different.

As if 25 years had passed! And when he finally meets Laura, she’s 25 years older, too.

The time passed overnight.

Now, let’s kill two birds (evils) with one stone (weapon).

The Fireman’s plan is audacious; have Dale travel back in time and find Laura (the stone), use her as a weapon against Judy (bird one), and close the portal in the Palmer residence to stop further evils to enter the real world (bird two).

But, and this is a tricky part, the Fireman then needs Judy to follow Cooper and Diane through the electric portal — into Laura’s dream that she doesn’t know exists.

This means that Judy isn’t inside Laura’s dream to begin with. Cooper and Diane must lure her in. How?

The painful Garmonbozia lure to attract Judy

At the motel in Laura’s dream, the night before the passage of 25 years, Dale and Diane has sex. Not passionate sex, but rather dutiful and emotionally painful, even.

And here’s the kicker:

Cooper and Diane must have sex with each other, even though it pains Cooper to ask this of Diane. She does for Cooper deeply, but it’s also reasonable to assume that she, too, like Lucy, was raped by Dale’s doppelgänger, Mr. C.

The Fireman’s idea is that their shared pain, in combination with sex, will lure Judy to follow them into Laura’s dream.

Why is this act so irresistible for Judy?

Because sex and pain is the ultimate nourishment for all dark forces in Twin Peaks, including Judy.

In the opening of the third season, we’re waiting to see a glimpse of the supernatural in a big glass box, but it isn’t until a couple has sex in front of it until a female shadow appears — and kills them.

Lodge spirits do feed on human fear and suffering; the negative energy is literally nourishment to them — and it’s called garmonbozia.

Garmonbozia is a golden substance that looks like creamed corn and it’s mentioned in this scene from Fire Walk with Me:

Phillip Jeffries doesn’t really know what year it is.

Sex and pain seems typically linked to negative energy in Lynchian storytelling:

Both Laura and Ronette Pulaski were raped, too. But if Mr. C raped Diane — was she his only victim?

Which, of course, leads us to Audrey.

and he likely rapes Audrey Horne while she’s comatose in the hospital due to the explosion at the bank in the end of season two — and together they spawn a troubled son, Richard Horne (probably birthed by Audrey while still in a coma).

Waking up: Audrey Horne’s comatose state

The idea of living inside dreams could explain Audrey’s story line. We know that she survived the explosion at the bank, but that she ended up in a coma.

Have a think about it.

We never actually get to see Audrey wake up from her coma. We only get to see her living somewhere where she is guarded by a man named Charlie who doesn’t appear to be evil.

Perhaps she is kept in her place by one of the Fireman’s men?

If so, Audrey’s entire season 3 storyline took place inside her own dream. This, then, would suggest that Audrey actually never woke up from the coma.

But Audrey does have a son, the mean-spirited brat Richard Horne. And we haven’t been told who the father actually is.

What if Mr. C raped Audrey while she was in a coma?
And what if she gave birth to her son, Richard, while still comatose?

If so, Audrey would still be living inside her own comatose state. A dream in which she’s gone just a little bit crazy — not unlikely given her family history.

Also, nothing in Audrey’s “reality” seems to suggest that she’s living in a real, modern world — nor does she seem even aware of having a son.

“Waking up” with Audrey Horne.

In her dream state, Audrey tries to get to the Roadhouse, a common portal in the world of Twin Peaks. She’s anxious and eager to get out of her state, but she, like Laura, must wait for 25 years before she can move on.

At the Roadhouse, she needs garmonbozia to “break the spell” — her sexy dance, the bar fight, and her panic.

When she says to Charlie (alas a watcher commissioned by The Fireman), “Let me out of here!” she wants out of her comatose state.

And this is why Audrey in her final scene wakes up in a clinical environment wearing white; she’s just woke up at the hospital after being comatose for 25 years.

As it all comes together, there are still a few remaining questions about Laura that needs to be answered.

Who answered the door in Laura Palmer’s dream?

So, let’s leave Audrey and get back to the final scenes with Laura and Dale standing outside the Palmer residence inside Laura’s dream.

Judy is likely to have followed Cooper and Diane into the dream “between two worlds”.

The woman who opens the door to Laura and Dale seems like just a random person. But two names are disclosed, Tremond and Chalfont. In Twin Peaks lore, those are not just random names; they are thought to be lodge spirits.

Maybe the Fireman had them take turns in guarding the portal — or to prevent Laura from going through and putting herself at risk? Perhaps like Charlie was stopping Audrey from going to the Roadhouse too soon?

I think that Mrs. Tremond knew exactly who Laura and Dale were when she opened the door. And I think she knew, as per the Fireman’s instructions, that Judy would soon appear in the house and that their own sacrifice was nearing.

Together, they only had “one chance” for Laura’s scream weapon to do its job.

Except for Dale who still seems mostly confused. Why isn’t Cooper in tune with the exact details of The Fireman’s plan?

Well, the Fireman isn’t exactly known for speaking plainly. He’s a need-to-know type of guy. He probably just instructed Cooper to go through the portal, have sex with Diane, and take Laura to her house — all of which he did.

What happened in Twin Peaks when Laura disappeared in the forest?

If my theory is true, then what happened in the real-world Twin Peaks after Laura disappeared in the forest instead of being found murdered?

Well, Pete Martell didn’t find her laying dead and wrapped in plastic on the beach, but instead, Laura just vanished in the forest that night after her fight with James Hurley by his motorcycle.

So, Leland Palmer never murdered Laura.

Things would sure be “different”, as foreshadowed by Dale in his final visit to the Twin Peaks sheriff’s office. Not perfect, but a lot better without Judy — all thanks to Cooper, Laura, Major Briggs, and the Fireman.

If anything, my sincere hope is that Lucy and Andy’s real son is alive and well in the new version of Twin Peaks.

If two people ever deserved a good life, it’s Lucy and Andy!

The fate of Coop, Diane, and Laura

It seems as if The Fireman has placed doppelgängers for both Cooper and Diane in Laura’s dream. Diane already saw her doppelgänger outside the motel and somehow figured out their names — Linda and Richard.

The Fireman mentioned Linda and Richard to Cooper early on in season 3, so these doppelgängers are there as per the Fireman’s design.

Since Diane’s doppelgänger was waiting for her at the motel, it’s plausible that Diane went out to speak with “herself” later that night when Cooper was asleep.

It’s fair to assume that Diane’s doppelgänger instructed her to write a note to Cooper with The Fireman’s second clue.

Finally, will Cooper, Diane, and Laura with the aid of the Fireman ever be able to return to the real world?

Well, Dale doesn’t even know what year he’s in, nor that he’s inside Laura’s dream, nor that they just killed Judy and closed the portal. He’s been in and out of lodges, dreams, and time loops for two consecutive quarters of a century now; he’s understandably a bit confused.

However, I’m not too worried.

Audrey was able to go back to the real world from her dream. And the dreams, despite being Laura’s in this case, seems to be supervised by the Fireman.

Bringing it all together: The Lynch/Frost way

Lynch and Frost shows us that a story can be told without lazy shortcuts and without editing out all the idiosyncrasies of a narrative. Because those small idiosyncrasies are the interesting stuff, the stuff that truly matters.

After all, Lynch and Frost could’ve just brought Dale back in the first episode of season 3. But in this universe, traveling between worlds is no easy feat.

I understand now that not a single frame in Twin Peaks is out of place or superfluous — they all serve a central purpose for the plot.

 Bringing every little piece together — be patient, please.

Promotional photo from Twin Peaks.

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Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer aka Doctor Spin is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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