“Is it future… or is it past?” – The Man From Another Place
“I carry a log — yes. Is it funny to you? It is not to me. Behind all things are reasons. Reasons can even explain the absurd. Do we have the time to learn the reasons behind the human being’s varied behavior? I think not. Some take the time. Are they called detectives? Watch — and see what life teaches.” – Margaret Lanterman, a.k.a. the Log Lady
“I’ll see you again in twenty-five years.” – Laura Palmer
“What if some day or night a demon were to steal into your loneliest loneliness and say to you : ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it you will have to live once again and innumerable times again; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unspeakably small or great in your life must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence – even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!'” – Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science
[Original text: Wie, wenn dir eines Tages oder Nachts, ein Dämon in deine einsamste Einsamkeit nachschliche und dir sagte: „Dieses Leben, wie du es jetzt lebst und gelebt hast, wirst du noch einmal und noch unzählige Male leben müssen; und es wird nichts Neues daran sein, sondern jeder Schmerz und jede Lust und jeder Gedanke und Seufzer und alles unsäglich Kleine und Grosse deines Lebens muss dir wiederkommen, und Alles in der selben Reihe und Folge – und ebenso diese Spinne und dieses Mondlicht zwischen den Bäumen, und ebenso dieser Augenblick und ich selber. Die ewige Sanduhr des Daseins wird immer wieder umgedreht – und du mit ihr, Stäubchen vom Staube!“]
“Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time… The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral. All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist… All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
“Someone once told me, ‘Time is a flat circle.’ Everything we’ve ever done or will do, we’re gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they’re gonna be in that room again and again and again forever.” – Rust Cohle, True Detective
Reggie Ledoux: “Time is a flat circle.”
Rust Cohle: “What is that? Nietzsche? Shut the fuck up.”
I have a bad habit of guessing how books and movies are going to end. And I would say that 9.5 times out of 10, I’m right or pretty damn close. Now, I’m not psychic, I just read a lot of books and watch a lot of movies. One of the things I believe is that there are very few original ideas when it comes to storytelling, just new ways of telling the same old story. And the only key to figuring out the plot or the real mystery of a story is what story or stories are similar. From there, you just have to make an educated guess. Nothing real difficult about it. [AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Usual Suspects fooled me.] Though, this is probably why I enjoy Twin Peaks… it’s not an easy show to decipher.
The idea for this post about Twin Peaks and time came to me a couple of weeks ago. My wife and I were watching Arrival. It was something I was looking forward to. We’re both in the translation industry and it’s not everyday we get a flick about a linguist saving the world, sort of at least. But ten minutes in, I turned to my wife and I said, [SPOILER WARNING] “Shit, I’ll be pissed if she’s unstuck in time.” Spoiler, she was or at least her memories were. But, I wasn’t pissed. It was more being upset with myself because my brain does this to me. Though, I’m not going to blame it all on my brain. The filmmakers are a bit to blame. They handed the solution out right at the very beginning and it was a solution that was the plot of my favorite book, Slaughterhouse-Five. The opening line of the movie was this:
I used to think this was the beginning of your story. Memory is a strange thing. It doesn’t work like I thought it did. We are so bound by time, by its order.
Two of my favorite genres for any medium are Mysteries and Sci-Fi. And if you can mix the two together, even better. What makes mysteries so appealing to me is that you can make it a game and play along. The reader/observer is receiving the same information as the detective, so why not try and play detective? And Twin Peaks is a detective story after all.
Think about the structure of a traditional detective story:
- The protagonist (usually an outside, third party) receives the assignment from a client (usually a first party or second party);
- something is causing the client from proceeding with their life, their future;
- the protagonist unravels the story, uncovering the past;
- solves or discovers the truth concerning the issue from the past which is gumming up the future; and, last but not least,
- sets the future.
Most traditional detective stories are linear in this fashion, only diving into the past to move the present along into the future without every actually stepping into the past. The detective goes from Point A to Point B, Point B to finally Point C, wrapping up the past so that characters involved can move into the future and whatever that holds in store for them. And while Twin Peaks is a detective story, it is most definitely not linear. Moving away from plot for a moment, time in the Twin Peaks series and film isn’t linear in storytelling. So it is we the observers and not so much the characters who are unstuck in time. Consider the series and film. Even the prequel, Fire Walk With Me, isn’t the beginning of the story. It is closer to Point B than it is the starting Point A. We don’t really see a starting point until season 3 episode 8 with the “birth of BOB.” Whether or not we will see an ending is yet to be seen. But Twin Peaks is more of a show about enjoying the ride and not about getting to the destination.
Though, there are a few characters who could be considered “unstuck” in time. The best example is Garland Briggs. Briggs ended up playing a big role in Episode 9 by helping move the plot along just an inch from whichever point we are currently at (Point D? F?…) to the next one. Not bad for a dead guy whose decapitated head is out floating about in space.
But how did Briggs do this? Visions. And he’s had a lot of them.
Garland Briggs isn’t the only character with visions and dreams that aren’t what they seem. Dale Cooper has had more than his fair share of them himself.
And like Briggs’ dreams, Cooper’s serve a dual function. The first of which is that his dreams function as guidance. Around 1986, the Special Agent had a dream about the Tibetan people and their plight. This dream lead Cooper to his modus operandi, his deduction method—The Tibetan Method. The second function the dreams fulfill is that Cooper’s dreams are prophesy or at least vaguely prognosticate future events, think back to Fire Walk With Me and Cooper speaking to both Gordon and Albert about dreams that are on the verge of becoming reality. But why?
It is unclear as to why or how Dale Cooper or Garland Briggs have these dreams. But, maybe they aren’t dreams. Instead, what if Dale Cooper and Garland Briggs have become unstuck in time like Kurt Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim and these dreams/visions aren’t dreams nor visions but memories. But, these memories aren’t the normal type of memories, the kind that come from the past. Instead they are memories they will have.
Unlike Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, Cooper and Briggs aren’t doomed to simply and helplessly relive the past. Rather they are able to provide guidance through their future memories presented as dreams and visions to their past selves in an attempt to either assure that future goes as plan or that they revise the future. Think back to the scene at the beginning of Season 3 Episode 1, where ??????? [The Artist Formally Known as The Giant] is speaking to Dale Cooper. Here the scene is filmed completely in black and white. On the surface, there isn’t much to take away from this besides some vague information. But, having seen Episode 8, we can decipher that this is a scene from the past as all the scenes taking place in the past were filmed in black and white. Episode 8 also shows quite clearly that time doesn’t function in a linear manner by showing ??????? producing an orb with the essence of Laura Palmer in it, decades before her Earthly birth.
So, what if we have already seen the ending? Let’s think about this a moment. What is the story about? It is about Laura Palmer. She’s the key figure in the mystery we have been presented with. “But she’s dead, not much left there to solve,” you might say. And you’re partly correct. What if, though, the solution is Laura Palmer finding her way out of Red Room and transcending to a better place? If that’s the case, then we have seen it. We just saw it 25 years ago:
I hope you have enjoyed this speculation into Twin Peaks. Better yet, I hope it gives you some things to think about. If you would like to discuss this, please feel free to leave a comment and join the fun in speculating and theorizing the show. Feel free to share, as well. If you are interested in seeing more or have a speculation yourself that you would like to see more on, let me know.