The final hour of “Twin Peaks: The Return” ended David Lynch’s series on a baffling, brilliant high by returning to the show’s most important figure: Laura Palmer. Dale Cooper went back to the past to stop Laura’s murder, but his attempt was corrupted by Judy, an “extreme negative force” who plucked Laura from the timeline we’re most familiar with and put her somewhere else entirely. Cooper ended up preventing Laura’s death, as her corpse on the beach from the pilot episode disappeared, but he didn’t save her. In fact, he only prevented her death in one timeline.
Wherever Judy sent Laura was where Lynch decided to set the last half hour of the entire series, and it’s here where most viewers were left scratching their heads. It’s impossible to know exactly what this setting was, but it’s safe to assume it was some kind of alternate dimension created by Judy to ensure Laura’s demise. Cooper may have saved her in one timeline, but that doesn’t mean Judy was done with her.
In one of the earliest scenes in “The Return,” the Fireman told Cooper in the Red Room something that proved to be one of the biggest clues to making sense of the end: “Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds, one stone.” Nearly 18 hours later, this line finally paid off.
For viewers paying close attention, 430 was the mile number in which Cooper and Diane hit before being taken to other side of whatever dimension Judy created. Richard and Linda were the new names of Cooper and Diane, respectively. When Cooper read the letter Diane had left him, she signed the note “Linda” and addressed him as “Richard.” Lastly, Gordon Cole revealed at the start of Part 17 that “two birds, one stone” was the last thing Cooper said to him before his disappeanrce. In the words of Gordon Cole:
Now the last thing Cooper told me was, ‘If I disappear like [Major Briggs and Phillip Jeffries], do everything you can to find me. I’m trying to kill two birds with one stone.’
So what does all of this mean? We may never know for certain, but the Fireman must have known that Judy was powerful enough to create another timeline so that Laura couldn’t easily be saved. The Fireman was basically giving Cooper the back-up plan should his first attempt not prove successful. By entering the alternate dimension (one stone), Cooper had the chance to save Laura and defeat Judy (something that was no longer possible in the show’s traditional timeline). Of course, the last shot of the series proved Cooper didn’t succeed.
The alternate timeline proved to be a place stuffed with ominous easter eggs, all foreshadowing an ending in which good would not prevail. Some were obvious (the diner Cooper/Richard stops at is named Judy’s), while others required a deeper level of “Twin Peaks” knowledge. Cooper found Laura Palmer in the new dimension, only she knew herself as Carrie Page from Odessa, Texas. Her home had a figurine of a white horse, which is what Sarah Palmer saw on the nights before Laura and Maddie were killed.
Even more telling was what happened when Cooper/Richard and Laura/Carrie finally made it back to Twin Peaks and knocked on the door of what should’ve been Laura’s home. Sarah Palmer didn’t answer but Alice Tremond did, and she told the pair that she bought the house from a Mrs. Chalfont. These last names should sound familiar, as they trace back to Black Lodge entities (Ms. Chalfont was at the trailer park where Theresa Banks died, and she later appeared to Laura as Ms. Tremond and gave her a painting that acted as a portal from her bedroom to the lodge).
These easter eggs all suggest one thing: The timeline may be different, but the age old battle between good and evil for Laura Palmer’s soul continues. Wherever Judy brought Laura, it was still a place where the Black Lodge influence could be felt and it was still a place where Cooper arrived on orders of the Fireman to save her. It’s a different timeline that’s somehow, at its core, exactly the same.
Before Phillip Jeffries allowed Cooper to enter the past in Part 17, his smoke took the shape of an infinity sign. By the end of Part 18, it’s clear Jeffries was warning Cooper that to enter the past would be to enter a never-ending loop in which good battles evil across timelines and planes of reality. Evil triumphs good in the past when Judy eliminates Laura from the timeline. Evil triumphs good in the alternate dimension when Carrie Page reawakens as a horrified Laura Palmer. But good will keep trying nonetheless; that’s the optimism of David Lynch.
Part 8 turned the scope of “Twin Peaks” into a grand fight between evil (Judy appears to be the monster figure that gave birth to BOB) and good (the Fireman gives birth to Laura Palmer, the only being that can defeat the evil created by the atomic bomb). Part 18 ended the series by saying that fight never ends. It’s destined to keep repeating itself; but as long as we have Dale Cooper’s in the world, good will always have a shot. Lynch’s finale ultimately makes this grand statement understandable and unavoidable; it’s what “Twin Peaks” is all about. Here’s hoping we get to see Cooper have another shot at evil in the future.