“Twin Peaks: The Return” came to its end with Dale Cooper wondering what year it was, while Carrie Page began to remember her roots as Laura Palmer and let out a horrified scream. The minute the screen smash cut to black, viewers were not only left with a new head-scratching puzzle to put together, but also so many unresolved questions that the idea of a Season 4 proved instantly attractive. Showtime has no plans at this time to continue the series, and Kyle MacLachlan told Deadline after the finale there are “no discussions” for more episodes, which may frustrate fans desperate for answers, but it’s unquestionably the right decision on Lynch’s part.
No more “Twin Peaks” is a hard reality to accept, especially because thinking about what a potential Season 4 would look like yields a lot of enticing opportunities for Lynch and Mark Frost. Every fan of the series wants to know the real fate of Audrey Horne, whose last appearance in Part 16 teased she was stuck in some kind of institution (whether it was a real mental institution or more Black Lodge-oriented will remain a mystery). The fan favorite character didn’t appear until Part 12 and was only seen bickering with her husband. Fans justifiably want more Horne, and a potential Season 4 would no doubt have to focus on her fate in detail.
The two-part finale alone set up an intriguing future for the series. Gordon Cole spoke at length about Judy, an “extreme negative force” who is ultimately the real big bad of the Black Lodge. Judy would appear to be the monster figure that gave birth to BOB after the atomic bomb went off in Part 8. The creature also appeared in the glass box at the start of “The Return” and killed the characters played by Madeline Zima and Ben Rosenfield. There’s no confirmation the monster was in fact Judy, and theories are already swirling that Judy is currently living inside Sarah Palmer, just as BOB possessed Leland, but clearly a fourth season would have to tackle the specifics of this primary new antagonist.
Also in need of resolution from a narrative perspective is where exactly Cooper ended up. His attempt to save Laura Palmer from her death as seen in “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” was interrupted by Judy, who pulled Laura from Cooper’s hand and took her…somewhere that’s hard to explain. Some fans are theorizing that the setting of the finale’s last 30 minutes were the real world and all the events of the 47 prior episodes were the dream of Cooper’s incarnation in this new world (aka a man named Richard). The last shot of the series suggests otherwise, however. Carrie Page, who looks exactly like Laura Palmer, is taken by Cooper/Richard to her childhood home in “Twin Peaks” and ends up shrieking out of horror as she begins to remember who she really is (the wind even calls out to her, “Laura,” and it sounds a lot like Sarah Palmer, who could very well be Judy).
The likeliest explanation, as IndieWire previously noted, is that Cooper’s interference in the past caused new timelines to be created. Judy plucked Laura from the new version of the past in which Laura never was murdered (viewers saw her deceased body on the beach from the pilot episode disappear) and put her in a different timeline, one where Cooper is now an FBI Agent named Richard and Laura is a Texas waitress named Carrie Page. They’re both now stuck in a timeline that is strange and familiar (Cooper seemed to be a version of his old self and his evil doppelgänger, for instance) and a world where Black Lodge entities are still alive (viewers could hear the electrical currents running outside of Page’s home). Carrie’s final look of horror suggests people are capable of realizing their past selves in different timelines, which opens up a ton of possibilities in terms of Cooper and Laura exploring this new world, running into altered versions of old characters, and doing their best to return to the original timeline and defeat Judy.
“Twin Peaks” Season 4 would be able to continue the narrative and take it to bold new places, just as “The Return” did to the original run, but it would run the risk of destroying the perfection the new episodes created in terms of the thematic understanding of the series. Lynch ended the series by making his grand statement on the nature of good vs. evil, and ruining that point by continuing the series would tarnish the powerful new legacy “The Return” has given the entire series. Both times Lynch has revived the franchise, first with “Fire Walk With Me” and then with “The Return,” he did so to provide a deeper understanding of the Laura Palmer mythos. “Twin Peaks: The Return” ends by suggesting Laura’s fate is on an infinite loop across multiple timelines. Lynch’s optimism rests in Cooper, who will continue fighting for good even if evil’s success is inevitable.
“The Return” had a tragic and nightmarish end that was the perfect accompaniment to “Fire Walk With Me.” Laura Palmer is forever doomed, but it’s only when good stops trying to vanquish evil that the world actually falls apart. New episodes of “Twin Peaks” would either have to hammer this point home for a third time and be exhaustively pointless or erase this grand statement by allowing Cooper the chance to save Laura and defeat Judy once and for all. The latter route would be downright criminal and undermine everything Lynch accomplished in “The Return,” while the former would just be repetitive and less potent given how successful the finale was.
Sure, there are non-Laura Palmer related stories that need resolving (i.e. Audrey Horne), and a potential Season 4 could certainly introduce new storylines, but “Peaks” and Laura Palmer are intertwined. There simply is no “Twin Peaks” without Laura Palmer. Lynch revisited the series twice after the original run only because of Laura Palmer, and to make new episodes that don’t involve her or her legacy would be in direct counterpoint to what the series is at its very core. There’s a reason the last episode and the last shot was reserved for Laura Palmer. The nature of her story is complete, and therefore so is “Twin Peaks.”
“Twin Peaks: The Return” provided the essential ending to the franchise, whether you liked it or not. Part 8 broadened the scope of the show’s battle between good and evil forces, and Part 18 proved the fate of that battle. “Twin Peaks” is over and it’s perfect; it doesn’t need a Season 4, just endless re-watches so that its mysteries can further be explored and understood.