(5 minute read)
New theory (yet one more). I just thought of it so it seems original to me though surely others must have already speculated along these lines. This follows on the heels of being fascinated with the Judy Cage World theory, which I love and can be easily embedded into my interpretation (for a lengthy but enjoyable exposition on this see David Auerbach’s blog post Twin Peaks Finale: A Theory of Cooper, Laura, Diane, and Judy) …
So, what if current day Laura is in her early 40’s and a survivor of childhood and teenage serial sexual abuse in a family where the mother refuses to acknowledge it and looks the other way and does not play any sort of savior role, as so often happens in these situations. She has largely repressed that childhood trauma though is subconsciously haunted by it and continues to find herself attracted to trouble without even knowing why. She is eking out an existence as a waitress in Odessa Texas where she ended up to be as far away as possible from her childhood setting.
She falls asleep and begins dreaming. Like many long involved dreams, she has increasingly deeper layers of dreaming. In her dreams she is processing the trauma from her childhood. She has long been fascinated with the symbolism of a white stallion, as in a knight riding to her rescue, which has never happened. So much so that she even puts a white horse totem on her mantel in her humble abode. In this case, the white horse is not associated with the ultimate evil presence Judy (aka Jowday, The Experiment, Mother, etc.) but rather with a comforting symbol to Laura.
In her dreaming, she devises a savior in the form of Agent Cooper who, aided by others, help her battle her inner demons. It is a highly complicated and layered dream universe, as such dreams tend to be when wrestling with extremely challenging life issues. An intriguing bit of foreshadowing is when Cooper (having taken Dougie E’s place in the Jones household) hears a reference to the Sunset Boulevard character Gordon Cole on TV and makes a heroic effort to “wake up” by sticking a fork in an electric socket, causing Janie E to scream and then the power goes out and house goes dark – eerily similar to the climactic knockout scene at the end of the series where Laura is waking up (more on this at the end of this piece).
Side note on Audrey: In the dream narrative, it sure feels like Audrey was herself traumatized and is in a psychiatric ward, probably on a drug regimen, with Charlie as her therapist attempting to bring her out of her psychosis. Laura might dream this because it is an eerie parallel to Laura’s real-life repressed trauma, as her subconscious is urging her to “wake up” and confront it. Typical of involved dreams, this arc is oddly integrated with others, via veiled references at the Roadhouse to mental illness and the associated Audrey’s world characters, as well as Audrey using the phrase “the little girl that lives down the lane” when berating Charlie, which is later referenced by the Evolution of the Arm (raspy-voiced tree thingy with the brain on top) when it asks Cooper “is this the story of the little girl that lives down the lane? Is it?” …
After extended and convoluted deep level dreaming, she reaches a victory of some sort at the subconscious level when BOB is finally vanquished.
At this point, she begins to ascend upward in her dreaming from the most subconscious levels and now she gradually begins to dream more and more closely to the surface level of her consciousness as the real world increasingly intrudes. Modern day Maersk shipping containers are seen in Odessa. The RR Diner does not have the “To Go” signage, as presumably the franchise upgrade scenario was simply part of her deeper involved dream story anyway. It’s also interesting that Cooper becomes more balanced at the end and less the idealized Agent Cooper that we are so familiar with all along, as if he is a mix of Mr. C and good Cooper. He is a more realistic savior and at this point Laura is dreaming much more closely to the conscious level, so her dream characters become more life-like and more similar to people in the real world. Perhaps she even knows somebody named Richard in real life.
Ultimately she arrives at her childhood home, the locus of her repressed horrors. Interestingly, the woman who answers the door is the real life owner of that house (Mary Reber). While initially I was so creeped out and tense thinking of Judy present in the house, perhaps as just a presence there or as the woman answering the door or as the voice you hear from behind the door, especially with the references to names of evil spirits from the Black Lodge (the previous owner was named Chalfont and her name is Alice Tremond, the names of the evil elderly woman and her magician grandson, respectively). But, even with this current-day Laura dreaming interpretation (or even more deliciously this interpretation in superposition with the Judy cage world theory on the deep dream story level), there is so much tension as Laura is on the precipice of a major revelation as her dream reaches a moment of epic self-realization.
Just as her story began, with Laura hearing her mother calling for her to wake up, she is gazing with increasing dread at the house and dreams that she hears her mother call her name and all at once the entire sprawling experience of Twin Peaks culminates finally with Laura having a sudden, shocking recognition and head-on confrontation with the trauma of her past and she screams and the dream shuts abruptly down and she wakes up.
I can imagine her being launched fully awake, reeling with emotion but with her inner demons finally out in full view and perhaps with at least some feeling of resolution. Finally she is in a position to begin a real healing process and she essentially saved herself. The faded closing credits scene in the Lodge waiting room perfectly captures for me that echo, that lingering impression you can’t immediately shake after realizing you’re awake. I imagine Laura whispering to Cooper “Thank you for saving me. I’m sorry that you’re just my dream character”. Cooper’s face registers a wonderful conflicting mix of solemn resolution and the deep heartbreaking realization that he is not real.
What I like about this framework is it still allows for all the fascinating speculation at the dream world level and the gorgeous surreal film-making while retaining a real-world sense of humanity and compassion for people that have experienced what the Laura Palmer character has. At the top level, she is not a supernatural tragic presence created by the White Lodge and sent to oppose the evil unleashed upon earth but rather a real human being who has suffered extreme emotional and sexual abuse, real life garmonbozia. How these experiences affect victims, how they potentially cripple victims for decades after the abuse ends, and how such victims attempt to come to grips with their trauma over the course of a lifetime all come into ultimate focus.
Did I say that as much as I have long fanatically revered Mulholland Drive as his crowning masterpiece, now I’m beginning to think that the sprawling entirety of the Twin Peaks seasons and movie, with the completion now of what is an essentially 18 hour epic movie as the closing movement, may well prove to be the ultimate masterwork of David Lynch.