Things you should know: I watched the first couple of series of Twin Peaks when they were first shown, episode by episode, week by week, over 25 years ago. I read and enjoyed The Secret History of Twin Peaks. And I watched Twin Peaks: The Return, the third season, earlier this year (again, episode by episode, week by week) and I was not disappointed. I was mesmerised. Awestruck. Wrapt. Enthralled. Swallowed whole for between 45 minutes and an hour each week to emerge, blinking and often befuddled. I didn’t get frustrated when we were gifted with a long shot of a man sweeping a floor for two minutes to the sound of ‘Green Onions’. I didn’t get frustrated when Cooper remained Dougie for week after week after week. I didn’t need everything to make sense. I didn’t need answers immediately. I was content to let the series unspool in its own way, at its own speed, in its own time. As we approached the climax, my anticipation built (remembering watching the final episode of the second season all those years ago and saying, “There is no way they can resolve this in a satisfying way” minutes before Cooper smashed his face into the bathroom mirror and snarled, “How’s Annie?” – my poor, tiny young mind blown at the audacity of ending the show in such a savagely dark way). What did that box represent in the opening episodes? Who or what was Judy? Who was the girl who swallowed the mutant frog dragonfly in episode 8? (Ah, episode 8. In fact, if we’re talking questions here: episode 8 warrants a dozen question marks in its own right – was BOB created by a nuclear bomb, what did the Woodsman broadcast mean? Did he get a light?!) What happened to Phillip Jeffries? Audrey Horne? What was Cooper’s doppelganger’s actual plan? And perhaps most of all: what happened in that final episode? And is it the final episode? And what happened? In the final episode? Anyone?
And so now we have Twin Peaks The Final Dossier, which coming hard on the heels of that enigmatic final episode is likely to be lapped up by TP fans in search of answers (even though the search for answers is in many ways missing the point). And whilst it is actually quite easy to talk about Twin Peaks The Return without worrying too much about spoilers (you could often watch the actual show and be none the wiser – I could tell you that the David Lynch character Gordon Cole stood by a building and watched a hole open up in the sky through which he could glance the woodsmen, and that the Miguel Ferrer character Albert in turn watched the Gordon Cole blink in and out of our reality whilst a small, soot faced man crept into a nearby police vehicle and crushed a poor man’s head – and it would remain something you actually still had to watch for yourself), there is a small danger of spoilers here, for the fans who still, stubbornly would like answers. When I first spoke to the publicist about this book she told me, “You will get some answers. Just not all of the answers.” That is the best possible introduction to this book you could ever want or need.
Whereas The Secret History of Twin Peaks roamed quite freely across a couple of hundred years of American history, taking in everyone from Lewis and Clark to what happened at Area 51, as well as offering background on some key Twin Peaks regulars (the story of Margaret Coulson, the legendary log lady, and how she intersected as a child with Carl Rodd, who went on to be played by the late Harry Dean Stanton, was fascinating – especially given the supernatural powers of observation that Rodd demonstrated in the show), the remit of Twin Peaks The Final Dossier is much tighter. As with the previous book, our guide is Tamara Preston (played by the musician Chrysta Bell in the show); unlike the previous book, which allowed her marginalia on the periphery of the Archivist’s secret history (in a style that gleefully nodded to Mark Danielewski’s meta-horror House of Cards), Twin Peaks The Final Dossier is just Tamara, sharing her thoughts on what she has discovered. But that’s because these two books operate in a different kind of space: The Secret History of Twin Peaks existed in a world of infinite possibilities (where would Frost and Lynch take the new series); The Final Dossier is a sop, of sorts, albeit a very well written and tremendously entertaining sop, to TP fans who haven’t had enough yet. And it’s here to answer some questions, as we’ve said, offer us tantalising glimpses into things we didn’t know previously and posit theories as to what lies beyond.
So what answers do we get? Well, there’s a chapter on Audrey Horne for one thing. We find out who owned that glass box in New York. We get to (tantalisingly) discover a little bit about Judy – who is actually Joudy. Parts of the book could, we imagine, have functioned as briefing sheets for actors and actresses who returned to the show (Shelly Johnson, for instance). We find out what happened to Donna, who was mysteriously absent from season 3. We glimpse some trouble between the Haywards and the Hornes. We find out just where Annie got to. We get to meet up with Sheriff Harry Truman one last time (also absent, understandably, from season 3). We are delivered of a reasonable theory as to what happened to Major Garland Briggs. We learn that Laura Palmer didn’t die in this timeline, she disappeared never to be seen again, and Tamara (a TP herself) finds her memories start to muddy and blur in direct relation to her proximity to TP itself. We get a possible glimpse into what might have happened in the days immediately following the end of Season 2 – in relation to Audrey and Cooper’s Double and Major Briggs. We discover who that little girl was who swallowed the mutant frog creature. Was the mutant frog Joudy? Was Joudy the mother of BOB? Why do Cooper and Diane become Richard and Linda? Why does Laura become Carrie? There we veer into the realms of theory. And the questions go on and on like the most satisfying itch your brain has ever chanced upon. We recommend buying the boxset and watching it again from the start. That’s our plan.
But we were talking about Twin Peaks The Final Dossier. It is, as you’d probably expect, much more straightforward than the show itself. Tamara may experience “What’s it all about?” moments, but she is doing her best to knit disparate elements together (in ways that sometimes resist her ardent efforts). As she tells us,
“I realise we can’t settle this debate with absolute certainty, or even a fraction of it, but I also think it’s worth asking whether all these concepts fit together – logic and method be damned – and point toward something that’s so far outside of our perception that we’ll never begin to grasp it if we don’t tremendously enlarge our frame of reference.”
There is even, finally, curious wisdom courtesy of the late lamented log lady that exceeds the purview of the book and seems to glance askew at the actual world in which we find ourselves:
“When a dark age comes, just as you would at night, hold the light inside you. Others, I can tell you, have already learned to do the same. In time, you will recognise the light, in yourself and others. In this way you will find each other. Together, you will make the light stronger.”
Here’s hoping, eh?
Any Cop?: Is Twin Peaks The Final Dossier the absolute beginning and end of everything we may still feel we still need to know? Not quite. Is it nigh on fricking essential to anyone who loved the latest incarnation of the show? You betcha.