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Jean Renault Was Right: How Cooper Brought the Nightmare

Jean Renault Cooper brought the nightmare

Before you came here, Twin Peaks was a simple place. My brothers deal dope to the teenagers and the truck drivers. One-Eyed Jack’s welcomed the businessmen and the tourists. Quiet people lived a quiet life. Then, a pretty girl die, and you arrive, and everything change […] Kidnapping. Death. Suddenly, the quiet people, they’re quiet no more. Suddenly, the simple dream…become the nightmare. So maybe if you die, you will be the last to die. Maybe you brought the nightmare with you. And maybe the nightmare will die with you. – Jean Renault


Jean Renault was right: Dale Cooper brought the nightmare with him; not in a way as straightforward as Renault was likely thinking, but in a way that goes much deeper to the heart of what Twin Peaks is about.

We all love Dale Cooper, or I presume we do, so this interpretation of the show may be hard to swallow. Yet, in light of the events of The Return, I think the case can be made that he is the one responsible for messing everything up, even more deeply than BOB. This is in part because of the hubris of the one you might want to call the “Good Dale” and through the machinations of the one I have always referred to as Mr. C.

There is only one Dale Cooper

The temptation to think of the Good Coop and his doppelganger as separate beings is a strong one, particularly as it becomes clear that Mr. C has done some terrible things. I contend, however, that this is incorrect, and that this is made evident in the text of the show itself.

The clearest evidence for this I find in the interactions Cooper has with Jeffries in The Return. We first see Mr. C come for a visit, during which Jeffries says, “So you are Cooper.” Later, when Dale visits with Gerard, Jeffries seems confused as to whether he’s the same person. I suggest this is because, from the perspective of the Lodge, the two are the same. This also is evidenced by the phone call scene in Part 2. Whether it is Jeffries on the phone or not, it seems clear that Mr. C’s interlocutor is connected to the Lodge in some way, and “I missed you in New York” feels like it is a reference to when Cooper came through the glass box.

The way I view the Lodge is as a kind of 5th dimension. If you take the three dimensions of space, and the fourth as time, then the idea is that Lodge beings experience time in a way analogous to how we experience space. They don’t exist outside of time in the sense of being sub specie aeternitatis, but have a different relation to time than we do. Thus, while in terms of the narrative we see Dale seems to split into two and so on, from their perspective there is only one Cooper, which includes all of these permutations that occur in time.

Cooper’s doppelganger appears in Episode 29 after he faces the Lodge with imperfect courage (to use Hawk’s language). Then, as we all know, it is the “bad Cooper” that exits to the real world, giving us what was for a long time the end of the story: our friend Dale laughing maniacally into a broken mirror while inquiring about Annie, who appears to Laura in Fire Walk with Me to inform her that the Good Dale is stuck in the Lodge. Write it in your diary. Thus the temptation to think of this as a real metaphysical split: the “good” Dale is trapped, and the “evil” Dale is out in the world running amok.

The Return complicates that way of thinking rather quickly, however, as Mr. C insists to Ray that he doesn’t need anything—he wants. This immediately brings to mind the scene from the original run in which Cooper returns to his hotel room to find a nude Audrey Horne in his bed. “What I want and what I need are two different things, Audrey.”

Audrey Horne sits up naked in a sheet

It is clear that Cooper here is using “need” in an ethical sense, as he continues to talk about being an agent of the FBI and so on. It is equally in this sense that he will use the word when he awakes from a coma in Part 16 of The Return: “I need you to make another one.” He doesn’t need Gerard to make another Dougie tulpa in the sense of needing to eat food; he needs it ethically, as though he couldn’t live with himself if he abandoned Sonny Jim and Janey-E completely.

Thus what we are being shown is not a metaphysical split between two beings—Good Dale and Evil Coop—but two aspects of Cooper himself that have been separated within the narrative. Mr. C represents the desires and drives that the good Dale would normally keep in check—to have sex with (rape) Audrey and Diane, and to find Judy, for example.

Why does he want to do the latter? For that matter, why does Gordon Cole? If you pay attention to what he tells Albert and Tammy, he never says that the goal was to destroy this “extreme negative force” or anything like that. He merely says ‘find’ and it is worth noting how both aspects of Cooper seem to have this goal in common. Or perhaps it was Mr. C who hatched this plan with Cole all along? (Trying to find a time when what Gordon says happened could have occurred gets a bit wonky, after all.)

It might be tempting to think that Mr. C, driven by BOB, wants to find Judy for nefarious purposes, but I posit that his goal is exactly the same as the good Dale’s: to find this extreme negative force and contain, or stop it.

Recall when, in the original run, Cooper admits that his actions went outside of the guidelines of the FBI, but he was confident they were right nonetheless. He acted on his desire to help Audrey even though doing so meant breaking the rules. Mr. C is but a radical version of that—what Cooper wants divested of the constraints he feels he needs to abide by. Amassing wealth through a crime syndicate and so on was but a means to the end of creating that glass box in New York that was meant to trap Judy. But of course you can’t do that; you can’t contain this extreme negative force once it has been unleashed on the world.

This is the parallel to the first nuclear bomb: there is no going back. A rift in spacetime has been created through the division of the atom that opens the door to the 5th dimension. Perhaps there was a crack before, but now that energy flows through more freely. The nuclear age. Invisible waves on the electromagnetic spectrum set to the purpose of broadcasting music and television. The natural order of things perverted as it is made to bend to the human will. First canned (creamed) corn, and now Cheetos. Everything is processed. And we run our cars on the remains of creatures long dead.

What could be a better representation of hubris than human beings thinking that we could set off some 2000 nukes without metaphysical consequence? And in the same way, on a smaller scale, I contend that Dale Cooper is a representation of that same sort of hubris. And this is not just when it comes to Mr. C, but to the “good” Dale as well.

Dale Cooper Broke Time and Trapped Audrey Between Realities

As I argued in an edition of Black Lodge/White Lodge, the end of The Return sees Dale Cooper fracturing time itself. He broke time when he tried to go back to save Laura from dying, but created a paradox with regard to his own timeline. We were already given a clue about this from, where one could find Bill Hastings wondering what sort of event could have splintered time.

If you need more of an argument, click through on that link I provided to the Black Lodge/White Lodge debate above and come back. I there elaborate a number of instances of temporal inconsistencies that I take as evidence for my position. What I want to add to that interpretation now is that Cooper has become a Lodge being. Of course, if you think about it, he would have always seemed to have been one from Laura’s perspective—they never met in “real life” but he appeared to her in dreams, and then shows up in the woods one night to take her by the hand. But beyond that, if we think about the fracturing of Dale’s persona and take what we see of him in the Lodge—particularly at the end of Part 18—it seems that he is, in some sense, always in the Lodge. This is what allows for the communication in his dream all the way back in Episode 2, where Laura whispers in his ear, and explains why we loop back to that same thing at the very end of the series (my contention being that Laura’s words also remain the same: “My father killed me”—he gasps because she is now telling him that he has failed).

Call it a “white knight complex” if you want, Tammy, but Dale Cooper is clearly caught up in a desire to save women, perhaps because he couldn’t save Caroline, or his mother. In Episode 29, we see him willing to sacrifice his own soul to save Annie, only to have BOB intervene to tell him (and Windom) “no dice” (don’t worry, Annie is fine, though; take her word for it).

But this was never really about the women; it’s about his own desire to see himself as a savior. Thus the infamous “How’s Annie?” of the end of Season 2: it’s not a genuine expression of concern, but a mocking of the way that the “good” Dale covered over his unconscious desire. This was never about Annie, but about himself. That’s why he failed the test—because his willingness to sacrifice himself didn’t stem from love but from the fear that he wasn’t as good of a man as he wanted to think himself to be—and also why it makes perfect sense for Annie to be absent from The Return. When the “good” Dale wakes up in Part 16, why doesn’t he ask about her? Because at the deepest level, he doesn’t care. (Further indications of Dale’s often problematic relation to women can be found in My Life, My Tapes).

But perhaps the worst cost of Cooper’s hubris is exemplified in what we see of Audrey. We learn that he raped her while she was in a coma, which led her to give birth to that demon-spawn of a child, Richard. But that’s not what I am thinking of here. Rather, my read is that Cooper going back to “save” Laura disjointed Audrey from time.

We see three repetitions of what amounts to the same scene of Audrey and Charlie talking about going to the Roadhouse. She wants to go, she doesn’t want to go, and then she both does and doesn’t. “Which’ll it be, Charlie, hm – which one would you be?”

This is an existential crisis, and not just a moment of indecision. She doesn’t ask Charlie what he would do, she asks which he would be. Audrey’s very existence has been thrown up in the air, because if Cooper had never come to town she would have never gone to One-Eyed Jack’s, and she certainly wouldn’t have given birth to Richard. Her whole life would be different.

But it isn’t that he never came; it’s that he both did and did not. That creates Schrodinger’s Laura (“I am dead yet I live”), but it also throws Audrey completely out of joint. Thus we get her dancing to “Audrey’s Dance” (a title that could only exist outside of the frame of the show) and that breaking down to where she finds herself in a blank white space. “What?!” is indeed the only reaction, not only for her character, but for us; there’s no explaining this, really. But it is not for nothing that when the end credits roll we get a version of “Audrey’s Dance” played backwards. Is Audrey in the reality of Twin Peaks, or in ours? Is the Billy in question perhaps Billy Zane? I posit that she is trapped between realities, in a space related to multiple timelines, which doesn’t rule out the possibility that she is in a mental institution in one of them. She’s caught in the in-between, which is another way I think about the Lodges—as a kind of liminal reality (cf. “the dweller on the threshold”).

When the Arm repeats the line, “Is it the story of the little girl who lived down the lane?” that Audrey had said previously, I take this in relation to when he, back in Episode 2, told Cooper that the gum he likes is coming back in style. Cooper didn’t know what that meant until far later, but it sparked the epiphany that Leland was Laura’s killer. Similarly, I think that Cooper does not know what to make of this line about the little girl who lived down the lane when he hears it, but he is being told that he royally fucked Audrey over.

The effects his actions had on others are less severe, depending on the extent to which they were affected by the paradox he created. Sarah Palmer was in a deep way. It is one thing to lose a daughter to death, but arguably worse to deal with her ever unresolved disappearance. Or perhaps, like Audrey, Sarah is a bit trapped between those competing realities, with only the loop of drinking and smoking to keep her to some degree grounded. I’d even contend that Cooper may be responsible for whatever she seems to be possessed by, but that’s another story that would rely on connecting Sarah to the Experiment Model that came through the glass box in NYC, and would involve a number of contestable claims.

But if I am right that Cooper splintered time, this presents a question worth thinking about with regard to every character we see in The Return, though trying to run through each would be too much of a digression for present purposes. I will posit, however, that it is Cooper’s actions (or what they represent) that has made Twin Peaks a place where a shot might ring out at the RR, and where the Roadhouse seems to be full of miscreants.

BOB was always with Cooper

A scene that has haunted me ever since I first noticed it occurs when Leland famously swerves down the road, singing “Surrey with the Fringe on Top.” I always loved that scene, along with all of the others that feature Ray Wise singing; not only for the performance, but for what was being portrayed. But then I noticed that in the above mentioned scene when we cut to Truman and Cooper in a different car, Dale is whistling the same song:

Cooper whistles in the car with Harry

This leads me to conclude that Dale was in some sense always-already infected by BOB. Of course, that jibes with how I have interpreted Lodge beings above. If they are, to some degree, outside of time, or experiencing it in a way roughly analogous to how we experience space, then it makes perfect sense that Dale’s relation to BOB didn’t just “begin” in Episode 29, but was somehow always there.

Perhaps this also explains Leland’s eagerness to show Dale his golf clubs. He didn’t have to do that, but brings it up of his own accord, even though Maddy’s body is in the golf bag. You might think that it was just some kind of cocky game BOB was playing, but Leland actually looks disappointed when Cooper walks away because police business calls. So it’s at very least worth thinking about what he was up to there.

And what about BOB? I should make clear that I don’t view him as the driving force in either case. Leland wanted to have sex with his daughter, and he is responsible for that. Cooper wanted similarly when it came to Audrey and Diane, and he’s responsible for that, too. Same goes with everything he did in relation to the goal of pursuing Judy I mentioned earlier. BOB doesn’t make them do anything, though he represents a force that urges them to act on the desires their conscious selves would urge them to suppress. “Forget the ego and the superego,” says BOB, “follow the id.” Don’t think about what you should do, or what you “need” to do; act on the basis of what you want without filter. This is evidenced by the fact that Leland didn’t become some kind of criminal mastermind. What Mr. C does is not driven by BOB, though BOB is “with him”—these actions are driven by Cooper’s desires.

Let’s not forget that it is Dale who “forgives” Leland in his final scene. And when he and his compatriots discuss whether BOB is real, or just the “evil that men do” it is Major Briggs who proffers the right response: “An evil that great in this beautiful world…finally, does it matter what the cause?” To which Cooper responds, “Yes, because it’s our job to stop it.” And that’s precisely where Dale fails; in thinking that there is some way to stop the traumatic from happening. The whole question is rather how to cope with it.

Don’t Take the Ring, Laura

One of the big puzzles that presented itself to my mind after watching The Return was in relation to Cooper telling Laura, in Fire Walk with Me, not to take the ring. That same ring, after all, is provided to Laura by Philip Gerard, with whom Cooper seems to be in cahoots in The Return (although there and in the original run he is credited as Phillip not Philip—I’m not hanging anything on that, but someone could). So, how does one explain their apparent collaboration in light of the way that when it came to this pivotal event, they seemed to be a loggerheads?

Even more importantly, why is it that Cooper was urging Laura not to take the ring, when it would seem that doing so was what forced Leland/BOB to kill her as opposed to BOB possessing her? This, at least, is how many of us have interpreted the scene; the primary pieces of evidence being Leland’s exclamation of “don’t make me do this” and Laura’s previous statement that BOB told her he wants to be her or he’ll kill her. Thus, it would be taking the ring that allows her to escape a fate worse than death. After all, she ends up with the angels at the end of Fire Walk with Me, which is arguably the best ending we see for her. Cooper is there, of course, and that complicates things. I will return to that presently.

First, I want to contend that the reason that Cooper tells Laura not to take the ring is twofold: on the one hand, it is because he is committed to the idea that he can save Laura, while on the other it is because he is already with BOB even if he isn’t aware of it. In other words, we make a mistake if we presume that Cooper is on the side of the good here; or, if he is, it is hubristically so, thinking that he can put out the fire that is Judy.

The Log Lady puts her hand to Laura's forehead

But it is the other direction that I think explains the relation to Gerard. Recall what he says about BOB being his familiar in the original run. Gerard/MIKE has always had an ambiguous status in relation to the whole thing. He helps with the murder investigation after being broken from his shoe salesman persona, but how did he end up in that state in the first place, given that we see him fully aware of the Lodge stuff just a week or so earlier in Fire Walk with Me?  (Unless maybe Philip and Phillip are distinct?)

I’m not going to try and answer all of the questions that arise in this regard (I think the status of Gerard might be one of the most difficult Twin Peaks presents), but I do think it is relevant to the question at hand. Gerard throwing Laura the ring is a power play with regard to his relation with BOB. If the latter had been able to take over Laura, that would have been an expanding of his influence, whereas the result we see in Fire Walk with Me is Leland/BOB entering the Lodge so that MIKE (Gerard + The Arm) could get all of his garmonbozia. Cooper’s urging to not take the ring is, in contrast, a move on the side of BOB, whether he is aware of that or not.

By the time we reach The Return, Cooper has gained the upper hand on Gerard, perhaps through the gambit of a thought about fighting BOB. But that’s not what Dale is really interested in. He’s interested in killing “two birds with one stone”: saving Laura and stopping Judy. Gerard is not in control; Cooper is.

And even if the ending of Fire Walk with Me is the best ending possible, we now see Cooper willing to sacrifice that in pursuit of something better. He’s on to Judy now, and thinks he can put the fire out. And he thinks that he can save Laura at the same time. But he is tragically wrong.

An angel appears in the Red Room as Cooper consoles Laura

It’s Freddie’s Destiny!

For much of The Return, I thought we might be heading to a confrontation between the two Coops, but we didn’t get that. Lucy shot Mr. C before the good Dale arrived. And, then, further, it was Freddie with his gardening glove that fought BOB.

One might be tempted to think that the upshot of that was that BOB was defeated, but I’m not so sure. The orb splinters. I think this is not some moment of defeating evil, but of it being fractured and spreading. Think of all of the scenes in the Roadhouse, and the influence of Sparkle. Or that scene where a shot rings out at the RR—what kind of world is this?! And to find that it was child who found a gun in the backseat doesn’t ameliorate that sentiment, but make it worse.

The scene shows this, as Bobby tries to get a handle on things. “What is happening?!”—the young girl serves as a symbol for how the world has ceased to make sense. Good/evil is too simple a binary. Even if she calls to mind The Exorcist, it would seem absurd to suggest this is a matter of the devil’s influence.

There is no longer some one thing for us to focus on as the source of the world’s problems. It’s just everything all over the place. Freddie doesn’t defeat BOB, but splits him into all of these shards of evil. And this is, again, a result of Cooper’s hubris, which makes his whole relation to BOB ambiguous. It is true that Freddie tells James that the Fireman led him to the glove, but we never see this. It could just as well have been Cooper, or Gerard acting on his behest. Or maybe it was the Fireman; it’s not as though his motives are exactly clear. Regardless, the question is what Cooper is after here.

Perhaps he wants to defeat BOB and expel his doppelganger, which represents the darker part of his soul, but he can’t. As soon as Mr. C “dies” he has to reckon with all that this aspect of himself has done. Thus his face appears on the screen, superimposed. The reintegration of Dale Cooper has begun.

The hubris of the good Dale and the desire of Mr. C align. They are one and the same, or two sides of the same coin, even if they seem to be in contrast to one another. But the point isn’t to cast Dale Cooper as a villain; the point is that he is a tragic figure.


What we see in Part 18 is a reunified Cooper. He has brought the aspect of himself that was split off into the doppelganger back on board, and is coming to terms with that. Thus, he doesn’t seem like the Cooper we used to know as much as a new version. The way he presents in Judy’s Diner, for example, clearly reminds one of Mr. C, as he takes on the truck drivers (I’m presuming they were truck drivers) and drops their guns into boiling oil, relatively unworried as to whether this might make them go off.

He’s unfazed by the corpse in Carrie Page’s living room; focused on his mission. He needs to take Laura Palmer back to Twin Peaks, but we now see the dark aspect of that need—Cooper feels that he must right the wrong.

But he can’t do that. Everything has changed. Laura is Carrie, he is Richard, and the Palmer house is not inhabited by Sarah but Alice Tremond (played by real life resident Mary Reber). Dale has crossed over to our world, where evil is more mundane than in the world of Twin Peaks, and thus also more insidious. Is BOB real, or “just” the evil that men do? I have always found the force of the question to lie in the extent to which we all want to believe the former—better that there be some metaphysical cause than to have to grapple with the ugliness of Leland doing that to Laura, or with idea that Cooper raped Audrey and Diane.

Once again, though, Briggs has it right: it is a distinction without a difference. The point is that we have to grapple with these things, and to act like the existence of a being like BOB would let us off the hook is to miss the thing entirely. He may be “real” in the world of Twin Peaks, but BOB is a symbol, not for the “evil that men do” insofar as the notion of evil remains too simple, but for how we can be taken over by impulses and lose control. We might follow the “better angels of our nature” as Abe Lincoln called them, or give in the devils of it instead. Either way, those are metaphors; we are responsible for what we do.

There’s no excusing Leland’s actions, but if we return to that powerful scene wherein Cooper holds him as he gives up the ghost we might notice that this is not what happens. To forgive is not to excuse. In fact, in a certain regard, they are opposite notions.

I excuse you when I understand your reasons and take them as an explanation (if not a justification) for your bad behavior. You wronged me, but I get it. I see what you were thinking, and thus you are excused. That’s not forgiveness, at least if we take the time to distinguish the concepts. I forgive you only when the wrong remains a wrong—inexcusable—and I decide, without justification, to absolve you. In this register, it never makes sense to say that you should forgive someone; that would be to appeal to reasons. That would be to excuse them. The only “reason” to forgive is love.

It is in this sense that Cooper offers Leland forgiveness.

A wet Agent Cooper kneels over Leland Palmer


The question, then, is whether we might extend forgiveness to Dale Cooper because we love him. He’s wrecked the timeline, raped Audrey and thrown her into some weird nether state, kept Laura from her peace with the angels, raped Diane, and caused untold death and destruction, perhaps even expanding BOB’s power even as he thought he was fighting against it.

I know, none of us want to put all of these things on our friend Dale, because we love him. But Jean Renault was right: he brought the nightmare. It is fair enough to notice that without him maybe Laura’s murder would have been unsolved and passed over as the shit of the world got worse. But despite his best intentions, Cooper didn’t help. He exacerbated the problem. Now Twin Peaks, and maybe the world as a whole, has been cracked open even further to extreme negative forces.

We’ve been thrown into an ocean of chaos, where new drugs overtake us, our politics make us feel like we are stuck in the shit with no real chance of escape, and everywhere there seem to be sexual predators, who may or may not end up on the Supreme Court. Contrast that knowledge with the way that Andy cries over Laura’s body. The event felt impossible to him; now it feels like a Tuesday.

It may seem wrong to pin all of this on Dale Cooper, particularly since he is a fictional character. And, of course, Laura had already been abused and murdered by the time he came to town. He’s not responsible for all of the evil in the world, but then neither is the invention of the nuke. My contention is about what Cooper represents: the hubris of the “good” man who thinks he can fix everything.  Perhaps, as Socrates suggested, the real source of “evil” is in believing that one knows what the Good is. That could lead one to feel justified in splitting the atom to beat the Nazis (literally dividing the indivisible and tearing the fabric of spacetime), or to trying to undo Laura Palmer’s death, which creates a temporal paradox. If wisdom lies in knowing that one does not know, and virtue in nonetheless striving to learn, then Dale is far away from both. He does not understand. He’s caught in a loop of trying to fight the darkness, failing to see that darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.

It is in this sense that Jean Renault was right about Cooper: his attempt to stop evil, or BOB, or Judy (call it what you will) led him to deprive Laura of her peace with the angels, and to splinter time in a way analogous to the Trinity explosion. He’s not a hero, unless you want to call figures like Orpheus and Hamlet the same. This is a tragedy.


The whole Dougie affair for Cooper results from the intervention of the Arm’s doppelganger. Frankly, it is weird that the Arm has a doppelganger, so I am not going to make any strong claim about that at present. Regardless, what we get after the exclamation of “Nonexistence!” is Cooper trapped within himself, with “Dougie” representing neither his conscious will nor his unfettered desires. This is Cooper purely in the now. I am very sympathetic to the view that this DougieCooper represents the lesson—to embody this kind of now-consciousness. What we get here is Cooper’s joie de vivre, along with his intuition divorced from concerns about the past or future. Let’s not forget that he was always Mr. Jackpots.

Dale Cooper was already Mr. Jackpots in the original run of Twin Peaks

Divorced from his (unconscious) desires and his (conscious) will, DougieCooper leads a sort of charmed life. Take that as the lesson, if you will—don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future, and just be—but in terms of what I have been arguing here, all of the Dougies present a certain kind of problem.

The splits in Cooper do not neatly align with any conceptual scheme I am familiar with—be it Freudian, Jungian, Lacanian, Buddhist, Deleuzean, or whatever else—but rather might call to mind whatever way of thinking you are most familiar with, even as there doesn’t feel to be a tight fit. That is, one could interpret Twin Peaks through the lens of any of these approaches, but hardly argue that any one is the only right way to think about things. In this piece I have focused on the “good” Dale and Mr. C as representing aspects of Cooper’s soul, but then whither all of the Dougies? We have one who appears before Dale passes through, whom we see having just had sex with Jade (the OGD), another who is (I will contend) Cooper, and then a third that appears very briefly in Part 18 to hug Janey-E and Sonny Jim as he returns home.

My position is that the first and the last are tulpas, and that the creation of a tulpa involves a certain peeling off of aspects of the individual who serves as its source. Thus, e.g., the Diane tulpa that we spend so much time with in The Return is that aspect of Diane who continues to exist in the aftermath of her rape. She’s the embodiment of her trauma and anger (and I don’t think we ever see the “real” Diane, but that, too, is another story).

So when it comes to the OGD, or Dougie Jones proper (the first tulpa) the song remains the same. There is only one Cooper. Dougie is just the lascivious aspect of Cooper cut off from Mr. C’s desire, which has become a desire without satisfaction: desire in its pure state (insofar as one stops wanting when one gets what one wants). Chantal may be all wet, but we don’t see him consummate anything. On the other hand, we meet the OGD during an encounter with a sex worker, and learn that he had both gambling and drinking problems. Such things get in the way of desire. It pushes without end, and these are traps. It would thus make sense for Mr. C to excise this aspect of himself into another, if only to keep himself from being distracted.

Did Mr. C make that tulpa, or did good ol’ Dale? I’m arguing that this is a bad question because they are one and the same. It may have been Mr. C creating Dougie for the purpose of tricking Dale into taking his place instead of forcing Mr. C back into the Lodge (and maybe performing other tasks), or it might have Dale giving himself a lifeline to the world. But either way, the OGD represents an aspect of Cooper; perhaps the same part of him that would like to enjoy many pieces of pie.

Cooper eats pie at the RR, sitting next to Harry Truman

But what of the Dougie we spend the most time with, whom I am calling DougieCooper? Well, I think that is just Dale, who has for whatever reason been trapped within himself (blame the Arm’s doppelganger). It’s the conscious will, or reason, of Dale that has been locked away. He’s left with nothing but his intuition. And that works out amazingly well for him. Again, one could well argue that this is the message of the show: don’t overthink or overanalyze—that separates the body from the mind—but follow that intuitive part of yourself: the thing that makes Cooper Mr. Jackpots, or throw rocks at bottles. Perhaps we are trapped from both sides, where what we think (consciously) and what we want (unconsciously) catch us up in a double-bind? Perhaps the goal is to just be?

But then what of the last Dougie; the one that Cooper tells Gerard he needs, and who comes home to Janey-E and Sonny Jim? I think he may be that joie de vivre all over again, given the way that “Richard” seems to lack the same. Perhaps Cooper has given up that very aspect of himself I have just suggested it might be our goal to embody, in pursuit of that aim I previously ascribed to hubris—if so, that would make his figure all the more tragic.

Cooper has given up his own chance at happiness—to be in love with “a beautiful woman [he] had genuine affection for”—in order to continue in pursuit of his goal of killing two birds with one stone. And let’s not forget that the real idiom is that one cannot do that.

Instead, the nightmare has spread, covering the great flat surface that is the (post)modern world. Everything exists next to everything else (on the internet, for example). History is over. One can hardly believe in progress anymore. Twin Peaks no longer seems to be a special place in relation to the rest of the world, but simply a part of it; a place where bad things happen just like anywhere else, and Laura Palmer has been forgotten, if not erased. It’s no longer a simple place where quiet people live a quiet life. And it is meaningfully Cooper who did this. He broke the dream, first by exposing harsh realities (arguably a good thing), but then by trying to erase the trauma instead of grappling with it. This puts time itself in the space of trauma—out of joint, and always open to those very forces he set out to fight. The trauma is an event that cuts time into a before and an after (is it future or is it past?) and thus exists outside of the normal chronological order of things. This is where Cooper and Laura live now.

What year is this?

And what other response is there but to scream?

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos


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  1. I am in absolute awe of your brilliant wordplay, sir. This is the most amazing essay I’ve read about the world of Twin Peaks so far.
    Thank you.

  2. I am lucky to read this article just after watching ep 13 of season 2 where Dale kills enarmed Jean Reno and we see confused eyes of Hawk. Jean knew so had to die ?

  3. Wow. I’ve been thinking almost all of these things at one point or another but you really put in on paper beautifully. I’d love to talk more about this with you as I disagree with some minor details (as always with twin peaks) & would love to hear what you have to say!

  4. I’m glad someone picked up on Renault statement. The scene is strange, once Cooper goes into the house. The scene skips to Cooper with a beat up face. Could represent the hurt he brought to the town. Strange transition for even stranger place, from Copper gladly walking up to the house fearless to being stoic with a busted head getting a dad like talk from Renault.
    Great article, love the links to scenes and the depth of your article.
    ‘relationship to BOB didn’t just “begin” in Episode 29, but was somehow always there.’
    Agree. I believe it’s part of what Jefferies is trying to state to Cole.

    • Jeff, sounds right to me. The Cooper Autobiography implied a Boblike presence was going after Dale’s mom and then Dale. (Also in that book he got the ring he gave to the giant in season two from his mom in a dream…)

  5. Just wanted to say that I just started rewatching season 3, but, while I really appreciate the thought and work you’ve put into this. I feel like there is one fundamental flaw: If this is a splintering off Cooper, then why can only one of them be in the world?

    Hypothesis 1: Cooper chose to become a lodge being and thus had to split himself.


    1. If we’re talking about Hubris, Cooper wouldn’t agree to the split; he’d assume and find another way. Furthermore, Mr. C would welcome his other half, not fight against it.
    2. Mr. C & BOB are repeatedly referenced together (at least in the first 5 episodes of s3), in visuals and dialog. Assuming Lynch likes to demonstrate meaning and such through the visuals of scenes, then this would be him performing a disservice to the viewer but intentionally misleading them.
    3. The Lodge Entities clearly wasn’t Mr. C back, much as they wanted BOB back.

    So, while I agree with the idea that BOB is a reflection of the evil that exists in the hearts of even the most just of humans, I feel like the fundamental fact is: The Evil Lidge has been selling to bring BOB back because BOB is a renegade.

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