(Major spoilers ahead for the first four episodes of the “Twin Peaks” revival on Showtime.)
The first two episodes of “Twin Peaks: The Return” sets up a serious problem: how is Agent Dale Cooper supposed to get out of the Black Lodge if his doppelganger is running around?
Fortunately, creators David Lynch and Mark Frost waste no time answering this question, but in typical fashion, it’s something that only raises more questions.
Cooper is told while in the Black Lodge that he can only leave if his doppelganger comes back. On the other side of the dimensional wall, you have that doppelganger conjuring up a plan to stay out. It’s unclear if what happens next is part of his specific plan, or if it’s somebody else pulling the strings, but if you have one doppelganger who doesn’t want to go back to the Lodge, why not introduce another?
That’s right, three Dale Coopers. Or rather, one Dale Cooper, one doppelganger, and one Dougie Jones.
We’re introduced to Dougie as he’s wrapping up with a sex worker in an empty home in a suburban home complex called Rancho Rosa (also the name of the “Twin Peaks” production company). Dougie is Kyle Maclachlan if he was a sleazy car salesman — a beer belly covered up with bright, tacky clothing and (another) bad wig. It’s laughable when you compare him to what Maclachlan has been channeling thus far, namely a quiet, grief-stricken Dale Cooper and the unhinged, cowboy-looking guy that’s driving around South Dakota.
Things turn quickly though when Dougie notes that his left arm is feeling tingly and numb and the camera pans to his hand, which is wearing the Owl Cave Ring. He quickly vomits up… something and is pulled into the Red Room, where the One-Armed Man is waiting for him. He knows immediately something is up.
“Someone manufactured you for a purpose but I think now that’s been fulfilled,” he says before Dougie is turned into a small pearl.
Proper Cooper then fades into the home, lying next to… whatever Dougie threw up, but he’s different. He can barely speak, he walks stiffly, and can’t seem to remember who he is — or even how to just be a person.
In another part of the country, as Dougie is pulled away, Evil Cooper throws up Garmonbozia (the creamed corn that represents pain and sorrow) and passes out.
Dougie Jones, as hinted at by the One-Armed Man, was a fake Cooper doppelganger. It’s unclear who manufactured him, as he said, but we can assume he was made to replace Dale in the Black Lodge, as a way to trick the system so he could escape. Somebody had given Jones the ring, allowing that to be possible.
Questions have been raised about the One-Armed Man/MIKE/Philip Gerard’s purpose — especially after he admitted in the original series that he was like BOB, but had repented. Is he on Cooper’s side or does he have other motivations? His actions in “Fire Walk With Me,” where he goes against Dale’s wishes and gives Laura the ring, seem to suggest that he has plans of his own. However, the way he talks about Dougie implies he wasn’t behind the escape.
“You were tricked. Now one of you must die,” MIKE tells Coop before disappearing once again.
But how far in advance was this done? Jones has a family — a wife (Naomi Watts) and a son. He seems to have a life and has built relationships with people.
Does this imply that there’s somebody else trying to help Cooper, that there’s a third side to all of this? Or maybe whoever is responsible for Dougie’s existence is against Coop. The moment when Coop and Dougie switched appears to have coincided with the point in time when Bad Coop was supposed to return to the Lodge. It would follow that Coop and Bad Coop switching places is the way Coop was supposed to escape, since that’s how Coop ended up stuck in the Lodge back in the season 2 finale of “Twin Peaks” back in 1991. Dougie could be a way of preserving Bad Coop’s place in the world.
Or maybe, and this is just a guess, the only way to kill BOB for real instead of just putting him back in the Lodge is for Coop to kill his doppelganger who is possessed by BOB, and whoever arranged for the Dougie switch had that in mind.
Honestly, we’re probably thinking about this too hard right now. There’s still 14 more episodes, after.
As if all this weren’t complicated enough already, there also appears to be an unknown fourth party in play. Some unknown person has ordered hits on the various Coops. Bad Coop gets personally mixed up with some would-be assassins in episode 2, and in part 3 the newly freed “normal” Coop has to hide in the previously mentioned sex worker’s car in order to avoid getting sniped. It’s impossible to guess thus far who it is that might be responsible for the murder attempts.
It’s possible that whoever MIKE says tricked Coop into leaving the Lodge by switching with Dougie could be the same ones trying to kill the Coops — maybe the assassins at Rancho Rosa picked their moment because they knew that “normal” Coop and Dougie would be switching places that day.
It’s also possible, though unlikely, that the assassins are actually incidental — Dougie’s wife says something about using Coop’s casino winnings to pay someone back, and Bad Coop is a criminal and there are probably a few people who would like to kill him. But without at least a cursory understanding of those parties’ motivations it’s really impossible to know what’s what here. We’re just going to have to wait for more info.
Let’s also not forget Coop’s strange spiritual journey on his way out of the Lodge in the first half of episode 3, in which he ran into Ronette Pulaski (Pheobe Augustine) and a woman whose eyes were covered in flesh who kinda looked like Josie Packard (Joan Chen). Ronette even delivered an odd message right before Coop returns to the real world: “When you get there, you will already be there.” So Ronette, in whatever part of the spiritual realm she inhabited, seemed to know exactly what was going on.
The other thing Ronette says to Coop is even more interesting, and probably more telling: “You’d better hurry. My mother is coming.” She’s probably not talking about her real mother, who only appeared in one scene in the original series. This mother is likely some new spiritual force we haven’t met yet.
We may find out though, over the course of the “Return,” who created the doppelgangers in the first place. They’re all over the Black Lodge. Even members exclusive to that space, like the Arm, have one. It’s possible there’s a higher power at play and even more to learn about the other world where the Lodges exist.
Less literally though, it might be an example of Lynch’s love of duality. In the original “Twin Peaks,” the idea of twins was a reoccurring theme, even if it didn’t have an in-universe explanation. The most blatant example was Maddy Ferguson, who was Laura Palmer’s cousin who arrived in town after the murder. It threw people off, however, that she looked exactly like Laura and is played by the same actress. The only difference is the hair, which is a dark brown instead of blond.
Lynch often does these kinds of pairings in his work beyond “Twin Peaks.” “Lost Highway,” for example, features two characters played by Patricia Arquette. It seems in this new season, we’ve gone beyond the duo and into the trio.