The story of Twin Peaks, the people who dwell within it and the spirits which haunt the vast Ghostwood National Forest and too often impinge upon the lives of those who encounter them is long and complex and stretches far beyond that misty, mountainous, mysterious logging town in Washington State.
In the run up to the unprecedented return of the titular show with its third season broadcast twenty-five years after the last visit in the feature film Fire Walk With Me, co-creator and executive producer Mark Frost delved deeply into the diverse roots of the town in The Secret History of Twin Peaks, a bridge both to the past and between the original and new series.
The third season now broadcast in its entirety, Frost has returned to conclude the case with The Final Dossier, a more compact volume than its predecessor whose scope and structure are somewhat different, primarily concerned with the lives of some of the key citizens of Twin Peaks since the disappearance of Agent Dale Cooper in March 1989 to the present day.
Rather than attempting to evaluate, validate or debunk the collated documents and interpretations of “the Archivist” who constructed The Secret History, Agent Tamara Preston has conducted her own follow up investigations into the denizens of that strange north-western town and their associates following the bizarre confrontation in the Twin Peaks Sherriff’s Office she and her colleagues were witness to.
Preceding Agent Preston’s findings is a 1989 autopsy report composed by Albert Rosenfield, his voice and acerbic digressions captured perfectly by Frost, weary, incisive, dismissive yet harbouring a hope that out of this mess that some might do better, an extra layer of sadness added by the knowledge that since filming completed actor Miguel Ferrer has been lost.
As might be expected by those who recall the character charts which accompanied the original broadcasts, the series of discrete files which make up the dossier are strongly linked, a web of relationships both evident and conducted within the shadows of the Douglas firs, tales of sadness, so many wounded lives and so much darkness with the Palmers not the only family destroyed by the entity known as Joudy, but with so much light and life left undimmed.
Among the brightest was Agent Cooper himself whose presence was missed for much of the recent season and who remains largely in shadow here with no answers proposed regarding his brief reappearance nor his current whereabouts. It would be foolish to expect all the answers to be provided but one question at least is specifically addressed, dating back to Cooper’s original vanishing act; “How’s Annie?”
Far from the ethereal dreamworld many once imagined Twin Peaks to be, this is the cruel slap of reality which echoes from that final night which damaged Audrey Horne’s body and mind and shattered the Hayward family beyond repair.
Based in part on the planned outline for the third season which shifted during eventual production, no further elucidation of Audrey’s ambiguous presence or current state is offered though it is indicated the explosion of the bank vault was not the final trauma which befell her.
Agent Preston admits her own naivete upon being assigned to the case, an innocence consigned to the past since she has become part of Deputy Director Gordon Cole’s elite Blue Rose Task Force, questioning the cyclical nature of Hell on Earth, of predators and prey, the vicious circle of life. “This is not a happy story,” she observes at one point. “It doesn’t begin or end well, and the middle is equally dreadful.”
Though ostensibly compiled by Agent Preston, played by Chrysta Bell in “the return” and often overshadowed by the presences of Ferrer, Laura Dern and David Lynch himself as Albert, Diane Evans and Gordon, here Tammy finds her own voice though her notes also reflect the flavour of the characters.
With the entry on Jerry Horne particularly entertaining, the story of Shelly Johnson is also one of the happier ones contained within, a popular resident of the town whose life was repeatedly blighted by a persistent bad luck which never wore down her natural optimism.
Tied closely to Norma Jennings through their strong friendship, the conundrum of her family presented in the documents of The Secret History is not only resolved, considering the large gap between writing and publication it is likely Frost was fully aware of the discontinuity before the fans, the explanation offered sufficiently convincing that it may have been planned from the start.
Like Shelley Johnson, Margaret Lanterman, “the Log Lady,” is also referred to by her maiden name, Margaret Coulson, named in honour of the late Catherine Coulson who played her in all three seasons and sadly passed away four days after completing her scenes, her death incorporated into the storyline and allowing her to be suitably and movingly eulogised here.
Nor is it just the immediate case Tammy has looked over, advising that having compared the transcripts of Agent Cooper’s tapes to Diane and the original recordings that there were discrepancies though she discreetly chooses not to embellish further, but going further back it would have been nice to have some acknowledgement of Agent Chester Desmond who disappeared from the town of Deer Meadow following the murder of Teresa Banks, another Blue Rose case.
Some of Agent Preston’s speculations may not be ground breaking, but it needs to be remembered that she was not present at the FBI branch office in Philadelphia back in 1989 to witness Phillip Jeffries’ reaction to Agent Cooper, but bringing it up to date at least two speculations on recent events much discussed by fans are confirmed, written in black and white and stamped with the Bureau’s official seal.
Drawing inferences in the absence of the subjects, Tammy conjectures that Agent Cooper’s need to save Laura Palmer was driven by his earlier failure to save Caroline Earle whose husband had “crossed the threshold from private madman to public murderer,” and elsewhere she comments on a former resident she has never met that “trash is trash, even if it’s in a Tiffany bag,” proving Gordon’s faith in her to extract pertinent information from the written record.
If this volume is to be the final conclusive word on Twin Peaks, at least until the Black Lodge wakes again in a further twenty-five years, it is a satisfying place to leave town.
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier and The Secret History of Twin Peaks are both available now from Pan MacMillan