Showtime’s revival of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks brings the TV event to a mesmerizing close with a finale that defies convention.

For all the 1950s nostalgia baked into the show’s various iterations, Twin Peaks: The Return was never terribly interested in being a reflective look back at the first two seasons of the series that ran on ABC in the early ’90s. And though it had more in common with the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, even then the revival, cooked up by David Lynch and Mark Frost, turned out to be something new and not at all what anyone really expected. From the very first moment New York City looked like a malevolent and eerie place it was clear Lynch had tapped into the creative stores built up in his imagination since the release of his last theatrical endeavor over a decade ago.

The result has been one of the television’s wildest rides and certainly one of the most unforgettable viewing experiences of 2017. While the world was temporarily transfixed this summer with the sight of zombie dragons bringing down magical ice walls, Twin Peaks remained in the background, a consistent pleasure to watch over its 18-episode run, one that was overwhelming at times, as evidenced by the astounding and sometimes upsetting visual storytelling of ‘Part 8‘, an hour of television that took a deep dive into surrealism yet still somehow delivered a surprisingly easy-to-follow account of the origins of the malevolent BOB, Laura Palmer, and this season’s sooty, skull-crushing MVPs, the Woodsmen.

Twin Peaks was never a gamble per se. Despite the maddening glut of television content and explainers littering the web as a result, no one was going to look down their nose at David Lynch’s return to narrative filmmaking (on TV or otherwise). Regardless the show’s ratings, 18 hours of mainlined Lynch is still an appealing offer, which explains why those watching were so willingly led down so many unexpected detours. Case in point, it took 16 episodes before Kyle MacLachlan showed audiences the Dale Cooper last seen during those terrifying final moments of season 2. Those moments, of course, would become the series finale, until, as presaged by Laura Palmer in the Black Lodge, Cooper and Twin Peaks would return (roughly) 25 years later.

Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee in Twin Peaks  The Twin Peaks Finale Mystifies In Its Pursuit Of Closure

The end this time around, however, is no less confounding than it was when Cooper looked into the camera and smiled at the end of season 2. It’s a conclusion to a mesmerizing 18 episodes of television that will no doubt have people talking as the final hour defies convention with a car ride from Odessa to Twin Peaks that felt like it was happening in real time, only to end on a note that rivals David Chase’s conclusion to The Sopranos.

The end this time around, however, is no less confounding than it was when Cooper looked into the camera and smiled at the end of season 2. It’s a conclusion to a mesmerizing 18 episodes of television that will no doubt have people talking as the final hour defies convention with a car ride from Odessa to Twin Peaks that felt like it was happening in real time, only to end on a note that rivals David Chase’s conclusion to The Sopranos.

After two seasons and a prequel film, it should come as no surprise to fans that Twin Peaks is now and never was interested in answers. After the build-up of positive events as the season drew near its end, it was inevitable that Lynch and Frost would take a dark turn that opted once again for ambiguity rather than a pat ending that not only resolved the murder of Laura Palmer and Dale Cooper’s attempts to solve it, but also the ongoing battle between good and evil that was a far more prominent part of the story this time around.

The series did deliver on both accounts, however, as the first half of the two-part finale delivered a number of crowd-pleasing moments in rapid succession. Lucy shoots Dark Dale just as he’s about to kill Sheriff Truman (and finally understands cell phones), Freddie uses his magical green fist to destroy BOB, and the real Cooper is reunited with Diane, who had been on a journey herself, trapped in the body of Naido this whole time. Elsewhere, the copy of Cooper he’d asked MIKE to make back in episode 16 arrives to presumably live out the rest of his days in Las Vegas with Janey-E and Sonny Jim.

Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern in Twin Peaks The Twin Peaks Finale Mystifies In Its Pursuit Of Closure

Those events are in keeping with Twin Peaks‘ understanding of heroism and the nature of goodness, as there is always room for small but meaningful rewards (e.g., coffee and pie) for those virtuous enough to deserve them. But for those honorable few, there is also no time to rest. This is demonstrated when the narrative takes a dark turn not long after the events in Sheriff Truman’s office unfold. Cooper bids Diane and Gordon farewell before entering a plane of existence ruled by dream logic that becomes increasingly menacing as the final hour pushes toward the end.

At first, the final episode feels a bit like a coda to the story that was the wild and twisting account of Dale Cooper’s journey back. Looking at it now, it’s less a coda than it is the start of another quest (or the same one over and over again, really), one that sees the honorable FBI agent traversing the strange twists and reading the clues with more fluidity than before. Always open-minded and willing to explore even the most outlandish of possibilities, Cooper’s time in the Black Lodge appears to have turned him into something of a seasoned traveler, as he approaches each temporal shift with the same unflagging resolve.

The dream logic of the hour becomes gradually more opaque as the plane of existence Cooper enters following his meeting with the giant teapot version of Philip Jeffries becomes increasingly sinister. The deeper Cooper ventures into this journey the more Lynch and Frost seem impervious to the notion of providing their audience with concrete answers, thereby turning the final moments into a dazzling yet challenging viewing experience that continues to mystify right up until the very end. There is a hint of something sinister in every encounter, from Cooper and Diane’s unnerving sex scene (underlined by the same song playing at the radio station in ‘Part 8’) to the letter from Linda to Richard he reads the morning after. The feelings of ominous dread increase as Cooper makes his way through Odessa (forcing yet another long journey back to Twin Peaks), first stopping at a diner sporting the name Judy (calling to mind Gordon’s recollection of the negative entity Jao Dei or “Judy”) to have a violent encounter with some local rednecks before tracking down Carrie Page (Sheryl Lee) whom he believes to be Laura Palmer.

Kyle MacLachlan and Naomi Watts in Twin Peaks The Twin Peaks Finale Mystifies In Its Pursuit Of Closure

After a look at a corpse and disconcerting white horse on a mantle inside her home, Cooper and Carrie’s journey to Twin Peaks in many ways mirrors Cooper’s earlier attempt to lead Laura out of the woods at night (and his initial investigation into her death), only to lose his grip on her during a brief moment he took his eyes off of her. As he searches the darkness for Laura, the woods are filled with the sound of her screaming, a noise that closes the series out after Cooper asks “What year is it?”

It’s not a coda. It’s the start of another journey; one that seems to be a horrifying loop in which Cooper repeatedly fails to save Laura Palmer – whatever form she takes – but nevertheless remains the right man for the job. Twin Peaks ends without resolution as the series demonstrates there is no end in the struggle between good and evil; it’s a cycle that repeats itself over and over again. If this truly is the end of Lynch and Frost’s time with Twin Peaks, and for now it’s best to assume it is, then the ending is as magnificent as it is mystifying.

Next: Kyle MacLachlan Knew Twin Peaks Would Be Challenging For Some Fans

Twin Peaks is available to view in its entirety on Showtime.

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