Saturday, June 2, 2012

Understanding Twin Peaks

It shouldn't come as a surprise that I'm a huge Lynch fan. And while Twin Peaks was celebrated for being amazing, it was also marred by TV executives. But even so, David Lynch and Mark Frost have left us with many loose ends and questions. And there is a lot of richness still to the show for people still interested, all these years later.

There are some web-sites dedicated to listing off discovered symbolism, although, few have dared to explain what wasn't explained in the story. I can't say I blame them. Most of the time, any scholarly look into a work is going to reveal a lot of things that weren't intended or aren't actually there — including this one. I've seen Pynchon's scathing criticisms of scholars, and I have no idea how they've survived to continue their inaccurate, pedantic dissections.

I've only gotten a taste of Mr. Lynch's inner creative process from what he tells the public. But nothing he adds is accidental. And by this I mean, in my opinion, his philosophy and artistry incorporates life's coincidence and randomness as potential co-authors of his stories. And yes, this includes other people pressuring him to do things. He'll flow with the current when he can't swim up it and use anything he can as a bridge to anywhere imaginable. And most of the time, it's really brilliant.

The only reason I feel confident writing this is because I've successfully predicted who was the actual killer was long before they were forced to reveal it, what would happen with Dale, and some other events. Even if Lynch and Frost didn't know all of this — like good story tellers, they didn't stray from their few contextually logical paths.

And I'm fully aware of their more limited rolls midway into that second season. You can see the various directors listed on IMDB. And the quality suffers. It's very difficult to keep a high level on interest in something that is ripped away from your complete control. And this was a case of the network "fixing" something that wasn't broken and then killing it after screwing everyone. But at the same time, they were still watching over it on some level; they have writing credits on all the episodes. And Lynch came back in the end to direct Black Lodge.

This is the point where if you haven't watched Twin Peaks, you need to go watch it and not read anymore. I just can't write the blog I want while keeping important plot details out of it.

I want to also note that I have an extremely good memory and the Internet to verify them. I don't watch things passively, so, this stuff isn't coming from constantly re-watching and spending a lot of time analyzing it. But I did just go through the gold set, and felt a bit inspired to write this.

And I have read a few Internet pages that suggest some things, but I have not taken any information from anyone. These are my views, and if they match what someone else has written, it's coincidental or a sign of legitimacy I pride myself on my ability to think both logically and abstractly. And this weird dissection of Twin Peaks is the result.


There are patterns that show up in the story. A big theme is numbers: Mainly two and three. Now, the way I look at this is it's there for the subconscious. A symmetric quality that adds a sense of uniqueness and unity to the city itself, but also comes together to represent collectively whatever symbolism the number choice implies. Two and three have many mythological and philosophical ties: two mostly dealing with various dichotomies and is at the heart of logic. And three is the minimum amount of points you need to create something more than a straight line. It's also a theme in many religions, mythology, and philosophy. E.g., Christianity has the Trinity, three at the crucifixion, three gifts from the wise men, etc.

Also, I don't think all of these were intentional. And just like a major theme in Twin Peaks, it's hard to separate coincidence from intended plot symbolism. Either way, it combines to thicken this layer of the writing.


The show's title "Twin Peaks."
The doppelgangers in the black lodge
Laura and Maddie
Opposites: the dwarf and the giant, Dale and Windom, Albert and Harry, Bob and Mike, Andy and Dick, etc.
The Black and The White Lodge
The Double R Diner
The number of times Leo was shot.
Laura's two diaries
Two Safe Deposit Box Keys
Two worlds mentioned in the Fire Walk With Me chant


Bob is three letters.
Hank's domino is a double 3
Three FBI forensic officers in Team Albert
Audrey, Donna, and Jame's investigative group
Ben Horne holds three religious books in each hand, during a scene.
Three masks behind Audrey Horne in the bedroom scene with her and Ben, at One Eyed Jacks.
Three triangle symbols on Major Briggs's neck.
Three potential queens get a poem. (Although the relevance of three here was messed with by adding Annie, later on)
Various love triangles
Dale Cooper is shot three times.
Dale is given three clues.
There are three letters discovered and related to the murder: RBT
During the diner scene with Cooper, Cole, Shelly, and Annie, each character has three pieces of pie.
Injuries to the "third eye" (questionable)

The number 30 briefly appears projected onto Dale Cooper, after he steps into the film's light. In numerology, it means selfless sacrifice and devotion to humanity.

Notable Symbolism:

The Owls:

These are interesting. In mythology, they have represented many aspects such as wisdom, magic, and even death. And in ufology, reports of aliens being confused with owls is common. And "the owls are not what they seem" was the only legible message received by a military radio telescope scanning deep space.

When Bob is originally expelled from Leland, the camera goes into his perspective where it appears he leaps into an owl. They clearly have a metaphysical quality that allows them to be used as temporary vessels for these spiritual beings.

Major Briggs:

The three equilateral triangles on Major Briggs' neck are arranged to point of convergence in the center. I've interpreted it as a union of mind, body, and spirit. That this symbol has a mystical property that was given to those who enter the white lodge. And only those allowed to enter are purified from the black. I believe it is very much a nod to ancient tattoo practicing where tattoos were points of spiritual contact and of deep meaning.


Why Mike cut his left arm off: I believe this is symbolic to represent Matthew 18:8.
"Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire"
He claims to have met god and this is when he cast off his tattooed arm and stopped murdering with Bob. I believe this action was inspired by this verse.

How I deduced the fate of Special Agent Cooper:

Those who can see Bob are either gifted or damned as explained by Mike. I did not assume Cooper was simply gifted.
In his dream, he sees Laura in the black lodge as an older man.
The numerology clue mentioned above.
He failed to heed the giants warning


There are a few obvious motifs here and some hidden ones. Anytime you see something in 12s or a certain animal that matches up with an astrological sign, it was probably intentional. This is just another thing that adds to the mystery and mysticism vibe of the Twin Peaks world.

The Third Eye / Frontal lobe

The third eye is a concept in new age spiritualism. If you don't know anything about this, click here ( ). Anyways, I felt a sense that all the injuries to the forehead had something to do with this. They were, however, definitely in the frontal lobe area which is the logic center of the brain. And Bob, especially, likes smashing this part of his host's head.

Time Dilation within the Black Lodge:

This suggests completely that the dimension is a physical one and that it exists higher on the plane. Why? Because in our current model of physics, gravity affects all dimensions in the geometric hierarchy. And gravity's effect increases the higher you go up it — until the dimensions themselves curl into nothingness. Anyways, this would explain how Cooper's path through the Black Lodge isn't linear: He could actually be moving in an entirely new direction, that we can't understand, which leads him back to where he started. And this dimension's natural shape / warp of spacetime could explain why 10 minutes for him is 10 hours on Earth — due to relativity.


Circles and rings play a large role in the symbolism. Everything from the donuts to the physical direction of the show at the end of season two. I think this one is pretty obvious though. The ring represents a portal into another world and is popular in mysticism and magical practices. They are also used to symbolize virtue and bonds. Note: Possessed agent cooper was not wearing his ring.

The Oil:

Oils have been popular in religious practices. Also, burned motor oil has a major relation to fire, and I'll get to fire in a second. It's also something that has a strong nostalgic connection with David Lynch.

Fire shows up a lot. And the log lady is the only one who has bordered, non lit fireplace. I found this a bit significant as it suggests that fire is an important medium for the evil spirits to influence the townspeople.

The main symbol:

This is my take on this. The middle represents the gateway which you can find in Twin peaks, represented by the twin mountains in the background. Then the upper and lower diamonds represent the Black and White lodges.

Left sided:

The left side is sinister in mythology and logical in reality. I think it symbolizes both in the series.

Nadine is the most illogical character in the show. She is also missing her left eye. I took this as symbolic of her only experiencing life with the right side of her brain. And this makes her a huge dreamer but a horrible thinker. And her super strength isn't just caused by adrenaline. It was the town Doctor's skeptical / scientific response, in the face of something completely insane. It also grows the further her mind is from reality. And when she finally snaps back, Ed easily handles her. Ultimately, her character flew in the face of ageism and sexism.

In one scene, Catherine has a smudge on her left side.

Other characters get injuries on their left sides. I don't want to point out each as anyone can simply watch it or Google that.

It's just another subconscious thing. I'm guessing it's to add to the surrealism through an unnatural asymmetry. It's just another little thing that piles on when combined with everything else. And in this case, it symbolizes or foreshadows evil intent.

Coffee, Pie, and Coke:

What you'll see are things that induce nostalgia or add to his unique surrealism. The reason why it's more noticeable here than in other films is because these things get the center piece treatment. They aren't single items on a crowded table. They're meant to take you back to when drinking a good cup of coffee, eating a great slice of pie, or having a coke was an event, not something you passively did while doing something else.

This is probably something that will continue to become more obscure with younger generations and just become weird instead of nostalgic. For me, it triggers memories of going to the coke bottling place, and refilling our glass bottles, going out with my family just to get a slice of pie, and getting served at a drive in diner by girls on roller skates.

What happened to Cooper?

His soul did not escape the Black Lodge. However, I believe that it's still Coopers body that exits. And I do not believe the doppelgangers are physically real entities, but psychological reflections of the negativity inside the original person's mind. I also think they're controlled by Bob.

It's possible that when Bob took Windom's soul, he inherited the verbal contract Coop made with him. Annie does seem to escape and is reported to be fine. And in the final scene in The Black Lodge, I don't see Cooper being in any position to rescue Annie. And there was absolutely no reason for Bob to let her go, unless he was honoring the agreement.

What the Ending Means:

The ending wasn't a finale for Cooper. And contrary to some Internet theories, they didn't know Twin Peaks wasn't going to be picked up for a third season . Although, they weren't confident in a third, either. The ending was shot gun blast of cliff hangers to generate enough fan pressure to force the studio into giving them a new contract. But it was also great writing and directing. And having Cooper trapped in the black lodge was something they had planned for some time.

But people seem to dig for allegory and meaning in the ending. If you can find a way to be at peace with it, by all means. For me, it's always going to be officially unresolved with my imagination playing out scenarios of Cooper's escape.


  1. good work, very interesting takes

  2. I still say the pie was a sex thing.

  3. Since the signals from the eyes cross on their way to the brain, Nadine would be interpreting the world with the left side of her brain, not the right.

    1. The visual pathway is a bit more complicated than that:

  4. The left vs right brain idea isn't about the asymmetrical use of the actual hemispheres, themselves; it's just a psychology metaphor for describing personality types. Eg., you could be labeled as left brained and physically / scientifically use the right side of your brain more.

  5. What about the donuts? They are foisted on the viewer practically. Your thoughts?