So I had kind of stopped thinking about Twin Peaks for a while. I mean, I’m doing a slow re-watch of the original series, and plan to watch season three again after I’m done with that. So I’m not so much done thinking as I am wool-gathering. But either way, I’ve been giving my brain a rest. I had come to enough of an understanding of the various mysteries to satisfy myself, and had decided that I wasn’t going to come up with anything better until I’d had time to sit and watch it all again. Then this thing came out…
Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier
by Mark Frost
The sequel to last year’s Secret History of Twin Peaks, this book promised to detail the lives of the town’s inhabitants in the 25 years between seasons two and three.
Now, I was well-satisfied with season three. And though I wouldn’t have minded a bit more information about a few things here and there, I thought I had enough for the most part. But I’m such a huge Twin Peaks nerd that there was no way I was missing this book. The prospect of Mark Frost applying the complexity and attention to detail of Secret History to those “missing years” made this something I was absolutely dying to read.
And now that I have… While I’m certainly glad I read it… I’m also a bit disappointed with the results. While some surface grunge has been applied to make the pages look like part of an official document, the in-depth “found document” style of the first book is largely missing. And that makes Final Dossier feel a bit slap-dash and padded out. We’re given lots of blank spacer pages, and big two-page photo spreads that feel randomly inserted and don’t work with the conceit that you’re reading government documents.
The content is similarly loose. The clever historical fiction of Secret History only turns up here in fits and starts. There’s an oblique reference to Donald Trump having worn the Owl Cave ring, for instance, but it comes off more as a cheap joke than the terrifying glimpse into history that the Nixon stuff represented. And the information we do get in this book often frustrates me. It explains things I already understood, answers questions I didn’t want answered, and goes into detail about things I don’t care about. We’re even promised a chapter on Bobby Briggs that never materializes, and the book’s put together so haphazardly that this omission seems like a mistake rather than a mystery to be solved. In general, it has the feel of something that needed another draft, or at least a good editor.
As I said, though, I did enjoy reading it. The parts I liked, I liked a lot. And as I’ve written about it tonight, I’ve even come to appreciate some of the stuff I didn’t care for. So it’s not a complete waste, by any stretch of the imagination. There are things to be enjoyed here for any Twin Peaks fan. Though it does occur to me that, the more satisfied you were with season three, the more likely you are to be disappointed.
Which is vague, I know. But that’s all I can say about the book without SPOILERS. So if you don’t want those, stop reading here. I’m going to dig into some analysis below, and that stuff’s going to be ALL SPOILER, ALL THE TIME.
But if you don’t mind being SPOILED, then by all means keep going. Though it’s probably not going to make much sense if you haven’t seen season three…
Okay, first things first. Yes. Final Dossier DOES reveal what’s up with Audrey. And I, predictably, have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I wish the show had given us just a little bit more with her. But on the other, I wound up liking how Lynch handled it. She’s caught in this endless cycle of unfulfilled yearning, which makes her a metaphorical twin for both Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer, both of whom seem trapped in the loop of Cooper’s unrelenting heroism (more on that in a bit). The moment when she wakes up staring in the mirror foreshadows Laura’s closing scream, and I like the parallel quite a bit. As a fan of the Weird, I also like the queasy, uncertain feeling all of Audrey’s scenes left me with. I didn’t know what was going on with her, but I had ideas. And my ideas were a lot more interesting than what Frost reveals in Final Dossier.
He does confirm something that the show pretty well established: Evil Coop snuck into Audrey’s hospital room 25 years ago and raped her while she was in a coma, fathering that little shitheel Richard.
But Frost goes further, detailing how that unwanted pregnancy ruined Audrey’s life. Refusing any help from her father, she got a business degree from the local community college, opened up a beauty parlor, entered into a loveless marriage with her accountant, and slowly went mad. By the time season three happens, she’s been in an asylum for years.
Which I kind of hate. It’s such a dull and unimaginative fate to have concocted for her, and puts her cycle of unfulfilled yearning into a completely mundane and entirely explicable context. So when she wakes up in front of the mirror, we can now infer, she wakes up in the asylum. Season Three’s most baffling mystery, solved!
But it’s so boring. My idea that Evil Coop had locked her into some kind of Black Lodge imprisonment the way he did Diane is a lot more fun. And my idea that she’d somehow gotten lost in-between worlds, constantly waffling back and forth between the reality where Billy’s missing and the reality where he’s not, plays to the show’s larger plot. It ties in the Roadhouse vignettes, and makes Audrey important in the grand scheme of things. Frost’s explanation, meanwhile, makes her just another victim. And that’s disappointing.
Except… Maybe it’s not.
It occurs to me as I’m writing this that Audrey’s fate is exactly the sort of thing Judy has in store for everyone. It’s not the epic suffering that a marauder like Bob conjures up. It’s not the life of sexual abuse he inflicted on Laura Palmer. It’s a finer, more subtle kind of suffering. The suffering of a life mundane. A life drained of joy. A life that has no room for dreams. I wonder what the garmonbozia of that sort of life tastes like. Is it more like fine wine than creamed corn?
Because (now that I’m getting into this) Audrey being in an asylum doesn’t mean that she hasn’t been given over to the Black Lodge. When the Arm repeats her line about “the little girl who lives down the lane,” in fact, I’d say that ties her situation to the Lodges pretty concretely. So has she been a secondary prize all this time? They couldn’t get Laura, but they could get Audrey? Was her husband Charlie the Evolution of the Arm? And has he evolved because he’s been dining on Audrey’s garmonbozia all these years?
Okay. That veers dangerously close to fan fiction territory. So let’s back off a bit. But the point still stands that Audrey’s situation matches Judy’s M.O. One of the points being made in season three, after all, is that as Judy’s influence increases, life in Twin Peaks slowly becomes increasingly dreadful. Then there’s the fates of all the characters who were close to Laura and Cooper, as revealed here in The Final Dossier. Donna Hayward winds up a jet-setting model, but drug and alcohol abuse nearly leads her to destruction. James Hurley finds himself unwittingly working for a Mexican drug cartel before returning home and suffering the motorcycle accident that’s left him… “quiet,” I believe the word was. And if we’d gotten that promised chapter on Bobby Briggs, I’m sure we’d have found out that turning his life around and becoming a good guy lost him Shelly, who obviously still loves the bad boys. Little else but quiet desperation all around.
And then there’s Annie Blackburn, whose story is also finally revealed in Final Dossier. She never recovered from her experience in the Lodge, we discover, and she lives in an institution, essentially a vacant shell, right up to the present day. Her eyes, we’re told, remain lively, as if she’s living some vivid inner life, but she barely responds to outer stimulus at all. She hasn’t spoken for 25 years, except for once a year, every year, on the morning after the anniversary of her exit from the Lodge. Then, apparently in response to some unheard question…
…she says, “I’m fine,” and then lapses back into silence.
Which, yes, is creepy as hell. And also totally awesome.
Of course, the Annie sections of Final Dossier also point to the book’s shortcomings. Her story is stretched out between the stories of other characters, most notably Annie’s mother. That section is especially bad, as Frost spends pages digging out of a hole he dug for himself in Secret History. In that book, he told us that Norma Jennings’ mother died before the original series ever began, in spite of the fact that one of season two’s less-fondly-remembered subplots was Norma’s mom coming to town and making her life unpleasant for an interminable number of episodes. I won’t bore you with the details (short form: she’s Norma’s step-mother), but Frost’s explanation is tedious and overly complicated, delving into a life of petty cons and multiple husbands that keeps us from getting to the heart of Annie’s story for far too long.
Worse, the chapter with Annie’s name on it barely talks about her at all. Instead, it’s primarily given over to Tammy Preston’s psychoanalysis of Dale Cooper. Our Hero suffers from a bit of White Knight Syndrome, she argues, an irresistible urge to help women in trouble. It’s why he was drawn to Windom Earle’s wife, why he fell so hard for Annie, and why he worked so tirelessly on the Laura Palmer case. It’s an astute insight, I think, and one that sheds a lot of light on the season three finale. After 25 years trapped in an other-dimensional limbo, Cooper’s still trying to help Laura. Certainly, she’s also become a means to an end (stopping Judy). But his basic drive is still to help a woman whose own best outcome was to sacrifice her life in order to save her soul. Cooper thinks he can save both. And whether he was right or not remains an open question.
But we were talking about Annie, weren’t we?
Annoying as it is to read, there’s something fitting about her story being told through the stories of other people. I’ve had the notion for a while now that Annie might not have been real. She comes out of nowhere around the time that Windom Earle shows up, and seems too good to be true. Then, in the Lodge, she turns into Caroline (Windom Earle’s wife), and emerges back into the world in Caroline’s dress. Considering that we’re dealing with dreams and alternate realities, with characters existing outside of time who have the ability to reach in and change or insert things… It seems to me that Annie might have been a construct, inserted into the timeline as a trap for Cooper in much the same way that the Giant inserts Laura as a counter to Judy and Bob.
It might explain why she wasn’t mentioned in Norma’s life story in Secret History, and why some details don’t match up. We may be dealing with a reality that’s been tampered with and twisted up every time there’s contact between the Lodges and the real world. So there are characters who are both dead and alive, events that happen in different years, and people whose lives take different paths to the same places depending on which version of the story you get. Even here in Final Dossier, Annie’s life story is a tangled mess. Was she born in 1973, and thus only 16 years old when Cooper romanced her in 1989? Or was she a more confident woman in her early 20s when that romance happened, as Frost says just a few pages later?
It’s simpler to assume that he just screwed up, of course. And, considering The Final Dossier‘s shortcomings from a publishing perspective, it may very well be the truth. But that’s also boring. And boring is something I never, ever want Twin Peaks to be.
So that, I suppose, is my final word on Final Dossier: It’s flawed, to be sure. At times, it reads like it was an appendix to Secret History that got cut out and reassembled in an attempt to shore up perceived shortcomings in both that book and the third season. It’s short, padded, and largely unambitious. There’s really no reason for it to exist. It’s a book for hardcore fans only. But (as I think I’ve amply demonstrated here tonight) it’s only as disappointing as you let it be.