Every month, I will be offering at least one post on Twin Peaks...up until Showtime re-airs the original series. Then I will post extensive coverage of each episode (mixing new reactions with my many older pieces) immediately after they air. Stay tuned.
The following meta-analysis was originally posted on my Tumblr in October, and I thought it would be worth sharing here as well. Major spoilers for Twin Peaks follow the jump.
Thinking about Bob’s plans for Cooper in the Black Lodge (thanks to a post by @outerspacelesbian), I am reminded how many differing interpretations there are of precisely when Coop loses his soul to Bob, or splits into two, or however you want to frame it. I’ve heard people suggest that it’s as soon as the Little Man “tests” him with the coffee and it runs like motor oil, indicating that Bob is already fated to win (see this video).
In Wrapped in Plastic, John Thorne suggests that Cooper’s split arrives soon after he stumbles through the curtains with a stomach wound and sees himself and Annie lying on the floor at which point he is divided into good and bad Cooper (meaning the Cooper we see for the next several minutes, the one who willingly gives his soul to Windom and calmly walks after Bob takes it, is only half of Coop, the “good Coop” we see in FWWM, while the bad side is already lurking within the Red Room, ready to rise to the top).
Others conclude that Coop’s big mistake is offering to give his soul to Windom, since this represents an act of will (Martha Nochimson’s point) or a dangerously deluded self-sacrifice (as several fans have suggested) or even a sexist, anachronistically chivalric assumption that he must focus on rescuing Annie rather than respect her autonomous struggle within the Lodge and focus on his own (suggested by users on alt.tv.twin-peaks back in 1991).
There has been speculation that the turning point is Coop fleeing Bob in the end: that this is the dangerous fear that both Maj. Briggs and Hawk have spoken of, which opens him up to Bob’s power and awakens his own doppelganger. Finally, there is the assumption - which I myself have made in the past - that the most crucial moment is when Coop sees his doppelganger and turns to walk, and eventually run, away rather than face the shadow self/dweller on the threshold that Hawk prophesied in ep. 18.
I still think that’s a really important moment (much more than walking away from Bob, which he seems to do calmly and, it could be noted, at Bob’s own command) but I’d like to explore another facet of that turning point: maybe the shadow-self emerges in the first place because Cooper has taken vengeance of Windom. I’ve heard others suggest this as well (on a dugpa thread I think) but I want to look at it in a larger context. Of course that isn’t what we see: instead we see Bob “rescue” Cooper, presumably because Windom has broken the rules of the Lodge by demanding Coop’s soul and he must be punished. In this interpretation, Coop is merely a witness to this pivotal moment, not an actor in it. But is this really what happens?
Consider that, especially as the film later shows it, Bob never really works alone. He needs a human partner and as Fire Walk With Me reveals, Leland was much a collaborator than a victim. What if, in the moment of surrendering his soul, Cooper *manifested* Bob to take revenge on Windom. Compounding this transgression, he won’t even allow himself to take responsibility for this decision - displacing that responsibility onto the outside figure of Bob. So not only is he acting out against another person, he won’t even accept that it’s him doing the acting out. And Bob plays along, as he always does, exculpating Coop while giving him exactly what he wants and giving him permission to go.
Immediately after this dramatic turnaround, two things happen. First, the evil Coop emerges from one side of the room now that Coop has left on the other, as if his approving retreat from the scene of the crime sealed the deal and now his dark side is manifest. Second, in the hallway outside the room, Coop runs into Leland who cackles, disingenuously, “I did not kill anyone.” This implicitly couples Cooper’s own denial with Leland’s, and analogizes their relationship to Bob, especially since Leland is (literally, in a visual sense) placed as the central axis around which the two Coopers face each other for the first time.
The scene becomes even more resonant when paired with the end of Fire Walk With Me. I’ve explained my thoughts on this elsewhere, so I’ll tread lightly for the moment, but it’s my read that Laura is the one who manifests the angel to save Ronette in the train car. If this is the case, then we have an exact mirror image of the finale’s climax. In both cases a character (Cooper/Laura) manifests an otherworldly being (Bob/the angel) to either reward or punish someone that they regard as their shadow self (Windom/Ronette). In the finale, this leads to Cooper being chased by his doppelganger, who emerges into the outside world aligned with a victorious Bob. In the film, this leads to Laura receiving the ring, and emerging into a higher spiritual plane having defeated Bob.
There’s much more that can be said about this idea. There are some holes in it as well (one could argue that Annie makes a better parallel for Ronette, and Windom for Leland, which changes the whole reading of Cooper’s actions) but for the moment I find this concept pretty compelling.
For further discussion see the thread that emerged on dugpa's World of Blue forum.