Lost in the Movies: Carrie Page (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #55)

Carrie Page (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #55)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday although patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public. There will be spoilers.

Things aren't going well for Carrie in Odessa and they don't get much better when she takes a ride with an FBI man to Twin Peaks.

What year is this?
Approaching her front door with some trepidation when she hears a knock, Carrie asks who's there and opens quickly when an FBI agent announces himself. "Did you find him?" she asks with breathless concern, repeating the question when the agent curiously says another woman's name. But the agent repeats his words as well, and a confused Carrie clarifies that he must be at the wrong house...her name isn't Laura Palmer. He continues to press his case, however, even as she gets annoyed and ready to shut him out. She's unflustered when he insists her father's name is Leland but becomes inexplicably perturbed when he says her mother's name is Sarah. "Wh-what's happening?" she stutters. Making clear that he believes Carrie is "really a girl named Laura," he also states it's "very important" that she drive with him up to a town called Twin Peaks in Washington where he claims she once lived. Carrie agrees to "get out of Dodge" because "riding with the FBI might save my ass." Though she never tells the FBI agent what sort of trouble she's in, or who she's hoping will be found, she allows him into her house while she retrieves a coat and a packed bag, and she does not seem alarmed that he'll obviously notice the dead man with a bloody chest wound moldering in her living room (the agent, for his part, says nothing). They agree to get food along the way and set off.

A long car ride follows, into the night, across long stretches of empty highway with the occasional car's bright headlights behind them. "Is someone following us?" Carrie asks, but the agent never speaks a word in response. "Odessa," she sighs at one point, slipping into a reverie. "I tried to keep a clean house, keep everything organized." After stopping at a Valero for gas and to go inside the store, they finally reach their destination. In Twin Peaks they cross a small wireframe suspension bridge, pass a closed diner, and drive through a neighborhood where Carrie, when asked, says she doesn't recognize anything - including the house they stop in front of. She takes the FBI agent's hand as they ascend the front steps and stands silently by him as he encounters the homeowner. The woman who opens that door, like Carrie before her, has no idea who the agent is looking for; she is not and does not know any "Sarah Palmer" and the agent seems thoroughly bewildered. Carrie looks around in a bit of a dreamy daze. She and the agent turn back after his disappointing exchange, returning to the street. Before they can get in the car, the FBI agent hesitates, gazing at the street in confusion and asking what year it is. Carrie stares up at the house, at him, at the street, back at the house... She hears something, a distant voice calling, "Laura!" And then, as if an unstoppable force is welling up inside of her and pouring out, she screams and the all of the lights in this strange yet familiar house flash and explode into darkness.

Characters Carrie interacts with onscreen…

Agent Cooper

and Laura Palmer is mentioned
*retroactively added in March 2024

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Carrie
First off, importantly, Carrie has never heard of Twin Peaks - she isn't even sure if that FBI agent (Cooper of course) means "Washington, D.C." or "Washington state" or how far the latter is from Texas or if it's particularly cold. This character - whose face, and that flicker of recognition in her final moments onscreen, suggest she's the most central person to the entire mythos of Twin Peaks - is by all appearances a complete stranger to the town. Moreover, when she finally does arrive there the whole community looks desolate. Maybe it's just really late at night...then again, Alice Tremond answers her door promptly and is dressed and acts as if it's still a reasonable hour in the evening. No one else is out on the street or sidewalk; the lights on the perpetually-illuminated RR Diner are off, and no sounds of laughter, shouting, even of television sets escape the quiet, dark houses passed by this duo. The Twin Peaks town as seen by Carrie is desolate, empty, an impenetrable dead zone. The Twin Peaks narrative as seen by Carrie is likewise sparse, a long succession of driving shots with no music but the endless, vaguely eerie humming of the road under their wheels. There is at least one suggestion of violence not seen by her directly, but obviously something she's aware of since it's in her own house: that bloody corpse that no one wants to comment upon. However, the violence is past and mostly offscreen. This Twin Peaks is adjacent to all of the tumult we associate with Twin Peaks without dipping into it directly. In that sense, the town we see here and the story told about it do have something in common with the world of the previous seventeen parts, thirty episodes, and feature film: an electric charge of mystery, a longing in this case actively frustrated rather than teased - but potent nonetheless.

Carrie’s journey
This odyssey begins in Odessa but in a sense it must have begun much earlier. Carrie is not leading an ordinary, peaceful life when Cooper interrupts her. She's both stuck and in flux: in the midst of a decaying, dangerous situation but trapped as she waits for other people to resolve it for her - find the man or take her away. We never learn exactly what went wrong, or when and how it did. She is - as so many Lynchian heroines are - a woman in trouble. This trouble, as much as Cooper's intervention, propels her on the physical journey whose spiritual component remains elusive. Within the broader narrative, something Carrie herself is never privy to except as Cooper cryptically describes it on her doorstep, the purpose and destination of her arc is to become Laura once again and to go "home". Therefore Carrie can never see the end of her own journey toward self-abnegation - which is, I suppose, true for everyone, isn't it? On the other hand, if Carrie is just a small part of Laura, a missing piece (or a missing Page) then the revival of her larger self is not a loss but a form of expansive growth, however traumatic. And yet whatever deeper meaning that scream holds, whichever theories we develop about its transcendent, even victorious significance, the immediate sensation is one of negativity. It's difficult to feel like Carrie's journey leads her or anyone else into the light.

Actress: Sheryl Lee
Before season three, I was already planning to divide discussion of Lee's career over two other entries - focusing on her TV credits for Maddy and her film credits for Laura. Now that she has (arguably) a third role as well, there's not much more to add - so I'll reserve her bio until those upcoming characters. (For a survey of her work through 2017, check out the illustrated filmography I composed several years ago.) (film pictured: Mother Night, 1996)

Part 18 (Showtime title: "What's your name?")

Carrie is onscreen for roughly twenty minutes. She is in three scenes in one episode, taking place over what appears to be a single day and night. Her primary location is on the road in Cooper's car. She shares all of her screentime with him and is one of the top characters in part 18, second only to Cooper.

Best Scene
Carrie watches in a daze as her confident guide Cooper falters at the Palmers' threshold, and then she hears what he cannot and screams.

Best Line
“Those days...I was too young to know any better.”

Carrie Offscreen

Part 18: Cooper stops at an Odessa diner named Judy's (with a white spring horse outside, similar to the white horse figurine he'll notice on Carrie's own mantle). Inside he orders coffee and asks the waitress if someone else works there. Irritated, the waitress comments that her co-worker hasn't come in for days. After a confrontation with armed men harassing this waitress, Cooper waves a gun in her direction and asks the nervous young woman to write down Carrie's address, which is what brings him to her house.

Who is Carrie Page?
So...is Carrie Page really Carrie Page? Or is she Laura Palmer? It took us until the end of this entry to dig into that question, but I imagine separating Carrie from Laura is one of my more controversial decisions in this series. Most viewers just accept her as Laura, full stop, perhaps even more of a consistent individual than Cooper and his doppelganger (who I do consolidate into a single entry). After all, she appears in the narrative after Cooper has lost the young Laura Palmer in the woods at the end of Part 17 (repeated early in Part 18 just to underscore it). Cooper himself asserts that she must be Laura and she seems to recognize Sarah's name - and especially Sarah's voice. Laura has already manifested in a variety of forms: spiritual presence in the Lodge, haunting memory among the townspeople, real live teenage girl in the prequel material. Why then bother to keep these two characters, indeed this one character, apart?

Well, to start with, there's the fact that it took us until the end of this entry to ask that question. What I mean is that Carrie herself - as a weary, confused middle-aged woman being taken for a bewildering drive into the darkness - offers plenty of material to discuss independently of any connection to Laura, a connection she herself has little feeling for. (This is something that sets her apart from Cooper's doppelganger or Diane's tulpa, who implicitly share their source material's memories - although Carrie admittedly does appear to overlap with the original, shaggy-haired Dougie in this regard.) Significantly, in Part 18 Sheryl Lee is credited as Carrie Page, not Laura. And the role she plays is reminiscent of Maddy more than any other character: an individual with her own independent life who gets sucked into - and possibly violently destroyed by - the whirlpool of Laura Palmer.

Unlike Maddy, there's an implication that Laura herself lurks beneath Carrie's surface. But Carrie is more than just a fragment of the whole. Whether whisked into this existence with false memories a few moments ago or planted in Texas three decades earlier, she offers the appearance of someone who was not tragically extinguished at seventeen but stumbled onward into her forties. This may ultimately be a part of Laura's splintered, multifaceted story - and we'll certainly be discussing Carrie in Laura's standalone entry - but it's also something else as well, and she rewards being contemplated as such.

Additional Observations

• In addition to the pun about the missing page from Laura's diary, which Hawk alludes to in Part 7, Carrie also phonetically shares a last name with Beverly Paige, Ben's assistant. As with so many other double names in Twin Peaks, this may just be an intriguing coincidence or non sequitur; I certainly haven't been able to drawn any conclusions from the connection although it does add a humorous undertone to Beverly's question, "Who is Laura Palmer?"

• Against Carrie's wall is what appears to be a mobile toilet seat for a disabled person, alongside some toilet paper. Was this used by the dead man? Was someone else living in the house? When (and why) did they leave?

• I've always assumed that the man has been dead for a while - he looks a bit decomposed and Carrie hasn't been to her job in a while. Even if he was killed more recently, though, it's not as if this could have been reported and remain as we see it. There's really no explanation for why the FBI would be involved in the case - making this a known crime scene - yet the corpse would stay in place (not to mention the absence of any other accoutrements in an ongoing investigation). Did Carrie herself shoot in self-defense? Was the victim an associate of whoever she believes the FBI is hunting? One possibility is that there the shooter fled and while Carrie never reported this incident, she wouldn't be surprised to learn he'd been pursued and caught (nor might she feel at risk of suspicion herself, although she probably should). The real explanation of course is that David Lynch wanted to stage a surreal, off-kilter setpiece and enjoyed the not-knowing more than the process of rationalization. Whatever the impetus, Carrie has a lot to run away from, and this only reinforces that impression.

Next (active on Wednesday, March 29 at 8am): Candie (as well as Sandie and Mandie)

To immediately read a month of upcoming entries, updated weekly to stay a month ahead...

(at the time of publication, this includes full entries on new or revised characters among #54 - 39)

No comments:

Search This Blog