Note: Some spoilers throughout, so proceed with caution, ok!
The other night I woke up at about 2am and could not for the life of me get back to sleep. My mind was stuck going over a number of small everyday problems; the usual crowding of stressful thoughts that always emerge in the middle of the night.
I also had a strange epiphany. One relating to one of my favourite tv shows and one that you can’t really avoid right now thanks to its recent revival. Which only added to my late night concerns, in retrospect. All that was missing was the giant…
The one thought I was struck with was a pretty simple one: There’s a twin in Twin Peaks.
I know. It’s very obvious. I’m literally talking about the title – not some hidden character that I’ve sussed out. Sorry. Just hear me out. Maybe this has occurred to some of you already, but it hit me with such a strong clarity in my half-awake and tired-anxious state that by the morning I was desperate to write it all down because, man, I just never thought of the title this way…! I don’t think I’m going to be saying anything super revelatory, but it’s almost ten years since I saw the show for the first time and I never connected the title itself to one of the show’s biggest themes: the doppelgänger, or double.
Twin Peaks name, of course, derives from the fictional place where the story largely unfolds, especially in the original two series (the 2017 revival has gone far further afield). Named after two mountains (that are largely backdrop and rarely the focus of any action), and filmed partly in Snoqualmie, WA (which lends its appearance and its stunning waterfall to the opening credits in particular), the town of Twin Peaks is the main focus of energy for the series – being the location of the infamous murder of Laura Palmer: the plot which kicks off the whole show. These two literally twinned mountains aren’t just the geographical novelty in the area (their history and spiritual significance something Mark Frost goes into in more detail in his new book The Secret History of…) but they actually represent the later revelations of the doppelgänger as well as being a constant reference to the concept of twins of some kind or another. The later themes which are so focused on the idea of doubles is hinted at in the very title of the show. It’s not just the name of the town but the town’s name actually promotes these later revelations.
The idea of doubles, twins, and pairs recurs throughout the show. Duality is a constant theme: the appearance of being one thing when really another, or a permanent bond of similarities or opposites between things. Some of these twins are people, some related, some not, or…more spiritual concepts.
The doppelgänger of Twin Peaks is such a bizarre and complicated subject that there are many essays, and even books, which discuss the concept. There are numerous methods of approaching the doppelgänger theme so I’m limiting myself down here to what I personally take from it (but the doppelgänger is very much open to vast interpretation so if you’re not buying what I’m selling that’s okay too because I love theories of all design – these are just my interpretations, hon!).
To begin with: we have BOB and MIKE – two strange and malevolent entities, addicted to sex and violence, always desperately wanting, and filled with primal urges. They both speak in riddles and sometimes rhymes. Both are parasitic, able to reside inside someone without that person’s knowledge or consent. BOB, it is suggested, was once part of MIKE; did one somehow create the other? Both were close friends at one point. MIKE, we later discover, who resides in a one-armed shoe salesman, sacrificed his left arm after a holy epiphany, becoming a spirit less inclined to violence and instead aligned with two other twinned entities: the giant and the Man from the Other Place, also referred to as ‘the arm’ (coupling him with MIKE it seems…). Both MIKE and BOB are entities originating from the Black Lodge, a strange supernatual place where evil seems to resides, at odds with the benevolent White Lodge, a sort of hidden heaven. The entities we come across can largely be placed in allegiance to either Lodge, though this can also be debated into eternity… MIKE and BOB come to represent a little of this strange dichotomy that plagues the Lodge themes: MIKE and BOB were once very much the same, but now they represent different types of spirit, though both remain uncomfortably parasitical. MIKE becomes a representative for good and order, whilst BOB represents unbridled chaos and suffering.
The giant and the Man from the Other Place (MFTOP) also represent two entities who are linked. Their physical differences are striking, with one very tall and the other short, but they too are linked. They give clues to Agent Dale Cooper, the series protagonist, through dreams, and they are cryptic but mostly helpful. They are not the same as MIKE and BOB; they don’t seem to derive pleasure from possession or torment, though their motives are just as hazy. A multitude of other spirits are suggested, and some are revealed in the movie Fire Walk With Me, such as the grandson and Mrs Tremond (young and old), and the angel (at odds with the more demonic we’ve seen)…and there are so many readings you could do into the Lodges’ inhabitants and their motives, but I’ll leave that for you. Suffice to say, the Lodges and their inhabitants are both at odds with each other and match each other perfectly.
Within this strange between-world, presented largely through dreams and visions, the elusive White and Black Lodges represent the twinned concerns of good and evil, heaven and hell, light and dark, calm and chaos. These simple dichotomies are nestled into most works of fiction, across cultures – it’s a spiritual concern which permeates many things: the good battling the evil. The twin theme is here too: one defines the other, and they both exist simultaneously and likely next to each other; their differences force them into sharp relief. The Red Room, a strange type of purgatorial waiting room, represents that weird middle place to the Lodges, or at least that’s the theory I like best. (Theories abound here, people.) Here, the spirits give clues. Here, the doppelgangers are born. It is where Laura Palmer, or something pretending to be her, tells Cooper who killed her in that first strange dream. The black and white zigzag flooring, now so iconic, illustrates the interplay of the Lodges. Their struggle and confusing relationship is present in the zigging and zagging of the pattern. The red is more organic and visceral; dreamy and lurid, and impossible to define. It is set at odds to the clear cut Lodges. It is a strange middle place: another twin is formed by comparing purgatory to either end state, the latter a heaven state or hell state.
The doppelgangers are something that still have yet to be fully explained, if they ever are. Cooper’s doppelgänger escapes the Lodge in the final episode, seemingly possessed by BOB, or perhaps BOB is connected to a new entity inside of Cooper, either way there is a connection of the real self to the parasitic invader. The vessel and the entity. The possessed and the possessor. The good person smothered by the evil that hides inside. Leland also struggled with this, as did the shoe salesman – men who are unable to control the evil inside of them, but an evil which is actually a creature of some design, not necessarily a true part of their real organic selves.
Possession isn’t the only form of doppelgänger either. We see, as mentioned before, a twin of Laura Palmer. The MFTOP introduces her as his cousin, who surprisingly happens to look just like Laura herself; this is a spirit perhaps that simply has taken on her form, whether by choice or coincidence, it’s hard to say. In the revival we see some characters still in the Red Room, trapped; Cooper for the first few episodes struggles to get free after twenty-five years imprisoned, as his body is still possessed by his doppelgänger/BOB. When he does get free, it is as at the expense of a doppelgänger in our world named Dougie (a man who looks the exact same as Cooper did), who dies painfully before Cooper’s soul is born again in its new vessel. This has yet to be fully explained in the revival (so who was Dougie??) but now we have a confused original Cooper in a new body which seemed to be a doppelgänger planted in our world for some purpose, but one who was not the same as the original body now inhabited by BOB, or whatever evil entity really came out of the Lodge who now favours long black hair and leather jackets. Are you following…?
On less complicated footing, we also have Laura and Maddie. Maddie is Laura’s cousin, close as children who drifted apart as teens. Maddie is played by the same actress, of course, but here she has dark hair, where Laura was blonde. Maddie’s appearance is troubling to some of those who knew Laura due to their striking similarity. They could even be sibling twins, but they are really cousins. Maddie’s life is relatively normal, and she seems to harbour little secrets, if any. She creates a comparison to the enigmatic Laura; a young woman troubled by hideous secrets and visions, as disturbingly illustrated in The Secret Diary book and Fire Walk With Me scenes, whilst her therapy tapes and hints made by those who loved her reveal the two personalities at play; the homecoming queen at odds with her darker secrets. Laura herself was troubled by her dual personalities and make for a heart breaking twin effect for her; she is completely torn between two selves. The person she appears to be and the one which she fears she is becoming. She is also sensitive to that interplay of the real world we reside in and the surreal world of the Lodges (many characters seem to be sensitive to this divide too) – two planes of reality which are, you guessed it, twinned.
Lesser twins abound too; Ben and Jerry Horne make a comedic double act; physically different, and their personalities differing too, but their motivations, fraternity, and Machiavellian tendencies twin them permanently. We have Mike and Bobby, teenage rebels sharing names with two unrelated entities (MIKE and BOB). In Fire Walk With Me, comparisons can be made to the town of Deer Meadow as a negative Twin Peaks. Father-son dichotomies. Political alliances. Romantic couples. Rivals. The dead the living. On and on.
Twins are common. It’s easy to make these sorts of comparisons across all fiction too. Humanity is fascinated with similarities and differences. For better or worse, a lot of how we define everything is by categorisation, looking at what makes x the same as y or how it is different to y. Our fascination with dual personalities runs throughout our fiction and cultures; psychological themes in horror and crime thrillers particularly revel in the admittedly loose multiple personality disorder concept to unsettle or explain strange happenings (as psychologically incorrect those interpretations can be); astrology teaches us that those born under Gemini (represented by celestial twins) grapple with two differing sides, one completing the other yet also at odds in many ways; Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome were literal twins, destined for one to kill the other; Cain and Abel even further back. The balance of good and evil, want and control, continue to fascinate.
The doppelgänger and those strange concepts regarding parasitic entities, and lookalikes, possessions, and unsuspecting vessels, doesn’t come into play until much later in the show. For me, my realisation was that Twin Peaks isn’t just the name of the town but it actively insinuates twins from the very start. It hints doppelgangers from its very beginning, in its title! The peaks are twinned and yet so are the many people in the town. These connections are endless, but brought to the fore with the doppelgängers and the Lodge inhabitants. They actively represent the constant struggle of these oddly divine twinned states. What does it all mean? Well who knows! But I sure can’t look at the title the same way anymore…
Now if I could get a good night’s rest and have the next epiphany in the morning when I’m good and rested…that’d be swell.
NOTE: The above image on the page I can’t claim credit for! Also I will be AWOL again but Blair Witch posts and much more will be on the way! Til then.