The City of Absurdity Papers & Essayes
The Detective in 'Twin Peaks'  by Andreas Blassmann

4.6. Cooper's Failure as Protector of the Middle Class

Finally, after entering the home of BOB (the Black Lodge), the search comes to an end. We seem to have reached the finite closure that the serial detective has tried to avoid. Both the Murder Mystery plot and the Gothic Soap Opera have been finished. The protagonists of these plots have been brought under control of a higher force. Earle, the finite player who attempted to finish his revenge plot, has been dispatched by BOB in a puff of flame. His plotting appears as insignificant in comparison with BOB's agenda. Cooper, as an infinite player, has submitted to BOB, after playing openly, but with the wrong approach. Both Cooper and Earle are 'earthly' players who fail in understanding the archaic spirit of BOB who seems to represent a diffuse return of the repressed.

It has been mentioned that the overall structure of the series fits into a scheme of Inner vs. Outer. This dichotomy does not only fit within the general double structure of TP, but also points towards the important aspect of borders in TP. Cooper has crossed several borders, within the story and the place. In the end, he will step over the greatest possible boundary, the one between the normal and the abnormal, the real and the supernatural.

Cooper seems to lack behind the other order of the supernatural and mysterious. His initial position as a protector of the middle class is solidified in a way that removes him from a receptiveness and sensibility for the White/Black Lodge. Both Cooper's quest for unity and the harmony of middle class life goes into the wrong direction. BOB will thus be enabled to enter and change to real world. It appears as though the metaphysical realm (which played a relatively subordinate role in the TP narrative altogether) would now take over the 'reality' of the place. Cooper constructs the world that he investigates to a certain degree. Yet, he does not keep a distance, but plunges right into this setting; hence, he brings a sort of disorder into this world. Cooper not only digs into the ordinary world of Twin Peaks, but also detects the supernatural realm. Following the metaphysical path, Cooper is not working towards a solution of a problem, but he is preparing the destruction of an entire (narrative) world.

Analyzing Cooper's comforting 'Into the Light' speech in chapter 2.5, I hinted at the fact that beneath the comforting message of love and forgiveness lies a deeper truth, namely that white middle class men can no longer hide the fact that an evil force is lurking behind their small town life. Cooper has guided Leland into a transcendental light with his Tibetan method. In the end, however, Cooper will not be able to save himself. Instead, as the narrative ending suggests, Cooper will follow in the footsteps of the possessed Leland.

TP ... begins with a sense of innocence violated, but ends with complete destruction of the detective-hero who was supposed to restore the goodness and stability of the social order... In TP the suspicion that the detective may do more harm than good is articulated as a direct accusation against Cooper by Jean Renault" (Nickerson, 275f.):

'Before you came, Twin Peaks was a simple place ... Quiet people lived a quiet life. Then a pretty girl die, and you arrive, and everything change ... Suddenly the simple dream become the nightmare. So if you die, maybe you will be the last to die. Maybe you brought the nightmare with you, and maybe the nightmare will die with you'. (Lavery, 21.16)

Cooper, of course does not die, but he listens attentively and seems to take Jean's message to his heart. Renault's premonition turns out to be true. Cooper will not save the simple middle class society, but destroy it completely and even plunge himself into an abyss of madness. The disturbing finale of TP has in fact turned Cooper's dream into a nightmare. The apparently harmonious unity with the subconscious in the Red Room dream has turned into a fearful rejection of the threatening repressed in the Black Lodge. Hence, Cooper's fear has initiated the process of pulling a previously hidden truth to the surface.

This structural development of a psychological subtext clearly works within the confines of the Gothic tradition, where a well hidden secret or truth comes back to haunt mankind. Double identities and schizophrenia seem to be common factors in the Soap Opera world of TP. The double in Gothic fiction is a legitimate means to illustrate a return of the repressed. However, with Cooper's arrival the doubling abounds and the return of the repressed reaches its zenith.37 Former incidents of the repressed returning to the town of Twin Peaks culminate in the fusion of the seemingly ultimate good Cooper with the apparently ultimate evil BOB. In the end, it seems as if BOB would finally have found the perfect vehicle to crack a given system and establish another form of order. The repressed breaks lose and seems to bury Twin Peaks in a huge tidal wave. However, one could also pose the narrative question whether the possession of Agent Cooper is in fact the end of the story. The last installment of the show can as well be read as a "permanently suspended closure" (Huskey, 254).

We leave the series with nothing resolved ... The series is not taken out of the realm in which resolution is possible: we are left to believe that evil has triumphed, but only that we don't know the end yet. Lynch skillfully avoids the banality of closure the plot seems to demand by interrupting the story permanently. (ibid.)

Thus, despite the apparent destruction of many plotlines, the series still avoids complete closure and, therefore, sticks to both TP's and Agent Cooper's philosophy: to stretch mysteries to infinity and play openly (with fire):

[James P.] Carse's distinction between 'explanations', which settle issues and eliminate the need for further inquiry, and 'narratives', which raise issues and invite us to rethink what we thought we knew, is appropriate here. (Hague 142)

Not only the ultimate doubling of Cooper and the revengeful repressed put the series in a Gothic tradition. William Patrick Day's final remarks also seem to confirm that the show's ending fits into the overall formulaic cluster of the Gothic:

Once again, the narrative has no closure, and its mystery no solution. Here, though, the mystery focuses on the figure of the detective, who cannot illuminate but only deepens the terrors of the Gothic twilight. Finally, even the detective cannot fully escape his Gothic origins. (Day, 59)

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37 Here are just two examples for the repressed returning in the form of the double the Soap Opera world of TP: Madeline Ferguson returns as Laura Palmer's double; Annie Blackburne functions as Caroline Earle's alter ego. TP is always balancing between a secret being first hidden and later revealed, in order for the repressed to haunt the Soap Opera citizens. The 'real' or the phantom double is the personification of this return of the repressed.


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© Mike Hartmann
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