Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier
One of the highlights of 2017 for me was Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks this summer. Not everyone who tuned in enjoyed the show as much as I did. Given complete creative control, a sizable budget and 18 hours to fill director David Lynch followed his creative impulses with little concern for the show’s eager fans. Many viewers, myself among them, had waited over twenty-five years for the resolution to the cliffhanger that ended the original series. Technically, Lynch closed the loop on that story-line but in doing so he raised dozens of new questions which are unlikely to ever be answered on television. Fan of Lynch should be used to that treatment but many viewers were understandably frustrated by the glacial pace of The Return and how dissimilar it was from the show they loved. If the end of Twin Peaks left you wanting more (specifically more answers), Mark Frost’s new book, The Final Dossier, fills in some of the blanks.
The original show was a success because it hit the perfect blend between the mad genius of Lynch and the capable story-telling of Frost. Frost has written novels, but he’s best known for his extensive TV work. The collaboration of the two men fit Lynch’s surreal dreamscape into a structure TV audiences could handle. When the perfect balance was struck, Twin Peaks was unlike anything else on television. Unfortunately, that balance was difficult to maintain. Some viewers will likely argue that The Return reflected too much of Lynch’s sensibilities and not enough of Frost. The Final Dossier gives readers a chance to get a concentrated dose of Frost’s take on Twin Peaks.
In 2016, prior to the Showtime revival, Frost published The Secret History of Twin Peaks. The first book was a massive tome of files and documents that had been collected by a mysterious figure known as The Archivist. The faux documents included newspaper clippings, yearbooks and even a diner menu. The margins contained notes scribbled by FBI Agent Tamara Preston who viewers would meet during The Return. (For what it’s worth, the character on TV lacked the depth of the character in Frost’s novels). Obviously, Frost was limited in what he could reveal prior to the premiere of the top-secret TV series. Most of The Secret History deals with ancient mysteries and conspiracy theories that have little impact on the familiar characters from the show although there were some hints about the final fate of Major Briggs.
The Final Dossier is a much shorter and more narrowly focused book. The conceit is that following the events of the Return finale, Gordon Cole leaves Agent Tammy behind to collect updates on the citizens of Twin Peaks. The novel includes 18 “files” which read like entries in a Twin Peaks wiki. Each “file” consists of a few pages filling the reader in on the exposition and context that Lynch left out of the TV show. Characters from the original series who did not come back for the revival get updates. Readers will find out what happened to Donna Haywood after she graduated high school, who died in the explosion at the Twin Peaks Savings and Loan and how is Annie?
If you’re hoping for a happy ending for your favorite character, you may be disappointed. There are a lot of tragic endings in The Final Dossier, but at least the novel offers some of the resolution fans have been asking for. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Frost has to be a little more guarded with the events covered in The Return. Don’t expect the author to explain everything that happened in the 18-hour series. But Frost does confirm many fan theories and clarifies a few details that the show left open to interpretation.
For example (*spoilers*, obviously) Frost makes it crystal clear that Agent Cooper prevented Laura Palmer’s murder. She didn’t die, but she did disappear which allows for the rest of the show’s history to play out more or less the way we remember it with minor changes. For example, in the new timeline, Agent Cooper came to Twin Peaks to investigate Laura’s disappearance but doesn’t stay long and Leland Palmer takes his own life which is attributed to grief over the disappearance of his only child.
The book is filled with those kinds of revelations. Some are more exciting than others. I doubt many readers were clamoring for the back-story on how Dr. Jacobi started his Dr. Amp podcast or for the full history of Norma’s manipulative mother. But if you are a fan of the show, you will almost certainly enjoy unearthing all of the nuggets Frost has provided here including some meta commentary on James Hurley’s infamous road trip and a story tying President Trump into Twin Peaks mythology.
I can’t imagine any of this would make any sense at all to anyone who hasn’t watched and dissected every episode of the show. This is a fans-only affair. But if you are one of those fans who wants just a little bit more, The Final Dossier is a must-read.