MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
So, out of David Lynch and Mark Frost, which one’s been spending too much time on the internet? I mention this because episode 12 appears inspired by one of the most extraordinarily silly of online conspiracy theories: the Mandela effect. Mandela effect believers claim certain facts that are commonly misremembered are not, in fact, mistakes, but are actually remnants of an alternate timeline that we used to live in before being moved over to this one through some unexplained mechanism. False memories that are often used as evidence include the date of Nelson Mandela’s death, the spelling of popular children’s characters… and a supermarket selling Turkey Jerky when it never did before?
Well, maybe not. Either way, Sarah Palmer’s convenience store freak-out is a memorably discomforting scene, particularly now we know she was the girl who swallowed the frog-moth in episode 8. Now the whole Palmer family history resembles a game of chess between cosmic entities. The birth of BOB prompts the Fireman to create Laura Palmer, so the Black Lodge retaliate by possessing her mother. Rather than being the crux of the matter, Leland’s possession by BOB is just a finishing move.
Sarah always seemed to have some kind of affinity with the Black Lodge, right back to the pilot episode, where she witnessed BOB. In the original series, this was played as a kind of psychic sensitivity. Did anyone suspect the real answer would be this dark? When Hawk goes up to check on her, the house looks grey, drizzly, bleaker than it has before. There’s also something thumping around in the kitchen. It is in her house now.
There are a lot of fan theories about episode 12, my favourite being that the Frenchwoman in Gordon’s hotel room is actually a messenger in the vein of Fire Walk With Me’s Lil the Dancer, delivering a heavily coded message through the medium of mime. Truthfully, it’s one of the weaker hours of The Return. It has an unusual amount of repetition (another Chromatics concert, another Dr. Amp show) and one of the few continuity glitches – Cooper being back home, contradicting the Mitchums’ claim that he’s been out all night with them next episode – that seems to be an actual mistake, rather than a subtle clue towards the nature of the show’s reality.
Or is it? When you read too much about the Mandela effect, nothing feels like a mistake any more. The same applies to watching the end stretch of Twin Peaks: The Return, where Lynch and Frost bring in several extremely complex mysteries at the last minute. Too late to resolve them in a satisfying way, you might say, although rewatching the first Audrey scene it’s surprisingly easy to put together a reading. Charlie appears to represent her illness, constantly withholding information from her, keeping her away from her friends, trapping her in a toxic relationship.
I knew before it was confirmed in The Final Dossier that Audrey’s illness was not directly connected to the explosion at the end of Season Two, because – again – Lynch and Frost supply us with more clues than you’d think. If Audrey really had been in a coma for twenty-five years, Ben Horne would surely have mentioned it when telling Sheriff Truman about Richard’s difficult upbringing. In the scene as it exists, he merely mentions an absent father. (Not absent enough) Other running questions are confirmed. We know what the Blue Rose group does, and who their members were. And when Diane snarls one of The Arm’s catchphrases after a swell of backwards music, we know she’s not just in league with Mr. C. Backwards sounds, in Twin Peaks, can only lead you one place. In a few episodes time, it’ll lead her straight back there.