by Cheryl Lee Latter
Twin Peaks begins and ends with a nightmare.
The tragedy is the dead girl on the beach, but the nightmare is just beginning for those left behind.
Sarah Palmer wakes up to the scene that will haunt her for the rest of her life, as she searches the family home calling for her daughter. Whether or not she actually saw Bob in Laura’s room, or whether her drugged memory placed him there later, the real terror was that behind the door – the empty bedroom, the missing daughter, and the deep maternal fear that something was irrevocably wrong.
It seems Laura went out early in the morning often, to watch Bobby at football practise (or that was maybe the reason they both used for being out all night), or to accompany Leland to early breakfast meetings (believable?). In light of this, Sarah’s frantic early-morning phone calls seem to be a huge over-reaction.
It’s later clear that she is much more than an over-anxious parent, even before Sherriff Truman gave Leland the sad news. Sarah already knew. Sarah just KNOWS that her daughter is dead.
Much has already been written about Sarah’s possible complicity in Laura’s abuse, in her doing nothing to help. It can be argued from both sides, but for a mother so intuitive, and so closely tuned in to life around her, it’s impossible for her to have been blind to the evil in her home.
It seems that appearances meant much more to Sarah than asking for help. She has a good home and income, without having to work, is married to a respected lawyer, and a member of the country club. It was easier to hide away, stay medicated, and keep the family secrets. Easier for her, yet fatal for her family.
There are always two ways to discuss the world of Twin Peaks, either by including the books, or by focusing purely on the story on the screen.
Jennifer Lynch’s Secret Diary gives interesting insight to the young Laura’s feelings about her mother, and about the unspoken negative tension between them. When Laura, at 12 years old, first dreams of Bob, he is singing to her in her mother’s voice. Rather than protecting her, her mother soothes her and draws her in.
After Laura’s abortion, she arrives home to find that Maddy has called, knowing something was wrong. In the same entry, she feels her mother’s gaze as ‘pure jealousy at my back.’ Jealous of their friendship, jealous that Laura’s psychic trust falls on Maddy rather than herself, or jealousy because she once again knows what is happening and what Laura has done?
The teenage Laura chose not to be a mother, therefore breaking the cycle. Perhaps Sarah felt it was Laura’s turn to share her pain, to let the abuse pass onto a further generation? Could be she be so cold, despite everything?
Mark Frost’s The Final Dossier heavily implies that the young New Mexico ‘Frogmoth Girl’ is a young Sarah. That is easier to accept once you realise that the actress who played her is actually quite fair skinned and blue eyed.
In Season 3, the Experiment releases her dark eggs, symbolically evil thanks to the presence of BOB within one of them, and the frogmoth bug within another. The evil quite physically climbs inside and grows.
To counteract this, Senorita Dido and the Fireman hatch golden eggs of their own with the help of a shining fallopian tube, fertilised with a kiss, and catapulted out into the world. This time it is Laura who is the symbol, of goodness and of hope. She may represent those who have the strength to overcome evil.
The Missing Pieces delves further into Sarah and Laura’s relationship. There is a wonderfully enlightening scene where Sarah is upset with Laura for taking her blue sweater (there are later echoes of this when Laura tells Donna not to wear her stuff – ‘I don’t want you to be like me.’)
When Sarah finds she has had the sweater all along, she becomes upset about it ‘happening again.’ Laura is the strong one, comforting and consoling her mother.
This open show of support and affection between them is rarely even alluded to anywhere else in the story. And it is all about Sarah’s needs, not her daughter’s. Laura is the one showing love.
Sarah tries on one occasion to half-heartedly get Laura to open up and speak to her. Instead of doing so warmly, as a protective mother, holding her as Laura did during the sweater scene, Sarah speaks from across the dining room, practically in another room from Laura, who is by the front door. Sarah keeps the dining table between them. This is the same position she retreats too during the ‘wash your hands’ scene with Leland. She choses to distance herself from the situation, and from her daughter’s pain.
Laura, unsurprisingly, chooses not to confide in her.
After Laura’s death, the relationship between Sarah and Leland is strained. Tragedy and bereavement can frequently pull families apart, as people deal with their pain in different ways. They both express anger and resentment towards each other in those early days.
However, once Maddy arrives, Sarah and Leland settle quickly into their old lives and old routines, and they are happy to watch the cycle happen all over again. Sarah could have easily sent Maddy home, but selfishly uses her to console Leland and to get back to normal. Those dinner parties still need to be attended, or what will the neighbours think?
Eventually, death takes them all, leaving Sarah as the sole survivor.
As this article is about Sarah and Laura, I don’t want to delve too far into Season 3. That is an essay all of its own.
In my humble opinion, there is no Judy, not really. Judy is a concept, perhaps the ‘evil that women do’ to balance out the Bobs in the world, because of course, we can’t blame men for everything.
Sarah’s rage does seem to be aimed at men, it is true. Once she began to have a meltdown in the grocery shop, she warned the female cashier that ‘men are coming’, before quickly leaving. The vengeance in her doesn’t want to harm the girl. The delivery boy may be another matter.
Before the trucker meets his well-deserved Fate, Sarah reveals to everyone her true self. This is not ‘Judy.’ It is clear to see that the only light left inside her is the memory of Laura’s smile, the perfect homecoming Laura with no dark secrets on show, the perfect daughter.
Alongside the smile is a hand with the ring finger blacked out, very much like Laura’s hand when she put on the Owl Cave ring and sealed her Fate. Both Laura’s life and death are right there, within her mother.
I fully believe the rage and rot inside Sarah is guilt. The guilt has taken over and destroyed everything she is. Sarah is simply surviving, absorbed in violence, and lost in darkness. The perfect suburban home is a filthy shell, the grass on the lawn is dead and neglected, and Sarah is trapped in the escapism of alcohol and a monotonous daily existence.
She eventually resorts to attempting to destroy Laura’s idealistic image, that which haunts her and causes her constant pain. It can’t be destroyed because it will always be there inside her. It can’t be wiped out as easily as Cooper feels he can erase the past. The house is a shrine to death and suffering. The place where Sarah stabs the image is the same place where Maddy’s body lay after she was also murdered by Leland. There is no escape from it.
Cooper went back in time to save Laura and take her ‘home’ on the night of her death, instead of letting her enter the woods and meet her fate. He goes to her with knowledge of Leland’s true identity. Not only can he save Laura, but perhaps he envisions the perfect happy ending – to arrest the evil Leland, and reunite mother and daughter, freeing them from their abuser (didn’t he do just that with Janey-E and Sonny Jim, replacing the deadbeat cad Dougie with a perfect Cooper clone?)
Instead he is met at the door by a Tremond.
The Tremonds/Chalfonts are frequently used as placeholders, or perhaps more accurately, as a diversion from other things. They are often found behind a door, or in the case of Teresa, they may have been hiding her in their trailer.
Even all these years later, the Tremonds are blocking the way from evil, keeping Cooper and Laura from the reality of Sarah’s life, and the violence that has grown within her. Alice sends them away with the belief that Sarah isn’t there, and with no welcome or invitation to go any further.
I believe that although Laura and Dale are together in the street, they are trapped in two very individual nightmares.
For Cooper, he is lost between worlds, non-existent, dead yet he lives, with no real sense of time or identity, and with nowhere to go.
Laura, however, hears her mother’s call from the morning after her death. She never heard it the first time, because she was gone, but now she is here, on the early morning of February 24th, hearing the sounds from inside her home.
I believe it is here that the timelines collide. Sarah’s nightmare is just beginning inside, but has already gone on for 25 years, as future and past are lived out at the same time, in an endless cycle.
And Laura has been brought back from her peace and her angels to relive her own nightmare again. There will be no happy ending, and no loving reunion. The chasm between them is so deep, and the danger is still real. Cooper has revived the very memory that Sarah seeks to destroy.
The nightmare has come full circle, and a mother’s cry is the beginning and the end. There is no place left to go.