“Is it future or is it past?” Philip Gerard uttered in the Red Room many times in Season Three. His Arm said this at least twice in Fire Walk with Me. Most fans have rather accurately interpreted the surface-level meaning of these words as indicating the malleability of time. There, however, could be an interesting subtext to this statement. Season Three is all about the repetive and recurrent destructive patterns of history. On the macro level, the destructive patterns display themselves in the many ways: destructive wars, as symbolized by the Bomb in Part 8, or Janey-E’s dark age. On a micro-level, though, families and individual characters have repeated their own destructive patterns of behavior not only within themselves (Shelly’s attachment to Bad Boys) but repeat the destructive patterns of others. They literally follow in another’s primrose footsteps. Some could have learned from the past destructiveness of their predecessors but go blindly down those paths. Others are not so lucky, due to proximity. Four examples will examine this concept, each with increasing levels of awareness of their predecessors.
Bill Hastings is a trusted High School Principle in Buckhorn. He lives a firmly middle class life with his wife Phyllis. Unfortunately, he is having a torrid affair with Ruth, the librarian at his school. This calls to mind the love triangle of Ed, Nadine and Norma. Ed is a trusted mechanic in Twin Peaks. He lives a firmly middle class life with his wife, Nadine. However, he is having an affair with Norma. This bland summary makes it seem, though, just like any human behavior. People have affairs; so what?! But Phyllis is sometimes verbally awful to Bill; just like Nadine is a “selfish bitch” to Ed. Nadine admits to it. Though Nadine has a lot of trauma; that is true. We, though, don’t know anything of the Hastings’ backstories. Perhaps Phyllis, too, was traumatized and lashes out. We only see the anger. In some ways, she could be like Doris Truman. We, too, thought she was a horrid wife to Frank until Maggie revealed Doris’s trauma of a son’s sucide. We too don’t know if Bill and Ruth reach as far back as Ed and Norma, but it could. It just seems interesting that each of these trios have similarities to them. Both are leading to misery. There would be no way Bill, Phyllis, and Ruth could learn from their counterparts in distant Twin Peaks. Proximity and knowledge of the past notwithstanding, Ed, Nadine, and Norma are still trapped in their misery even while Bill, Phyllis, and Ruth’s had ceased by their tragic deaths. History is repeating unbeknownst to its repeaters.
Yet another example is a little closer in proximity, but because of the enmity between their two families, it’s hardly likely the successor to the primrose path could have seen the precessessor enough, personally, to know how she was following in the footsteps of another. For this comparison, I have to credit Jake Thomas Wilson in a recent discussion we had in The Twin Peaks Between Two Worlds Facebook Group. Audrey and Catherine are similar in many ways. Catherine is married to a man weaker than her. Audrey is married to a manipulative man who she harasses into doing her will. Neither are in happy marriages. Each of them are carrying on affairs that the weaker spouse knows about. It is sad though that the Packards and the Hornes were enemies because Audrey is smart enough to know her own destructive patterns and cease them. She did so right after coming back from One Eyed Jacks; knowing that pursuing Dale and a desire for international intrigue may be too dangerous. This time there is proximity but not knowledge to be able to recognize patterns.
Becky Briggs-Burnett is repeating the mistakes of her parents. Obviously she is getting involved with a violent man and is living in a run-down house, just like her mother did with Leo Johnson. However, her use of sparkle reminds one of her father’s use of cocaine. It seems she is shocked how much Steven has taken prior to his interview with Mike. She also seems unsure when he pressures her to take a hit. Besides the convertible scene, we don’t see her involved with the drug scene in Twin Peaks or even taking any more substances. Perhaps she is being pressured to take drugs, just as her father was pressured to sell drugs by Laura.
Cycles of behavior within families happen, but Becky knows her parents and it seems as if they are a close-knit family. In the Diner scene, their closeness is revealed but it also shows something else. It is obvious that regardless of their closeness, neither parent has divulged their pasts to their daughter. Many parents do this. They do not tell their pasts to their children yet expect them to go the straight and narrow path, without the benefit that some cautionary tales revealing the concern on the parent’s behalf. Perhaps if the child had been made aware of the tragic pasts, the mistakes of the previous generations and the damages it caused, they would avoid the trauma or the mistakes. They would recognize the signs and halt their own behavior. Perhaps if Shelly were more self-aware, she would have told Becky the signs of an abusive man before getting involved with one. If Becky knew of Leo, she may have avoided Steven. Bobby probably gave her a drug talk, just like a good deputy should, but I doubt he divulged some of the personal reasons why he would want her to avoid drugs. Maybe disclosing some personal stories may have allowed Becky to understand the dangers and it may have helped end the cycles of trauma within the Briggs family. Perhaps she could have learned from her parents not to have history repeat itself.
The last example is the most tragic because he knew the path that the other took and is making the same exact mistakes. Dale Cooper is following in the footsteps of his former partner, Windom Earle. Windom Earle became singularly obsessed with seeking out the Black Lodge. At first, Dale is not knoweldgeable of it being the Black Lodge, but he knows Earle is interested in a dark force. Years later, Dale, too, is seeking a dark force almost becoming singularly focused on it. Wait, wasn’t Dale going to defeat this dark force? If you pay attention to Gordon’s revelation in Part 17, he only says that Dale is off ‘seeking’ the dark, negative force. For what? Perhaps to play with it? Dale has a history of dabbling and playing. He is more facinated at a page being marked in Fleshworld than the fact that it was in Laura’s saftey deposit box. Dale can have it wait till morning. He also uses people to get to his goal at finding this negative force. Windom Earle murdered people, manipulated Caroline and Dale, and eventually ‘penetrated Caroline’s aorta’ and ‘took that boy right to edge.’ Dale is using people. He may have manipulated both Major Briggs and Gordon into trusting him to ‘kill two birds with one stone.’ He manipulates Diane into crossing 430 and reopens her trauma in that barren motel room. He manipulates Laura into following him away from her agency in choosing to go to Jacques’s Cabin. He manipulates Carrie into going back to Twin Peaks and reawakening her own trauma when she was still Laura.
This case is especially tragic because Dale knew and saw Earle doing the same thing he is doing right now. He was witness to Earle’s descent into madness, obsession, and destructive behaviors against others. Yet, Dale either thinks his case is unique, thinks his cause is purer (which is scarier) or doesn’t notice how similar he is becoming to Earle (which is sadder). Nevertheless, he could have done some deep self searching, which he could have done in the catatonic life of Dougie. But he didn’t; awakening in Part 16 with the bravura of “I am the FBI” and heading down his destructive path. He did not take the time to realize that he was becoming just like his former partner.
So what? History repeats itself. There are only so much behavior common among human beings. People have affairs. People have miserable marriages. People repeat familial mistakes. People decide to mess with things they don’t understand, often to their detriment. Remember, however, a whole theme of Season Three is history repeats itself, and generational trauma is cyclical. Moreover, because Dr. Amp is insistent that we shovel ourselves out of the shit, ending those cycles are also crucial. Through these four examples, we see the cycles repeat. Obviously, the Buckhorn trio is powerless to see history repeat itself but perhaps it is incumbent upon the viewer to know this cycle, understand how powerless they are, and have compassion to the case. In the second, familial hatred made a younger woman not know the dangers of the former’s destructive hatred and anger. In the third, generational cycles could have stopped if the parents did away with the shame of their pasts and used them as lessons for their daughter. The last is the most tragic as it was incumbent upon the repeater, oft self-titled observant and intelligent, to see that he is following a dark path set by his predecessor and understand the important thing is not to seek out danger but to live.
Trauma repeats. Cycles happen. Though it is up to us to shovel ourselves out and end the cycle, even if that means seeing ourselves in others.