: - ) ALL Cooper, balance & the dweller on the threshold

NormaNorth

Sparkwood & 21
Dec 26, 2022
6
24
Hey all!

I wanted to add this as an observation to the all things peaks thread, but it was growing too long so I figured I’d post. Hopefully I’m not getting ahead of myself by posting when I don’t have much interactive history.

In the log lady intro for episode 15 (when Maddie’s body is found) Margaret says:

“Food is interesting. For instance, why do we need to eat? Why are we never satisfied with just the right amount of food to maintain good health and proper energy? We always seem to want more and more. When eating too much, the proper balance is disturbed and ill health follows. Of course, eating too little food throws the balance off in the opposite direction, and there is the ill-health coming at us again. Balance is the key. Balance is the key to many things. Do we understand balance? The word balance has seven letters. Seven is difficult to balance, but not impossible if we are able to divide. There are of course the pros and cons of division.”

Setting aside the bit about food, which is pertinent throughout the series, the bit about balance sticks out. I’ve been seeing this lack of balance where Cooper went wrong, and why he had imperfect courage when he met his dweller on the threshold.

Cooper’s imbalance is underscored when he is preparing to leave town. We know that he ends up staying but there’s a farewell between Audrey and Cooper. Audrey says “you know, there’s only one problem with you. You’re perfect.” Cooper smiles and Audrey leaves the room, but then Cooper has a disturbed look as returns to packing. We cut to a shot of the waterfall- not the usual one with the hotel sitting above, but the water rushing over rocks, similar to the return’s intro.

There are other water cues in episodes surrounding Maddie’s death: the sprinklers in the sheriff station dripping then flooding at Leland’s death, the river that carried the bodies of Laura and Maddie, though the waterfall is present throughout the series.

I haven’t given a think yet to how this factors with water in dark Lincoln’s poem, but even within the original run, water is used more subtly than fire but it’s there. This rewatch I’m seeing the water motif paired with this idea of Cooper being too perfect, thus not ready to meet his shadow.

Cooper is more than admirable. The only time we see him holding a beer is in one of the early episodes when he’s sitting with Hawk in the great northern before Leland starts crying and asking people to dance. Every time Cooper is around alcohol we don’t see him drink. He doesn’t smoke or use any drugs. He’s incredibly disciplined getting up at six in the morning to do yoga before breakfast.

These are all admirable traits to live a healthy life. We know Cooper has some darkness in his history, and that he’s presumably extra motivated to avoid any more mistakes like “what happened in Pittsburgh.”

I’m not saying that one needs to smoke or drink, or do anything classed as vice to be balanced. It’s not about the actions, but about Cooper’s ultra strait-laced mentality.

The phrase “everything in moderation” is usually applied to temper one’s vices. But on this rewatch, it hit me that Cooper might’ve done well to have tempered his virtues. He’s so far from the possibility of wrongdoing that he’s running away from his true nature, which includes moral failings. He gives the vibe of “well, I just won’t let anything bad happen again.” But we know that once a man leaves his home, he loses 100% of the ability to control his environment.

Cooper thought his willpower would be enough to overcome the absurd forces of existence. He seemed disturbed by Audrey’s assertion, like he knows it’s not good to be perfect, because perfect is not balanced.

Regardless, from this point forward Cooper does relax his discipline in his romance with Annie, and generally calming down. He stops wearing his FBI suit, goes camping with major Briggs, goes for a nature study on the lake. But I think by that point it was too late- or rather, too close to the time he was about to meet his double.

Cooper failed himself with such rigid confines, even within his own mind. He refused to recognize that Mr. C that dwelled within him and was the horrified to see him in episode 29. He was, to quote neo-spiritual lingo, actively suppressing his shadow. He didn’t want to acknowledge its existence, and not acknowledging an enemy is hardly good preparation to confront it.

Bringing this back to the log lady, she draws our attention to the fact that balance has seven numbers, reminding us of lucky seven insurance or the energy of 430. She tells us it’s difficult to balance unless we know how to divide, which brings to mind doppelgängers & tulpas. Because Cooper met his shadow with imperfect courage, he was divided, or Mr. C was ripped out of him and sent into the world.

In theory, to meet one’s double with perfect courage one might be integrated as a whole, or rather, one might remain as one already is because that shadow is always with us, as Wally Brando reminds. These days, it strikes me how much Mr. C is Cooper. He has that analytical, logical, cold edge that we did see in the original. We got to see funny, sweet Cooper too, but I can’t help but see that Mr. C has that same stony face that the original Cooper would put on. It’s understandable for a law man- they have hard jobs- but that cold uncaring mask was always a part of him. I don’t think it’s an evil doppelgänger going out into the world so much as it is that part of Cooper that was rent out, divided, allowed to run wild. Because he had not integrated his shadow, it grew larger and went rogue.

The log lady then remind us that there are pros and cons of division, though these seem to weigh towards cons from what we’ve seen in the return. Maybe her statement can’t be applied literally, but this idea has been percolating. The water motif, spiritual imbalance that will lead to vices consuming your life, and the parts in the path when Cooper went wrong.

None of this is to say that Cooper’s morality was for nothing. It makes all the difference in the world to act or not act on the potential for evil that lies within all of us. But Cooper was mentally restricting himself to the point of “spiritual sickness.” His rigid morality allowed him to be a decent person and good at his job but in a larger, spiritual sense it made him imbalanced, even if he was weighing down the good plate of the scale.

Again, it’s not to say that Cooper should have been smoking or drinking or sleeping with Audrey. It’s that overall, he was too rigid. He had very little social life. He seemingly had no connections to any family or friends. With the schedule he was working under, of course he was going to become fixated on Laura to his detriment.

By the time Cooper somewhat relaxes after solving Laura’s murder, he had already failed because he didn’t solve it in time to prevent Maddie’s. I’ve noticed that from the jump, there were two places that Cooper had major oversight:

The first time Cooper goes to the double R, he asks Norma for the list of Laura’s meals on wheels clients but never comes back to that. Maybe he had an underling interview the clients and no one responded with anything helpful, but I think it’s funny the universe insisted on pushing this angle onto Cooper ultimately through Donna’s investigative work. Finding the piece of Laura’s diary that says she and Cooper had the same dream was that final steppingstone to the person whose favorite gum was coming back in style.

The bigger oversight to me was Maddie herself. She’s my cousin, but doesn’t she look almost exactly like Laura Palmer? Cooper was fixated on solving every aspect of that dream. Crack the code, solve the crime. Judging by shots at Laura’s funeral, it seems that Cooper did see Maddie. There are shots through the priest’s eulogy where we see Cooper then cut to other characters then back to Cooper, which I interpret to be showing his reaction to the guests. It’s an investigative technique to go to a funeral and see how people might be reacting strangely.

It does seem like Cooper looks at Maddie as indicated by a shot of her, then a shot back to Cooper where he looks slightly confused like that girl looks familiar. In the real world there would be no point in interviewing a cousin of a victim who had only just arrived to town after the events, but knowing the cousin detail in his dream, it seems like an oversight on Cooper’s part not to talk to her.

Narratively it’s more satisfying for Maddie to have died- rest in peace- because it ups the stakes for Cooper to make that push into pretty weird territory. Lesser law men would’ve been happy to pin the whole thing on Jacques and/or Leo. Decent law men would’ve pinned it on Ben, but Cooper is able to push through to Leland. It took a third victim to go the extra mile.

I don’t know how talking to Maddie would’ve helped because she didn’t know much. Maybe Cooper could've then kept a closer eye on the James & Donna show, that actually revealed two important players Cooper overlooked. (Jacoby? I didn’t think he had anything to do with this!) It was a misstep for Cooper to not talk to the identical cousin when I would bet based on his observational skills and the shots at the funeral he definitely noticed her, and would’ve safely assumed it was a relative of Laura’s.

Now I’m just rambling. We all know Cooper was never perfect, but this stood out. I’ll add to this with more water cues from s2 specifically if there’s interest. Still having a lemonade and a think on how the water relates: regret? He who hesitates is lost?

Thanks for reading & sorry for lack of capitalizations & for misspelling Maddy’s name. Using speech to text.
 

Mr. Reindeer

White Lodge
Apr 13, 2022
775
1,740
I like this a lot. Cooper is such an interesting character because he is portrayed as this scion of morality and goodness, but there is also deep conflict in him (although I know others disagree with me about that; there was a good spirited discussion here on this topic a few weeks ago). Although Cooper was portrayed as a slightly colder, harder-edged character in the Pilot, it's almost like Lynch and Frost (and the other writers and directors--and Kyle, of course) did a course-correction, making him sweeter and goofier starting with Episode 1. Interestingly enough, Lynch has said he believes that the Pilot is the "real Twin Peaks," and when it came to Fire Walk with Me, where Lynch was operating much more autonomously without collaborators, the portrayal of Cooper feels to me more like the Pilot version again, with the somewhat childlike innocent charm that we all know and love from the series dialed back.

There is no denying that Cooper is a deeply noble, selfless person. When he very occasionally does things that are morally questionable (operating outside the FBI's jurisdiction, getting involved with Earle's wife), he feels deep regret and welcomes the consequences. But I personally (and again, I know others disagree) think that there has always been deep conflict in him, which becomes especially obvious in My Life, My Tapes, a book that Frost has mentioned was an influence when he was shaping his ideas on The Return. There seems to be some deeply embedded sense of shame that won't allow Cooper to fully enjoy the pleasures of life. I very consciously use the word "shame" as opposed to "guilt": guilt is premised on one having actually done something wrong, whereas shame is a much more abstract concept. It is tough to reconcile Cooper's seeming surface-level perfection and cheerfulness with this deep sense of conflict that seems to weigh on him, but that to me is what makes him such a compelling character, and the way that you've framed it in many ways gives voice to my own thoughts in a way I had never been able to articulate. I think he's so duty-bound and obsessed with honor that he denies himself the life he desires, and that's why, symbolically, parts of himself end up fracturing into Mr. C and Dougie, etc. I always come back to that quote he says to Audrey about what he wants and what he needs, which is ominously echoed by Mr. C in Part 2, and I think that distinction is a key to his character. He's so obsessed with control, and with his sense of duty and honor, that he denies himself even wholesome things that he desires, such as family.

And yeah, the relationship between Dale and alcohol is interesting. We see him hilariously sniff the Yukon Sucker Punch but never drink it, and in Episode 16 Albert offers him a flask (!) and he seems to refuse. We do see him drink a beer several times in outtakes circulated on bootlegs, but never in the show itself. Although realistically, I have to assume that if he has a beer on the table in front of him, he's drinking it, the shot always cuts away before he actually does.

And as for cigarettes, bizarrely enough, the ABC photoshoot for the Pilot is the one and only time we can see Cooper lighting up: The Mauve Zone: Click image to close this window

Anyway. I wish I had more to contribute, but I mostly just wanted to let you know that I really appreciated the way you framed these thoughts.
 
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NormaNorth

Sparkwood & 21
Dec 26, 2022
6
24
Thank you so much, I appreciate you taking the time. Cooper is such a satisfying character imo because he is so realistically conflicted. Even beyond ethereal “evil that men/humans do,” he is just a guy. I didn’t realize internal conflict was the topic of a spirited discussion, but I agree with you and maybe it’s for the best I missed that haha

Agree re Scott Frost backstory: Coop was a typical messed up teen but makes choices every day as an adult to not fail. It’s admirable but he divided himself. Similar to an addict, he wants to push from the past by not letting it happen again instead of recognizing, like someone further in recovery, that relapses may be inevitable, and how one deals with that is where the power lies.

It’s interesting there was a promo photo of Cooper smoking, I didn’t know! Jarring to see. It struck me as intentional that we don’t see Cooper smoke. Hell, even Albert lights up at one point and you’d think he would know better! I agree that Coop presumably drank that beer in the hotel lobby with Hawk, but that scene with Judge Sternwood always stuck out. TBH I can’t drink during while I’m working, but it did seem standoffish, like he’s better than them.

I agree Cooper has this conflict, even for those who don’t consider my life my tapes. It’s more evident to me after the return. Just his relationship with Diane... Watching the original run these days, it strikes me as almost cruel for Cooper to have been telling Diane some personal things if he really had feelings for her like that.

Granted, maybe they didn’t even realize their feelings at the time. I don’t think Cooper was being intentionally careless, but it’s just my own discomfort thinking of the progression of their relationship. IMO the crux of their relationship is not even romantic/sexual, but moreso that they are friends who both know the intricate story and at various points, intimacy occurs. I mean their xes was decidedly not yxes, but I got the feeling she always carried a torch for him based on her Naido reveal.

Anyway, that behavior coupled with the doing-pushups-off-the doorframe in TMP gave me major douche vibes, which I actually like cause it brought Cooper down to earth. He really is just some guy. And this is I think where his do-gooder persona is (sometimes, not wholly) insincere to the point of causing spiritual weakness.

Also in ep15 is one of my favorite scenes is when Cooper is interviewing Ben. Cooper says something like well, a wild young girl like Laura, things spin out of control…He’s clearly using this as a bluff to get Ben to confess, but it shows me Coop was a lot more like Ben than he’d like. An earlier scene where Ben suggests Audrey has Cooper wrapped around her finger, pissed him off and he responded with something like well, I only have the best of intentions to which Ben responds that’s abundantly clear.

Cooper distances himself in his public persona from men like Ben, even to an extent from Harry as he is slightly judgmental of his affair with Josie. Cooper wants to fly high above the temptations “lesser men” fall victim to, but deep down he knows he’s not immune to those “appetites.” The conflict is there and possibly intentional in MacLachlan’s performance.

It’s like Cooper is too focused on presenting only the good but that’s not really knowing yourself, not fully. I think that’s why Ben doesn’t buy Cooper’s schtick, because Cooper acted so uptight when Ben would even suggest others noticed his and Audrey’s flirtation, but then in the interview he’s playing “chummy cop” as if he could understand why Ben would sleep with Laura. So Ben knows he is full of it because his whole time in town, Cooper has been acting like a saint. I imagine he evokes an irritation among people and especially fellow men akin to cloistered religious sects. Oh, you think you’re better than us mere mortals cause you deny yourself every pleasure?

I will say when I first discovered this show I didn’t see it but now sitting with the whole work post-return, it stands out. I can understand the cold/warm variations were due to direction and scripting cause no one knew if the pilot would pop off. Then again it made sense for me cause at first cooper is new in town. He has to have a sense of decorum as one of the highest law officers in the land. But as the series progresses he has that cold edge, especially towards other men. For instance, he’s pretty stern with James, I always felt a bit unreasonably so. But Cooper doesn’t lecture Audrey for the absolutely suicidal idea to go undercover at a brothel. Granted she already learned the hard way.

People are like that. We can be warm and goofy then cold. Maybe it is because Cooper carries this shame that he can appreciate joy all the more. Rupaul has said on his podcast that the Pollyanna archetype is actually an ascended master and this idea has always reminded me of Coop.

His conflict is all tied back to his asceticism, what you say about shame vs guilt. Honor bound is a good way to put it because he beats himself up over thoughts in his head that haven’t even happened. Meanwhile, men like Ben have no shame, at least not at that point. Cooper won’t even think about straying. More of his thinking he can force himself into never making a mistake, even “thinking wrong.”

Now that I’m thinking about it, I could relate the water motif to cooper being a “wet blanket” in some ways. First sign of feeling “eager for fun” and I imagine he would take a cold shower, sometimes literally lol. The bodies of the dead girls flow on the river to be found, maybe connected to the idea that men like Cooper, who juxtapose themselves to the Ben Hornes of the world, are still complicit in the “evil that men do” because they are individually opting out of systemic violence, which does nothing to help victims at large. But these are half baked ideas.

Sorry for the long winded reply but thanks again, I’m glad you got something from it :)
 
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