Jump to content


Return to Monkey Island = Twin Peaks: The Return (change my mind)

Ahoy Fancy Pants

Recommended Posts

OK, so the title of this post is really just an invitation to someone who's smarter than I am to deliver a real honest-to-goodness analysis comparing Twin Peaks: The Return and Return to Monkey Island. Dantoine in another thread (here) brought up this comparison, and I think it's a great one, well worth exploring. In both cases, the original creators (David Lynch for Twin Peaks, Ron Gilbert and Dave Grossman for Monkey Island) return decades later to pick up and "wrap up" their original stories that never received proper conclusions. In both cases, the creators insisted on full control to create exactly what their vision was. And in both cases, the results were not what many expected or necessarily wanted, in some cases actively pushing back against the very concept of there being such a thing as a satisfying conclusion.


I'd argue that Gilbert and Grossman are way more in the camp of "give 'em what they want" than Lynch is. RTMI is much more inviting than Twin Peaks: The Return, which at times felt intentionally alienating. But I can't help but feel that they share a lot of the same DNA philosophically in regards to the tension between storytellers and their audience.


What is the story that needs to be told that justifies coming back after all these years? Do they have a story so compelling that they felt a need to share it with the world? Is it more of a feeling of obligation because the fans demand it? How much is motivated by money? If the answer to that is, a lot, does that taint the experience? How much is motivated by ego? Isn't storytelling largely ego-driven to begin with? Is it possible to deliver a satisfying follow-up to a popular, legacy franchise without coming across as pandering?


RTMI is first and foremost a fun and silly game, and these are some philosophical questions that a casual observer might argue are looking for depth where it isn't merited. But just because it doesn't present itself as Art (with a capital A) the way so much of Twin Peaks: The Return did doesn't mean it doesn't warrant the same level of scrutiny.


At any rate, it's fun! Not just the game itself but talking and debating about it. If nothing else, maybe we'll make some friends along the way!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw the end of Twin Peaks the Return in part as Frost and Lynch doubling down on an indictment of coopers self-motivated and maybe self-satisfied and definitely hubristic belief that he has the power to save people who are beyond saving, or maybe don’t want to be saved, or maybe don’t need to be saved. It happened a bit at the end of the series 2 finale, happened again in fwwm (his advice about whether or not Laura should take the ring), and was aggressively doubled down on at the end of The Return, where after already combusting multiple times attempting this, Coop fights his way out of the black lodge (or whatever it is) only to drag a seemingly random woman to Laura Palmers house, arguably doing far more harm to the universe than good in the process. That image at the original series finale of him smashing his head into the mirror again and again was stuck in my brain as the scene cut to black at the end of season 3.

Unsurprisingly some fans were absolutely livid at this: Where’s coopers heroic end? Why didn’t he save Laura for good? Lynch is trolling us, spitting in our faces! It’s more of the same!


I feel like with Twin Peaks The Return, Frost and Lynch were at least in part saying, definitively, “you heard us the first two times,” knowing some people won’t like that at all but doing it anyway. 

Like you said, I don’t think Gilbert and Grossman were being as arms-length about it, and I feel like across the prologue, entirety of Part 5, and the epilogue, they satisfyingly answer far more than Peaks ever did (and more than I expected them to with Monkey, to be honest. But like Frost and Lynch, I think they were definitely declaring “we don’t ever want you to be 100% comfortable with this, and we never did. If you missed that the first time, now it is laid out even more clearly.”

I’ve never minded that about 2, and found Return’s… return to those ideas super thrilling. As a kid it was actually probably my first exposure to an ambiguous and deliberately unsettling ending like that, and I remember not feeling ripped off or betrayed, but more “oh I guess stories can end like that? that’s cool”* and then had almost thirty years of food for thought on lots of subjects. 

* I first played 2 on easy and wasn’t sure I’d found the real ending, but because I didn’t like it but because it was irregular, so I replayed on hard and got the same one and said “okay that’s how it is.” 


  • Like 1
  • Chef's Kiss 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jake, thank you so much for taking the bait! I appreciate the response... it's certainly more concrete than anything I took away from my viewing of The Return.


I'm also someone who always kinda liked MI2's ending. I felt like it was a really nice balance between a parody of a cliffhanger ending and a real cliffhanger ending, with just enough ambiguity for the player to draw their own conclusions. I'm still coming to terms with RTMI's ending which feels too close to a rehash of MI2's ending, with a different coat of a ambiguity painted on it. (Not to mention the reveal of "The Secret" as something intentionally/unavoidably anticlimactic.)


Which is also how I felt about Twin Peaks: The Return's ending. While the story arc was consistent with Cooper's character, the big climax in Twin Peaks (the town) was oddly anticlimactic, with an epilogue that introduced an out-of-the-blue cliffhanger that will almost certainly never be paid off (and probably is never intended to be.)


In neither case was the ending "an accident" and they're certainly intending to convey something to the audience about endings... but again, it seems like we're covering the same territory previously covered, which brings me back to the question of, what motivated this return in the first place?


Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the hell out of Return to Monkey Island, and I'm so glad that it exists! Some of my disappointment in the ending is simply that the game is over. But a greater meaning aside from "story endings are weird and hard!" just keeps slipping through my fingers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 9/27/2022 at 7:20 PM, Jake said:

happened again in fwwm (his advice about whether or not Laura should take the ring)


I agree with The Return's ending as being hubristic. Cooper definitely bit off more than he could chew in trying to save Laura.


However, FWWM ends with Laura weeping with joy, safe from Bob in the Black Lodge/Red Room... It's only really The Return that turns it into an unhappy ending. Which is a bit controversial, if you ask me, but I'll go with it.


I also don't see the ending of Season 2 as being anything more than attempt to boost ratings with a cliff-hanger ending (like season 1 had). Maybe that's a bit cynical, but, you know, "market realities" and all that (I seem to recall and an interview with Frost/Lynch where they explicitly mentioned having a doozy of a cliff-hanger during the whole "COOP" campaign).


(And technically Frost wasn't involved in FWWM or (really) the season 2 finale, but anyway...)



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I HAD THIS EXACT THOUGHT WHEN I FINISHED IT!!! I'm a huge David Lynch fan and it was pretty obvious that Ron is pretty big TP fan after playing Thimbleweed Park (hrm, TP...coincidence?) A lot of the themes and story beats are almost exactly the same. The whole idea of chasing the glory days, both of the original towns are falling into a state of ruin as the old guard is phased out, and that ending had some real "What year is it?" vibes. Heck, both of them have insanely meta endings that acknowledge each of their mediums. I could rant for a while about all the similarities...and maybe some day I'll do that lol

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...