A Guide To The Numerology Of 'Twin Peaks: The Return'

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New episodes of 'Twin Peaks' premiere May 21 on Showtime.
New episodes of 'Twin Peaks' premiere May 21 on Showtime. Showtime

After reminding us of Laura Palmer’s promise to Dale Cooper — “I’ll see you again in 25 years” — and after our first reprise of Angelo Badalamenti’s timeless score, Twin Peaks: The Return opens in black and white, with The Giant (now credited as ???????), a being of mysterious power and foreknowledge. “Agent Cooper, listen to the sounds,” he says and the two look over at a scratchy gramophone. “It all cannot be said aloud now. Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.”

“I understand,” Cooper says. But we don’t. Not yet, anyway. We don’t even know Richard and Linda yet, let alone what 430 signifies. But in that line we witness not just the old Twin Peaks mysteries — the nature of garmonbozia, the Black Lodge, BOB and MIKE — but the contours of new, mysterious territory. David Lynch has found numerology.

430 is just the beginning. Mysterious numbers are scattered across the first four episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return: 253, 119, 15, 3, 315. Some of these have clear referents in the plot — the numbers pointing to the time of future events, the fulfillment of prophecy or even a hotel room in which Agent Cooper’s soul has bifurcated. But always — as Twin Peaks: The Return explores duplicates, betrayal, the afterlife, identity and the outer bounds of reality — there is the possibility for additional meaning, layered like the nested mental processes stacked atop our living guts.

Perhaps with the help of long dead mystics and mathematician David Wells’ fascinating book The Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers we can uncover some of these hidden dimensions, lurking in the endlessly fascinating folds of the new Twin Peaks.

First though, a word of warning.

Showtime president David Nevins said, “I sense that David takes numbers and numerology very seriously,” but I’m not so convinced. Lynch operates on the level of symbols, but never on the one-to-one correspondences of math. He is an artist of intuition, emotion and mystery. The numbers scattered around Twin Peaks are expressions of what all numbers express by their place on its continuum: infinity. They are first and foremost mysteries, not answers. And picking at the cosmic mysteries of the new Twin Peaks will never be like picking apart the plot mysteries of Westworld or Lost.


The Giant to Dale Cooper: “It all cannot be said aloud now. Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.”

??????? (Carel Struycken), formerly known as The Giant, delivers a message to Dale Cooper in 'Twin Peaks: The Return.'
??????? (Carel Struycken), formerly known as The Giant, delivers a message to Dale Cooper in 'Twin Peaks: The Return.' Showtime

We don’t know what this number means to the plot. We don’t know Richard and Linda. We don’t know what 430 means. But, like 253 and 315 (which we’ll get to shortly), it may not be meant to be taken as a whole.

Since the time of the original numerologists, the Pythagorean Greeks, the number four has symbolized harmony and justice. Its balance made it the base of the tetractys, a pyramid composed of four rows, each row corresponding to the first four whole numbers, each with symbolic valences of their own. In organizing and underlying the unity of the monad (1), the power of the dyad (2) and the harmony of the triad (3), the number four encompasses the Kosmos, anchoring the music of the spheres and all universal order.

The body is united in four humours, the world arrayed on four compass points. Four represents the simplest of the Platonic solids — if one is a point, two a line and three a surface, then four is the dimension of reality and the solidity of shape and form. Einstein’s space-time is built on four dimensions.

30, as the sum of the first four squares (1+4+9+16), also takes pyramidal form, though its symbolism is less associated with stability and order. Instead, 30 is a dangerous number — a transitional age in the life of a human being, the priced paid in silver to Judas Iscariot and the number of Russell Crowe’s band, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts.

30 is also the number of a binary star system in John Dreyer’s New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Cluster of Stars, a record of deep space objects still in use today, nearly 130 years after its compilation. What could be more appropriate for the David Lynch cosmology, in which every non-corporeal being has its doppelganger, even the arm of MIKE?

To get a bit horoscope-y: uttered by The Giant, long a guide to humans encountering the mysteries of the supernatural Black and White Lodge, 430 promises answers. When we discover its corollary in the mundane world, expect it to be a movement toward order for Dale Cooper, rather than an indication of oncoming chaos.


The arm of MIKE to Dale Cooper: “253. Time and time again. Bob. Bob. Bob.”

Even the arm has a doppelganger in 'Twin Peaks: The Return.'
Even the arm has a doppelganger in 'Twin Peaks: The Return.' Showtime

Unlike our free-form guessing at the meaning of 430, 253 has a clear plot utility in Twin Peaks: The Return. It’s the window of time in which Dale Cooper can re-enter our world. And even after his attempt is thwarted by the arm’s doppelganger (the first time), Cooper journeys back to that moment (time again). We witness this time on several clocks, including on the wristwatch of Ronette Pulaski, BOB’s other target in the original Twin Peaks, who survives the assault that claims the life of Laura Palmer.

In the third episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, at 2:53, Dale Cooper exits the mysterious, asynchronous Purple Room. And though he was meant to retake his own body from BOB/the Doppelganger, he instead finds himself taking the place of yet another duplicate, an artificial construct named Dougie Jones, seemingly manufactured by the doppelganger to protect him from getting sucked back into the Lodge. Now there are two Dale Coopers on Earth and one must kill the other.

But why 2:53?

I was bummed to discover that the telephone area code for Snoqualmie, Washington, real-world location for Twin Peaks landmarks like that giant waterfall and the Great Northern Lodge, is just outside of the 253 area code (it’s 425, instead).

The number 253 has no numerological or historical resonances of note that I could find.

Curious and Interesting Numbers has only one relevant detail for 53: “If there are 53 people in a room, the chance that no pair of them have the same birthday is approximately 1/53.” This makes it an auspicious time for Dale Cooper’s rebirth and doubled bodies (Dougie and BOB) — it’s a number of duplicated birth.

15, 3, 315

The 15 portal.
The 15 portal. Showtime

At the beginning of the third episode, Dale Cooper explores a mysterious realm after being cast from the Lodge (“non-exist-ent!” the arm’s doppelganger screeches at Cooper before the floor splits apart, dropping him into black water). He arrives in a purple room, where an eyeless woman, Naido, warns him against interacting with a bizarre wall socket with the number “15” inscribed on it.

Instead, Naido leads him up the ladder and out of the room, which floats in a star-filled void. Naido flips a switch and receives an electrical shock that blasts her out and away. When Cooper returns to the room, the socket number has changed to three.

Combine the two for 315, Agent Dale Cooper’s room number in the Great Northern Lodge throughout the original Twin Peaks, still embossed on the room key keychain in his pocket.

The numbered sockets, selected by Naido’s flip of an electric switch, seem to lead to electrical portals in our own world. Naido warns Cooper away from 15, which looks out through the cigarette lighter in the car driven by the Doppelganger. Could this mean each number has its corresponding socket, leading to a different Black and White Lodge entity, in a different human body on Earth? It’s tempting to imagine the various connections as Twin Peaks’ own Weapon X program, with higher numbers like BOB’s 15 indicating higher levels of power.

But the most important aspect is how the numbers split 315, indicating a corresponding split in Dale Cooper, who has made it back to Earth, but remains an incomplete person until he can expel the Doppelganger possessing his body. Numbers represent Dale’s conflict, bridging this Twin Peaks and the original, with his room at the Great Northern representing the wedge on which his personality has been split.

While 315 has no obvious numerological importance (even summing its constituent parts, giving us the number nine, doesn’t reveal anything obviously applicable), its connection to the Ides of March and the assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15 (3/15) could speak to the coming conflict between Cooper and his doppelganger. The Ides of March was an important day of transition and change, even before Julius Caesar’s death. It is the turning over of one year for the next; the end of one epoch and the beginning of another.

Breaking down 315 evokes even more powerful imagery that could apply to Twin Peaks. The number three, in particular, is perhaps the most symbolically laden number of all.

Three has long been a symbol of religion, with trinities of gods well-established centuries before Christianity’s father, son and holy ghost. There are three realms: the Earth, the underworld and the heavens, represented in Twin Peaks by the Black and White Lodges. Three is the number of oaths — which are to be repeated three times. Three represents promises and covenants and bindings that unite.

According to Wells, the Pythagoreans viewed three as the very first odd number rather than one, since the Greeks “did not consider unity to be a number.” Three is the first number with a story, because “it possesses a beginning, and middle and an end.”

There could be no more important number to symbolize Dale Cooper’s journey back to himself, to reunite his constituent parts and become the whole man that can defeat the Black Lodge that defeated him 25 years ago.

As the number of the Doppelganger, 15 is not nearly as powerful, but that doesn’t mean it’s without religious meaning. Most evocatively, in the Hebrew numbering system 15 is written as a combination of nine and six, to avoid combining the words for 10 and five, which together spell out a name of God. Where three is the number that completes the godhead, uniting the spiritual and mundane, 15 dances around the gods, so as to avoid their censure. And doesn’t that sound just like our Doppelganger?


Mysterious Woman: “1-1-9! 1-1-9! 1-1-9!”

What does 119 mean and why does she keep shouting it?
What does 119 mean and why does she keep shouting it? Showtime

Across the street from the house where Dale Cooper returns to Earth, taking the place of Dougie Jones, a young boy peers through the blinds. A woman, covered in bruises and small wounds, sits at a card table strewn with pill bottles, packs of cards. “1-1-9! 1-1-9! 1-1-9!” she shouts, before washing down a large blue pill with a glass of Evan Williams whiskey. And that’s all we know of these characters.

Movie Pilot probably has the best explanation: the woman has reversed 911. It’s the opposite of a cry for help. But given the complete lack of context, 119 may be the most mysterious number yet introduced in Twin Peaks: The Return. At least 430 is spoken by a supernatural being, implying prophecy and import.

Though there are multiple layers of numerological symbolism associated with “nine” and near infinite lines of meaning radiating from “one,” the 911 angle seems a more likely source of meaning. If any modern number could be said to have magical heft, then 911 would be one of the most powerful. It is a number bound up with violence and death, boiling down every possible crime and emergency into three digits with the power of summoning.

It’s also the number of the September 11th attacks, one of the defining events in our current eras, with magical resonances all its own:

ALSO READ: 'Back to the Future Predicts 9/11' Filmmaker Explains What Makes Robert Zemeckis A Cosmic Pre-Cog

If 911 — selected by a combination of a President Lyndon Johnson committee tasked with repairing the criminal justice system and AT&T at the height of its powers — represents an effort to control and manage a violent world, what will its opposite mean for Twin Peaks? There is great power here, though it’s inchoate for now.

With this guide we’re only scratching the surface of what’s possible in numerological readings of the new Twin Peaks, a show we’ll be analyzing and thinking about for years to come. All of this fussing could indicate not much at all. Perhaps these numbers are just numbers. But rarely has a show highlighted the importance of numerology so blatantly, signalling again and again the intimate connections between individual numbers and the grand mysteries of the Twin Peaks cosmogony.

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