Understanding the Purpose of Backward Talking

Synopsis

Often, many creatures in Season 3 speak in a weird, backward way. The way this technique is performed, the actor or actress will record something spoken normally. They will then play that backward, and record themselves trying to imitate the backward recording. That new recording will then be played backward, and that is the final recording we hear in the show.

Hypothesis

“Extra-dimensional Areas,” or EDAs, consist of: The Dutchman’s, The Waiting Room, The Mauve Zone

  • Dead people, while in EDAs, speak backward
  • Lodge creatures, while in EDAs, speak backward
  • The Fireman, while in EDAs, speaks backward
  • Living humans, while in EDAs, speak forward
  • Tulpas, while in EDAs, speak forward
  • Extra-dimensional living humans, such as Briggs and Jeffries, speak forward
  • Outside of EDAs (in the “real” world) everybody speaks forward
  • Mr. C, while he’s switched with Coop, speaks forward

The backward talking serves as a narrative clue to the origins of the character doing the talking.

The Facts

Forward

  • Episode 1:
    • Coop talks forward while speaking with the Fireman
  • Episode 2:
    •  Coop talks forward while talking with Laura Palmer
  • Episode 3:
    • Garland Briggs’ head says, “Blue Rose,” forward
    • Coop talks forward to Naido
    • Dougie-Tulpa talks forward to Mike in the Waiting Room
  • Episode 15
    • Mr. C talks forward at the Dutchman’s
    • Jeffries talks forward at the Dutchman’s
  • Episode 17
    • Mike talks forward when reciting the Magician’s poem
    • Jeffries and Coop talk forward to each other
  • Episode 18
    • Coop Tulpa talks forward while in the Waiting Room

Backward

  • Episode 1:
    • The Fireman talks backward in his home
  • Episode 2:
    • Laura Palmer talks backward
    • Mike talks backward while in the Waiting Room
    • The Evolution of the Arm talks backward
    • Leland talks backward
    • The Arm’s Doppelganger talks backward
  • Episode 3:
    • American Girl (Phoebe Augustine) talks backward
    • multiple episodes: Mike talks backwards any time he’s talking to Dougie-Coop from the Waiting Room
  • Episode 14:
    • The Fireman talks backward to Andy
  • Episode 15:
    • The Bosomy Woman talks backward to Mr. C at the Dutchman’s
  • Episode 16:
    • Mike talks backward to Diane-Tulpa in the Waiting Room
  • Episode 17:
    • Mike talks backward when saying “electricity” to help Coop time travel
  • Episode 18:
    • Mike talks backward when creating Coop-Tulpa
    • The Arm talks backward in the Waiting Room
    • Leland talks backward in the Waiting Room

Analysis

  • Dead people, while in EDAs, speak backward
    • Laura is always seen speaking backward (while dead) after she is saved and disappears, we don’t see her speaking at all
    • Leland, while in the Waiting Room, always speaks backwards. We know he’s dead in both timelines thanks to the Final Dossier (after Laura goes missing, Leland commits suicide)
  • Lodge creatures, while in EDAs, speak backward
    • Mike and the Arm are obvious– they always speak backwards in EDAs, whether in the Waiting Room or The Dutchman’s
    • The bosomy woman also speaks backwards in The Dutchman’s
  • The Fireman, while in EDAs, speaks backward
    • We only ever see him in EDAs, and he never speaks forward
  • Living humans, while in EDAs, speak forward
    • Coop is the only living human we see in any EDA, and he always speaks forward
  • Tulpas, while in EDAs, speak forward
    • All three Tulpas speak forward while in the Waiting Room, whether dead or alive.
  • Extra-dimensional living humans, such as Briggs and Jeffries, speak forward
    • We never hear Briggs or Jeffries speak backward, even though we only see them in EDAs. Briggs with “Blue Rose,” and Jeffries’ two conversations with the two Coopers.
  • Outside of EDAs (in the “real” world) everybody speaks forward
    • We saw this in FWWM as well. Lodge beings often have to venture into the real world. When this happens, they are capable of speaking normally.
    • However, the only time we see this confirmed in season 3 is when Mike briefly recites the Magician’s chant to Coop in episode 17
  • Mr. C, while he’s switched with Coop, speaks forward even in EDAs
    • Mr. C seems to have special rules applied to him. Although we never hear him speak while in the Waiting Room, he speaks forward while talking to Jeffries in The Dutchman’s. From the season 2 finale (and in season 3 with the Arm’s doppelganger) we know that doppelgangers laugh and speak backward in the Waiting Room. Mr. C may behave differently, because he’s ‘replaced’ Coop in the real world, which would grant him the privilege of permanent forward talk when he wants it.

Results

The two strongest trends are: Lodge beings always talk backwards in EDAs, and living humans never talk backwards. From those 2, the rest follow based on the patterns we see emerge in season 3.

The backward talking serves as a narrative clue to the origins of the character doing the talking.

Building Off This Post

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3 thoughts on “Understanding the Purpose of Backward Talking

  1. Great work, as always!

    But for this one I think there may be some evidence that suggests otherwise. In the season 2 finale, Annie and Windom Earl speak backwards. Also, the singer speaks (sings) forward, though I’m not sure he’s a canon character.

    I always assumed Coop (and the Tulpas) speak normal because the scene is from their point of view. I assumed to everyone else they still sound backwards.

    And yet the scenes that contradict that are Mr C + Jeffries and Coop + Briggs Head.

    Maybe David/Mark just didn’t have consistent rules hammered out in Season 2.

    If the theory is true, one thing it sort of informs us about is Audrey. I think it confirms beyond any doubt that Audrey’s circumstances must somehow be related to something extra-dimensional, because the band is playing backwards.

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  2. Thank you!

    I’ll try to find the source– Lynch or Frost talked about how the rules are different for Season 3 then they were for the original run. In general, I view season 3 as distinct from the original run (and Lynch/Frost mentioned they didn’t rewatch the original run when writing the new season, just FWWM and The Missing Pieces) so I don’t really look to the original run at all as a source of info for patterns like these

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