Twin Peaks, the beloved cult series created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, is returning to Showtime on Sunday. It’s been 26 years since the original show went off the air. At the time, the show was like a fever dream that warped the conventions of television. But it was also a soap opera with all the complex characters and plot twists that go with that genre.
The series ended with an infamous cliffhanger, one that fans hope the new episodes will address. Here’s a refresher on what happened to Agent Cooper and his foes. Spoilers for the original series abound!
Why Did Agent Cooper come to Twin Peaks?
FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), a boy scout with a sweet tooth, arrives in the logging town of Twin Peaks to figure out who killed Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). While in Twin Peaks, Cooper teams up with Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean). This case served as the central mystery of the series, but it’s resolved by episode seven of season two. The remaining 15 episodes delved into plots about Civil War reenactments and a 30-something cheerleader with super-strength.
Who is Laura Palmer?
Laura Palmer was the high school homecoming queen who volunteered for Meals on Wheels, but Cooper quickly learns she had many secrets. She was addicted to cocaine, moonlit as a prostitute at a casino and brothel called One Eyed Jack’s and cheated on her boyfriend Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) with several men, including the motorcycle-driving James Hurley (James Marshall). But literally every character in this town is also having an affair or selling drugs, so it actually doesn’t end up being that crazy.
Who is BOB?
BOB (Frank Silva) is an evil, long-haired spirit who molested Laura throughout her childhood and later killed her. Laura’s mother, Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie), spotted BOB behind Laura’s bed in a vision in an early episode. Cooper also saw him in a dream.
Early in season two it becomes clear that BOB is inhabiting the body of Laura’s father Leland Palmer (Ray Wise): When Leland looks in the mirror Bob stares back. Leland was possessed by BOB when he killed Laura. He also kills Laura’s cousin and doppelgänger Maddy (also played by Sheryl Lee). It takes a few more episodes after this reveal for Cooper and Harry to figure out exactly what happened.
How did Agent Cooper solve the case?
His approach is non-traditional, especially as he uses the “the Tibetan method” of throwing rocks and bottles to narrow down his list of suspects. Cooper also follows clues from several dreams, where he interacts with characters like a one-armed man named Mike and another named BOB. He also dreams of sitting in a red room with Laura Palmer and a small man (Michael J. Anderson) who dances around. Laura walks over to Cooper and whispers in his ear. Cooper also has several encounters with a giant (Carel Struycken) who offers clues.
The police find a one-armed man inhabited by a spirit named Mike. Mike used to kill with BOB, but then gave up his murdering ways. He points Cooper in the right direction. After uncovering Laura’s secret diary (in a plot line involving a shut-in with a plant fetish), Cooper deduces that the dancing man from the red room represents Leland’s exuberant waltzing. He also remembers that Laura whispered, “My father killed me” in the dream.
Cooper and Harry trap Leland in an interrogation room. BOB admits to the crime and leaves Leland’s body. Leland tragically recalls everything that happened as he dies. He says that BOB tried to possess Laura, the way he possessed Leland, but she resisted so he killed her.
Who is Windom Earle?
Once the main villain of the series is set aside, the writers introduce a chess-obsessed lunatic as Cooper’s next adversary: Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh). Cooper and Earle used to be partners and best friends. When Cooper fell in love with Earle’s wife, Caroline (Brenda E. Mathers), Earle killed her and tried to kill Cooper.
Earle comes to Twin Peaks with two missions: Kill Cooper and find a mystical place called the Black Lodge (more on that later). Major Garland Briggs (Don S. Davis), a member of the Air Force living in Twin Peaks, reveals to Cooper that Earle worked with him on Project Blue Book investigating UFOs. Earle’s obsession with the Black Lodge got him dismissed from the government project.
Earle eventually kidnaps Cooper’s love interest Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham — yes, really) to lure Cooper to the Black Lodge.
What are the Black Lodge and the White Lodge?
They are mystical locations. The Black Lodge offers power to the dark-hearted, like Earle, while the White Lodge imbues good people like Cooper with power. In the last episode of the series, Cooper follows Earle into the Black Lodge to discover that the Red Room from his dream is the waiting room.
What was the cliffhanger?
The David Lynch-directed final episode is dream logic at its best. Cooper enters the Black Lodge and encounters the dwarf, Laura, the giant, the Great Northern Hotel waiter, Maddy, his long-lost love Caroline, Annie, Leland and BOB.
There, Earle tells Cooper that he will let Annie live in exchange for Cooper’s soul. Cooper agrees (even though Annie is way less cool than Audrey), and Earle kills him. However BOB reverses the process because Earle can’t ask for Cooper’s soul — even monsters have rules — and BOB takes Earle’s soul instead.
Cooper leaves, but not before he sees another version of himself with blue eyes and a creepy laugh. Possessed Cooper chases down real Cooper and grabs him. Cooper and Annie (bloodied but fine) reappear in the forest where they disappeared, and Harry finds them.
Cooper wakes up in his hotel bed and tells Harry he needs to brush his teeth. He enters the bathroom, squeezes out an entire tube of toothpaste into the sink and then rams his head into the mirror. When the camera pulls back, BOB’s reflection is looking back in the broken glass. The episode ends with BOB as Cooper repeatedly asking “How’s Annie?” and laughing. It’s seriously creepy. End of show.
Wait, that’s it?
So what does that mean for the new episodes?
Showtime and Lynch have revealed very little about the new episodes, including whether or not the returning cast are playing their original characters. The fates of most characters are unclear, but we do know that Kyle MacLachlan will return as Agent Cooper. The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Mark Frost’s 2016 book about the series, offered a small hint: Major Briggs has his suspicions that something is wrong with Cooper.
One last thing
In the final episode, Laura Palmer tells Cooper in the Red Room that she’ll see him again in 25 years. That was in 1991. Originally, Showtime’s reboot of Twin Peaks was supposed to air last year, exactly 25 years after the show wrapped. It’s a little late, but that line remains eerily prescient.