‘Twin Peaks’ the Return: A Guide to the Story So Far

Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

As we reach the halfway point of Twin Peaks: The Return, it’s time to reflect on the story so far and the burning questions we have heading into the latter half of season. Warning: Spoilers ahead. 

So far the return to Twin Peaks has been nothing short of an artistic triumph — a bold, uncompromising, cinematic spectacle unlike anything else on television. Last Sunday’s brain-busting eighth installment, which included nuclear explosions, abominable amphibians, and nicotine-craving woodsmen, was the most abstract yet. In the words of Bushnell Mullins, it’s certainly given us a lot to think about, and as the show takes a break for Fourth of July weekend, it provides the perfect opportunity to gather our thoughts before we pick the story back up.

While some believe Twin Peaks is more satisfying when left unanalyzed – and it’s certainly fair to enjoy the show simply on a visual level – it somewhat undermines the role of Lynch-Frost as storytellers to ignore what’s going on. Yes, the narrative isn’t always linear and often relies on experimental images and ideas, but the writing and directing are very deliberate. The story wanders through destinations, decades and dimensions with purpose, scenes that at first seem singular begin to connect  when you start laying everything out on the table.

Here is your guide to the main stories (so far) of Twin Peaks: The Return.

Michael Horse in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

HAWK IS ON A MISSION

“Deputy Hawk, if I’m ever lost, I hope you’re the man they send to find me.” — Agent Cooper, Season 2, Episode 10.

In the season premiere, Deputy Chief Hawk (Michael Horse) receives a call from The Log Lady (the late Catherine Coulson) who tells him: “Something is missing, and you have to find it. It has to do with Special Agent Dale Cooper. The way you will find it has something to do with your heritage.”

Hawk has been trying to crack the code ever since, and through chocolate bunny distractions and Deputy Chad (John Pirruccello) dickishness, he eventually stumbled upon the biggest clue of the series. Stuffed in a toilet cubicle door panel in the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department are pages from Laura Palmer’s diary. Scribbled on one of those pages is a message Laura received from Annie Blackburn in a dream: “The good Dale is in the Lodge, and he can’t leave.”

The last time we saw Hawk, he brought Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster) up to date, and the two were attempting to trace the last known whereabouts of Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan). A helpful Doc Hayward (the late Warren Frost) tells Sheriff Truman he last saw Cooper leaving ICU after possibly visiting a comatose Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn).

Burning Questions: Will Hawk’s search lead him into the Black Lodge? And is it possible that whatever Hawk finds there will help Coop snap out of his Dougie phase? Maybe the thing that is missing to do with Agent Cooper is still missing, and it’s what is needed to bring him back (like the gold ball for example).

Kyle MacLachlan in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

THE DOPPELGANGER’S DILEMMA

“If there’s one thing you should know about me, Ray, is that I don’t need anything. I want.” — Mr. C, Season 3, Part 2.

One of the first shocking moments of the new series was seeing a sun-damaged Agent Cooper rocking a leather jacket and Glenn Danzig wig. Of course, we quickly learn this isn’t lovable Coop, but his demonic doppelganger, Mr. C (aka Evil Coop). Evil Coop is a cold-hearted, merciless, force of darkness who has escaped both prison and death. He’s looking for “coordinates” which his sidekick Ray (George Griffith) obtained from the secretary of accused murderer Bill Hastings (Matthew Lillard).

It’s unclear what exactly Evil Coop has been up to for the past quarter century, apart from gorging on pain and sorrow and buying Tony Montana style mansions. We know BOB (the late Frank Silva) is still riding with him (or at least was before his death and resurrection last week). He has a relationship with a woman named Chantal (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who hasn’t been seen since the premiere. He may or may not have contact with Phillip Jeffries. And he possibly visited Audrey in the ICU before he left Twin Peaks. Now, with his party days coming to an end, and the Lodge calling him home, Evil Coop is thrust into the spotlight and onto the radar of the FBI.

The leather-clad badass staved off his homecoming by manufacturing a Cooper-Clone (Dougie Jones), who is sucked into the Lodge instead, leaving both Good Coop and Evil Coop out in the real world. According to The One Armed Man (Al Strobel), one of them must die to set things right, but given that Evil Coop can rise from the dead, that’s going to be easier said than done.

Burning Questions: Is BOB still part of Evil Coop post-resurrection? If not, how does that change Evil Coop, and where is BOB now? What are the coordinates he wants, and what is his plan with them? Is it the location of another Lodge portal? Perhaps a way to the White Lodge?

Josh Fadem and Kyle MacLachlan in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

COOPER DOES THE DOUGIE

“Call for help.” — Dougie-Coop, Season 3, Part 3.

If Evil Coop represents corruption and greed and “the evil that men do,” then Dougie Jones is a symbol of innocence and wonder and the goodness of humanity. When the manufactured Dougie Jones is mistakenly absorbed into the Lodge, it sends the Good Coop out the other end and into the life of the philandering, gambling, lime-jacket wearing insurance agent.

Good Coop’s drift through dimensions leaves him virtually brain-dead, unable to form coherent sentences or even use the bathroom without guidance. To those around him, it’s just Dougie being Dougie, but each episode signs of the real Coop begin to surface — his love for coffee, his fascination with law enforcement, and his uncanny intuition. It’s not clear exactly what turned Cooper into a drooling man-child. Twenty-five years trapped in the Red Room? Severe inter-dimensional jet lag? Or is it just that he’s missing something? (The gold ball? His shoes?)

Naomi Watts and Kyle MacLachlan in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

When Dougie isn’t being yelled at by his wife Janey-E (Naomi Watts) — a woman with a temper that could turn the toughest thug into a simpering schoolchild — or amusing his sweet, pancake loving son Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon), he’s hitting the jackpot, doodling on case files, and dodging assassins. That’s right, ever since Coop materialized out of a plug socket and assumed the life of Dougie Jones, someone has been trying to kill him — possibly Evil Coop, but there’s nothing to confirm that at this point.

The last time we saw Dougie-Coop, he was karate chopping the throat of assassin Ike The Spike (Christophe Zajac-Denek), which drew the attention of local law enforcement and various news media outlets.

Burning Questions: Will someone who knows Coop recognize him on the news? What will it take for Coop to snap out of his Dougie phase? And if/when he does, what will Coop be like after 25 years away from the world? What will become of Janey-E and Sonny Jim? Will Janey-E ever get a car that isn’t a cheap, piece of crap?

BUCKHORN AND BRIGGS

“It’s not just prints this time; it’s a body. It’s him.” — Lieutenant Cynthia Knox, Season 3, Part 7.

A significant part of the story takes place in Buckhorn, South Dakota where a decapitated body is discovered along with the head of murdered librarian Ruth Davenport. Local high school principal Bill Hastings is arrested for the killing after his fingerprints are found all over Ruth’s apartment — but he claims he only visited her in a dream.

The Buckhorn Police Department is unable to identify the body due to military restrictions, but in Part 7, Lt. Knox (Adele René) confirms the corpse belongs to Major Garland Briggs (the late Don Davis), last seen as a head floating through space. The strange thing is, the body is of a man in his late 40s who died just a few days ago; Briggs should be in his 70s. To add to the mystery, Deputy Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) claims that his father perished in a fire just days after Coop left town 25 years ago.

Also of note, until last week’s New Mexico nightmare, Buckhorn was the only place we’d seen the charred woodsmen — one in a cell next to Bill Hastings and the other stalking the halls of the Buckhorn mortuary.

Burning Questions: What’s the deal with Briggs not aging? Does it suggest time travel? And who killed him? Evil Coop? Phillip Jeffries? Are the woodsmen somehow associated with Briggs? And will we ever see Bill Hastings again?

Eamon Farren in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

THE TWIN PEAKS DRUG TRADE

“S**t, that stuff kicks.” — Richard Horne, Season 3, Part 6.

Between Laura’s cocaine habit and the Renault brothers drug-smuggling racket, Twin Peaks has always had a big focus on narcotics. Things haven’t changed much in 25 years except for the players. The latest operation involves creepy Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), corrupt cop Deputy Chad, who we see accepting cash from Richard at The Roadhouse, and mysterious, coin trick enthusiast Red (Balthazar Getty), who seems to be the man in charge.

However, Richard’s crimes run deeper than drug-trafficking, he’s also responsible for the hit-and-run death of a young child. When we last saw the unhinged sleazebag, he was wiping blood from the grille of his truck — a truck which Deputy Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) tracked down to the house of a suspicious farmer who claimed to have no involvement in the accident.

Amanda Seyfried and Caleb Landry Jones in a still from Twin Peaks. Photo: Suzanne Tenner/SHOWTIME

A hallway chat between Sheriff Frank Truman and Deputy Briggs informs us that the drugs are coming across the Canadian border and are responsible for a number of high school overdoses. Two known users in town are Becky Burnett (Amanda Seyfried) and her loser of a husband Steven (Caleb Landry-Jones), who we see snorting coke in the parking lot of the Double R Diner after Becky borrows money from her mother, Shelly (Madchen Amick).

There are certainly threads here that can tie all these stories together. Red flirts with Shelly at The Roadhouse. Red runs a drug racket. Shelly’s daughter Becky is taking the drugs. Bobby is investigating the drugs. If Bobby turns out to be Becky’s father, which is highly likely, it could neatly bring all these plot strands into one.

Burning Questions: Who are Richard’s parents? One of the main theories is that he’s the product of Audrey and Evil Coop. Will Becky become the new Laura Palmer? Are Shelly and Bobby married, and is Becky their daughter?

FINDING LAURA

“I am dead… yet I live.” — Laura Palmer, Season 3, Part 2.

Agent Cooper may be the lead character of this whole shindig, but the story of Twin Peaks has always been about the life and death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). The homecoming queen’s troubled childhood and horrific murder were the entry point for many of the wider mysteries of Twin Peaks and its colorful and secret-filled inhabitants.

Laura has only appeared in the premiere so far, but her presence continues to be felt throughout the series. In the pages of her diary, in the golden orb sent to earth from the mysterious purple world, and in the high school prom photo which opens each episode and which her former high school lover Bobby has an emotional break down over in Part 4.

After Laura gives Coop permission to leave the Red Room and kisses him goodbye, she is forcibly dragged out of the room, her blood-curdling scream suggesting this isn’t something good. As Coop tries to exit the Lodge, he bumps into Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) who tells him, “Find Laura.” I suspect this quest will take precedent once Coop regains his senses — it will possibly be what brings him back to the town of Twin Peaks.

Burning Questions: Where did Laura go? And does her face in the golden orb suggest she was connected to the Lodge long before her death? Is she set to do battle with BOB once again?

BOB AND THE EXPERIMENT

It was the third episode of the original series when Twin Peaks took a detour into the otherworldly in the first ever Red Room sequence. Since then the supernatural side of the show has only grown, culminating in last week’s experimental epic which traversed time and space to tell a twisted origin story.

BOB, the terrorizing Lodge demon, is at the center of that story, or more appropriately, he’s at the center of a mushroom cloud caused by an atomic blast, coughed up in a creamed-corn globule from the mouth of the “Experiment.” What is the Experiment? It’s the name given in the credits to the naked white creature who smashes out of the Glass Box in New York and kills Sam and Tracey, the coffee-sipping love birds. That same monster births (or re-births) BOB in Part 8.

Burning Questions: Was BOB “born” in the nuclear blast of 1945, or was he sent back in time after being removed from Evil Coop’s body? Where is the Experiment now and does her disappearance tie into Laura’s story (notice her arms bend back)? What exactly is the Experiment? The name makes it sound like she was manufactured in a lab. Does she play a part in Evil Coop’s grand plan? She has little horns on her head that resemble the face of the playing card he showed Darya in Part 2.

“It was a dream! We live inside a dream!” — Phillip Jeffries, Fire Walk With Me.

One of the great things about the new series is how it finds a way to incorporate characters whose actors have long since passed away — most noticeably Frank Silva’s BOB and Don Davis’ Major Briggs. But perhaps most fascinating are the references to Phillip Jeffries, the enigmatic FBI agent who disappeared while on assignment in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1987. The character, played by a Southern-accented David Bowie, only appears briefly in Fire Walk With Me but the strangeness of the scene has stuck with fans over the years.

Despite Bowie’s tragic passing in early 2016, his memorable character is very much a part of the new series. In Part 2, Evil Coop speaks with a man claiming to be the former agent, who tells him “soon I will be with BOB again.” Ray is seemingly following orders from Jeffries. Even Lorraine, the hitmen-hirer who is stabbed to death by Ike, seemed to be in touch with him when she text “ARGENT” to a beeping black box in Buenos Aires — a box that later morphs into a silver pebble.

Burning Questions: What is Jeffries’ role in the story? If he hired Ray to kill Evil Coop, is he also the one that put the hit out on Good Coop? Did he have anything to do with the death of Major Briggs? Is he the new big bad of the series? Did David Bowie secretly film some footage before he passed?

There are many other smaller stories taking place – the odd humming in The Great Northern, the off-screen illness of Harry Truman, Doctor Jacoby’s golden shovel business. And there are still characters yet to appear — Audrey Horne, Big Ed Hurley, and James has been absent since the premiere. But the stories above are the most prominent and should help guide you through the second half of the season.

Twin Peaks airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime. 

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