Through the darkness of future past, the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds... fire, walk with me.
An early-nineties television series created by David Lynch (responsible for such films as Blue Velvet and Eraserhead) and Mark Frost (co-writer of the Fantastic Four film). It paved the way for shows like Northern Exposure, which stole its Northwest locale and some limited quirkiness. The series also heavily influenced a surprising number of video games, most obviously Deadly Premonition, Alan Wake, and Nelson Tethers Puzzle Agent, but even The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening was influenced by the show. It had a little bit of everything (see Soap Opera and Mix And Match). Ostensibly a hybrid Crime Time Soap / Detective Drama, it quickly took off for parts unknown with a pervasive supernatural element that turned it partly into an Occult Detective story that smacked of slightly off-kilter Magic Realism.The series starts off with the discovery of a murdered teenage girl, Laura Palmer. This event in turn leads to the eccentric Special Agent Dale Cooper visiting the town as part of his hunt for a serial killer. Although the murder investigation wraps up partway through season two, a new foe from Cooper's past keeps the plot moving until the notorious "How's Annie?" Cliff Hanger ending of season two (and in fact the series). The 1992 movie Fire Walk with Me mostly wraps things up. The show features a rather large and colourful cast with about as many subplots as there are characters, and the story contains quite a few examples of Red Herring Twist and Powers That Be.
Bi the Way: In the companion book The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Laura mentions having slept with both Josie Packard and her pimp/madame Blackie O'Reilly, Ronnette Polaski, and a lot of other females.
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Some of Agent Cooper's investigation methods are unique to say the least. Surprisingly this is tolerated and even factored into serious case work by the officers of the Twin Peak's sheriff's department, who have probably never seen an FBI agent before and don't know any better.
Philip Gerard / The Man From Another Place: "Bob, I want all my... Garmonbozia (pain and suffering)."
Characterization Marches On: When Cooper first meets the Twin Peaks police, he tells Harry rather standoffishly that "Once the Bureau gets involved, we run the show." Then later Cooper defends Harry against Albert, and later still when Harry tells Cooper he wants to prosecute Ben Horne for Laura's murder, Cooper says "All right, this is your operation."
The Chessmaster: Windom Earle is a rather literal example of this trope. He determines his victims through a game of chess played against Cooper, and even at one point dresses a victim as a giant chess piece before shooting him with a crossbow. By contrast, Pete Martell, who is even better at chess, but lacks the ambition or the capacity for cruelty to really be this trope.
Cliffhanger Copout: Episode Three in the first season ends with Agent Cooper having a dream from which he learns who killed Laura Palmer. Cooper immediately wakes up from the dream to call up Sheriff Truman to tell him that he knows who the murderer is but teases that the answer could "wait 'till morning." Come the next episode, taking place that following morning, Cooper recaps all the events from the dream that ended with Laura Palmer whispering the name of her killer in his ear. Then, once he's asked who the killer is, Cooper nonchalantly responds "I don't remember."
Color Motif: Red usually turns up suggesting danger and sexuality, most obviously in the curtains of One Eyed Jacks and the Black Lodge. You can't trust blue either, which seems to be associated with BOB - he wears denim, is often cloaked in blue light, and in the movie, a possessed Leland laments the appearance of MIKE, BOB's nemesis, "out of the blue".
Companion Cube: Margaret's log, which arguably allows her to communicate with her dead husband, who now inhabits the Black Lodge and is probably Jurgen Prochnow.
Crazy People Play Chess: Windom Earle. When he's not killing people and stuffing their corpses, he enjoys a good chess game. Averted with Pete Martell, who is the best chess player around and is a perfectly sane and kindly old fella.
Those familiar with David Lynch might find the grandson on the show creepy (or alternately, hilarious) because he looks and acts identical to him, right down to the voice inflections and mannerisms. Which makes sense, as he's played by Lynch's son Austin.
The Cuckoolander Was Right: Played straight with the Log Lady and several other characters. Averted by Cooper in that everyone takes his far-out theories seriously anyway (except for Albert, the only person who actually does have good reason to believe him).
Dark Is Not Evil: The inhabitants of the Black Lodge could not by any stretch of the imagination be called good (they eat pain and suffering, after all) but some of them do help Cooper with his investigation on numerous occasions.
By contrast, Gerard, who is inhabited by a much more benevolent spirit. Maybe.
Demoted to Extra: Johnny Horne, Audrey's brother, appears in a few early episodes before disappearing until a late season 2 cameo.
Depraved Bisexual: Josie Packard and Blackie O'Reilly are confirmed as this in The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, and there is heavy hinting for Blackie in the show as well.
Descended Creator: BOB, played by a crewmember who accidentally ended up in a pivotal shot. They could have reshot it easily but David Lynch loved the visual of this guy hiding in the shot.
David Lynch himself as Agent Gordon Cole.
Disguised in Drag: It's fairly obvious (and not at all odd, considering the show) that the stout Japanese businessman with the impressive moustache is really a woman but it's not obvious that she's Catherine Martell.
Downer Ending: As there is no third season to provide closure, we're left to assume that half the cast is dead and Cooper's soul is trapped in the Black Lodge while BOB makes use of his possessed body.
This was not the intended finale, and the movie was meant to offer a true closure. But that footage was deleted and has never been released to the public.
The Dragon: Hank, first to Mr. Horne and later to Jean Renault.
Drugs Are Bad: A heavily implied (but not quite anvilicious) aesop. While drugs are indeed a major part of Laura's downfall, her drug use doesn't exactly lead to her problems so much as result from them.
Foreshadowing: "She's my cousin. But doesn't she look exactly like Laura Palmer?" referring to Maddy. Also, in a way, Laura could be considered The Man From Another Place's cousin, since BOB is possessing her father, BOB is the 'familiar' of MIKE, and The Man split off from MIKE like Athena from Zeus.
Gainax Ending: The ending for the "International Version" of the pilot episode. It ended up being heavily edited and recontextualized for Cooper's dream at the end of the second episode.
Godzilla Threshold: When BOB finds another victim, everyone begs Cooper to use any of his kooky methods that they previously disparaged in order to catch the killer.
Government Agency of Fiction: The FBI in the Twin Peaks universe often deals heavily in supernatural cases. These more often than not tend to be just a little more dangerous than the usual kind of work.
Government Conspiracy: Dale Cooper is a strong believer in conspiracy theories. Given his own experience...
Grotesque Gallery: Lodge inhabitants include The Man From Another Place (a dwarf, who is actually a severed arm in human form), The Giant (a ... giant, obviously), a one-armed man, and a singer played by Jimmy Scott (who suffered from Kallmann Syndrome).
Leo Johnson is a irredeemable, abusive control freak toward Shelly in Season 1, but suffers much of the same abuse at the hands of Windom Earle in Season 2. His Heel Face Turn begins when he is reluctant in assisting Windom Earle kill an innocent victim, then sets fellow captive, Major Garland Briggs free and asks him to keep Shelly safe. Bear in mind Leo previously tried to immolate Shelly at the end of Season 1.
Audrey Horne. At first sight she seems to be a spoiled troublemaker who aspires to be a femme fatale (often successfully), but with time it is revealed that she's actually an lonely innocent with good intentions.
Director Todd Holland on Audrey's character: "She's one of my favorite characters because you thought she was such a big slut and she's probably the most moralistic person in Twin Peaks and that's all tremendous fun. The ones like her father feign morality and are incredibly treacherous, but they carry on a good business front."
Albert Rosenfield is an obvious Jerk Ass, but eventually reveals a great love for the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr and mellows out.
Humanoid Abomination: Whatever else the inhabitants of the Black Lodge are, they are all surely this — even the seemingly more benevolent ones, such as the Giant.
Idiot Ball: Happens sometimes towards the end of the series with both Harry and Cooper. The greatest offender, however, is Major Briggs, who after establishing that a murderous psychopath is hiding out in the forest is to take a casual relaxing walk in the forest on the way home. Harry and Cooper thinks it's a great idea.
The entire investigative team. They deduce from the first episode that Laura's death was part of a string of killings including Theresa Banks and was to have included Ronette Pulaski and yet they make absolutely no efforts to connect the three girls, and aside from a brief talk with Ronette's parents, they completely ignore anything to do with her. No attempts are made to talk with her friends or any other relatives, this in comparison to the efforts they go to investigating Laura Palmer's life. Essentially they just decide that Laura was the primary target of the attack since she was the one that died.
I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: In Episode 4, Andy drops his gun and it goes off by accident. In the next episode, Bobby gives a braggadocio-filled impression of how he'd handle being caught having an affair while waving a gun around with his finger on the trigger.
Jerk Jock: Bobby Briggs and Mike Nelson, although they both mature a lot by the end of the series. Also see Name's the Same.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Albert defines this. After an amazing speech in which Albert's heart of gold becomes apparent, he and Sheriff Truman — formerly bitter enemies — become close friends and even hug one another in a later episode.
Bobby Briggs, initially a whiny Jerk Jock, becomes a not-too-bad guy by the end of the show.
Jurisdiction Friction: Averted right off the bat in the pilot episode when Agent Cooper specifically asks Sheriff Truman if he is going to have any trouble with this. Played straight with the very crooked Deer Meadow jurisdiction in Fire Walk With Me, though.
She does it again with the jukebox at the diner in the second episode.
"God, I love this music. Isn't it too dreamy?"
This happens on a radio (which is immediately changed) in season 2 episode 2. Actually, this happens a lot on Twin Peaks.
In another season two episode, some melancholy flute music plays over an establishing shot of the abandoned house Windom Earle is occupying, which turns out to be... Windom Earle himself playing the flute. It sounds kind of silly, but it's in fact a pretty eerie moment since he's doing it while waiting for Leo Johnson to come to so he can torture him.
Leitmotif: "Laura Palmer's Theme" and later (in the second season) "Audrey's Prayer" are repeatedly used as love themes. Some characters (Hank Jennings or Windom Earle, for example) have their own themes as well.
Occult Detective: The natural result of Agent Cooper becoming aware of the town's less-than-normal qualities. Of course, he started out using such investigative techniques as throwing rocks at a bottle while listening to the list of suspects to determine which leads to follow, which he learned from the Dalai Lama in a dream. Keep in mind, given what we find out in The Movie, Cooper had already foreseen Laura's death and Gordon Cole likely informed him beforehand that he was working on a Blue Rose case. Which means the rules are, to put it mildly, just a little different.
Odd Friendship: Well, most of the town's residents and the agents dispatched there are odd, to say the least, but the trope is best exemplified by Albert and Truman later in season 2.
Old Cop, Young Cop: Windom Earle and Dale Cooper might have been this before Earle went insane.
Owl Be Damned: They are the eyes of BOB. Maybe. In any case, they are not what they seem.
Place Beyond Time: The Black Lodge, where Cooper winds up stuck for at least 25 years while still communicating with himself and others through their dreams at various points in time — including before Laura Palmer's murder, which brought him to Twin Peaks in the first place.
"Audrey, you're a high school girl. I'm an agent of the FBI."
Rape As Backstory: Leland's backstory is that he was sexually assaulted by Bob Robertson, possibly as a means of demonic possession (or thus creating said demonic force). And that's not even bringing up how it affected Laura.
The "Cooper's Diary" book suggests that Cooper was also sexually abused by BOB (he came into his room) as a child.
Rasputinian Death: Leo Johnson. He survives being shot twice, two axe battles with Bobby Briggs (one of them being right after awakening from a coma from said gunshot), survives being out in the woods with no water, gets electrocuted by Windom Earle on a number of occasions, then finally it is implied Leo finally met his fate by a venomous spider.
Short Lived Big Impact: With only two seasons and 30 episodes, it popularized the Quirky Town genre in American television, having descendants such Picket Fences and Northern Exposure that ran much longer than Twin Peaks itself. Also, the amount of surrealism, eccentric humor, and horror in it were highly exceptional for a mainstream American drama series of its era, but such elements became much more common in television in its wake in the 1990s and 2000s.
Stylistic Suck: From what little we see of it, Invitation to Love, the soap opera everyone in Twin Peaks apparently watches, is fairly ridiculous. Considering the fact that it mirrors some events of the show, it may be a case of Self-Deprecating Humor.
Wild Mass Guessing: Due to the extremely ambiguous nature of Word Of God (we're talking about David Lynch here after all), much of what is accepted as canon online (especially on this page) is based on some of the more probable and believable examples of Wild Mass Guessing as to what's going on in the series. Even that isn't exactly saying much...
Wild Wilderness: The setting has a creepy lodge in the middle of the woods that may or may not be there and no one seems to notice it.
You Fail Religious Studies Forever: In the last episode, Ben Horne, displaying the pile of religious scriptures he means to study, follow "the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita" by picking up another single volume which he identifies as "the Talmud." The Talmud would, at a minimum, take up a trunk.
Screwed by the Network: Twin Peaks was renewed for the second season, but the network moved it to one of the lowest-rated timeslots on television, Saturday nights at ten.
Throw It In: The villain BOB was created/cast when set director Frank Silva's reflection accidentally appeared in a mirror when filming the last shot of the pilot where Laura's mother has a frightening nightmare. Earlier, Silva had trapped himself in Laura's bedroom, endearing him to Lynch, which caused him to shoot footage showing him looking up from the foot of Laura's bed. His serendipitous appearance in the pilot just cemented his place. According to Wikipedia.
Two other things from the pilot: When Cooper first examines Laura's body, a fluorescent light keeps flickering — the light they were using really was malfunctioning, but David Lynch liked the eerie disorienting effect this had, so it got written in as a transformer malfunction. And in the same scene, an extra misheard Cooper's line "Would you leave us?" as "what's your name?" and, thinking Kyle MacLachlan was breaking character, said his real name. The awkward moment that ensued got left in as a momentary aversion of Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic.
Wham Episode: The final one, and several others along the way, including Maddy's death at the hands of of Laura's killer. Basically, whenever The Giant shows up you know it's going to be one of these.
And of course, the first season finale. Audrey is captured at "One Eyed Jacks", Nadine tries to commit suicide, Leland murders the newly captured Jacques Renault in the hospital, Leo tries to kill Bobby but is shot by Hank, the mill burns down with Catherine and Shelly inside as Pete rushes to the rescue and Cooper is shot in his hotel room by an unknown assailant.
Mark Frost has talked about how he really wasn't sure the show would get a second season, so he packed every conceivable cliffhanger he could into the first season finale (to the point that it almost became a parody) in the hopes that someone would say, "Okay, I have to know what happens next."