You know Twin Peaks.
If you’ve watched Twin Peaks, you know Twin Peaks. Even if you haven’t watched it, haven’t heard about the 18 episodes currently airing on Showtime, haven’t heard anything at all, you know Twin Peaks. You’ve seen references, homages, spoofs, and even blatantly ripped-off bits in other shows, movies, video games. Maybe you just didn’t notice.
For you out there that didn’t notice: A lot of folks would love to lay on you all the references to the show, references in the show, fan theories, and mind-blowing connections confirmed by the show’s creators, David Lynch and Mark Frost. Just put out a call somewhere on the Internet; they’ll find you.
Me? I just want to give you some episodes recaps. No weird stuff. You’ll be fine. We can watch it together, even; it’s on Netflix and Hulu. Because even on this, my third watch of the series, I still know nothing and will be just as surprised as you. So if you want to be slightly spooked and also confused while also picking up some essential pop culture knowledge, Twin Peaks is your pal. I’m your pal.
Pilot: Northwest Passage
Though the show premiered in 1990, it’s set in 1989. To begin, we meet the theme music.
Now that you thoroughly know where you are, let’s move indoors for some intrapersonal and interpersonal drama. The pilot episode is feature-length, coming it at 93 minutes per Netflix. It introduces a ton of characters. This is sort of like a surreal soap opera, so prepare for lots of people with lots of drama.
Pete heads outside to go fishing. He is wearing what I assume is the official Pacific Northwest fishing outfit, so he is looking adorable yet also ready to get down to business with this fishing. While casting eyes about for a prime spot, he notices something weird on the beach and goes to investigate.
Neatly bundled in sheeting and tape with only wavy sea-salty hair and an attractively dead face exposed is someone Pete recognizes: Laura Palmer. He calls the sheriff’s department.
Sheriff Truman and a deputy arrive on the scene for some photos and speculation. They didn’t know Laura was missing. We move to Laura’s home, where her mother Sarah calls her for breakfast and receives no answer, then calls Laura’s boyfriend’s parents to see if she is there, then in rising anxiety calls the high school. Seems like Laura’s parents didn’t know she was missing either.
Daddy Palmer, “Leland,” I guess, if you want to be technical, is over at the Great Northern assisting owner and fancy business man Benjamin Horne in finagling a deal with some Norwegians to do something money-making (but probably nefarious) with the Martell sawmill.
Flash to a diner. Laura’s boyfriend Bobby Briggs is there, drinking coffee and lingering, like high school kids do. He leaves with waitress Shelly Johnson under the pretense of dropping her off on his way to school like it’s no big deal.
SURPRISE, Shelly and Bobby are sleeping together secretly. Shelly has a husband, and if you were paying attention, Bobby is Laura’s man. Married people sleeping with high school kids? Ha ha, lordy, we do have fun around here.
Everyone’s at school now, Benjamin Horne’s daughter Audrey, Laura’s BFF Donna Hayward, and some random Donna seems friends with, James Hurley. You know who isn’t at school? Laura Palmer. The principal makes an announcement… She’s dead and so class is cancelled for today. Everyone is really upset. Laura seems to have been pretty well-liked and well-known around school. The sheriff’s department takes Bobby in for questioning, since he was the last person who saw Laura.
Meanwhile, in the Palmer household, Sarah is just about catatonic and the police are looking for clues like they’re the Scooby Gang. Seems like Laura came home from “studying” with Bobby (quotation marks mine; the Twin Peaks Sheriff Dept does not endorse the use of cynical, suspicious punctuation marks during investigations), then went to bed as far as her parents know. They find something tucked away in a box in Laura’s room that will probably be important later.
Over at the mill, an employee learns his daughter is missing, prompting Josie Packard to shut down operations for the day out of respect. Catherine Martell is clearly pissed at her because of this, but Pete not so much. Catherine and Pete seem to both manage the mill’s day-to-day operations in some capacity?
Back in town! I told you this episode had a lot going on all over the place what with introducing everyone and getting people linked up with each other. Anyway, James arrives on his motorcycle at Ed’s Gas Farm and talks to his uncle, Ed Hurley. He mentions that Laura was “the one,” so probably Bobby wasn’t the only one getting some unsanctioned outside action. You know, maybe they had an understanding. Who am I to assume about Pacific Northwest 80s teens. Probably they didn’t, though.
Sidenote: Every time I watch this show, I forget who Ed is and think James is just giving way too much information with the gas station attendant who is just trying to work. James isn’t my favourite, though, so probably I just want to assume that.
Agent Dale Cooper, America’s sweetheart, finally makes an appearance. Driving into Twin Peaks, dispatched from some distant FBI stronghold, he speaks into a tape recorder addressing “Diane” about travel expenses, cherry pie, and trees.
He goes to the hospital to meet up with Sheriff Truman to visit Ronette Pulaski, the girl in the torn slip who wandered into town, and also Laura, I guess, as I suppose she is important or whatever. While there, he runs into Laura’s secret psychiatrist, Dr. Jacoby. He is an all-around kooky dude. You’ll learn more later, don’t worry. While examining Laura’s body, Agent Cooper finds crammed down under the nail on Laura’s ring finger a small piece of paper with a typewritten letter R. Apparently he’s seen something like that before.
Over at Ed’s Gas Farm, Donna shows up. Ed gives her a note from James and a hug (Ed Hurley, Town Nice Guy). Donna’s asshole boyfriend Mike drives by for a second to bitch at her for not supporting him while his best friend Bobby is in lock-up. Never mind Donna’s best friend getting murdered. Nadine yells at Ed about drapes. Look, guys, everyone is stressed, but stop yelling at each other.
With great swiftness, we appear at the Sheriff Department. Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman are looking over Laura’s diary from her room. There’s a key in there to a safety deposit box. Is it full of treats? Trinkets? Tchotchkes? We can’t find out just yet because Andy calls weeping from an abandoned train car to say that Ronette and Laura were tortured together there and Laura killed.
Besides that, they’ve got to question Bobby since he’s around. He is not into it. He flips out with every question. They show him the video from the video recorder… Laura and Donna are happy and laughing, dancing around in the woods near a blanket with a picnic spread. Laura is giving goopy looks to whoever’s behind the camera and the video zooms in on her face with its goopy looks. Agent Cooper already knows that Bobby didn’t kill Laura, because Agent Cooper is really good at his job. Bobby is really pissed about the video and the goopy looks, but, Bobby, remember Shelly, my guy. You can’t be that mad.
Over at the Great Northern, Audrey Horne stirs up trouble for no reason. After spewing coffee all over the concierge desk, she meanders into the Norwegians’ negotiations and casually mentions her murdered friend. They spook and depart almost immediately, despite Benjamin Horne rushing from Norwegian to Norwegian, trying to figure out what happened. Audrey is maliciously delighted
Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman head out to get a look at the train car for themselves. It is gross, lots of blood and mess and just generally dirty. Found at the scene: A mound of dirt with half of a heart necklace and a scrawled note reading Fire Walk With Me.
Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman run on over to the bank to check out that safety deposit box. Man oh man, they are booking it around town today. I like to assume since it is a small town, maybe all these locations are 100 feet away from each other. The box has a big stack of money and a magazine of sexy ads. Ronette’s got a picture and an ad in there, and Shelly’s husband Leo Johnson’s semi truck is in there too!
SPEAKING OF SHELLY AND LEO JOHNSON, let’s check out their house. They’re just hanging out, Leo poking around at the ashtray for cigarettes that aren’t Shelly’s brand, just a normal afternoon. He finds one, which we can assume is Bobby’s, but Shelly covers and says she just bums cigarettes as she gets them, no big deal.
After that not much of note happens until everyone meets up with different people at the Roadhouse, local bar and (seemingly) community center. But someone important needs an introduction. Agent Cooper notices her coming into the back of a town meeting regarding the investigation. He asks Sheriff Truman, “Who’s the lady with the log?”
Now! Loads of people have met up at the roadhouse. Cooper and Truman are sitting outside, seeing who turns up. It turns out Norma and Ed are hooking up! So many affairs, who can keep up. A fight breaks out at the roadhouse, instigated by Bobby and Mike, town assholes. Donna sneaked out to the Roadhouse to meet James, but he isn’t there. As the fighting heats up, a friend of James snatches Donna up on his motorcycle to meet James, who is sitting in the woods in the dark. Coop and Tru follow the motorcycle, but lose them.
In the woods, James talks to Donna about his fear of being arrested for Laura’s murder, because… she sneaked out that night to see him! He knew she was into some shady things, plus Laura told James that Bobby said he killed some dude. So then Donna and James kiss a lil’, because… well, just because. You know how it is when your secret girlfriend dies and/or your best friend dies and you just want to kiss. It’s fine. After that little break, they bury James’ half of the heart necklace, since at this point James just wants to pretend he knows nothing about any of this.
They speed off on James’ motorcycle but Cooper and Truman quickly apprehend them. Donna gets to go home from the Sheriff Department with her parents, while James goes to a holding cell right by Asshole Twins Bobby and Mike, jailed after the Roadhouse fight for generally unsavory, pugnacious behaviour. They do not like James.
Some whambam tidbits at the very end of the episode: Josie and Truman share a romantic moment that seems not extremely new! Catherine Martell tells Benjamin Horne about it on the phone! Sarah Palmer is being sad on the couch when she feels someone digging up James’ heart half from the dirt and screams!
Shoo, that’s the pilot. It is a long one and it is a lot to take in. You get brief introductions to a lot of characters and places, and really, these brief introductions stay true. Even if you forget everything else, most importantly right now you know that Laura’s dead in a way that was probably linked to secret, possibly illegal activities, everyone in this town is connected in some way, and this town loves affairs.