The show became famous for its eccentric characters, for its backwards-talking dream sequences and for its novel mix of the quaint and the horrific, but in the end Twin Peaks became almost as well-known for its abrupt ending. The final episode aired June 10, 1991, and ended with heroic Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) apparently becoming possessed by the demonic spirit BOB (Frank Silva). And that’s it.
Instead of continuing that story, the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me explored the final days of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), though David Lynch’s rather liberal interpretation of the flow of time offers a few glimpses of the other side of the story. Heather Graham’s Annie Blackburn shows up in a dream, for example, even though she joined the series late in the second season and never met Laura.
If you’re a casual fan wanting to get stoked for the new episodes, which start airing May 21 on Showtime, you may want a refresher on exactly what everyone in town was doing in that final episode.
Lucky you — we’ve made just that. Here’s a breakdown, subplot by subplot.
Miss Twin Peaks
It’s fitting that a show famous for its bevy of beautiful women concludes with a beauty pageant. Miss Twin Peaks has most of the younger women on the show competing for the title, but in the end the crown is awarded to Annie. (One character is very annoyed at this, griping that she’s only lived in town “for 15 minutes.” He’s not wrong, but hey — there was a plot to advance.) As soon as Annie wins, however, she’s kidnapped by Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh), Coop’s old partner and a total madman.
This is symbolic. Previous to his life in Twin Peaks, Coop fell in love with Earle’s wife, Catherine, and Earle stabbed them both, killing Catherine and wounding Coop. Earle has designs on tapping into the eerie voodoo that exists in the woods around Twin Peaks, but he’s also eager to exact further revenge on Coop, who has recently starting dating Annie and is apparently in love with her.
Showtime president David Nevins has described the new series as “Agent Cooper’s odyssey back to Twin Peaks,” but it’s not yet clear if that story will feature Annie or Windom Earle, as neither Heather Graham nor Kenneth Welsh is apparently appearing in the new episodes. Graham, at the very least, has said she would have reprised the role if she had been asked.
The Red Room and the Black Lodge
After Windom Earle and Annie disappear into some kind of dimensional portal in the woods, Coop follows them in, and it turns out this spot is the very Red Room that Coop dreams about early in the first season. It’s also a place that Coop gets warned about by Deputy Hawk (Michael Horse), who recalls a Nez Perce legend about a beautiful place called the White Lodge, and its horrible shadow self, the Black Lodge. The latter is a place that tests anyone who enters.
“If you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul,” Hawk explains.
Well, that’s apparently what happens to poor Coop. He shows up and sees some familiar faces: The jazz-dancing little person (Michael J. Anderson), the Giant (Carel Struycken) and a shrieking, demonic Laura. Things get very weird, and the scenes that follow are abstract, confusing and — even 25 years later — incredible for something that aired on ABC back in 1991.
Seriously, just watch this.
Everything goes to shit pretty quickly.
Confronted by Earle, Coop says he’d be willing to die so Annie can live. Earle accepts the deal, but then BOB shows up and states that Earle isn’t allowed to do that. BOB takes Earle’s soul, and Coop attempts to flee. He can’t find his way out and is pursued by an evil doppelgänger, who eventually catches up to Coop.
Eventually, Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) finds the unconscious bodies of both Annie and Cooper near the grove where they entered the lodge. Annie goes to the hospital, injured but alive. Coop is taken to his hotel room, where it becomes clear that the man who emerged from that otherworldly place is not the good-natured FBI agent we have come to know and love.
Cue the credits — and a years-long wait to find out what the fuck happened.
Fire Walk With Me and The Missing Pieces
Or maybe that’s not quite the end.
Like I said, Fire Walk With Me plays fast and loose with time, so some of the things we see might technically be happening after the TV series concludes. For example, in the final moments of the movie, we get to see Laura in the Red Room, dead and sad about it but also seemingly protected by Agent Cooper … who shouldn’t be there yet but nonetheless is. It’s implied that this is the good Cooper, watching over Laura’s soul.
If you get the Blu-ray edition, you can see The Missing Pieces, a collection of deleted scenes. There are a few more scenes of Harry interacting with Evil Cooper, for instance.
You also see Annie wearing the cursed ring that belonged to another of BOB’s victims and which blinks Chris Isaak’s character into nonexistence. You can read about all the scenes here. It is not yet clear if they’re canon.
Lucy and Andy’s Happy Ending
Over the course of the show, Lucy (Kimmy Robertson), the police station receptionist, alternately yearns for and then spurns dopey Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz). Eventually, however, she reveals that she’s pregnant, and she’s not clear if the father is Andy or a dandyish schmuck named Dick Tremaine (Ian Buchanan). Before the chaos at the pageant, Lucy decides that she doesn’t care who the biological father is, and that she wants Andy to raise the child with her. The last episode opens with a tender moment between the two at the police station. They’re luckier than most of the characters on this show.
How much do you want to bet that Michael Cera — who is confirmed as playing a role in the new series — is Lucy’s grown-up son? Wouldn’t that just make too much sense?
Ed and Norma’s Unhappy Ending
Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) and Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) have been in love since high school, but they ended up marrying other people and subsequently spend most of the series trying to find a way to make their romance work. They almost get there; over the course of the second season, Norma’s lousy husband, Hank (Chris Mulkey), goes to jail, and Ed’s crazy wife, Nadine (Wendy Robie), finally lightens up after her attempt at suicide by overdosing gives her both amnesia and superhuman strength. (Don’t ask.) She thinks she’s a teenager, she dates Donna’s football player ex-boyfriend and she is totally down with Ed and Norma being in love.
In the penultimate episode, when Windom Earle attacks the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, Nadine takes a blow to the head. And in the last episode, she comes to, having reverted once again into a screeching harpy who demands to know what Norma is doing in her home. (BTW, Annie is Norma’s little sister. Shouldn’t she be more concerned about how a psychopath kidnapped her?)
Ed, Norma and Nadine are all returning for the new series.
Audrey’s Explosive Protest
When we last see Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn), she’s protesting her father’s plan to develop Ghostwood National Forest by handcuffing herself to the vault of the Twin Peaks Savings and Loan. Unfortunately, she doesn’t chain herself up in a way that prevents people from doing business, and soon Pete Martell (Jack Nance) and Andrew Packard (Dan O’Herlihy) show up to open a safe deposit box. When they do, the box explodes. It was a trap.
It would seem that Audrey survives the blast, given Fenn’s participation in the new episodes. Pete was not so lucky; according to The Secret History of Twin Peaks, Pete died in the explosion. (And that makes sense, as Jack Nance himself died in 1996 — and under mysterious circumstances, no less.) The same book notes that Pete’s wife, Catherine, becomes a recluse after Pete dies. (Piper Laurie has said she wanted to return for the new episodes but wasn’t asked. And that’s a damn shame.)
Donna’s Daddy Drama
In much of the second season, Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) is wrapped up in having big girl feelings about her biker boyfriend, James Hurley (James Marshall). But at the end of the show, Donna’s story takes a turn. She begins to suspect a connection between Audrey’s dad, Ben Horne (Richard Beymer), and her mother, who has previously never been given much to do aside from roll around in the background. (Fun fact: Mrs. Hayward is played by Mary Jo Deschanel, Zooey’s mom.)
In the last episode, Donna discovers that Ben is her biological father, though we’re not told details. This makes all that mirroring imagery between Donna and Audrey make more sense, doesn’t it? They’re half-sisters.
Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) arrives home and, incensed at the anguish he’s causing Donna, bashes Ben’s head into the fireplace. It had always been a lingering mystery whether Ben died as a result, but given Beymer’s inclusion in the new series cast, it seems likely he survived. It remans to be seen how Donna’s plot might continue, since neither Boyle nor Moira Kelly, who played Donna in Fire Walk With Me, is appearing in the new episodes. Doc Hayward and kid sister Gersten (Alicia Witt) are, however.
Bobby and Shelly Are Also Characters on Twin Peaks
Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Shelly (Madchen Amick) just don’t get much to do in the final episodes. At the very least, we learn that Windom Earle left Shelly’s evil husband, Leo (Eric Da Re), strung up to a contraption that will drop tarantulas on him should he try to escape. He’s not returning for the new episodes, so let’s hope that means Bobby and Shelly are happily married — or as happy as anyone in this town gets to be.
Aliens or Whatever
Honestly, I can’t even bother with this. It’s all wrapped up around Bobby’s dad, Major Briggs (Don S. Davis), and we’re led to believe there’s some connection between the military, extraterrestrial intelligence and the supernatural goings-on in Twin Peaks, but this kind of gets dropped toward the end of the series. Let’s just hope this remains true for the new episodes. Davis died in 2008.
And, Oh Yeah — Josie Is Still Dead
Midway through the second season, Josie reveals herself to be more Laura Palmer-like than we suspected. In fact, she’s been leading a second life mired in organized crime, and she ultimately kills her cruel boss, Thomas Eckhart (David Warner), and then immediately drops dead.
Doc Hayward later mentions that her corpse only weighed 60 pounds when he performs the autopsy. This mystery is never explained, nor do we learn how or why her soul is apparently trapped in a wooden knob on a drawer in the Great Northern Hotel.
That’s some great, 90s-era CGI, though. And when you think about it, isn’t that a lot like what happened to the Log Lady (Catherine E. Coulson), with her husband dying and his soul trapped in a log? Late in the series, both Pete and Ben seem to sense Josie’s presence in the wood at the hotel. Hmm…
Who Killed Laura Palmer?
Oh, come on. People who haven’t ever even seen the show know that it was her dad, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise), who was possessed by BOB. And we find out seven episodes into the second season, when he also kills Maddy (also Sheryl Lee). It’s a brutal death scene, even all these years later.
Still possessed by BOB, Leland bashes his head on a door at the jail and dies, though he briefly regains control of his body long enough to express remorse for all the killings. He later makes a cameo in the final episode, during Coop’s trip through the Black Lodge, and he’s set to appear again in the new episodes. Laura’s mom (Grace Zabriskie) survives the original series and will also be returning for the new episodes.
All 29 episodes of Twin Peaks are currently streaming on Hulu, as is Fire Walk With Me, in case you feel compelled to plow through the whole thing, start-to-finish, before May 21.