Twin Peaks – the story so far: everything you need to know before watching the new series
Never seen it before or forgotten how it ends? Get up to speed with this essential recap
It's now just a few short days until we return to Twin Peaks after a 26 year wait. If you've never seen it before and just want to start with the new series (perfectly acceptable according to David Lynch) or it's been so long that you've forgotten how it ends, let us get you up to speed on what we think are the most crucial plot strands that were left dangling over a quarter of a century ago.
Most of the subplots are unconnected with the murder, have long been resolved and will likely not play a part in the new series; we're ignoring them and – for the sake of clarity and brevity – we're omitting feature film, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, although Lynch has said it is highly relevant to the new series. We're also skipping over Mark Frost's novel, The Secret History of Twin Peaks, which may not be canon.
Obviously, this is MASSIVE SPOILER TERRITORY....
What is Twin Peaks about?
The initial focus is on the murder of high school prom queen Laura Palmer, the investigation of which is led by unflappable FBI special agent Dale Cooper. As the implications of Palmer's murder spread throughout Twin Peaks, the seemingly quaint town is revealed to be a hotbed of secrecy, violence, prostitution and real estate treachery. Although the show maintains its central narrative thread for the first 17 episodes its creators were much more interested in exploring the dark underbelly of outwardly-respectable, suburban Americana. It's also very funny.
Isn't there a dancing dwarf?
In the third episode, Cooper has a dream where he's sat in a strange red room with Laura Palmer and, yes, a dwarf. They reveal cryptic clues to him in a strange dialect (actually lines spoken phonetically backwards, with footage reversed) and then the dwarf starts to dance. This strange place is revisited again over the series and is later revealed to be an ethereal realm known as the Black Lodge. Its inhabitants have real-world counterparts: the dwarf's being a one-armed shoe salesman called Phillip Gerrard. We later meet a giant who is mirrored by an elderly hotel bellhop.
So who killed Laura Palmer?
Her father, Leland, killed her, under the possession of a supernatural entity called Bob. He also murders bartender/drug runner Jacques Renault and Laura's cousin, Maddy Ferguson. Bob then forces Leland to kill himself before he escapes from his host and flees into the woods.
What does all this have to do with the Black Lodge?
That's where Bob comes from. Twin Peaks resident military man, Major Briggs, reveals to Cooper that he and various government agencies are trying to find an entrance to this dark netherworld which they believe is located somewhere in the nearby woods.
So Laura Palmer's murder has been solved. Why is Cooper still in Twin Peaks?
His former FBI partner, Windom Earle, enters the scene. Long before the events of Twin Peaks, Cooper had an affair with Earle's wife, Caroline. When Earle found out, he murdered her and seriously injured Cooper. Earle escapes from a secure psychiatric hospital, travels to Twin Peaks and taunts Cooper with a game of long-distance chess; there's a twist: each time Earle takes a piece from the board, he murders someone.
After all that, presumably Cooper now has intimacy issues?
Yes, although funnily enough he soon falls in love with a woman called Annie Blackburn. Meanwhile, it transpires Earle is also obsessed with finding the Black Lodge. He uses his chess game with Cooper as a distraction while he decrypts various petroglyphs and other cryptic clues to establish its whereabouts.
So what happens in the final episode?
Earle kidnaps Annie and takes her into the Black Lodge, pursued by Cooper. Inside, a surreal and nightmarish sequence of events conspire to trap them among a cadre of doppelgängers, including the evil twins of Cooper, Laura and Leland.
Does anything else happen?
Hotelier Ben Horne is attacked by Doc Hayward in revenge for upsetting his family; during the assault, Ben's head accidentally strikes the fireplace and he collapses in a bloody heap. At the bank, a bomb explodes; a number of characters are present, the actors of whom have since died, probably sealing their fate. Ben's daughter, Audrey Horne, is also in the bank, chained to a vault door.
Doesn't the whole thing end with a massive cliffhanger?
Oh yes. Eventually Cooper escapes the Black Lodge. Discombobulated, he's helped back to his hotel room to recover. He awakens, asks 'How's Annie?' (unconvincing response: 'She's gonna be just fine') and goes to the privacy of his bathroom where he empties his toothpaste into the sink and headbutts the mirror. With blood trickling down his face we see then the reflection of 'Bob', revealing that Cooper is now possessed by evil. 'Cooper' maniacally repeats his question, 'How's Annie?' over and over.
The end. Until Monday.
Twin Peaks: The Return premieres on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV on Mon 22 May at 2am and is repeated on Tue 23 May at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.