Twin Peaks is the story of the investigation surrounding the death of Laura Palmer in a small town in Northern Washington state. Laura is a golden child by all accounts. Homecoming. Tutored the disabled. Delivered Meals on Wheels. But she was “full of secrets.” These secrets are discovered by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, sent to Twin Peaks when the circumstances of the murder cross state lines.
Dale Cooper quickly develops a close partnership with Sheriff Harry Truman and his department. They learn Laura was connected to a small drug ring that operated between Twin Peaks and Canada. She had a job at a department store perfume counter that led her into more salacious work. Her boyfriend, Bobby Briggs, was not her only beau.
But these personal secrets of Laura’s are only the first step in uncovering the exciting lives of the citizens of this quiet town tucked away in the misty mountains. The story of Twin Peaks has been told over the course of 29 episodes/2 seasons on television and a theatrical prequel Fire Walk With Me. Here are the characters that make up this unique series.
Special Agent Dale Cooper – Dale Cooper is the strangest investigator to have ever graced the television screen. He relies almost entirely on intuition and guiding Hand of the universe to come across important clues. The quote that seems, to sum up, his attitude about detective work is “I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.” He both full to the brim with undying enthusiasm, yet compassionate and caring when he is needed. In many ways, Cooper is more shaman than a cop.
Albert Rosenfeld – Quick witted and snarky, Rosenfeld immediately drew the ire of Sheriff Truman when he arrived in Twin Peaks to conduct the forensic autopsy of Laura Palmer. Despite his heavily abrasive demeanor, Rosenfeld is a complicated fellow. Possibly more than even Dale Cooper.
Gordon Cole – Gordon Cole is a regional bureau chief for the FBI who has a vested interest in the goings on in Twin Peaks. It’s hinted in Fire Walk With Me that he has a greater knowledge of the bizarre and supernatural occurrences in the region. Cole is hard of hearing and wears an old oversized hearing device and overly enunciates/mispronounces words, once referring to Cooper as reminding him “of a small Mexican chee-wow-wow.”
Windom Earle – Dale Cooper’s former partner. Earle was deeply obsessed with the study of Tibetan spiritual concepts, particularly the concepts of dugpas, a sect of sorcerers who tapped into the spiritual realm via The Black Lodge. Earle believed that one possible access point to the Black Lodge was located in Twin Peaks and became determined to enter it while luring Dale Cooper inside. What exactly Earle’s fate is after the conclusion of the series is not exact, but it doesn’t seem splendid.
The Twin Peaks Police Department
Sheriff Harry Truman – A reliable, loyal, and trustworthy man, Truman operates as both the head of the police department and as a member of the secret society known as the Bookhouse Boys. He is able to navigate Cooper through the tangled web of relationships in Twin Peaks but quickly learns Cooper is quite perceptive on his own. Truman has a secret relationship with the widow Josie Packard that leads him down a destructive path but strengthens his bond with Cooper.
Deputy Hawk – A descendant of the local Nez Perce tribes, Hawk is a man living between the worlds of his ancestors and the construct of white man’s society. Hawk is able to inform Cooper of the spiritual aspects of the woods that surround Twin Peaks, but even he has not stepped past the threshold our special agent is willing to cross.
Deputy Andy – Andy is a lovable and clumsy character. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and we first see this on the shores of Pearl Lake where Laura Palmer’s body has washed up. Andy has trouble photographing the corpse and bursts into tears. He’s also in love with the secretary Lucy and is possibly the father of her unborn child.
Lucy – The secretary at the front desk of the Twin Peaks police department. Her squeaky voice and small stature deceive those who don’t know better. Lucy is a formidable figure who is in charge of the office. She’s also with child and unsure which two men are the father, Andy or the cringingly debonair department store clerk Dick Tremayne.
The Palmers (Laura, Leland, Sarah, Madeline Ferguson) – The Palmer family is haunted by the tragic loss of their only child, Laura. Sarah immediately collapses upon hearing the news and never seems to recover. She’s kept sedated as she appears to have massive fits of hysteria when clearheaded. She has seen something in dreams though, the face of a dirty man peeking up from the other side of Laura’s bed. But she doesn’t recognize him. Leland is experiencing his own mental collapse, dancing and crying with framed photos of his daughter. He undergoes a bizarre transformation overnight at the start of the second season, and his story arc is one of the more tragic in the series. Cousin Maddy Ferguson comes to visit to try and help out as best she can, but the family is too far gone for her to be of much good.
The Hornes (Ben, Jerry, Audrey) – Ben Horne primarily runs Twin Peaks. With the collapse of the logging industry, he’s managed to be the top job creator through The Great Northern Hotel, Horne’s Department Store, and some less than legal side gigs. Jerry is his dim younger brother who jet sets about trying to set up deals while spending the family fortune. It’s Jerry who first brings the Norwegians, then the Swedes in for the Ghostwood land development deal. No other Horne matters more though than Audrey, Ben’s teen daughter. Audrey falls in love with Cooper at first sight and gets herself into considerable trouble in an attempt to prove she’s the abled bodied teen detective she imagines herself to be. The last time we see Audrey, she is in a dire situation, but I suspect she makes it out alive.
The Briggs (Bobby, Garland, Sarah) – Bobby Briggs was the boyfriend of Laura Palmer and a small time drug dealer with his pal Mike. After Laura’s death, Bobby’s teenage rage explodes and brings his stoic father, Major Garland Briggs to focus on helping his son find a path in life. Garland is a fascinating figure, both fierce in upholding his oaths but not afraid to step into the unknown. He becomes fast friends with Cooper in the second season and ends up playing a crucial role in the story. Poor Sarah seems to tolerate the boorish behavior of her son and constant Quixotic-like chivalry of Garland. There is a deep love there, though, briefly glimpsed when Garland returns after an unexpected absence.
The Haywards (Donna, William, Eileen) – Donna Hayward was Laura’s best friend and seemingly unaware of her friend’s secret life. She quickly ends up in a relationship with James Hurley which leads to some of the worst subplots of the series. In the first season and the start of the second, Donna is primarily investigating the secret life of her friend. After that, her storylines meander through the series without any real significance. Her father, Doc Hayward, has a simmering animosity towards Ben Horne that isn’t addressed until the end of the second season.
The Hurleys (Big Ed, Nadine, James) – Ed Hurley is owner and operator of Big Ed’s Gas Farm, just outside of town. In high school, Ed was the star quarterback with a beautiful girlfriend (Norma). Then Vietnam came, and Ed volunteered to go. By the time he returned, Norma was taken by another. Ed ended up with Nadine, a wallflower who was infatuated with them. The current state of their marriage is rough, unspoken resentments over Ed continued love for Norma puts Nadine on edge. James is Ed’s nephew from a sister suffering from alcoholism. Ed is now the young man’s guardian, but their relationship in the show is pretty thin.
The Packard-Martells (Catherine, Josie, Pete) – The Packard Mill is one of the long-standing institutions of Twin Peaks. About half a decade earlier, it absorbed its only rival, a sawmill owned by the Martells. In the midst of this a Romeo & Juliet story was born, as Catherine Packard and Pete Martell began a relationship. Their status at the start of Twin Peaks is of a simmering acrimony, and it appears better times are past. Catherine’s sister Andrew died about two years before the outset of the series and his widow Josie is now in control of mill. All three, Catherine, Pete, and Josie live in a house by the lake where they are regularly engaged in backstabbing and plotting.
Other Notable Citizens
Shelly & Leo Johnson – Shelly is a waitress at the Double RR Diner and married to regular wife beater Leo Johnson. They live in an unfinished house just outside of town, and Leo is often on the road as a truck driver. Shelly is having an affair with Bobby Briggs, Laura Palmer’s boyfriend. The two seem to get off on the thrill of the risk, but the show leads them down a very dark path. Shelly receives a shining bright spot in the form of Gordon Cole when he comes to visit in season 2 and ends up smitten with her.
Norma & Hank Jennings – Norma owns and runs the Double RR Diner that makes “damn fine coffee” and a cherry pie “that’ll kill ya.” She was once the high school sweetheart of Ed Hurley, but fate tore them apart. She ended up with Hank Jennings, a low life who ends up in prison for running over a vagrant. Norma is happy to see him go and settles into life running the diner. However, in the first season of Twin Peaks, Hank is up for parole and is likely coming home. Hank knows Norma and Ed still hold a flame for each other and plans to deal with that personally.
Doctor Lawrence Jacoby – Jacoby was secretly working as Laura Palmer’s therapist. He sticks out as an oddball even in Twin Peaks with his constant affinity for all things Hawaiian and his designer 3-D glasses he wears at all times. Jacoby almost seems to have a sexual attraction to Laura and has kept many secrets for her. After the first season, he plays a very minimal but important role in the rest of the series.
The Log Lady – Margaret Lanterman is an eccentric amongst a town of eccentrics. She is never seen without cradling her log and speaks about it as if it’s a conscious entity. She was married to a forest firefighter who was killed in a raging blaze in the woods of Twin Peaks the day of their wedding. Beyond this horrific trauma, Margaret has been shaped by her own encounters with the beings that live in the woods (as briefly described in Mark Frost’s The Secret History of Twin Peaks).
There are many more characters, but going into too much detail on those would be a spoiler. Look for my commentary on the more supernatural elements of Twin Peaks in this month’s Revisit of Fire Walk With Me.