The fact that David Lynch had chosen Kyle MacLachlan to play Special Agent Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks was a definite plus for fans of Lynch’s earlier work.
MacLachlan had already achieved cult success in Dune, and more importantly, had gained critical acclaim for Blue Velvet, in which he played an awkward, shy young man, corrupted by the seedy underworld into which he is drawn, through his attraction to an older woman.
As he arrives in town, we learn that Agent Cooper has been following the trail of a killer, and that he believes Laura Palmer is the latest victim.
After examining Laura’s body and finding clues to support his theory, he decides to stay in Twin Peaks, telling Sheriff Harry Truman that he will take over the investigation and that the police will assist the FBI.
Harry readily agrees, not used to dealing with federal murder cases, and one of the most memorable crime fighting partnerships in TV history is born. (Ok, so I’m biased, get over it)
As episode two opens, we find Agent Cooper talking to the ever present, but never visible, Diane, to whom he dictates his notes throughout the series.
Cooper is the main reason the show works so well for me.
He manages to be earnest and sincere about the most surreal subjects, and the other characters just smile and nod as if it’s the most normal thing in the world.
And his methods of detection are far from conventional either, as we can see in this next scene.
Agent Cooper has gathered the Twin Peaks PD in the woods for a demonstration.
Having determined a list of possible suspects, he attempts to eliminate various people with the help of Harry, Andy, receptionist Lucy Moran (the fabulously ditzy Kimmy Robertson), and Deputy Hawk (the hugely impressive, and huge, Michael Horse)
And a bucket of rocks.
And coffee, always lots of coffee.
This brings some other, uniquely Lynch-esque characters to our attention – Dr Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn, probably most famous for having played Tom Thumb), Laura Palmer’s deeply eccentric psychiatrist,
…Leo Johnson, truck driving good ol’ boy and all round scumbag, husband of RR Diner waitress, and domestic punch bag, Shelley Johnson. (Eric Da Re and Madchen Amick)
We also hear about One Eyed Jacks for the first time, Canadian brothel and casino, owned by town bigwig Benjamin Horne, who also owns the Great Northern Hotel, (Richard Beymer, star of West Side Story)
All these characters are woven into the various subplots which make the show so much more than a whodunnit.
There are also a great many romantic entanglements, not the least of which is the one between Sheriff Truman and enigmatic Chinese beauty and timber heiress, Josie Packard (Joan Chen)
Josie, widow of sawmill owner Andrew Packard, is at constant loggerheads with her dead husband’s sister, the devious, scheming Catherine Martell (the gloriously melodramatic Piper Laurie).
And as if that wasn’t complicated enough, Catherine is cheating on her husband, Pete, with Benjamin Horne, hotelier, corrupt businessman, and owner of most of Twin Peaks.
Somehow, the death of Laura Palmer has touched the lives of all these people, and it’s the intertwining of their respective storylines that leads us into the dark underbelly of a town where, we soon begin to realise, nobody is really innocent.
And there are two people who seem to be apart from the other peculiar inhabitants of this most peculiar of towns.
Although strange enough in their own ways, Major Briggs and The Log Lady (Don Davis and Catherine Coulson) seem to know more than they’re letting on.
Here is a fairly typical exchange between the two of them in the RR Diner.
The only real lead is the traumatised and still sedated Ronette Pulaski, who wandered back into town down the railway tracks, after being abducted on the same night as Laura…
…leading to the site of her murder, in the woods.