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Lynch Mob: 30 Best ‘Twin Peaks’ Characters

From Laura Palmer to the Log Lady, these were the residents of David Lynch’s otherwordly series that turned ‘Twin Peaks’ into a TV landmark

twin peaks

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 10: TWIN PEAKS - Season One - 11/10/1989, Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer is found dead, washed up on a riverbank wrapped in plastic sheeting. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is called in to work with local Sheriff Harry S.Truman in the investigation of the gruesome murder in the small Northwestern town of Twin Peaks, Washington. , (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

CBS Photo Archive

"Let's rock!" When co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost announced on Monday that they were reviving their masterful mystery series Twin Peaks for a new nine-episode season airing on Showtime in 2016, fans reacted as though a murdered loved one had been brought back from the dead. The show's surreal imagery fueled parodies everywhere from Saturday Night Live to Sesame Street. its feature-level filmmaking paved the way for New Golden Age of Television standouts like The Sopranos and Mad Men, while the constant seeding of cryptic clues throughout episodes helped set a precedent for series like The X-Files, Lost, and True Detective.

But in the end, it's the characters that keep people coming back to this strange small-town saga: Laura Palmer, the homecoming queen with a dark double life; Agent Dale Cooper, the idealistic investigator sent to catch her killer; and the countless inhabitants of the both the town where she lived and the supernatural realm – the Black Lodge – lurking beneath its surface.

To celebrate the series' return, we narrowed down the sprawling cast of both the TV show and its feature-film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me to a quick and dirty list of 30 – the characters essential to understanding the show's undying appeal. Pour yourself a damn good coffee and fire walk with us.

twin peaks

ABC

6

The Man From Another Place

The dancing, the backwards talking, the cryptic messages, the red suit, the surreal supernatural strangeness: No single character embodied Twin Peaks' pop-culture profile more totally than this peculiar little man. There had never been anything like this character on TV before, which made him supremely useful; audiences knew to drop everything and pay attention whenever he appeared. As the mysteries deepend and we learned more about the Black Lodge he seemed to inhabit, his power only grew with familiarity – quite a feat for any story.

audrey horne twin peaks

American actress Sherilyn Fenn (as Audrey Horne) sits in a classroom set with her chin in her hands in a scene from the pilot episode of the television series 'Twin Peaks,' originally broadcast on April 8, 1990. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

CBS Photo Archive

5

Audrey Horne

The pilot wasn't even over before young Audrey Horne danced her way across the lineoleum floor of the Double R Diner and into the annals of TV chic. Iconically glamorous and sophisticated, Audrey seemed to effortlessly inhabit a cool-girl role that Shelly, Donna, and Laura could never access, and was key to the show's crazysexycool pop appeal. But her dangerous investigations into the underside of Twin Peaks, and her crush on and admiration for Agent Cooper, revealed a person as vulnerable – and good-hearted – as anyone on the show.

twin peaks bob

TWIN PEAKS - Show Coverage (Off Screen) - Shoot Date: May 9, 1990. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) FRANK SILVA SEEN ON TV SCREEN

ABC Photo Archives

4

BOB

The story is almost too good to be true: While shooting the pilot, David Lynch was so struck by the image of a crew member crouched behind Laura Palmer's bed that he insisted on filming it, despite having no idea what he could possibly use it for. Later, while shooting Sarah Palmer awakening from a nightmarish vision, he discovered he's accidentally captured that same crew member's reflection in a mirror seen in that very shot. The rest – the identity of Laura Palmer's murderer and the single most frightening character ever to appear on TV – is history.

twin peaks Leland Palmer

American actor Ray Wise (as Leland Palmer) speaks on a telephone in a scene from the pilot episode of the television series 'Twin Peaks,' originally broadcast on April 8, 1990. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

CBS Photo Archive

3

Leland Palmer

You'd have to turn to James Gandolfini to find a performance of fatherhood as nuanced, heartbreaking, and horrifying as Ray Wise's portrayal of the Palmer family patriarch. Is he a decent man broken by grief? A victim turned victimizer despite his best efforts? A monster preying upon the powerless beneath a veneer of suburban sanity? He was all these things, and in Wise's wide-eyed face you can see each facet of his personality fighting to hide itself from the others. No matter where you see him show up now, the menace of Leland Palmer oozes off him like the stench of burning oil.

twin peaks dale cooper

American actor Kyle MacLachlan (as Special Agent Dale Cooper) holds a portable cassette recorder as he drives a car in a scene from the pilot episode of the television series 'Twin Peaks,' originally broadcast on April 8, 1990. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

CBS Photo Archive

2

Agent Dale Cooper

Coop! Even though it's unlikely that the likes of Tony Soprano, Don Draper, Walter White, and Tyrion Lannister would exist without the creative example set by Twin Peaks, the show's leading man – who looks like Clark Kent and talks like Carlos Castaneda — is the antithesis of his many bastard sons. There's no "anti" in this hero — a man of boundless intellectual curiosity, emotional empathy, lust for life, and bravery in the line of fire. Antiheroes allow us to vicariously experience their thrilling indecency; Agent Cooper proves that decency can be just as thrilling, which makes his cliffhanger fate in the Season Two finale that much more devastating.

twin peaks laura palmer

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 10: TWIN PEAKS - Pilot - Season One - 11/10/1989, Homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee, pictured) is found dead, washed up on a riverbank wrapped in plastic sheeting. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is called in to work with local Sheriff Harry S.Truman in the investigation of the gruesome murder in the small Northwestern town of Twin Peaks, Washington. , (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

ABC

1

Laura Palmer

She gave the show its central mystery, and its zeitgeist-conquering catch phrase: Who killed Laura Palmer? But even though her death is literally what made the story possible, it's her life that made it matter. Unlike the macabre MacGuffins of so many post-Peaks dead-girl mysteries, Laura was not a beautiful cipher, existing solely to inspire the male detectives investigating her murder. She was a vibrant, complicated character in her own right, the person who best embodied the small-town-secrets theme, and who paid the highest price for those secrets. Her life, and the suffering that ended it, were always foregrounded. And our glimpses of her in the series – a videotape, an audio recording, a diary entry, a visitation from Another Place – were all merely a prelude to her starring role in the prequel film Fire Walk With Me, featuring actor Sheryl Lee's tear-down-the-sky performance of a character coming to grips with the most profound cruelty imaginable. "She's dead, wrapped in plastic"? Yes. But she'll live forever.

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