In mere weeks, we will get new episodes of Twin Peaks. It seems so strange to write that. Like Laura Palmer herself, Twin Peaks burned bright and then died young, and in the twenty-five years since the series finale, the show’s abrupt ending and unsolved cliffhangers have become as much a part of its lore as that backwards-talking little dude and Laura Palmer’s homecoming queen photo.
I recently restarted watching Twin Peaks, and it’s probably the fourth time I’ve watched the whole series in order, pilot episode to Fire Walk With Me. Every time I watch, I am reminded how often David Lynch uses doubling—mirroring, twinning, splitting, repeating or some other sense of turning one thing into two. It’s the most prominent theme on the show, and I thought it might be of interest if I collected every single instance I could think of in one post.
Here, then is that list. (Here, then is that list.)
The title of the show. It’s right there in the name: There are some peaks, and there are two of them. However, the peaks themselves never become a major plot point on the show. Several natural settings do—Owl Cave, Glastonbury Grove and Ghostwood National Forest, to name a few—but no one ever visits the geographical formations that give the town its name. Given that Lynch had initially wanted to call the series Northwest Passage, I’d guess this was his way of saying right from the get-go, “Hey, doubling is going to be a big thing on this show. Pay attention.”
Laura Palmer. She was essentially leading two lives: publicly as the popular good girl and privately as a tortured soul who used sex and drugs to cope with some heinous personal trauma. In that sense, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) was her own evil twin, and this idea gets literalized in the Red Room, where the bad aspect to Laura’s personality manifests as a shrieking demon.
Maddy Ferguson. And then Laura gets twinned again with the arrival of her identical cousin, Maddy, who has dark hair and is older than Laura but nonetheless looks exactly like her, mostly because Sheryl Lee played both roles. Whereas Laura was outgoing and very sexual, Maddy is bookish and a little matronly—or at least until she breaks her glasses and starts acting more like Laura. The relationship comes full circle when Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) murders Maddy, just as he had Laura. It should also be noted that the character’s name is a nod to Scottie Ferguson and Madeleine Elster, the two lead characters in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which was another mystery revolving around doubles and events that repeat.
Cooper and Evil Cooper. In the last episode, Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) flees the Black Lodge, but the person who makes it out is implied to be a possessed, insane version of Cooper. He’s a cackling monster. He is, essentially, an anti-Cooper. One of the “missing pieces” deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me has Annie (Heather Graham) being wheeled into the hospital, where she tells the nurse, “The good Dale is in the Lodge, and he can't leave,” and we’re told one of the main plots of the upcoming series is Dale’s return to Twin Peaks.
Cooper and Windom Earle. In the second season of the show, Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh) is also a sort of anti-Cooper. Earle is Cooper’s former FBI partner, who went mad and who vanished for a period, during which Cooper and Caroline, Earle’s wife, became romantically involved. Earle stabbed them both, killing only Caroline, and then returns to menace Cooper during the show’s second season. Whereas Cooper uses his FBI-honed smarts to help people, Earle uses them to hurt people.
Annie and Caroline. Cooper begins dating Annie shortly after she arrives in town, and she becomes a stand-in for Caroline when Earle kidnaps her at the end of the second season.
Other dueling FBI agents. Yes, there are more than two FBI agents that appear in the series, but Agent Cooper is obviously the most important one. He’s affable and charming, and he quickly embraces all the folksy weirdness of the town of Twin Peaks. Early in the series and shortly after Coop arrives in town, he’s joined by Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer), who is prickly and cold. At least initially, Albert rejects everything about the town that Cooper loves. In Fire Walk With Me, Cooper gets a second twin in Chet Desmond (Chris Isaak), a similar-looking FBI agent investigating the death of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley).
Teresa Banks. Essentially a Version 1.0 of Laura Palmer, Teresa is a 17-year-old girl living in Deer Meadow, Oregon. She has a brief sexual relationship with Leland Palmer, who murders her when she attempts to blackmail him. It’s presumable that Leland’s interest in Teresa is sparked at least in part by Teresa’s resemblance to Laura.
ALL THE REVERSE DOPPELGANGERS. I’m unsure if there’s a better term for this sort of relationship, but many of the characters on the show have “weird doubles” that share key elements of their personalities, with other ones significantly tweaked—Bizarro Superman-style but also Bizzaro Seinfeld-style. Often these pairs revolve around a third character with whom they have overlapping ties. I’m grouping them all together in one list.
- Donna and Audrey. They’re both beautiful brunette high school students who seek to find out who killed Laura. But whereas Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) was Laura’s best friend, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) and Laura were rivals. Donna is a good girl, at least at the outset, and Audrey is a bad girl—again, at least in the beginning of the series. Their respective moral alignments push them down two different paths as they try to find out who killed Laura. Audrey’s path takes her to One Eyed Jack’s, the seedy casino and brothel, while Donna ends up tracing Laura’s Meals on Wheels route. Donna and Audrey’s bond is made even stronger at the end of the second season when it’s revealed that they are actually half-sisters and that Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) is father to both. There’s a Huffington Post article that posits that Donna and Audrey are actually the most prominent of the many doubles: “Onscreen together, they look alike right down to the stage-left flick of their weightless hair-dos; immaculately turned-out, pale as snow, eyes deep and soulful, they are of a type, of a height, and of one appearance.” Also this: “In an early scene, A.H. and D.H. stand side by symmetrical side in a bathroom, discussing Laura’s death—the one who dislikes her, the other her best friend, but both claiming to understand her better than anyone else, and both drawn, mothlike, towards the fiery mystery that is Laura Palmer. Reflected alongside one another in the bathroom mirror, like some human Rorschach test, they are a fourfold image of visual consistency, a doubled doubling that resonates with significance in the eyes of the viewer.” It should be noted that this bathroom is decorated with a red stripe that wraps around the room. At several points, it spikes up into two symmetrical triangles. It’s a representation of the mountains that give the town its name, but in this scene, it’s yet another example of duplication.
- Laura’s two boyfriends. Yes, Laura was sleeping with half the town, but her two most important relationships are with Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), her public boyfriend, and James (James Marshall), her secret boyfriend. Bobby is brash; James is shy. Bobby is on the football team and seems like an all-American dream but is secretly involved in the town’s drug trade. James wears a leather jacket and rides a motorcycle but is actually sweet-natured and honest.
- Bobby’s two girlfriends. Bobby has a secret relationship as well: He was seeing Shelly (Madchen Amick) while he was dating Laura, and this relationship continues after Laura’s death. Laura kept up the pretense of being a good girl high school student while she was doing drugs and associating with criminal elements. Shelly, however, dropped out of high school to marry Leo (Eric Da Re), a criminal, and you could say that she left behind any pretense of her high school life. (We’re led to believe that she would have been in the same class as Bobby, Laura, Donna and the rest, right?) By having an affair with Bobby, who seems to love her, while being married to Leo, who is abusive and does not seem to love her, Shelly also gets her own triangle.
- James’ two girlfriends. While secretly dating Laura, James falls in love with Donna, though the relationship only progresses once Laura is killed. Later, when Maddy arrives in town, a new love triangle develops around him, Donna and Maddy-as-substitute Laura.
- Donna’s two boyfriends. At the start of the series, Donna is dating Bobby’s friend Mike (Gary Hershberger), who is a dick but who is also popular. She later starts dating James, who is sweet to her in a way Mike never was.
- Ed’s two loves. It’s not just the teenagers in this town who have double relationships. Ed (Everett McGill) is married to Nadine (Wendy Robie), for whom he has some affection even though she is a terrible nag and seems mentally unwell. His true love, however, is his high school sweetheart, Norma (Peggy Lipton), who who understands Ed in a way Norma does not. His public relationship with Nadine hinders his private relationship with Norma.
- Norma’s two loves. Similarly, Norma is married to Hank (Chris Mulkey), an ex-con who lies to Norma about being reformed, but she actually has always loved Ed, who is an honest man. Both Hank and Ed are involved with the unseen elements of Twin Peaks—the former though the Renault brothers’ gang and the latter through the Bookhouse Boys, a secret society that aims to fight for good. In that sense, the Bookhouse Boys are the benevolent version of a criminal gang.
- Pete, Catheine and Josie. Take your pick about where to start. Pete (Jack Nance) is married to Catherine (Piper Laurie), who doesn’t seem to actually love him, but he has a special fondness for Josie (Joan Chen), who married Catherine’s brother Andrew (Dan O’Herlihy). Catherine hates Josie, both because she suspects her of killing Andrew and because Josie gained control of the Packard family sawmill. The three of them do-si-do until Josie’s death and Andrew’s (real) death.
- Donna and Ronette. They’re both friends with Laura, but just as Laura had public and private boyfriends, she had Donna for the “good girl” portion of her life and Ronette (Phoebe Augustine) for the “bad girl” portion. In Fire Walk With Me, Laura actively pushes Donna out of the latter part of her life, not wanting her to associate with the elements that she apparently has no problem with Ronette associating with, and as a result it’s Ronette, not Donna, who is with Laura on the night she dies.
- Lucy’s two boyfriends. Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) loves Deputy Andy (Harry Goaz), who’s a lovable oaf, but she also dates Dick Tremaine (Ian Buchanan), who’s slick and polished but not necessarily nice. Both Andy and Dick are potential fathers to Lucy’s baby, though she eventually decides that Andy should be the father.
- Donna’s mom and her two men. We never hear the specifics of how and why, but the second season ends with the implication that Eileen Hayward (Mary Jo Deschanel) at one point had a relationship with Ben Horne and that Donna was the result of that union. This is surprising, given that Donna’s mother is essentially a background character beforehand, but also because Donna and Audrey are the same age, seemingly implying that both Mr. Horne and Mrs. Hayward may have been married to their current spouses when Donna was conceived. Nonetheless, Doc Hayward (Warren Frost) seems to have raised Donna as his own, and this makes it easy to contrast the two characters: The doctor is kind and unassuming and dedicated to helping people, while Ben Horne is aggressive and opportunistic and focused on making as much money as possible.
Shelly and Norma. They’re not opposites but parallels; Shelly loves Bobby but is married to Leo, a criminal who doesn’t really love her, while Norma loves Ed but is married to Hank, a criminal who doesn’t love her. They both work at the Double R Diner, and in one episode even discuss how similar their lives are, whereupon they decide to get makeovers that make them look alike as well.
Norma and her mother. Late in the series, Norma’s mother, Vivian (Jane Greer), arrives in town. An undercover food critic critic who writes under a pseudonym, Vivian introduces her new husband Ernie (James Booth), who it turns out is a criminal accomplice of Norma’s husband, Hank. In essence, Norma’s mother also follows in Norma’s footsteps.
Also, it’s called the Double R Diner. We never find out what those Rs stand for.