Twin Peaks was a television show created by legendary weirdo David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and also a movie about a man and his tractor) and the less legendary but pretty likely also weird Mark Frost. The show’s action initially orbited around the shocking murder of local Homecoming Queen and low-key bad girl Laura Palmer, who washes up on the shore of a lake wrapped in plastic. 

It branched out almost immediately into all manner of strange dank diversions, twining small-town soap opera with police procedural with make it up as you go along supernatural/occult mythology. It lasted for an entire two seasons. People really liked the first and gradually gave up on the second, but it’s better than most people remember. Still kind of dumb though. Some of the dumbest plotlines of Season 2? Nadine-now suffering a sort of amnesia-gaining super strength and becoming a High School wrestler for no particular reason, Ben Horne’s extended mental breakdown that culminated in his belief that he was Confederate General Robert E. Lee, the mayor’s fiancé maybe being a witch for some reason, Cooper’s former partner Windom Earle’s convoluted vengeance scheme involving chess moves or some dumb shit, the Miss Twin Peaks pageant which was exactly as lame as it sounds…

To sum up, Season 2 was not quite the greatest season of television of all time.

Where does it take place (Twin Peaks!)

The show is for the most part set in the fictional idyllic Pacific Northwest-ish lumber town of Twin Peaks. Obviously! It is a place where everyone goes to the same diner for every meal and they always eat pie. There is an infamous interlude in the dark ages of Season 2 where the brooding Eastern Island faced James Hurley gets on his motorcycle and goes to another less cool town and get involved in some stupid bullshit that nobody remembers with some pointless characters who like, live in a house maybe? Doesn’t matter.

When does it take place?

The events of the show are set primarily in 1989. Probably everyone in the town except Dr. Jacoby voted for George H.W. Bush. The massively disquieting prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, partially takes place in 1988 and features famous music men Chris Isaak and David Bowie in small and tiny roles respectively. It chronicles the last days of Laura Palmer! The show proper originally aired from April 1990 to June 1991 which if you’re good at math, you realize is what the experts would deem “not that long at all, man.”

Who do I need to know about?

Laura Palmer
Image via Showtime

Twin Peaks featured a diverse cast made up almost entirely white people. Here are just a few of those mostly white people you’ll need to be aware of if you choose to bravely fake your way through a Twin Peaks conversation!

Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan): The town of Twin Peaks was never in dire need of eccentric weirdos, but one weirdo stands head and shoulders above the rest (in weirdness, in human height he’s probably a few inches taller than average) and that weirdo is Dale Cooper, the FBI Agent assigned to investigate Laura’s murder. In this current age of prestige television typically being anchored by an anti-hero type, Cooper’s upright goofy nobility may initially feel jarring. Don’t worry, he too has skeletons in his closet, like his fetishization of black coffee and his propensity to solve crimes by just having weird dreams. Oh, he talks into a tape recorder as if it’s a person named Diane. If someone comes up to you at the club and says, “Yo, have you seen Twin Peaks?” all you need to do is take your phone and pretend it is a tape recorder and say, “Diane, yes. I have seen that show. It’s uh, good.”

Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee): Laura Palmer is the girl who dies and is wrapped in plastic. You should probably know this by now. She’s seen in flashbacks and alternate planes of existence in the show, and a major character in the majorly depressing prequel film. When someone says “I like that show Twin Peaks” you should immediately say something like, “Oh yeah, man. Laura Palmer. Man, is she dead or what!” Trust me, they’ll get it.

Leland Palmer (Ray Wise): Laura’s dad, who likes to dance. Leland is Ben Horne’s faithful lawyer and a generally pleasant seeming man. You may recognize him and his memorable kindly yet bulging eyes from Tim and Eric, Fresh Off the Boat, Agent Carter, Mad Men, and an episode of Fargo

Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn): Audrey is Ben Horne’s aspiring femme-fatale daughter. She develops a crush on Agent Cooper and smokes cigarettes in the bathroom at school. If you are faking a conversation about Twin Peaks with some random folks, you should say something like, “Bro, I wish they had developed Audrey Horne more, she was a great character that the writer’s obviously didn’t know quite what to do with, bro.”

Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn-Boyle): Donna is Laura’s best friend. She’s a decent person but a bit of a weird try-hard. She schemes and sleuths throughout two seasons and never really does anything right. Her plans contribute to at least one heart attack and one suicide. There’s a scene where she sucks a finger through a jail cell because she’s wearing Laura’s sunglasses which make her think this kind of behavior is normal. A nice bit of Donna trivia to prove your Twin Peaks bona fides is to mention how jarring it was that Lara Flynn-Boyle refused to reprise her role in the prequel film, but that Moira Kelly did an okay job as a replacement, then quickly mention Moira Kelly’s other great performance, Nala from The Lion King.

Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook): Bobby is the Captain of the Football team and Laura’s boyfriend. You may be thinking: what, this scrawny weirdo who barks at people from a jail cell is the captain of the football team? Forget about the ancient evil lurking in the woods, Twin Peaks has bigger problems. 

Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick): Shelly works for Norma, is married to Leo, and is having an affair with Laura’s boyfriend, Bobby, who again, does not look like he should be allowed anywhere near a football field. The actress who plays Shelly plays Betty’s mom in Riverdale, one of the most unabashedly proud branches on the Twin Peaks family tree.

Leo Johnson (Eric Da Re): Leo is Shelly’s dirtbag trucker husband with bad hair. Leo’s the type of guy who probably would leave racist or sexist comments on YouTube videos. Maybe that’s being unfair to Leo, but he definitely sucks.

James Hurley (James Marshall): Big Ed’s nephew. James is a boring brooding guy whose main personality trait is “owning a motorcycle.” He’s kind of the Jon Snow of Twin Peaks, if Jon Snow had a motorcycle and kind of sucked.

BOB (Frank Silva): BOB is an evil spirit from another plane of existence. He loves denim. He commits unspeakable acts of violence so that he can feed on human suffering (garmonbozia) as nourishment. It’s probably important to repeat that this guy is really into denim.