It’s been both wonderful and depressing catching up with favorite Twin Peaks characters after 25 years. (Like, what the hell, Audrey?) But Twin Peaks: The Return has also introduced several new eccentrics who’ve quickly become memorable parts of the show’s ever-expanding landscape.
Programming notes: I didn’t include either of the Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) variations on this list. Even though Dougie Jones and Mr. C are technically new to the story, they’re both drawn from a character we already knew. I also didn’t include any characters who’ve done nothing but annoy me every time they show up—though who knows, maybe the hysterics of Becky Burnett (Amanda Seyfried) will eventually lead to something profound.
Buckhorn, South Dakota is not exactly a hotbed of violent crime—but Detective Macklay (Brent Briscoe) handles the gruesome discovery of a headless man’s body paired with a body-less woman’s head with remarkable professionalism. He also approaches all the weirdness that comes after (the arrest of high school principal Bill Hastings; the sudden interest in his case from the Air Force and the FBI; the suggestion that inter-dimensional travel exists) with an admirably cool attitude. He even takes aforementioned high school principal Bill Hastings’ apparently spontaneous skull-squishing (while sitting right in front of him in a parked police car) in stride. He’s basically the middle-aged, Midwestern version of the original series’ Sheriff Harry S. Truman, except so far he hasn’t had to punch anyone in the face.
Dougie Jones’ mind-blowing winning streak on the slot machines at the Silver Mustang Casino benefits another gambler, too. She’s only identified as “Lady Slot Addict” (Linda Porter), an elderly woman who’s been roughed up by years of bad luck. A hot tip from Dougie earns her a financial windfall that helps turn her entire life around, and she’s happy and elegant when she runs into the man she gratefully calls “Mr. Jackpot” several episodes later. This is a character that serves a comedic purpose when we first meet her, but ends up having a huge emotional impact when she returns. Her joy also emphasizes the good that Dougie can do—especially when contrasted with the evil that Mr. C keeps bringing into the world.
David Lynch is fond of characters who sit alone in rooms acting as puppeteers of fate—remember the whole “This is the girl” subplot from Mulholland Drive? But Mr. Todd (played by Patrick Fischler, who appeared in Mulholland Drive as a man haunted by a strange character hiding behind a Los Angeles diner) isn’t really the one in charge. Instead, he’s virtually chained to a desk in Las Vegas, acting on orders from Mr. C. First, we ascertain that he’s the one who hires people to stare at a mysterious box in New York City. Then, we see him attempting to plot the assassination of Dougie Jones—a man who cannot logically exist in the same reality as Mr. C for much longer. Every time Mr. Todd picks up the phone, something terrible happens (or almost happens), and every time we see him, he’s exponentially more frustrated and more terrified at his situation.
At first, Dougie’s co-worker Anthony Sinclair seemed kind of one note—a shady fellow insurance agent who had no problem running scams to earn extra dough on the side. Of course he’d be pissed when Dougie, newly gifted with magical Black Lodge insight, called him out as a liar in front of their boss. But Anthony got a lot more interesting when it was revealed that he was tangled up with the Mitchum Brothers (see below) and Mr. Todd (see above), which means Mr. C by extension, too. Casting 1990s tough guy Tom Sizemore was a genius move, because you’d never expect one of his characters to suddenly crumble and sprout a conscience at a do-or-die moment, specifically right after dumping poison into Dougie’s coffee. Anthony’s sudden change of heart and emotional breakdown is another example of how Dougie has the power to help lost souls turn their lives around—even if he’s basically nonverbal and seems motivated only by coffee and cherry pie.
Three brothers, all Las Vegas detectives, all working together to investigate various mysteries of the season. None of them (played by David Koechner, Eric Edelstein, and Larry Clarke) are particularly sharp, but they have a way of cleverly digging up, and then carelessly discarding, valuable information that could help break the FBI’s Agent Cooper case wide open, if they only knew about it. They’re the reason we know Dougie has no history earlier than 1997 and also that he has the exact same fingerprints as the recently incarcerated Mr. C. That latter discovery—which would surely be hugely valuable to the FBI—literally gets wadded up and tossed in a trash can. Still, you can’t hate these guys. The interaction between them is priceless, and they’re goofy comic relief in the most Lynchian, non sequitur way. For example, one brother, nicknamed “Smiley,” is fond of breaking into a high-pitched cackle at inappropriate moments.
Brother dynamics are a recurring theme on Twin Peaks. Beyond the metaphysical twin thing that Dougie and Mr. C have going on, there are the Detective Fuscos, Richard and Jerry Horne, Harry and Frank Truman, and the most colorful of the bunch: Las Vegas tycoons Bradley and Rodney Mitchum (James Belushi and Robert Knepper). Much like their associate Anthony, the Mitchums are first presented as sleazeballs who seem to conform to a certain character type. But these are no ordinary gangsters, and not just because they’re always accompanied by a ditzy trio of identically-dressed showgirls. Their plan to kill Dougie, who they believe has bilked them out of a huge insurance payout, is derailed when their intended target shows up to meet them carrying something Bradley glimpsed in a dream: a cherry pie. (Why? Because it’s Twin Peaks, that’s why.) Dougie’s life is spared for that, but he gains a two new best friends when they realize he also has a huge insurance check made out to the pair of them tucked into his pocket.
Who is Red? We still don’t really know, and that’s why he’s so intriguing. He’s apparently dating Shelly (a returning character played by Mädchen Amick). He’s definitely one of the people responsible for bringing “the sparkle,” the greatest cocaine anyone has ever snorted, to Twin Peaks. He’s spooky as hell, and perhaps, not coincidentally, he’s played by Balthazar Getty, who also played a guy with a very slippery identity in Lynch’s Lost Highway. He’s a big fan of intimidation, magic tricks, and The King and I. Something’s going to happen with Red, we just don’t know what the hell it will be.
After bad seed Richard Horne mows down a child in a horrible hit-and-run, he goes after the only witness, Miriam (Sarah Jean Long), beating her severely before setting her trailer on fire. Somehow, she survives—but slips into a coma before she can tell the world who did it. It’s a grim turn of events for the pie-loving school teacher, but it also means Miriam’s kind of the Ronette Pulaski of The Return. If she wakes up long enough to identify a photo (or better yet, a creepy pen-and-ink police sketch) of Richard, her place in Twin Peaks history will be forever assured.
Speaking of Richard Horne (Eamon Farren), he makes this list only because of what happened in the most recent episode. Prior to episode 13, he’d been so cartoonishly evil it was almost boring: menacing girls at the Roadhouse, doing and dealing drugs, running over a kid, beating up Miriam, robbing (and terrifying) his grandmother and mentally disabled uncle. Last week, Richard—on the run from the law for obvious reasons—showed up among the other thugs at the Montana lair where Mr. C chased down his back-stabbing henchman, Ray. The connection is still unclear, but it can’t be a coincidence. His appearance there gives more evidence to the idea that Richard’s Audrey’s son and that his father is maybe, probably, Mr. C. That theory works off the fact that “Agent Cooper” may have “visited” Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn), hospitalized after that bank explosion in the season two finale, before he vanished from Twin Peaks.
Original Twin Peaks Deputy Andy remains as inept as he was 25 years ago, but it’s in a totally innocent, Barney Fife kind of way. Fresh-faced Deputy Chad (John Pirruccello) is on a whole new level of terrible. He’s definitely on the take, accepting bribes from Richard and probably others, and he’s not above rooting through the mail and stealing Miriam’s incriminating letter about Richard’s fatal accident. And Chad’s also just a rude asshole—talking shit, disrespecting the Log Lady, and, worst of all, violating office etiquette by eating his gross lunch in the conference room. But he’s a very important character, an unmistakable symbol of how much the town of Twin Peaks has changed in the past 25 years. Of course the police department is going to need more people, but a dickhead like Chad would never have made the cut on the tight-knit squad we once knew. Where the hell are the Bookhouse Boys when you really need ‘em?
Poor Bill Hastings. He was just a married high school principal who fell in love with town librarian Ruth Davenport, in part because they both were very curious about time travel and alternate dimensions. They made a charmingly old-school website all about it. But while poking around in “the Zone” may have been thrilling at first, it also brought terrible consequences for everyone in Bill’s life. Especially Bill himself, who was accused of Ruth’s murder and then met his own grisly end while trying to clear his name by helping the FBI. Bill’s storyline may be over now (though really, who can say for certain?), but his curiosity set a lot of key events in motion. As an added layer of intrigue, Bill is played by former teen-movie star Matthew Lillard, whose emotionally wrecked performance was all the more impressive considering his other best-known role is probably Shaggy in the live-action Scooby-Doo movies. Now and forever, the hand of David Lynch works in mysterious ways.
“Cut the shit, Dougie!” We know Mr. Mullins (Don Murray) is a tough cookie as soon as he barks his first line—echoing, frankly, the sentiments of everyone watching The Return who’s hoping Agent Cooper will snap out of it. Several episodes later, we know that the hold Dougie’s dopey fog has on him is tenacious, but his boss, Mr. Mullins, hasn’t given up on him yet. In fact, he’s somehow able to interpret Dougie’s case file scrawls, realizing not only Anthony’s subterfuge, but also the fact that the company owes the Mitchum Brothers a huge payout. He even trusts Dougie, who seriously can’t even remember how to open a door, to deliver a $30 million check. And though he is tough as hell—his backstory as a champion boxer, evidenced by his office decor, is totally believable—he’s also a kind soul, too, standing up for the troubled Dougie when he’s questioned by the cops, and even showing compassion for Anthony when he confesses his many fuckups.
Mr. C’s onetime right-hand man signed his death warrant when he killed his boss—and then witnessed his miraculous and horrifying revival at the hands of the Woodsmen. But Ray (George Griffith) was on thin ice even before that, refusing to give up “the coordinates” that Mr. C was after, which we now know will lead him straight to Twin Peaks. (He was also apparently in cahoots with the mysterious Phillip Jeffries—a long-missing FBI agent who once worked closely with Cooper.) If Mr. C eventually goes back into the Black Lodge, which is as likely as it is not likely at this point, he just might see Ray there; after he tracks Ray down and emerges victorious in the world’s most Lynchian arm-wrestling competition, Mr. C sends his former associate not just to the grave, but to that familiar red room with black-and-white floors.
With actor Michael Ontkean—who played Twin Peaks Sheriff Harry S. Truman, arguably the second lead on the original series—retired from acting, David Lynch turned to Robert Forster, who was actually his original choice for the role of Harry, to play Harry’s brother Frank. (The Twin Peaks backstory is that Harry and Frank’s father had been the top cop until Frank took over, followed by Harry prior to arrival of Agent Cooper, though Frank stepped back in when illness meant Harry could no longer do the job.) Anyway, that’s a lot of words to say that Twin Peaks has a new sheriff. He’s older and more taciturn than we’re used to and, at some point, his soldier son committed suicide, his wife became very bitter, and his brother got very sick. His life hasn’t been easy, but Frank is old-school Twin Peaks. He surely understands that the woods that encircle the town conceal great secrets, and if anyone is going to stand firm in the face of whatever pops out of the Black Lodge once they trek to “the coordinates,” it’ll be Frank. (Along with the steadfast Deputy Hawk, of course... but he’s not a new character.)
The “sassy coroner” character has become familiar on police procedural shows, but leave it to Twin Peaks: The Return—which hasn’t been shy about skewering TV conventions—to breathe new life into a very tired trope. Constance Talbot (Jane Adams) works alongside Detective Macklay in Buckhorn, South Dakota, and piecing together what has to be the town’s most freakish two-bodies-one-corpse case ever unleashes some incredulity, some damn good police work, and some very wry gallows humor (she does stand-up on the weekends, by the way). We also know that Constance has a kid who attends school wherever Bill Hastings was the principal, but she’s presumably a single mom—evidenced by the brief glimpse we catch of her and the notoriously cranky FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) sharing a cozy meal. For fans of the original Twin Peaks, the sight of ALBERT ON A DATE was one of the most purely joyous moments we’ve yet to have on The Return—something we never knew we wanted, but now can’t imagine living without. And we have Constance Talbot to thank for that.
Naomi Watts is very famous now, but she was virtually unknown when she starred in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. So it’s perfect that she’s in the new Twin Peaks, and she’s perfectly cast as Dougie’s exasperated, assertive wife, whose wardrobe of demure cardigans might make you think she’d be incapable of delivering a righteous tongue-lashing to a pair of sleazy loan sharks—until you see her do it. Janey-E (so far, we have no explanation for her name, nor why her son with Dougie is called “Sonny Jim”) is indeed a tough broad, and her apparent inability to see that something is seriously wrong with her husband isn’t so strange when you see how comfortable she is with treating him like a little kid. What’s going to happen when Janey-E realizes that Dougie isn’t really Dougie, and has never been Dougie, but instead is a vessel for Cooper as he recovers from the Black Lodge? With the versatile Watts playing this role, absolutely anything is possible.
Bob will always be scary. But the Woodsmen—who travel in packs, though their leader is clearly the “Got a light?” guy (Robert Broski) from episode eight—are way scarier because we don’t know anything about them, other then the fact that they have something to do with the Black Lodge, as well as, uh, the creation of the atomic bomb. Plus, there’s just one Bob. But there are so many Woodsmen just roaming around, lurking in jail cells, hospital hallways, abandoned lots, outside of convenience stores, reciting strange poems on old-timey radio, etc. They’re not just in Twin Peaks or tied to a specific person. They are anywhere they want to be. They don’t always cause harm when they suddenly appear, but the dread they summon is tremendous. They can bring people back from the dead (though Mr. C is more Bob-demon than person), and their method of taking people out—swift, silent skull crushing—is outrageously horrific.
Fan reaction to Tammy (Chrysta Bell, a singer and longtime friend of David Lynch, in her first big acting role) has been mixed. On the one hand, she’s an incredibly capable FBI agent, a workaholic whose dedication to the Bureau earns her a spot on the elite Blue Rose task force (basically, Twin Peaks’ X-Files division) alongside Albert Rosenfield and Gordon Cole (played by Lynch himself). On the other hand, she’s frequently objectified—we see Albert and Gordon approvingly noticing her sexy sway as she walks away from them, and the glamorous Bell has a tendency to look like she’s striking a modeling pose even when she’s just standing around. However, Tammy has been an incredibly important part of the Cooper investigation—sharp-eyed fans will recall that Agent Preston “compiled” The Secret History of Twin Peaks, last year’s book by show co-creator Mark Frost that was written like a dossier. And for a show that has rather poor representation of women in law enforcement, Tammy’s presence is most welcome, especially now that she’s been let into Gordon’s inner circle and will soon be able to unleash her smarts with full Blue Rose clearance.
In the original series, Agent Cooper made dozens of tapes for “Diane,” recording notes about the Laura Palmer case, making requests (to be sent ear plugs and whatnot), and sharing his utter delight about Twin Peaks’ many charms. We never saw her, but it seemed natural that she’d be a character on The Return, especially considering the fact that the main plot revolves around her former boss. Casting Lynch regular Laura Dern in the part was exactly the right decision, and the character is a complete original, from her funky style (right down to her mismatched manicures) to her fondness for foul language (“Fuck you, Tammy!”) But Diane has a dark side—she drinks too much, and it’s implied that her last meeting with Cooper (before his disappearance, but after he turned evil) may have involved some kind of sexual assault, in the manner of his last meeting with Audrey. Despite that, she’s apparently still in contact with Mr. C, texting him coded messages that Albert easily intercepts, though neither he nor Gordon have a full grasp of her motives—and neither do we, for that matter. What is Diane up to, and why? We hope Lynch plans to reveal as much, because we can’t wait to see more of this character and find out.