The Twin Peaks timeline can be difficult to keep up with considering there are so many developments in David Lynch and Mark Frost’s surreal horror-mystery show. While Twin Peaks seasons 1 and 2 start off with an-almost linear timeline, long-time fans of the show noticed discrepancies creeping up with the release of the 1992 movie, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, along with companion pieces like The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and The Secret History of Twin Peaks, which record contrarian dates of key events in the world of Twin Peaks. And then there is 2017’s Twin Peaks: The Return, which infused the show with a plethora of convoluted primary and alternate timelines, temporal jumps and fluctuations, and dream logic, making it difficult to map a coherent chronology of events, which reflects the strange, elusive magnetism of Twin Peaks as a whole.
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The death of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) became akin to a Lynchian artifact that constantly revealed newer contraptions and surreal revelations, mired in mysticism both strange and enchanting at once. Reality is fluid in the world of Twin Peaks, which encompasses worlds beyond our world amid its endless canopies of Douglas firs, which greet Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) when he enters the seemingly-idyllic north-western town. An otherworldly evil lurks beneath the town’s mesmerizing beauty, which is a theme explored by Lynch in his 1986 neo-noir mystery, Blue Velvet, which delved into the concepts of guilt, innocence, and the grey areas that inhabit the two. As soon as one steps into the threshold of Twin Peaks, the words, “She’s dead…wrapped in plastic” permeates throughout, catalyzing a chain of events that are submerged in darkness, terror, and a sense of alien wonder.
While it may seem a little futile to try and map the events that occur in the realm of Twin Peaks, here’s a comprehensive timeline of events that take place throughout Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me, and The Return, along with an attempt to piece together fragments of alternate temporal dimensions and realities, and dream logic. Although it might be tempting to dissect events in the linear chronology of every release, it’s best to try and comprehend the complexity of Lynch’s surreal tour de force as a maze with no definite beginning or end.
Twin Peaks: The Return (July 1945-August 1956)
As Twin Peaks: The Return switches between timelines, both primary and alternate, one can trace the “origin” back to episode 8, which straddles between the boundaries of experimental cinema and sleep-paralysis-fueled nightmares. While episode 8 is a smorgasbord of horrifying events, it serves to highlight the act of impregnating the world of Twin Peaks with an ancient evil, with Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima” playing in the background.
July 16, 1945 – Detonation of The First Atomic Bomb: The Manhattan Project culminates in the detonation of the first successful nuclear test bomb, code-named “Trinity”, at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. A group of Woodsmen appears at a convenience store, walking in and out as time fluctuations and speed-ups occur. Then on, viewers zoom inside a vortex of the explosion, which appears like a void of nothingness, the site for the birth of evil. The mysterious entity Judy/Jowday vomits a trail of viscous clouds, including an orb that contains BOB. An egg can be seen separating from the stream and floating off, along with an amorphous, golden orb that comes into being. In the Home by the purple Sea, the Fireman levitates as a golden stream emanates from his head, creating an orb bearing Laura Palmer’s image. Señorita Dido kisses the orb and releases it to Earth through the projection room.
Sometime Post-1945 – Leland Starts Getting Inhabited by Bob: While this does not appear in Twin Peaks: The Return, in season 1, episode 9, Leland tells Cooper that Bob used to live next door to his grandfather’s summer home when Leland was a child. Leland went on to explain in Episode 16 that Bob would often appear in his dreams and inhabit him: “He opened me and I invited him and he came inside me. … When he was inside, I didn’t know and when he was gone I couldn’t remember. He made me do things, terrible things.”
August 5, 1956 – A Creature and The Woodsmen Appear in New Mexico: A strange creature hatches from one of Judy’s vomit eggs in the desert of New Mexico. A local girl, thought to be Sarah Novack, returns home from a date with a friend from school. Meanwhile, a number of Woodsmen approach the KPJK studio at 10:16 PM and murder two people, broadcasting a strange incantation that induces unconsciousness in those who hear it. Sarah passes out, and the creature crawls into her mouth.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (February 1988 – March 1989)
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me can be viewed both as a prologue and epilogue to seasons 1 and 2. It revolved around the investigation surrounding the murder of Theresa Banks and the final week before Laura’s death. A compilation of deleted scenes from the film was released in 2014, named Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces.
January – February 1988 – Leland Murders Teresa Banks: Leland responds to an ad in Flesh World and meets Teresa at the Red Diamond City Motel, who he later sees with Ronette Pulaski and Laura, causing him to flee from the hotel. Teresa becomes aware of Leland’s identity and threatens him, which causes him to kill her and throw her plastic-wrapped body into the Wind River. Chet Desmond investigates Teresa’s murder and finds the letter ‘T’ under her left ring fingernail. Desmond revisits the Fat Trout Trailer Park after dusk and finds Teresa’s ring in the dust, post which, he is reported missing. Later on, Cooper visits the trailer and finds Desmond’s car with the words “Let’s Rock” written on the windshield. On 16th February, Special Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie), who was reported missing while on assignment in 1987, appears to check into the Palm Deluxe Hotel in Buenos Aires, asking if a Ms. Judy was staying there.
February 1989 – Phillip Jeffries Briefly Appears in Philadelphia: While there are contradictory years regarding Jeffries’ disappearance, both The Final Dossier and Missing Pieces corroborate the year as 1989. Jeffries appears in the FBI headquarters at 10:10 AM, and speaks to Gordon (Lynch), Albert, and Cooper and speaks in a disjointed manner about Judy, mentioning a convenience store and an important ring, while saying, “We live inside a dream”. Soon after, Jeffries vanishes and reappears in the Buenos Aires hotel stairwell, screaming in terror and anguish.
February 17 – Laura Has A Vision of The Red Room: On 5th February, Laura breaks the heart necklace and tells James that she is happy that he loves her. Some days later, Laura has a dream of the Red Room, where she sees Cooper ask, “Is it future or is it past?” On waking, Laura sees a bloodied Annie Blackburn who says that the good Dale is in the lodge and cannot leave, which she later writes down in her diary.
February 23 – Laura Learns The Identity of Her Abuser and Is Killed: Laura learns the true identity of Bob, who kidnaps her and Ronette later that night. When prevented from inhabiting her, Bob murders Laura and places her in the Black Lake. Later, Pete Martell discovers Laura’s corpse near Blue Pine Lodge and Cooper is assigned to investigate her murder.
Twin Peaks, Season One and Two (February 1989 – March 1989)
From here on, events that follow Laura’s death overlap to a certain extent between Twin Peaks seasons 1 and 2 and Fire Walk With Me. While the timeline in both Twin Peaks seasons is pretty much linear, there are a bunch of alternate versions of events that occur, as shown in The Return. Here are the key primary and alternate events that take place in both seasons:
Primary Timeline, February-March 1989
February 24 – Cooper Arrives at Twin Peaks: Cooper meets up with Sheriff Harry S. Truman. The letter ‘R’ is found in one of Laura’s fingernails, and they also find Ronette, who was found roaming the woods and has suffered severe shock. Cooper and Truman find the mention of ‘J’ in Laura’s diary, and also a stash of cocaine. On reaching the train tracks, they find Laura’s half heart necklace and a note that says “fire walk with me.”
Events Throughout March – (Seasons 1 and 2): Cooper follows clues from a dream and arrests Jaques Renault for the murder, but he is killed in the hospital by Leland. Briefly after this, Leo Johnson burns down the Packard Sawmill which leads to the brief disappearance of Catherine. Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) is kidnapped and held hostage at One Eyed Jacks but is later rescued by Cooper, Truman, and Hawk. Meanwhile, Donna befriends Harold Smith and attempts to steal Laura’s diary with the help of her cousin Maddy (also played by Sheryl Lee), which leads to Harold committing suicide. As the mystery surrounding Laura’s murder intensifies, Cooper arrests Ben Horne, thinking he is Bob, but the real Bob, who inhabits Leland, kills Maddy.
However, Leland is finally exposed as Bob, who causes Leland to kill himself before he laments the pain he has caused to his daughter. Much later, nearing the end of Twin Peaks season 2, Cooper has a romantic relationship with Annie, who enters the Miss Twin Peaks Contest and wins the title. Windom Earle disrupts the event and abducts her, which leads Cooper to follow them to The Black Lodge. The real Cooper remains trapped, and a doppelganger escapes, who will later turn out to be Mr. C.
Alternate Timeline, February-March 1989
February 23 – 2016’s Dale Cooper travels back in time to the day of Laura’s death, who sees Cooper in the woods and screams. At the intersection of Highway 21, Laura falls off James’ motorcycle and runs into the woods, wherein Cooper extends his hand to her, and she says that he had appeared in a dream. As they approach a golden pool on Blue Pine Mountain, they hear the billowing curtains of the Black Lodge, post which Laura screams and disappears.
February 24 – March 30 – Ronette is found wandering along the train tracks and Laura is reported missing, which leads to Cooper arriving in Twin Peaks and investigating her disappearance. On 30th March, The Twin Peaks Post reports Cooper’s sudden departure from town.
Twin Peaks: The Return (September – October 2016)
Twin Peaks: The Return takes place 25 years later and chronicles Cooper’s odyssey back to Twin Peaks while introducing alternate timelines and time fluxes that overlap and intertwine. This is when things start to unravel, along with the truth.
Unknown Dates – The Three Coopers: The real Agent Cooper is seen sitting at the White Lodge, wherein he receives three clues from the Fireman before vanishing. Then, Cooper encounters Laura in the waiting room, who says that he can finally leave, and whispers something in his ear. He goes on to meet Mike and the arm’s tree form in the lodge, who guides him towards the exit, where he encounters Leland who tells him to “find Laura.” Cooper appears briefly in the glass box and falls through space. Meanwhile, Cooper’s evil doppelganger, Mr. C, leaves with Ray Monroe and Darya to settle unfinished business.
Unknown Dates – Deputy Hawk Finds Missing Pages: Margaret, or the Log Day, calls Hawk and says that Laura is the one, who then is prompted to visit her home, where Sarah Palmer displays odd behavior. Later, Hawk finds the missing pages from Laura’s diary that say that the good Cooper is still trapped in the lodge. Later, one sees Sarah visit Elk’s Point, where a trucker harasses her – we see Sarah remove her face to reveal the void and kill the trucker.
Unknown Dates – Audrey Horne Is Unsure of Her Identity: Audrey desperately searches for Billy, experiencing an existential crisis, and goes to the Roadhouse to search for him. As Audrey dances for the crowd, a fight ensues, and then she finds herself in a brightly lit room, appearing unsure of her identity. Apart from this, at an unknown date, we see James and Freddie Sykes talk, and Freddie tells him a story about meeting a Fireman and acquiring a strange green glove.
September 21 – 24: Bill Hastings and Ruth Davenport visit the Zone, where they see a man floating up, saying, “Cooper, Cooper”, and Davenport is killed. On the 24th, the police find Davenport’s severed heads on a headless corpse of an older man, who is later revealed as Major Garland Briggs. In New York City, Sam Colby watches the glass box and takes a break while making out with Tracey. An experimental entity from the Black Lodge arrives and kills them both. That night, Mr. C shoots Phyllis and hatches a plan to obtain a set of coordinates from Hastings’ secretary. Then he returns to the motel and kills Darya, and contacts someone who claims to be Phillip Jeffries, who tells him that he will soon be reuniting with Bob.
September 25 -28: The real Cooper arrives at a building near the purple sea, where he encounters Naido and the face of Major Briggs floating in space, after which, he exits through the wall outlet. Meanwhile, Mr. C is struggling to resist returning to the Lodge, which leads to a car crash, and Mr. C vomiting creamed corn or garmonbozia. Back in Rancho Rosa, Dougie Jones spends time with Jade and is pulled into the Lodge’s waiting room and transformed into a gold ball. The real Cooper arrives in the room Dougie was in, and Jade mistakes him for Dougie and drops him off at the Silver Mustang Casino. Cooper, as Dougie, wins a series of mega jackpots that amount to $425,000. At night, Dougie arrives home at Lancelot Court where his life, Janey-E berates Cooper for missing Sonny Jim’s birthday but softens when she sees the money.
The next day, in Philadelphia, Agents Cole, Rosenfield, and Preston review the glass box and receive news that Dale Cooper has been arrested in South Dakota. Meanwhile, Mike tells Cooper that he has been tricked and that one of the two Coopers has to die, and later begs him to “wake up.” On the 27th, the agents visit Yankton Federal Prison and have an eerie conversation with Cooper’s doppelganger, which leads to Preston finding an oddity in Cooper’s fingerprints. Meanwhile, Albert visits a bar to meet with Diane (Laura Dern), who eventually agrees to meet Cooper in prison, where her conversation with Mr. C traumatizes her, making her declare emphatically that this was not the Cooper she knew.
October 2016 – Mr. C and Ray Monroe are released from prison, and later, the latter shoots the doppelganger, who is then revived by the Woodsmen. At the Buckhorn Morgue, Diane receives a cryptic message from Mr. C. Meanwhile, Briggs’ son Bobby opens the time capsule, which directs him to “Jack Rabbit’s Palace.” Somewhere between September 30th and the first week of October, Mr. C questions Ray about Phillip Jeffries’ location, and kills Ray, while the ring is still on his finger. That night, Mr. C arrives at a convenience store and asks for Jeffries, receiving a set of numbers from him. Meanwhile, Albert briefs Tammy about the Blue Rose Task Force, asking her to join. Diane enters the coordinates on Davenport’s arm and discovers that they lead to Twin Peaks.
Through Diane, Cole gets to know about her sister Janey-E, and husband, Dougie Jones, who live in Las Vegas. Cole goes on to recount a Monica Bellucci dream, which raises the question, “But who is the dreamer?” The next day, Truman, Hawk, Briggs, and Brennan visit Jack Rabbit’s Palace to find a strange opening on the ground and a nude, eyeless woman. At 2:53 PM, Deputy Brennan is transported into the White Lodge, where the Fireman directs him to keep this woman safe. Back in Vegas, Cooper is jolted on hearing Gordon Cole’s name while watching Sunset Boulevard and pokes a fork on a wall outlet while in a trance. Cooper is now in a coma, and the Log Lady bids Hawk goodbye before passing away.
The Final Confrontation And Aftermath (October – December 2016)
The final episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return climax into a tense confrontation between good and evil, and sees the much-awaited return of Agent Cooper. As Mr. C drives towards Twin Peaks, Cooper wakes up from the coma and is himself again. Mike hands Cooper the ring and creates another version of Dougie with Cooper’s hair for Janey-E and Sonny Jim.
October 2 – Cooper Meets His Doppelganger: Diane reveals what happened with Cooper years ago, and becomes increasingly terrified, taking out a gun. Albert and Tammy shoot her, and she vanishes and arrives at the Lodge, where Mike tells her that she is manufactured – she disintegrates and leaves behind a gold seed. Back in Twin Peaks, Mr. C arrives near Jack Rabbit’s Place and appears caged inside the Fireman’s theater, and then sent to the sheriff’s station. Inside, he is mistaken as the real Cooper, until the real Cooper calls to say that he is minutes away from the station. Sensing this, Mr. C attempts to kill Truman, but Lucy shoots him first. As the Woodsmen appear, causing Bob to emerge, Freddie punches him with his green glove and causes him to shatter. As the real Cooper places the ring on Mr. C, both he and Bob disappear.
Naido rushes towards Cooper, and on touching him, transforms into Diane, who says she remembers everything. Later that night, Cooper steps through the convenience store to talk to Jeffries, who is now a teapot. Jeffries searches for the date February 23, 1989, and says that this is where he will find Judy. Then on, Cooper is transported back in time. Later, Cooper emerges from the Lodge and greets Diane, and the two drive 430 miles down a certain road and drive through a portal.
Unknown Dates – Part 18 – The Aftermath and Alternate Realities: Cooper and Diane arrive at the Pearblossom Motel and have sex, which disturbs Diane to a considerable degree. The next day, Diane is gone, and Cooper receives a letter, which refers to him as Richard, and Diane as Linda. As he exits the motel, an alternate reality is presented, where he drives to Odessa and eats at “Judy’s”, where a waitress tells him about another server named Carrie. On arriving at Carrie’s home, a woman who looks exactly like an older Laura opens, but insists that “she is not her” and agrees to go see Sarah in Twin Peaks anyway.
The two arrive at an altered Twin Peaks and pull up to the Palmer house, which Carrie does not seem to recognize. Cooper knocks, and a woman named Alice Tremond answers, (who audiences would recognize as a Black Lodge entity), saying that they do not know Sarah Palmer, and the two return to the street, dejected. As Cooper mulls over what year it is, Carrie hears Sarah’s muffled cry of “Laura!” and screams and the lights go out in the house. Although Cooper is able to save Laura in one timeline, the finale of Twin Peaks ends on the note that the grand fight between good and evil is a never-ending saga, which will find ways to continue in other worlds beyond human comprehension.
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