“Northwest Passage”, Twin Peaks, Season 1, pilot - David Lynch (1990)

“Northwest Passage” is the opening, pilot episode of the original Twin Peaks (1990-91) serial drama TV series created by David Lynch and Mark Frost.  The acclaimed series, set in the fictional small town of Twin Peaks in Washington state, concerns the dramatics and intrigue surrounding the investigation of a macabre murder that has taken place there.

This episode sets the stage and introduces most the cast of characters who will appear in the series.  It begins when the naked body of local highschool girl Laura Palmer is found wrapped in plastic and washed up along the banks of the local river. Laura was the highschool football homecoming queen, and the entire community is shaken by the grisly news.  Sheriff Harry S. Truman (played by Michael Ontkean) begins an investigation.  The immediate suspect is Laura’s  boyfriend, Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook), who was known to have secretly seen Laura the previous evening.  The plot thickens when another local girl, Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine), is found walking in a dazed state along the railroad tracks after having been clearly sexually abused and beaten the previous night.  So FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is called in to take over the investigation.

Examining Laura’s corpse, Cooper discovers under Laura’s fingernail a tiny piece of paper with the letter ‘R’ typed on it.  He connects this to the murder of another girl in the region one year earlier under whose fingernail was found a similar piece of paper with the letter ‘T’ typed on it.  So he suspects there is a serial killer lurking in the area. 

Much of this episode is devoted to situating the story in the town of Twin Peaks and introducing the large cast of characters.  They comprise the following:
  • FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (played by Kyle MacLachlan).  Straightforward and logical, he has a keen mind and an innocent demeanor.
  • Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) is an upstanding and sympathetic upholder of law and order in the community.
  • Lucy Moran (Kimmy Robertson) is Sheriff Truman’s young secretary.
  • Jocelyn Packard (Joan Chen) is the widowed owner of the local sawmill.
  • Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is the beautiful highschool girl found murdered at the start of the series.
  • Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) is the father of Laura Palmer.
  • Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) is Leland’s wife and Laura’s mother.
  • Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) was Laura Palmer’s best friend
  • Dr. Will Hayward (Warren Frost) is the father of Donna Hayward
  • Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) is a pretty highschool classmate of Laura and Donna.
  • Benjamin Horne (Richard Beymer) is Audrey’s father and is a wealthy landlord.
  • Shelly Johnson (Mädchen Amick) is a highschool dropout and works at the local Double-R Diner.
  • Leo Johnson (Eric Da Re), a trucker, is the abusive husband of Shelly Johnson.
  • Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) is the conniving sister of Jocelyn Packard’s deceased husband.
  • Pete Martell (Jack Nance) is Catherine’s gentle husband.
  • Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton) owns and runs the Double-R Diner.
  • James Hurley (James Marshall) is a biker and secret lover of Laura Palmer.
  • Ed Hurley (Everett McGill) runs a local gas station and is James Hurley’s uncle.
  • Ronette Pulaski (Phoebe Augustine) is a highschool girl who survived the savage attack on her and Laura Palmer, but she is in a comatose state.
  • Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) is the boyfriend of Laura Palmer
  • Mike Nelson (Gary Hershberger) is Bobby Briggs’s best friend and is a one-time boyfriend of Donna Hayward.
  • Dr. Lawrence Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn)
  • Deputy Sheriff Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz)
Already in this pilot episode, the viewer learns of a number of clandestine romantic relationships among these people:
  • Bobby Briggs and Shelly Johnson.  Although Bobby was the boyfriend of Laura Palmer, he was secretly seeing married waitress Shelly Johnson on the side.
  • Ed Hurley and Norma Jennings.  Both of them are already married to others – Norma’s husband is serving a prison sentence for manslaughter, and Ed’s wife seems oddly obsessive about home decorating.
  • Benjamin Horne and Catherine Martell. Catherine is married to logger Pete, but her greed for wealth draws her to Horne.
  • Sheriff Truman and Jocelyn Packard.  Perhaps because Jocelyn is a recent widow and Truman is a public servant, their relationship is not widely publicized.
  • Donna Hayward and James Hurley.  Although Donna is the girlfriend of  the obnoxious Mike Nelson and James apparently had a secret relationship with Laura Palmer, as Donna and James jointly work to solve the crime, they find themselves drawn to each other.
The initial evidence points to Bobby Briggs and James Hurley, who are both known to have privately and separately seen Laura on the evening of the murder.  But then further evidence is found in an abandoned railroad car outside of town – a mysterious mound of dirt with Laura’s necklace, missing half of its charm, on the top and the cryptic message “fire walk with me” placed there.  The viewer learns (but not yet Cooper and Truman) that James Hurley has the other half of Laura’s necklace charm in his possession.  So James and Donna bury that part of the necklace charm in the woods.

A skin mag is also found among Laura’s possessions that has a photo of Ronette Pulaski and also an image of a truck that the viewer knows is the one that Leo Johnson drives.  So there are multiple clues pointing in different directions.

At the end of this pilot episode, Sarah Palmer has a nightmare of someone digging up the necklace charm (the significance of which is unknown to her) in the woods.

No comments: