Inside The Train Car – Who Really Killed Laura Palmer?

For most of her life, Laura made no connection between Bob and her father. In all her diary entries, Bob very specifically came into the family home from outside, through the window.

Bob was the darkness in the woods that somehow followed her home and never left. One of the reasons that Laura never asked for help was because she wanted to protect her family from that darkness.


To find out that Leland was actually the source of her abuse was a discovery that Laura could never come back from. I always wondered what happened after the scene in her bedroom cuts, the one where she realised who he really was. Did the pretence end there, or did he switch back to Bob in her mind?


Laura made no attempt to hide her knowledge the next morning when she told Leland to stay away from her. They both knew in that moment that it was the end, that Laura would have to die.

Tonight is the night that I die. I know I have to, because it’s the only way to keep Bob away from me, the only way to tear him out from inside. I know he wants me. I can feel his fire. But if I die, he can’t hurt me anymore’ – final page torn from Laura’s diary.

As Leland was Bob’s host, and also Laura’s father, then Bob was always inside Laura, always a part of her from the moment she was conceived. Perhaps this was why he was so set on taking her over completely. This was how he could read her thoughts, could write through her, could see everything she did.

The question will always be, how much of Bob was real? Teresa was killed to protect Leland. Laura was also killed to protect Leland, once she discovered he had been abusing her. Both girls could destroy the life he had built for himself.

train car

Leland was no innocent. He didn’t try to help Laura in the train car. Instead he showed her the diary pages and told her, “I always thought you knew it was me.” But once he knew for sure, she had to die.

In deleted dialogue from the train car scene, Laura tells Bob in the mirror, “No, you can’t have me,” then asks Leland to kill her. Bob isn’t inside Leland in that moment. He is waiting to be Laura. Leland had a choice.

laura death

Ronette recognises Bob in the picture, and the smell of scorched engine oil. Maddy smells the oil too, just before she is killed. She sees Bob in her vision, but does she see her Uncle Leland killing her?

How much of Bob is Leland? How much of him is Leland’s darker side, embraced by his host, and used to clean up his mess in life? Leland’s doppelgänger claims to have never killed anybody. Does this mean that he is good, and the real Leland is the bad one?


Laura put on the ring to preserve her goodness. Either way, her life was over that night. She knew the badness was already inside her and was getting stronger. She was starting to enjoy hurting others, and was caring less about the people around her. The darkness was in her blood. Laura died because she chose to. Putting on the ring was a form of suicide.

So, three people killed Laura that night – Leland, Bob and Laura herself. All three connected by blood, by suffering, and by the fight for Laura’s soul.

train car

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7 Replies to “Inside The Train Car – Who Really Killed Laura Palmer?”

  1. This article helps to distinguish what makes Laura Palmer a tragic hero. If BOB is a part of Leland and Laura, her choice in the train car represents a choice- one Leland was never able to make. The newly explored layer of Sarah/Jowday/Judy is another complexity and another thing to think about. Nevertheless, I appreciate how you pointed out how Laura’s increasing darkness towards others, and realization of that darkness, motivated her towards self-sacrifice. Her choice is not merely “opting out” to avoid further abuse nor the act of a desperate victim- she chooses death over monstrosity- a fate very imminent. She’s not saving herself from pain, she’s saving others from the pain she (or some version of her) will cause. Thebefore, the cycle of abuse is broken. Thanks for this insight Cheryl.

    1. Thankyou Jason. I’ve always seen it that way. Laura knew the damage Bob could do with her body, with the trust that others had in her, and chose to stop it right there.

  2. Very interesting read. My thoughts have always gone to the exact moments you reference, after she sees her father in her bed, the train car, the putting on of the ring. Your ideas actually helped me put together the whys I still ask all these years later about Laura. I hated season three because it didn’t do enough for me to explain about Laura herself. Your article helped give me that closure. Excellent

  3. Laura’s choice to die that night shows the difference between herself and both her parents. Not only is it impossible to escape BOB once he ‘chooses’ you but it also shows that Laura possesses an inner strength that Leland and Sarah both lack.
    Laura suspects that her parents both know about her ordeal. She can also see herself becoming like BOB. She tells Donna that she does not want her to be like her. Even in her last few days Laura tries to protect Donna and even James from herself rather than drag them down with her.
    Perhaps this is why she sees her angel in the Red Room. If there is a Season 4 and Laura lives thanks to Cooper , I don’t think she could ever hate him.

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