Making Sense of the Twin Peaks European Pilot

No-one knew if Twin Peaks was going to get picked up by the network. The change of leadership at ABC and the fact that it was so radically different from what was out there at the close of the 1980’s that the odds were firmly stacked against it.  To guarantee another revenue stream for their possibly finished product, Lynch and Frost built in a neat ending to the Laura Palmer mystery, an ending that was tacked onto the end of the pilot episode and then sold overseas. Because of an issue with ownership and sales rights, this was the only way to buy a legitimate copy of the pilot episode for nearly 17 years. If you were going to buy it rather than rely on your rapidly deteriorating VHS copy from the television (complete with adverts), you were going to have to buy the neatly tied-up version, the Twin Peaks European pilot.

Let’s remind ourselves, shall we, of what goes on in those extra twelve to thirteen minutes of footage.  Before we start, however, it’s important to note that Lynch was so pleased with some of the material that was shot that he included it in later episodes, which leaves not that much in terms of actually forgotten footage. The alternate ending more or less eliminated the supernatural aspects of the mystery that was part of what would make the show so interesting as it moved on. With the exception of the Red Room sequence at the very end, the denouement plays out in an incredibly hurried fashion. After the patient build-up and character driven narrative that we settle into so comfortably, there then follows a rollercoaster something like this…

Lucy plays with a bat and ball, Andy plays a trumpet

Instead of seeing Dr Jacoby digging up the half-heart necklace by torchlight, Sarah instead has her vision of BOB in Laura’s bedroom. In this neat ending, I suppose you could call this a memory rather than a vision. From there we move to Andy and Lucy in one of their off-duty moments. Lucy is playing with a bat and ball in her floaty nightgown while Andy plays “The Last Post” on a trumpet with his trouser legs rolled up. While the viewer is thinking how strange a visual this is, something far more strange is dropped on us in the form of a phone call from Leland.  I have two issues with this. Firstly, how does he have Lucy’s number? It’s not that small a town. There are 50,000 people living there. He’s a lawyer so maybe he deals with the police but then he handles corporate law so why would he? Secondly, even if he does, why is he calling her at home and not calling the Sheriff’s Department? I assume it is staffed twenty-four hours a day. What is Lucy supposed to do with the information he gives her? As it happens, she does quite a lot with it. She contacts Harry, who is on his way home from Josie’s, and then at his behest dispatches Hawk the sketch artist to the Palmer house.

Up until now, in terms of the acting in these extra scenes, a viewer would be forgiven for thinking they had been filmed later on; that the actors had been dragged back in front of a camera to do additional work to round off the film. This is not the case, however. They were all filmed as part of the original shoot, despite how ‘demob-happy’ Leland, Lucy and Andy all seem to be.

lil the dancer wears a sour face

From here we cut over to The Great Northern where Agent Cooper is about to wake from a ‘sound sleep’. It’s another revelatory phone call: this time from the One-Armed Man at the hospital. This is where things start to veer into more interesting territory. During their conversation, Mike makes some comments about the Teresa Banks murder – namely that he knows about the “stitches, with the red thread.” That’s something that stays with you afterwards. It made me think of Lil in Fire Walk With Me with her red, tailored dress. I wonder what they were referring to.

Cooper agrees to meet him at the hospital and organises with Harry to bring Hawk and the sketch and meet him there. I hope Hawk can draw fast. Cooper wakes up to the call at 2:24am and, assuming it takes them around half an hour to get themselves sorted and get to the hospital, that would put that meeting around 2:53am. That’s a stretch but it’s amazing how these associations keep coming through in strange places. When Cooper meets with him, in the room with the dodgy fluorescents that hosted Laura’s body earlier, we get the Magician poem for the first time, and then the explanation about him and BOB and the convenience store. Mike alludes to the way that BOB “sometimes works among the infirm – the injured of the species” but doesn’t elaborate on this. I think it’s safe to assume that the injured and dying must feel a fair amount of fear regarding their predicament. Maybe this fear is what drives BOB to be near them.  It is hard to imagine him volunteering as an orderly around the hospital, however.

It is at this point that something very, very interesting happens. In truth, it’s all down to where you want to place a comma or two in a sentence, if you wish to do so at all. In truth, one could probably look at a shooting script for the pilot episode and clear this up very quickly. I don’t have access to such a thing and Al Strobel delivers his line in a way that could be read either way, anyway. The following piece of dialogue tells us a great deal, but it all depends on our interpretation. You could read it like this:

“I was watching, Mr Cooper, for over a year waiting for BOB to come out again.”

Very straightforward. Mike was on the lookout for BOB’s resurgence so that he could stop him. Mr Cooper is a subordinate clause with no bearing on the main subject of the sentence. However, with hindsight, what if we read it like this:

“I was watching Mr Cooper for over a year, waiting for BOB to come out again.”

Isn’t it amazing how removing a couple of commas can make a radical difference to the potential import of what he is saying? Has Mike been shadowing Cooper for a year waiting for BOB to show himself? Is it future or is it past? When BOB inhabits a host, is it as if he has always been with them?

“I’ve known of your interests in the results of his endeavours,” Mike adds, licking his teeth. Is the interest he speaks of a purely professional one on Cooper’s part or something more sinister? Cooper is a hero, it is true. Leland also was a good man for much of the time and had no knowledge of what was being wrought on others in his form. Is it possible that Cooper is a hero but also a villain throughout? What’s my evidence for this? Well, it’s pretty thin, but I’d like to point out a passage in Scott Frost’s novel, The Autobiography of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper – My Life, My Tapes. Cooper shoots and kills a bank robber during an FBI raid; it’s his first kill in the line of duty.

I engaged one suspect as he walked out of the office firing a pistol in the direction of the front door. My written report states that he was ordered to freeze and drop his weapon. He did not. I fired two rounds from a service shotgun, striking him in the chest with both.

It’s an oddly disconnected piece of writing to say, “My written report states…” rather than just describing what happens. The suspect was firing towards the front door. Cooper and Earle entered through the back door, thus the suspect was not firing at Cooper. It could be that Cooper ordered him to freeze and then the robber turned on him with gun raised. It’s also possible that he just caught the man unawares. Maybe Cooper is the embodiment of the black and white of the lodges, He is either a hero or a villain. Occupying a space in between with shades of grey does not sit comfortably as we see with our reactions to the Richard character at the climax of Season 3.

“I too have been touched by the devilish one.”

Mike’s looking at Cooper when he makes this next utterance. When he says ‘I too’, is he referring to BOB or Cooper or both of them. You can read this any number of ways with full knowledge of what comes later. If you take the future/past assertions at face value, you could say that Cooper has already been touched because we know that it happens at some point. In Fire Walk With Me, Annie appears to Laura Palmer in her bed and tells her that the good Dale is trapped in the Lodge.  This is before she is killed, and before Mike and Cooper have their conversation.  This means that the doppelgänger is active across a continuum of time; an idea which is explored by Cooper himself when he tries to explain the lodges to the others in Season 2. Are there any other times during the series that BOB shows himself in Cooper’s actions?

Sheriff Harry Truman reveals a drawing of BOB

They then show the sketches to Mike. The first one always reminds me of Kurtwood Smith, then we see the killer. Hawk did a fine job in such a short space of time. Helpfully for the narrative, BOB is there at the hospital too, just hanging out in the basement. He’s down there looking very similar to Ted Levine’s portrayal of Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, which was released very soon after Twin Peaks ended. He looks feral, crouching beside his mound of dirt – a mound that is ringed by twelve candles, evoking Glastonbury Grove. It struck me, watching this, that it is probably the longest single scene involving Frank Silva (with the possible exception of the convenience store sequence in Fire Walk With Me), and the only one in which he talks forwards.

He seems disappointed that Mike is not with Cooper and Truman when they arrive in his lair. He beckons them in and explains all his dastardly deeds without much prompting from either of them. We also get the strange sound that we hear later on in the Lodge, like a finger on crystal as he senses a presence. Mike’s arrival, and the way he shoots BOB, seems quite nonsensical to me as I watch this. If he was going to kill BOB, why not just do it rather than involving Cooper? The act of shooting BOB seems to have a painful impact on Mike himself, also. He clutches the locale of his missing arm and says some bizarre, disjointed things before collapsing.

“Have you got a nickel? It hurts something terrible. Wait ‘til it’s your time.”

The pain where his ‘evil’ arm used to be is understandable with the death of his one-time familiar. A nickel, though? Despite my best efforts on Wikipedia, I can’t get any further than using my junior school maths skills to calculate that the circumference of a nickel is 66.6mm. Is it the coin of evil? We don’t get any answers because the red curtain is about to descend on proceedings. Cooper sets it off by staring down at the ring of candles and asking us to make a wish. I wonder what his wish is.


12 candles in a circle blow out in the wind

From there we go to the familiar scene in the Red Room. The one thing I never noticed about this scene was Cooper’s tie, which has a bold red stripe dividing black and white chevrons. Also, on his lapel are fastened some small, golden drops that look like the tulpa ‘eggs’ from Season 3. The rest of the scene, and the film itself, is canon, so to speak.

In conclusion, it is a very interesting experience watching these scenes once again after Season 3. There are little hints at the creative process; little touches that may betray the creators’ earliest thoughts about what might play out. It’s very easy to excise them from the narrative and nothing is lost, but they form a fascinating parallel universe in a series that has already created alternate timelines.  In this one, we explore the possibility that BOB is just a man, as opposed to the evil that men do, and we get a sense that there may be more ambiguity to Agent Cooper right from the start that is hidden from us. We learn that Andy and Lucy’s bedtime routine is absolutely bonkers and lastly that Hawk can whip up a fantastic sketch in next to no time.


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Written by 25YL

This article was written either by a Guest Author or by an assortment of 25YL staff


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  1. I love this and it makes a lot of sense. It adds to the cyclical/pocket universe theory. Perhaps what we she here is the Cooper of S3 Pt18, the goodness of Twin Peaks brings out the best in our hero but the double, BOB and Windom are closing in

    • I enjoyed your write up but once the series was commissioned this ‘ending’ became just the full version of Cooper’s dream from episode two. In episode three when Harry and Lucy meet Cooper in the great northern he says that he has had a dream and that Harry was there and Lucy was too. It would be better if this segment was incorporated into episode two as it would make a lot more ‘sense’.

  2. “Have you got a nickel?” Hawk does, assuming he already possesses the coin that he drops in season three, which leads to the discovery of the pages from Laura’s diary that were hidden in the Sheriff’s Station.

  3. Do you mean the end of international pilot is alternative end of twin peaks (with no link to the the entire series) ? Because If not, what is happening after (season 1 episode 1 as no sens then )? Where is bob’s dead body ????? Btw thank you for all those explanations 😉 regards

    If you have time to answer me could you tell me by email ???

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