Review of Twin Peaks (1990-1991)

Twin Peaks (1990) is a quirky murder mystery drama with a unique appeal. The series ran for two seasons on ABC, followed by a feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, which serves as a prequel. In 2017, a third season aired on Showtime. The series stars Kyle MacLachlan.

Here’s the premise: Homecoming Queen Laura Palmer is found dead, washed up on a riverbank, and wrapped in plastic sheeting. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is called in to investigate the murder of this young woman in the small, northwestern town of Twin Peaks. (From Amazon Prime)

I watched the entire first season and a few episodes of season two to find teachable moments about FBI policy and procedures.

Halfway through episode one, Agent Cooper arrives in town and meets with the local sheriff. As SA Cooper explains to Sheriff Harry Truman what his role will be in the investigation, I immediately recognize that the series provides yet another opportunity for me to discuss FBI jurisdiction and cooperation with police partners during a homicide investigation.

Here’s a bit of dialogue from that scene.

Sheriff Truman: “Glad the FBI is here. We’re kind of lucky that Ronette stepped across the state line.”

SA Dale Cooper: “There’s a few things we got to get straight… When the Bureau’s called in, the Bureau’s in charge. You’re going to be working for me. Sometimes local law enforcement has a problem with that.”

Sheriff Truman: “Like I said, we’re glad to have you here.”

To add context to their conversation, the men are referring to the murder of high school homecoming queen Laura Palmer, and a second girl, Ronette Pulaski, injured but recovered alive just across the Canadian border.

My first thought was – why is SA Cooper assigned to this murder case? Despite the slight international angle regarding where Ronette was found, based on the circumstances, the FBI would not have jurisdiction over her assault or Laura’s murder.

For the most, when the FBI shares jurisdiction in a homicide, there’s another federal violation in play, and the existence of a corpse is not the primary felony being investigated. When the FBI’s assistance is requested, local and state police closely collaborate with the FBI in an informal partnership or, for certain cases, they form a task force combining resources and manpower. And for most murders, local prosecutors will file charges and try the case in state court.

Also, SA Cooper’s statement to Sheriff Truman about the Bureau being in charge is not correct. The FBI has no hierarchical authority over local and state agencies. State and local law enforcement agencies are not subordinate to the FBI.

Fortunately, SA Cooper and members of the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department have a cordial and cooperative relationship, which is accurately portrayed. Working well with our local law enforcement partners is a vital component of the FBI’s success in the field.

To learn more about the FBI’s jurisdiction in homicide matters, read my blog post – When Does the FBI Investigate Murder?

Listen to the following FBI Retired Case File Review episodes to learn more about how the FBI works with local partners on murder investigations:

262: Jerome Lorrain and Joe Nicholson – Miss-A-Bama Murder

309: Richard Denholm – Murder of Jessie Davis and Unborn Child

313: Jerome Lorrain and Shane Bozeman – BDSM Murder

Twin Peaks Season One is streaming on Paramount+, and available to rent on Vudu, Prime Video, and Apple TV. Watch the Twin Peaks trailer here.

Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, jokes that she writes about the FBI to relive her glory days. After 26 years with the Bureau specializing in major economic fraud and corruption investigations, she calls on her professional encounters with scams and schemers to write police procedurals inspired by true crime FBI cases in her Philadelphia FBI Corruption Squad crime fiction series featuring flawed female FBI agent Kari Wheeler. Jerri’s FBI for Armchair Detectives nonfiction series enables readers to discover who the FBI is and what the FBI does by debunking misconceptions about the FBI in books, TV, and movies. Her books are available as ebooks, paperbacks, and audiobooks wherever books are sold. She’s also the host of FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast with more than 300 episodes available on all popular podcast apps and YouTube.

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