Greatest TV characters - FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks
In our latest greatest TV Characters feature for The Digital Fix, Baz Greenland discusses the brilliance of FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper from Twin Peaks...
Dale Cooper was an FBI agent with excellent detective skills, a thirst for life (whether that be Norwegian Pines, damn fine cherry pie or a good cup of black coffee). He first turned up in Twin Peaks' pilot episode to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer, a case eventually revealed to be linked to the wider Blue Rose case files.
Cooper uses unconventional means to solve mysteries, be it dreams or Tibetan rock throwing exercises and is much in tune with his spiritual nature as he is with his skills as an FBI special agent. He also has a great capacity for love, something that was his undoing on more than one occasion. He was the kooky FBI agent long before the days of Fox Mulder and thanks to Kyle MacLachlan's engaging performance remains one of the most enigmatic, loveable TV crime solvers of the last thirty years...
It's hard to imagine a character with as quite the expansive, surreal and quarter of a century-spanning journey that Dale Cooper had. Recruited by Gordon Cole to solve the mystery of the Blue Rose murders, his trail took him to Twin Peaks to solve the murder of Laura Palmer. He formed a number of close bonds in the town, from his bromance with Sheriff Harry Truman to the flirtatious connection with young Audrey Horne. He eventually uncovered that the evil spirit Bob had possessed Laura Palmer's father Leyland and it was when Laura's cousin Maddie was brutally murdered that the clues came together and he solved the case, even though it came at the cost of Leyland's life.
That should have been the end of his time in Twin Peaks. However, in aiding the local authorities with a drug smuggling bust, his unconventional methods saw him suspended from the FBI. Temporarily recruited as one of Harry's deputies, he decided to buy property in the small town and even met newly arrived Annie Blackburn, quickly developing an intense love affair. Unfortunately his old nemesis and partner Windom Earle had other ideas. Searching for the Black Lodge, where evil spirits like Bob had come from, Windom kidnapped Annie and Dale followed him into the lodge, becoming trapped there, while his evil doppelgänger escaped, possessed by Bob.
That's where the original series ended and it wasn't until twenty five year later that the truth was revealed. Evil Dale left the FBI and began a life of crime; he raped poor Audrey while she was in a coma, resulting in the birth of her psychotic son Richard and then forged a criminal empire while the good Dale remained trapped inside the Black Lodge for a quarter of a century.
Eventually good Dale escaped, but became trapped in a third doppelgänger Dougie, a man bearing a striking resemblance to the two Coopers, who's soul got transported to the Black Lodge after the evil version escapes his fate. The evil Dale worked covertly with an evil version of Diane, the secretary that helped good Dale in his FBI days and battles dissension from within the ranks of his criminal empire as he strives to escape the Black Lodge, eventually sacrificing son Richard. After days trapped inside Dougie, the good Dale finally emerged, leading to a final showdown between good and evil Dale back in Twin Peaks, where the spirit of Bob was destroyed for good.
However it doesn't end there; Dale found a way to travel back in time to the night of Laura Palmer's murder and saved her, creating an alternate reality where Laura lived. After saying goodbye to the goof Diane, freed from her own imprisonment, he tracked down Laura and found a woman that looked like her but knew nothing of Twin Peaks or Laura's past. It is only then that Dale realised he had become trapped in another reality altogether, leaving his story on another bleak note...
Why He Is Such A Great Character
Dale Cooper is both a master crime solver and a man with passion for life. His love of pie, coffee, nature and the kindness of others makes him an utterly endearing character, delivered with gusto by Kyle MacLachlan. Of all the wonderful and weird characters of Twin Peaks, Dale Cooper was the best, a fun, entertaining, good natured soul and kooky without every becoming un-relatable to the audience.
In the revival series we saw a new side to Dale Cooper through three amazing performances by MacLachlan; the evil psychopath with the dead eyes and penchant for murder, the goofball Dougie, who brought out the actors terrific ability for comic timing and of course the great FBI special agent Dale Cooper that we all know and loved.
"Diane, I'm Holding In My Hand A Small Box Of Chocolate Bunnies."
Pilot Episode 1991.
"I am the FBI."
Episode 3.16 2017