“Diane, 11:30am., February 24th. Entering the town of Twin Peaks…”
In the Twin Peaks universe, it’s been 30 years since the brutal and untimely death of Laura Palmer, and the arrival of Special Agent Dale Cooper to the iconic, and strange yet wonderful northwest town. Of course, next year will mark the 30 year anniversary of the show itself, but this still counts as a pretty big milestone and it’s one I couldn’t help but acknowledge. The name of this blog, and its sister podcast, was inspired by Twin Peaks, after all, and I take great pride in having even the smallest of connections to this beautifully bizarre and eternally groundbreaking show.
In honour of 30 years, I’ve decided to highlight 30 things I love about Twin Peaks. I’ve got 10 episodes, 10 quotes, and 10 random items – locations, scenes, characters, etc. – to share with you. I’d love to hear what some of your favourite things from Twin Peaks are as well; let me know what I’ve missed and which of my 30 picks you agree with.
In chronological airdate order – and certainly not ranked, because that would be like choosing a favourite child – my here are my picks for the 10 essential Twin Peaks episodes.
Season One, Episode One: “Pilot”
This episode does what every good pilot should: educate and inspire. We’re introduced to a ton of characters and their storylines with such ease, lacking the clunky and superfluous exposition so often found in ensemble shows. Everyone is linked to Laura in some way, making the job of remembering how everything connects much, much simpler. Along with teaching us what to expect – soap opera-like sprawling cast, a lot of mystery, plenty of eccentricities – it also invites us in with warm characters, intriguing ambiguities, a great score, and a truly unique vibe.
Season One, Episode Three: “Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer”
The one where Coop introduces us to the phenomenal activity of Tibetan Rock throwing – need I say more? Well, actually, yes I do, because this is the episode where things get truly weird for the first time. Coop’s dream at the end of the hour is one of the most iconic sequences in all of Twin Peaks. It’s our introduction to the Red Room, the Man from Another Place, backwards talking, a whack of famous dialogue, and the knowledge that this show was going to be different from anything you’d ever seen. It’s also where Audrey performs her dance for the first time, so, yeah, this one’s kind of a biggie.
Season One, Episode Six: “Cooper’s Dreams”
While this installment may not be as remarkable as the two before it, it’s become noteworthy for the little things. This is the episode where Leland does his bizarre dance of sadness at the Great Northern, and Ben forces Catherine to dance along with him; heartbreaking hilarity ensues. Bobby Briggs breaks down during a therapy session with Dr. Jacoby, revealing both a more vulnerable side to Bobby and a darker side to Laura. He and Shelly also have a lovely breakfast together, dreaming about what their lives could be like without Leo. Cooper, Truman, and Hawk go to the woods in search of Jacques Renault’s cabin – that “crazy fucking Canadian” – which they find, but wind up having an interesting parley with the Log Lady first. Also, Shelly shoots Leo!
Season Two, Episode Seven: “Lonely Souls”
The one where Laura’s murderer is finally revealed; it’s kind of a big deal. Though David Lynch and Mark Frost would have preferred to keep the mystery alive, ABC pushed for the killer’s identity to be exposed. I like to think Frost and Lynch were like, “cool, cool, cool, you wanna know who the culprit is? We’ll tell you, but it’s gonna Fuck. You. Up.” Maddy’s death is one of the most disturbing, horrific murder sequences in all of TV history, and the sadness that washes over the town – albeit seemingly subconsciously – adds a layer both beautiful and haunting. It’s the epitome of the emotional, vibrational storytelling I love so much about Twin Peaks. And what’s really banana sandwiches, is that it originally aired on my 3rd birthday – I knew I was connected to Twin Peaks in deeper ways than I first thought.
Season Two Episode Twenty-Two: “Beyond Life and Death”
One of the only reasons I’m glad I never got into Twin Peaks until recently, is that I didn’t have to spend 25 years with the delicious torment created by this episode resting on my soul. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to assume this was the last thing you’d ever see from this universe – not counting Fire Walk With Me, cause it’s a prequel. This was one hell of a season finale; BOB made it out of the Black Lodge inside Coop, Donna is a Horne, Audrey might be dead, the fates of the romances between Ed and Norma/Shelly and Bobby are left unknown. The entire trip inside the Black Lodge was just that, a trip. One I’m still shocked Lynch and Frost got away with on primetime TV. It was yet another testament to the unique vision at work on this show – one that went underappreciated and overlooked on this medium for far too long. I guess it is too bad I missed out on all the “How’s Annie” / “Annie are you ok?” crossover jokes.
Season Three, Episode Three: “Call For Help”
This is what truly sealed the deal for me with Twin Peaks. I’d enjoyed Parts one and two from the new season well enough, but remember feeling resistant. Then Cooper found himself in this vast and mystifying purple zone, and there was just something about the utter strangeness of it all, which urged me to let the show envelop me in its esoteric embrace. I didn’t have a clue what I was seeing, and I loved it – a lot. A man flew through “space,” fell into a glass box, and was then transported to a sea of purple. There he met a woman with no eyes who spoke in scratches and threw herself into the mauve void. Then the man was sucked through an electrical socket and made his way to a casino where he won a bunch of money. Heeelllloooooo! Solid. Fucking. Gold. If that’s not brilliance, I’ll quit writing for good.
Season Three, Episode Eight: “Gotta Light?”
A few months after this episode first aired I got a new TV and soundbar. The first thing I watched? This episode, of course. It’s an hour of TV I could watch over and over, and still find something new to marvel at; I always see something different within the intricacies of the coloured smoke that barrels towards us after the bomb detonates. This was a groundbreaking episode of TV for a dozen (and more) reasons. Even just the fact that it is an episode of TV and not some short, experimental film, is really cool. It manages to be incredibly abstract and beyond definition, while also presenting a complete and identifiable storyline. I have a feeling it’s going to elevate a lot of directors’ and showrunners’ work in the medium, in the coming years. It’s bizarre and beautiful, confusing and illuminating, enchanting and terrifying – it’s a seminal part of TV history.
Season Three, Episode Fifteen: “There’s Some Fear in Letting Go”
Emotional rollercoaster is the most apt description for this episode. The opening two sequences alone are enough to send you swinging wildly back and forth between tears of joy and heartache, and then back to joy. Despite a well-executed but still painful fake out, Ed and Norma are going to be happy together, forever, finally. Then we go through a stage of perplexity mixed with awe, in meeting the reincarnated, non-human form of Philip Jeffries. When Richard Horne finds Mr. C, we feel a bit of satisfaction in the answers he provides pertaining to his parentage. Then we’re back to bewilderment and even a little terror as we watch Steven and Gersten trip the fuck out in the woods, before the former commits suicide.
A thrill of excitement hits as Dougie hears the name Gordon Cole and seems to have a flash of recognition; as he electrocutes himself, the shock becomes our own as it reverberates through our screens. And then, a deep sadness swallows us all as we say goodbye to Margaret Lanterman. It’s a beautiful and deeply touching sendoff, made all the more profound in knowing the actress, Catherine Coulson, was actually ill while filming and passed away before the episode aired. Her spirit will forever be memorialized here; the raw performance was a gift to us that we should cherish. Finally, we travel back to that place of disorientation and wonder as, Ruby, a patron at the Roadhouse, crawls across the floor and lets out a harrowing scream. It’s an exhausting yet fulfilling hour of TV.
Season Three, Episode Sixteen: “No Knock, No Doorbell”
Let me quickly remind everyone of all the shit that went down in this episode:
- Richard Horne met an electrifying death.
- A Polish accountant came out of left field and murdered Chantal and Hutch, while the Mitchum brothers watched in bewilderment – “people are under a lot of stress, Bradley!”
- Diane recalled the horrifying night she spent with Mr. C so many years ago, and our minds were blown to tiny golden orbs when she was revealed to be a Tupla.
- Special Agent Dale Cooper finally returned, reminding us that he is the FBI (enthusiastic thumbs up!)
- Audrey reprised her legendary dance before her “true” whereabouts were uncovered.
Incredible, right? This episode would deserve recognition for Laura Dern’s performance alone, but when you add in the fact that Coop came back – with more spring in his step than ever – it becomes an iconic episode that no one will soon forget.
Season Three, Episode Eighteen: “What is Your Name?”
Though I got off easy in terms of avoiding the wait time between “Beyond Life and Death” and the beginning of season three, knowing that “What is Your Name?” might be the final installment in this universe could be the worse fate. Not because the episode was lacking or left me wanting more in an unfulfilled manner, but for almost the exact opposite. This finale, in all its ambiguous and plot circumventing greatness, left me wholly satisfied in a way where I will forever want more because of that greatness. It’s wild because so much of this episode should be infuriating. A minutes-long mostly-silent scene where we just stare at Coop and Laura/Carrie’s faces; very few answers about what happened throughout the season; the possible creation of an alternate timeline, with alternate versions of Coop, Laura, and, ostensibly, everyone else; an alternate version of the show’s world in itself, and, perhaps, even the death of certain versions of those characters and worlds. Sorry if that made your head hurt, I feel you. The finale made my head spin, too, but that’s the true beauty of it. My head will be spinning for years – maybe 25 – thinking about the episode’s and the season’s implications for both the season and the show overall. It’s a mind fuck, but a really, really remarkable and alluring one. And I love that we got an updated version of “How’s Annie?” with “What year is this?”
Here are my picks for the 10 essential Twin Peaks quotes, in order of most profound to least – just kidding; it’s Twin Peaks so they’re obviously all incredibly profound. But seriously some of these are deeply moving – the Log Lady’s goodbye – while others just make me giggle, like Audrey’s views on the applications of math in the real world.
“I am the FBI!” – Dale Cooper
“I feel like I know her, but sometimes my arms bend back.” – Laura Palmer
“Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it, don’t wait for it, just let it happen.” – Dale Cooper
“The owls are not what they seem.” – The Giant
“We are like the dreamer, who dreams, and then lives inside the dream. But who is the dreamer?” – Monica Bellucci / Gordon Cole
“I know. Fuck you.” – Diane Evans’ Tulpa
“I’ve been doing some research. In real life, there is no algebra.” – Audrey Horne
“I’d rather be his whore than your wife.” – Norma Jennings
“My log is turning gold. The wind is moaning. I’m dying. Good night, Hawk.” – Margaret Lanterman
“I have no idea where this will lead us, but I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.” – Dale Cooper
A Damn Fine Mix
I was going to offer my top 10 characters but that proved more difficult than I expected. It’s not that I don’t have a deep affection for the fine folks of Twin Peaks, but, if I’m completely honest, I only love a small handful of them. So, instead of trying to bloat out my list with characters I only half love, I figured a mixed bag category would be a lot more fun.
Bobby & Shelly Briggs
Each of the Briggs’ would have appeared on a list of just characters. Shelly for being a welcomed alternative to both Donna and Audrey, and, I mean, it’s Mädchen Amick, so come on now. Bobby because he was such a goofball in the original it was impossible to dislike him, and for the amount of growth his character experienced in the 25-year interim that managed to still be fully realized onscreen. It’s really their relationship that I love, though. I was always rooting for Bobby and Shelly – they know how to throw one hell of a weird birthday party – and I only wish we’d been able to see more of their actual marriage.
You can’t make a list about Twin Peaks essentials and not highlight Dale Cooper. I mean, I guess you could, but the list would be inherently wrong. Coop is a singular character. Never have I seen such a perfect blend of quirk, intelligence, compassion, enlightenment, bravery, and hella good looks since Dale Cooper, and I highly doubt I’ll see it again in any form close to this. His impact on the first two seasons can’t be denied, and it was fascinating to see him take on the role of ever-present absent – much like Laura – during The Return. It was Coop most of us waited to catch one more glimpse of, who cheered when he returned and will grapple with his fate for the rest of our lives. There’s a reason Kyle MacLachlan and Sheryl Lee were the last people on screen in The Return….
…because without Coop or Laura, there is no Twin Peaks. They are Twin Peaks. Despite being dead from the beginning, Laura’s energy and presence were all over this show. She was what defined the ever-present absent; Laura felt like a three-dimensional character, though we wouldn’t actually “meet” her until the first two seasons ended. It’s telling that the show slowly fell apart once the mystery of her murderer was revealed – the pieces were eventually picked up, but the unravelling nevertheless happened. And though it does hold a place in the history of the “dead girl” TV trope, it was, at least, somewhat original thanks to its timing. It’s no surprise we’ve seen this narrative played out hundreds of times elsewhere on TV, but there are only a few examples where it’s actually worked well and hasn’t felt like a mere duplicate. And I must admit, Fire Walk With Me plays a huge role in how I feel about Laura. It’s in that film where we learned so much about her, from her, and got to see her take agency over her story. But who’s to say if this prequel would ever have happened had she not had such a weighty influence on the show’s first two seasons.
Diane is a Tulpa Reveal
Diane’s character in general – her Tulpa, whatever – was phenomenal. Part of that is thanks to Laura Dern and her engaging portrayal, and another part is the unexpected nature of the character in general. Having only gotten into Twin Peaks after The Return debuted, I didn’t really understand the big deal behind meeting Diane. I soon corrected that by bingeing the first 2 seasons before the third had reached its halfway point, and I was retroactively super pumped to finally be meeting this elusive woman. And right along with everyone else, I was intrigued by her abrasive (yet totally loveable) behaviour. If this had been the Real Diane, I would never have batted an eye – I love watching women who don’t take shit from people after it’s clear they’ve been through it and have had enough. I could watch Laura Dern tell people “fuck you” all damn day. But the Tulpa reveal was incredible because of how layered it was. It was simultaneously mystifying and incredibly illuminating. Like, oh, duh, of course, that’s not the Real Diane. And that shot of Tulpa Diane in the Red Room? The framing of it, the colours, the scarcity of both prop and dialogue – brilliance.
The Double R Diner
“This must be where pies go when they die.” Better than the bar from Cheers, if you ask me, The Double R is a place that immediately feels like home; it’s filled with warmth and so easy to love. It certainly helps that Norma Jennings, a damn fine soul in Twin Peaks, runs the place. You could also count on the Double R to provide a lighter, more straightforward scene amongst the other oftentimes dark and messy parts of the show. Shelly and Bobby shared a great many moments there, as did Ed and Norma, Coop and Annie, and even Gordon and Shelly. Major Briggs shared a beautiful sequence with his son there – one of the most touching father-son moments in TV, ever. The Double R has had some darker moments, too, but the majority of time it’s a safe space; this is where Coop first learned about the long-standing troupe of the Bookhouse Boys, where Donna and James recruited Maddy for their investigation into Laura’s death. The Double R just has good vibes, which made it all the more disturbing to see it from that different angle in the season three finale.
Ben Horne’s Veggie Cigars
While I’ve never been a huge fan of Ben’s fugue-like state as he reenacted the Civil War, I can’t help but enjoy the results of that wild ride. Having grown tired of seeing the hotel mogul chomp cigars – even on the best of shows that kind of on-the-nose stuff reaches an inevitable breaking point – I was delighted by his newfound affection for celery or carrot chomping. It was so silly, but it was the absolute ideal brand of silly to embody the arc Ben’s character had taken; to show the changes he had undergone, even if it was ludicrous.
The Score from Seasons 1 & 2
The background jazz during these episodes is almost omnipresent, and I love it. It borders on cliché for me to say this, but the original score is essentially a character in its own right; I think it makes more appearances than Dale Cooper does. While some fans were no doubt disappointed with how quiet The Return was in comparison, I appreciated this shift, as it allowed the original seasons to keep hold of a certain distinct quality. It was also just another brilliant way in which The Return bucked the typical path of any reboot to indulge in all kinds of unnecessary fan service, but, I digress. At times, the snappy beat will disappear into the background, becoming just part of the scenery, but every time you notice it again, it brings a little smile along with it. The ominous melodies are great, too. A bit soap-operatic in quality, but nevertheless fitting for the narrative. Whatever the music is, it was all perfectly mixed to create an ambience that can’t be beat or replicated. Which leads me to…
Nothing else feels like this show. Nothing even comes close. It’s the rustle of wind through trees; the crackle of electricity; the whizz of a ceiling fan; the elements you can’t quite describe but just feel like Twin Peaks to you. Both the original series and The Return created such unique vibes, in fact, they are routinely used to define other media. Plenty of TV shows, films, and music are referred to as being very Twin Peaks-y. The descriptor can be applied to fashion or mood in general, too. It’s become shorthand for when nothing else quite fits. Twin Peaks is an experience. The way Twin Peaks makes you feel is far more important than the show’s plot, character development, pacing, etc. It’s not as though the show doesn’t have those elements, they’re just secondary to the atmosphere it’s creating. It’s the kind of show that asks you to be very present and attentive while consuming it, almost as though you’re participating in the very thing. It invites us to dial-in to the strange frequency it’s humming on, to surrender to its tone; if you can do so, you’re in for one hell of a journey. One with no shortage of emotions to be experienced and explored.
I could talk about it for ages, and I actually wrote a pretty lengthy piece for my Patreon, if you’re interested.
Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department
Harry, Hawk, and Andy – and Lucy – make the greatest police force in history. Harry’s humble nature, Hawk’s infinite wisdom, Andy’s loveable buffoonery, and Lucy’s borderline eccentric (but oh-so genuine) behaviour collide in a way that nothing can beat. This gang’s camaraderie is charming; their seemingly endless supply of donuts enviable. It’s a place that radiates good energy – which is unlike most, if not all, police stations. Though not quite the same, the Sheriff’s Department has similarities to the Double R in that it feels like a meeting place. Granted that’s probably because our main character, Coop, is working out of there so that’s where we’d naturally spend a lot of screen time, but, nevertheless, that factor allows it to become another place fans are likely to enjoy spending time in. I know I do.
“Isn’t it too dreamy?” I mentioned it a few times in the episode category so I won’t go on about it too much longer here. Like Coop and Laura, this dance is part of what makes the show what it is. Not only does it suit Audrey’s character so, so well, but it also fits Twin Peaks’ larger, overall, weirdness; it’s effortlessness in going with the flow and taking us to unexpected place after unexpected place. Plus, Sherilyn Fenn is wonderful in the scene – a perfect mix of sultry and sincere.
Happy Twin Peaks Day, everyone, and here’s to another 30 strange and wonderful years!