Angelo Badalamenti, Billy Zane, Black Lodge, cult classic, David Duchovny, David Lynch, Don Davis, dreams, Fire Walk With Me, Frank Silva, Heather Graham, Kenneth Welsh, Kyle MacLachlan, Lara Flynn Boyle, Laura Palmer, Madchen Amick, Mark Frost, Michael Ontkean, murder mystery, nighttime soap opera, Ray Wise, serialized television, Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Tibetan Buddhism
One month ago today, David Lynch and Mark Frost announced the return of their 90s cult favorite TV series Twin Peaks. Lynch will direct eighteen new episodes that will air on Showtime in 2016, approximately twenty-five years after the final episode in which Laura Palmer says to Agent Cooper, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.”
Who killed Laura Palmer? This question leads to many doors in a world that is both wonderful and strange. Twin Peaks ran for thirty episodes over two seasons that aired from 1990-1991. The series was followed by a prequel film in 1992, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. The series was an original, completely unique with David Lynch’s unmistakable brand of strange and weird.
Twin Peaks paved the way for other serialized dramas such as The X-Files (1993-2002) and Lost (2004-2010). Twin Peaks was more cinematic than any television series that came before it thanks to the creative force behind it, David Lynch. Lynch was already an accomplished filmmaker who directed such films as Blue Velvet (1986).
At first glance, Twin Peaks may seem a little cheesy. There are soap opera elements at work that the series employs while simultaneously poking fun at them. Twin Peaks has many motifs, including coffee, donuts, pie and owls. Yes, owls. Twin Peaks is a wonderful mix of great storytelling full of cliffhangers and plot twists, compelling characters, atmosphere, offbeat humor, haunting visuals, and an incredible soundtrack composed by Angelo Badalamenti. The acting is mostly strong. Kyle MacLachlan is perfect as the quirky FBI agent Dale Cooper. Michael Ontkean is great as Sheriff Harry S. Truman. There are many young and beautiful women in Twin Peaks including Audrey Horne played by Sherilyn Fenn, Donna Hayward played by Lara Flynn Boyle, Shelley Johnson played by Madchen Amick, and Laura Palmer played by Sheryl Lee. All of these actresses give strong performances particularly Boyle. The series includes several prominent guest stars, including David Duchovny as a transvestite FBI agent, Billy Zane as Audrey’s love interest, a young Heather Graham as Annie Blackburn, Cooper’s love interest, and Lynch himself as Cooper’s supervisor, Gordon Cole. The series has some veteran actors in its cast, including Don Davis who is wonderful as Major Garland Briggs.
The first season, made up of eight gripping episodes, focuses on the mystery behind Laura Palmer’s murder. In the second season, this mystery is resolved. If you did not think that the series could get any weirder after Laura’s murder was solved, think again. It gets much weirder. After the resolution, the series seems to lose a little purpose and compensates with a few uninteresting storylines, the worst of which is a subplot involving James Hurley, one of the show’s weaker characters. The series returns to greatness, though at the end of the season which focuses on Windom Earle and his quest for the Black Lodge. Kenneth Welsh is simply fantastic as Earle and steals nearly every scene in which he appears.
Ultimately, Twin Peaks is about the masks that people wear in life and the constant battle between the forces of good and evil, love and hate. Twin Peaks is about thinking you know somebody when in fact, you don’t really know them at all.
The following is a list of my ten favorite episodes of Twin Peaks in chronological order. Note: The loglines for each episode are restricted to the main storyline with Agent Cooper. Obviously, there are many subplots involving other characters.
“She’s dead. Wrapped in plastic.”
Logline: A quirky FBI agent named Dale Cooper arrives in the strange northwestern town of Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer.
All of the elements that make Twin Peaks such a great series are present in its first episode. It is clear from the beginning that this is no ordinary murder mystery.
2) Episode 2: Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer
“That gum you like is going to come back in style.”
Logline: Agent Cooper uses his knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism in his investigation and has a strange dream that may give him the answer he seeks.
This episode includes one of my favorite sequences from the series, a dream scene featuring a dancing dwarf.
3) Episode 5: Cooper’s Dreams
“My log does not judge.”
Logline: Agent Cooper, Sheriff Truman, Deputy Hawk, and Dr. Hayward venture into the woods where they have tea with the Log Lady and discover a crime scene.
The Log Lady is one of my favorite characters. Her scenes with Cooper and the gang in this episode are priceless.
4) Episode 6: Realization Time
“Harry, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don’t plan it. Don’t wait for it. Just let it happen. It could be a new shirt at the men’s store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot black coffee.”
Logline: Agent Cooper and Big Ed go undercover at One Eyed Jacks to find Jacques Renault.
Various characters’ stories begin to converge on a gripping collision course toward the season finale. Twin Peaks is a series about different personas. In Pilot, the first shot of a character is Josie, who is looking in a mirror. Like so many of the characters, Josie has many personas. Laura also had many secrets. In this episode, most of the characters are literally donning a different persona. Cooper and Big Ed are in disguise as gamblers at One Eyed Jacks, where Audrey is disguised as a prostitute to learn more about Laura’s involvement there. Maddy wears a blonde wig to disguise herself as Laura.
5) Episode 7: The Last Evening
“Bite the bullet, baby.”
Logline: Cooper learns the details of Laura’s last night in the cabin from Jacques Renault.
This is an excellent season finale that is briskly paced. The transition from Dr. Jacoby’s eyeball to the roulette table at One Eyed Jacks is incredible. The extreme closeup of Jacques’ mouth as he recounts the events at the cabin on the night of Laura’s death is also very effective.
6) Episode 14: Lonely Souls
“It is happening again.”
Logline: Cooper takes the One Armed Man to the Great Northern Hotel, with the hopes of finding Laura’s killer, who strikes again.
Due to a dip in ratings, ABC pushed David Lynch and Mark Frost to reveal Laura’s killer in this episode. This was not Lynch and Frost’s original intent. In fact, they both wanted to keep Laura’s killer a secret until the end. The reveal does not disappoint, though and makes for a sequence that is shocking and disturbing. The scene in which Julee Cruise sings the Lynch penned “The World Spins” still sends a shiver down my spine. WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!
7) Episode 16: Arbitrary Law
“Through the darkness of future past / The magician longs to see / One chants out between two worlds / Fire walk with me. I’ll catch you with my death bag. You may think I’ve gone insane, but I promise I will kill again!”
Logline: Cooper decodes his dream to learn the identity of Laura’s killer.
This episode provides a satisfying conclusion to the Laura Palmer mystery, the driving force of the series. Ray Wise’s performance in this episode is brilliant. WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!
8) Episode 27: The Path to the Black Lodge
“Audrey, there are many cures for a broken heart. But nothing quite like a trout’s leap in the moonlight.”
Logline: Cooper brings Audrey, Donna, and Shelley together to warn them about Windom Earle, who has taken Major Briggs hostage so he can find the location of the Black Lodge.
This is Twin Peaks’ first truly excellent episode since Episode 16. The long pull-out tracking shot of Cooper and Annie conversing in the diner is perfect as well as the extreme closeup that follows of coffee slowly dripping onto the floor. The episode ends with the empty spaces of Twin Peaks and the return of Frank Silva’s Bob, a truly terrifying character.
9) Episode 28: Miss Twin Peaks
“I believe the Black Lodge is the source of what you’ve traditionally referred to here as the evil in the woods.”
Logline: Cooper unlocks the key to the Black Lodge as Windom Earle makes his next move at the Miss Twin Peaks contest.
This episode is especially memorable for its riveting conclusion with great use of strobe lighting.
10) Episode 29: Beyond Life and Death
Logline: Cooper follows Windom Earle and Annie into the Black Lodge.
If I could chose only one favorite episode of Twin Peaks, it would be its final episode. It is the strangest episode of the series. In fact, it is the strangest piece of television I have ever seen. I had my mouth open in shock for most of this episode when I first saw it. The scene in which Jimmy Scott sings the Lynch penned “Sycamore Trees” is haunting.
Duality is one of Twin Peaks‘ primary themes. Duality begins in the title of the town and series: Twin Peaks. The floors of the mysterious Black Lodge have black and white patterns that resemble mountain peaks. Inside the Black Lodge, everyone has a doppleganger, or a double. This double is a darker version of the person and their only distinguishable feature is glazed, white eyes. I am not sure that this episode is supposed to “make sense.” The Black Lodge and White Lodge can be interpreted in many ways, such as heaven/hell, good/evil, or love/hate. This episode’s ambiguity is part of the reason why I love it so much. It brings the series to a surreal, unsettling and brilliant conclusion with a shocking cliffhanger. WARNING: VIDEO CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS!
I have no idea where Lynch and Frost will take the series next in 2016 but as Agent Cooper would say, “I have a definite feeling it will be a place both wonderful and strange.”