On February 24th, 1989, the quiet, picturesque town of Twin Peakschanges forever when the body of seventeen-year-old Laura Palmer is found washed up on a riverbank. Overwhelmed by the specifics of this case and burdened by the seemingly familiar relationships amongst the town folk, the local law enforcement department struggles to make headway in the case, until FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper joins their team. Cooper’s sensitivity to the esoteric, mystical and supernatural soon helps uncover the spiritual underbelly of Twin Peaks.
The death of Laura Palmer unleashed the evil lurking in the depths of the woods and it certainly unleashed the type of fan-mania that paved the way for series like Lost, The Killing and Wayward Pines. It’s been twenty-six years since we joined Cooper on his Red Room rendezvous and yet, we still can’t let go. The road to the Twin Peaks revival has been a long and rocky one,o but we should have known never to doubt Cooper’s dreams. Having spent less than three days in Twin Peaks, he already felt himself tapping into something beyond human perception, already felt himself ambiguously connected to Laura. And when she came to him in his dream and whispered, I’ll see you again in 25 years, we should have believed it.
In continuing our celebration of the best horror shows of all time, and the return of the portentously numinous town, we’ve rated every single episode of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks to gear ourselves up for the upcoming 2017 revival.
30. The Black Widow (Season 2)
His interest in purchasing property in town leads Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) to discover the Dead Dog Farm where traces of criminal activities are found. Nadine’s story becomes a central fixture in the episodes leading up to the grand finale, but the slapstick comedy of her cheerleading and wrestling endeavors soon grow tiresome. Her character brings up mixed feelings for the viewer; her gentle, vulnerable moments do evoke pity, but her tendency to obsess and drain the energy out of everyone around her—especially Ed—is quite pestilent. Benjamin Horne starts his decline into insanity and is ready to launch a Feng-Shuied Gettysburg battle, showing off some of Richard Beymer’s finest performances within the series.
29. Masked Ball (Season 2)
Cooper is being investigated for operating outside of his jurisdiction and smuggling cocaine over the boarder—clearly a set up. Gordon Cole sends reinforcement in support of Cooper’s case: the dashing Denise. Who knew David Duchovny would make for such an attractive young lady? James, who took off on his motorbike in a previous episode, ends up in a small town where he meets the lonely hausfrau Evelyn. She asks him to fix her husband’s jaguar while he’s away on a business trip and offers James a room above her garage in return. This is the beginning of an excruciatingly boring and sappy storyline that could have easily caused viewers to give up on the show altogether; luckily characters like Cooper and the Black Lodge posse make up for the soft-porn writing skills in Evelyn’s story.
28. Wounds and Scars (Season 2)
The crappy-sodes continue: while we do get to see the Log Lady and Major Briggs bonding over matching alien tattoos or White Lodge entrance stamps, there’s more focus on the small town intrigues and soapy romances. Audrey’s relationship with her Special Pilot John Justice Wheeler comes across like Gone with the Wind for the early nineties generation, while seemingly stuck in a fifties fantasy. But it’s nice to see things going well for Audrey and her father, who is trying to convince everyone he’s a changed man. The brotherhood between the Bookhouse Boys and their approaches to Harry’s grieving process swing between annoyingly pathetic and kind of endearing. Meanwhile Windom starts moving in on Shelley and Donna.
27. Double Play (Season 2)
Known for directing films like Wir Kinder vom Bahnhofs Zoo, Last Exit to Brooklyn and Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, Uli Edel doesn’t necessarily seem like the type to enjoy a slow-paced concoction of soap and crime drama, but this episode proves otherwise. Edel plays with shadows and obscurity, the way Lynch does with electric faults, as can be felt in the episode’s opening. A man is found bound to a chair and gagged with a chess pawn. Before even examining the body, Cooper knows exactly how the man was murdered and where to look for the culprit wounds. Cooper goes on to explain that this can only be the work of his ex-partner Windom Earle—and he has just taken his first pawn in a very sick game. When Leo awakens from his coma, he stumbles into the woods with what seems to be his sole purpose: to find the log cabin Earle is inhabiting.
26. Dispute Between Brothers (Season 2)
This is the first time in a while that we get to see how Sarah Palmer is holding up and it’s difficult to even think about the kind of trauma she’s suffered. Although she has mainly been portrayed as fragile and weak, she comes out strong in this episode. But between Nadine’s high school days, the Brennan/Dick/Lucy triangle and Catherine’s return from the dead, it felt a tad too As the World Turns—and this time, through no fault of James.
25. Variations on Relations
Petroglyphs in a cave inhabited by owls are just as cool as hieroglyphs in a jungle hatch. Brennan’s clumsiness reveals a map that allows Cooper to learn more about the legends surrounding the White Lodge and its counterpart, the Black Lodge. But Windom Earle is one step ahead, having picked up on a crucial detail Cooper, Hawk and the rest of the team overlooked. We don’t actually get to experience the “happy, laughing spirits” or the “sweet nectar that infuses one’s heart with the desire to live one’s life in truth and beauty,” though it is suggested we get a glimpse of it in the final scene of Fire Walk With Me.
24. Slaves and Masters (Season 2)
One of the most unfortunate subplots of the entire show was definitely the story of James and his out-of-town shenanigans with Evelyn. Not only did the storyline feel obsolete, it also provoked flashbacks of some of the ridiculously cheesy moments between Maddy, Donna and James—a chapter we were more than happy to have closed. Luckily, Diane Keaton stepped into the directorial seat just in time to find a way to reconnect with the original Twin Peaks feel. Opening with a close-up of a chess board and its pawns, the screen turns black before the camera slowly eyes Evelyn, from the tip of her shoes all the way up to her veiled face. In spite of some problems with the episode, there’s this distinctly feminine feel to the camera work, as it moves with a gentle sensuality.
23. The Condemned Woman (Season 2)
The title of this episode works on various levels: not only has Josie always thrived in her role as the martyr, in order to manipulate unsuspecting men like Pete and Truman, she’s also haunted by her past and present wrong doings, and has been condemned by the likes of Cooper and Catherine as well. When Josie meets her fate, she seems trapped between two worlds: BOB and The Man from Another Place may have taken her body to the Black Lodge, but her soul is left to integrate and merge with the wooden features of the Great Northern. Several details have suggested that wood embodies innocence and purity, thus places like the Great Northern hotel, in all its wooden glory, act as a safe place for eternally suffering souls.
22. The Man Behind Glass (Season 2)
Ronette is having a hysteric fit at the hospital. It takes several orderlies to restrain her, allowing Albert and Cooper to extract a sample from under her fingernail: the letter B. They now have three letters—B, T, R—all of which seem to form part of an important riddle that may lead them to Laura’s killer. Cooper believes that the people who have had visions of BOB are psychically linked, and it’s up to him and his team to read between the connecting lines. Leland informs Truman and Cooper that he recognizes BOB’s picture. He goes on to tell them about a man who used to taunt Leland as a child; he would flick matches at him and say: “Do you want to play with fire, little boy?” The one-armed man is about to launch into his boots sales pitch when he catches a glimpse of BOB’s picture and grows agitated. When he vanishes from the station moments later, Cooper finds Gerard’s syringe and medicine. Remembering the Giant´s clue, without chemicals, Cooper sets out to find Gerard.
21. Checkmate (Season 2)
Major Briggs takes off on a cliffhanger and returns with a cliffhanger. After reappearing in the woods in a scene reminiscent of the early X-Files, Briggs is taken back to the station, fearful yet strangely calm. He tells Cooper and Truman about Project Black Book, a UFO operation founded and terminated by the Air Force in the sixties. But before he has a chance to explain their search for The White Lodge, he is picked up by no-nonsense MPs. Brennan and Dick’s mutual concern (or competitiveness) for Lucy and Dick’s foster child Nicky causes them to form a strange anti-bromance. Unfortunately, the resulting storylines feel like fillers, much in the same way as James and Nadine’s story.
20. Rest in Pain (Season 1)
“Rest in Pain” is the first episode in the series penned by a woman, Tina Rathborne. She brought a fresh approach to the plotline and characters, particularly Dale Cooper. Rathborne had a very special understanding of Cooper’s character and his quest for personal enlightenment. She also felt greatly inspired by Audrey and her resemblance to Marilyn Monroe, using her sultry vibe perhaps to confuse the audience of her intentions. The episode focuses on the lead-up to Laura’s funeral and tensions are running high. Albert insists on performing another autopsy and gets into a heated discussion with Truman. At the funeral, Bobby loses his cool, accusing everyone of having ignored Laura’s troubles. Leland collapses onto his daughter’s coffin, crying uncontrollably. At the Great Northern later that night, Leland desperately begs fellow guests to dance with him.
19. Realization Time (Season 1)
Hoping to impress her Special Agent, Audrey finally manages to land a position at One Eyed Jacks, in the hopes of learning more about Ronette and Laura. Leo gets anxious when he hears Jacque Renault’s myna bird has been taken into custody and shoots it during the night. But the tapes that have been left rolling throughout the night reveal the bird screaming “Leo, no!” Nadine is gutted when her patent for silent drapes is rejected and it becomes clear just how good a man Ed really is; he may not be in love with his wife, but he cares for her deeply, always picking up the pieces when she crumbles. Meanwhile, Brennan’s goofy love affair with Lucy takes one a new turn that is at times enjoyable, but at other times, a bore.
18. Traces to Nowhere (Season 1)
When we first see Cooper politely refusing to give in to Audrey’s womanly wiles we are led to believe that he’ll crack eventually. But actually, “Traces to Nowhere” very much sets the tone of Audrey and Cooper’s relationship in the season to come. Although we’re still not able to appreciate his honorable, personal moral code, we can feel his sincerity. At the end of the episode, Sarah Palmer has a vision of a terrifying man, the first major hint of something transcendental at play here. Looking back at the scene now, it becomes increasingly clear why Lynch found a muse in Grace Zabriskie, with whom he had previously worked with on Wild at Heart and, most recently, Inland Empire.
17. On the Wings of Love (Season 2)
“On the Wings of Love” is filled a with much of the humor that previous episodes had been lacking. With the return of Gordon Cole and his hard-of-hearing antics, we revisit the eccentricities and farcicality of the series’ first season. The best scenes include Cooper’s cure for Harry’s monumental hangover following a rude awakening, and Gordon Cole’s screaming into the bugged Bonsai tree, sending Windom Earle’s ears into high-pitched protest. While the central focus in this episode is the love blossoming between different characters (John/Audrey, Annie/Cooper), a very significant discovery is made: the Owl Cave. Some of the hints and riddles we’d been given, finally seem to form a pathway towards the White and the Black Lodge. The fact that Windom Earle was a part of project Blue Book is summed up nicely by Cooper when he says, “Fellas, coincidence and fate figure largely in our lives.”
16. The Path to the Black Lodge (Season 2)
Opening with the image of the face of a dead man frozen in fear, this episode (directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal) brings us closer to understanding Windom Earle’s wicked games. Major Briggs gathers the Bookhouse Boys at the station to discuss Project Blue Book and Earle’s involvement in it. Briggs presents footage in which Earle is heard rambling on about the Black Lodge, where Dugpas wizards cultivate evil for the sake of evil. Throughout the day, several characters, including an unknown elderly woman, experience a strange phenomenon: their hands start to shake uncontrollably for no apparent reason. The final minutes of the episode take us on an obscure tour through the show’s major landmarks, before the camera comes to rest on the Glastonberry clearing in the woods. Several trees surround a puddle in the ground from which BOB’s shaking hand appears. The puddle morphs into the red curtains—to the sound of “The Dance of the Dream Man”—and the credits start rolling…
15. The Orchid’s Curse (Season 2)
During his morning yoga routine, Cooper finds Audrey’s note explaining her whereabouts. He gets the ransom money as instructed and hashes out a plan with his team. As they ready themselves to enter One Eyed Jack’s, an owl stares right at Cooper and hoots. Things get tense inside, but they ultimately succeed in freeing Audrey. Donna gets closer to Harold and plans to steal Laura’s diary with the help of Maddy. In this episode, Nadine’s nuttiness also takes on new heights. Following her release from the hospital, she takes on super-human strength and is convinced she’s sixteen again.
14. The One-Armed Man
Sketches of BOB continue to spark recognition amongst the folks of Twin Peaks. Only, no one has ever seen him in person—he only seems to appear in visions. The One-Armed Man (first seen in Cooper’s scary ass dream) is located in a motel room and goes by the name of Gerard. But before they can concentrate on Gerard, they are working on Jacoby, pushing the eccentric psychiatrist for answers he’s not ready to divulge. Frost and Lynch granted episode director Tim Hunter the highest honor in allowing him to end “The One-Armed Man” on a Dutch angle, the first use of which can be noted in Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
13. Laura’s Secret Diary (Season 2)
As far as episode openers go, this one has got to be the best of the entire series. Zooming out of the depths of a vent hole in a spiraling motion, to accompanying shrieks and Crazy Clown Time-like jarring, melodies, the camera finally rests on Truman’s face for a moment before moving on to Leland’s bewildered expression in the interrogation room. He admits to having killed Jacques Renault, whom he believed to be his daughter’s murderer. Audrey is still being held hostage by Jean Renault and Blackie at One Eyed Jacks, and they demand a ransom of $125, 000. Donna spends time with Harold, who reads to her from Laura’s secret diary. Although she assures Maddy that she is fine with her relationship with James, it’s fascinating to see how her behavior suggests the contrary.
12. Demons (Season 2)
This is the first episode where David Lynch is introduced as Gordon Cole, who comes equipped with hearing aids the size of Beats by Dre. When Cooper and his team get Gerard into the interrogation room, they deliberately withhold his medicine in order to get him to turn. When he does, he admits he used to kill with BOB, but after seeing the face of God, cut off his arm to rid himself of evil. He explains that BOB is currently in a “house filled with many rooms, each alike, but inhabited by different souls, night after night.” Benjamin Horne, Josie and “Mr. Tojamura” continue their dirty schemes and Shelley and Bobby throw Leo an absurdly funny welcome home party.
11. Drive with a Dead Girl (Season 2)
Leland’s vulnerability and his grief have evaporated entirely—BOB has clearly taken over. Ray Wise’s performance is terrifyingly awesome, his menacing laugh and that pure, evil grin of his now forever steeped into the minds of Twin Peaks fans everywhere. Throughout the majority of the episode, we are painfully aware of Maddy’s dead body in the back of his trunk. More evidence is uncovered incriminating Benjamin Horne—a matter Audrey is struggling with. There’s a sweet, nostalgic moment between Benjamin and his brother Jerry (a terrible, dubious lawyer), as they reminisce about their childhood on the prison cell’s bunkbed.