In the history of cinema and television, rarely has there been a story so intoxicating and disturbing as TWIN PEAKS. David Lynch’s beautifully twisted mind introduced us to the creepiest small town in the Northwest 27 years ago, and will lead us back inside on May 21st. This show is romantic, absurdly funny and mysterious, but also one of the most frightening things to ever be put on television. Here we explore the episodes that introduced us to the dark side of Twin Peaks, and made us live the nightmare. WARNING: Spoilers abound!
ZEN, OR THE SKILL TO CATCH A KILLER (1.3)
One common thread between these episodes is David Lynch’s actual direction. While the first two episodes of the show set up the town’s charming quirks and hint at its dark side, Lynch’s signature surrealist style doesn’t emerge until episode 3. The sense of humor becomes weirder, but so does the sense of dread. We see Leo threaten Bobby and Mike with all the fire of a psychotic killer; and Cooper finds out about One Eyed Jacks, where much of the sinister action will take place. We also meet Bob for the first time, at the start of Cooper’s nasty fever dream. But it’s that initial glimpse inside the Black Lodge which truly makes the episode iconic. Lynch edits this scene with a frenetic insanity that makes us understand we aren’t dealing with reality. The Man from Another Place speaking backwards, and Laura giving cryptic hints to her terrible fate, all culminate in one of the eeriest dream sequences ever put down on film.
Season 1 is undoubtedly more consistent than Season 2, but we don’t see much of Bob until Ronette Pulaski’s horrifying dream at the end of the premiere. This leads us into an episode that introduces the dark supernatural side of Twin Peaks. While that dream – a brief glimpse into Laura’s death shown through strobing images and distorted screams – is pure nightmare material, we get to see more of Bob in this episode. Maddy’s vision of him slowing crawling over furniture until he reaches the camera is almost cruelly dreadful. Donna also meets two creepy-as-hell characters that come back to haunt us in FIRE WALK WITH ME. And Cooper’s prophetic dream – the owls are not what we seem – rivals Episode 3’s ending scene in its weird horror. Lynch proves that his story is about to get much darker, and boy, it does.
LONELY SOULS (2.7)
For a show about murder and corruption, there is surprisingly little death shown on screen here. The 7th episode of Season 2 should make us grateful for that. Not only does this episode feature another frightening vision from Cooper in the Roadhouse, but it also murders a favorite character. When Leland – who we know has been possessed by Bob – discovers that Maddy is leaving, his fear of losing another “daughter” drives him to take drastic measures. Which means killing her. The scene is shot without much blood, just Maddy’s terrified screams and Leland’s monstrous yelling, along with horrible intercutting as Leland transforms into Bob. The sound design here is the work of demons. We don’t need gore to make us feel a fictional character’s pain. Leland’s absolutely bizarre dance is traumatizing, and yet the episode ends with soft sadness – a testament to Lynch’s emotional power.
ARBITRARY LAW (2.9)
For many fans, this was the breaking point. We learn the identity of Laura’s killer, and the mystery ends. It may make the rest of Season 2 hard to bear, but that doesn’t mean we can discount this episode’s brilliance. Ray Wise is ever-horrifying as the possessed Leland, and his final moments of madness before capture are deeply suspenseful. Seeing him finally unveil his identity is also scary – Bob has got to be one of television’s most depraved, freakish villains, and hearing his deeds spelled out is pretty harrowing – but Leland’s dying moments add a dose of gut-wrenching pathos to the entire affair. Leland begs for forgiveness before dying himself; what person could bear that memory? This show may delve into the depths of hell, but it still remains focused on human beings.
BEYOND LIFE AND DEATH (2.22)
After about 30 episodes of wondering what the hell the Black Lodge is… we still don’t get to find out. Lynch crafts his series finale with brutal force, sending Cooper after his beloved Annie into a cosmic realm of madness. All of his surrealist motifs culminate in a 50-minute-long nightmare which we can’t escape; that ending is far less than satisfying. Laura’s relentless screams, Cooper bargaining with Wyndam, that last scene with Bob laughing backwards and stealing souls… It’s enough to drive fans mad, and ensures that this revival is necessary. After all, Laura promised it would take 25 years.
And while it’s not an episode…
FIRE WALK WITH ME
Lynch’s cinematic followup to his series upped the ante on violence and sex, but also darkness. For that reason, it probably turned away much of its potential audience – while the show was dark, it had moments of humor and charm as well. This film has none of those. It’s a nightmarish descent into Laura Palmer’s horrendous final days, Lynch’s evocation of a person whose soul has been destroyed. The visual motifs echo the show, and make them even more harrowing; until it all culminates in the event that kicked everything off. It’s tragic and deeply frightening in a way that surpasses the similarly-themed BLUE VELVET – there isn’t a drop of hope to be found. This is our final taste of Lynch’s world, a bitter and incomplete one – we’re ripe for new stories.
What episodes of TWIN PEAKS scared you the most?