Twin Peaks: 9 essential episodes before the relaunch

Twin Peaks - Black Lodge

The new series of TWIN PEAKS is almost upon us. We were promised that “You will see me again in 25 years” and David Lynch and Mark Frost are making good on that promise. Of course, if you haven’t already been binging in anticipation of the 18 episode relaunch, catching up might be harder to grasp than the perfect cherry pie. Plus, some of Season 2 is downright unwatchable.

So here’s 9 episodes to get the express Peaks treatment. The damn good ones, if you will. (Minor spoilers ahead). TWIN PEAKS returns on 21 May in the US on Showtime, and 22 May 2017 on Stan in Australia.

Twin Peaks - Wrapped in Plastic

Pilot – “Northwest Passage”

This is where is all began. Written by series creators Mark Frost and David Lynch, and directed by Lynch, this feature-length pilot is where we meet the inhabitants of the town of Twin Peaks, Washington. Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is found dead (“wrapped in plastic”). FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is called in when Laura’s fellow student Ronnette Pulaski is found wandering a bridge. Cooper and local Sheriff Harry S Truman (Michael Ontkean) begin investigating the connections. Although this episode plays it comparatively straight, Angelo Badalamenti distinct score and the quirky cast of characters set the tone for one of the greatest series of the 20th century. FUN FACT: In the European market, this was sold as a self-contained entity, wrapping up the mystery by the end!

Twin Peaks - BOB

Season 1 Episode 1 – “Traces to Nowhere”

When the first round of DVDs were released, the “Pilot” wasn’t included, confusing poor punters even more than the show itself. This pivotal episode gets us acquainted with the rest of the town, as Cooper checks into the Great Northern Hotel and meets the flirtatious young Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn). An almost catatonic Mrs. Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) encounters a vision of a sinister man (Frank Silva). Viewers will note that this sinister man will become very important to the show’s mythology.

Twin Peaks - "Zen, Or The Skill To Catch A Killer"

Season 1, Episode 3: “Zen, Or The Skill To Catch A Killer”

There’s so many reasons to dig this episode, but the primary one is because it introduces the Man from Another Place (Michael J. Anderson) in a distinctive dream sequence. Not only a huge puzzle piece in the TWIN PEAKS mythos, but the diminutive, backwards-talking character has been parodied and copied in many places, making him an icon on his own accord.

Twin Peaks - "The Last Evening"

Season 1, Episode 8: “The Last Evening”

Written and directed by Mark Frost, and the only time that the series writer would get behind the camera, something major happens to almost every character. Suicide attempts, murders, Audrey in lingerie, a mill ablaze, and a Canadian casino are just some of the things that populate the finale.  The cliffhanger ending, still one of the best in the business almost three decades later, leads directly into one of the defining moments of the second season (see below). Arguably the show at its (pardon the pun) peak.

Twin Peaks - "May the Giant Be With You"

Season 2 Episode 1 – “May the Giant Be With You”

The second season came back in the midst of a frenzy of pop-culture hype. Opening with Cooper as the victim of a vicious attack, the circumstances around the crime are forgotten for much of the season. What isn’t as easy to forget is the deliberate weirdness, with more puzzle pieces surrounding the darkness in the woods. A wounded Cooper is visited by a riddle-spouting giant, who is possibly the same person as the doddering old bellhop, while Audrey’s dad tries to unknowingly get it on with her in One Eyed Jacks. Directed and co-written (with Frost) by David Lynch, it’s easily one of the best episodes of a difficult sophomore season.

Twin Peaks - "Lonely Souls"

Season 2 Episode 7 – “Lonely Souls”

“It is happening again.” The first episode directed by Lynch since “Coma,” it was where network pressure got the better of the show and Laura’s killer was finally revealed. Not only that, but the troubled sexual past of Laura, her relationship to her dad and the mysterious BOB is laid bare. The answer was hiding in plain sight, especially if you’d read The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer (below), but the way the revelation is conveyed is unquestionably idiosyncratic of peak PEAKS. You can draw a line under the show right here, as this is as close to an end as we could hope for. Or so we thought.

Twin Peaks - "Drive with a Dead Girl"

Season 2 Episode 8 – “Drive With a Dead Girl”

If this episode is “lesser” somehow, then it is only in comparison to the previous episode’s reveal. Here we get to see a completely different side to Laura’s dad Leland (Ray Wise), who had previously played an alternatively grieving and dancing father. FUN FACT: In the flashback to Ben and Jerry’s childhood, that’s Emily Fincher (David Fincher’s sister!) doing the flashlight dance. 

TWIN PEAKS Episode: "Arbitrary Law" or "Episode 16" Season 2, Episode 9 Air Date: December 1, 1990 Ray Wise as Leland Palmer

Season 2 Episode 9 – “Arbitrary Law”

Cooper and company finally catch up with the harsh truths that the audience has known for weeks. Ray Wise gives his best performance to date in this episode, as the emotional weight of the the previous sixteen episodes (and Laura’s childhood) come to bear on him during a moment of lucidity. If “Lonely Souls” was the end of the first era of TWIN PEAKS, then this was the heartbreaking epilogue.

Twin Peaks - "Beyond Life and Death"

Season 2 Episode 22 – “Beyond Life and Death”

The second season was besieged by some ridiculous stories. Nadine’s memory loss and teenager regression. Catherine disguising herself as a Japanese man. Pretty much everything with Dick Tremayne and Andy. After leaving the show in benign neglect for most of the season, Lynch returns for one hell of a finale. With Cooper’s new love Annie (Heather Graham) in the grip of Windom Earle, we dive deep into the mystery of the Black Lodge, the notion of duality, and a shocking twist that left fans disturbed, bewildered, and hungry for a third season. Prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me notwithstanding, they would have to wait another quarter of a century for that.

BONUS BOOK: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

The Secret Diary of Laura PalmerA nightmarish, thrilling, erotic, and universe expanding faux diary that ties directly into the key events of the second season. Written by the then-22-year-old Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David Lynch and future director of Boxing Helena, it follows Laura’s life from the age of 12 to just before her death at 17. Along with the ‘typical’ coming-of-age stuff, signs of Laura’s childhood abuse, her textbook reactions, and attempts to reconcile her ‘bad’ side with her desire to be a good person are all there. Released prior to the start of the second season, and serving as a pivotal plot point through the year, the connection to BOB and the identity of the killer is there if you are cluey enough to join the dots. As a standalone, it’s a gripping and terrifying piece of raw fiction.