I probably don’t need to say it, but SPOILERS. If you’ve seen Twin Peaks, you know it is impossible to talk about how weird it is without talking specifics. So, newbies to the series, I repeat: SPOILERS. I have not used anything from the movie, Fire Walk With Me, or the new series, but there are definite spoilers for the first two seasons.
When you think back on Twin Peaks, you tend to remember the weird. Because it WAS very, very, very, very, very weird. With the new season (Twin Peaks: The Return) beginning up this month, I decided to have a deep dive rewatch of Twin Peaks. It is one of those shows, I think that we can all agree, that you really do need to pay attention, because, I will reiterate, it is really, really, weird.
I first saw Twin Peaks in the late 90s, when I was about 13. I’m not sure how I saw it back then, but I’m assuming on Showcase. Showcase, for those of you unfamiliar, is the channel most likely responsible for any sex education you received outside of school in the nineties in Canada. To this day, it still remains Canada’s home for not only some great Canadian content, but also for a lot of weird, wonderful and subversive TV. Obviously, weird stuff was my jam, so I watched a lot of Showcase.
It’s easy to remember the weirdness in the Shining-esque Black Lodge, and the strange statements like, “The owls are not what they seem.” It’s even easy to remember the lady who carried around that log because it answered questions, or the white horse appearing in the Palmers living room. However, as the years pass, it’s easy to forget that some of the strange moments are also deeply, deeply unsettling. For a show that was on network TV almost 30 years ago, some of these scenes push the boundaries of television even today.
So, here are five times that Twin Peaks disturbed the heck outta me that I definitely did NOT remember, or remember a lot differently from a thirteen year old’s perspective.
5. Leland’s Grief – I always really like Leland Palmer’s character. He wore his grief very openly, and sometimes his grief made the audience extremely uncomfortable. As his grief slowly drives him mad, he would yoyo back and forth between extreme elation (and loud, exuberant singing of show tunes), and crippling depression. The actor Ray Wise plays this masterfully, the build up to the swing between one and the other often extremely subtle. One particular scene involves Leland holding a portrait of Laura, as he slowly spins around as if they are dancing together. As he spins, he breaks down, screaming his grief. To me, it goes on long enough that you feel it, and it makes you feel uncomfortable, like you’re watching someone who doesn’t know you’re watching them in a private moment. It also strikes me that in the early nineties, you weren’t seeing a lot of men really bare their emotions in such a naked way. Upon re-watch, a whole new layer is added to Leland’s grief when you factor in that he had some major guilt as well, in addition to his struggle for control of his own body.
4. Leo Comes To – When Leo woke up from his so called “vegetable” state, it wasn’t exactly a surprise. Shelly had been seeing him moving now and then throughout the last couple of episodes, including in a disturbing moment where she and boyfriend Bobby get frisky on the kitchen table with his wheelchair pulled right up next to them. Did I mention that Leo is Shelly’s husband? I know we’re not supposed to feel sorry for him as he was a big-time abuser, but come on. Ew. Shelly swore she saw him move mid-makeout, but Bobby convinced her otherwise. Later, his creepy croaking of “New shoes!” now and then alerted us to the fact that gradually he was coming back. When he finally comes to, the resulting scene is a masterclass in horror. As the power flickers on and off, the music cuts in and out, powering up and down with a weird winding sound. As Shelly creeps around the living room checking dark corners, Leo suddenly pops up mid light flash, face covered in food bits in a super creepy way that makes him look like a deranged clown. He then comes at Shelly with an axe, but the icing on the cake is the way the deflated party decorations from the “Leo-is-a-vegetable” party they were having a few days before are lurking everywhere. It makes for a great ironic visual and is so, so creepy.
3. Flashback to Laura’s Death – Poor, poor Ronette. Ronette, having escaped Laura Palmer’s killer, lies catatonic in the hospital. She is unable to cope with what happened to her, but also with the fact that she witnessed what happened to Laura. In dream form, she relives what happened and boy, oh, boy, is it disturbing. We see Laura’s demise at the hands of “Bob” in fairly brutal detail, as he straddles her and stabs her repeatedly. The imagery surrounding the stabbing is a whirlwind of WTF, including scenes of Laura screaming with blood dripping from her mouth, Bob howling like a wild animal, and the cryptic piece of paper reading “Fire Walk With Me.” After hearing a lot about what happened to Laura throughout the previous season, it is particularly jarring as your brain is also filling in the gaps with the knowledge that she was also sexually assaulted.
2. Cooper and the Mirror Scene (Final scene of season 2) – This scene must go down in TV history not only as one of the most offputting, but also as one of the biggest piss offs to fans of a series. Season 2 finishes up on a major cliffhanger, and then BAM! Cancelled. Now, 27 years later, it’s getting the opportunity to continue, but this ending is brutal. At the end of the finale, Cooper has escaped the Black Lodge after a disturbing encounter with several doppelgangers (including his own) and Bob. The viewer is still digesting what they just saw in the psychedelic red room when we see our hero, Agent Cooper, standing in front of a mirror, staring as he squeezes toothpaste in to the sink. He smashes his face into the mirror and we see that it’s Bob staring back at him! As his friends knock on the bathroom door he looks toward it, grinning and giggling maniacally as blood drips down his face, repeating, “How’s Annie?” over and over. Not a visual that’s easy to forget, kids. And a major anger inducing moment when you realized there were no more episodes.
1. Maddy’s Death – Gross, guys…gross! I still shudder just thinking about this scene. Just as we see Leland calmly tying his tie and putting on gloves and realize that it is Bob in the mirror, our brains are just starting to process what this means about Laura’s death. Suddenly, Maddy enters the room. As soon as she is put in that literal spotlight, we know what it means….Bob is about to strike again, and poor Maddy is doomed. What Twin Peaks did then is really, really messed up. They could have easily cut away when Leland makes a grab for her and we would have understood. But they went further. Leland chases Maddy around the room as she screams, then he corners her and brutally punches her repeatedly in the face. He then holds her as she chokes on her own blood, and spins her as if they are dancing. We see the spotlight shine on and off as Leland fights for control, his face changing to Bob’s over and over. Whenever Bob shows up, that’s when it gets a little bit rapey…he starts kissing her and literally sucking on her face. The whole time you are aware that this is her uncle, and then your brain starts to piece together what was probably done to his own daughter. Ick. This is dark, dark stuff. It is compounded later as Leland is pulled over for erratic driving, offers to show the officer his golf club, and casually maneuvers around her corpse wrapped in plastic in the trunk. I say again…this aired in the 90s. On network TV.
Hope you enjoyed! What are your scariest moments of Twin Peaks? Off I go to start The Return!