It has been a while since I did a list. I’ve done quite a few Top 10 episodes lists of my favourite TV programmes but never touched my favourite of all. This ties in nicely with it being the Twin Peaks Festival in Washington this weekend (although in truth that’s just a fluke – I’ve been doing this for ages but haven’t got around to finishing it off until now). When it came down to it, I couldn’t break it down into episodes like that. I can tell you what my favourite episode of all is: that’s easy – it’s the first episode of season 2 – but I’d much rather talk about my favourite scenes as that seems much more fair. Some of them are comedic, some are horrifying, some downright confusing and some bring a tear to the eye. Here then are my top 25 scenes from Twin Peaks. Please remember it is ‘my’ top 25, not ‘the’ top 25. I know everyone has different opinions and I’d love to hear them in the comments.
25 – Bobby’s interrogation
This was my first glimpse of the serious Agent Cooper in action. Bobby’s never dealt with anyone like Cooper before and he has no idea what he’s doing. He tries to play out his usual tough guy routine but the FBI man isn’t fazed at all, throwing him back nothing but calmly delivered questions that he clearly knows the answers to already. It’s great watching Cooper tap out messages while he’s listening because he’s got Bobby figured out right from the start. This is the moment when I fell in love with the series maybe, right there in the pilot when Cooper cuts through Bobby’s protestations with the “You didn’t love her anyway,” line.
24 – Chet Desmond vs. Sherriff Cable
This scene so badly needed to be in the final cut of Fire Walk With Me. I only got around to watching The Missing Pieces earlier this year and this scene had me out of my chair. I know it probably doesn’t add anything to the narrative; it’s just so satisfying to watch the malignant Cable, so brilliantly played by Gary Bullock, get his arse handed to him in such emphatic style. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Agent Desmond bends an iron bar and then throws it on the ground to prove a point. This scene is just brilliant. You get the added pleasure of seeing Deputy Cliff and the giggling secretary left speechless too.
23 – Welcome home, Leo
There’s something wonderful about the whole set up of this scene, whether it’s Leo’s rhythmic breathing through the kazoo or the streamers all over him. Add to that the sunglasses that they’ve put on him and this is such a great, comedic scene. Then you stop and think that they’re actually humiliating someone with brain damage. Also, the scene goes from comedy to something different and then back again so smoothly. It’s a great illustration of how the series is able to do that in so many other places. Leo’s imperceptible head turn while Bobby and Shelly are getting along on the table right in front of him is enough to elicit a horrified reaction and bring us all back to our senses. One wonders who Eric Da Re had upset in order to be humiliated in this way – having to plunge his own head into a cake and then have it dragged up again by the ponytail. The timing of the scene and the performances of the actors are first rate.
22 – Impromptu dance session
There’s a great madcap sensibility in this tiny little scene. We go from a serious discussion between Ben and Jerry into the arrival of the newly white-haired Leland singing his song. Where you’d expect the Horne brothers to roll their eyes and get rid of him, they actually join in. I remember being so taken aback by this, especially when Ben climbs up on his desk and starts to tap out a rhythm, that it’s stuck in my mind ever since. I so want to do this in my office someday. Looking at it, there’s such a disconnect between the three men; they’re all engaged in the same thing but in different ways. There’s Leland’s show tune singing, Ben’s classical shuffle and then Jerry’s freeform interpretive movements.
21 – The Pink Room
When I saw this for the first time at the cinema, there were no subtitles in this scene and I couldn’t understand most of it. It was only much later that I found out what Jacques and the others were saying. I love the music with it’s deep string sound, the lighting and the imminent sense of danger for Donna as she takes herself down the rabbit hole in order to keep up with Laura.
20 – Rock Throwing
Delicious weirdness aplenty in one of the most famous, iconic scenes in the whole series. I love this scene because of the preparation that has gone into it. I’ve always enjoyed wondering what the characters thought was going to happen as they set it all up. Where did Cooper find a large map of Tibet at short notice? Does he carry it in the boot of his car? The thought of Lucy and Andy setting up the blackboard and fetching the folding chairs just amuses me. I remember watching as a young teenager the first time around and wondering what was going on. This was just so out of step with everything I was used to seeing. Plus, Hawk in the oven gloves? Fantastic.
19 – Donna dances with BOB
This scene often gets forgotten in the grand scheme of things. It’s in the middle of a whole slew of scenes of Bob, now revealed to be inhabiting Leland. Coming so soon after the scene with Maddy, the gloves are off and any character is vulnerable. So, when we see Donna alone with Leland in the house and he goes off to fetch her some lemonade, things get very creepy very quickly. We see Bob standing at the record player screaming at the top of his voice, the way he touches her hair when she’s not looking; it really makes my skin crawl watching this, even though I know it turns out alright for her in the end. I have always wondered why Donna doesn’t tell anyone about it afterwards, given how shaken she is when it happens, but then it does fit in with Leland’s pattern of behaviour throughout and she has known him for so long that she probably accepted it.
18 – Leland stops pretending
Aside form the cardboard wall in the cell that shakes so violently when Leland throws himself into it, it’s hard to find anything wrong with this scene. Ray Wise gets to go completely off the map with his performance and is really great. Right from the minute they pull Ben Horne out of the way and shove him into the cell, it’s a great release. I know that David Lynch never wanted to solve the murder of Laura Palmer, but this feels like a suitable resolution to the plotline. There are also some lovely little touches, like his barbed comment to Cooper about Pittsburgh and the reaction he gets.
17 – Harry breaks the news
This is an early indicator of the quality you can expect. Within the first few minutes of the Pilot episode, we’re given a masterclass by Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie. It’s only when I rewatched this a few months ago with Mrs A that I noticed just how good Ray Wise is in this scene. Zabriskie tends to get most of the plaudits for her feral, animal-like grief, but there is so much from Wise that is unspoken, like the wind has been taken out of him. Maybe it’s because I’m a father now that I can see it more when he goes from telling his wife that everything is OK and that she’s overreacting to seeing Harry at the desk that moment when he realises that this is serious. It does make you wonder, in hindsight, whether the acting is even better as he already knows that she’s dead because he killed her. Who knows?
16 – Wine tasting
This is one of the most hilarious scenes I’ve ever seen. Ian Buchanan is so funny, playing a great host. The bandage on his nose from the pine weasel incident makes him even more ridiculous. He really plays up the pretentious nature of the character, somewhere not terribly far away from Basil Fawlty, giving such withering looks to Andy. I still laugh out loud when he shouts at him for drinking his wine too soon, then pulls himself back together and tells him that it’s OK; that they’re there to learn. Brilliant.
15 – Rustic suckerpunch
On the whole, all the law enforcement people have been very nice to each other in Twin Peaks from the Pilot onwards. That’s why it’s such a relief when Albert shows up and acts in a completely obnoxious way. This scene is so brilliant, with Laura’s lifeless body being argued over in such style. First, after Ben Horne’s impassioned plea to release the body and think of the family, Albert cuts him to ribbons with a volley of insults. He then unloads a glorious tirade at Harry, only to get a knuckle sandwich for his troubles. You then get the nicer moment after when Cooper returns Laura’s dignity by placing her hand gently back on the gurney.
14 – Audrey’s Dance
The theory machine went wild after this scene. My favourite theory was the one in which Audrey was in the real world and the Billy she was looking for was Billy Zane. Because they introduce her dance as ‘Audrey’s Dance’, which is the track off the soundtrack album, it gives credence to that idea. There’s a sense of foreboding that builds up with the music as she dances, finally spilling over as a fight breaks out. She then runs back to Charlie in distress and we get a smash cut to her in white in front of a mirror, accompanied by the crackling sound of electricity and then nothing. That’s one of the best cliffhangers the show has ever thrown up. It left me speechless and made Audrey’s return to the series feel a lot more worthwhile than it had done up to this point. The look of abject confusion she wears is haunting and we don’t even have time to process what is happening before the rug is pulled out from under us.
13 – Ronette wakes up
The first episode of Season 2 is so chock full of great scenes, it almost feels like I’m ignoring the rest of the series. For me though, it’s just perfect, and it’s all wrapped up with this harrowing scene that brings it to a close. After the Giant speaks to Cooper, we go off to the darkened hospital and get that beautiful dolly shot along the corridor towards Ronette’s room. Up until this moment, we’ve only had some idea of what went on in the train car. Now, we’re about to get some hard truths about just how horrible it was. We get Sheryl Lee’s scream, Frank Silva’s laugh, and something that is utterly terrifying, leaving you with a greatly elevated heart rate when the titles come up. This is what really happened. Andy was right to cry over it.
12 – Heartbreaking
This is such an emotional scene. Cooper is so close to waking up. I remember watching him tuck into the cherry pie and thinking, “yes, this is it.” What we actually get is so much more rewarding, as he is recognised by the hobo woman from the casino. His money has helped her get her life back and this is a moment of great payoff in a season that doesn’t always give us much in that way. There is some great back and forth with the Mitchum brothers and the beautiful piano that ties it all together. Beautiful!
11 – I need to brush my teeth
This lived with me for more than 25 years as probably the greatest cliffhanger in the history of television. I knew it was coming, as soon as he stood in front of the mirror, then with the toothpaste and then the headbutt. I don’t even think I can put into words how this left me feeling after I saw it for the first time; completely winded is the only comparable feeling I can conjure, cast adrift in a long wilderness before we finally caught up with Cooper and learned his ate last summer.
10 – Above the Convenience Store
The extended version of this scene, available as part of The Missing Pieces, is an absolute freight train of weird. The macabre cast of characters and their interactions take things to a whole new level in the mythology of the show. Frank Silva is fantastically creepy in this scene, as is Carlton Lee Russell as the Jumping Man. He’s a character so fascinating, who I liked so much, that I had to write a story featuring him, just so I could see him in action again, if only in my mind’s eye.
9 – Yrev very good to see you
Mr C in prison is one of my favourite parts of season 3. There is an immense sense of foreboding that hangs in every scene with him, whether that be his phone call or talking to Bob in the mirror. My absolute favourite scene is his conversation with Gordon and Albert through the glass. David Lynch’s performance in this scene is fantastic, showing his inner sense that something is not right about his old colleague as he stares at them through the glass, offering only shadows of Cooper’s former personality like the thumbs up. It’s like a hyena copying sounds to attract its prey – totally chilling.
8 – Sycamore Trees
As we get our first proper foray into the Black Lodge, it is equal parts unnerving and comforting to have the beautiful voice of Jimmy Scott serenading us. This, coupled with the colour and lighting and the strobes gives the scene a unique feeling of warmth and cold at the same time. I know that sounds silly but it’s genuinely how I feel. The Man from Another Place taking his seat to set things in motion followed by Cooper’s face, strobes placing half of it in light and half in darkness constantly switching sides gives a feeling of the place being both light and dark at any one time. I always thought of the red room as being “the waiting room”, in that whatever you brought to the lodge would determine which experience you had, echoed by the black and white flooring. If you brought only love, you would experience the white lodge, but if you had any fear inside you, it would be the black lodge you experienced. I know that theory has been challenged by the new series but occasionally I still think I’m onto something.
7 – Purple World
I couldn’t watch episode 3 straight after the first two because it was 7 in the morning and I had to go to work. I also couldn’t watch it when I got home because Mrs A hadn’t watched the first two yet and I didn’t think it would be fair. After we’d watched the first two parts, though, I couldn’t wait any longer. She’d fallen asleep but I had to press on. I had to see what was coming next. I watched the first few minutes and stopped. What I was seeing was so lovely that I knew I wanted to be less tired when I watched it. When I finally watched the whole first sequence, I thought it was one of the most impactful sequences I’d ever seen. It was beautiful to watch, raising so many questions and introducing such a wonderful new location to the Twin Peaks canon. It had the imminent threat of ‘mother’, the mysterious Naido, the strange machines, the floating head of Major Briggs and the floating SS Minnow in space. I thought this was pure brilliance and gorgeous to look at.
6 – White sands
I had no idea what was coming. I had to avoid social media for a couple of days before I got to see Part 8. When I did, I’d never seen anything like this scene, all the way through from the detonation and how beautiful it is. Given that it is such a terrible thing to witness, there is an undeniable beauty to it that draws you inwards. I remember being entranced as I watched the cloud grow and the blast travel outwards. Then that whole sequence leading through to the Convenience Store and the woodsmen is just as breathtaking. Plus, the orchestral accompaniment is perfect for the scene and its import.
5- Ed’s story
Seems a little out of left field, this one. I simply love everything about this scene, however. It’s one of my absolute favourites of the whole series. Why? Because it showcases brilliantly the way that the serious and the comedic can be brought together so beautifully. On one hand we have Ed’s touching and tragic story of how Nadine came to lose her eye which makes our hearts break for him even more than they did before. On the other hand you have the brilliant Miguel Ferrer as Albert, who treats the whole thing as first a waste of time and then completely hilarious. Ferrer’s timing is spot on in this scene. Michael Ontkean plays it completely straight next to him too, which makes it all the more funny, especially combined with Cooper’s annoyed looks cast in his colleague’s direction. This is fabulous work by all concerned.
4 – BOB climbs over the furniture
Not much I can really add to this one. One of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. It comes hard on the heels of James’ song with Donna and Maddy. If that wasn’t scary enough, we go straight into this. The way he moves, straight at you, pushing the lamp out of the way and lunging forward. No matter how many horror movies I watch, nothing has ever matched this long haired man in a denim jacket, ever.
3 – Cooper on the floor
I had waited all over Christmas for Twin Peaks to return and find out what happened to Agent Cooper after he was shot. The long break had only served to increase my anticipation. I’ve already said above that this first episode of season 2 is my favourite out of the whole series. This opening sequence is probably what made me fall in love with it (I’m aware I may have said that about another scene already) so completely. It just makes such a departure from the normal stuff I was used to seeing on TV or in films (the films I watched as a 14 year old anyway). It all felt so special and still does. Cooper’s speech into his Dictaphone about wanting to climb a tall hill and sit in the cool grass is something I always call to mind in times of stress. After that, there is the Giant and his clues. This took the mystery of the show to a whole new level for me and I’ll never forget it.
2 – Maddy’s death
This is a particularly difficult scene to watch but I know it tops a lot of lists of this kind. It’s so horrible, from Sarah crawling down the stairs to Leland calmly fixing his tie in the mirror, to the entrance of Maddy like the sacrificial lamb. Their dance around the living room is beautifully shot. It’s interesting to note that all the violence in the scene is done by Leland rather than Bob. Bob never hits her; it’s Leland who does that. I often wonder if this is a deliberate thing to let us know that regardless of whether Bob is in attendance, it is still Leland performing the hideous acts. Is Bob, as Albert says, simply ‘the evil that men do?’
1 – The Major’s Vision
Here it is. My all-time favourite scene from all of Twin Peaks. The Major’s dream is a beautiful monologue, delivered to absolute perfection by Don Davis. As I watched the Major tell his story the first time, I was silently saying to Bobby, “Don’t ruin this. Don’t be a…” Thankfully his response is perfect. Don Davis and Dana Ashbrook do remarkable work in this scene. Davis tells the tale of his dream so vividly and with such passion and Bobby’s reactions are spot on. No hug at the end. Just a handshake that speaks of the new relationship the two will have moving forward. As a father now, I see new things in this scene as I watch it; the hope I see in my own children’s futures. It’s also got one of my favourite lines, and one that I’ve used so often in speeches and cards and the like. I’ll end with it today.
Thanks so much for reading through all this. As I said, I’m sure you’ll disagree on many counts and I welcome that. With a show like this, the best thing is that there are different things for all of us to take from it. These are some of my favourite bits. Now tell me about yours.
In the meantime, I wish you nothing but the very best in all things.
If you enjoyed it, please check out some of my other lists and articles below. You can find out more about me and my own writing project here.