Your speed-binge guide to (almost) understanding Twin Peaks
A version of this story appears in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday or available to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
To prepare for Showtime's revival of David Lynch's iconic series (premiering Sunday, May 21), star Kyle MacLachlan talks us through a speed-binge of the show's most enlightening episodes. For an even deeper analysis, you can subscribe to EW's Twin Peaks podcast to unwrap the mysteries of the show's first two seasons and film. Then tune in every Monday beginning May 22 for a weekly after-show during the new season.
Season 1, episode 1
David Lynch's masterfully directed two-hour premiere is a mesmerizing orientation—an invitation to never-ending love. A dreamy stream of narrative enhanced by Angelo Badalamenti's moody-romantic score draws you into a singular setting: Twin Peaks, a woodsy Americana idyll hiding rings of secrets and rot. Tragedy pierces the ironic facade with the murder of troubled beauty Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). An engagingly eccentric hero, FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), pulls at her mystery, revealing that a population of peculiar people hold more. The premise, novel in 1990, is familiar today, but Lynch's artistry makes it timeless and potent.
ZEN, OR THE SKILL TO CATCH A KILLER
Season 1, episode 3
Season 1's only other Lynch-helmed installment is arguably the series' signature episode. Cooper shows a mystic side to his deductive technique in a sequence marked by absurd comedy. But it's a prophetic nightmare that steals the show. It begins with a chanting one-armed man ("Fire, walk with me!") presenting denim-clad psycho BOB (Frank Silva). It ends with an aged Cooper in an otherworldly red-curtained room receiving a whispered message from a backward-speaking Laura. Says MacLachlan: "The show is adding a whole new dimension here, quite literally." <iframe src="https://art19.com/shows/e744e1c0-95b7-4c13-a6b0-30d09dab7a32/episodes/6c0e64be-9420-4751-9bb5-cd7a08724154/embed" width="300" height="150" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" class="" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
REST IN PAIN
Season 1, episode 4
Who killed Laura Palmer? "We all did!" screams Laura's wild-eyed boyfriend Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), as the town gathers for her funeral. The burial is Twin Peaks‘ ghoulish sense of humor writ large: When tearful daddy Leland (Ray Wise) jumps on Laura's lowering coffin, the soap operatic goes Freudian. This episode also pulls back the veil on the show's deeper fascinations. Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) explains that there is "something very, very strange in these old woods…a darkness, a presence." Meanwhile, Laura's cousin Maddy (Lee, with dark hair now) arrives.
MAY THE GIANT BE WITH YOU
Season 2, episode 1
As Dale lies bleeding from a gunshot wound, a mysterious bald giant (Carel Struycken) appears, offering koanic inscrutabilities ("The owls are not what they seem") that set the stage for season 2's deepening exploration of the supernatural. By the end of the Lynch-directed season premiere, Leland's hair has turned white, Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) has taken over Laura's Meals on Wheels route, and the giant appears to offer one last bit of wisdom: "Don't search for all the answers at once." We couldn't possibly.
Season 2, episode 2
A message arrives for Cooper from outer space, and that's merely the fourth-weirdest thing in this ep. There's a visit with the Tremonds, an eerie grandma-grandson pair with a creamed-corn fixation. Then Donna, Maddy, and James (James Marshall) perform a love-triangle musical number in the living room. And then Maddy has a vision of a sneering BOB climbing over the couch to claim her. Witness the essence of Twin Peaks: romantic nostalgia invaded by transgressive horror.
Season 2, episode 7
The police arrest the wrong man, but the show reveals the real culprit. It's Leland—and it's BOB, a possessor-spirit symbolizing unfathomable evil. There's a new, brutal killing, but the tone is ultimately elegiac. Lynch cuts from the murder to the Roadhouse diner, where songstress Julee Cruise sings melancholic dream-pop. The giant appears. People cry. Cooper looks bummed. It's a farewell to the show's defining mystery—and the last episode Lynch directed until the finale.
Season 2, episode 9
Would the Laura Palmer whodunit have ended differently if ABC hadn't made Lynch and partner Mark Frost wrap it up? "It's possible," says MacLachlan, who isn't certain the Leland-BOB dualism represents the creators' original intent. Still, "Arbitrary Law" captures your imagination for high-concept evil, thanks to Tim Hunter's careful direction and Wise's howling, wrenching performance, supported nicely by MacLachlan. From here Twin Peaks turns increasingly wacky, and the psycho-spiritual abstractions start solidifying into concrete occult mythology via a tepid plot about Cooper's unhinged ex-partner, Windom Earle (Kenneth Welsh). <iframe src="https://art19.com/shows/e744e1c0-95b7-4c13-a6b0-30d09dab7a32/episodes/d60be74d-c2ba-4703-a31b-fcfd50987661/embed" width="300" height="150" scrolling="no" frameborder="0" class="" allowfullscreen="" resize="0" replace_attributes="1" name=""></iframe>
ON THE WINGS OF LOVE
Season 2, episode 18
There's plenty to love in the post–Laura Palmer period, but season 2 suffers from definite mission drift, symbolized most obviously by Cooper's decision to swap his J. Edgar suit for a plaid lumberjack-chic ensemble. In this reset-button episode, Lynch guest-stars as Cooper's FBI boss. His advice speaks meta-volumes: "You better dust off your own black suit." The show recovers its compass immediately, sending Cooper into the mysterious depths of the Owl Cave.
BEYOND LIFE AND DEATH
Season 2, episode 22
Another scary-trippy-WTH? hour from Lynch ends the series with a brutal cliff-hanger. Cooper ventures into the Black Lodge underworld, where Laura cryptically vows, "I'll see you again in 25 years." Cooper, trapped in limbo, is replaced in Twin Peaks by his shadow self. "The show found traction again with a powerful new direction," says MacLachlan. "It would have been compelling to explore." Perhaps the new show will do just that. And it has been 25 years…
TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME
Lynch's prequel flick infuriated fans by refusing to resolve dangling story lines, but this challenging experience is now more intriguing knowing more Twin Peaks is imminent. Lee's bold performance brings Laura to vibrant life. David Bowie as a teleporting FBI agent electrifies the Black Lodge stuff by re-mystifying it. (Who the hell is Judy?!) And is Chris Isaak's Chester Desmond real or just Cooper's dream avatar? "Never heard that theory," says MacLachlan, "but I like the idea of looking and singing like Chris Isaak."