The 30 best things about the Twin Peaks pilot
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the wonder that is the Twin Peaks pilot, EW's special agents Devan Coggan and Darren Franich made a roughly chronological list of the 30 best parts about the supernatural mystery soap's series premiere. For more fun south of the Canadian border, check out the newest episode of A Twin Peaks Podcast: A Podcast About Twin Peaks.
1. The bird in the opening credits.
Is the bird a visual representation of Twin Peaks' bucolic natural setting? Or maybe a metaphor for Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) herself, desperate to fly away and leave her troubled life behind? Is it foreshadowing the importance of the ill-fated Waldo the myna bird? Or is it just a very scenic shot of a bird? (It’s probably just a very scenic shot of a bird.)
2. Angelo Badalamenti's score.
The sound of a dream waking up from a nightmare. Also, "Audrey's Dance" rocks.
3. Laura’s body found under the log.
Even before Pete Martell (Jack Nance) gets close or even recognizes the figure on the beach as a body, everything about this scene feels wrong. The tiny silhouette under the looming log, the menacing dread in Badalamenti’s accompaniment, Laura’s hair curling out from under the plastic — it all culminates with Pete’s panicked phone call and the still-iconic “She’s dead! Wrapped in plastic!”
4. Audrey changing into her high heels at school.
Audrey Horne (Sherilynn Fenn) evocatively changes her footwear right before class starts. In the cinema of Wizard of Oz obsessive Lynch, red shoes are never just red shoes. (We forgive the questionable pilot haircut, Audrey!)
5. Andy bursting into tears at the crime scene.
When the good-natured Deputy Brennan (Harry Goaz) starts sobbing, it’s a jarring moment that leaves us unsure whether to laugh or cry along with him. Andy’s tears set the tone for the entire show to come — a show that’s strangely sad and funny and unashamedly emotional, all at once.
6. The shot pointed up toward the fan in the Palmer household.
Incongruously terrifying whether you're watching the pilot for the first time or you're a Twin Peaks completist returning to the scene of too many crimes. The sharp diagonals, the multiple points of light, the eerie whooshing of a common ceiling fan, the way the upward angle seems to imprison your eyeline in a home full of dark secrets: It's the very definition of Lynchian.
7. The Briggs family kitchen.
What should be a brief moment of exposition instead packs so much weirdness into a few seconds. The cherry-red kitchen! Major Briggs (Don S. Davis) silently reading the paper as his wife, Betty (Charlotte Stewart), stares into space and rubs his shoulders, like some sort of Stepford automaton! Mrs. Briggs answering the phone and immediately picking up a pair of scissors!
8. Heidi (Andrea Hays), the German waitress at the Double R.
Her laugh is truly haunting. She seems like a nice person.
9. The décor inside the Great Northern.
With its red-and-black murals and exposed wood (you just know Richard Beymer's Ben Horne brags about how all the wood came straight from the local sawmill), the Great Northern is hunting lodge chic at its finest.
10. The costume design.
The plaid! The sweaters! The jackets on top of jackets! For pure stylistic grace at the nexus of 1990 network television and some eternal notion of the 1950s, nothing beats Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) with her long skirt and blood maroon sweater.
11. The dancing guy in the high school.
Truly, the biggest unsolved mystery in 30 years of Twin Peaks is the identity of the high school student who slams his locker and then does his strange, wriggly dance out of frame. Who is he? What is his story? Did he know Laura? Has he been possessed by BOB? Is he a strange cryptid on leave from the White Lodge? WE MUST KNOW.
12. The girl running through the school courtyard.
A primal moment of invasive terror. Chronologically, her scream echoes the cut-to-commercial cries of Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie), implying that grief for Laura Palmer has spread throughout the whole town. For Laura's fellow students, this is the end of innocence, a memory so all-consuming that it reoccurred twice in The Return.
13. Ronette Pulaski walking the railroad tracks.
In a series filled with haunting scenes, the long, slow shot of Ronette might be the most unforgettable. Between Badalamenti’s score and the blank look on Phoebe Augustine’s face, it underscores just how much trauma she and Laura really experienced — and it’s devastating.
14. Dale Cooper dictating to Diane as he drives into Twin Peaks.
The hero arrives fully formed, narrating his life on a tape recorder as he enters town at 11:30 a.m. Kyle MacLachlan's performance is eccentric, charming, vaguely alien, and immediately addictive with contradiction. Here's a big-city J. Edgar with an obsessive eye for detail who loves cherry pie, the forests of the Pacific Northwest, and dad jokes about the weatherman.
15. Cooper's first meeting with Harry.
One of Twin Peaks' best friendships starts with Cooper asserting his authority and laying out the FBI’s senior role in this investigation — before immediately peppering Sheriff Truman (Michael Ontkean) with giddy questions about trees. ("Douglas firs!" he marvels.) It’s no wonder the sheriff takes an immediate liking to this odd, gleeful FBI agent.
16. The lights flickering in the morgue.
A famous behind-the-scenes accident that Lynch improvised into an entire aesthetic. Curious electrical activity would become a defining piece of the later Twin Peaks mythos, and the fussy fluorescents above Laura Palmer's corpse give her first "meeting" with Dale Cooper a slight edge of sci-fi whimsy. Or maybe it's just a note of realism: Hey, sometimes the lights don't work right.
17. The tweezers and the fingernails
I (Devan) have watched the pilot approximately 900 times now, and every single time, I still have to avert my eyes when Cooper picks up the tweezers. Gah!
18. The slow zoom on Laura Palmer’s eye in the videotape.
She is dead, and yet, she lives.
19. The deer head on the table at the bank.
"It fell down," the bank teller tells Cooper and Truman, as if that’s supposed to explain anything whatsoever.
20. The hug Big Ed (Everett McGill) gives Donna when she shows up at his Gas Farm.
The man belongs on Mount Everest.
21. “Diane, I’m holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies.”
As Hawk wonders years later in the revival series, “Is it about the bunny?” It’s not, but Cooper’s deathly serious delivery makes this one of the most memorable lines in an already memorable pilot.
22. The introduction of the Log Lady.
We meet the town mystic flicking the lights off and on (hmmm, see No. 16) at the town meeting. Without even saying a word, the late and astoundingly great Catherine E. Coulson makes quite an impression.
23. The paper at the crime scene.
The macabre scene in the train car reveals a small piece of paper and the words that will linger over the show for years to come: "Fire Walk With Me."
24. Donna’s sister Harriet working on her poem.
The script by Frost and Lynch is so stacked with vivid personalities that even a little one-scene appearance by Donna's little sibling (Jessica Wallenfels) becomes a rich character piece. The teen poet finds herself stuck between "the blossom of the evening" and "the full flower of the evening." She finally settles on "the full blossom of the evening." In a more just world, Harriet's poetry got collected into a tie-in book.
25. Julee Cruise singing at the Roadhouse.
It isn’t Twin Peaks without Cruise’s dreamy performances, but her slow, atmospheric sound raises the question: Who exactly is the talent booker at the Road House? And do most bikers spend their nights listening to downtempo, atmospheric jazz?
26. Every single one of Dana Ashbrook’s line deliveries.
His star turn as Bobby Briggs invents every hardcore-wounded-funny-freaky teen performance of the next 30 years. Most memorable of all, though, is his freakish barking in the prison cell.
27. The final scene between Doc Hayward and Donna.
There are many bad dads in Twin Peaks, but kindly Doc (Warren Frost) is an exception. There’s a tenderness to the scene where he picks Donna up and takes her home — but not before remembering to put a little air in Harriet’s back tire. It’s a hopeful final note after an episode of very bleak discoveries.
28. Lucy's doughnut smorgasbord.
The policeman's dream. And Lucy lays this out every night? Forget Silicon Valley tech giants, the best perks are at the Twin Peaks Sheriff's Department.
29. The final nighttime shot of the log on the beach
Love a full-circle ending! If the log looked menacing in the early morning, here, it seems almost peaceful, as a late-night foghorn blows and Josie (Joan Chen) and Sheriff Truman look out at the water.
30. BOB's face in the mirror when Sarah Palmer screams.
Another famous on-set accident that Lynch miraculized into cosmic wonder. Zabriskie's shriek wraps the pilot on a new level of fear beyond coherence. Frank Silva's accidental appearance in the mirror edged Twin Peaks closer to its supernatural undercurrents. The shot takes on new meanings and power when viewed in the context of the whole saga: Sarah on the couch, Laura's picture almost off frame, the lingering presence of BOB. Thirty years later, we're all still screaming.