Cult favorite TV series Twin Peaks is mainly about a very intuitive FBI agent chasing down a supernatural serial killer, but it’s best known for being incredibly, bafflingly strange. I mean, of course it is; it was created by David Lynch. To pass the time until show’s return on May 21, we counted our favorite WTF moments from the original series (in chronological order).
The Fire Walk With Me movie was released after the show ended, but the events in the film take place before the TV show. Like, for instance, this freaky pantomime, which baffles the FBI agent played by Kiefer Sutherland, but which plays out in easy-to-interpret code for the agent played by Chris Isaak. Just don’t ask him about the blue rose.
Agent Cooper doesn’t get a lot of screen time in the film (reportedly at the behest of Kyle MacLachlan). But this scene—featuring David Lynch himself as Cooper’s FBI boss, Gordon Cole, and David Bowie as a fellow agent whose mysterious behavior foreshadows Cooper’s later experiences in Twin Peaks—is one of Fire Walk With Me’s strangest sequences. And that’s saying a lot.
Blissfully unaware that her best friend has just been found dead and wrapped in plastic, Donna Hayward stops at her locker before the first class of the day in the show’s very first episode. For once, the mood is light at Twin Peaks High—and in that rare moment, a student we never meet (or see again) takes the opportunity to add some funky flair to the background of the scene. Why? Well... why not? (“Northwest Passage”)
This might be the only scene in all of Twin Peaks to feature bad coffee, a beverage so prized in the town that Showtime recently made a fun video collecting the show’s many caffeinated scenes. It’s a genuinely funny moment, also from the show’s first official episode, featuring one of Twin Peaks’ most quotable lines, and is also a perfect example of the show’s fondness for peppering its more serious moments—say, the early stages of a murder investigation—with non-sequiturs. (“Traces to Nowhere”)
Agent Cooper’s dreams and visions become important tools in cracking the Laura Palmer case, even if the remarkably open-minded Sheriff Truman has a hard time following along at first. Cooper’s first dream features footage that Twin Peaks junkies will recognize from the international version of the pilot, which was released theatrically with a longer ending that made it more of a stand-alone story. But more importantly, it also introduces the Man From Another Place. (“Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer”)
His small stature doesn’t diminish his dancing skills, nor his baffling ability to talk in riddles both forward and backwards These “red room” scenes have become an iconic part of Twin Peaks, both visually and thematically, but their off-putting vibes feel just as potent every time you see them.
Pie may be the signature treat of Twin Peaks—followed closely by donuts—but the show has plenty of foodie moments that don’t take place at the Double R Diner. Case in point: the above scene introducing the gourmet-loving Jerry Horne, just back from Paris with a suitcase full of brie-and-butter sandwiches, which his brother Ben samples with near-orgasmic delight. (“Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer”)
Dana Ashbrook’s performance as Bobby Briggs is extremely oversized, particularly in the first half of Twin Peaks’ first season, and especially when he’s confronted by authority figures like Sheriff Truman, Agent Cooper, or—as in this scene—his father, the stiffly formal Major Briggs. The funeral in question is, of course, for Laura Palmer—Bobby’s girlfriend, with whom he had a fraught relationship. And he does indeed turn it upside down, berating the assembled mourners (“Everybody knew she was in trouble, but we didn’t do anything!”) and nearly starting a graveside fistfight. Emotions run high in Twin Peaks, but Bobby’s run higher than most. (“Rest in Pain”)
While investigating a typically offbeat lead that might hold the key to discovering Laura’s killer, Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman visit a veterinary clinic that could only have carved from the imagination of David Lynch. To Cooper’s credit, even when he’s confronted by “the beast incarnate,” he doesn’t miss a beat. (“The One-Armed Man”)
Laura Palmer’s father, Leland, deals with his grief in strange ways. He’s very big on singing and wailing, but here we see him crack up on the dance floor at an important investment presentation. As portrayed by Ray Wise, Leland is equal parts campy, pitiful, and creepy—and this scene in particular is very, very unsettling. You want to laugh, but you know that you shouldn’t, especially when you see Audrey Horne sobbing at how goddamn awful everything is. (“Cooper’s Dream”)
Speaking of Audrey, she lands her gig working at a Canadian brothel by showing off a very special and strange talent to its skeptical madam. This became one of Twin Peaks’ signature moments—and the scene was later parodied on Saturday Night Live’s take-off on the show, in which an actress pretends to tongue a piece of ribbon into an elaborate gift-wrapping bow. (“Realization Time”)
At the start of season two, Leland’s hair has gone completely white, and his mind has continued to deteriorate. This time, however, the Horne brothers react to his strange behavior with even stranger behavior of their own.
As an aside, later in this episode, we see a tuxedo-clad Leland spontaneously perform “Get Happy” at a dinner party at the Hayward house. But that’s not even the weirdest part of that particular scene—that honor goes to the first and (so far) only appearance of Alicia Witt as the youngest Hayward sister, dressed as a fairy princess and displaying her child-prodigy skills on the piano. As you do. (“May the Giant Be With You”)
After Donna takes over Laura’s Meals on Wheels route—more for purposes of playing detective rather than any desire to actually help people—she meets a little boy and an old woman. One is a magician-in-training, while the other has very specific feelings about creamed corn. A teeny bit more context for this odd pair would come later in the series, as well as in Fire Walk With Me. (We also eventually learn a bit more about the significance of creamed corn.) But this first introduction is startlingly bizarre. (“Coma”)
No list of Twin Peaks’ weirdest moments can exclude the Log Lady. Really, you can choose any of her scenes. But this one, involving Project Blue Book’s own Major Briggs, is primo Margaret. (“Coma”)
Cooper’s hard-of-hearing boss, Gordon Cole (again played by Lynch), shows up in Twin Peaks to deliver some important information at top volume. Apropos of nothing, however, he makes this observation. Cooper brings it up later, but we never get an explanation. Of course we don’t. (“Demons”)
Nadine Hurley is one of Twin Peaks’ most oddball characters right from the start, displaying super-strength and having a crazed obsession with inventing the world’s first silent drape runners. But after she attempts suicide, she awakens thinking she’s 18 again. Though this delusion negatively affects her marriage—which, to be fair, was already in trouble—her muscle power grows even more baffling, leading to a very odd interlude in which a middle-aged woman joins the local high school wrestling team. Frankly, Mike, a generally unlikable character who was underused after the show’s first few episodes, had it coming. (“The Black Widow”)
The eccentric proprietor of the Great Northern Hotel, one of season one’s keenest schemers, drifts over the edge in season two when he becomes fixated on the Civil War. He’s eventually cured thanks to Dr. Jacoby and the help of his family and friends when they implement “the Appomattox scenario,” which wraps up an awful lot like The Wizard of Oz. (“Slaves and Masters”)
By this point in the show, master of deception Josie Packard has begun to realize she’s doomed to be at the mercy of the men in her life who are desperate to control her. Soon after we learn that Josie is the one who shot Cooper back at the end of season one, more gunplay ensues. But she doesn’t die from a bullet—instead, she has some kind of medical episode and Bob appears, asking, “Coop! What happened to Josie?” Well, Bob, this is what happens:
As best as we can tell, Josie’s punishment was to have her soul banished into a drawer knob at the Great Northern. Her fate is never elaborated upon much more than that. (“The Condemned Woman”)
By its final episode, Twin Peaks had become extremely wrapped up in its own mythology. But in between all the messages from outer space and secret doorways in the woods and tarantula traps and beauty pageants, there’s still room for a classic Pete Martell interjection—as in this moment, after he mistakes a disguised Windom Earle for the Log Lady. (“Beyond Life and Death”)
“He can’t ask for your soul,” Bob explains to Agent Cooper in the Black Lodge, speaking of Agent Cooper’s evil ex-partner Earle. “I will take his.” Which version of Cooper (the good guy, or his evil twin) emerges from the Black Lodge with Annie? The very last scene of season two makes it pretty clear.
For the record, Annie “is going to be just fine,” according to Sheriff Truman in a conversation that takes place just before this. As for Agent Cooper—well, Twin Peaks returns to the airwaves May 21 for an 18-episode season on Showtime. Let’s hope we have lots of weird new moments to savor. (“Beyond Life and Death”)