Top 5 Greatest Moments of “Twin Peaks: The Return”

[Editor’s note: Nic Champion actually submitted this list as part of our year-end coverage waaaay back 2017, but it unfortunately got lost at the bottom of your friendly editor’s email inbox. For over two years. Oops. But it’s here now, just in time for your social distancing-imposed binging pleasure. Twin Peaks: The Return is available via Showtime on-demand or the Showtime app. I hope you enjoy Nic’s list, presented, much like this third season of Twin Peaks was: better late than never. | Jason Green, Editor-In-Chief]

  1. Charlyne Yi screaming on the floor of the Road House

While not the most revealing moment of the series, it’s one of the most memorable and impactful endings of an episode. On the Road House stage, a jazzy prog-rock band plays a loud and hauntingly discordant tune while strobe lights flash on the dance floor. Yi plays an unknown woman who sits sullenly at a booth and rebuffs social interaction. After a moment of dead-eyed brooding, she slumps down to the floor and begins crawling through a crowd of dancers, screeching in inexplicable terror before the episode ends with an abrupt cut to black. While a striking image on its own, it also acts as the emotional cumulation of all the discomfort and dread that palpably bubbles within all the bizarre, ambiguous, and seedy Road House exchanges that cap most episodes.

  1. Twin Peaks police department at Jack Rabbit’s Palace

After receiving written coordinates from the late Major Garland Briggs, his son Bobby (now a police officer instead of a criminal youth), travels into the mountains with Sheriff Frank Truman (Robert Forster, replacing now-retired Michael Ontkean’s Harry Truman) and deputies Hawk and Andy, to a wooded area he and his father called “Jack Rabbit’s Palace.” There, they find a naked Naido (an eyeless woman from the supernatural plane, who we first see in moment #2 of this list) and Deputy Andy is sucked into a void that places him with the Fireman (the new name for Carel Struycken’s giant character). He sees visions of events in New Mexico (detailed in moment #1), Laura Palmer, his wife Lucy, the multiple Coopers, and a telephone pole with a number 6 on it. These end up being important clues, specifically about Cooper’s impending arrival and fate. It’s also one of the most story-propelling instances of surrealism. The images are hard to decipher, but they also give the story a clear momentum and direction, mostly by exposing the Sheriff’s department characters to the unreal planes, which has never really happened before. It’s an exciting turn of events, and also visually sumptuous. The use of double exposures and the woods setting creates a scene that is both serene and a bit haunting, as well as electrifying in terms of the implications it holds for the future.

  1. Sarah Palmer taking her face off

This scene of satisfying scumbag comeuppance is also a major revelation about the widowed and childless Sarah Palmer and an evil perhaps greater than Killer BOB which is still lurking in Twin Peaks. Mrs. Palmer enters a seedy bar for a drink to supplement her at-home vodka binges. When a sleazy barfly accosts her with some particularly nasty verbal sexual harassment, she testily rebuffs him several times. When his talk becomes threatening, she calmly turns towards him, puts her hand to her face, and pulls it open like a circular door, revealing a black abyss with ghostly whooshing sounds and phantom-like apparitions swirling by. In a low and sinister voice, Sarah is heard saying “Do you really want to fuck with this?” before putting her face back on, leaping forward with unnatural rapidity, and tearing out the man’s throat with her teeth. A shocking moment to say the least, but also the first hint that Sarah Palmer is not who she seems, and may have been manipulated by a malevolent entity much like her late husband. It may be, perhaps, one of the few in-person glimpses we get at the mysterious being they refer to throughout the franchise as “Judy.”

  1. Cooper landing in the room above the purple ocean

After being thrown into a starry, turbulent netherworld by The Arm’s doppelgänger, Cooper finally gets dropped onto a cement balcony overlooking a crashing purple sea. He goes through a door behind him and into a vault-like room bathed in burgundy and mauve light. A fireplace roars in the background, and an eyeless woman sits on a sofa. He interacts with her briefly and nonverbally before pounding sounds cause her to panic and lead him to another door. They go through and find themselves on a giant radio-like contraption floating in space. A rumbling throws the eyeless woman off the vessel, and a translucent vision of Major Garland Briggs’ head floats by and utters, “blue rose.”  Upon re-entering the room, he meets another mysterious female entity who quickly ushers him out as the noises from before get louder, warning him of her “mother” (Judy?). He exits through a strange looking portal and comes out of an electrical socket in the empty realtor home belonging to one of his doppelgängers, Doug-E Jones, who subsequently gets sent back to the black lodge. At the same time, Bad Cooper crashes his car and throws up garmonbozia (physical despair and suffering that black lodge beings feed off of and which looks like creamed corn). The sequence is visually ingenious and jarring, sometimes animated in stop motion which pauses and reverses sporadically. Digital effects create a number of reality warping images, and the overall use of minimal sets and simplistic but strong lighting gives off a surrealism more intense than ever seen in Twin Peaks history. But more than that, it introduces us to an entirely new supernatural plane that seems somewhere between nonexistence and pure hell. In some ways this new world is like the subterranean level of the black lodge— a place more pure and mythical, but also more violent and primordial.

  1. The 1945 New Mexico Segment of Episode 8- “Got a Light?”

A blissfully experimental, black and white short horror movie that connects to the Twin Peaks mythos in only the most narrow and necessary ways. It takes place in New Mexico in 1945 at the first nuclear bomb definition, beginning with a Kubrick-esque dive into the mushroom cloud where smoky plumes weave in and out to the drone of ambient noise. Among the other intense and surreal sequences are Woodsmen with black skin fading in and out in the parking lot of a convenience store in fast-motion as lights flash inside and smoke rises. A being only referred to as “The Experiment” spews forth a clear and gelatinous stream filled with liquid orbs, one of which contains the leering, smiling face of Killer BOB. The Fireman and a luxuriously dressed “Senorita Dido” watch the previously seen events, and then send a golden orb with Laura Palmer’s face into the world. One of the dark woodsmen brutally kills the local radio DJ by crushing his head, and broadcasts a cryptic and unnerving poem to late-night listeners. All who hear his poem fall unconscious, including a young girl who has just come back from a night out with her sweetheart. A bug-like creature flies into her room and crawls down her throat. The episode stands alone temporally and geographically, not to mention its singularity in story. Among the many experimental moments in Twin Peaks: The Return, this episode is astounding in terms of mood, challenges, and simply for that fact that it made premium cable! | Nic Champion

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