BEST: Cooper’s Dream
Season 1, “Episode 2”
Dale Cooper’s dream/vision/otherworldly trip to the Red Room is probably what cemented the show’s place in pop culture history. While the series was singularly weird from the beginning it wasn’t until this episode-ender that Twin Peaks jumped head-first into the mystic. The dream features the dancing, backwards talking Man From Another Place, more of Sheryl Lee’s performance as Laura Palmer and Cooper being 25 years older, which helped spark the timing of the upcoming revival.
BEST: Major Briggs and Bobby
Season 2, “Episode 8”
Major Briggs takes on a much larger role in the second season after spending most of the first season as an entertaining contrast to his son, Bobby. Foreshadowing this, Major Briggs gets one of the standout scenes in the second season premiere, a monologue to his son about a vision he had. Even though he’s just recounting this vision to Bobby, thanks to Don S. Davis’s superb acting — and Dana Ashbrook’s — it’s every bit as evocative as Cooper’s Dream.
BEST & WORST: Super Nadine
I totally understand why people hate Super Nadine. Her strength doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and combined with her amnesia it pushes her storyline pretty deep into campy territory. But I just find it enjoyable. I think her relationship with Mike, as fucked up as it is, is actually kind of sweet. I know I’m mostly alone in this, but I think Super Nadine is a highlight of the more dire parts of season two.
BEST: Albert Rosenfield: Pacifist
Season 2, “Episode 10”
One of the things Twin Peaks does best is take a typical trope and twist it. We’ve seen the rude and abrasive Federal Agent before, in fact, the show already subverted it by getting rid of any jurisdictional tension between Cooper and Sheriff Truman. So when Miguel Ferrer’s Albert Rosenfield swaggers onto the scene, insulting every member of the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Department, it’s fun to watch but a little “been there, done that”. That is until the show ends the conflict between Truman and Rosenfield in one of the strangest and nicest scenes in television history.
Uuh, I don’t really have to say much about this, do I? I mean, props to the show for trying to pull off something interesting and I guess Piper Laurie gives it her all but… the end result is obvious and offensive.
BEST: Maddy’s Murder
Season 2, “Episode 14”
This is one of the most horrifying scenes David Lynch ever put to film, including his movies. The episode revealed the killer — Leland Palmer, possessed by BOB — and showed us exactly what he was capable of by killing off his niece, Maddy Ferguson. It’s raw and harrowing, Sheryl Lee’s performance shows us exactly why Lynch decided to make a prequel about Laura Palmer’s last days with Fire Walk With Me. One of my favourite aspects of the whole scene is at the Bang Bang Bar, when the Giant appears to Cooper and tells him that it’s happening again. There’s a wave of sadness that comes over Cooper and Bobby and Donna, like a sad, psychic energy released on the townspeople. Something like this will occur again with the tremors in the last couple of episodes. It’s an interesting way of showing the connection between all these people.
WORST: Audrey and Billy Zane
The biggest crime in Twin Peaks season two is Audrey being mostly sidelined. She had amazing chemistry with Cooper — Sherilyn Fenn had amazing chemistry with most of the characters on the show, actually — but they shuffle her off into her own storyline where she has to work opposite a bland Billy Zane. Zane’s usually good, but John Justice Wheeler is just a super boring character. He flies off at the end of the season, leaving Audrey to actually do some interesting stuff in the finale, but it ate up too much of her time.
BEST: Leland’s Confession and Death
Season 2, “Episode 16”
I think a big reason why later episodes in season two don’t work as well is due to the absence of Ray Wise. Wise played the uniquely grieving father really well and he was fun to watch when we knew he was the killer. But it isn’t until he’s caught that he gets to completely let loose, showing the extent of BOB’s animalistic insanity. Then, when BOB is done with Leland and makes him kill himself, the show gives Leland a touching death with Cooper helping him pass peacefully. It’s a remarkable scene and it’s no wonder Mark Frost and David Lynch are finding a way to bring Wise back in the revival.
WORST: Windom Earle
There was a lot of build up to Windom Earle. Ominous mentions of him, taunting tapes, notes with chess moves. He was a figure from Cooper’s past and they built him up to be an important part of post-Laura Palmer murder Twin Peaks. But then we actually met him. Earle ended up being a lot closer to a villain from Adam West’s Batman than a worthy opponent for Cooper, especially when he had to follow the likes of BOB. Earle ended up being a good example of the problems with season two.
(This is actually an instance of Earle being legitimately creepy and good. There should have been more of this and less papier mache chess pieces and goofy disguises.)
BEST: Gordon Cole Can Hear Shelly
Season 2, “Episode 25”
This is just a sweet and unexpected moment. Gordon Cole, suffering massive hearing loss, has his hearing aids cranked to the max and is still constantly misunderstanding people. But when he sees Shelly Johnson and decides to talk to her he can hear her perfectly, even when she’s speaking at a normal volume. It’s a wholesome kind of odd that the show didn’t go to as often, and it’s fun to see how amused Shelly is by Cole.
BEST & WORST: Josie Stuck in a Knob
Season 2, “Episode 23”
Josie kinda got short shrift in season two, along with a lot of other characters the show wasn’t sure what to do with. After the Packard Sawmill storyline got too complicated and loaded with double and triple crosses they killed Josie off. Kind of. This is why it’s also the best, because they go all out with it. She confesses to her crimes and then drops dead, with her soul apparently trapped in the wooden knob of a drawer. Or in anything wooden through the Great Northern? I’m not sure, but it’s a hell of a unique way of killing a character off.
BEST: Cooper’s Trip Through the Black Lodge
Season 2, “Episode 29”
David Lynch returned to direct the finale after being absent for a good portion of season two. What he gave us was maybe the best episode in the entire series. Cooper’s extended visit to the Red Room — and possibly the Black Lodge — is loaded with wild, horrifying imagery. There are Doppelgangers, BOB, The Man from Another Place and a welcome return of Ray Wise as Leland Palmer. This trip was so good it was almost like a final twist of the knife from the show. How could they leave us hanging for 26 years after an episode this good?
The Entire Series
James is just the worst. He’s pretty quickly ruled out as a suspect in Laura’s murder, so the only thing left for the character to do is brood and cry and run around with Donna searching for the real murderer. In season two things get even more dire for the character. He leaves town and is stuck in an overwrought soap opera storyline with a scheming, murderous femme fatale. Which sounds like it could be interesting, but it’s absolutely not. Then he just rides off and skips out on the end of the season entirely, which was probably the best choice the show could have made.
Here is James, doing what he does best: