'Twin Peaks': 30 Iconic Moments for the Show's 30th Anniversary

April 8, 1990, saw ABC air the pilot of Twin Peaks, perhaps the strangest show to ever become a cultural phenomenon. Though its 30 original episodes, movie prequel Fire Walk With Me and the 18 episodes of The Return vary wildly in quality, the David Lynch series always managed to feature moments you would never see in another show. Where else, for example, would you get cryptic exposition delivered by a little person talking backward, or a character getting trapped in a doorknob?

So pour a "black as midnight on a moonless night" coffee, grab yourself a plate of some "damn good" cherry pie and enjoy 30 moments from the show's three-decade history.

NOTE: The episode titles for Twin Peaks are a source of confusion for many fans. As Episode 1 is known as "Pilot," Episode 2 is titled "Episode 1" and so on. For clarity, we have named episodes according to their order in the series, so "Pilot" is Season 1, Episode 1 and so on.

1. Opening titles (Season 1, Episode 1)

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Fans were hooked right from those first beats of the Angelo Badalamenti score and the appearance of that bird, which refers back to Lynch's earlier Blue Velvet.

However, those opening titles, with their distinctive ITC Avant Garde Gothic Condensed font, also feature the first sign of the studio interference that would eventually be the original show's undoing. Originally, the "Welcome to Twin Peaks" sign was meant to say the town has 5,201 inhabitants, but this was changed when ABC worried that urban viewers would not want to watch a show about such a small rural community.

twin peaks 30th anniversary
Sheryl Lee in 'Twin Peaks' ABC

2. Wrapped in plastic (Season 1, Episode 1)

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Although most of the weirdest Twin Peaks elements would come later, the pilot did feature the strange sight of the lifeless Laura Palmer (played by Sheryl Lee) in plastic with a newspaper letter under one of her nails.

The line "she's dead, wrapped in plastic," said by Pete Martell (Jack Nance) was so integral to establishing the tone of the film that "Wrapped In Plastic" became the name of the most popular Twin Peaks fanzine.

3. Dale Cooper enters Twin Peaks for the first time (Season 1, Episode 1)

The pilot also introduced us to Dale Cooper (Kyle McLaughlin), the pure-hearted FBI agent central to the series. We meet him recording a message to Diane, in a monolog that introduces his defining catchphrase. Talking into the tape about his lunch, he says, "a slice of cherry pie and a cup of coffee... Damn good food."

4. Cooper asks for coffee (Season 1, Episode 1)

Cooper saying that he takes his coffee "black as midnight on a moonlight" has forever tied the series with the drink, leading to Twin Peaks-themed commercials (more on those later) and David Lynch launching his own coffee brand in the 2010s.

5. Fish in the coffee (Season 1, Episode 1)

Twin Peaks is full of unexplained moments that add to the strange tone and are never referred to again. Perhaps the first of these comes when Cooper and Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) visit the Martells in the pilot and are told not to drink the coffee as there's "fish in the percolator"—though it is never explained how and why. The fact that the line is delivered by Lynch's original muse Jack Nance, star of Lynch's surrealist masterpiece Eraserhead, gives it an even stranger edge.

6. BOB's first appearance (Season 1, Episode 1)

The terrifying Killer BOB (Frank Silva) is the show's incarnation of pure evil, but he almost never existed. In one scene, Twin Peaks' set dresser Silva accidentally ended up in shot in a mirror behind Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie). This gave Lynch an idea to later use joke footage he had shot of Silva trapped in a corner to create the series' main antagonist.

7. Invitation to Love (Season 1, Episodes 2-7, Season 2, Episode 20)

The first season of Twin Peaks drew attention to its soapier moments with the introduction of Invitation to Love, an in-universe soap that mirrors some of the show's plot. Fans have made numerous supercuts of the entire story that reveal that Lynch and Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost might be the best Days of Our Lives writers the show never had.

8. Throwing rocks (Season 1, Episode 3)

Twin Peaks Season 1, Episode 3 is the best hour of the first season, and perhaps of the show's entire original run. Central to this is Cooper's scene when he relies on the mystical power of throwing stones at bottles to find Laura's killer.

9. Audrey dances (Season 1, Episode 3)

Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn) was the breakout sex symbol from the show, with posters of her hanging on the walls of fans across the world. The moment where many fell in love with her came in Episode 3, when she moved to a song known on the soundtrack as "Audrey's Dance."

twin peaks red room
The Red Room in 'Twin Peaks' ABC

10. The Red Room (Season 1, Episode 3)

Central to the Twin Peaks mythology is the Red Room, the purgatory-like space where the Man From Another World (Michael J. Anderson) lives. The room is so central to the show it is hard to imagine the impact its introduction had on a network TV audience in 1990. Viewers used to shows like Law & Order and Beverly Hills, 90210 (both of which began in '90) had surely never seen anything like The Red Room, where we see a little person speaking backwards telling Cooper that "the gum you like is going to come back in style."

11. "I know who killed Laura Palmer" (Season 1, Episode 3)

The Red Room sequence is followed by one of Lynch's best fake-out cliffhangers, with Cooper waking from his dream knowing exactly who killed Laura, only to forget it by the beginning of the next episode.

12. Blood on the donuts (Season 1, Episode 7)

No one image sums up the imagery of Twin Peaks more than a moment in Episode 7 when the bird Waldo is shot, and his blood spills out onto the donuts that Cooper and Truman bought into the police station.

13. The Giant visits Dale Cooper (Season 2, Episode 1)

Fans were surprised by how slow and drawn out much of The Return was had not paid enough attention to the show's second season premiere, which Cooper mostly spends on the floor after getting shot. During this time, he is visited by The Giant (Carel Struycken), who provides clues to the murder of Laura and adds another strange character to Twin Peaks' rogues' gallery.

14. Mr. Tojamura unmasked (Season 2, Episode 7)

Season 2 saw the show for better and for worse really commit to its status as a surreal soap opera. Its most ridiculous moments, which would perhaps rightly see the show canceled by Twitter today, came when Asian man Mr. Tojamura was revealed to be white woman Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie) in disguise.

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Ray Wise in 'Twin Peaks' ABC

15. Who killed Laura Palmer revealed (Season 2, Episode 7)

ABC forcing Lynch and Frost to reveal who killed Laura only a few episodes into Season 2 has been seen by many as one of the worst decisions in TV history, leaving the rest of the season spinning its wheels until it was canceled.

That does not take away anything, however, from the moment where we learn that a BOB-possessed Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) murdered Laura at the exact moment he also murders her cousin Maddie (also Sheryl Lee).

16. Leland dies (Season 2, Episode 9)

Though even the biggest Twin Peaks fans generally consider everything from the reveal of who killed Laura to the last two episodes of Season 2 bad, the show had one more truly great moment that saw Leland killed by BOB while in police custody.

17. Denise arrives (Season 2, Episode 11)

Season 2 was a benchmark in TV history, with DEA investigator Denise (David Duchovny) becoming one of the first trans characters to appear on network television. Though certain elements feel problematic today, like the character being played by a cis-gendered man and some characters having trouble with Denise's name and pronouns, the character is a competent agent who does not have the tragic end faced by many LGBTQ+ characters at the time.

18. Josie in the doorknob (Season 2, Episode 16)

Only Twin Peaks would even think of killing off a character then trapping her in the woodwork of a hotel. With Josie (Joan Chen) not reprising her role in The Return, fans are left with the horrifying idea that she is still stuck in the doorknobs and fireplaces of the Great Northern Hotel.

19. "I'll see you again in 25 years" (Season 2, Episode 22)

Twin Peaks got its mojo back by its last episode, which saw Cooper possessed by BOB. However, it was not enough to save the show from being canceled after ratings nosedived following the reveal of Laura's killer. Luckily, Laura's words in the Red Room that "I'll see you again in 25 years" ended up prophesizing The Return.

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David Bowie in 'Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me' New Line

20. David Bowie (Fire Walk With Me)

In a role that makes The Goblin King from Labyrinth look like naturalistic down-to-earth acting, David Bowie appears in Fire Walk With Me in a memorable cameo, which sees him play the gibbering Phillip Jefferies with one of cinema's great uncategorizable accents.

21. The death of Laura Palmer (Fire Walk With Me)

Critics and box offices were not kind to Fire Walk With Me. Part of this must be due to how completely bleak the prequel is. The 1992 movie explores the rape and abuse Laura suffered at the hands of her father/BOB without any of the moments of humor that lightened the TV show. However, the film has been reconsidered in recent years, and its scenes showing exactly how Laura died have maintained their brutal impact.

22. The first Log Lady introduction (Season 1, Episode 1, 1993 syndicated version)

One now-crucial element of the series was not filmed until two years after the show ended its first run. When Bravo bought syndication rights to the show, Lynch had The Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) return to deliver a series of introductory monologues.

The best of these is the first, which contains a mission statement for the show. She says: "There are many stories in Twin Peaks—some of them are sad, some funny. Some of them are stories of madness, of violence. Some are ordinary. Yet they all have about them a sense of mystery—the mystery of life."

23. Georgia coffee ads (1993)

1993 also saw Lynch return to the world of the show for a series of Japanese commercials that saw Cooper return for the case of a missing woman while drinking lots of "damn good" canned Georgia coffee.

24. The atomic bomb (The Return, Part 8)

The first half of Twin Peaks: The Return is full of fun moments for fans. However, the series reached its high point with Part 8, a mostly silent origin story for BOB that works just as well as an art film about the psychological impact of the atomic bomb as it does as an episode of TV.

25. The Nine Inch Nails (The Return, Part 8)

Part 8 also features the biggest name band out of all the musical acts who played the Roadhouse in The Return. Lynch has worked with Trent Reznor since his movie Lost Highway and previously made a music video for Reznor's band Nine Inch Nails. That group returned the favor by appearing on Twin Peaks as the hilariously misnamed "The Nine Inch Nails."

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Laura Dern in 'Twin Peaks: The Return: Showtime

26. "F*** you, Albert" (The Return, Part 11)

The Return found the perfect casting for Diane, the women who we see Cooper recording voice notes to throughout the original show. After appearing in Lynch's Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Inland Empire, Laura Dern plays the character with foul-mouthed glee. Though she gives one of the best performances in the whole show, the best moment comes when Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer) tells her not to smoke in Part 11.

27. The Log Lady's last appearance (The Return, Part 15)

Catherine Coulson died in September 2015, but luckily she had time to record a number of scenes for The Return with Lynch, whom she had first worked with on Eraserhead in the 1970s. The most touching of these comes in Part 15, when a clearly very ill Log Lady talks about dying with Hawk (Michael Horse). That the actress died four days after recording the scenes gives them even more heartbreaking intensity.

28. Dale snaps back to life (The Return, Part 16)

Cooper spends most of The Return in a vegetative state, trapped in the body of Dougie. For hours on end, fans were not sure that Cooper would ever come back, but the 16 hours that have passed in the show makes the moment the agent returns to full life all the sweeter.

29. Tea kettle Jeffries (The Return, Part 17)

The repeated references to Phillip Jeffries in The Return made many fans speculate that David Bowie had managed to film a secret cameo for the show before his death. That did not happen, but Lynch found perhaps the most Lynchian way to bring the character back by having him return as some sort of giant steam-belching kettle.

30 The end of The Return (The Return, Part 18)

In Part 18, Lynch manages to bring the show full circle by bringing Laura Palmer back from the dead. However, it is definitely not a happy ending, with the final minutes revealing that something very bad has happened. We may never know what that is, but Laura's piercing scream at the end speaks volumes.

Twin Peaks Season 1 to 2 are streaming on Netflix, Hulu and CBS All Access, Fire Walk With Me is available on The Criterion Channel, while Twin Peaks: The Return is on Showtime.

'Twin Peaks': 30 Iconic Moments for the Show's 30th Anniversary | Culture