Lost in the Movies: Top 30 "Hidden" Characters of the Original TWIN PEAKS (3rd Preface to TWIN PEAKS Character Series)

Top 30 "Hidden" Characters of the Original TWIN PEAKS (3rd Preface to TWIN PEAKS Character Series)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. The series will be rebooted in 2023 to reflect the third season (and patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public), but this entry will remain intact. There will be spoilers.

This was published before the new series premiered to cover characters who didn't have enough screentime for a standalone entry. Due to the new material, however, some of these characters will indeed reappear higher on the list.

In a show as rich with character as Twin Peaks, many people (and some who aren't people at all) fly under Col. Riley's radar. These are characters you might not really notice till a second or third viewing, or whom you forget about until you rewatch years later. Yet once you do pick up on their presence, they become some of the most memorable figures on the show, however fleeting. Some actually are immediately recognizable from your very first visit to Twin Peaks, but don't quite fit in with other characters for a variety of reasons.

Ok, maybe "hidden" isn't exactly the right word - but I wasn't sure what else to go with (despite several interesting suggestions when I posed the question on Twitter). These aren't all "minor" characters, especially compared to some who get their own standalone entries. Nor are their appearances necessarily "brief" - some "appear" in loads of episodes. So "hidden" it is. Some are literally so, cloaked in background appearances or, at least in one case, never actually appearing at all. Others are "hidden" in a more figurative sense, cast in the shadow of more famous characters yet doing their part to fill out their little corners of the universe.

In truth, there is a quite simple criterion for who appears in this and yesterday's entry: these are characters who didn't speak in at least three scenes in the original Twin Peaks (and Fire Walk With Me/The Missing Pieces) and therefore didn't qualify for their own individual character study. I had to draw the line somewhere. The other day, I very quickly covered sixty, but today I want to spend a little more time on the next thirty names. This is a subjective list: simply the ones I personally find most memorable and/or interesting, ranked according to my own whim.

Time for these thirty to come out of hiding.

30. Louise Dombrowski (Emily Fincher)
Episode 15, improvised by Caleb Deschanel

What better beginning than a character whose face is literally hidden the entire time she's onscreen? Visiting his brother in jail, Jerry Horne conjures up a childhood memory when he notices the bunk beds in the cell. "Remember you on the top bunk, and me on the bottom, and Louise Dombrowski dancing on the hook rug with a flashlight?" Cue a strobe-y, very early nineties flashback, goosed by one of Angelo Badalamenti's most memorable themes, of a girl sashaying back and forth in her socks. I always assumed she was a babysitter, given her apparent age difference from the boys we see watching her, and the fact that she's in their house late at night. Shining a flashlight in their eyes, this dark silhouette leaves a strong impression on most Twin Peaks fans. Some find the scene too over-the-top (and long), but on my first viewing I considered it one of the last truly magical Peaks-ian moments before the show got a bit derailed. Incidentally, the crew member enlisted to play Louise is David Fincher's sister and the director who decided to turn a throwaway line from the script into an actual filmed sequence is Zooey Deschanel's dad.

29. Irene Littlehorse (Geri Keams)
Episode 19, written by Harley Peyton/Robert Engels, directed by Caleb Deschanel

Irene is a real estate agent who appears in a couple scenes with Agent Cooper after he considers settling down in Twin Peaks. Instead, with Irene's aid, Coop discovers a sleazy drug den called Dead Dog Farm. That association is probably part of what places Irene on this list - the oddly Lynchian property is one of my favorite locations in the often unsatisfying mid-season episodes, and Irene delivers a memorable (if rather obscure) soliloquy about the legend of the "Dead Dog." She's present as her potential client discovers cocaine in torn-up seat cushions; that's the last we see of her. Geri Keams is also one of the few Native American actors on a show set in a state with the heaviest Native population in the continental U.S. Michael Horse, who plays the only remaining Native character on Twin Peaks, linked her up with the production. Keams discusses her career on and offscreen (as an author and live performer) in this wonderful interview with Brad Dukes.

28. Parole Officer Wilson Mooney (Jed Mills)
Episodes 3 & 4, written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels, directed by Tina Rathborne & Tim Hunter

A sleazy parole officer visiting Norma Jennings on official business (her husband Hank is up for a hearing), Wilson tries to insinuate himself in her business. "You're quite a girl, Norma," he leers. "You must get all kinds of Romeos in here begging for favors. How do you keep them from your door?" Norma shuts this down quickly, by reminding him how her husband got in prison in the first place (without quite throwing him under the bus: "...expects to become a productive member of society real soon"). Wilson reappears in the following episode before Norma reunites with Hank and, as if reminded by Hank's intimidating presence how far he overstepped his bounds, tries to take back his come-ons the previous day. Twin Peaks is full of devious little hounddogs, and Wilson is one of the earliest. He also offers Norma her first opportunity, before Hank enters the picture, to stand her ground. Unfortunately, Hank is much better than Wilson at bullshitting. Oddly enough, Google reveals that twenty-three years after his appearance on the show, this very minor character's name was adopted for the protagonist of a series of young adult novels about the erotic adventures of an adolescent girl. Go figure.

27. Bernard Renault (Clay Wilcox)
Episodes 3 & 4 (dead), written by Harley Peyton & Robert Engels, directed by Tina Rathborne & Caleb Deschanel

Bernie's brothers, all of whom sport absurd French-Canadian accents (Bernie's may be the most ridiculous) are featured much more prominently in Twin Peaks. Oldest brother Jean is a primary villain of mid-season two and middle brother Jacques is a major suspect near the end of season one (with the actor reappearing in the prequel film and - this is really weird since the character is dead - apparently in season three). But the baby of the family is the first we meet, gagged and held prisoner by the Bookhouse Boys. He refuses to divulge any information about the family drug ring but his silence is not rewarded. The next time we see him, we don't really see him at all: Bernie has become a tightly bound corpse wrapped in canvas by Leo Johnson. Leo boasts that he warned the youngest Renault not to snitch and then, when he didn't, killed him anyway. Bernard is the first Renault to go but he won't be the last; one by one all of his siblings are systematically killed off. If it's any consolation, all of their killers fare pretty badly in the long run too.

26. Sven Jorgensen (Arnie Stenseth)
Pilot, written by Mark Frost/David Lynch, directed by David Lynch

This leader of the Norwegian business contingent is actually in three scenes, but only speaks in the second and third. Yet his best line is featured in the first scene, recounted by Ben Horne: "If you'll permit me, Sven, to repeat what you told me this morning after your run, 'My air sacs have never felt so good!'" Then again, it's pretty memorable when, encountering his potential business partner's daughter for the first time, he innocently asks, "Excuse me, is there something wrong, young pretty girl?" When she tells him about the recent brutal murder in this supposedly idyllic investment opportunity, Sven & co. storm out of the Great Northern, abandoning the contract they were ready to sign for the Ghostwood Estates & Country Club. Ben tries to stop him and Sven gets off one last memorable zinger, when Ben tells him, "You're throwing away the deal of a lifetime": "Better that than to throw a lifetime away!" Twin Peaks Archive has an interview with Stenseth which is worth reading to the end - the Lynch autograph anecdote is priceless.

25. Caroline Earle (Brenda E. Mathers)
Episodes 21 (superimposed image) & 29 (spirit/projection/doppelganger), improvised by Uli Edel & David Lynch

Caroline's role in the show is an unusual one. It's hugely important to Cooper's development - she is the married woman he fell in love with years before he came to Twin Peaks, murdered by her psychotic husband who also happened to be Cooper's partner. Since she's dead, we might expect to never meet her but in fact we see her twice, three times if you include a photo in Cooper's wallet - but none of these appearances were in the drafts available online! Both Uli Edel and David Lynch may have conceived her cameos themselves after her photo shoot: Edel in a hazy, hovering flashback that appears over Cooper's head as he remembers her, and Lynch using her as some kind of ghostly presence in the Black Lodge in the series' final half hour. And can we even say that the woman we see in the Lodge is Caroline? She has the milky blue eyes that signify "doppelganger" and twice she is replaced by Annie in Cooper's (and our) eyes. We never really get to know Caroline but thanks to the directors' interventions she at least gets to be more of a presence than she would have been otherwise. Ten years ago, Mathers was interviewed by Twin Peaks Archive, and shared some fascinating anecdotes from the set of the last episode: "He wrote it in his head and let us know what he wanted us to say. To me, it was as if he was trying to find the right words to patch the holes in the boat so it wouldn't sink."

24. Jack at Hap’s (C.H. Evans)
Fire Walk With Me/The Missing Pieces, written by David Lynch/Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch

With his crackling voice and cryptic manner of speech, Jack is a purely Lynchian figure. He appears in a weird little room off to the side of Hap's Diner in the town of Deer Meadow, in the early section of the prequel film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me; a longer cut of his exchange with two FBI agents appears in the deleted scenes collection from the film, The Missing Pieces. Two little gags are embedded in this scene, both having to do with greetings. Jack tells the detectives that the woman who runs the diner is named "Irene, and it is night. Don't go any further with it." (This is a rather labored pun on the song "Goodnight, Irene" which gets extended a bit further in The Missing Pieces). Secondly, even more subtly, Jack wears a conventional printed nametag that reads, "Say 'Hello' to Jack" but he's crossed out "Hello" and replaced it with a grouchy "Goodbye." Goodbye, Jack. Goodnight, Irene. Anyone who appreciates Lynch's take on humorous hostility will treasure this guy for the half-minute or so he's onscreen.

23. Tommy and Buck (Chris Pedersen and Victor Rivers)
Fire Walk With Me/The Missing Pieces, written by David Lynch/Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch

Two men at the Roadhouse looking for a good time, Tommy and Buck are truckers according to the Fire Walk With Me screenplay. Technically, I could have gotten away with giving them their own character studies since they have a bit of dialogue in three scenes (including The Missing Pieces), but these all merge into one intense sequence so it felt like the duo belong here on this list instead. When we meet them, the men are approaching teenage prostitute Laura Palmer, arranged by bartender/pimp Jacques Renault, and when her demure friend demands to tag along, they seem eager to have her. Heading across the border to the sleazy Partyland club, Buck pairs off with Laura and later her friend Ronette, while Tommy focuses on Donna, drugging and nearly raping her before Laura intervenes. The two men mostly serve as foils for the teens' drama but they also feel like authentic characters with their own history and psychology, albeit not a very deep one (Rivers appears in Moving Through Time, the documentary about the making of Fire Walk With Me, and has a lot of interesting observations about the scene they shot). We quickly get the sense that Laura has known many, many Tommys and Bucks over the year and that - if it wasn't for Donna's incident and Laura's own impending death - they would probably remember this night far longer than her.

22. The New Girl (Connie Woods)
Episodes 2 & 6 - 8, written by Mark Frost/David Lynch & Harley Peyton, directed by David Lynch & Caleb Deschanel & Mark Frost

On the other hand, this prostitute is likely to remember her own encounter much longer than her john will. That's because it's her first night at One-Eyed Jack's and Ben Horne, the owner, makes a regular habit of going to bed with "the new girl" whenever one arrives (importantly, this scene sets the template for what we later learn happened with Laura during her short stay at Jack's, and what comes dangerously close to happening with Audrey when she hides behind a mask and her unsuspecting father pays a visit). The young woman does her best to appear sultry and inviting, but there's a certain nervousness and discomfort as well - many of the girls at Jack's, perhaps all, are teenagers trafficked from the perfume counter in Ben's legitimate business across the border. The Twin Peaks Rewatch podcast does a particularly great job dissecting the New Girl's complicated reaction to Ben. An enthusiastic Woods shared own her thoughts on the memorable scene in interviews with Brad Dukes and Twin Peaks Archive many years later.

21. Margaret Honeycutt, homeroom teacher (Jane Jones)
Pilot & Fire Walk With Me, written by Mark Frost/David Lynch & Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch

We actually see Ms. Honeycutt twice in the annals of Twin Peaks. The first time, she's taking attendance in her homeroom on what appears to be an ordinary morning. From the way she interacts with her students (especially James with his odd "Yo!") we can see her affection for them. Then the cops arrive to pull her aside and whisper some bad news, and Margaret's devastated reaction speaks volumes. One of her students, Laura Palmer, died the night before. The second time we see the teacher her face is blurred (we only know it's her from the credits) - this is now the day before that memorable incident, and Laura is still alive, but she's suffering immensely. This is one of the many ways Fire Walk With Me literally flips the script on the iconic pilot. Jones would appear a year later as the mother of a missing girl in Homeward Bound, directed by Twin Peaks editor Duwayne Dunham. In that case, thankfully, the tragedy is averted.

20. Dr. Shelvy (Tanya Pettiford-Wates)
Pilot, written by Mark Frost/David Lynch, directed by David Lynch

After Sheriff Harry Truman, Dr. Shelvy is the second person Agent Cooper interacts with in Twin Peaks. As with the sheriff, their encounter flips our expectations - instead of an ordinary outsider initiated into the ways of an eccentric small town, it's the FBI agent who is offbeat and the townspeople who seem normal, and deeply perplexed by his unusual ways (this dynamic, of course, will eventually be complicated). Dr. Shelvy is all business and a bit miffed by Cooper's insistence on investigating the patient's fingernails as well as his peculiar line of questioning. She also seems very concerned for the traumatized Ronette, even calling her "Ronnie" (suggesting that perhaps she knows her from the community). All in all, Dr. Shelvy is one of many characters (and the hospital one of many locations) to give the Twin Peaks pilot a more "realistic" air that will eventually become more cartoonish as the show continues. A few years ago, Twin Peaks Archive interviewed Pettiford-Wates (who later became a doctor herself, albeit a PhD rather than MD) in which she recalls working with Lynch, shares some of her other accomplishments, and admits that she gave up watching Twin Peaks soon after the pilot aired - it wasn't for her. She also shares an amusing story about arriving on set for the first time.

19. Sid (Claire Stansfield)
Episodes 11 & 12, written by Mark Frost/Harley Peyton/Robert Engels/Jerry Stahl & Barry Pullman, directed by Todd Holland & Graeme Clifford

Sid makes a splash during her very brief appearance in a couple episodes as Judge Sternwood's legal assistant (and, it is occasionally implied, perhaps something more to the wizened old circuit judge). Cooper and Harry are certainly impressed with her physique and presence, and later by her skill in mixing up the legendary Yukon Sucker Punch (a fictional drink that fans have sought to make real). Sid nearly got her own character study - she is in three scenes, but as it turns out she has nothing to say in one of them (in "court," she's silently doubling as a stenographer). She also barely speaks in her other scenes; perhaps a lost opportunity, given the actress' own quick wit and fast repartee (evidenced in two Xena fanzine interviews, from 1999 and 2001, the second especially). Indeed, a lot about this character feels like a missed chance, with a sense that the writers are building her up for something that never pays off. (One first-time viewer, I think on the podcast Fire Talk With Me, even expected her to become a romantic rival to Audrey for Cooper's affections.) Nonetheless, Sid and her blue alcoholic concoctions have left an outsize impression on Twin Peaks viewers.

18. Joey Paulson (Brett Vadset)
Pilot & Episodes 3 & 13, written by Mark Frost/David Lynch & Harley Peyton & Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch & Tina Rathborne & Lesli Linka Glatter

Here's another character with an image bigger than his several scenes, who also nearly earned a standalone entry. Joey has a decent role in the pilot, escorting Donna from the Roadhouse to a wooded rendezvous with James - even briefly arousing suspicion from the town sheriff ("Joey Paulson - that's a 'J'"). With his curly-haired ponytail and leather jacket, he strikes a typically Twin Peaks balance between eighties and fifties; we later learn he's one of the Bookhouse Boys when he appears alongside a bound-and-gagged Bernard Renault, and he hovers in the background when a drugged-up Audrey is returned from One-Eyed Jack's. But he has nothing to say after the pilot and is hardly in any scenes, eventually crowded out by other Bookhouse Boys like Cappy. In an interview with Brad Dukes, Vadset expresses regret that the character never went any further, and chats about the difference between working in the Seattle-area locations for the pilot and the reconstructed sets in southern California for the rest of the series.

17. Father Clarence Brocklehurst (Royce D. Applegate)
Episodes 3 & 18, written by Harley Peyton & Barry Pullman, directed by Tina Rathborne & Duwayne Dunham

We don't get much explicit religion in Twin Peaks, despite a whole lot of spirituality. Father Clarence, who delivers the eulogy at Laura's funeral, appears to be a Protestant minister. Indeed, the Twin Peaks All-Access Guide tells us the Palmers were Lutherans (in one of my favorite sections of that odd little book, we learn the religions of many of the town's families - the Hurleys and Pulaskis are Catholics, the Hornes Episcopalians, and so on). In a very Laura-centric episodes, this man of the cloth offers a tender portrait of the dead girl, recalling her as an inquisitive, lively Sunday School student. But this warm image is immediately undercut by Laura's boyfriend who shouts out "We all knew she was in trouble!" We never get to find out how much of that trouble was known by Father Clarence. We do, however, reunite with him much later under happier circumstances (sort of): presiding over the wedding of Dougie Milford and Lana Budding. Once again the poor pastor is interrupted, this time by Dougie's brother who takes the usually ceremonial "speak now or forever hold your peace" as an invitation. We last glimpse Father Clarence grinning in the background of the reception. Unfortunately, he won't be able to appear in the new series; Applegate, a memorable character actor with parts in many notable films, died in a house fire in 2003.

16. The "other" Mrs. Tremond (Mae Williams)
Episode 16, written by Mark Frost/Harley Peyton/Robert Engels, directed by Tim Hunter

Here's a bit character who may be a harbinger of things to come. The first time Donna visits this little house, she meets a Mrs. Tremond who is cryptic and bedridden. But when she brings Cooper to investigate, following the suicide of the Tremonds' neighbor, they discover a completely different woman: colorfully dressed, fully mobile, a grandma who looks like she's ready to jet off to Florida and back rather than kick the bucket. It's inexplicable, especially if we consider that Donna probably visited this house many times on her Meals on Wheels route. Later (or, within the story itself, earlier), in Fire Walk With Me, a similar routine is suggested when Cooper visits an abandoned lot in a trailer park and discovers that two families in a row lived there, both with the name Chalfont (it is mentioned that the old woman had a grandson, suggesting they are the same "Tremonds" we met on the show). Confused yet? Ever since the new series was announced back in 2014, I've humored the idea that "alternative universes" (or the Lynchian equivalent thereof) may play a part in the story, and perhaps this lady, twenty-seven years beforehand, is our first nudge in that direction. A scene in which characters knock on a door and find that the "wrong" woman answers also reminds me of Mulholland Drive (a connection I'll return to in a few entries), a film that obviously plays with parallel realities itself.

15. Coach Buck Wingate (Ron Taylor)
Episodes 18 & 19, written by Barry Pullman & Harley Peyton/Robert Engels, directed by Duwayne Dunham & Caleb Deschanel

When the Nadine Hurley storyline is already knee-deep in ridiculousness, Coach Wingate steps in to take it all the way. Like Wendy Robie and Gary Hershberger (who play Nadine and Mike), Taylor fully commits to the absurdity, recruiting Nadine when he witnesses her strength firsthand at the gym. Later he delivers a passionate speech about a football coach who overcame his racism thanks to the skill of a black athlete on his team, using this to justify his inclusion of Nadine on the wrestling squad. Taylor (who passed away quite young from a heart attack) has a lot of fun with the part, and appeared in many other TV shows as well (he was also a frequent singer of the national anthem at baseball games). But his greatest legacy was left on the stage rather than the screen. The actor originated the part of Audrey II in the classic off-Broadway production Little Shop of Horrors, sitting at the back of the stage near the puppeteers and providing the boisterous voice for the giant killer plant. He also co-wrote and led the ensemble of the long-running revue It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues, receiving a Tony nomination (very controversially, the cast's performance was cut last minute from the show, causing an uproar and leading to a make-up appearance on Dave Letterman though unfortunately the show never quite recovered from that snub). (update: Thanks to "Curious Woman" on dugpa for pointing out his first name.)

14. Annie’s Nurse (Therese Xavier Tinling)
The Missing Pieces, written by David Lynch/Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch

As we learned from Mark Frost's recent book The Secret History of Twin Peaks, world-historical figures as prominent as Meriwether Lewis, Jack Parsons, and Richard Nixon have worn the iconic Owl Cave Ring (although David Lynch first introduced the ring to us in Fire Walk With Me, on the finger of a young unknown drifter named Teresa Banks). The last time we encounter the ring in the Twin Peaks narrative is in the section of The Missing Pieces that takes place after the series finale. An unnamed nurse lifts the ring from Annie Blackburn's finger, places it on her own, and admires herself in the hospital mirror. I don't think this will be the last time we see this totemic object. Unfortunately, Tinling (who reportedly had a small part on the Twin Peaks-lite show Northern Exposure) isn't on the cast list for the new series. Unless the part has been recast, the nurse's own fate will be met offscreen, and perhaps even left mysterious (after all, I don't think we'll ever find out how the hell it traveled from the President of the United States to a murder victim living in a trailer park in fifteen years). The scene with the nurse is also a relic of an earlier vision for Fire Walk With Me, in which the ring is presented as purely dangerous (only late in the production, or perhaps even in post-production, did Lynch reconceive its ambiguous role in Laura's salvation). Yet here it is now, remastered and remixed and included in the apparently canonical deleted scenes selection, amplified by Frost's own recent work. Even if only secondhand, I hope we get to find out where the ring led this nurse.

13. George Wolchezk, high school principal (Troy Evans)
Pilot, written by Mark Frost/David Lynch, directed by David Lynch

Of all the characters who only appear in the pilot, Principal Wolchezk is my personal favorite, and probably one of the most well-remembered one-off characters in the series. He plays an important narrative role, making the first public announcement of Laura's death and then breaking down into sobs - showing us just how much the beloved homecoming queen meant to the community. According to Evans, his big moment was supposed to be a filmed rehearsal, but he genuinely began weeping and Lynch liked it so much he used this take (the actor shares this story in an audio and written interview, alongside the anecdote that he was likely born in the very same hospital room as Lynch, a couple years later). Evans was a native Montanan with political ambitions who ended up in Vietnam and prison before turning to acting instead. He's had memorable walk-ons in Near Dark and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but this moment can stand with any of them, haunting the rest of the series and eventually the film in which we finally meet the girl who made her high school principal cry.

12. Toad (Kevin Young)
many episodes, various writers/directors (including David Lynch), most prominently written by Harley Peyton, Scott Frost, and Robert Engels, most prominently directed by Tim Hunter, Todd Holland (improvised), Caleb Deschanel, and Diane Keaton

Toad is certainly the most beloved extra in Twin Peaks, a featured extra - often written directly into the script - but an extra nonetheless, with no dialogue save, perhaps, a mumbled ad lib off to the side. A trucker who adores Norma's food at the RR Diner, sometimes to her embarrassment (she and Hank hustle the messy eater off into the kitchen when a suspected restaurant critic arrives), Toad can't beat Pete in chess (but then, who can?) and he's apparently a poor tipper ("Thanks, Toad, I'll get this into my retirement fund ASAP."). We don't know much more than that, although the actor himself was a production assistant on Twin Peaks who suffered a personal tragedy during the shooting (the season two premiere sports a closing dedication to Kevin Young, Jr., the actor's infant child who died around this time). Mya McBriar at Twin Peaks Fanatic recently paid tribute to Toad, one of the characters who best fits the "hidden" designation; you can probably gauge a viewer's investment in the series by whether or not they know, and smile, at his name.

11. Wounded Lady (Ingrid Brucato)
Fire Walk With Me, written by David Lynch/Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch

Just outside the top ten, I want to pay tribute to another character who never speaks and who is onscreen far less than Toad or most other names on this list. Yet this unnamed trailer park denizen, described as "Curious Woman" in the closing credits of Fire Walk With Me, has inspired numerous legends and theories. For years, it was alleged that David Lynch himself played the part in drag. In fact the actress was a local whom Lynch was determined to work with (as she says in this interview with Glastonberry Grove, her car broke down and she called them to say "go on without me" but they sent an escort to pick her up instead). Who is the woman? Christian Hartleban, a repository of fascinating insight into (and speculation about) Twin Peaks, proposes that she's the actual inhabitant of the trailer presented as "Teresa's". He wonders if she was beaten and kicked out by the local sheriff's department so they could cover up the real crime scene in an attempt to mislead the FBI. This idea led me to wonder if this woman and Teresa switched trailers at one point, like Diane and her neighbor in Mulholland Drive. Nobody really knows what's up with the wounded lady, but more important is the eerie vibe she evokes, leading directly to Carl Rodd's thousand-yard stare and memorable statement about the places he's been and where he wants to stay.

10. Gersten Hayward (Alicia Witt)
Episode 8, improvised by David Lynch

And then there were ten. Donna Hayward's little sister Gersten is the perfect person to initiate this final stretch: she's only in one scene but is memorably costumed and characterized, even receiving the rare honor (usually just afforded to Laura's portrait) of appearing under the closing credits, where she plays some barrelhouse piano. Witt was a Lynch favorite - six years earlier she was cast in a very memorable role in Dune, and three years after this episode aired she'd aged enough to play Crispin Glover's wife in a sketch on Lynch's HBO special Hotel Room (though she appears to be much younger on Twin Peaks, she's actually about fifteen). Furthermore, she has been cast in the new series, which is ironic since...well, we'll get to that in a moment. Gersten contributes to the ethereal mood of this very unusual episode, setting the musical ambiance for the "Hayward Supper Club" (Witt was in fact a child prodigy) and accompanying Leland Palmer's manic performance of "Get Happy" before he collapses.

9. Harriet Hayward (Jessica Wallenfels)
Pilot & Episode 8, written by Mark Frost/David Lynch, directed by David Lynch

Harriet, Donna's other sibling, appears at the Supper Club with Gersten to read a poem about Laura. But we meet her much earlier: in the pilot she promises (and fails) to cover for her big sister when Donna sneaks out to rendezvous with James. Harriet is struggling with a line in a poem (perhaps the one we'll later hear) before settling delightfully on "the full blossom of the evening." What's the deal with the Hayward girls? The family appears in many episodes of the series but in all except two, Donna is the only daughter we see. Various podcasts and blogs have come up with humorous theories about why (the Twin Peaks Podcast had the most elaborate and cheeky, involving - as I recall - Doc Hayward being a serial murderer and medical fraud). Last year, Lynch and Frost added an extra twist to the speculation when they revealed a massive cast list for the new show. It included both Wallenfels and Witt...but neither Lara Flynn Boyle nor Moira Kelly (who played Donna in Fire Walk With Me when Boyle was unavailable). Donna is one of the most important characters in Twin Peaks, but for whatever reason it looks like we won't be seeing her again, instead spending time with one of her barely-glimpsed but memorable sisters (who will now be in their forties). I know several Twin Peaks fans who wouldn't complain about that. CORRECTION: Sadly, while I'm right about Witt, I completely misremembered the status of Wallenfels. She will be joining Boyle/Kelly in the castoff list, leaving Witt to plunk her piano alone among the Hayward siblings.

8. Herbert Neff (Mark Lowenthal)
Episode 6, written by Harley Peyton, directed by Caleb Deschanel

In a show replete with noir references, insurance salesman Herbert Neff is one of the most obvious. Not only does he engage in some very Double Indemnity innuendo with Catherine Martell, he is literally named after Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), the lead character of that classic 1944 film. Neff's role in the episode is brief - but boy, does Lowenthal play the heck out of it! Deceptively nebbishy, he quickly reveals a subtle intelligence and steely resolve; of all the bit parts in Twin Peaks, this is the one you could really see continuing on the series with all kinds of twists and turns in his character arc. Alas, it was not to be. But I like to imagine Neff kept playing a role in the story's events. Maybe he helped Catherine sneak away, planning her disguise after the mill fire. Perhaps, if we want to get really cynical in tracing Double Indemnity's narrative path, Neff had something to do with a certain safety deposit box, and decades later he is happily married to his sugar mamma. Or, if we allow a more charitable reading (and take the show's presentation of Eckhardt as the bank explosion's mastermind at face value) maybe Neff's noted "ambition" never paid off. I like to picture him, gray-haired, wrinkled, still waiting eagerly by the phone a quarter-century later, hoping that Catherine will call back for "anything".

7. Irene the Waitress (Sandra Kinder)
Fire Walk With Me/The Missing Pieces, written by David Lynch/Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch

We are definitely getting to the part of the list where the characters are up this high based on subjective more than objective criteria. Irene never fails to crack me up - the unapologetically grouchy host of Hap's Diner (in Deer Meadow) is a hilariously Bizarro doppelganger of warm-hearted Norma in the RR, and her rumpled appearance further draws the contrast. The repartee between her and the FBI agents is priceless: "Do you ever take cocaine, Irene?" "No, I do not! I never took cocaine or any other drug. I don't take drugs." "Nicotine's a drug. Caffeine's a drug." "Who's the towhead?" (Ok, it's much funnier in their deadpan delivery.) Despite Irene's occasional stonewalling of the detectives ("If you ask me, her death was what you might call...a freak accident"), she also passes on a vital clue. From Irene we first learn a new bit of Twin Peaks mythology: Teresa's left arm went numb before she died. We will later witness a similar phenomenon in Laura's dream, before she discovers Teresa's ring in her hand. So Irene does serve some purpose after all...though she doesn't serve much else. "You wanna hear about our specials? We don't have any."

6. Jenny (Lisa Ann Cabasa)
Episode 6, written by Harley Peyton, directed by Caleb Deschanel

This stylish, elegant employee of the notorious Horne's Department Store perfume counter is essentially Audrey's ticket to One-Eyed Jack's. Audrey spies from a closet as the smarmy Emory Battis compliments Jenny on her performance the previous weekend and offers her a small glass unicorn (reference to The Glass Menagerie?) and an invitation to return to the Canadian bordello. Jenny displays a cynical, savvy ability to play the game both in Emory's presence ("hey, as long as they're rich") and behind his back ("what do I want with a horned horse"). Later, a vaguely hesitant Jenny is tricked into providing Blackie's phone number. Sadly, we never get to see her at One-Eyed Jack's or anywhere else in Twin Peaks (although Lynch offered her a memorable, rather radically different part in Wild at Heart, dancing topless for the twisted Mr. Reindeer while he goes to the bathroom). Jenny's cool, sleek presence is missed but she makes a splash in her few scenes, elevating her near the top of this list. She's a personal favorite I'd love to see again in 2017 but sadly she's not on the cast list so it seems like we won't. Jenny will have to remain the slightly mysterious, aloof but clear-eyed girl of episode five in perpetuity.

5. Lil the Dancer (Kimberly Ann Cole)
Fire Walk With Me, written by David Lynch/Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch

One of the most memorable faces in Fire Walk With Me is a mystery onscreen and off (this is Cole's only film credit). Lil is introduced by FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (with whom the actress shares a - pseudonymous? - last name) as "my mother's sister's girl" before she scurries up to the small group assembled on a Washington airfield to blink, dance, open and close her fist, and keep her hand in her pocket the whole time. She's clad head to toe in red except for a blue rose on her blouse, and she exhibits what Agent Chet Desmond calls "a sour look on her face." The result is hilarious and more than a bit maddening. Desmond later decodes her every gesture as a series of cryptic messages, telling him and his partner what to expect as they head into the hostile town of Deer Meadow to investigate a murder. It's also either Lynch telling us to pay close attention for clues in the rest of Fire Walk With Me...or teasing Twin Peaks' most ardent fans for their desire to turn every little throwaway gag into an essential piece of overanalyzed evidence. You decide. In the process of either codifying or mocking mystery, these two Coles create a new one...

4. Dell Mibbler (Ed Wright)
Episode 29 & The Missing Pieces, written by Mark Frost/Harley Peyton/Robert Engels & David Lynch, directed by David Lynch

Poor Dell Mibbler - he has only one scene in Twin Peaks before being blown to bits (if those glasses tossed through the air are any indication). Then again, it's one hell of a scene both in accomplishment (I'd probably place it on a personal top ten, largely thanks to this character's contribution) and duration (again, thanks to ponderous old Dell). Mibbler is the manager of the Twin Peaks Savings & Loan. We immediately get the sense that the place doesn't see much activity but this is going to be an unusually busy morning: Audrey shows up to stage a protest against the Ghostwood Development Plan on environmental grounds, and then one of the town's supposedly dead patriarchs - Andrew Packard - appears out of nowhere, confusing the already addled oldster. And then, of course, there's the bomb in the safety deposit box. Although Mibbler is described in the teleplay as merely "unctuous," Lynch had something more in mind, casting the fellow who played a similar part in Wild at Heart and allowing him to wander back and forth over the set for minutes at a time while the camera kept rolling. The character does have one more appearance in the larger narrative: a scene was shot between him, Pete, and Josie for Fire Walk With Me in which he demands a refund for an inexactly-measured piece of lumber. The scene has no place whatsoever in a dark horror film focused almost exclusively on Laura Palmer, but fortunately it found its way into The Missing Pieces collection a few years ago.

3. Angels (Karin Robinson and Lorna MacMillan)
Fire Walk With Me, written by David Lynch/Robert Engels, directed by David Lynch

For the final three (technically, four) characters, we're going to depart from the human. Later in this series, I'll have a whole entry - one of my longest - devoted to a catch-all category: "The Spirits of Twin Peaks." There you'll find Bob, the Man From Another Place, the Giant, the Tremonds, and various other ethereal beings, including those who pop up for just a few seconds in Fire Walk With Me. It seemed right to combine all these characters into one entry, since some of them overlap and all may be manifestations of the same energy in different forms. Yet the angels feel different. Perhaps it's their historically specific look: unlike, say, a red-suited little man or a jean-jacketed demon, these angels are cloaked in the conventional Western garb that has been associated with angels for centuries: long, flowing white robes, feathery wings, a glow that evokes the halos of religious art. Perhaps it's that very Christian association, whereas the other spirits have a more pagan feel to them. Perhaps the purity of the angels distinguishes them from all the other ambiguous-to-evil spirits (although one could certainly make a case for the Giant as straightforwardly benevolent, even he has his skeptics). The angels are clearly harbingers of good, rescuing Ronette from her bonds and later visiting Laura in the Red Room to offer touching relief after she has died. For whatever reason, I've treated them separately and given them their own space. It's also worth pointing out that there are two angels in the film (they are sometimes wrongly described as a single entity). The one who appears in the train car is clearly the guardian for Ronette, whose prayer may summon her (though I have another theory). With long blonde hair, this angel looks a little like Laura - suggesting that maybe Laura has brought her into being and is, in a way, Ronette's savior. The other angel, Laura's guardian who appears in the Red Room, has shorter, curly hair and very strongly resembles the angel who disappeared from the picture hanging on Laura's bedroom wall (a production still, featuring the actress in costume against a painted background, essentially confirms that this is who this angel is supposed to be). I like to think that the angels can only be summoned on someone else's behalf by a compassionate companion; just as Laura brings the angel for Ronette, it must be Cooper who calls Laura's angel to watch over her. Essential reading: MacMillan, who plays Laura's angel, gave a phenomenal, heartfelt interview to Brad Dukes at Twin Peaks Archive a few years ago about how much the role meant to her, Lynch and actress Sheryl Lee.

2. Waldo (voiced by Sheryl Lee)
Episodes 5 & 6 & Fire Walk With Me, written by Mark Frost & Harley Peyton & David Lynch/Robert Engels, directed by Lesli Linka Glatter, Caleb Deschanel & David Lynch

Now we've reached the end of characters even played by people - or at least visually played by people. Waldo the Myna bird does speak, and his voice is provided by the actress who plays Laura Palmer (whose words the gifted mimic is supposedly repeating). One of the most iconic presences in Twin Peaks, the bird is in three scenes on the show and one scene in the film: after witnessing Laura's kidnapping, he is discovered in Jacques Renault's cabin a few days later by Cooper and the sheriff's department after they've requisitioned his files from a local veterinarian. Waldo is too frightened, hungry, and tired to "talk" until a few moments before his death (shot from outside the sheriff's window by Leo Johnson, who fears he will be incriminated), but his final words are captured for posterity by Cooper's voice-activated tape recorder, doubling as an expression of both his and Laura's fear: "Leo, no!" With feathers and blood strewn all over the donuts displayed beneath his cage on the conference room table, Waldo has one of the most poignant, if slightly absurd, deaths in the whole series (it beats the giant pawn by about a mile). Apparently even Waldo "had a thing for Laura" so it's appropriate that in his dying moments, he's able to give her voice.

1. Diane
addressed in many episodes (never seen), created by Mark Frost/David Lynch

There are several Twin Peaks character we never meet who could justifiably make this list...Bob Lydecker, say, or Judy (nah, we'll keep her out of this), or even Diane Shapiro (Hawk's girlfriend, "Brandeis, PhD"). But it's another Diane who deserves this top spot, one of the most famous unseen characters in TV history. Her name is the first word Agent Cooper speaks on the show, addressing his tape recorder as he describes his approach to the town where he will spend the remainder of the series. Some fans theorize that she doesn't actually exist, at least not as a recipient of Cooper's tapes (she's either a completely imaginary figure or an ex-lover) or even that Coop has given his recorder a human nickname (think of it as the proto-Siri). However, most evidence - especially spin-off material like Cooper's autobiography - suggests that she is Cooper's assistant, who has transcribed and/or responded to his audio dispatches for years. Then again, we come closest to meeting Diane in The Missing Pieces, as Cooper does calisthenics in her office doorway and conducts a one-sided dialogue with her; somehow, we never hear her side of the conversation! So perhaps there's something to the "figment of his imagination" interpretation after all. Speculation has emerged that we'll finally meet Diane in the new series, that perhaps she'll even be played by Laura Dern (who was memorably Kyle MacLachlan's romantic partner in Blue Velvet, and real life too). That would be pretty good pay-off, but part of me hopes we never do get to see Diane. She's iconic just the way she is, one of Twin Peaks' many unique touches - truly a hidden character.

Next (active Wednesday, January 13, 2023 at 8am): Top 30 Runners-Up of the New Twin Peaks
Previous (active on Friday, January 6, 2023 at 8am): A Collection of Minor Characters in Twin Peaks

To read advance entries every week...

(When the series resumes publicly, all new or revised entries will be published at least a month in advance for patrons.)

No comments:

Search This Blog