Lost in the Movies: Madeleine "Maddy" Ferguson (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #32)

Madeleine "Maddy" Ferguson (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #32)

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.

Maddy, sweet, easygoing, down-to-earth, is far removed from the all-consuming fire of her cousin's dangerous life...until she comes to Twin Peaks for Laura's funeral.

Monday, February 27, 1989
Madeleine Ferguson, affectionately known as "Maddy" by friends and family, enters her aunt's and uncle's house under the worst of circumstances. She has just taken temporary leave of her job and her mother in Missoula, Montana, traveling all the way to Washington state for a sad family affair. Her teenage cousin Laura Palmer, who looked remarkably like her (despite a difference in hair color and age), has been brutally murdered and today will be her funeral. Maddy smiles at her bereaved Uncle Leland, but begins to sob as they embrace. "I am so sorry," she weeps. At the funeral she stands with Uncle Leland and Aunt Sarah, consoling them. The funeral breaks out into chaos at one point, when Laura's boyfriend Bobby shoves past Maddy to fight another boy. Then Leland yelps in sorrow and throws himself on top of Laura's casket, causing the lowering mechanism to malfunction and carry him up and down as he wails and gnashes his teeth.

Tuesday, February 28, 1989
Maddy continues to take care of the Palmers in the days after the funeral. The following morning, she serves refreshments to local lawmen as they question Sarah about some of her strange visions. As she isn't a good cook, Maddy later visits the RR Diner to pick up some food. There she meets James Hurley, a young biker who knew Laura (or thought he did, anyway). Maddy acknowledges her physical resemblance to Laura, and laughs as she remembers how they used to pretend they were sisters. There's sadness in her voice too, though; while she's in town to provide a steady bedrock for her devastated relatives, the tragedy weighs on her as well.

Wednesday, March 1, 1989
Eagerly accepting their invitation (the Palmer's house is somber and the outsider doesn't know many people around town), Maddy meets James and Laura's friend Donna Hayward at the diner. However, the teenagers have more than socializing on their mind: they enlist Maddy in their own personal investigation into Laura. They believe she was in a lot of trouble near the end of her life and that the truth about her killer may never be revealed. Maddy agrees to look inside a hiding place in Laura's bedroom, and that night she finds several cassette tapes. Sneaking downstairs after Sarah has gone to bed (and Leland has left), Maddy calls Donna and tells them to bring a tape recorder the next day. She throws herself into this stealthy role; if nothing else, it provides a welcome, intriguing distraction from the thick fog of grief enveloping the Palmer house.

Thursday, March 2, 1989
The three amateur detectives meet at Donna's house. They listen to Laura's tapes, in which she conveys some sultry messages to Dr. Lawrence Jacoby, a local psychiatrist. The teasing tone of voice and sexual nature of her words suggest an inappropriate relationship with the older man. Maddy discovers an empty case labelled "March 23" - the night Laura died; obviously, Jacoby still has this final tape. Could it contain crucial evidence? James forms a plan to get Jacoby out of his office so that the tape can be liberated - and Maddy is central to it. That evening, she sneaks out of the house and arrives in Easter Park clad in a blonde wig. The likeness is stunning, and James is quickly taken aback by the appearance of a "resurrected Laura." He and Donna videotape Maddy holding today's newspaper and deliver the tape to Jacoby's office. Then they return to the park and call Jacoby. Maddy speaks to him over the phone in an impersonation of Laura's singsong voice, coaxing him to check the package on his doorstep and explaining that she wants him to meet her at the intersection of Sparkwood and 21. Following this phone call, James and Donna hop on his motorcycle and go to his office again (these teens are not the most efficient planners), leaving Maddy behind to await their return. She wanders around the park for a while, occasionally glancing at the nearby brush as if she hears something...but then James and Donna return and they all depart, their plan apparently successful. Back at Donna's house, they listen to Laura's final tape. They are shocked by her cynical tone, especially towards James (whom she calls dumb), and her revelation of a "mystery man" she's going to see that night. Maddy, who looks upset, insists she's okay, and James concludes that Jacoby didn't kill Laura.

Friday, March 3, 1989
The next morning, Maddy sits with Sarah on the couch. Sarah asks her if she misses Beth, her mom, but Maddy is absorbed by the carpet. She explains that she had a dream about that rug last night, but before she can explain it, Leland bursts into the room, crooning "Mairzy Doats" in a crisp gray suit. His hair has turned white overnight and both Maddy and Sarah are stunned by the transformation. Sarah follows her husband into the other room, and Maddy is confronted by a vision in the carpet - a bloodstain running across it in the exact spot she dreamt about the night before. That afternoon, she delivers Laura's sunglasses to Donna, who has inexplicably begun smoking. Maddy has some thoughts about her own eyewear, breaking her glasses in half and vowing never to wear them again. Maddy discusses Jacoby, who was beaten up in Easter Park the night before, triggering a heart attack; she feels guilty for inadvertently leading him there but Donna shows no remorse. James has been arrested and Donna is going to visit him; she presses Maddy not to tell anyone what they've been up to. The diner's owner stops by the table to drop off a simple note someone else left for Donna: "Check out the Meals on Wheels." That night, Maddy accompanies her aunt and uncle to Donna's house, where Donna tells her she's taken Laura's Meals on Wheels route. The younger Hayward sisters entertain them with music and a poem and Leland gets into the spirit, singing frantically until he collapses. Maddy rushes to his side and holds his hand as he recovers.

Saturday, March 4, 1989
Maddy returns to Donna's the next day to record a song with her and James. He plays guitar and sings in a falsetto as the girls provide backup. Maddy's eyes constantly meet James', and Donna notices, storming out of the room. As the couple work out their problems in the hallway, Maddy feels a chill. She stares through an opening between two rooms, where the living room meets the dining room, and gasps as a long-haired, jean-jacketed man calmly walks through and moves slowly towards her, grinning ferociously. Trembling in horror but unable to speak, Maddy watches as the man crawls over the couch and shoves his face right up in hers: finally she finds her voice and screams in abject terror. James and Donna rush to her side, attempting to calm her down, looking around to spot whatever was terrorizing her...but the apparition is gone, the living room empty.

Sunday, March 5, 1989
In the diner the following evening, James tells Maddy that Donna has been behaving strangely; she visited him in his jail cell before he was released and "acted like she wanted to do it with [him] through the bars." Maddy looks embarrassed by James' demeanor, but also sympathetic. Donna enters to find James holding hands with this Laura lookalike and is visibly upset. She tells James about an attractive, intelligent man from Laura's Meals on Wheels route before exiting with a snide putdown. James visits the Palmer house that evening, telling Maddy that his mother came home and had been drinking. "You're on fire," Maddy remarks and kisses James before holding him close. With consistently inconvenient timing, Donna walks in to discover their embrace; she flees in distress. James races after her, knocking over a lamp (Leland, entering the room as this strange teenager storms out of his house, looks on, confused). Maddy tells her uncle that people keep confusing her with Laura, even though they're nothing alike. He hugs her and offers words of comfort as she weeps. At this moment, the sheriff and an FBI agent appear in the hallway and place Leland under arrest for the murder of a man named Jacques Renault.

Monday, March 6, 1989
Maddy invites Donna to the diner and thanks her for coming; "I didn't know if you'd be mad..." She corrects herself, "How mad." Donna responds coldly, and then forcefully tells Maddy to help her steal Laura's secret diary from Harold Smith, the man she met on the Meals on Wheels route.

Tuesday, March 7, 1989
Maddy accompanies Sarah to the Road House where an impromptu hearing is held for Leland. The judge releases Leland without bail, recognizing his status in the town and his sensitive emotional state following the death of his daughter (the man he killed was a suspect in Laura's murder). Maddy and Sarah are quite relieved that Leland can come home. That evening, Maddy meets with Donna to discuss the diary operation. Donna shows her a map of Harold's house and tells her to wait outside until she signals, at which point she can take the book from its hiding spot in his bookshelf. Maddy is confused - "I thought you liked this guy?" Donna says she does, without further explanation. On her way to Harold's, Maddy picks up some coffee at the diner, running into James and brusquely dismissing his inquiries. At Harold's, she waits in the trees, sipping coffee until a light flashes in his window. Inside his house, she fumbles around the bookshelf, panicking as Harold enters the attached greenhouse to talk with Donna (she desperately tries to distract him). When Maddy finally flips open the secret compartment, Harold hears her and rushes into his living room with a sharp gardening tool. Donna and Maddy clutch one another while Harold yells at them and then slashes his own face with the tool. Maddy screams as James storms into the house, shoving Harold aside and grabbing the two girls. They flee without the diary. Outside, James and Donna comfort one another and Maddy can see how much they care about each other - and that she has been in their way. She keeps her feelings to herself, and drives away as they linger behind.

Wednesday, March 8, 1989
James pulls up to a lake on his motorcyle; he joins Maddy on the dock where she is seated, waiting for him. The sun is out, the weather is mild, and Maddy smiles warmly at James. However, there is sadness in her expression too. She tells him that many people - including him - saw Laura in her; she kind of liked it, but now it's time for her to be herself again. She encourages his love for Donna (effectively concealing the strength of her own feelings, explaining that they got caught up in something bigger) and says it's time for her to go back to Missoula. She says goodbye and leave him alone on the shore with his thoughts.

Thursday, March 9, 1989
Clad in a blue bathrobe, sipping her morning coffee, gazing at Laura's family pictures and a painting of a deer emblazoned with the name of her own hometown, Maddy crosses the living room and sits on the couch with her aunt and uncle. She shares the news of her impending departure with the Palmers, who are disconcerted but encouraging. Of course she has to return to her own life - and they'll look forward to future visits. As a record of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" plays on the turntable, Maddy ends her tumultuous but ultimately rewarding visit to Twin Peaks. That night, however, spending her last evening in Laura's room, Maddy encounters a strong, almost violent scent. "It smells like something burning!" she calls to her aunt and uncle as she descends the staircase. She discovers Aunt Sarah lying on the floor and Uncle Leland standing in the corner, wearing white gloves and grinning demonically. And then...she sees that man - the long-haired ghoul in a jean jacket - flash into Leland's place. Maddy screeches in animal terror and runs upstairs but Leland (who keeps alternating with this other figure) grabs her and drags her down by her throat. He punches her in the face and taunts her as she runs around the living room, crying for help. She can't escape. He sneers in her face and tosses her down onto the couch, beating her relentless until she begins to choke on her own blood. She is dying. He lifts her up and holds her close to him, circling around the room - as the long-haired man he looses gutteral growls and sucks on her chin; as her uncle he cries and calls for Laura. He then grabs the suffocating Maddy by her head, shouts "Leland says, you're going back to Missoula, Montanaaaaa!" and smashes her as hard as he can into the deer picture on the wall. Maddy crumples to the ground, her face streaked in blood. She is dead.

Leland leans over the corpse and places the letter "O" under her fingernail.

Friday, March 10, 1989
Leland travels around town with a golf bag in which Maddy's body is stuffed. That night, lawmen pull her corpse out from beneath a waterfall. She has been wrapped in plastic and as they peel the wrapping back they identify the victim. The police lights dance across her silent face.

...in Another Place
In a room far away (yet not so far away) from Twin Peaks, decorated with couches, a statue, and a chevron floor, a figure emerges from billowing red curtains and introduces herself to the FBI agent who came to town to solve Laura's murder: "I'm Maddy. Watch out for my cousin." She bears the pale eyes and sinister, grinning expression of the room's doppelgangers - is she really Maddy? An otherworldly double? An apparition that this man has subconsciously conjured? Perhaps she herself doesn't even know. The shade dissolves into thin air after the agent exits, leaving behind an empty room.

*retroactively added doppelganger image in March 2024

Characters Maddy interacts with onscreen…

Leland Palmer (her killer)

Bobby Briggs - shoved by him while he runs into a fight

Sarah Palmer

Harry Truman

Norma Jennings

James Hurley

Donna Hayward

Dr. Jacoby

Harold Smith

(as her doppelganger after her death)

Agent Cooper

watches/listens to INVITATION TO LOVE

Spirits who appear with/to her

BOB (her killer)

and listens to Laura Palmer's recorded voice*

Characters who encounter Maddy's corpse

Deputy Hawk*
*retroactively added in March 2024

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Maddy
Maddy may bring us closer to Laura than anyone else we've met so far. Her physical similarity, her familial relation, her role in uncovering mysteries about her dead cousin, all help us to better understand who Laura was. And she certainly brings us closer to Laura's death than any of them (with the possible exception of Ronette, who was present for Laura's final moments - but even she stops short of experiencing that death directly). On the other hand, Maddy keeps us at more of an arm's length than characters like Sarah, Ronette, or Jacques, whom we witness interacting with Laura in Fire Walk With Me. In fact, Maddy is a constant reminder not just of Laura's death, but her unreachability: close and yet so far away. When I first watched Twin Peaks, I was under the misapprehension that the series would never reveal Laura's killer, and certainly wouldn't ever allow us to truly know Laura herself (I can't remember when I first heard about the film or realized what it was about, but it must have been after I started season one). Maddy feeds into this sense.

She is, of course, played by the same actress. But Sheryl Lee played Maddy before she'd really gotten to play Laura (other than fleeting, mostly mute moments in the early episodes). She had not been told who killed Laura, or much about who Laura was, so this was her opportunity to find out about her "other self" just as much as it was for the character onscreen and the audience watching. Maddy fuels the idea that Twin Peaks is primarily about the question of Laura Palmer's identity while also fostering the take that Twin Peaks is a playful pastiche of other media; among critics who harped on the show's postmodern cache, Maddy was one of the most frequently-mentioned elements. The identical cousin shtick is cribbed from The Patty Duke Show, in which the titular actress plays both cousins simultaneously via a Parent Trap-esque split screen. The very name "Madeleine Ferguson," meanwhile, combines two characters from Vertigo - the female character who harbors several levels of multiple personae and the male detective who studies her case and tries to save her.

When the show aired, a popular theory held that Laura wasn't dead at all: Maddy was just a disguise Laura had assumed to cover her own tracks. How to explain the corpse? On early internet message boards, elaborate explanations were conceived: the corpse was actually Maddy, and Laura had killed her - or Maddy and Laura had switched places a year earlier as an experiment that got out of hand - or Laura had allowed Maddy to be killed to protect herself from whomever wanted her dead. All of this speculation points to a central confusion about Maddy: what exactly is the purpose of her character? In fact, her behind-the-scenes genesis was very simple and down-to-earth (as will be discussed in the "actress" section) but David Lynch and Mark Frost eventually discovered a more profound narrative function for Maddy. She becomes a kind of pagan sacrifice to a larger force than the show's in-world universe. Her death feels as primal as it is shocking, reminding us of a ghoulishness at the heart of Twin Peaks all along: the riveting spectacle of this story is ultimately anchored by the violent death of a young woman, a rite dating back to prehistoric times. Maddy, having slowly but surely helped to peel back the mystery of Laura's life, becomes a direct portal to her death.

Maddy’s journey
If for no other reason than the way her story ends (but also because she provides an opportunity for the wonderful Sheryl Lee to participate in the series), Maddy is a powerful character. However, I often find myself wondering if - aside from where she ultimately takes us - the character really works. Her development is certainly confused. When she initially appears, she's a winking gag: the lookalike cousin who allows Laura to participate in her own story from a convoluted distance. It's cute, but doesn't allow for much in-depth exploration of Maddy's personality. Rather than develop a unique character, the writers and directors play cheeky games with Lee's appearance; there's the obvious difference in hair color, but by piling on frumpy clothing, large-framed glasses, and a waxy perm, they spoof Laura's mythic status by crafting a lovably geeky girl in her stead. Likewise, as the narrative foregrounds Laura's dynamic sexuality, it highlights Maddy's demure, mousy nature. The show seems more preoccupied with painting a portrait of Laura via contrast than breathing life into Maddy herself.

In season two, the situation only grows more confounding. Viewers often discuss Donna's sharp shift in personality between the two seasons (ostensibly overnight), but that's always made sense to me, for reasons to be discussed later. Harder for me to grapple with is Maddy's transformation. Her look changes abruptly - from curls to relatively straight hair, glasses (hilariously) destroyed and clothing brought more in line with the colorful sweaters and skirts of the other Twin Peaks kids. But her whole demeanor changes too. Maddy speaks slowly, almost as if she's in a trance, eyes widening and mouth gaping in near-cartoonish fashion. This heightened behavior is quite different from her naturalistic small talk in season one, and because her motivations and personal quirks have always been vague and ethereal, it's hard for me to see these two Maddys as even being the same character. Lee may have been thrown too; in Maddy's case, unlike Laura's, she built the character from the outside in, so what happens when those physical crutches are removed? Many of these changes are not in the script, so it's easy to assume that Lynch (directing the character for the first time) whimsically decided to assert his own personal vision of Maddy, bringing her closer to Laura's appearance.

The narrative concept is that both Maddy and Donna are becoming more like Laura, trying to woo James by reminding him of his dead lover. Only in her last few episodes does Maddy emerge as a character in her own right, a straightforward but sensitive soul fascinated by her cousin but troubled by the eclipse of her own identity. One of these episodes' most effective tactics is to capitalize on the way Maddy has been overshadowed by Laura at her very inception, with the writers rendering this subtext explicit. Finally, in the episode before her departure, Maddy becomes a fully-fleshed person, thoughtful, kind, and self-aware, mature in a fashion few other young characters can manage. Her scene with James doubles as a farewell and a breakthrough, making me wish her character could stick around longer. We (and she) are only just discovering who she really is: an adult lingering in the world of adolescence but knowledgeable enough to escape it, a young woman both naive and wise.

Nothing prepares us for Maddy's death, despite multiple hints and frequent peril. In an interview during season one, Lee was asked about Maddy's fate and responded, "Anybody can be killed off at any time on this show." There's certainly a logic to the decision; if anyone's going to die, isn't going to be the quasi-Laura character? Personally, I knew this would happen ahead of time, having stumbled across an online spoiler simply titled "BOB kills Maddy" (although fortunately it didn't say who BOB was). And yet...even after multiple viewings, the viciousness of the event feels like a shock. This isn't how these stories are supposed to work. The series' rehashing of Laura's troubled life plays into a familiar, pernicious trope of crime fiction - we can pity the victims all we like but on some level we are meant to understand they played with fire and got burned. Maddy draws close to Laura, causes some mild turmoil in the James-Donna relationship, and participates (at others' behest) in adolescent sleuthing that leads to bad consequences for the subjects, but none of this really shakes our impression of her as the quintessential "good girl."

What her murder tells us, then, is that Laura's death - and the torment of her life that led directly to that death - had nothing to do with her being "good" or "bad." It wasn't a tragedy triggered by her own inner flaws, it wasn't an inferno of her own making. It was a horror imposed upon her by a far more powerful force which she was incapable of resisting. Maddy's helplessness, not any particular gore or existential dread, is what's so effective and heartbreaking about her death. She is doomed from the moment Leland/BOB grabs her, but the scene proceeds for four more minutes. That's why it calls back to ancient sacrificial rituals (in which the whole point is the innocence on offer) much more than slasher film cliches. It fundamentally reorients our understanding of what Twin Peaks is about, what kind of story it is, and what it's capable of. I knew Maddy was going to die, but I certainly had no inkling she was going to die like this...and at the hands of an uncle who had loved her so much. That's another upsetting element. Maddy and Leland have been linked from her very first appearance, their bond a touching reminder of the parental role ripped from Leland when his daughter died. Now that is violently subverted.

This moment is also poignant because Maddy couldn't escape her cousin in life, and that overshadowing presence is hammered home in death. The aftermath is handled with a macabre, Hitchcockian humor (no wonder the Germans chose such a cheeky name for episode 15), few characters on the series will mention her after her body has been discovered (the focus remains on catching "Laura's killer"), and when we finally glimpse her again in the Lodge (not even sure that it is her) she again calls our attention to her cousin and then fades away completely, as if she was never there.

Actress: Sheryl Lee
Maddy exists because of Sheryl Lee. She was not cast in the role - the role was created for her. Lee is the only actress in these eighty-two studies to appear more than once. While some characters are played by multiple actors, only she plays multiple characters. As such, I'll split this section over two entries - focusing here on her portrayal of Maddy and her career in television (as opposed to cinema) since Maddy is exclusive to TV.

A few months after her role in the pilot (and the alternate European ending that David Lynch shot while editing the pilot), Lee was invited to resettle in Los Angeles. ABC had commissioned seven episodes of Twin Peaks and Lynch wanted her to take part. "But David," Lee protested, "I'm dead!" "We'll figure something out," he responded. And so they did. In many ways, Maddy feels more like a Mark Frost concoction, given the tongue-in-cheek TV reference (although Lynch is admittedly a great admirer of Vertigo) and the explicit narrative functionality. On the other hand, Lynch does love his doubles, even if that tendency expresses itself more in post-Twin Peaks than his pre-Twin Peaks work (and usually in a more dreamlike fashion than Peaks' strictly biological explanation). And God knows he's fond of the blonde/brunette dichotomy!

Before Twin Peaks, Lee had virtually no screen credits, working almost exclusively in theater. Peaks was her first television part, soon followed by the TV movie Love, Lies, and Murder about the real-life murderer Patti Bailey, ensnared by a conspiratorial older lover who was also her stepfather. There are several connections to Twin Peaks, in both narrative and casting - Kenneth Welsh (Windom Earle) has a small part and this was Lee's first opportunity to work with Moira Kelly, who would later fill Lara Flynn Boyle's shoes as movie-Donna in Fire Walk With Me. Lee starred in several more TV movies in the nineties and zeroes, often playing a real person (as she did in Love, Lies, and Murder): as the title character in Guinevere, the pioneer woman Mary Ingels (who trekked through the woods back to her homestead after being captured in an Indian raid) in Follow the River, as the infamous Bathsheba in the Biblical adaptation David, and as someone running a home for battered women in the Lifetime film The Secrets of Comfort House.

Lee starred in an episode of the Red Shoe Diaries (on an episode David Duchovny not only hosted but appeared in as a character; she dated the fellow Twin Peaks alum for several years in the nineties before eventually marrying Neil Diamond's son) and as a white woman raised by Native Americans in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. She also had guest spots on Without a Trace, House, M.D., CSI:NY, and Lie to Me, among others. Lee was originally cast as the dead woman narrating Desperate Housewives, but when the series got picked up, the pilot was re-shot with another Twin Peaks veteran, Brenda Strong (Eckhardt's assistant Jones). Lee appeared in the Twin Peaks tribute/reunion episode of Psych in which (spoilers!) she plays the town doctor who discovers the dead girl's body (which Lee described as very surreal) and also, it turns out, murdered her (along with the sheriff played by Lenny von Dohlen, aka Harold Smith).

Lee was a central cast member on the late-nineties series L.A. Doctors and the early zeroes crime drama Kingpin (as the wife of the titular drug lord, with her own coke habit). She was featured in recurring roles on an arc of One Tree Hill, as the absentee mother of one of the main characters (in what must be a nod to Twin Peaks, a record rotates in the playout groove when she dies), and Dirty Sexy Money, in which her character almost dies of cancer before miraculously recovering. This was a rare reprieve; perhaps because of her Laura/Maddy pedigree, Lee's recurring TV characters almost always passed away at the ends of their stories. Incidentally, Lee was nominated for "Best Death Scene" (yes, such an award exists) at the Soap Opera Digest Awards following the killer's reveal episode of Twin Peaks. Maddy's murder, which is probably among the most powerful scenes ever shot by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, lost to this.

You can read (and see) more about Lee's various roles in TV and film in the illustrated filmography I published earlier this year. (film pictured: The Secrets of Comfort House, 2005)

Episode 3 (German title: "Rest in Pain")

Episode 4 (German title: "The One-Armed Man")

Episode 5 (German title: "Cooper's Dreams")

Episode 6 (German title: "Realization Time")

Episode 7 (German title: "The Last Evening")

Episode 8 (German title: "May the Giant Be With You")

Episode 9 (German title: "Coma")

Episode 10 (German title: "The Man Behind Glass")

Episode 11 (German title: "Laura's Secret Diary")

Episode 12 (German title: "The Orchid's Curse")

Episode 13 (German title: "Demons")

*Episode 14 (German title: "Lonely Souls" - best episode)

Episode 15 (German title: "Drive with a Dead Girl")

Episode 16 (German title: "Arbitrary Law")

Episode 29 (German title: "Beyond Life and Death")

Mark Frost and Harley Peyton both write/co-write six Maddy episodes (four solo in Frost's case, two solo for Peyton), while Robert Engels is credited for five of her scripts (two solo). Barry Pullman and Jerry Stahl each include Maddy in their first (and in Stahl's case, only) scripts for the show, while Scott Frost pens the episode in which Leland drives her corpse around town. Tricia Brock is the only writer who never crafts Maddy. Lynch, uncredited, improvises her cameo in the finale (she isn't in the teleplay). If he doesn't play much of a role in her authorship, Lynch certainly steps up to the plate as director, helming four of Maddy's season two episodes. Lesli Linka Glatter is next in line, directing Maddy three times; she's in two episodes by Caleb Deschanel and Tim Hunter (in both cases, once alive and once dead; Hunter likely just borrows unused Deschanel footage from the previous episode). Graeme Clifford, Mark Frost, Todd Holland, and Tina Rathborne each direct her once; only the various late-season two one-timers never get their shot.

Maddy is onscreen for roughly fifty-one minutes. She is in thirty-six scenes in fifteen episodes, taking place - rather remarkably - over just twelve days. She's featured the most in episode 8, when she sees the bloody rug and breaks her glasses. Her primary location is the Palmer home. She shares the most screentime with Donna. She is never in the top five, but she's one of the top ten characters in episodes 6, 8, 9, 12, and 14. Aside from her doppelganger's quick cameo in the finale, all of Maddy's episodes are consecutive; from her arrival in Twin Peaks to the discovery of her body, she is always present.

Best Scene
Episode 13: Maddy appears in the two greatest sequences of Twin Peaks (or of television, some would argue), and stars in one of them, featuring Sheryl Lee's most challenging work of the series...but in terms of characterization, Maddy's best scene is her farewell to James, a scene of pastoral bliss and sensitive pathos that could be corny but rings sincere.

Best Line
“Donna, do you see these glasses that I'm wearing? I hate them. I am never wearing these again.”

Maddy Offscreen

Episode 10: Cooper lists Maddy as one of the people who's seen BOB (even though we never hear her notify the sheriff of this vision).

Episode 13: After Maddy drives away, Donna marvels at her bravery and feels guilty for bringing her along. "If anything had happened to her..."

Episode 14: James tells Donna that Maddy's going home tomorrow and Donna responds, "That's weird, she never said anything to me" - this is our first ominous signal (especially when a loud saxophone simultaneously blares on the soundtrack). Maddy's offscreen mentions increase once she's gone.

Episode 15: James and Donna drop by the Palmers and are told Maddy has already taken a bus back to Missoula (what about her car?).

Episode 16: Albert describes the similarities between Maddy's and Laura's killings and the lawmen visit Ben's office where they discover a stuffed white fox whose fur was planted on Maddy. Donna delivers the "Just You and I" tape to Leland, and while she's there he speaks to Maddy's mom on the phone, informing Donna that Maddy never got home. By the time the sheriff arrives, Donna is starting to suspect what happened. (In the original script, her suspicions are confirmed by her father and she runs away, distressed.) Donna meets James in the woods and tells him Maddy has been murdered. He's so upset that he rides away on his bike, insisting that there's no way to make everything better. Once captured by Cooper, Leland - or rather, it seems, BOB - confesses to Maddy's murder, although oddly he says, "I have a thing for knives," despite the fact that Maddy was beaten to death. When asked why Leland killed Maddy, Cooper offers the following possibilities: "She reminded him of Laura. Maddy was going home, maybe he couldn't bear to part with her. He wanted to relive the experience. Or maybe she realized BOB was the killer and he found out."

Episode 19: After the end of the Palmer investigation, Maddy is only mentioned a couple times. In this episode James tells Evelyn that "another girl died" after his first girlfriend.

Episode 23: Donna tells James that wherever he goes next, he'll make new memories that have nothing to do with Laura or Maddy or Evelyn - he can escape the women who have haunted him so far and prevented a full commitment to Donna. That's it for Maddy mentions (although this episode did have some deleted dialogue where Jerry suggests a guided tour of Twin Peaks' "Land of Crime," including "Maddy Ferguson's final resting place").

Books and Deleted Scenes

• In Jennifer Lynch's The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, Maddy makes an early appearance, visiting her younger cousin shortly after her twelfth birthday. Maddy is sixteen and relates her experiences with boys (and, to Laura's concern, her period). She shares cigarettes with her cousin and Donna when they sleep out in a tree-fort they've built, and Maddy talks about writing poems in her diary, encouraging Laura's own work. She also reveals that she's had dreams about Laura in the woods. A few days later Laura tries on Maddy's clothes and the two cousins walk to Easter Park and hang out at the gazebo. Maddy tells her younger cousin "there are a lot of things in life ... that don't seem right at first, and then you settle into them." From this point, Laura and Maddy occasionally speak over the phone and exchange gifts (Maddy sends Laura a sexy dress in the mid-eighties). Their last conversation occurs shortly after Laura has an abortion; she wishes she could call Maddy but decides not to. Maddy calls anyway, and Laura marvels, "I stood there in awe. Maddy had heard my calling to her."

• Maddy is very briefly mentioned by Dr. Jacoby in Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks as "an innocent" who came to help the Palmers (contrasted with Laura who "danced with the devil and paid a terrible price"). "The facts say" that Leland killed her.

• Maddy was supposed to be set up in episode 2, when (according to deleted dialogue from the script) Leland speaks to her on the phone and tells Sarah that she'll be driving over in the morning for the service. "Donald's girl?" asks Sarah (suggesting that Maddy is Laura's paternal, rather than maternal, cousin - an assertion contradicted elsewhere). The script for episode 3 makes Maddy's resemblance to Laura more central to the funeral scene, as Nadine and Audrey stare at her. There's a nice bit of description in episode 4 which was never executed - Maddy is about to offer Sarah some coffee, which Doc Hayward gently discourages. Later on, Maddy tells James that Laura was a month older than her. Other Twin Peaks material (and, implicitly, later episodes of the series) depict Maddy as several years older than Laura, a young woman out in the working world with her own life...but then, so does this same teleplay! Two lines later, Maddy is informing James, "I'm a receptionist at an insurance company" rather than a high school student. She also teases James when he finally breaks his solemn expression, saying, "So you can smile!" In the script for episode 6, Donna plays the actual recordings of Laura's tapes to Jacoby over the phone, rather than having Maddy repeat the lines.

• In season two, the script's presentation of Maddy diverges more sharply from the finished episodes - especially in the Lynch-directed ones. She does not see the blood on the carpet in episode 8, and describes her dream to Sarah thusly: "I'm not sure. Maybe. I was in a desert. It was hot and dry. There was some kind of animal with me, I couldn't see it but I could feel it breathing on me. A big cat. I think it was gray. I could see its eyes, yellow and red. Then we were in the woods. It was very dark. I woke up and the window was open. There was a cold wind blowing through the room." At the diner, she tells Donna that Leland said Laura's killer had been caught, and in the evening she and Donna watch Leland and Sarah dance around their house and then depart for the Haywards'. After they leave, Maddy has a vision of BOB sitting in an alcove, staring back at her in silence.

• Maddy's most notable deleted scene occurs in the episode 9 script, written by Harley Peyton. Since we don't see Leland and Maddy in the background of the other action in the diner, I suspect it was never shot. The scene is split in two sections, and the second is worth reprinting in full:
Norma sets down the malteds.

Thank you, Norma. Now, Maddy, a little piece of heaven.

They try their malteds.


What did I tell you? Just another routine miracle of everyday life here in Twin Peaks.

Uncle Leland, you're doing all the right things.

What do you mean, dear?

When Dad died two years ago, I thought I'd never get over it. Mom never has. It was focusing on the little things that got me through it. The "everyday miracles."

Life is a miracle. Maddy, I want to say something to you, you don't have to answer, in fact you shouldn't. You should think about it first. Promise first.


You've said you don't really have that much to go back to in Missoula. You've also said how much you like it here.

It's true.

What I want to say is: you don't have to go back. You can stay with Sarah and me if you like, get your own place, of course, but stay in town. We're family, too. We can make a family here.

I don't know what to say.

You shouldn't say anything until you eat that malted.

She smiles. They dig in.
I like the way this scene paints a picture of Maddy's life outside of her relationship to Laura, and find the moment between her and Leland poignant. This also really provides a psychological motive for Leland's murder which is only very subtly hinted in the series: his sense of abandonment. Why was it cut? There could be numerous practical reasons, but I suspect - among other factors - that Lynch didn't like the idea of giving Maddy too much of independent identity. From the moment in episode 8 when he has her break her glasses, the director seems more interested in Maddy as a conduit to Laura than a separate character.

• There's no "Just You and I" in that script - James is playing his guitar when Maddy enters the Hayward living room with a soda and begins dancing: "It's a sweet sudden moment. Maddy dances across the carpet, hips rolling side to side, her body keeping time. James stares at Maddy. The sexy steps. The easy smile. It could almost be Laura dancing there." On page, this is what causes Donna to leave the room. While she's gone, Maddy envisions BOB sitting at the table, turning to look to her rather than climbing over the couch. In the episode 10 script, James compliments Maddy on a dress she's wearing, one of Laura's which she hardly remembers putting on. The script also notes that her hair "seems softer with more of a sheen" - Lynch apparently jumped the gun by changing her look right away in the premiere.

• The episode 14 script available online has a radically different version of Maddy's murder. That's because the teleplay handed out to cast and crew was a decoy: in it, Maddy places her bags on the living room floor for the next morning and stoops over Sarah's body, wondering what's happening. The killer approaches behind her and we cut away. Oh, and the killer is Ben Horne. In fact, Maddy's extended murder sequence was filmed with Richard Beymer, playing Ben; Lynch and Frost were so protective of the material that they shot the scene three times (with Beymer, Ray Wise as Leland, and Frank Silva as BOB) to keep the crew in the dark. The footage has never been released, but not for want of trying; according to people involved with the production of the blu-ray, it has simply vanished.

SHOWTIME: Yes, Lee is on the cast list for 2017...but who is she playing? In retrospect, Maddy may look like a compromise character: someone Lynch and Frost cooked up so they could bring back an actress whose character had died. Certainly bringing Laura herself back wouldn't have been possible at the time (beyond the fleeting gestures in the first few episodes). However, I doubt they feel those same constraints today. Particularly for Lynch, it seems, Maddy was always about two things: having Sheryl Lee around on set, and providing us a constant visual reminder of Laura Palmer. Supposedly he told Lee not to worry when Maddy was killed, because they would eventually bring her back as a redhead. Perhaps she's a redhead in the new series and her name is...Judy? (In addition to the Fire Walk With Me reference, recall that in Vertigo Kim Novak's two characters are Madeleine and Judy.) I suspect we won't see much more of Maddy, though I'll be delighted if we do - especially since I feel her character got short shrift on the series and never quite developed as compellingly as she could have, despite the good use they put her to from time to time.

Next (active on Friday, August 18 at 8am): Musicians of the Road House
Previous (active on Monday, August 14 at 8am): Jerry Horne

To read advance entries every month...

(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