Movies & TV / Columns

Top 10 Twin Peaks Performances

May 12, 2021 | Posted by Michael Thomas

I did the thing. I watched all of Twin Peaks. It was good. I have a handful of thoughts I am gonna share.

Self-explanatory article! The only part that needs clarification potentially is that this covers everything from the world including the film and the mini-series return. Also, like obviously someone could write this article and come up with ten different names, and it would be completely reasonable. A fourth and a fifth person probably could too. Don’t have a cow!

These are all boring and surface-level takes though!! Read Willow Maclay’s essay on Twin Peaks instead!!

10. Matthew Lillard

Matthew Lillard is a criminally underutilized actor. For The Return, he was one of the key players in establishing the tone of the show in the early goings. He also had an exceptionally challenging job in that he had to be doing some truly broad stuff as a performer in a show that established a very specific style for that kind of work. He somehow managed to make it both his own while still fitting in with what had been previously done. Kudos.

9. Catherine E. Coulson

One of the most painful parts of The Return was so many of the actors had passed on before the filming, after the filming, and in the year the show returned. This dynamic was best encapsulated by The Log Lady. Catherine E. Coulson passed on a mere few days after the completion of her scenes. Her character embodied the idea of knowing the end is near and doing all that you can to make your final moments count. Her character in the initial run helped established the tone in a completely different but equally effective way. The show’s ability to maximize characters like this on the margins was one of its many strengths.

8. Ray Wise

Ray Wise’s slow descent into madness as he was forced to confront the weight of what he had done to his daughter was one of the most terrifying aspects on the show. The only thing more disturbing perhaps is then when the audience was forced to confront what he did very literally in Fire Walk With Me. The way that Wise always managed to convey that there was a destroyed human under the madness without ever excusing the evil acts was the key.

7. Harry Goaz

The earnestness and sincerity of the show’s emotions was one of the keys to the show being so compelling. With all the outlandish and supernatural elements, something needed to ground the show. And they boldly decided to go with a total lack of cynicism as the key. Perhaps no character captured that as much as Andy who, despite all the pressure, did not run away from his emotions or feelings and his moments of stepping up always were the handful of comforting moments the show occasionally needed.

6. Don S. Davis

Perhaps no character spoke to me more from the world of Twin Peaks than Major Briggs. He was so clearly the model idea of a father both representing something an older time but who was also trying to grow and be something more. While this was seen in regards to him being open-minded about what was happening with supernatural shit, but it was far more meaningful conveyed in his relationship with his son. His talks with his son were some of the best moments on the show, and it’s sad Davis passed on before The Return so we could not see that explored more.

5. Michael Horse

One of the toughest and least celebrated acting performances is always the one that relies on silence to communicate what needs to be communicated. Hawk was steady as a rock throughout the original of the run obviously, but he had an even more important job during The Return as a character: he needed to be both steady for the characters around him and the audience at home. It is work that looks much easier than it actually is and few performers get the credit they deserve for acting with silence. Michael Horse was always more than up to the task though.

4. Robert Forster

Forster had a super tough job in The Return: he had to take the place in the world of a different character. He had to serve a similar function to Sheriff Harry S. Truman while also creating a unique character in its own right. Forster fit like a glove though obviously with his trademarked steadiness in the face of trouble. He brought fresh eyes both as a character to Twin Peaks that made everything seem new again and his style helped to ground everything crazy about the world. RIP, Forster. He was one of the greats.

3. Naomi Watts

Speaking of actors thrusted in this crazy corner of television/cinema, Naomi Watts brought to life one of the most compelling characters the world was responsible for yet. Nothing could have made her life than her idiot husband, Dougie Jones, become the ultimate Himbo. Her response to that situation was perfect in every way, and her character’s navigation of the new and spooky happenings going on around her was incredible. Naomi Watts should be getting great roles like this all the fucking time.

2. Sheryl Lee

I really don’t know what to say about Sheryl Lee’s performance throughout all of Twin Peaks that has not been said in a much more impressive way by better writers. I just want to call extra attention to two specific parts of her work. The torture and pain she conveyed in Fire Walk With Me led to some of the hardest-to-watch moments for me ever. And her scream to end The Return was one of the most terrifying moments I have ever witnessed on the screen. Such was the power of Twin Peaks, Sheryl Lee, and Laura Palmer.

1. Kyle MacLachlan

It is not brand new information for anyone who has been paying attention, but Kyle MacLachlan really was tremendous throughout the original run, the flick, and the mini-series return. The latter in which he really had to carry the action while essentially three different characters: Dougie the Himbo, Terminator Kyle, and Dale Cooper. He was excellent in all three roles (as you would expect) with the Dougie Jones story in particular probably being the best thing ever to exist on the screen.

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Twin Peaks, Michael Thomas