Twin Peaks season 3 decoder: The Wizard of Oz

David Lynch’s obsession with the classic MGM musical has come to the fore again.


Martyn Conterio


This article contains spoilers for Twin Peaks season 3 part 14. For maximum enjoyment, we recommend reading after you’ve watched the show.

Part 14 of Twin Peaks: The Return was an episode of revelations (Janey-E Jones is Diane’s half-sister), gnarly twists (Andy was sucked up into the vortex and met the Giant/Fireman in an alternate dimension) and a truly jaw-dropping ‘WTF?!’ scene involving clairvoyant alchie Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) and a misogynist pig truck driver. You do not get up Sarah Palmer’s grill if she did not invite you to her barbecue, dude. Bad move.

David Lynch loves The Wizard of Oz. In 1990’s Wild at Heart, he made what can be described as the loosest – and most deranged – remake of the classic MGM musical; or at least used its febrile Technicolor palette, crystal balls, hero narrative, the Wicked Witch/Miss Gulch and Glinda the Good Witch as major sources of inspiration. The latter character turned up in Wild at Heart to dispense wisdom to downtrodden Sailor Ripley (Nicolas Cage) and was played by none other than Sheryl Lee (Laura Palmer/Maddy Ferguson).

There have been numerous references to Wizard of Oz throughout the history of Twin Peaks. Audrey Horne (Sherilynn Fenn) and her red shoes, Major ‘Garland’ Briggs (Don S Davis), Fire Walk with Me’s mystery girl (never seen but obsessed over since 1992) named ‘Judy’ (who sent Special Agent Phillip Jeffries over the rainbow to the Black Lodge. He refuses to talk about Judy, but we do learn she lives in Seattle). In season two episode 17, Cooper, having solved the Laura Palmer mystery, intends to say goodbye to the Pacific Northwest mountain town.

Dropping by the sheriff’s department, Hawk (Michael Horse), Andy and Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) are lined up to echo the scene in Wizard, where Frank Morgan’s Great and Powerful Oz bestows gifts of brains, heart and courage to the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion. Ben Horne’s mental collapse (one of season two’s most hated subplots) featured an experimental therapy administered by Dr Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), where Audrey, Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) and Ben (Richard Beymer) dress up in Confederacy and Yankee soldier costumes and re-enact the Battle of Appomattox.

The Wizard of Oz references continued outside the world of the show. A promotional advert recreated Dorothy waking up at home, having returned from her dreamlike trip abroad; Coop (Kyle MacLachlan) is in bed at the Great Northern with the Man from Another Place (Michael Anderson), Catherine Martell (Piper Laurie), Andy Brennan (Harry Goaz) and the Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) gathered around him; Coop advertising the show’s switch back to Thursday nights after it was shifted to a late night Saturday slot (the TV network kiss of death) and declaring “There’s no place like home” with cheesy elan.

Season three has its fair share of Oz references, including Part 14’s trip to meet the Giant/Fireman (Andy is shown a montage of events through a window, recalling the scene in Oz when Dorothy witnesses Miss Gulch turn into the Wicked Witch) and Part 13’s arm-wrestling contest at the Farm. When Bad Coop defeated meathead Renzo (Derek Mears), the crew automatically switched their allegiance (as per house rules). As author Jez Connolly pointed out, the Wicked Witch’s guards do the same thing after Dorothy (accidentally) reigned victorious over the Wicked Witch in the castle. But it’s another reference in Part 14 which might yet contain Lynch’s most subtle and sublime nod yet to the Emerald City.

After Bobby Briggs (Dana Ashbrook) reveals Jack Rabbits Palace to his colleagues (as per Major Briggs’ instructions), high up on Blue Pine Mountain, it transpires that the ‘palace’ is really an old tree stump covered in moss. Childhood imagination and storytelling have turned it into the magical ‘palace’. As the camera pushes in, it captures sunlight filtering through the canopy. The well-timed lens flare causes the moss to glow momentarily, like the Emerald City.

It’s a spellbinding moment and beautiful use of a lighting effect which has plagued modern cinematography to the point of visual cliche. (It’s worth pointing out that cinematographer Peter Deming also shot 2013’s Oz the Great and Powerful for Sam Raimi). Of course, that’s what makes Lynch such a master filmmaker.

Published 15 Aug 2017

Tags: David Lynch Twin Peaks

Suggested For You

Twin Peaks season 3 decoder: The Owl Cave ring

By Martyn Conterio

The supernatural motif which first appeared in Fire Walk with Me has cropped up again – but how many rings are there?

How I was seduced by the ‘Dark Side of the Rainbow’ phenomenon

By Thomas Hobbs

I was skeptical about pairing The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd, until I decided to put the fan theory to the test...

Twin Peaks season 3 decoder: The Black Dahlia

By Martyn Conterio

An infamous 70-year-old true crime case continues to bleed into David Lynch’s work.

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.