Everyone has a mum. They may not be the greatest role model; they may not even be around, or they might not be the person who gave birth to you. With its surrealist soap opera style, Twin Peaks showcased a huge variety of mother and child relationships, sometimes in scenes only seconds long, but with enough impact to have you talking about them for years—literally in our case. Here’s my twelve ‘Mothers’ that broke the mould in Twin Peaks.
It would be rude not to start with Sarah Palmer, played by the magnificent Grace Zabriskie. Playing the mother of perhaps the most famous dead girl on TV is no mean feat. Sarah is perhaps the most tragic figure in all of Twin Peaks. We watched her heart get torn in two as she realised that her baby, her only child, was gone. Even to this day, I can’t listen to her wails as she learns of Laura’s death without whimpering. It was traumatic when I was ten years old; it’s even worse as a mother myself. I feel her pain completely.
It only got worse for Sarah. She learns that it was her husband that killed their daughter and that he had been sexually abusing Laura for years. Leland had drugged her, and whether intentionally or not, she turned a blind eye to the abuse happening under her roof. She lives out her days in a cloud of smoke and foggy haze of alcohol. Her grief and guilt were so overwhelming it turned her into a monster.
We have no idea what Audrey was like as a mother as we never got to see her with her son Richard. What we do know is that Richard was a baby borne as the result of rape—while Audrey lay unconscious in her hospital bed, the dark side of Agent Dale Cooper had his wicked way. It’s deeply disturbing, and Richard was definitely a product of his conception. Emotional problems always ran through the Horne family, but Richard was in another league. He killed a kid in a hit and run, almost beat to death a female witness, robbed and abused his grandmother, threatened girls with rape (despite possibly knowing his own mother was raped) and dealt drugs to school kids. He was so awful even the evil Cooper was happy to get rid of his own son, and he did everyone a favour. Perhaps even Audrey—did she ‘wake up’ the moment Richard ceased to exist? In reverse to Sarah, whose life was turned upside down by her daughter’s death, was Audrey released from hell when her son died? I want to think that she is free now, to be the sassy Audrey Horne we once knew.
Shelly Briggs didn’t have an easy childhood. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her own mother was barely there for her. Not a great surprise then that she would fall into the arms of an older man, someone she thought could take care of her. She dropped out of school and married a trucker, drug dealer and wife beater, Leo Johnson, when she was aged just 17. After Leo’s body was found, she settled down with another bad boy, Bobby Briggs. They married, and she gave birth to her daughter Becky seven months later. Shelly was a doting mother, though a little out of her depth and despairing at the fact that history was repeating itself, as Becky walked the same path as her mother, by marrying a drug addict, wife-beater who was cheating on her. We don’t know exactly what happened to Becky—her husband Steven believed he’d killed her, and gunshots were heard from their trailer. Is Shelly destined to live the rest of her life in turmoil like Sarah Palmer, grieving over the loss of her only child? Let’s hope not. Shelly learned to be a good mom from the best— the mother figure in her life, Norma.
Donna and her parents had a good relationship. Donna was able to tell her mother most of her thoughts and feelings, confide in her about her love for James, and how she felt about her best friend Laura’s death. Their relationship felt like one of the purest in all of Twin Peaks. But Eileen Hayward was full of secrets. In the show, it was revealed that Ben Horne was Donna’s biological father. Will Hayward was aware and kept this from his daughter too. With Donna feeling that her whole life was a lie, her relationship with her mother ultimately broke down (if you take Mark Frost’s The Final Dossier as canon, that is). It is a sad state of affairs, as clearly Eileen just made a mistake in her younger years that later cost her her family. She wasn’t a bad woman; she was just human and a nurturing and understanding mother. One moment (or several) of indiscretion came and bit this family in the ass.
Doris Truman was yet another mother dealing with the grief of losing a child. She and Frank’s son had been a soldier, and upon returning from duty, took his own life, a sad reality for many dealing with PTSD. Of course, we have no idea what Doris was like before her son’s death, but I would hazard a guess that she wasn’t as highly strung and seemingly close to a breakdown as she is now. Frank’s patience with her suggests his understanding of the way she behaves towards him. Twin Peaks certainly demonstrates the many different ways losing a child can affect you.
Lucy Brennan’s relationship with her son Wally Brando I have to admit, is one of the weirdest I have ever seen portrayed on screen. Not bad weird, just kooky. She was incredibly proud of her son in the way that some mothers are so blinded by their love that they can’t see the monster they’ve made. Not that Wally was a monster by any stretch of the imagination, he clearly appreciated his parents, but he didn’t share quite the same overawed love for them as they had for him. It seems that from the moment of his birth on April 3rd—the same day as Marlon Brando, clearly something his parents thought was so cool they even named him after the actor—Wally was shaped into and treated as if he was a movie star. He speaks in script and dresses like The Wild One, with no real sense of himself. Lucy brought up her dream child, and she’s his Number 1 fan.
Janey-E wasn’t just a brilliant (and somewhat terrifying) mom to Sonny-Jim; she also spent years looking after and cleaning up the messes made by her husband, Dougie Jones. He was a gambler and a cheat, but she cared about him enough to stick around and try to make the family work. Did this make her a walkover? Absolutely not. Janey-E was no mug; she just wasn’t the type to give up on things easily. Things got worse for a while when her husband was swapped with the ‘slowly emerging from his own subconscious’ Dale Cooper. Still, her patience, strength and no-nonsense attitude were rewarded in the end when a loving and devoted version of Coop (I actually think it was the OG Coop) returned home. Janey-E represents mothers all over the world. The hard-done-by, the tired, the mothers with so many things on their mind, problems to sort out, and things they have to do to make the people they care for lives run smoothly, that they rarely consider their own needs. Janey-E is Superwoman.
Hit and Run Mom
It’s a shame we don’t have a name for this lady, but I think that is precisely the point Mark Frost and David Lynch were making with this seriously devastating scene. Lisa Coronado played the part of a mom, joyously playing with her son in the park. Then Richard Horne struck, and in an instant, her life was ruined as her son’s life was taken. Two people we had never met, knew nothing about, yet this moment is forever etched in our psyche’s as one of the most shocking TV deaths. It was just so unfair, so painful, so realistic. You don’t have to be a parent to be upset by this, of course, but as the mother of a young son, the fear of something like this happening struck me hard. I bawled my eyes out for a full 30 mins. This could happen to anyone; that is what strikes the fear of God into us all.
Drugged Out Mother
We never got to learn this mom’s name either, only known as ‘drugged out mother’; she was almost the antithesis to ‘Hit and Run mom’. We all know how Lynch likes his doppelgangers and reflections. This mom was in a drug-induced haze for most of the time that we saw her. Her son cared for himself, survived on corn chips (the food of the Black Lodge?) and almost got himself blown up, but she was too out of it to notice. I can’t help but think her inclusion—as well as being surreal, with her calling for help in reverse and seemingly taking pills on command—was a social commentary on how we perceive bad things to happen to good people and vice versa. Yet we know nothing about her past, nothing of why she was in that state and seemingly trying to kill herself. She was just labelled a druggie and therefore was not deserving of our pity. Right?
MOTHER OF BOB/Abominations/Babalon/Judy?
Who really knows who or what this female form was, but in Part 8 of The Return, we saw her spewing out a semen-like substance containing the bad seed of BOB. It further fueled my belief that BOB was just one of a million other BOBs. I have always stuck by the ‘evil that men do’ metaphor and that every single one of us has the potential to let our demons take over. So what would that make the demon’s mother?
Well, again, every single one of us has the potential to create a ‘bad’ child. It’s the age-old argument of nature vs nurture. What if your child commits a heinous crime? Everyone looks at the mother for answers—was it their upbringing? Were they born that way because of some inherited defect? Either way, the mother carries the weight of responsibility: Mother’s guilt. This mother has no face, and sometimes her arms bend back. She’s just a monster— no one needs or wants to know any more about her, other than that she is to blame.
Senorita Dido is a glistening goddess, perfect of face, quietly proud of her child. How amazing a mother she must be to have created an angel. She is feminine, matronly, patient, comforting and kind. She is what every mother tries their hardest to be, but the bar is set very high. To look at your child is to look at a reflection of yourself. On the flipside to BOB’s creation, can you be born with a 100% good soul? Unlike the demon in you, which is so disgusting it is vomited into existence, the angel in you is made with pure maternal love. It is created with a nurturing kiss, adored and delighted over. This is the prom queen photo version of you; the one who organises the Meals on Wheels, the one who gives English lessons, the one who befriends the boy with learning difficulties and understands him completely. Laura is The One, and there is Laura, the angel, in all of us.
And last on my list is Norma—arguably the greatest mother in the town of Twin Peaks. While Norma did not have any children of her own (either by choice or circumstance), she certainly played the part to perfection. Forever by Shelly’s side as a best friend, a boss, an advisor, and role model—everything that a mother should be. But it wasn’t just Shelly she cared for. She took in her younger sister Annie when their mother failed to be there for her. She looked after the townsfolk, old and new. Strangers were always given a warm welcome and a damn fine cup of coffee. She is strength, selflessness, and patience personified, an inspiration to us all.
Norma is the heart of Twin Peaks; visiting her place at the RR Diner is like returning home. This is where the nostalgia is kept, where you will have your belly filled with delicious cherry pie, where you’ll hang out with friends, and you’ll always feel safe and warm in her arms. Norma is Mother to all Twin Peaks fans and the reason why we keep going home.
R.I.P. Norma, we’ve been loving you too long to stop now.