MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS
We live, regrettably, in a nostalgic age. The standard life cycle of a new geek-targeted film or TV series is this: it is announced something from the past is being brought back. Everyone gets very excited. Then the people bringing the old franchise back get something wrong, and all those people who were celebrating get angry. The golden age is not coming back. Our childhoods have been raped. Why can’t people make something new, we ask, while deep down knowing that we are the answer: if every online complaint about remakes equated to one ticket sold to an original film, The Florida Project would have outgrossed Avatar.
Faced with a cultural landscape this regressive, creators can do one of two things. They can refuse to bring old properties back, which is noble but results in a lack of opportunities. Or they can bring the old properties back in a meaningful way, one that acknowledges that the time and the culture have changed. The League of Gentlemen’s recent Christmas specials – with boarded-up shops, council boundary changes and Tubbs and Edward stuck in a run-down flat – did this, and so does Twin Peaks: The Return.
It’s not until episode four, the aptly titled Brings Back Some Memories, that Twin Peaks: The Return features a scene that goes all-in for nostalgia points. Yes, the Red Room scenes were extremely faithful to the original, but as noted in a previous review that only served to remind us how unsettling they still are. The introduction of Jerry Horne in episode one parallels his first appearance in episode three of season one, but there’s a barb to that callback, a sense that it’s ridiculous for Jerry to have failed so completely to mature and better himself in twenty-five years.
When Deputy Briggs sees the photo of Laura Palmer and Laura’s Theme cranks up on the soundtrack, that’s a beautiful moment, and it’s a nostalgic moment. At the same time, Lynch and Frost seem aware that the idea of nostalgia should be rooted in loss: the loss of youth, the loss of a more innocent time, the loss of your town’s Homecoming Queen. And in some ways, Twin Peaks’ present is better than its past. There’s Bobby Briggs, in the Sheriff’s Office for something other than a misdemeanour charge, living out the future his late father imagined for him.
The FBI agents, too, seem to be doing well for themselves. Cooper can’t be the Lancelot his home address implies yet, but Lynch as Gordon Cole seems to be fulfilling another chivalrous archetype; the ageing Don Quixote saddling up for one last tilt at those windmills. There is Denise Bryson, too, sat behind a huge desk and utterly in charge of the situation. The original series of Twin Peaks managed to be remarkably ahead of its time on the trans rights issue seemingly by accident. If someone on the writing staff wanted to make a statement, it didn’t come across didactically. Bryson was treated with respect simply because it would be against the values of Twin Peaks to laugh at someone for being different, and her cameo here is a hugely welcome lap of honour.
Set against all this welcome familiarity, though, is the ongoing defamiliarisation of Twin Peaks’s ultimate icon, Dale Cooper. The robotic timbre Kyle MacLachlan finds for Mr. C in prison is utterly terrifying, as is the bizarre detail of a severed dog’s leg in the back of his car. The real Cooper, on the other hand, is delightful. MacLachlan’s performance as Cooper-mistaken-for-Dougie is so lovely it’s easy to forget that Dougie Jones himself seems like a bit of a bad egg. He’s in debt to some shady characters, he spent his son’s birthday in a Vegas hotel room with a hooker, and his wife seems far too comfortable doing everything for him. But Cooper, the ultimate boy scout, has redeemed this man, even down to giving him a trimmer figure and a neat haircut. He’s easy to watch, which is a good thing. We’ll be seeing a lot more of him.