Top of the Lake

Top of the LakeBy Cara

I had heard about this miniseries through the AV Club’s TV website.  Mistakenly, I came in at episode 4, which was both dumb and annoying.  I quickly rectified that and am now caught up on all aired episodes.  Elisabeth Moss (of Mad Men fame but since I don’t watch Mad Men, I’m going to say she’s of West Wing fame) is an Australian police detective named Robin who is home in New Zealand while her mom undergoes cancer treatment.  While she’s there, she is called in by the local police to investigate the possible pregnancy of a 12-year-old girl, Tui Mitcham.  Tui won’t tell Robin who the father could be, and within a few days, Tui disappears from the area, leaving behind the horse she was riding on.

Tui’s home life points us in a few directions.  Okay, maybe Tui’s dad, Matt, is the father of the baby.  Or maybe it’s one of her older half-brothers.  Or maybe it’s one of the guys who hangs out in the bar all day.  Or it’s Jamie, the teenager who collects bones and doesn’t talk.  There are a good number of suspects to blame for her disappearance, one of them ends up dead by episode 3.  The rest of the suspects are all men, and they’re all questionable; you probably wouldn’t trust any of them.  Further, most of them seem capable of making a 12-year-old girl disappear, no problem.

Robin is a main focus.  We learn that she was actually raped at 16 by 4 local boys.  Instead of being arrested, other locals beat them up as a way to teach them a lesson.  While Robin is investigating Tui’s pregnancy and disappearance, she starts projecting a lot of her own feelings and memories, slowly spinning out of control and becoming violent when she sees one of her rapists at the bar.  The head Detective Al Parker puts Robin on leave after learning about what she’s done.  At the same time, she’s hooking up with an old boyfriend (one of Tui’s half-brothers) again even after learning he was present the night she was raped and didn’t do anything to save her.

I won’t give away much more, but I’m hooked, and can’t wait for the rest of the story to unravel.  It is great going into this knowing that it is just a miniseries; the assertion that the story will end without getting too convoluted is a rarity these days. Some parts have been slow, especially during the scenes in the ‘Paradise’ community, land owned by Tui’s father that is currently being inhabited by 9 women who are living in shipping containers and looking for love.  Holly Hunter is their leader.  I don’t really understand the connection yet so it drives me nuts that there is such a focus.

Moss is great as Robin, and even pulls off the accent well (because I know so much about accents).  And her facial expressions give almost nothing away, so there really is the perception that Robin doesn’t really trust anyone.  I think that Moss is handling that ‘right on the brink of going crazy’ that Robin needs to keep the audience engaged.  It reminds me of Claire Danes’ portrayal of Carrie Mathison.  Yes, another Homeland reference (I bet you all can’t wait until Homeland comes back for real).

Top of the Lake’s 2-hour finale will air on Sundance Channel, Monday at 9pm.