There’s a small chance, back in 2013, that you may have missed Top of the Lake. I remember the series had a big US premiere and then considerable hype died down. I can’t think why as I hadn’t been that captivated by a murder mystery since Twin Peaks – it was fresh and exciting. And borrow from the former it does (as did every show after it), the basic framework of David Lynch’s cult classic is all there – outsider detective arrives in a small town with big secrets, and a dead body lapped ashore – but it’s unmistakably made via a female gaze. Yes, there was a dead girl, but this time we didn’t just get her tortured spirit trapped in a realm, we got a woman – Robin Griffin, played by Elizabeth Moss – fighting for her. But there were dark secrets at every turn. And now, in series two (there are spoilers below if you’ve not seen season one, FYI), we’re picking up where we left off. Top of the Lake: China Girl airs tonight at 9PM on BBC2 – the second part of a six-part series – and here’s why you should tune in:
Robin is looking to come to terms with her past by trying to find the daughter she gave up for adoption 17 years previously. At the same time, she finds herself caught up in a new case when the body of a young woman washes up on Bondi beach hidden in a suitcase. She then finds herself returning from New Zealand to Sydney to work with a new partner on the investigation which sees them plunge into the dark side of Sydney’s sex industry.
Helmed by one of the most incredible female directors working today, Jane Campion, all eyes are on this noir-tinged series, the theme of which is, she says,“whatever you try to sink rises again.” From Elizabeth Moss (fresh out of an acclaimed turn in The Handmaid’s Tale) to Game of Thrones‘ Gwendoline Christie who plays Miranda Hilmarson, an eager, upbeat police officer who is the perfect Yin to Robin’s tortured Yang, to Nicole Kidman waving the rides of her career renaissance – all three together are a powerhouse of acting.
Moss’s character is also one of the first post-Sarah Lund (of The Killing) female detectives to be paired with a female sidekick. “I wanted to write a really strong female friendship that starts out negatively [but the characters] have to really work their way to discover each other’s qualities,” Campion added. It’s undoubtedly a feminist work and given that she remains the only female director ever awarded the Palme d’Or at Cannes, for her incredible 1993 film The Piano, we’re hoping this is will be the start of a streak for Campion, whose work we desperately need more of.
The series will be your new small-screen obsession.
Top of the Lake: China Girl airs tonight at 9PM on BBC2