HBO’s Big Little Lies – shown in the UK on Sky Atlantic – won big at the Emmys on Sunday night. It won Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie (Nicole Kidman), Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie (Alexander Skarsgard), Outstanding Directing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special (Jean-Marc Vallée), and Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or TV Movie (Laura Dern). That’s quite an impressive haul, and there’s no doubt the buzz around it and subsequent reviews of the show were very good. However, it was one of those shows that slipped through our net a bit – it premiered back at the start of the year, one of the busiest times in crime drama land. With that in mind, we thought now would be a good time to doff our cap and pay tribute to one of the starriest and unlikeliest crime drama hits of the year.
And so this head-scratching, sometimes infuriating, sometimes brilliant drama continued this week with another perplexing episode. There was so much good stuff in there, as usual, but there were more inconsistencies and scenes and character arcs where you just sat there and said to yourself, “Say what, now?”
NB: Spoilers ahoy!
There’s no doubt about it, Top Of The Lake: China Girl is an extraordinary examination of femininity and motherhood (more on that later), as well as a graphic and explicit indictment of the way men view and treat women, both in the workplace and in society as a whole. I’ve read some reviews of the first episode that stated that it was preposterously pretentious and yawnsome, but I just didn’t see that – I thought it was beautifully paced, often beautiful to look at, superbly and uniformly well performed, and featuring a story that was brimming with quirky, interesting characters and supreme darkness. Yes, Robin Griffin is the type of tortured female detective that we’ve seen a lot of in crime drama during the past five years, but I don’t mind watching another one go on her journey – as long as her reasons for being traumatised are believable and not just tacked on for effect, I’m fine with it because these are stories that still need to be told.
NB. Spoilers inside
We’ve had some heavyweight crime offerings this year – Broadchurch, Twin Peaks, Fargo et al – but perhaps the most eagerly awaited returning crime drama in this house is Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake, now subtitled China Girl for its second series. Series one was just utterly wonderful – a dream-like procedural the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Elisabeth Moss (who’s been doing some tremendous work recently) returns as Robin Griffin, the Australian detective, who has now returned to her home city, where the body of an Asian sex worker is waiting for her. Judging by this series opener, it’s great to have it back.