I’ve read quite a few reviews saying that this second series of Jane Campion’s Top Of The Lake is an unholy mess – characters are unlikeable, scenes are cringe-worthy and the male characters are all heinous brutes. But I really enjoyed the first two episode, which showcased an intriguing and very dark murder plot and some interesting character progression. In episode three however, things went off the rails in a big way.
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.