Thoughts on Top of the Lake

Monday! New blog post time! Instead of fiction (there’s a new WordPlay season! *excited*) it’s another one of my reviews/musings on all things TV. This time it’s the 2013 TV mini series Top of the Lake. As usual, full of SPOILERS and not so full of actual recapping. Comments welcome!

Admittedly, I only got interested in the series because of Elisabeth Moss (my Mad Men addiction, you know…) And the BBC and the Sundance Channel were involved, so that more or less screamed quality.

And boy, I wasn’t disappointed.

Top of the Lake is the kind of series that’s kind of hard to describe. It’s a criminal investigation, a youth tragedy, an absurd comedy, a family drama… It’s the kind of mixture that keeps you interested (although with only six episodes – seven in an alternative cut – it’s really short).

Actually, you could say that it has a kind of Twin Peaks-y quality about it: it has an obscure small town at the end of the world (though probably not as small as you think), relies heavily on the aspect of nature (the woods and the lake), it has a missing girl, fucked up families, complicated interpersonal relationships, a kind of supernatural element (the Paradise community)…

And just like Twin Peaks, Top of the Lake has a pretty slow pacing – so slow that you don’t even realize six months pass between episode 1 and 6. Although the pacing does get kind of ridiculous in the final episode – you can figure out the final twist of the Detective Sergeant’s involvement rather quickly if you’re a 24 aficionado and know that you can only trust your main character – and probably not even him/her. Robin (E. Moss) however needed to look at the wall with the picture for way too long…

With the lack of the supernatural element, Top of the Lake is a very down-to-earth series and that also shows in the way people look like. The series has tons of (sometimes unnecessary) sex and nudity, but you never really get the feeling that you’re watching actors and actresses with super model sizes. These are normal people with too much fat here, tiny boobs there and a whole bunch of issues they never talk about.

That also translates very well to the end of the series: just about everything is fucked up. Hearts are broken, many people are dead, almost every child in town needs a psychiatrist, and wannabe guru GJ decides to leave the whole mess behind, including the newborn child. Which is very understandable. Somehow this reminds me of the finale of Torchwood: Children of Earth where similarly Jack leaves because (?) everything is a mess and leaves Gwen and her child behind. Huh, is that a BBC specialty?

Actually, this is the kind of finale I would like to see with Mad Men: SC&P burns down, Roger dies from a heart attack, Pete loses everything (again), Joan loses her child, Peggy finds out she has cancer – and Don decides he’s had enough of all this mess and just leaves for God knows where. Or something like that (as I said elsewhere, I also favor the suicide option for Don).

Which brings us to Elisabeth Moss: amazing actress. We’ve already seen her versatility in Mad Men, going from naive and sweet Peggy to grown up and confident Peggy. But Robin in Top of the Lake is yet another class of character. Broken inside, but pretending to be strong, trying to hide her feelings but being unable to.

In sum: A+ for this mini series. The only thing I’d reccomend is watching it with English subtitles. The New Zealand English is surprisingly hard to understand – so hard that it in fact took me three episodes to understand that the series was set in New Zealand *cough*

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