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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Top of the Lake: China Girl: Top of the Genre

My wife and I saw all six episodes of Top of the Lake: China Girl on Sundance last night.  It was that good.  The first season a few years back took a little longer, and not just because it had seven episodes.  It was compelling and memorable, but meandered down side stories a little too often.  In contrast, China Girl was even more compelling, and tight as a drum in its complex, multi-tiered plot.

Elisabeth Moss is back as Robin Griffin, a detective with a palette of smarts, passions, and vulnerabilities like none you've ever seen on television (I guess Gillian Anderson as Stella Gibson in The Fall would be about the closest, but even she is figuratively as well as literally continents apart from Robin).   Robin's back in Sydney from her visit in season 1 to New Zealand, this time to investigate the death of a prostitute who turns out to have been part of a surrogate mother ring.  Robin's personal life is woven in perfectly - which is to say sometimes harrowingly, sometimes lovingly - into the plot, including her 17-year old daughter last seen by Robin shortly after she was born.  Moss's performance is incandescent.

Her police partner is a nice surprise - Miranda Hilmarson played by Gwendoline Christie from Game of Thrones, with Christie showing a much greater gamut of acting talent than she did on Thrones.  Robin and Miranda are a complicated, ultimately powerful team, alternately screaming at and consoling each other, and one of the best scenes in this series is the two of them sitting on a dock, coming to terms.

There are paucity of really worthwhile men in this story - I'd say maybe one and a half - with the majority being liars, psychos, sleazes, and killers.  But that's the story, the scoundrels are very well acted, and some of the women are close to despicable and well acted, too, including Nicole Kidman (with grey hair) as the adoptive mother of Robin's daughter.

The plot contains all kinds of twists, some sudden, some long and dangling, and I'd rate these six hours as among the best ever on television.  Kudos to Jane Campion who wrote and created this.

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