There’s a Maori legend about this lake that says there’s a demon’s heart at the bottom of it. It beats, it makes the lake rise and fall every five minutes. (…) There was a warrior that rescued a maiden from a giant demon called tipua. And he set fire to the demon’s body while it slept and burnt everything but his heart. And the fat melting from the body formed a trough. And the snow from the mountains ran down to fill it, to form this lake.
Top Of The Lake was a haunting mini-series. It was perfectly acted and beautifully filmed but that I have trouble recommending because of the grim subject matter. At its most basic it is a mystery, who raped the young Tui and who is the father of her unborn child? But there is something much more sinister than even the rape of a young girl rather there is a darkness in the community and once Robin (played brilliantly by Elisabeth Moss) uncovers the truth well it leaves you really unsettled.
This isn’t just about the one terrible act that happened to Tui, it is about the nightmare Robin faced as a teenager, it is about the patriarchal society both Tui and Robin live in. The ending left me feeling sick because the more I thought about what has happened the more I realised just how much the town and its people had covered things up or looked the other way. More chilling than any horror series I watched this year.
There was an entire subplot involving Holly Hunter’s all female hippy commune which didn’t go far story wise but it did add in another element of what it means to be a woman in a man’s world and how for all her mysterious words of wisdom GJ the only way things can change is for someone to challenge what is happening all around them.
All you hear are your own crazy thoughts, like a river of shit, on and on. See your thoughts for what they are. Stop your helping. Stop your planning. Give up! There’s no way out. Not for others, not for you. We are living out here at the end of the road, The end of the earth in a place called paradise. How’s it going? Perfect? No. You are madder than ever.
Sundance Channel’s Top of the Lake is a Detective Story Worth Watching
Crime mystery mini-series, Top of the Lake on the Sundance Channel easily draws comparisons to AMC’s now revived series, The Killing with its moody landscapes and a strong female lead with a troubled past. The similarities stop there. The Killing drew out the Rosie Larson mystery far too long giving character arcs to characters the audience cared little about while Top of the Lake's 7 episode-series tells a tighter story in its limited run.
Top of the Lake was written by Gerard Lee and Academy Award winner Jane Campion, the director of the acclaimed film The Piano. The series is set in the small Queenstown, New Zealand town called Lake Top which is described as a “millionaires playground.”
The story starts out with 12-year-old Tui Mitcham (Jacqueline Joe) walking into a freezing cold lake. Tui is pregnant and Detective Robin Griffen with specialist training dealing with children is asked to assist with the case.
Robin is a detective from Sydney who was originally from Lake Top. She moved away from the town 15 years ago because of a brutal incident in her past. Robin’s mother Jude (Robyn Nevin) is battling cancer and Robin has come back to take care of her. Robin initially gets involved investigating how Tui became pregnant and trying to find out if one or more adults were responsible.
Tui is the daughter of local crime lord, Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullen Trainspotting) who is cray cray and acts out with fits of violance and rage. Matt has a compound in Lake Top that he and his sons Mark (Jay Ryan CW Beauty and the Beast) and Luke (Kip Chapman) run their drug business out of.
Tui is frightened after her pregnancy is revealed to her father by the local authorities. She runs away to Matt’s land called Paradise which is now occupied by serveral women trying to heal from their troubled past. The leader of the group is GJ played by Holly Hunter who reunites with her Piano director for the series. GJ provides harsh insight to the women of Paradise and anyone who joins their group.
Robin’s return to Lake Top forces her to confront her past assault at the hands of four men who were never punished for their crimes. Robin was at a dance with her date Johnno Mitcham (Thomas M. Wright), Matt Mitcham’s older son. Johnno left her alone at the dance to get high with his friends. Hurt from being left alone, Robin decides to walk home with Johnno trailing behind her. A truck pulls up with four drunk men and picks up Robin while Johnno is locked in the back. The men take Robin to a deserted field where she is raped while Johnno looks on helplessly.
Robin is reunited with the adult Johnno and they both open up about the events that drastically altered their lives 15 years ago. Johnno spent eight years in a Thai prison after he became hooked on heroine and was caught crossing the border with drugs. Robin gave birth to a daughter as a result of the rape and she gave her up for adoption. Johnno and Robin rekindle their romance as they try to overcome the demons from their past. Johnno and Robin’s bond grows deeper as they both try to figure out what happened to Johnno’s half-sister Tui.
The two-hour series finale for Top of the Lake airs Monday, April 15 on the Sundance Channel.