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, episodes 1 + 2


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.

Top of the Lake, episodes 5 + 6 + 7

“Johnno and Robin were one another’s first love and first real relationship and now they have been thrown back together.What really landed me the part in the end is I’m completely obsessed with that relationship, with the momentary eccentricities of it and the little games and the pain and the play in it, and these two people that sort of just peck away at each other until they get to the core.” - Thomas M. Wright

“Robin and Al have a really interesting relationship that is so kind of dark and strange. He’s a mentor figure for her, he’s her boss. She needs him very much in this case, she needs his support and she needs his help. At the same time, he starts to do things that make less and less sense. He has a completely different way of handling police work and a completely different way of handling this case and she starts to disagree with him more and more. On a personal level there’s this strange kind of attraction between them which is kind of wrong and weird.” - Elisabeth Moss

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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.