In 2013, a small, subtle miniseries starring Elisabeth Moss casually wrecked us. Now, four years later, creator/writers/director Jane Campion is taking it to the next level with a second season called Top of the Lake: China Girl.
If you’re not excited by this, you should be. And here’s why:
Before Elisabeth Moss became a streaming star as Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale, she was Detective Robin Griffin in Top of the Lake, who returns to her hometown in New Zealand to solve the case of missing 12-year-old girl, Tui.
To make matters worse, Tui’s pregnant, and she doesn’t know who the father is. Also, Tui happens to be the daughter of one of the scariest men in town, played by the impeccable Peter Mullan. He’s taken scary turns before as Yaxley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, and most notably in the British indie hit This Is England.
Robin’s got a lot going against her. Besides Tui’s father, who doesn’t seem concerned that his daughter is out there in the wilderness on her own with a baby, Robin’s got a dying mother and painful memories connected to the lake that are trying to drag her down.
On top of that, the resident police force seems pretty lax, taking a note from its commanding officer Detective Sergeant Al Parker, played by David Wenham, whom you might remember as Faramir from The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Most of the cast will not be returning to the second season, as there’s a new mystery to solve, but Top of the Lake draws big names. Along with Peter Mullan, David Wenham, and Elisabeth Moss, Lucy Lawless made an appearance in season 1. We also can’t forget Academy Award-winner Holly Hunter, who plays GJ, the brash and somewhat mystical leader of a women’s commune in the mountains who takes in lost souls.
Season 2 has just as much ambition with its cast by bringing forces like Gwendolyn Christie, otherwise known as Brienne of Tarth, and Nicole Kidman.
The brilliance of Top of the Lake lies in the mystery. It’s one of those where you really don’t know what happened until the very end. But it doesn’t string you along for nothing. Top of the Lake is compelling and utterly engrossing.
When Robin visits GJ’s commune to look for Tui, GJ tells her she’ll come back when she’s on her knees. While Robin dismisses GJ as a quack, we watch Robin gradually unravel as the case sucks her in and brings up memories she wishes she never had. When we finally see Robin crawl back to GJ on her knees, we completely understand why.
Don’t get me wrong. Top of the Lake is good, but when the mystery is revealed, it’ll make you sick to your stomach. The way it portrays issues of family, gender, and assault is gritty and all too real.
Much of the series focuses on the traumas experienced by young girls and women. Season 2 will follow the same vein when Robin finds the body of a young Asian girl in a suitcase washed ashore. I’m looking forward to the next season, but I’m also dreading it because I know it’ll rock me to my core.
The first season of Top of the Lake is available on Hulu. Top of the Lake: China Girl premieres September 10 on SundanceTV for a three-night special, and will be available on Hulu September 13.