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Watch This: Top of the Lake

I am usually the last of my friends to see any critically acclaimed cable drama. 

I still have not seen Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Sopranos, Homeland, Game of Thrones, or True Blood. I only recently started watching The Walking Dead, and that’s only because Slay’s recaps are so good, and we usually love the same things, and hate the same things for similar reasons. Now that all of you have thrown up your hands at me, trust me when I say you need to watch Top of the Lake.

It originally ran for five weeks on The Sundance Channel, which isn’t the most widely distributed cable channel, with a total of seven episodes. This is a stand-alone project, so there will not be any additional seasons. That’s at least part of the appeal, I think. There’s no danger of slogging through a sophomore slump, there’s no threat of the writers pulling something out of their ass later, it’s the whole story, in around seven hours. Since we’re lucky enough to live in 2013, the entire series is now available on Netflix Instant. You shouldn’t even finish reading this post before  you go add it to your queue. I’ll wait.

Done? Good. Now let me tell you why you need to binge-watch on your next day off.

Top of the Lake is set in rural New Zealand, in a tiny town with too many secrets. Elizabeth Moss, who we love around here, stars as Robin, a big-city detective who returns home to Laketop to be with her dying mother. While she’s home, a mystery surrounding a missing, pregnant, twelve-year-old girl becomes an obsession. The show is as much about Robin solving her own mysteries as it is about finding the girl, and it’s as much about the peripheral characters as it is about Robin.

A group of colorful, middle-aged women who live in shipping containers on the top of the mountain, in a place called Paradise, also dance in and out of the story. Lead by Holly Hunter’s GJ, these women are all looking for answers. How they figure into the story isn’t immediately apparent, but they add both conflict and comic relief to the story.

The story is dark, and the first several episodes do more to build a sense of dread than revealing any clues or foreshadowing the final resolution. The pace can be plodding, at times, but it pays off. I think this show will lend itself to a binge-watch, because it’s easier to overlook slow pacing when watching one episode after another. At the same time, I really enjoyed watching it week by week, because it gave me time to process everything in the previous episode. Top of the Lake definitely got in my head, I still find myself thinking about it frequently.

Top of the Lake was directed by Jane Campion, and it appeared at the Sundance Film Festival before appearing on the network.

Go watch! Go now!

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

4 replies on “Watch This: Top of the Lake”

I just finished the last episode today and I agree, it’s definitely worth watching. (And I’m also one of those people that’s always a little late to the game. All of those shows you listed? I’ve never watched about half of them and I didn’t watch the others until they were into their 3rd or 4th season.)

It’s a little weird in some places, mostly when it comes to GJ and her commune. And the whole “yes/no” things with the local teens. But overall it’s an intriguing story. Best bet is to watch it on a day when you’ve got nothing planned because you’ll want to sit there and watch all 7 episodes, back to back.

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