So where is Tui?
That’s the big question surrounding the brand new mini-series called Top of the Lake which premiered with two episodes on the Sundance Channel on March 18th. But it is hardly the only question nor the only mystery. Merely, it is the one on the surface. As we learn, the show is less about solving mysteries as it is about finding the truths.
Written by Academy Award winner Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, with Campion also sharing the directing duties along with Garth Davis, the series is set in the wilds of New Zealand; specifically, we find ourselves in a small town called Queenstown.
We first encounter the lake when a young girl, one Tui Mitcham, purposely enters the lake with intent of killing herself. Only because she was spotted by the local school mistress and pulled out of the water, is why she is still with us.
After her rescue from the lake, Tui is taken back to the school, and is looked over by the school nurse. We learn that she’s okay and isn’t suffering from any hypothermia from her brief immersion, and that she’s just 12 years old, which seems a tad young for a suicide. We also learn that Tui is nearly 5 months pregnant.
Which prompts an investigation of statutory rape.
The local cops can’t get anything out of Tui in their interviews, so a former resident of the town, Robin Griffin, now a police detective specializing in cases of sexual assault in Sydney, Australia, but presently in the area visiting her ailing Mom, is called in as a consultant. Two things become immediately clear – Robin, played by Elisabeth Moss, is a no-nonsense, can-do cop, and that she is able to form at least a preliminary bond with Tui.
All of the above, seems like a proper way to introduce the series which will run for 7 episodes. This also seems like a good place to begin a discussion. My discussion partner today will be reader fd, a frequent visitor and a person who often offers comments on this blog. PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE A FEW SPOILERS AHEAD WHICH I WILL WARN YOU ABOUT.
JMM: I’ve just set the stage for you by introducing Top of the Lake. Admittedly, I’ve just touched on the top of the story, so now I’ll ask you for your initial impressions.
fd: It looks like this series will require some patience on my part. Initially, the setting and story reminded me of The Killing, a previously broadcast AMC mystery series that I greatly enjoyed.
But, as soon as the opening sequence ended, I began to lose my bearings. I realized we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Or the Pacific Northwest region where The Killing was filmed.
This was New Zealand! The land looks beautifully moody, but the inhabitants we come across make the Mad Max gang look conservative. Everyone appears quirky. Difficult to read. And potentially sinister.
This is good stuff, but it quickly took me out of my comfort zone. There are so many strange characters. What were your impressions of the main characters, Tui, Robin, GJ and her flighty friends and the ultra heavy Mitcham men? Were you disoriented by the first episode or did it hook you from the start?
JMM: Not disoriented, but rather concerned. Tui was closed off, Robin was capable, even more than capable, but working in an atmosphere which required the Southern Lake cops to make a radical adjustment – this was not the kind of woman that they were used to. GJ represented a number of themes – chief of which was Earth Mother but in a different mind-set as was said by one the lakeside ladies., who were all characters, or should I say ‘unusual’.
As for the Mitcham men folk – yup, they were scary, and that’s being kind.
I also found the policeman Al Parker, to be one of the few normal folks – although obviously he could very well have a sinister side – but his accent was somewhat difficult to understand. And yes – I was hooked immediately as we were looking not only at a culture clash – but a bloody one as well.