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Top of the Lake: China Girl - China Girl - Review: "Moving On"

Top of the Lake: China Girl 2.01 - China Girl:
Directed by Jane Campion & Written by Jane Campion & Gerard Lee

Note: Although Top of the Lake is not a show officially covered by SpoilerTV I thought it would be a good idea to review it anyway in the miscellaneous show section as I am a huge fan of the series. I will be covering the episodes on a weekly basis as they air on BBC Two in the UK, but the season itself is also available to watch in its entirety online on BBC Iplayer in the UK. It will be aired later in the year on SundanceTV in the US. For those who have already watched multiple episodes I would strongly encourage you not to spoil comments for viewers watching it as it is released weekly below.

Top of the Lake is a show that I only discovered recently having caught up on the series in time for its long-awaited second season premiere, but I was still really excited to see where this would take Elisabeth Moss' Detective Robin Griffin after the last season left her shooting Sgt Parker, who had been pimping young boys and girls from the barista training, including Tui, for other men in exchange for sex. The shooting still weighs heavy on her character as she returns in this six episode series, that follows her attempting to adjust to life back in Sydney whilst dealing from PTSD.

The PTSD is hitting Robin hard. At a police training session, she goes in far too aggressively on one of the new recruits who was laughing at her. This pretty much served as a stark reminder to them, you don't want to get on Robin's bad side. One of the most interesting things about this episode was watching how shooting would affect Robin and it is fantastic to see that it's getting explored thoroughly here rather than being brushed aside completely, as is something that would be common on many a network show. But the scars still hurt for the character. Her personal and professional relationships are shaped by this too, as she's turned to drinking heavy amounts of alcohol. Apparently having walked out of her own wedding - possibly on the day it was held - is also something that Robin is having trouble dealing with. But at least she has the letters from her daughter Mary (Alice Englert), who is now seventeen years old and just as troublesome as Robin is. Mary was strangely absent for Season 1 so it's interesting that the show is exploring her character more in a direction that will no doubt have further personal effects on Robin's character going forward.

Englert's Mary is grateful for Robin bringing her into this life even if she's not able to meet in person. Robin herself is unaware that Mary is currently in the relationship with an older man, Alexander Braun (David Dencik). Braun's character has connections with a brothel, and strikes a charismatic figure in the heart of the people that he knows. Mary's character herself is dealing with just about as many issues as Robin is, acting out in response to the breakup of her parents. It's here we are introduced to Nicole Kidman's fantastic Julia Edwards. Julia recently had an affair with a female teacher from Mary's school and as a result that's put a strain on their relationship. Here, Kidman adds depth and nuance to her character in these early stages and it'll be really interesting to watch how her dynamic progresses over the course of the six episodes. The fact that Robin meeting up with them at some point seems inevitable really brings several questions to the table about how this development is going to play out, and whether or not they'll get on.

The mystery of course isn't really the main focus of this premiere which spends most of the time focusing on the characters but a girl, somebody from Alexander's brothel, is killed, placed in a box which has been pushed into the water and it is only at the end of the episode that the box is discovered on the beach. The police themselves are of course interested in the situation, and Robin has the case. She is too joined by the other high-profile addition to this season's new cast, in the form of Game of Thrones' Gwendoline Christie. Christie plays Miranda Hilmarson, who essentially becomes Robin's partner. She's already developed a connection with Robin this early on and is willing to do anything for her. Christe's presence certainly makes things interesting and creates a very different dynamic shared between that of Robin and Al in Season 1, and much like the other elements being addressed here, it'll be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the season.

As always with Top of the Lake, the visuals and direction are amazing, confidently made and stunningly produced. It really helps when you have a fantastic director like Jane Campion on board, and it's no coincidence that other shows like Steven Knight's Peaky Blinders and Steven Soderbergh's The Knick have benefited from having star talent around. It helps bring that extra experience and that really pays off in creating a riveting, immensely watchable series that pulls you into the murky underbelly of Sydney. And it's something that I can't wait to return to in the coming weeks, as the show continues to flesh out and focus on its fantastic lead, anchored by a terrific performance from Elisabeth Moss, who as always, excels in her role.

Catch the next episode of Top of the Lake Season 2 on BBC 2 tonight at 9pm or watch the entire series online on BBC IPlayer if you are in the UK. US based residents will be able to watch the series on SundanceTV in September.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, Black Sails, The Americans and Person of Interest. He reviews Preacher, The Mist, Star Wars Rebels, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV and will be covering Castle Rock, Counterpart, Krypton, Marvel's New Warriors, Rise, Marvel's Runaways, Snowfall, Succession, Star Trek Discovery, and Trust. He also contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic. He also regularly watches and reviews films on Letterboxd, and you can find his ever-changing list of 300 favourite movies here.
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