This Review will contain spoilers on Top of the Lake so don’t read it if you are thinking of watching it.
What I Loved
- Spoon feeding
- I love not being spoon fed scripts, and Top of the Lake did exactly that. It dropped me into a situation where it expected me to know every character and their background as if I was living in this New Zealand community. I love that, I am a grown up and don’t need to be spoon fed a story, let me work it out for myself. Maybe I will get confused (I did many times) but I can appreciate the story more if I work it out for myself.
- Peter Mullan
- He was amazing, by far the best character and performance in my opinion as he played the psychotic Scottish man whose daughter goes missing.
- There is no surprise that he got nominated for an Emmy for his performance, he deserves to win it as well.
- He was perfect and came across very well as the hard man that has everyone intimidated of him.
- It is just the way of things that a man from the West of Scotland sounds hard even if they aren’t imagine how hard they are when they are actually hard. That’s a pretty hard man.
- The psychotic turn near the end was a bit forced and I don’t like the way he was killed but I am nit-picking. Even in areas that I thought were silly, I thought Mullen acted very well.
- New Zealand looks like a beautiful country, even if it does seem like it’s full of nut jobs and paedos.
- Taboo subjects
- I love how Top of the Lake was not afraid to tackle taboo subjects that many other American dramas have at times brushed over. Tackling issues such as domestic abuse, rape, underage pregnancy, paedophilia and incest. It is brave to tackle these areas (especially the underage rape) and Top of the Lake handled them well.
- There were some beautifully shot artsy scenes in Top of the Lake where they took full advantage of the gorgeous scenery they had at their disposal.
What I Liked
- New Zealand
- Not every TV show has to be set in New York or LA; it is nice to see a show set in a location that usually wouldn’t get any attention at all.
- Elisabeth Moss
- I thought she was very good and should pick up the Emmy as well for her performance.
- It was a perfect script to make a split between Peggy and Elisabeth, and shows she isn’t just a one character woman.
- Very cool as the laid back head of police who is a little too cosy with the local criminals. He also happens to have a taste for kids……never a good thing.
- I loved his scene when he is slapping the kid about and teaching him how to make a cup of tea, ridiculous but really well done.
- Didn’t like how they made him the head of the paedophile ring, thought it was easy.
- It seemed like he had nothing to do with it until the last 2 episodes and then it began to look like he very much had something to hide, I seen it coming.
- So did he rape Robin? It was heavily implied but you thought at the time that he wasn’t a bad guy. You then see that he has been raping kids after drugging them, which gives the feeling that Robin may have had a couple of roofies in her wine.
What I Disliked
- Elisabeth Moss’ accent
- I don’t know if it is because I know she is American (maybe it is) but I felt at times her accent seemed to trail off into American again which sort of ruined the aroma.
- I hear a lot about shows being anti-female, well Top of the Lake was anti-male. Every male in Top of the Lake was a paedophile, a rapist, a murderer or a loser. In comparison all the women were heroes and super sensible. I’m not going to get upset about it but it was very sexist, although I doubt anyone is going to get all up on their high horse about it.
- At times it was hard to hear the dialogue, possibly due to how they filmed the show but on numerous occasions I found myself rewinding in a ‘what did he say’ moment.
- Falling off a cliff
- It sounds bad but when it showed Robin watching what you thought was Tui falling off the cliff, I thought it was funny. Here me out, it was the way he fell off the cliff and fell down vertically waving his arms. It reminded me of movies from the 90’s when graphics were good enough to do falling off a cliff but weren’t good enough to make it look realistic. This seemed very like that.
- Women’s retreat
- Throughout the story it seemed as if the women’s retreat would have some sort of significance, it didn’t. They were there almost as a meeting point and beyond the first few episodes they were pointless. No wonder GJ walked off in disgust.
- I don’t mind comedies or Sci-Fi’s being unrealistic, however I don’t want to watch a drama type TV show and think this isn’t very realistic, and I did that with Top of the Lake.
What I Hated
- Tui hunt
- So they can’t find Tui for like three and a half months then they find her twice in short succession.
- What makes it worse is when she is finally found, both Matt and Robin find her at the same time even they are not together, Robin just happens to be in a similar part of the woods to where Tui is found. Silly.
- The ending seemed cheap. I wasn’t a fan of Tui killing her dad, and then Al tells them that Matt was the father. Fair enough so far, a bit cheap but oh well. However somehow a child specialist goes all Hercule Poirot on us and figures out that the head of the police is actually running a paedophilia ring. Pretty unrealistic. She follows that up by shooting him before entering the house where Tui is there and for some reason not drugged (wouldn’t she notice everyone had disappeared, plus she’s like an innocent little girl here even though she just spent 4 months in the woods, delivered her own baby and shot her father). Oh yes it gets worse as Robin goes down into a special basement that she somehow knew would be there and found a bunch of German speaking people kiddie fiddling a bunch of roofied kids. Where did all these Germans come from? It all seemed forced because they had backed themselves into a corner. The odd thing is that Top of the Lake had went against the curve throughout the show but then very much joined the curve to conclude. It would have been a much better and more chilling ending if we had seen these scenes but the paedophile ring had never been discovered, because it would allow the audience to discover the truth but keep the characters in bliss to the true situation.
- Plot holes
- How did the old man know where Tui was?
- So did Al also lie about the Robin and Johnno blood test? Who knows?
- Is it me or did Johnno recover from his gun wound quickly?
- Why did Tui shoot her dad? Because she was protecting her baby right? Well why did she try and abort it in the lake then?
- Why did Tui run away in the first place?
- Did that woman ever testify against Matt?
- How did Al get his fancy pad? Was it Mitcham money or pedo money?
- I could go on and on things that didn’t really make sense but I shant.
- The pacing was completely off. In the first 4 episodes everything was very slow and methodical and the pot was simmering along nicely. In the final two episodes everything happened so quickly and the water was splashing all over the pots sides and making a complete mess. It was a 6 parter and it felt like it could have done with being an 8 or 10 parter.
There it is Top of the Lake, did I like it? Not especially, it never really got going and when it looked like it might everything seemed very rushed and forced. It was very artsy and I’m sure the people that love foreign shows (like the Killing and Borgen) will have loved Top of the Lake, but these people are so up themselves about TV shows and how they are supposed to be shot and blah blah blah that they just come across as being ignorant, and often clearly like these shows because they are so artsy farty and aren’t in English (although Top of the Lake was) so that must make them better.
When you compare Top of the Lake to a show like Breaking Bad or the Wire, it isn’t nearly as neatly woven, in fact quite the opposite. Top of the Lake had so many plot holes and I am sure if I sat long enough and thought hard about it I could come up with well over 20 areas that were left unresolved or didn’t make sense. What makes it worse is that it felt like they shot the show in two bits, the first bit was so slow that episodes had no meaning at all (hard to do in a 6 episode season) and then the final two episodes had twists coming left, right and centre. What really bothers me about all of this is that this is a 6 episode format which did not set up a second season, so there should not have been a problem with direction. However it was quite the opposite and it seemed at times that the writers didn’t know where they were going and in the end it seemed like they had made it up on the fly.
Do I want to see a second season of Top of the Lake? Definitely not, this should be a one off series like Band of Brothers (although not nearly as good). There would be nothing worse than seeing a second season and they’ve gotten all those nasty German paedo’s (could’ve been Austrian, who knows) but it turns out that there is an equally evil group of paedo’s that have knocked up a sheep , but the twist this time is that they’re Welsh instead of German.
There were some bright sparks in Top of the Lake and the main one was Peter Mullan, who I am sure for many people was the reason for tuning in every week. He was excellent and was very much the standout of the show as a whole. I get the feeling that Top of the Lake is one of those shows which is better on second viewing (because at times it was confusing) but it wasn’t nearly good enough on first viewing to give it a second chance. It wasn’t a bad series; it just wasn’t that good and certainly didn’t deserve the critical acclaim it has received. The acclaim doesn’t shock me because it’s one of those arty shows that if you say you dislike it you are considered ignorant because ‘you just didn’t get the symbolism and the artistry’. Well if I were you and hadn’t watched the show (sorry for spoiling it but I did say spoiler!) I wouldn’t bother because you will waste 6 hours of your life to find out that everyone in this town in New Zealand is either a paedo or a rapist.
What did you think of Top of the Lake? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Or did you watch two episodes and go ‘wait this isn’t set in Australia?’ Whichever one it was leave a comment and share your opinion on the show.