Top of the Lake Episode Two: Elisabeth Moss and David Wenham continue to shine in the second instalment of this picturesque but meandering drama
One thing that bemused me about last week’s episode of Top of the Lake was the way in which the ending was pretty anticlimactic. It was only after doing a bit of research that I discovered that the episodes shown in America were only 45 minutes or so long while the instalments currently airing on BBC2 are much closer to an hour in length. This means that the end of the majority of the original episodes will air fifteen minutes or so before the conclusion of the instalments we’re viewing. This re-edit also means that the opening of each episode is somewhat abrupt with this second instalment being a prime example.
Instead of having an opening focusing on the search for Tui, this episode starts with a mildly comic segment focusing on a woman who can only have sex for seven minutes without forming some sort of romantic relationship with her partner in crime. While amusing, this story doesn’t really return in this episode and I feel was simply inserted to give a bit of colour to the supporting players in Top of the Lake. After this section, we soon return to Robin’s hunt for Tui as she attempts to get into the mindset of the missing twelve year old. As Robin starts giving her report on Tui to the local police, it appears as if some of the officers aren’t going to give her their full support. It looks though some don’t respect her because she’s a woman while others feel that she doesn’t know the area as well as they do. Robin is especially annoyed with Officer Joy, who believes that Tui may already be dead and that she also will probably give birth in the wild because of her Eurasian roots. Despite her colleagues not respecting her, Robin organises a full search of the bush and a DNA Test of every man in the area. After an unsuccessful search, Matt buys all of the volunteers a round of drinks as thanks for trying to find his daughter. At the same time he gives a rather sinister speech about killing anyone who’s holding back information about the killer. Though Al later tries to calm him down, it seems as if Matt isn’t the kind of man you want on your enemies list.
Though the search proves unsuccessful, the police have another lead in the form of Lake Top barman Wolfgang Zanic. ‘Wolfy’ had previously served two years in prison for having sex with an underage boy and was also known to Tui due to his job teaching clog-dancing at the local school. When Robin confronts Wolfy he initially tries to speak to her on an emotional level and tells her the story of how he fell in love with the young boy. But later, as she continues to snoop around his house, he starts to shoot her with the variety of guns he has stashed around his house. Robin is then forced to call on Matt’s son Johnno to help her out and he does indeed rescue her from Wolfy. Though we’ve previously learnt that the pair have some sort of romantic past together, it remained unclear exactly what happened between the two. However, after the incident at Wolfy’s place, Johnno and Robin see each other at the pub before he essentially forces himself on her. While I’m not sure where the story with Johnno and Robin is going, it certainly won’t be good news for her fiancé Steve. In conversations with both Al and her mother we learnt that Robin considers Steve a ‘good guy’ but doesn’t want to marry him and is essentially waiting till he cheats on her with somebody more suited to him.
Robin’s other port of call this week is to GJ’s container-crate commune in Paradise, as that was the last place that Tui was seen. As Robin searches the passports and visas of all of the women, she learns that GJ has come into the country as a Swiss national. When Robin goes to interview the spaced-out leader of the group, GJ informs her that the search for Tui will bring Robin to her knees. GJ’s link to Tui’s disappearance is still an interesting one and I don’t feel we’ve seen the last of Robin’s questioning of her. However, there is also a subplot involving one of GJ’s charges, Bunny, whose husband Jock arrives in Paradise to drop off their guitar-toting daughter. It is clear that the daughter has severe mental issues and also feels abandoned by her father who has a younger family to look after. I’m really not sure where this story plays into the rest of the plot, but I’m sure Top of the Lake will certainly takes it’s time to let us know.
Anyone hoping for a quicker pace in this week’s episode of Top of the Lake will be bitterly disappointed. Though there are some interesting set pieces, most notably Robin’s entrapment in Wolfy’s house, the drama does spend a lot of time showing us around the beautiful exteriors of New Zealand. I have to say that that’s not necessarily a bad thing as the sweeping shots of the Kiwi vistas are simply breathtaking. But at the same time, I’d rather have a little bit more story progression if it meant dropping a few scenes that appear to have been added at the request of the New Zealand Tourist Board. To be fair, we did learn a little more about Robin’s life back in Sydney and her need to put work ahead of her failing relationship with ‘nice guy’ Steve. We also got a little more from Police Chief Al here as he proved himself to be a likeable confidant for Robin albeit one who is in the back pocket of Matt. Indeed, it appears as if Jane Campion and Gerard Lee have set up a triangle of characters with Robin the crusader, Matt the brutish villain and Al as the realist whose allegiances lie with both. Campion and Lee also continue to use the small town mentality to great affect using it for both comic and dramatic purposes as we saw tonight with both the opening scene and the monologue about sheep vaginas. At the same time though I just wish that the script was a little bit tighter and I felt it could lose some of its meandering subplots such as the one involving Bunny and Jock.
Again, the cast are all fantastic and play their parts superbly. Elisabeth Moss seems born to play a crusading police detective, why she hasn’t done this in America is beyond me, and she is able to portray Robin’s obsession with the case excellently. I also felt she excelled in the scene in which she got increasingly angry with the town’s yokels and ended up throwing darts at one of their number. Despite him playing a character similar to one he’s portrayed in the past, Peter Mullan is still entirely gripping throughout. Through his performance, you can see why the town both fears and respects Matt Mitcham. This episode also saw David Wenham being given a bit more to do as the reliable Al Parker who came across as the only voice of reason in the piece but at the same time I feel he’s not entirely trustworthy.
Overall, I had the same issue with Top of the Lake as I did last week, namely that it continues to move at a snail’s pace. Though there were some interesting set pieces, these were counterbalanced in scenes where nothing really happened. Thankfully both the ensemble cast and the breathtaking scenery make up for any problems with the script and I still have hope that the action will start to pick up as the series progresses. However, my main qualm is with the edit as the conclusions of the episodes continue to be anticlimactic and I just can’t see why BBC2 couldn’t have aired the instalments in their original form.
What did you think to Top of the Lake? Do you find it a bit slow? Leave Your Comments Below.