As of this weekend, I have now watched the BBC miniseries twice, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a short, exciting Netflix project. I’ll do my best to avoid spoiling anything for those of you interested in watching the series, so here are some of my favorite moments.
- Elisabeth Moss shows her acting range in heroine Robin. While Moss’s Peggy Olsen on Mad Men is consistently one of my favorite characters on the show, I was happy to see her in a new setting to prove her acting ability. Moss’s New Zealand accent seems a bit off at times, but her performance is great. I’m very interested to see how she holds up against four much more experienced actresses at the Emmys who are also nominated for Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie. Her best moment: the barroom confrontation with Sarge (and its fallout) in Episode 4. She brought tears to my eyes both times I watched.
- Holly Hunter is the craziest of all crazies, and I loved it. I’m basically always a Holly Hunter fan, but her role as the “enlightened” GJ provides some necessary comic relief in an otherwise somber series. Though GJ isn’t a very important character, her opinion is valued by others in her strange community, and she’s always got something to say. Her best moment: GJ’s complete and utter lack of patience, even for her “followers” — specifically when she bellows “WAKE UP!” to a group as they meditate in her presence. I think I’m going to start screaming at people all the time now, too.
- The many Biblical allusions. My first time through the series, I certainly picked up on several Biblical allusions (most notably in the names of the Mitcham men — Matt, Mark, Luke, and Johnno. Get it?) However, there were even more significant Biblical references that I picked up on my second time through. The most significant: When asked about the identity of Tui’s baby’s father, Jaime answers, “You know who it is. The serpent in Paradise.” Again, without giving too much away, look for a scene reminiscent of Adam and Eve, and figure out who the serpent is in that situation.
- Male characters who aren’t stereotypical. Peter Mullan gives a great, Emmy-nominated performance as Matt Mitcham, a suspicious man with many secrets. As a viewer, it’s very difficult to know where to stand with Matt, because he seems a likely suspect in the disappearance of his pregnant 12-year-old daughter, but he also appears to have a nicer side. Detective Sergeant Al (David Wenham) is also a suspicious character; his high status in the local police should make him trustworthy, but his friendship with Matt always rubbed me the wrong way. Finally, Thomas M. Wright gives a great performance as Johnno, the sweet high school boyfriend of Robin who was with her during a major trauma from her past. I think the relationship between Robin and Johnno is perfectly believable, without being over-the-top romantic. The past connections between their families also adds an interesting element to the story.
- A well-developed narrative that works in the miniseries format. I believe that Top of the Lake was my first encounter with Jane Campion’s work, so I was interested to see how I felt about it. Personally, I think this story played out very well in the seven-episode format (or six episodes if you watch the BBC version). Though there are many characters and several plot lines, the stories overlap well, and everything comes to a concise conclusion. The most confusing aspect was moving from episode to episode without knowing the time lapse that occurred between them, but, for the most part, this confusion is cleared up at some point during the episode. My advice: expect somewhat of a time lapse between each episode except the final two, and it’ll make more sense.