Elizabeith Moss, Nicole Kidman awe in the return of Jane Compton's knockout serial: Top of the Lake: China Girl
SUNDANCETV, SUNDAY, Sept. 10, 9/8c
By Lori Acken
When Jane Campion debuted the first Top of the Lake installment in 2013, TV critics and fans of chewy, atmospheric drama were mesmerized by the limited series’ singular characters, gut-punch (but elegant) storytelling and evocative cinematography — all of which landed the outing multiple Emmy nominations. Her newest chapter, which premieres Sunday on SundanceTV, is more than worth the wait.
Elisabeth Moss — firing on all cylinders as a dramatic actress these days — returns as 30-something Detective Robin Griffin, who uses her knack for police work to repress a horrific past that still colors her shambles of a personal life. Coming home to Sydney to find the daughter she gave up as a teen, and perhaps a fresh start in the process, Griffin lands the case of another pregnant young girl — this one an Asian prostitute gruesomely dead and tossed into the sea — and learns that “civilization” is not so civilized after all.
To her chagrin, Griffin is also paired with the only other woman on the force, a good-natured, Amazonian cop named Miranda (Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie) who knows all about Griffin’s work and is thrilled to tag along.
“They’re total opposites of each other — or so they think,” says Moss. “They’re going to discover that they’re deadly wrong about that. But Miranda’s such a great foil for Robin, because Robin’s trying to be so closed off and she doesn’t want a partner and she certainly doesn’t want a friend, and here comes Miranda pushing all of the wrong buttons. Or all the right ones.”
As Griffin battles the puzzling case, she’s entangled with two more complex women, prickly feminist Julia and Julia’s rebellious teen daughter Mary — an outspoken girl in love with the much older pseudointellectual who teaches what he ruefully labels “dirty English” to Asian workers in the dead girl’s brothel. Campion entrusted the pithy roles to actresses she knew could tackle the job — Big Little Lies star Nicole Kidman as the former and Campion’s own daughter, Alice Englert, as Mary.
“I’ve known Alice since she was born, and I’ve known Jane since I was 14, so I really wanted to be in the series,” Kidman reveals. “It’s lovely to be what I call a ‘Campion woman’ — because there’s a truth to it. There’s an honesty.”
“Jane portrays women far outside stereotypes of what we think women should be — and men far outside the stereotypes, too,” adds Moss. “The male and female relationships end up quite surprising.”
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