| TV Re­view Diana Wich­tel

The gen­der pol­i­tics in Top of the Lake are as sub­tle as a kick in the knee.

New Zealand Listener - - CONTENTS - DIANA WICH­TEL

It was a huge cou­ple of weeks for the na­tional sport. In record­break­ing Bledis­loe Cup­pery, the All Blacks beat the be­je­sus out of the Wal­la­bies amid breath­less re­port­ing of play­ers’ off-field shenani­gans. There’s been mourn­ing for leg­endary All Black Colin “Pine­tree” Meads and nos­tal­gia for the myth­i­cal New Zealand he rep­re­sented: a place where young peo­ple man­ag­ing to buy a house wasn’t front-page news and a rugby player hav­ing an af­fair was none of our busi­ness.

It’s also shap­ing up to be­ing a good few weeks for art. Four years af­ter the first, sea­son two of Jane Cam­pion’s Top of the Lake landed in its out­landish an­tipodean-noir gory glory. Cam­pion is not David Lynch, so no atomic bombs or scenes that make “Got a light?” one of the most ter­ri­fy­ing tele­vi­sion sen­tences ever. But there’s a spook­ily pack­aged dead body at the cen­tre of Top of the Lake: China Girl too, and the words “She’s gone to Can­berra” may be­come a eu­phemism for be­ing thrown off a cliff in lug­gage.

The pros­ti­tute of the ti­tle washes up on Bondi Beach in a blue suit­case, through a rup­ture in which her long hair waves like sea­weed. As with Twin Peaks, a fe­male body is never just a fe­male body. We’re soon grap­pling with is­sues of race, rape, class, gen­der, re­pro­duc­tive rights and the fall­out from a gen­er­a­tion of young men brought up on in­ter­net porn. At one level, this is a the­sis on in­ter­sec­tional fem­i­nism.

Elis­a­beth Moss re­turns as de­tec­tive Robin Grif­fin, still trau­ma­tised by a so­journ in New Zealand that in­volved sex­ual as­sault, pae­dophiles and a com­mune of of­ten-nude ladies. Back in Syd­ney, she tells her brother, “I can’t sleep. I’m anx­ious.” He still kicks her out of his flat. Haunted by the baby girl she once gave up, she can be as near-cata­tonic as Twin Peaks’ Agent Cooper’s freak­ishly lucky dop­pel­gänger, Dougie Jones. Other times there’s the wary grit and barely con­tained rage of Of­fred, Moss’s char­ac­ter in The Hand­maid’s Tale.

Robin is try­ing to re­con­nect with her daugh­ter, 17-year-old Mary, played with muti­nous im­pla­ca­bil­ity by Cam­pion’s daugh­ter, Alice En­glert. An ex­cel­lent scrub-faced Ni­cole Kid­man is Mary’s adop­tive mother, Ju­lia, who has left her hus­band, Pyke, for another woman. Pyke is nice, al­most sus­pi­ciously so for Top of the Lake, where most men are sus­pect. Mary has no time for Ju­lia’s I-went-tostudy-with-Ger­maine-Greer fem­i­nism. Has there been a more lethal teen re­jec­tion of a ma­ter­nal hug than “You are a lezzo and a woman of shal­low dis­crim­i­na­tion who may want to f--- me, too”.

Mary tests the elas­tic­ity of her priv­i­leged adop­tive par­ents’ lib­er­al­ism to snap­ping point by tak­ing up with a shady older lover. “Puss” is a David Lynch-wor­thy Ger­man Marx­ist fem­i­nist former ju­nior pro­fes­sor from Leipzig. So he says. He also con­ve­niently owns the brothel at the cen­tre of the case. Mary in­vites him to din­ner. Cue scenes of mid­dle-class do­mes­tic guer­rilla war­fare in which kitchen draw­ers be­come weaponised and that arte­fact of peren­nial transtas­man dis­pute, the pavlova, comes to a sticky end. More wel­come light re­lief is pro­vided by rookie cop Mi­randa ( Game of Thrones’ tow­er­ing Gwen­do­line Christie), whose ad­mi­ra­tion for Robin is sweet and slightly stalk­er­ish.

This sea­son is slicker and less Kiwi gothic, though things go feral again in episode two dur­ing a flash­back to Robin’s ro­man­tic disas­ter be­fore she left New Zealand.

She de­clares her­self celi­bate, but is still hit on, of­ten over a fes­ter­ing corpse, by ev­ery­one from the coro­ner to a fel­low cop on Bondi Beach. The gen­der pol­i­tics in Top of the Lake are as sub­tle as a kick in the knee. But this sea­son is, so far, ter­rific. And in the mid­dle of an elec­tion cam­paign dur­ing which the words “sex­ism row” have fea­tured promi­nently, maybe we can all do with a brush-up. TOP OF THE LAKE: CHINA GIRL, Sky UKTV, Tues­day, 9.30pm.

“She’s gone to Can­berra” may be­come a eu­phemism for be­ing thrown off a cliff in lug­gage.

Left, Ni­cole Kid­man and Alice En­glert and, be­low, Elis­a­beth Moss and Gwen­do­line Christie in Top of the Lake: out­landish and gory glory.

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