Email Roundtable #27 – Top of the Lake

This week on the roundtable we continue with our Summer Television Secret Santa. Katie gifted the TV mini-series, Top of the Lake, to Jane. Below is their conversation about the show.

Top of the LakeKatie: So Jane, Top of the Lake. Any thoughts off the top?

Jane: I really enjoyed the series. I think the pilot was my favorite episode. The opening scene was stunning. Watching Tui walk into the water was so emotional for me, which was quite a feat of story telling. I did not know this girl or her story, but it was still incredibly sad. The entire series was beautifully shot.

Katie: How about that scenery? I loved that they shot so much of the series outdoors. Any other scenes that stood out for you?

Jane: The scenery was such a crucial part of the story. I don’t know how they did it but I really felt a connection to the setting. It was like the opposite of Twin Peaks (there have been many comparisons made between the two series) in a way. The main character is clearly haunted and damaged by her surroundings and as we learn her story the setting gets uglier and uglier.

As for another memorable scene, the scene that really sticks out is the scene in the bar when Bunny is looking for sex in under 15 minutes because she is afraid of attachment. It is hilarious and sad and really drives home the theme of attachment vs. detachment.

Katie: The scenes with the cult that Bunny belonged to really worked for me. There was definitely the detachment, but also the apparent need to make a home wherever you are.

Jane: Definitely. I will say that the lady cult worked best for me in the beginning episodes. It gave the dark series some much needed humor. I did find as the show progressed and the woman were depicted as more and more damaged I got a little weary of the cult. I think in general one of my bigger criticisms of Top of the Lake was that all the woman were painted as victims and most of the men were the monsters. It got to be heavy handed towards the end.

Katie: You are very right about the portrayal of men and women. But to be fair, the men in that show were pretty terrible…

Did you find yourself engaged in the mystery of the show?

Jane: Definitely in the beginning. I found the question of “Where is Tui?” more intriguing than “what happened to Tui?” When we learned where Tui was hiding out, some of the mystery dwindled for me. I also found that the twist at the end didn’t pay off . I’m not saying it ruined the show but I was disappointing with how the show ended.

Katie: I was also disappointed with the ending. The last episode was structured, in my opinion, like the end of a movie, where there is a lot of fall out time afterwards, but as an episode of TV it wasn’t very satisfying.

Jane: You are right! It was built up and built up and then they sprinted to the finish line. I would have been more satisfied if they had left some ends dangling rather than rushing to tie everything up in the last episode.

I think that all the Twin Peaks comparisons built up the mystery for me. Like you said in last weeks roundtable I did find myself figuring out the twists in the plot more often than I would have liked. I don’t want to completely spoil the show so I don’t want to talk too much about the ending but it was the most disappointing aspect for me. There was so much I loved about the series, though!

What were your favourite aspects of the show?

Katie: The look of the show, for sure. But I quite enjoyed the acting as well. There were so many great secondary characters — Tui, Jamie, GJ, Johnno. LIke I mentioned in last week’s roundtable, a lot of the dialogue was stiff, but the actors did a good job with what they had to work with. I found the scenes with minimal dialogue to work the best, actually.

And of course, Elizabeth Moss. Wonder-woman-actor-extraordinaire.

Jane: I completely agree! The dialogue often got in the way. Many parts of the story could have been told visually. A prime example is Elizabeth Moss’s rape. Her performance is so strong silently and that coupled with a few visuals would have been 100 times more chilling than watching the whole thing play out.

I found Elizabeth Moss’s performance as a whole to be amazing. She effectively plays repressed  while still being engaging and emotionally present to the audience. You could see every fragment of thought flickering through her eyes, while she managed to remain detached from the other characters in the scene. She was outstanding!

I was also impressed with Matt Mitchem. He played the kind of villain I am usually bored by. Loud, impulsive and violent. He did it in a way that also let the audience in. There were even times where I empathized with him (despite the fact that he killed a dog).

Katie: Without giving up any plot, I was really invested in the mystery of his character. Peter Mullan’s performance was quite affecting in that regard, because I believed two completely different truths about him.

Well Jane, to close this out, would you recommend Top of the Lake? And who would you recommend it to? (No offense will be taken if you say you wouldn’t recommend.)

Jane: I would definitely recommend Top of the Lake to people who enjoy great acting and amazing visual story telling. I would not recommend it as a mystery but as a dark view of a twisted little town.

Katie: Well put!

3 thoughts on “Email Roundtable #27 – Top of the Lake

  1. Thanks so much for your comments. I completely agree about the plot holes and the rushed ending. It seems like the writers were stretching to create a police procedural when the series worked much better as an exploration of people and a place. That being said, I think there are many great things going on in Top of the Lake.

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