Love It: Top of the Lake

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TopOfTheLakeI’m a big fan of binge watching mini-series or whole seasons of television once they become available streaming online. I’ve enjoyed Pretty Little Liars, Sons of Anarchy, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Office, Call the Midwife (watch for free on PBS!), House of Cards (only available on Netflix) and The West Wing this way. Who wants to wait a week between episodes? It’s so much more fun to watch it all at once, or at least in large chunks. My most recent discovery is the BBC mini-series Top of the Lake, starring Elisabeth Moss (of The West Wing and Mad Men), David Wenham (Faramir of Lord of the Rings), Peter Mullan, and Holly Hunter.

This series takes place in New Zealand, in a small rural town ruled by a drug lord, Matt Mitcham, played by Peter Mullan (most of his work has been in foreign films but you may recognize him from bit parts in Harry Potter and Braveheart). In the first two episodes we learn that Mitcham’s daughter Tui is 12 years old and pregnant, and then she goes missing. The remainder of the series focuses on finding Tui, and figuring out who got her pregnant. Elisabeth Moss is the main character and detective obsessed with saving Tui.

If you’re a fan of Ms. Moss, as I am, rabidly so, she won’t disappoint you. She completely transforms into this character, mastering a perfect NZ accent, letting slip her deep sadness at a traumatic event in her own young life, and displaying surprising moments of rage and courage. Holly Hunter is quirky and robotic as a mysterious, bizarre spiritual guru to a group of broken women who settle on some land in town to try and mend their lives. Peter Mullan is exceptional as the hard-grizzled father of Tui, dealing with his own pain from a dysfunctional childhood, while abusing the people around him.

This is not a fast-paced mystery. It takes its time, fully developing the main characters so that they seem like real people, exposing the local color of the town, and buffeting both with shots of the beautiful, wild land where this was filmed. But even though secrets weren’t being revealed every ten minutes, I was completely mesmerized by every episode. The mystery here is as much about what life is like in this unruly place, for these lost people, as it is about finding and helping Tui.

I highly, highly recommend this mini-series. Even if you watch in responsible amounts, instead of three hour blocks like me. LOVE IT.

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