Watching: ‘Top of the Lake,’ Pt. 1


Netflix makes you almost embarrassingly late for television shows like Top of the Lake for example, which I finally had the guts to start watching last night before I went to sleep. Top of the Lake got a lot of hub-bub this year about how good it is and I would believe all of it simply because it stars Elisabeth Moss, who is a stud.

Lately, I’ve been rewatching the first two seasons of New Girl, rather than watching a new show because sometimes I just get cold feet to start new ones. This happened to me on Mad Men. When I signed up for Netflix, Mad Men was the first thing I searched for — after setting my “interests,” all of which I immediately regretted and actually called customer service to see if I there was a hidden “undo” button for all of it (that’s how anal I am about tainting new toys, or watching new shows).

It was probably the first thing I added to my queue, but I didn’t watch it for the longest time, and now I’m counting the days until the new season starts and I can rev up my DVR to record all of it. As for Top of the Lake, I’m finally on the figurative bandwagon, at least after watching the first episode.

Some shows, like New Girl, are good for binge watching. Mad Men wasn’t necessarily binge watching — rather, more like I just couldn’t stop watching it. Top of the Lake seems like the kind of show you need to digest, so I slept on it and I’m writing this the morning after (the first part of a series of seven posts to talk about each episode after I’ve watched it). With my history of Netflix usage, I cannot promise there will be any rhyme or reason to how consistently I publish these posts, but I’m going to try to watch an episode before bed most nights. Give me a break — some nights I get home from work and just feel like kicking back and having a beer with Nick Miller and the New Girl team.

It’s difficult sometimes to start a show like Top of the Lake or Mad Men because you have such ridiculously high expectations based off of the things you’ve heard about it. Mad Men sure as hell exceeded all expectations I ever had — bravo! Top of the Lake seems like it’s going to be good. I’m getting used to Peggy Olson without pant suits and a 1960s hairdo. Robin Griffin is pretty cool. She appears to be rebellious-wonderer meets tireless-detective, and that’s cool. I was sold at the Netflix description: 12-year-old pregnant, tries drowning herself, detective has lots of questions, starring Elisabeth Moss. You had me at “Elisabeth Moss,” to be honest.

The first episode kind of goes in order of the Netflix description. It starts out with 12-year-old Tui riding her bike away from an A-frame house and down to a beach that looks really somber and uninviting. Tui walks into the lake, deeper and deeper, until a teacher on a school bus (on which she’s supposed to be riding to school) spots her and rushes to get her.

We meet Robin Griffin (Moss) laying in bed, I think a night after she returned home because her mom is not doing well. The police department finds out, somehow, that Robin is a detective specializing in sexual assault and they call her up to do some volunteer work to look into what’s going on with Tui. Turns out, Robin is pretty bad ass and serious. She walks into that police station and commands the room.

The episode sets up a number of mysteries that I assume we’re going to figure out as the series continues. It’s seven hour-long episodes, so I guess I don’t have long to wait to find out. Cracking the case is going to be tougher for Griffin than she thought, because we know the person who impregnated Tui isn’t “No One” as she writes on a little slip of paper. Shoot, even I thought she was going to give up the name right then and there — but I was immediately skeptical of the boy on the school bus who texts her “R u ok?” after the teacher rescues her from the lake and puts her on the bus (in front of all of my friends! How embarrassing!)

I was skeptical, until the connection between Tui and these crazy dudes led by Matt Mitcham, who kill a realtor for selling land that was verbally agreed upon to be Mitcham’s ten years ago — because verbal agreements are like hand shakes, legally binding. Bottom line is they’re scary people and it turns out Mitcham is Tui’s father — and her mother lives in some gift shop with a guy that Griffin knows. Maybe this sets up for a classic six degrees of Robin Griffin, who grew up there and moved away. There’s definitely more to her story that we don’t know about.

There are basically three or four settings: Mitcham’s land (which might as well be all of the Appalachian Mountains), Griffin’s father’s house, a storage container village in Paradise, and the police station. I could be wrong. I’ve only watched one episode, but the container village is interesting, led by a crazy lady named GJ who probably moonlights as a horse whisperer or something. She’s convinced she is a zombie, which places her on the wrong television show (see: The Walking Dead).

I’m convinced this is going to be quite an entertaining miniseries. I’m upset that by looking for a feature photo for this post, I typed in “Top of the Lake” on Google and saw some pictures I really didn’t want to see from later in the series, but I don’t think anything was spoiled — I’m just expecting to see a few sexual encounters I didn’t initially expect, now. That’s going to happen, though. I’m excited about this demographic at the end of the episode where Tui appears to find solace in this Paradise container village, which is the source of her father’s stress because he wants his land back. Moreover, Tui appears to be deathly afraid of her father, because you don’t just point a loaded gun at anybody for any reason.

I think a recipe for a good show includes Elisabeth Moss and a bunch of jarring, weird characters that you can’t quite understand after one episode. Look for Part Two of this Top of the Lake series coming soon, maybe even tomorrow, but I’m already committed to watching the new episode of New Girl tonight, so we’ll see.


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