User Score
7.6

Generally favorable reviews- based on 104 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 82 out of 104
  2. Negative: 12 out of 104

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  1. Feb 3, 2014
    4
    Jane Campion is a champion of the weird and freakish. It was therefore with trepidation that I followed this mini-series. Turns out, my apprehension was well founded. In a nutshell, Robin is back to her New Zealand hometown of Laketop to visit her sick mother. She is coming from Australia, where she moved and became a cop of some sort.

    The local police get in touch with her when Tui,
    a 12 yo girl turns up at the station, suicidal and pregnant. This is just the beginning of the most bizarre investigative procedure I have seen on screen. Tui is interrogated by Robin (a “specialist” in dealing with kids). Despite the unpleasantness of the situation nothing much comes out of her mouth (was it rape? was it something even more sinister?) Whatever it was, during her interrogation, Tui manages to look merely annoyed, rather than scared or shocked.

    Completing the female cast is a bunch of women camping on the lake shore and “guided” by GJ – one of the most obnoxious characters ever. Tui goes visiting their camp, then she goes missing and everybody in creepy Laketop gets involved to find her (or what remains of her body). During the very loose and badly coordinated search, we get to know all of Robin’s dark secrets.

    If the female cast is unpleasant more grief comes from the male side. We have Matt, the local bad guy, involved in criminal activities and apparently father of almost every youngster in Laketop. He is also Tui’s father, although their relationship is left mostly unexplored. Then we have Al, the lieutenant, too creepy for words. Potential (and actual) rapists/misogynists fill the local bar, together with Johnno, yet another of Matt’s offspring (or maybe not) who could (or not) be the only good guy around. But he also has his share of quirky behaviors, such as sleeping in a tent, for reasons I could not quite grasps.

    The denouement of the whole plot turns out as one of the most anti-climactic ever. Somebody gets shot, Robin discover a dark plot (of the type already explored and exploited much better in Twin Peaks), Tui goes back to normal life, still managing to look supremely bored and completely detached from all the tragedy around her. The end.

    Not a single character in the series was likeable or engaging, although I suppose main character Robin was meant to elicit some sympathy. The biggest let down was Tui, who played her character either catatonic or bored. Also extremely puzzling the GJ character. I just cannot figure why anybody would follow such a rude person to the end of the world, thinking she has a “teaching” or enlightenment of any sort to impart.
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  2. Oct 19, 2013
    10
    A perfectly done series, portrays a rural area with "warts and all" approach, and leaves you guessing until the final scenes. The visuals are fantastic, a perfect backdrop for such a dark tale.
  3. Aug 24, 2013
    10
    Top of the Lake is one of the most intriguing shows I've seen in long time, the quirkiness of the characters (especially Elisabeth Moss) enhanced the intertwined and un-nerving story-line. The characters were mysterious yet believable and scenery stunning. Another Campion New Zealand masterpiece.
  4. Jul 21, 2013
    2
    Absolutely ludicrous plot. A bunch of scenes designed for sensational effect. I. e. the chimpanzee story --shameless exploitation of a tragedy, not even an attempt to fictionalize.
    I'd recommend BBC's Luther or Prime Suspect way above this for acting, action, drama, believable multidimensional characters you can care about.
    Moss's accent came & went & was awful. Didn't she ever watch
    Flight of the Conchords to pick up pointers?
    Unbelievable critics fell for this horsedoodle and gave it 100--how'd that happen?
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  5. Jun 13, 2013
    10
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Top of the Lake is a unique and captivating mini-series that offers great writing, acting and direction, and a fantastic setting. At first glance a crime drama, it defies genre conventions, but the tip of the hat to the horror genre in the opening sequence and music is not to be ignored.

    Make no mistake; Top of the Lake is about New Zealand. Any local will tell you that New Zealand is Paradise; Top of the Lake tells us about the dark side of that paradise. Yes, there is an Appalachian (for example) version of this story but this is a distinctly New Zealand story.

    Top of the Lake is a portrayal of New Zealand culture and its problems as few other films or series have done. “Once Were Warriors” is a notable exception, and it is no coincidence that that film also deals with issues of misogyny, violence, rape, teen suicide, child abuse and child molestation.

    There is a lot of feminism in Top of the Lake, but it is New Zealand culture that is indicted, and men and women are both guilty. There are many victims in Top of the Lake, but there are few innocents. Women seem to limit their sins to denying, defending and otherwise enabling the behavior of men, and the dark side of the culture in general, but Top of the Lake wants us to question whether they are any less guilty. We probably see this most clearly in Campion’s main character Robin Griffin, played by Elizabeth Moss.

    There are many good reasons to like Robin, and to identify with her. But the viewer suspects Al Parker (David Wenham) early on, and grows uncomfortable as Robin fails to follow up on some fairly clear warning signs, especially when she blacks out and wakes up in his bed and clothes, but fails to have a rape kit done, or a blood test, or to do anything more than give Al a light questioning. She has suspicions, but she fails to follow through on them. It begins to resemble the denial and willful blindness that is so much a part of the local culture, and a strong theme of the series.

    Robin continues to get drunk in bars filled with overtly misogynist men, including one who actually raped her as a teenager. She rekindles an old relationship with an old flame, Johnno (Thomas M. Wright) in a no-means-yes moment in a pub toilet. This old flame had abandoned her at a high school dance just before she was raped by four drunk local men. He comes clean about being there, but refuses to deny planning it with them ahead of time. She continues seeing him.

    When the local drug lord, Matt Mitchum (Peter Mullan), the most obvious villain of the series, reveals to her that he is her father, and that her lover is therefore her half-brother, we feel her horror as she realizes that many of the local demons are inside of her as well, and have been all along (Al has DNA testing done, and reports that Johnno is not Matt’s son. However he also reports that Tui’s baby is Matt’s, almost certainly a lie. We never know for sure).

    As ugly as this all might sound, I continue to have a lot of sympathy and patience for Robin, as do most viewers I think. Credit this to the acting of Elizabeth Moss, but of course Campion knows that it is important that the audience care about even such a deeply flawed character.

    Campion may have less patience for Robin than we do. GJ, the reluctant “guru” of Paradise, played by Holly Hunter, is inspired by the late Indian philosopher U.G. Krishnamurti, a friend of Campion’s. GJ has no more patience for Robin than for any of the “crazy living at Paradise. Robin is apparently the “crazy that broke the camel’s back, sending GJ off to Reykjavik, about as far from New Zealand as a person can get.
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  6. Jun 11, 2013
    1
    Apparently this was an interesting series. I only saw 2 full shows. The last two shows were scheduled together on a Monday night. And, as far as I can tell, never scheduled again. At best I saw a third of the series. Still see ads saying how wonderful it all was. Not if it is never shown, Did Y'all cave in to right wing complaints? Link's Borgan is the only other series really worth watching. I should pay the BBC how much to buy Top of the Lake? What happened? Expand
  7. May 18, 2013
    10
    Watched this straight through after I discovered a post-it reminding me that this was coming on in March. Loved it.

    I'm looking at you, "The Killing" people when I say, This is how an atmospheric, locale-centric mystery is done. This down under gothic gets a 10.
  8. May 14, 2013
    7
    When twelve year old Tui Mitcham is found apparently trying to kill herself in an ice cold lake it is soon discovered that she is pregnant. Unable to get Tui to talk the child services agency calls Robin Griffin (Elizabeth Moss), a detective with experience of working on such matters, and who happens to be visiting her cancer-stricken mother in the area.

    The shows rural surroundings
    certainly make for a more interesting background than the usual big city setting and this, coupled with the way in which the show is structured across its seven episodes, means that the show is able to feel original despite being yet another detective drama. Any fans of Mad Men will know Moss is talented actress and the rest of the cast give equally natural performances that help the plot build towards a satisfying conclusion.

    The only criticism I would personally level at the series is that the pace is rather slow at times during the first few episodes. As The Wire, arguably the greatest drama series in TV history, demonstrated that in itself is not necessarily a problem but when there are only seven episodes I just felt it needed to grab my attention a little quicker. That’s only a small criticism though and it certainly doesn’t stop Top of the Lake being a worthwhile watch.
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  9. Apr 30, 2013
    3
    Mediocre, no wait, it was slightly below mediocre. What it lacks is a good story line, the plot is just so painfully obvious; Detective goes back to her home town to solve a case (sound familiar?), the town is small and quiet, ruled over by a rural gangster who controls pretty much everything which leaves our detective wondering who to trust (sound familiar?), during the course of the investigation our detective
    discovers truths about her own dark past (if it doesn't sound familiar
    to you by now, you really haven't been watching much TV/films over the
    last 20 years). The plot twists (if they can be called that) are just
    as obvious, I figured out who the bad guy was half way through this and
    then just sat around waiting for her to figure it out.....which was
    sort of dull.

    Apart from being a bad story, it's also badly told. A lot of the times
    you are left confused over who these people are and what exactly their
    relations are with each other. So when something actually happens to
    them you don't really find yourself caring much about it. Speaking of
    characters I almost feel like I have to mention the women on the lake
    top; a bizarre collection of horny, middle-aged women who follow some
    guru like figure who gives them bashful, plaintive advice. The entire
    thing is so stupid that you're just left there gaping at the screen
    thinking "what the Hell?"

    The acting is okay, nothing to boast or complain about that.

    To sum up, for a suspense/thriller there is really little actual
    suspense or excitement, just the plaintive progression of a plaintive
    storyline. The only possible reason you might have to watch this show
    is to see the stunning beautiful New Zealand landscape.
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  10. Apr 21, 2013
    9
    Visually stunning, TotL is different from most short series in mood and pacing. Back stories are more 'inferred' than put on display so that the main investigation stays in focus. This show treats viewers like they're smart and paying attention. Actors are capable and characters are often bizarre. Understated performances keep things interesting. Very well directed and shot. Could there be a more for these characters? Expand
  11. Apr 18, 2013
    10
    Flawless. Masterful writing, a really smartly interlocking mystery with a satisfying conclusion, pitch perfect acting, tons of atmosphere and the most beautiful scenery I've ever seen in a television show. I didn't want it to end.
  12. Apr 17, 2013
    10
    watched the whole series yesterday.......woot woot!!!! Loved Elisabeth Moss...she did her typical great job....Cant wait for Copper and Hell on Wheels to start again...
  13. Apr 16, 2013
    3
    This plot simply has no credibility! It is full of holes. Would a young girl who had been raped be immediately released into the custody of her father and brothers who are suspects in her rape? Not Likely. Would the New Zealand Police allow a junior Australian police officer who happened to be on holiday in the area to lead the team investigating a potential murder case? Highly Unlikely! Are there places where a load of abused women who hate men live in communal shipping containers? Highly unlikely! are here really places where all of the men are rapists, crooks and vile? Not likely! Will this pretentious dross improve or will the ending be plausible? highly unlikely! I suppose this is art as Jane Campion is involved but the only redeeming feature of the whole sad show is the stunning scenery. Expand
  14. Apr 12, 2013
    5
    If you are a man hating woman this show is for you. The amount of emotional intelligence to find the show interesting precludes it mostly to women for starters. The fact that EVERY SINGLE MAN in the show is a hatful, spiteful, rapist, woman beater, dirty cop, child molesterer, drug dealer, bum, drunk or merely insensitive clod with the one exception of course of the romantic interest of the main character. While every woman in the show is an emotionally sensitive, understanding, moralistic, high champion of justice and what's right, makes the show somewhat single faceted in its' diatribe. The show is compelling in terms of the acting and general plot, but the awful one sided message seems to override the plot as a premise for the story at times. You really have to wonder at the writing and directing of Jane Campion here. Expand
  15. Apr 11, 2013
    10
    Directing, acting scenery are working together perfectly to create a realistic drama. I really enjoyed the first 4 episodes and i am looking forward for next ones to come!
  16. Apr 3, 2013
    1
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Being a fan of New Zealand I thought I'd give this series a chance. Then Elizabeth Moss shows up with an okay accent. She's an excellent actress,but how about a kiwi? It worked well for Spartacus. Next, the episode meanders along, okay I can handle that. After a while I notice that EVERY man is a straw man/cypher. They are all bad, stupid, evil, and ones not showed but implied are rapists and/or pedophiles. Hummmm, this is begining to sound familiar. As I look more closely at the guru I go "Is that Holly Hunter sure enough it is. I must have missed the credit of Jane Campion. On episode two I see, yep its her. Fine, if you like quirky, visually interesting TV ,this show has it and she uses her NZ landscape well. But after a while I grew tired of the fact that ALL the men are crap, despite an excellent performance by Peter Mullan. Jane, you can make your point, but in the real world not all men Yeah, I know many are right bastards, but not all.) are evil monsters who wish to rape, kill, sodomize or genrally treat women in a horrible way. I suggest a little counseling for your apparent hatred for all things male. Jeez, you really hate us don't you? This really detracts from what promised to be an interesting show. Sign me had enough of this. Expand
  17. Mar 31, 2013
    10
    Simply amazing show! Fantastic acting, cinematography, story, characters and especially atmosphere.

    While watching the first 3 episodes I had flashbacks of Twin Peaks and the foreign version of The Killing.

    Great directing to, the area where this is taking place is interesting, as are the characters.
    Best new show since Homeland imo! Check it out, top notch tv!
  18. Mar 26, 2013
    5
    Interesting albeit extremely quirky and fairly involving so far. It could really use subtitles as the accents are sometimes completely incomprehensible.
  19. Mar 26, 2013
    9
    Dark, twisted, weird and mysterious, you won't see any similar show on TV right now. Not only its plot is well-weaved and tense, the characters are played out beautifully. It has a great potential for awards!
  20. Mar 26, 2013
    1
    Having watched the first two episodes of this series, I am astonished at the general positivity of the reviews it has received. I can only speculate that the characters and plot look more credible from afar than they do for anyone who has any familiarity with New Zealand as a place and the people who inhabit it. It's obvious (or at least I hope that is the case) that Jane Campion is aiming for some kind of pastiche of Twin Peaks, with a bit of Mad Max and The Killing thrown in for good measure. Yes, it really is that horribly confused. So much so that much of the time it's impossible to tell what is supposed to be funny and what is supposed to be serious. Elizabeth Moss' attempt at an Australian accent is awful and distracting and the vast array of mystifying characters that surround her only add to the sense of displacement. Holly Hunter is (for fans of Portlandia) like the store owner from 'Women and Women First', while the angry Scottish/Kiwi father figure and his three dopey sons appear to have been conjured out of a high school screenwriting project; they are all at once gross stereotypes and completely unrecognizable as 'real'. If this series is supposed to speak to New Zealand landscape and society (and I think it is), it fails dismally and it would be sad to see it taken seriously on that front. Excruciating viewing. Collapse
  21. Mar 22, 2013
    9
    Perhaps above all in a time where even good TV drama is broad and familiar and cliche Top of the Lake is specific. It's moody. It's subtle and ethereal and existential. It's intense and unnerving without the writers trying to figure out how many F bombs they can fit into a sentence.
Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 26 out of 27
  2. Negative: 0 out of 27
  1. Reviewed by: Jace Lacob
    May 30, 2013
    90
    Numerous story strands--Robin’s dark past, the venomous Mitcham and his ne’er-do-well sons, a New Age women’s camp run by the mysterious guru GJ (Holly Hunter)--all coalesce into a taut and provocative thriller about damage, vengeance, and escape.
  2. Reviewed by: Jeanne Jakle
    May 29, 2013
    80
    The miniseries is full of striking characters, some brutish and scary, others vulnerable with painful secrets.
  3. 100
    A triumph of writing, directing, and acting.