Top of the Lake is a mystery drama television series created and written by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, and directed by Campion and Garth Davis. It aired in 2013, and the sequel, entitled Top of the Lake: China Girl, in 2017. It marks Campion's first work for television since An Angel at My Table in 1990.
Season 1 follows Detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) and deals with her investigation of the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl in New Zealand. Season 2, China Girl, is set in Sydney four years later, as Detective Griffin investigates the death of an unidentified Asian girl found at Bondi Beach.
Actress Jennifer Ehle auditioned for the role of GJ, which went to Holly Hunter. Jane Campion originally offered the role of Robin to Anna Paquin, who had worked with her on The Piano (1993). Paquin declined due to her pregnancy, and the role went to American Elisabeth Moss.
The series was originally intended as a co-production with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But after Moss was cast as Robin, the network pulled their funding before production began, citing a prior agreement to put an Australian actress in the lead. Australian-based channel UKTV, owned by BBC Worldwide, filled the funding gap left by the ABC. Philippa Campbell was the New Zealand-based producer.
Filming took 18 weeks and was shot entirely on location in Queenstown and Glenorchy, in Otago, on the South Island of New Zealand. While Queenstown is referred to during the series, Glenorchy doubles as the fictitious town of Laketop. The scenes in the women's commune were filmed at Moke Lake.
In early 2013, co-creator Jane Campion said that Top of the Lake comes to a distinct ending, and there would be no additional series. Despite this, it was announced in October 2014 that the series had been renewed for a second season. China Girl began shooting on location in Sydney, Australia in December 2015.
Campion returned as co-writer and co-director. Gerard Lee returned as co-writer. The original co-director, Garth Davis, was replaced by Ariel Kleiman due to scheduling conflicts. Philippa Campbell returned as producer. Actress Nicole Kidman joined the cast for China Girl, which is the second time she has worked with Campion. Kidman "plays an Australian mother, Julia, whose story dovetails with that of Detective Robin Griffin", played by Elisabeth Moss. Christie, a fan of Campion's The Piano, joined the cast after sending a letter through a mutual friend.
Top of the Lake screened in its entirety at the January 2013 Sundance Film Festival, in a single seven-hour session with one intermission and a break for lunch. This was the first such screening in the history of the festival. Top of the Lake was additionally shown at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.
China Girl was screened in its entirety at the May 2017 Cannes Film Festival. In the UK, it premiered on BBC Two on 27 July 2017, and the entire series was released on the BBC iPlayer immediately afterwards.  In the US, it premiered in September 2017, on Sundance TV, and each episode will be available on Hulu the day after its screening on SundanceTV. In Canada, China Girl premiered on October 25, 2017, on CBC Television.
This article needs an improved plot summary. (November 2017)
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date|
|1||1||"Episode 1"||Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||18 March 2013|
|In the small town of Laketop, New Zealand, a young girl named Tui Mitcham is discovered standing chest-deep in the icy, glacial waters of the titular lake. Afterwards, a school nurse notices that the girl is pregnant. Robin Griffin, who grew up in the area, is now a police inspector in Sydney who specializes in cases involving children. While home visiting her sick mother, she agrees to interview Tui at the local police station.|
|2||2||"Episode 2"||Garth Davis with Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||18 March 2013|
|Robin encounters two women from Paradise. They tell her Tui was with them the day before she disappeared but was gone in the morning. Robin organizes the local authorities to search for Tui. During the search, Robin walks into the lake and has a vision of Tui doing the same, the latter clenching her fists in the water.|
|3||3||"Episode 3"||Garth Davis||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||25 March 2013|
|Matt Mitcham goes to Paradise and sits in on a session with GJ, the enigmatic leader of the camp. In a mocking tone, Matt asks the group about the human mind. GJ tells Matt that the human mind schemes. Later, Al meets Matt in the middle of the lake for a secret meeting.|
|4||4||"Episode 4"||Garth Davis with Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||1 April 2013|
|Robin has dinner at Al's ultramodern, immaculate, lakeside house. Robin tells Al she thinks Tui's note, that said "No One", meant there were multiple rapists. Al counsels Robin she is getting too involved in Tui's case, likely because of Robin's own history of having been gang raped, at age 15.|
|5||5||"Episode 5"||Jane Campion with Garth Davis||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||8 April 2013|
|Robin asks Johnno what he wanted to tell her about the night she was raped. Johnno describes how he heard Robin screaming and he peed himself. He says he found a latch to get out of the dog cage in the back of the truck but was too afraid to persist in trying to stop the men from raping her.|
|6||6||"Episode 6"||Garth Davis with Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||15 April 2013|
|Robin reveals to Johnno that she plans to make a case against Matt Mitcham, in hopes of encouraging Tui to come home. Robin shares that she caught Jamie attempting to take Tui with rohypnol, a "date rape" drug that Robin suspects Matt manufactures. Johnno warns Robin against bringing a case against Matt, as Matt's drug business provides much of the town with a livelihood.|
|7||7||"Episode 7"||Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||15 April 2013|
|Robin goes to work at the police station the next day and tells Al that Matt said he was her father. Matt, certain that Tui could not be pregnant, searches for and finds her with her newborn baby. As he is about to kill the baby, Tui appears and kills Matt. Robin discovers that Al has been pimping young boys and girls from the barista training, including Tui, to other men for sex.|
|Title||Directed by||Written by||UK air date||UK viewers
|1||1||"Paradise Sold"||Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||13 July 2013||2.70|
|Tui's pregnancy is discovered, and the Paradise community moves in.|
|2||2||"Searchers Search"||Garth Davis||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||20 July 2013||1.92|
|Robin's search for Tui begins.|
|3||3||"The Edge of the Universe"||Garth Davis||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||27 July 2013||1.57|
|Robin makes a breakthrough. Over dinner at Al's place he warns her about her past being known.|
|4||4||"A Rainbow Above Us"||Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||3 August 2013||1.32|
|Al dismisses Robin from the case. Her passionate affair with Johnno intensifies.|
|5||5||"The Dark Creator"||Garth Davis||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||10 August 2013||1.50|
|Robin is back on the case. Matt gathers troops to hunt Tui down. Tui's friends celebrate her birthday in the mountains.|
|6||6||"No Goodbyes, Thanks"||Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||17 August 2013||1.72|
|Matt reveals his secret about Robin, and the investigation concludes.|
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|Title||Directed by||Written by||UK air date||UK viewers
|7||1||"China Girl"||Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||27 July 2017||3.39|
|In Sydney, brothel owners Bootie and Dang throw a heavy suitcase off a cliff into the ocean. Four years after the events with Tui, Robin tries to adjust back to life in Sydney while dealing with residual PTSD from shooting Al Parker. Parker turned witness in the case of the paedophile ring in exchange for immunity, but has now filed a civil suit against Robin, claiming the shooting was personally motivated. Robin's daughter, Mary, is now nearly 18 and exhibiting signs of mental instability that her adoptive parents worry is more than teen angst. Unbeknownst to her parents, Mary is dating a 42-year-old German, Alexander, nicknamed "Puss", who lives above a brothel, Silk 41. Mary is enamoured with Puss, who claims to be "empowering" the young Asian prostitutes by teaching them English and other life lessons. Mary is aggressively rebelling and openly hostile against her adoptive parents, Pyke and Julia, who are getting a divorce after Julia came out as a lesbian. Pyke and Julia are appalled after meeting Puss, who informs them he plans to marry Mary. Robin's new boss, Detective Sergeant Adrian Butler, brings a large stuffed panda to a young Asian woman. Brett, a socially awkward university student who frequents brothels, worries because he can't find a prostitute named Cinnamon, whom he believes is his girlfriend. Meanwhile, the suitcase washes up on Bondi Beach and it contains the decomposing body of a woman. Robin and a rookie constable, the awkward Miranda, are assigned to the case.|
|8||2||"The Loved One"||Ariel Kleiman||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||3 August 2017||2.38|
|A flashback reveals that four weeks earlier, Johnno was arrested on their wedding day after his pot farm was raided, and Robin left him after discovering he had cheated on her as well. Meanwhile, Tui is now raising her son at the women's commune. In the present, Robin, who had three miscarriages while with Johnno, has nightmares about babies. Robin is obsessed with the case of the Asian Jane Doe found in the suitcase, dubbed "China Girl," whose cause of death was possibly strangulation. With no matching reports from missing persons, they suspect she was working as a prostitute, possibly entering the country with a false passport. Robin and Miranda observe the autopsy, where the coroner learns that China Girl was about 17 weeks pregnant. An emotional Miranda leaves the autopsy when she sees the tiny foetus, and she later reveals she is 18 weeks pregnant. Robin is irritated by Miranda, but Adrian insists they work together, because nobody else will work with either of them. They visit brothels, which are legal in Sydney. Robin notices a large stuffed panda at one, Silk 41, and asks Adrian what happened to the one he had in his office. He claims he gave it to his son. Brett goes to Silk 41 to find Cinnamon, and is eventually told she went to Canberra. He refuses to believe she would without telling him. Robin finally works up the courage to contact Mary, leaving a letter at the Edwards' home. She first meets with Pyke and Julia at his office, and Julia angrily informs her that Mary's behavioural problems began four years earlier, after she never received a reply to the letter she sent Robin. She chastises her for not having the decency to respond, and that Mary agonised over whether she had said something wrong in the letter. Julia storms off, but Pyke is more patient and listen as Robin explains she was just 16 years old when Mary was born. Robin is able to meet Mary, who behaves oddly and exhibits very low self-esteem. Mary reveals she assumed that she was the product of rape, which Robin confirms. Mary volunteers to murder her mother's rapist, and Robin confesses that she never knew who the father was, being a victim of a gang rape. A DNA test on the male foetus reveals China Girl was not his biological mother, mystifying the pathologist. Robin, though, realises the dead girl was acting as a surrogate mother, changing the course of the investigation.|
|9||3||"Surrogate"||Ariel Kleiman||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||10 August 2017||1.97|
|Robin believes that China Girl was acting as an illegal surrogate, as the law states surrogates must be over 25 and have already had a child of their own, and thus the biological parents were working outside the normal system. She and Miranda visit a fertility clinic, where a doctor tells Robin that although many parents may be desperate enough to try illegal surrogacy, that would bring great risk as the law would side with the surrogate mother, who could decide to keep the child. Robin comes out to see Miranda arguing with the receptionist. Robin gets a lead after potentially finding the biological parents for whom China Girl was a surrogate, after a mentally unstable woman is wandering in traffic, crying about her missing baby. Robin visits the woman, Felicity, and her husband, Mike, in the psychiatric ward. Mike, who has a criminal record for cocaine possession, eventually agrees to take a DNA test. Robin is irritated by Miranda, who smokes and drinks despite her pregnancy, and who is now sleeping with Robin's brother on top of having an affair with the married Adrian. Another detective, Stally, continues to make unwanted advances on Robin. After some investigating, Pyke and Julia confront Puss with the fact that he is already married, causing him to have a bizarre outburst in a restaurant and a further rift between them and Mary. Puss locks himself in his apartment and refuses to see Mary or any of the prostitutes in to see him. After being called by Pyke, Robin takes Mary to her apartment, where Mary breaks down because of Puss refusing to see her. Robin's mediation with Al, now confined to a wheelchair, does not go as planned when he tries to kill her before it begins.|
|10||4||"Birthday"||Ariel Kleiman||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||17 August 2017||1.92|
|Puss manipulates Mary to start working as a prostitute when she turns 18, mocking her for her privileged upbringing and implying she thinks she is better than her friends at the brothel. Pyke and Mary attend her school's Daddy/Daughter dance, which he has been looking forward to. Mary at first stops to check on Puss, who talks his way into attending, claiming he is her "Daddy." At the dance, he interrupts Pyke and Mary's waltz and causes outrage when he begins dancing sexually with Mary, and is thrown out. Brett, who has seen the news about the Asian Jane Doe, contacts the police and gives them a photo of Cinnamon. Upset that the police consider him a suspect, Brett tells them about the creepy guy at the brothel. As he describes him, Robin fears he is talking about Mary's boyfriend. Mary takes some of the prostitutes (whom she claims are students) to the beach with her, Pyke and Robin, to teach them how to swim. Puss comes along and, after noticing Robin's air of hostility towards him, he brings up her rape, makes sexually suggestive remarks and then violently attacks her, biting her on the nose. Mary, screaming and hitting herself in the head, convinces Robin not to press charges. The DNA test reveals that Felicity and Mike are not the biological parents, but Robin is shocked to find out they have three young Asian women as surrogate mothers. Mary asks Dang to start working there, and Dang refuses. On Mary's 18th birthday, Puss takes Mary to a hookers' strip. She says she is afraid and he hits her in the face. He tells her that is worse than what any John will do to her, and now she doesn't have to be afraid, and then leaves her there. Unable to complete the act, she is thrown out of a car by a John, and phones Robin for help. In Robin's car, Mary sees the photo of Cinnamon, whom she recognises. Robin hints that Mary is in great danger. At Robin's apartment, Mary breaks down crying, saying she doesn't know how to leave him.|
|11||5||"Who's Your Daddy"||Jane Campion||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||24 August 2017||1.69|
|Mary leaves the safety of Robin's home to reconnect with Puss, who learns from her that Robin is looking into the murder of Cinnamon. Robin tells Pyke about picking Mary up from under the overpass. Pyke wants to kill Puss, and Robin says even she arrests him, she knows he won't be held long. Brett becomes further unhinged after identifying her Cinnamon's body and begins suffering from hallucinations. Miranda has another crying spell at work and admits she fears her baby has died. They return to the same fertility clinic where Miranda shows the receptionist the photo of Cinnamon, and demands to know if she recognises her. Miranda informs her that the girl in the photo was not a student, but a sex worker, and then starts screaming that she wants an ultrasound. Robin takes her out to the beach to calm down, where Miranda reveals she is not actually pregnant and that her pregnancy is being done via surrogacy because of her own fertility issues. Miranda says their surrogate is pregnant with a daughter but has gone missing, and she fears it is because of a miscarriage. Miranda still insists that their surrogate was a student, but Robin asks if Adrian gave her a stuffed panda, because she saw one at Silk 41. A doctor at the fertility clinic, unaware that the girls were sex workers, connects Robin with a couple who identify Cinnamon as their surrogate mother, whose real name was Pathma. With the assistance of Mary's schoolfriend Michaela, Puss directs make some sort of "art film" with the prostitutes and Caucasian babies, set in a Thai village. Mary becomes worried when Caramel, another pregnant girl from Silk 41, is taken away by Puss and Dang. Connected by concern over Mary and Puss, Robin and Pyke grow closer, much to Julia's annoyance and jealousy. Brett, armed with a rifle, shows up at the brothel and demands to see Puss. Puss pushes Mary in front of him and escapes in the elevator as Brett fires the gun.|
|12||6||"The Battle of the Mothers"||Ariel Kleiman||Jane Campion & Gerard Lee||31 August 2017||1.84|
|Robin and Pyke make love when she receives a late-night call from Mary. Nobody speaks, but Robin hears people arguing about a taxi fare and Mary screams before the phone is disconnected. Miranda calls and tells her there was a shooting at Silk 41, and that the suspect is Brett Iles, who took Mary hostage. The taxi is found at Bondi Beach, with the taxi driver shot dead. Security footage from the brothel shows Puss escaping as Brett shot Bootie, before leaving with Mary. The security footage also shows another room, in which Miranda spots her surrogate. That room is not at the brothel, and none of the sex workers know its location. The next day, Pyke and Julia go to Mary's school to appeal to her classmates for any information. Michaela tells them about a place on Liverpool Street called Stasi Cafe, where Mary first met Puss. The manhunt for Brett intensifies, but Robin is convinced he's still on Bondi Beach, now packed with people. She notices an empty case of beer that was there the previous night. She and Miranda move in and try to quietly move beachgoers away from the box. One group refuses to move and distracts Robin while Miranda discovers a shoe sticking out from the sand. She kicks the box away to find Brett's face peeking out, his eyes closed. Miranda moves in to check his pulse. Robin yells at Miranda to draw her weapon but she freezes. Brett suddenly pulls the rifle out of the sand and shoots Miranda in the abdomen. Robin jumps on him, her gun to his head, demanding to know where Mary is. Meanwhile, Mary shows up at home, unharmed. Crying, Julia begs her to stay, promising that she will change and try to understand her, but Mary leaves. Robin visits the hospital, where Miranda is in a coma, her outlook grim. Adrian vows to tell everyone he loves her, and begs Robin to find their surrogate. Robin finds Pyke at Stasi Cafe, where they kiss and embrace. He leaves after getting a text from Julia informing him that Mary's passport is missing. Robin then finds Puss in the kitchen, where she cuts him with a kitchen knife. He claims that Cinnamon hanged herself. Robin puts her gun to his head and he discloses the address of the missing surrogates, giving her the key. She shows up to find not only Adrian but the other expectant couples, including Felicia and Mike, all of whom received calls from their surrogates. They find the apartment empty, with a DVD left behind. Meanwhile, Mary escorts the dozen or so surrogates through the airport. Puss shows up as they board the plane, and Mary, upset, tells him that she could have been shot while he fled. He lies and tells her the elevator doors closed and he couldn't do anything. She asks what will happen to the babies and who will love them, and he tells them the "people who made them" will buy them back. She pulls away and he slaps her. She hits him back, over and over. Caramel calls for Mary, but she refuses to board and watches him leave. At the apartment, Adrian plays the DVD, which shows the video shot at the brothel of the Thai women with the babies. Puss narrates, mocking the parents, and accusing the West of exploiting the bodies of oppressed Asian women through prostitution and now surrogacy. He declares that their babies have flown away but each one will bring enough money to feed an entire poor village, as the video shows Bootie handing a bundle of cash in exchange for a white baby. Robin rushes to the airport, while the couples become hysterical, begging Adrian to call the airport and detain the women who are kidnapping their children. Adrian, stunned, tells them there is nothing that can be done legally, as the women can do whatever they want, even while pregnant with another mother's child. Robin arrives at the airport and finds an empty gate, with just the stuffed panda. Mary, however, is safe with her parents. Robin arrives at the Edwards' home, where Julia says she and Pyke are going to give it another try as a couple. Before she leaves, Robin asks if she can borrow the DVD Pyke told her about, showing Mary growing up. Julia protests and says it is their only copy, so Pyke says he will come pick it up as soon as Robin has finished watching it, which Robin says she will do that evening. Julia looks concerned, but says nothing. Later that night, Robin watches the video, crying happy tears, then looks up as she hears a knock on her door – presumably from Pyke.|
Reviews of Top of the Lake have been positive, referring to the series as "masterfully made", "beautiful", "mysterious", "riveting", and "a masterpiece". It received a score of 86 out of 100 from Metacritic and a score of 93 per cent from Rotten Tomatoes.
There were also some less positive reviews. Mike Hale of The New York Times criticized the "elaborately introduced plotlines" and described Tui's disappearance as "less a story element than a metaphor for the kind of armed resistance to male hegemony that constitutes the central idea of Ms Campion’s body of work."
Top of the Lake was lauded by feminist critics for its explicit effort to analyse rape culture as well as its radical construction of narratives entirely foregrounding the experiences of single women.
|2014||Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series||Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Jane Campion and Philippa Campbell||Won|
|Best Direction in a Drama or Comedy||Garth Davis for "The Dark Creator"||Nominated|
|Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama||Peter Mullan||Nominated|
|Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama||Robyn Nevin||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography in Television||Adam Arkapaw for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator"||Won|
|Best Sound in Television||Richard Flynn, Tony Vaccher, John Dennison, Craig Butters, Danny Longhurst and Blair Slater, for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator"||Won|
|Best Original Music Score in Television||Mark Bradshaw, for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator"||Nominated|
|Best Production Design in Television||Fiona Crombie for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator"||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design in Television||Emily Seresin for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator"||Nominated|
|Best Editing in Television||Scott Gray for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator"||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries||Elisabeth Moss||Won|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries||Peter Mullan||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries||David Wenham||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries||Thomas M. Wright||Nominated|
|2013||Primetime Emmy Awards|
|Outstanding Miniseries or Movie||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie||Elisabeth Moss||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie||Peter Mullan||Nominated|
|Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special||Jane Campion, Garth Davis||Nominated|
|Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special||Jane Campion, Gerard Lee||Nominated|
|Creative Arts Emmy Awards|
|Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special||Nominated|
|Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie||Episode: "Part 1"||Won|
|Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie||Episode: "Part 5"||Nominated|
|2014||Best Miniseries or Television Film||—||Nominated|||
|Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film||Elisabeth Moss||Won|
|Best Actor — Miniseries||Peter Mullan||Won|
|Best Actress — Miniseries||Elisabeth Moss||Won|
|2014||Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie||Elisabeth Moss||Nominated|
|2014||Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie||Holly Hunter||Nominated|
|2013||Best Television Feature or Drama Series||Won|||
|2013||Drama Television Production of the Year||Won|||
|2013||Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Miniseries or Telemovie||Won|||