Top Of The Lake China Girl Review: I Need More Closure - GMonsterTV

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Top Of The Lake China Girl Review: I Need More Closure

It's hard to believe the first season of "Top Of The Lake" aired some four years ago. Even though it's out of my typical wheelhouse, I really enjoyed the show. The characters were compelling and the New Zealand backdrop added it's "otherwordliness". See my reviews here

The second season dubbed "China Girl" just completed it's three night run on the Sundance channel. There are six chapters total. The show is again written and produced by Jane Campion (with help from Gerard Lee). Elisabeth Moss returns as Detective Robin Griffin. She has moved back from her childhood home to Sydney Australia. This is where the show loses some of what made it so special last time around. I'm sure Sydney is lovely but there's no beating the New Zealand countryside for atmosphere. 

This season centers around a murdered girl that washes ashore in a suitcase. She is dubbed "China Girl" before her identity is known. As it later turns out, she is Thai and not Chinese. 

Exposition time: Robin was raped by three men when she was 15 and became pregnant. She gave Mary up for adoption some seventeen years ago. Mary is IRL portrayed by Alice Englert (Jane's actual daughter). Mary is a handful. She is prone to fits of anger, depression, the usual teenage stuff. Her adoptive parents, mother Julia (played by Nicole Kidman) and father Pyke (played by Ewen Leslie) are seriously perplexed as to what to do to help the situation.  

Kidman offers a powerhouse performance as a frazzled mother who might explode any second. She's not a very likable character. The crazy gray hair adds to the effect. Not sure why they gave her all the facial freckles though. Julia and Mary fight about everything-- from feminism (Julie- for, Mary- against) to Julie's new relationship with a woman. It's a bad time all around.   

Mary is love with a MUCH older man-- German Alexander "Puss" Braun. He lives above/owns a brothel called Silk 41. He's also running a surrogate baby ring on the side. It turns out the missing girl also worked there. Hmm what are the odds of that happening in real life? Puss says he's the illegitimate son of a baron. His mother was a servant who was raped. He also says he was a college professor in Austria. I dont believe any of it. He's just a horrible troll of a little man. He says (I hope he doesnt actually believe this) that he is helping all the women. He teaches them English, etc. Uhhh, it's mainly sexual stuff they can say to the clients.  

Anywho, Mary is madly in love with him and there is no telling her otherwise-- even when he prostitutes her. How sad. Why cant she see what Robin and her parents see? The guy is a complete fake and psycho. He even bites Robin on the nose and causes some major damage. 

There are several other assorted characters. Kooky police partner Miranda (played by Gwendoline Christie) is an interesting addition. Yes, she's Brienne on "Game Of Thrones". Miranda is tasked with keeping an eye on Robin and tries to soften some of her rougher edges. The height different between the two is funny to observe. 

Miranda is having an affair with married boss Adrian. Unbeknownst to Robin, they are using as a surrogate. Why Miranda wears a prosthetic belly I'm not sure. It turns out many couples who have failed going the legal route are doing the same. They assume the surrogates are students. In fact, they all work at the brothel. We also meet Robin's brother Liam. He hooks up with Miranda. Holiday dinner should be interesting at their house this year.    

Robin and Mary form an instant connection on their first meeting. Robin tries to keep an eye on the girl and reports back to her parents. Can anyone talk sense into Mary? Robin also has sexy times with Pyke (who always seems to be cooking something). I hope those two settle into a nice quiet life together. They both deserve it. 

In conclusion, while I definitely enjoyed "China Girl" as a whole, several things perplexed me. The main items of contention are:

1. Robin has some seriously bad luck or something. She was raped by three men at the age of 15. Later she almost marries Johnno (remember him from season 1?) but finds out he's cheating on her in the nick of time. A corrupt cop she took down back in New Zealand for running a pedophile ring (Al Parker) reappears. Dont forget he also raped her. He now almost kills her (despite being in a wheelchair after she shot him). And the list goes on. This is a LOT for one character. I'm not sure why some of it is added. I assume its to make sure we realize life is rough for women. Yep, those of us that live it every day get it. It's still a bit of overkill and distracts from the main story. It almost crosses over into soap opera territory.  

2. For a show about the mistreatment of women, I'm very surprised we dont learn more about the Thai women's lives. They are all relegated to the background. I was hoping we would see them empowered at some point. Instead they leave the country with sleazeball Puss.   

3. What is the point of adding the Cinnamon obsessed john Brett to the story? It would have been fine without him. Do we really need Mary to be in any more jeopardy than she's already in? Also, the guys he meets with at the coffee shop to swap hooker notes are the worst. They all need to move out of their parent's basements and grow up. 

4. What's up with all the baby imagery? There's fluorescent babies, there's teeny tiny babies. We learn that besides having Mary, Robin has had three miscarriages. It's all very strange though. 

5. In the end, Alexander tells Robin that Cinnamon hung herself (and they just disposed of her body). Why would anyone believe this guy? Will Miranda be OK after being shot by Brett? And did Brett just let Mary go after taking her hostage? Did she bury him in the sand up to his neck on the beach? Cause he didnt do that himself. Will the parents ever get to see their babies again? My understanding is Puss plans to resell them after they all settle in Thailand.    

Grade: 4 Monsters (out of 5) At the core, a compelling story with great performances. Some of the ancillary stuff I mentioned above took away from the total quality though. The lack of resolution also left me a bit empty . Still loved it though and would gladly tune in for the next installment. 

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TV: Heavy On Sci Fi, Horror & Adventure

September 17, 2017
Top Of The Lake China Girl Review: I Need More Closure Reviewed by GMonsterTV on 4:53 PM Rating: 5 It's hard to believe the first season of "Top Of The Lake" aired some four years ago. Even though it's out of my typic...

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