×

‘Top of the Lake’ Season 2: 5 Things to Expect From ‘China Girl’

Top of the Lake: China Girl” got the Cannes Film Festival treatment on Tuesday with a six-episode marathon screening that had a packed house of cinephiles enjoying some binge TV on the big screen.

The twisty thriller from co-directors Jane Campion and Ariel Kleiman boasts another knockout turn by Elisabeth Moss as Detective Robin Griffin and stellar work from Nicole Kidman as a mother dealing with a volatile teenage daughter. There’s also plenty of surprises, gorgeous cinematography, a compelling Australian urban backdrop, and a mystery that keeps audiences guessing until the credits roll on the final episode. Fans of the 2013 original won’t be disappointed when the second season airs in the U.S. on Sundance this September.

Without spoiling the big reveals, here are five things to expect from “Top of the Lake’s” return.

1. Robin is in a very bad place

It’s been four years since the events of “Top of the Lake,” and time has not healed Robin’s wounds. When the second series begins, she’s trying to recover from a breakup with her caddish fiancé, tossing back one six pack after another, struggling to get her career back on track after taking a break from the force, suffering from nightmares, and barreling toward a breakdown. Things are not going well.

She’s also dealing with the guilt from having given up a daughter for adoption 17 years ago. Her efforts to get back in touch with the child she could not raise help set the plot in motion.

2. A whole new setting

The first season took place in a remote corner of New Zealand. The forests and mountain ranges were almost another character. Here, the setting shifts to Sydney — a city of skyscrapers, slums, cliffs, freeways, and sandy beaches. The move gives “China Girl” a grittier, noir-ish feel that keeps it fresh.

3. It’s dark … very dark

Oh boy, does “China Girl” go to some bleak places. There are prostitution rings, illegal surrogacies, graphic autopsies, a dead woman’s corpse stuck in a suitcase, and the creepiest boyfriend ever put on screen (apologies to David Dencik, who plays the kind of older suitor that keeps parents up at night). There’s some mordant wit, to be sure, but “China Girl” is not for the faint of stomach.

4. Elisabeth Moss and Gwendoline Christie have the best chemistry

Moss has to deliver the kind of emotional pyrotechnics that win Emmys, but Christie steals the show as her awkward, hero-worshipping partner. She gets the best lines and delivers the biggest laughs. It’s a refreshing change of pace for Christie, best known for her work as a morally upstanding knight on “Game of Thrones.” She’s yin to Moss’ yang. Get these women a buddy comedy!

5. It’s all about the gender politics

Like “Prime Suspect” before it, “China Girl” is as much a “who done it” as it is an examination of workplace sexism. Robin Griffin is as good a detective as any man in her squad, but she has to deal with unwanted advances from co-workers and macho snickering when she tries to assert her authority. The film isn’t just concerned with that kind of casual discrimination. It also looks at violence toward women in other forms, from sex trafficking to rape to prostitution. Despite that dark subject matter, at its core, “China Girl” is about motherhood — the bonds between a parent and a child, and the aching need to love and be loved.

Most detective stories are about men, this one’s told from the women’s point of view. It makes a difference.

More Film

  • Tiny: The Life of Erin Blackwell

    Film Review: 'TINY: The Life of Erin Blackwell'

    “Streetwise,”  the classic and haunting 1984 documentary about homeless street kids in Seattle, is a movie that’s now 35 years old. But for anyone who has seen it, the children it’s about — drifters, hustlers, squatters, thieves, prostitutes — remain frozen in time. And none of them was ever more memorable than Tiny, the 14-year-old [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Revenge Motive May Have Sparked Kyoto Animation Arson Attack

    Japanese media is speculating that revenge was the motivation for the arson attack on Kyoto Animation which killed 33 people on Thursday. Investigative sources quoted by Jiji Press on Friday said that the man in custody had a grudge against the studio. “Since [the studio] stole my novel, I poured out the liquid and set [...]

  • Terminator: Dark Fate Gabriel Luna

    'Terminator: Dark Fate' Cast Proud of Latinx Representation in Latest Installment

    The stars of the Tim Miller-directed “Terminator: Dark Fate” stormed the stage of San Diego Comic-Con’s Hall H on Thursday, but it wasn’t until after the panel — which included appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton — that Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna and Diego Boneta reflected on what makes the upcoming installment in the [...]

  • It

    Producer Sues Warner Bros. Over 'It' Film Adaptations

    A producer who developed the original “It” TV miniseries sued Warner Bros. on Thursday, alleging the studio breached his contract by making the films “It” and “It Chapter Two” without him. Frank Konigsberg and Larry Sanitsky were running Telepictures in the early 1980s when they acquired the rights to the Stephen King novel. They developed [...]

  • Animation Studio Fire

    Kyoto Arson Attack: Animation Community Mourns Colleagues

    Thursday’s deadly attack on Japan’s Kyoto Animation studios left many in the animation community shocked and horrified by the loss of 33 of their colleagues. Another 36 people were injured in the attack, which was Japan’s deadliest ever. A suspect was arrested after pouring a flammable liquid inside the building, which caught fire and trapped [...]

  • Nicolas Cage

    Film News Roundup: Nicolas Cage's '10 Double Zero' Completes Financing

    In today’s film news roundup, financing has been secured for a Nicolas Cage police drama, feature drama “Topside” is unveiled and the late Tom Snyder is getting a tribute from his daughter. FINANCING COMPLETED DCR Finance Corp. has signed a deal to complete the financing for Nicolas Cage’s upcoming crime drama “10 Double Zero.” The [...]

  • Matt Damon and Tom McCarthy Team

    Matt Damon Teams with 'Spotlight' Director Tom McCarthy on New Film (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even as buzz grows for his upcoming race car drama “Ford v. Ferrari,” Matt Damon looks to keep the pedal to the metal: the A-lister is set to star in the Participant Media feature film “Stillwater” with Tom McCarthy directing. Damon attached himself in May, and the package was quickly acquired by Participant, who previously [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content