‘Top of the Lake: China Girl’: Elisabeth Moss and Gwendoline Christie on the Finale

The two stars, who play unwilling and unlikely detective partners, offer their perspective on the series’ ambiguous finale

Top of the Lake
Courtesy of SundanceTV

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched “The Battle of the Mothers,” the Sept. 12 finale of “Top of the Lake: China Girl.”

“Top of the Lake: China Girl” ends with Miranda (Gwendoline Christie) in mortal danger, and Julia (Nicole Kidman) reasserting herself as Mary’s (Alice Englert) rightful mother. But at the same time, Robin (Elisabeth Moss) has been falling for Pyke (Ewen Leslie), Mary’s adoptive father and Julia’s estranged husband. The episode ends with Robin sitting alone in her new apartment, watching an old home video of Mary (in reality, a video of a young Englert, taken by creator/director Jane Campion; Kidman was at the birthday party it was filmed at). Then there’s a knock at the door — but the episode ends with a close-up on Robin’s face, before we see who it is.

Here, Moss and Christie discuss that ambiguous ending, Miranda’s fate and what’s in store for Robin. For more on the finale, check out Variety‘s conversation with Jane Campion. (And read Variety’s preview of the whole series here.)

How do you both interpret that ending?

Elisabeth Moss: It’s definitely ambiguous, which is totally so Jane. You’re like, wait, what happened? And we filmed different versions of that ending as well. With the knock, without the knock — the knock was actually a late addition to the whole thing. We have many, many jokes about what the knock could be. I’d like it to be Miranda! with Chinese food!

Gwendoline Christie: Of course it’s Miranda! Why would anyone interpret it any other way?

Those last few lines from Julia to Robin (“She said, you’re my mum. And I really need you.”) are so totally unnecessary. It’s so mean, it’s almost funny.

Elisabeth Moss: Yeah, she’s totally just like, pissing on her territory. That’s what was so fun about the scenes with Nicole. I was feeling a little like, alright, she’s a giant movie star, I’ve never worked with her before. What it’s going to be like? Am I going to be intimidated by her? Am I going to be nervous? She’s like a genuine movie star. Old school.

What Jane and I discovered, was that in those scenes, Julia’s so on the back foot with Robin. She’s intimidated by Robin! She’s so threatened by her! It’s wonderful — as Robin not as Lizzie — to feel that power. I felt like Robin knew that she was intimidating her as well, in her stillness, and in her not giving anything. She went straight into detective mode. That was a really interesting dynamic that I didn’t know we were going to find. And you can totally feel Julia grasping at straws desperately, like, this is my daughter though.

What do you think about Miranda’s fate?

Christie: It’s cruel, isn’t it? But then again, so is life. So for that reason, it feels quite realistic to me. It isn’t always the case in our classical storytelling that someone learns their lesson and has the most wonderful nirvana like life. Often they learn their lesson, and then something else terrible happens. So that felt completely realistic to me. Also, the reason Miranda gets hurt is through total poor judgment. In that, you’re not supposed to kick the box off — and Robin was telling her not to! But it’s Miranda’s impetuousness that causes that to happen. So you know, she’s trying to save the day, but she ends up contributing to her own fatal mistake. That felt very real to me, that that could happen.

Did you, or Miranda, know that she was way too good for Adrian (Clayton Jacobson)?

Christie: Is that what you think?! Why do you think that?

I just, personally, didn’t trust him.

Christie: He said he was going to leave her!

Moss: They always do, though, when they say that. [Christie laughs.] They always leave them when they say that.

What did you both think of Robin’s relationship with Pyke?

Christie: I think Miranda thought it was a little bit complicated — there’s the pit in the car where Robin’s like, “I slept with her dad” and Miranda’s like [sighs, makes face]. Miranda feels a lot that — it’s complicated, therefore, it’s exciting. Go for it.

Moss: Totally.

Christie: But it does feel like there’s an incredible energy and chemistry between the two, so within the realms of the story it feels like that would make sense. And also there’s a strange sense of, in some way, the resolution of an unconventional family that perhaps could all coexist together.

Moss: It could actually be the perfect idea, you know? It could actually be perfect. And I think for Robin as well — and this is something Jane and I talked about — we really wanted her to have a good guy. She’d been so burned. We wanted her to have a genuinely good man. And I think Pyke is. He’s got a genuinely good heart, and they connect over their love for their daughter.

Was Johnno not a good man?

Moss: But we’re not sure if they’re related still? I don’t understand why this is being brushed under the rug. [Everyone laughs.] I don’t feel like this has been resolved?! It was for the best that we stopped asking questions.

Christie: As a viewer and fan, I felt that that was for the best. It was disappointing, but I felt like it was completely for the best.

Were you surprised that Johnno cheated on Robin in the first episode?

Moss: Were you?

I was!

Christie: I was shocked as well. Really? And on her wedding day? In such poor taste.

Moss: Bad form.

And she’s even willing to have the ceremony in his jail cell.

Moss: I know. So stubborn. But honestly, I don’t know that she was in it. I don’t know how great she was, making that relationship work. Not that it was in any way her fault, but I just don’t know how in it she was either. I don’t think she was happy. She wanted to leave [New Zealand]. As angry and hurtful as that was, in a lot of ways that was a welcome thing. You know when you’re in a relationship, and someone pulls the plug first, and you’re like, Faaan-tastic.

[Christie laughs.]

Moss: [Laughing.] I’m sooooo upset. How dare you!