Binge Guide

Weekly Binge: Top of the Lake

We give you what you need to know to dive into the popular shows everyone's talking about.

by | March 6, 2014 | Comments

The Weekly Binge shifts gears to bring you a mini-series that could help fill the void once you finish True Detective. It may not have been on your radar when it premiered a year ago, so this week, we give you Sundance’s Top of the Lake.


Top of the Lake

Top of the Lake
What’s the premise? A detective submerges herself into a world of small-town secrets while investigating the disappearance of a pregnant 12 year-old girl.

What’s it like? Jane Campion takes her time when telling a story, but the payoff is well worth it. This series is like watching a great cinematic achievement, except in seven well-conceived installments of continuing storyline. It may be a slow burn, but the moody storytelling combines the grittiness of Homicide: Life on the Street with the meditative pace of The Wire .

Where can I see it? It’s streaming on Netflix, and available for download on iTunes, Amazon, and Vudu.

How long will it take? Since this was only a seven episode mini-series, you can easily finish this in a weekend. And if you’re feeling ambitious, there’s no reason why you couldn’t do it all in a day.

What do the critics think? Top of the Lake is Certified Fresh at 93% on the Tomatometer and most of the critics agree that the acting is top-notch. Matt Roush of TV Guide says, “Its world is so specific and transcendently trippy, haunted by mythic legends rooted in this unforgiving geography, that it feels wondrously fresh, alien and unforgettable,” while Maureen Ryan of the Huffington Post claims, “It has the kind of premise we’ve seen many times before. Rarely, however, will you see such visual rigor, emotional intelligence and assured storytelling brought to a mystery tale told in this kind of world.”

Why should I watch this? This is a hidden gem that got a lot of love from the awards circuit, but isn’t familiar to the general public. The mini-series and its star, Mad Men’s Elizabeth Moss, were nominated for Critics Choice, Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards. (Moss took the Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice awards). Top of the Lake is a layered show in which the subplots hovering around the main plot are little mysteries themselves. Lake leaves you thinking about what you just saw and trying to make sense of it. Best of all, the end is nothing you will see coming.

What’s my next step? Top of the Lake is the first TV endeavor since An Angel at My Table by Jane Campion, who co-created, co-wrote and co-directed the series. Campion also did double duty directing and writing The Piano in 1993, starring a young Anna Paquin who went on to win Best Supporting Actress at the age of 11. Paquin was originally asked to play the role of Robin in Top of the Lake, but bowed out due to her pregnancy. Holly Hunter, who starred with Paquin in The Piano, has a role in Lake, and if you find you’re enjoying Campion’s work, check out her film Bright Star. If you have a hankering for dark, edgy dramas, you may want to check out The Killing or The Following. Also, one of the most buzzworthy gritty detective shows is True Detective, which ends its first season this Sunday, March 9, making it a perfect time to binge one of the biggest series of the year.

What do you like about Top of the Lake? How would you explain it to a newbie? Get in on the conversation here.

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