Series finale review: ‘Top of the Lake’

Sundance just concluded its airing of “Top of the Lake,” which I reviewed back in March. Now that it’s all over, I have some spoiler-iffic thoughts on how everything resolved, coming up just as soon as there is no match for the tremendous intelligence of the body…

Let’s go straight to the bullet points for this, since I already wrote at length about the many great things about the miniseries (particularly the work of Elisabeth Moss and Peter Mullan):

* Like a lot of long-form mysteries (including “The Killing,” to which “Top of the Lake” bares so many resemblances, despite being vastly better) the finale offers a bit of a head fake on the mystery. Al tells everyone that Matt was the father of Tui’s baby, which makes it seem neat, tidy and even just that she winds up shooting him while in the midst of a feral post-partum episode. Matt’s been the villain all along, and though we’ve seen no evidence that he would molest his own daughter, we also wouldn’t necessarily put it past him. Instead, things prove much more complicated, as we discover what the videos that Bob Platt had were really about: Al had been drugging the kids who worked in the barista program and bringing them to his sex dungeon so he and his friends could have their way with them. That fits with everything Tui had said about not knowing how she got pregnant, and doesn’t feel like a cheat because Al had always been presented as a man with questionable motives (what really happened that night Robin wound up in his bed, for instance?).

* Of course, if Al was lying about the baby’s parentage, what else was he lying about? Are Robin and Johnno not biologically related, or was Al telling them that as a weird sort of kindness, and/or an attempt to keep her off his scent?

* Though the scenes at Paradise with GJ and her flock at first felt like they belonged in a different show, and didn’t factor into the mystery part of things, I thought they ultimately worked. Some of it is the charge of the Holly Hunter/Jane Campion reunion, and just seeing Hunter give this weird, still performance. Some of it is the way the setting allowed Campion to explore her usual areas of interest about power, gender politics, feminism, etc., but in an unconventional way;  GJ doesn’t really care about these women, but is enjoying the scenery and the chance to be in charge until the time is right to cash out and slip away. Mostly, though, I liked the idea of Paradise as a place for the many damaged individuals of this story to come and try to find peace, whether they understood what GJ was telling them or not. With her career and personal life blown up, Robin needs someplace to go; why not a trailer in the middle of the prettiest field on earth?

* Tui delivering the baby on her own, off-camera, while the town drunk babbled and babbled about all he knew about midwifery from his mother and his book was a terrific, darkly funny scene – and also a case of GJ’s advice being right. Her body did know what to do.

* I alluded to it in the pre-season review, but the scene where Tui’s friend falls off the cliff is among the most horrifying I can remember, just a perfect combination of scenery, plot, stunts and practical effects work. Throughout, Campion and collaborators Garth Davis and Gerald Lee did an excellent job of making that community a place where I could gawk at the scenery and yet never, ever want to visit.

What did everybody else think? If you watched from beginning to end, did you find the whole thing satisfying?