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Top of the Lake: Series Finale (Episodes 6 and 7) 

Photo Credit: Sundance Channel/Parisa Taghizadeh
Photo Credit: Sundance Channel/Parisa Taghizadeh

Well, I think we needed (at least) one more episode. Jane Campion has never been a fan of the tidy ending, or wrapping things in bows, and the ending of Top of the Lake is typical Campion—messy, perplexing, full of questions, and well done.

First things first, Tui and her baby make it out alive.

The last two hours focus on the Mitchams more than Robin and Johnno, so they’re a little edgier and uncertain. Matt decides to make a full-court press to look for Tui, and that runs him right up against Robin, who’s more determined than ever to bring him down. She makes the case to raid his compound and Al stalls it and Johnno tells her it’s a sure ticket to getting herself killed.

We pick up with Tui and Jamie coming out of the forest at Paradise to listen to Melissa, the visiting daughter who’s run an extension cord as far as it will go to plug in her amp. She plays guitar and they come out to listen and then they follow her into the camp for a meal and an audience with GJ. Jamie tells GJ that Tui is nervous about the birth and GJ tells them the body knows what to do. They run when Matt’s men show up. (Matt has summoned a frightening array of hunters to find Tui but bring her to no harm with a $10K reward offered and it becomes increasingly evident that Matt’s going over the edge of his sanity as time wears on and Tui isn’t found.)

Robin and Johnno have their own drama as Robin decides to go after Matt and Johnno is afraid of what that means, for her and for them since he can’t leave New Zealand because of his conviction. He bails on her and then a shot is fired at her in her kitchen the night he doesn’t come home. She confronts him for being a coward and they separate again.

She pulls Matt’s “cleaning ladies” over in a traffic stop but they won’t talk to her about Matt’s operation. Robin asks Simone about Jamie and she tells her Jamie’s run away. When Robin gets to work, Al makes another overture that they should date. Against her better judgment, she goes out on his boat with him. When he goes below and comes back up with a bottle of champagne and Matt, who wants to talk, in tow, she rightly panics.

Thankfully, Johnno comes up pretty quickly in his own boat and she leaves with him. She and Johnno go home and he tells her that when he was in prison, he wasn’t afraid of dying but he was sad that he’d never know love or know a woman deeply. Now that he has both with her, and could lose her, he is afraid.

Next, Jamie and Tui welcome their friends into forest for a proper sleepover for her birthday, or maybe the baby’s birthday. It’s not entirely clear. One of the friends has the sense to realize Tui’s spotting blood and should go to a hospital. Jamie listens but doesn’t act on it. They celebrate like children—with games and songs and cake and then the friends bid farewell and leave Jamie and Tui alone to face the impending arrival of her baby.

Jamie and Tui look through the midwifery book brought by Watty that shows where the baby is in Tui’s body but she’s not ready to see that clinically. She finally says out loud that she doesn’t know how the baby got in there in the first place. She has him touch her belly and they sleep.  Meanwhile, their friends have been busted by Mitcham’s men, who are closing in on them.

When a few of the hunters catch up to Jamie and Tui, Tui fires on them and they make their escape. They switch coats and Jamie leads the men away and over a cliff. He slips and falls to his death in front of Robin and Johnno, who have been alerted to where they are and are working their way toward them at the same time as the hunters.

Robin and Johnno bring Jamie out of the forest to his mother, and she later offers to help Robin in her case against Matt after very publicly turning down his blood money at the memorial. She also tells Robin that Jamie had been gay, so he was Tui’s BFF and protector but not the baby’s father.

Al tells Robin that Matt’s ready for a confession. They load her up with surveillance wires send her in to his compound and he reveals the thing I was most afraid of, that Jude was alluding to last week—that he is her father. She’s profoundly rattled and packs up her things and goes outside to the squad car, which is full of awkward for everyone who overheard. She goes home and tells Johnno, who pronounces it a lie and a manipulation. She tries to bring him to bed to deny it in a way, but he can’t and he leaves and she weeps alone.

She goes to work more determined than ever to pursue Matt and Al tries to reassign it to someone else, so she turns in her badge again, falls into a bottle of vodka at the lake’s edge, and then drives drunk until she passes out at Paradise. The next morning, she begs GJ to help her because everything she thought she was is a lie, and GJ tells her to let whoever she thought she was die and start over with what’s left. Robin curls into a ball weeping. Then GJ goes back to planning her escape from the women–hilariously asking Melissa to look up Icelandic flights on her iPad.

Matt has a meltdown scene with his sons and decides to go in after Tui on his own. Luke is worried enough that he calls Johnno and Johnno comes for Robin. They go into the forest after Matt. Tui, who’s managed to have a healthy live birth on her own (while Watty muttered nearby) is asleep in the woods beside her son when Matt arrives and takes the baby.

When Johnno and Robin catch up to him, he’s aiming a gun at the baby. Just as they’re about to intervene, a shot rings out and drops Matt and we see Tui behind the barrel of her gun (an appropriate bookend to the scene in the first episode when he told Tui how to kill him). She then also shoots at Johnno before Robin talks her down.

They gather back at Paradise and a few days later, Al arrives with Matt’s ashes, and to give them the DNA results–Tui’s baby was fathered by Matt. Robin asks if the baby’s OK biologically speaking and Al says yes, his chromosomes are fine. He also seems genuinely surprised (even if we aren’t) that that was the outcome. Then he hands Johnno an envelope and tells him he’s not Matt’s son. (Thank you!) Robin’s immensely relieved but she’s still Matt’s daughter.

Al’s also arrived with more of his barista trainees, who play and laugh with Tui and then head into town, leaving Robin and Johnno with the baby. When Robin can’t raise Tui on her cell, she’s nervous, so she and Johnno head into the cafe. Robin scans the wall of photos and realizes two of the kids have now died and the others have been in peril. She goes to Al’s on a hunch (leaving Johnno with the baby at the cafe).

When he finally comes outside, he’s druggy and threatening as she asks where the kids are. He says they’ve gone to a movie. She dials Tui’s phone again and hears it inside. He’s flustered and keeps moving against her and she shoots him. She heads inside and finds Tui’s phone, and Tui asleep on the couch. Tui doesn’t know where anyone is, but she’s OK. Robin shuts the door on Al, still bleeding on the porch, and heads downstairs.

She holds her recording phone in one hand, and her gun in the other as she makes her way down to the basement in time to see one of the men from the cafe dragging an unconscious, barely-dressed girl down the hall by her ankle. Then she’s looking at the same scene she found in images on Pratt’s PC—grown men and undressed children. She tells the man he’s under arrest and the case unravels.

Next, we see Robin at sunset washing the blood from her clothes in the lake as Tui watches. Back at Paradise later, the women are eating together when GJ gets up and scrapes her plate back into the pot on the stove. She packs up and starts to wheel her suitcase down the path. Tui runs after her and tells her not to go. GJ tells her to listen to her new teacher—the voice of her son crying from Robin’s arms. And then she keeps walking.

And that’s it.

So, Al was up to no good all along but we don’t get any sort of follow up on that as to whether he lives or dies and whether Matt was involved.

I’d like to think that Robin and Johnno will go on to make some sort of fractured family with Tui and baby Noah. The potential incest thing—the one thing that I actually sort of had a bead on—was a lost leader and I was glad for that, but I really wouldn’t have been surprised if Robin had decided to disregard it, although I doubt Johnno could have. There’s so much to tap there about identities now that Robin is a Mitcham along with Tui and Noah but Matt isn’t.

It’s also telling that Robin never picked up on Al being a perv. And it throws into question whether he maybe really did drug her that night she passed out at his dinner table, and whether anything untoward occurred even if he swore it didn’t.

The overarching idea that Matt took care of the people on the mountain will be tested in his death now. If the drug trade is taken away, there’s a whole community that will have to figure out who they are without it, and without him.

Like I said, we could have used a couple more hours to sort it all out.

I still think we’ll see Elisabeth Moss get an Emmy nomination in whatever weird categorization they use now for mini-series vs. limited series vs. series. I’d love to see Thomas M. Wright nominated for doing such nice work as Johnno but I’d bet the flashier Peter Mullan will get that one for going balls out as Matt. If it gets Wright more visibility for American audiences (next up, he’s in The Bridge for FX this summer), win-win.

Since the mini-series was segmented to focus on different characters each episode vs. keeping all of the characters equally fluid throughout, I liked some of the episode more than others, but taken as a whole, I thought it was a really intriguing story, and I like that it wasn’t necessarily A to B to C as far as procedurals go. I’d like to see these characters again but I don’t know that that’s even in the cards. And that’s OK.

If you missed any of the episodes, Sundance Channel will marathon them again Sunday starting at 4 pm E/3 c. I’m so glad they took a shot on bringing this to U.S. audiences. They’ve not released the ratings yet, but I do hope folks responded by tuning in.

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  1. Janet

    I agree the end was full of questions and I was and still am perplexed. Good description here – thank you!

    So, how did Tui get pregnant? She states that she doesn’t know how it got in her. This would seem to imply she was drugged and the impregnation may have happened at Al’s…which would mean that Matt was involved in the underground pervert’s club.

    The other possibility was alluded to when Matt’s sons said they saw Matt asleep on her bed with Tui “walking on his back”. That was weird enough in itself but that was also the big CLUE that Matt was going to turn out to be the father. So, if it was some freak thing that she got pregnant from something that happened in her bedroom, you’d think she would have some inkling of how “it got in her” to paraphrase Tui.

    One of the things that confused me was whether we should have believed the DNA results for the simple reason that it was obvious Al was a bad cop with a hidden agenda. At this point, I think we have to accept the DNA results as fact.

    There was also that little bit about how Al could afford that millionaire’s house where his explanation didn’t ring true. Even if he got a deal, he would still have to come up with considerable cash, so was that all financed by a pervert operation that preceded his buying the place?

    And please tell me who killed April Stevens or whatever her name was. I thought this show was going to explain the prior deaths and it didn’t…at all. So that was not clear.

    Now, to the relationship between Robin and Johnno. It makes sense that Matt disowned Johnno after we find out the DNA results. Johnno was never his actual son. Next comment is, as soon as Robin’s Mom got that weird, horrified expression and asked Robin not to see Johnno anymore, I immediately suspected there might be an incest issue, in other words, that the mother had had an affair with Matt, that Robin was her and Matt’s daughter, and that Johnno was also Matt’s kid, which would make Johnno and Robin half brother and sister. I was dreading that that would be true after that scene so was REALLY bummed out when Robin found out that she was Matt’s daughter.

    I was also relieved when the DNA results came back and showed that Johnno was not a blood relation to Matt or Robin, but here’s where it disappointed me. There was no follow-up on that between Johnno and Robin , no sigh of relief, no dealing with it. I was rooting for their relationship and frankly hated the incest twist, so would have at least liked some happy resolution on that. I mean, we are kept guessing whether Robin and Johnno will stay together. I’d like to think so, as it seemed like a genuine love relationship, and God knows, Robin deserved some happiness in her life.

    I think the whole mini-series could have been shortened. It went on a bit too long for me. I did find it fascinating, though, and enjoyed the acting and the characterizations. Elisabeth Moss was wonderful. Holly Hunter was a hoot as CJ. The guy who played Matt was scary as all get-out.

    The locale was incredibly depressing and wherever it was in New Zealand, I would never want to go there! I’ve been spoiled by seeing the gorgeous scenery as filmed by Peter Jackson in Lord of the Rings so I found this setting to be very desolate. Again, though, it was quite an intriguing series, and I enjoyed it very much.

    1. Heather M

      Thanks for reading, and writing, Janet!!

      I think we were left to assume that April wandered off after one of Al’s parties and was either accidentally killed when she wandered into the road in a drug haze or really did intentionally walk into traffic because she was aware of what happened at the party.

      I’m taking the DNA results at face value because there was a lab involved, but I’d expect Robin to triple check all that now.

  2. Ring

    By “Watty”, do you mean Putty, whose mother was a mid-wife?

    I don’t think Matt was the father of Tui’s child — I think that pervy weasel Al made that up to alibi himself or one of his skeevy pals. As for Tui walking on Matt’s back, that description sounds like classic Thai massage, which she probably learned from her mother.

    The footage Mat showed Robin doesn’t prove he’s her father, but her Mom’s insistence that she break things off with Johnno certainly indicates that it’s a possibility. I wouldn’t do the DNA test either if I were Robin — I would never want to have to actually know that my father was an insane, murdering bastard.

    Did Al live? (I doubt it — there was a LOT of blood, and it looked arterial). What happened to his buddies in the underage sex club? What was up with the hissing as Tui shot Matt and Johnno? WHY did she shoot her half-brother? What happened to the land at Paradise? Did it belong to Bunny?

    Lots of unanswered questions, but that’s very Campionesque — the part that interested her is over, so that’s it. On to the next thing.

    1. Heather M

      Thanks for writing. I may well have meant Putty. It’s been over a year since I’ve watched it so I can’t recall off the top of my head. It may have been a glitch in my recall or in closed captioning, which I relied heavily on with the accents.

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