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 Campionâ€”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 MitchamsÂ 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 itâ€™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 inÂ 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 GJÂ 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 withÂ 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 JohnnoÂ 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 Mattâ€™s â€œcleaning ladiesâ€ over in a traffic stop but they wonâ€™t talk to her about Mattâ€™s operation. Robin asks Simone about Jamie and she tells her Jamieâ€™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, JohnnoÂ 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 childrenâ€”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. Â Meanwhile, their friends have been busted by Mitchamâ€™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 JohnnoÂ bring Jamie out of the forest to his mother,Â 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 weekâ€”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 reassignÂ 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 GJÂ to help her because everything she thought she was is a lie, and GJÂ 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 JohnnoÂ and JohnnoÂ 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 JohnnoÂ and Robin catch up to him, heâ€™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 resultsâ€“Tui’s baby was fathered by Matt. Robin asks if the babyâ€™s OK biologically speaking and Al says yes, his chromosomes are fine. He also seems genuinely surprised (even if we aren’t) that thatÂ 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 sheâ€™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 JohnnoÂ with the baby. When Robin canâ€™t raise Tui on her cell, she’s nervous, so she and JohnnoÂ 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 sheâ€™s looking at the same scene she found in images on Pratt’s PCâ€”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 GJÂ 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 teacherâ€”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 JohnnoÂ will go on to make some sort of fractured family with Tui and baby Noah. The potential incest thingâ€”the one thing that I actually sort of had a bead onâ€”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 JohnnoÂ 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 JohnnoÂ 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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