“This is for a fuck!” announces Bunny as she slaps a 100-dollar bill down in the local pub. A willing participant steps-up, only to be told he must be finished in 7 minutes and not a second more; any more time and it appears GJ is convinced Bunny will grow an emotional attachment to the man. As with the previous episode, Campion is intent on showing that Top of the Lake is much more than just an abduction thriller. As with the scenes at GJ’s convent in episode one, it is an opening peppered with unexpected humor, the man seemingly more interested in the stopwatch than the lady who started it.
Tui’s abduction, however, forms Top of the Lake’s central narrative and with the girl nowhere to be found, the investigation begins to gather momentum. At its center is Det. Robin Griffin, who’s continuing to struggle with the gender politics running rife through Southern Lakes Police HQ. Al seems to have become Griffin’s friend in need at the station, both complimenting and (possibly) flirting with her. The quality in Campion’s writing is in keeping the friendly characters antagonistic; a later scene that shows Al meeting Matt on the lake suggesting that the police chief is still a man not to be trusted. Moreover, his mumbling voice is becoming harder to understand the more he appears.
The visual benefits of New Zealand’s vast landscapes helped to highlight the enormity of Robin’s quest this week. Top marks to series cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, whose sequence of extreme-long-shots early on were breathtakingly beautiful. Meanwhile, the use of close-ups and sudden movements during the scenes in Wolfgang’s lodge created a sense of unbearable tension. Given the episode’s ending, it’s fair to say that the chances of Wolfgang being the abductor are unlikely. His untimely death is a shame as Jacek Koman’s performance was brilliant, carefully building Wolfgang’s anger as Robin continued to pressure him; the moment when he confronted Griffin with his shotgun was heart stopping.
Thankfully Johnno was able to come and defuse the situation, allowing his friendship with Robin to continue to be rekindled. This may begin to prove a bigger problem as the show progresses, with (literally) faceless fiancé Steve pressuring Robin to come home. Given the result of Robin’s encounter with Johnno in the club bathroom, coupled with the realization that her mum is getting worse, not better – Elisabeth Moss’s acting during these scenes was beyond extraordinary – it’s fair to say that Robin has got more than enough problems on her plate.
Leading us nicely to the matter of Matt Mitcham. Whether Robin’s impromptu vomiting really was due to Al’s awful singing remains to be seen, her suspicions towards Matt are clear to see. Ensuring her gun is holstered and ready upon arrival at the Mitcham house, this week’s final scenes allowed us to begin building our case against the suspect Campion is pushing us towards; was that a secret room hidden behind the bathroom, or just a red herring brought about by incompetent cleaners?
Tonally this episode felt weaker than last week’s flawless opener, with some plot-twists perhaps a tad too predictable. Nonetheless, Top of the Lake remains one of the most assured shows currently on TV; the idea of having to wait a whole week for the next installment filling one with dread.