This was it, the thrilling conclusion of another beautiful, haunting and otherworldly series or Top of the Lake: China Girl ended tonight. And it will not allow you to forget it.
At the start of the final chapter we see Robin a rare place, she seems at ease with her lot in life. She is calm, an almost unnerving calm that sees her be an anchor for others like Pyke, who was stoic most of the season. It was a important scene in their burgeoning friendship as birth mother and adoptive father. It was also interesting as an interaction with one of the few decent male figures in China Girl.
In a brutal scene, Brett, identifies China Girl as Cinnamon. He knew her body by heart and created a body map that took minute detail such as two moles below her breasts, the length and texture of her hair, and her body grooming habits. He is visibly shaken as he positively identifies her, and you almost feel pity for him, until he takes pictures of her brutalized body and you remember he is sexually obsessed with this former prostitute. That wariness only grows as you see him in the next scene having a mental breakdown as he tries and fails to process his grief, eventually seeing Cinnamon when she is clearly not there.
In a continuance of the exploration of anxiety attacks this show has utilized this season, Miranda absolutely loses it on a woman , as she is paralyzed by her fear of losing her baby and her uncertainty of her competence. She feels intimidated by Robin, and she feels she has to be hopeless in order for Robin to be clever and smart. This competitiveness between them is a very current feminist issue about pitting women against each other. Then in a complete twist of scenes, after a heart to heart Miranda reveals, what I always felt was true: she is not in fact pregnant, but was using the sex-worker surrogate scheme as well. I enjoy Miranda’s impulsive carelessness for a much needed thematic relief, but she was able to explore a more heartfelt and less manic scene than her past work in the series. The bond between Miranda and Robin was a wonderful scene that brought their relationship full circle.
Back at the brothel, a suitcase rolls down the hall and a pregnant sex worker follows behind. This is a foreboding scene that call back to the original murder of China Girl. Will Caramel follow the same dead-end path as Cinnamon? Mary knew the significance of the suitcase, will she intervene?
Back on the trail for the illegal commercial surrogates, the trail leads to the receptionist at the surrogacy clinic, Pixie. A, as her name implies, frail and nervous woman that is the contact to the “student” surrogates as she just wants to “help these people have babies.” At the end of that trail though, we find Pixie has committed suicide and is, unfortunately a pawn in a much more sinister plan.
The awkwardness of Robin, Mary and Julia’s relationship continues as Julia feels threatened on all sides by a sudden appearance by Robin in Mary’s life coupled with the utter contempt Mary shows her adoptive mother at every turn. In a very personal scene, Robin is able to see the room that Mary grew up in when she visits Pyke. And after a particularly sharp conversation with Mary and Puss leads Pyke and Robin to some gin and tonic water, well we see a NSFW scene that is tender and touching.
Of course, it leads to a scene that sees lovesick Brett, seeking vigilante style justice against Puss in an effort to “avenge the honor” of his beloved Cinnamon. He kidnaps Mary, who attempts to call Robin at quite possibly the only time she is not up to her usual detective standards. She is panicked and drunk, and knows that Mary is not the person in the ambulance, but that is the only certainty. The cinematography in this scene is scattered and punctuated with camera flashes and police lights, as confusing as the crime itself, and all involved. Still drunk, she seeks consolation from the medical examiner Ray, who tells her “bottomline she is alive because she is not here.”
The finale ramps up from there, with Julia learning of Mary’s kidnapping and continued examination of the situation. The case has become a multi-headed hydra at this point: find Mary, find the pregnant surrogates, find Puss and finally find the killer of China Girl.
They make their way to the beach in an attempt to find Mary, but the sheer volume of people on the beach is dizzying. That is also exactly the feel the overhead shots capture of the colorful beach landscape, dotted with hundreds of potential subjects. They narrow in on a suspicious box that Robin had noticed earlier. In true sidekick and hero fashion, Robin and Miranda suss out the area. In a wicked call back to a “whats in the box” scene Miranda kicks the box, revealing a cleverly hidden, but very much alive Brett. He shoots Miranda, gravely injuring her and is arrested.
Mary is revealed to be safe as she walks in to her childhood home bewildered. She threatens to leave if her mother, Julia calls the police. Julia tries to understand and simply holds out her arms and asks for a hug. The conflicting on Mary’s face is heart wrenching as she struggles to process recent events and deal with her increased emotional distance from her adoptive mother.
Mary does not give into her childhood love, and grabs her passport as an escape route. Robin and Pyke meet at the club where Puss and Mary first met, the same club as one of the first scenes in Top of the Lake: China Girl. Naturally, Puss is there. Robin confronts him about Mary and the surrogate girls and learns the real fate of Cinnamon. As he continues to taunt Robin she snaps, and in a honestly cathartic scene where her gun is pressed up agains Puss’ gremlin like face for most of the conversation. Her last words to him before leaving him cowering on the floor were delivered with grim certainty, “You’re wrong about Mary, she doesn’t love you. She is scared of you, I think she hates you,”
Leaving Puss reeling, the search for Mary and the other girls continues. Their goal soon becomes apparent, they are leaving the country. At the airport Mary, in one of the only true cliche moments in Top of the Lake: China Girl, accuses Puss of using her as a shield and diregarding her safety at gun point. This is, of course, true but it is a common story thread. Meanwhile, the couples that employed the commercial surrogates all arrive at the apartment previously occupied by the girls, and are alone. They are left with a chilling message from Puss about the real reason for the surrogacy and a slap of irony. Their babies that they so casually forced young girls to carry are never going to see their parents. They paid obscene amounts of money on the backs of these young women, completely disregarding the physical hardships and emotional trauma.
“Now the shoe is on the other foot.”
Their bodies, their wombs, whats inside them belongs to them. With that statement, yet another level of misogyny is explored. This time, against a class of women that are rarely extended the arm of feminism, a arm that all too often focuses on white feminism in favor of intersectional feminism. This is the brilliance of Campion, she is unafraid to shock you with her assertions and beliefs and is unapologetic in her approach.
In the final exploration of the motherhood theme in Top of the Lake: China Girl we see Mary reuniting with Julia and her father. She has finally given into hugging Julia, or at least that is the narrative that Julia tells Robin, quite smugly as well. Mary opens her eyes to see Robin and give a knowing smile, their connection is bone deep and they understand each other in one look. Robin resigns herself to the reality that Julia is once again a part of Mary’s life and possibly Pyke’s as well. A sad fact that Robin so rarely get’s what she deserves. As she is leaving she has a request, she wants to watch the video of little Mary that we saw Julia watch an episode earlier. She settles into her apartment and in an achingly sad and sweet scene, watches the scenes of little Mary dancing, laughing being the child she never knew, but the daughter she’s always had, a fitting end to Top of the Lake: China Girl.