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Emmys 2017
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TV Recaps

Top of the Lake: China Girl finale recap: 'Chapter 5'/'Chapter 6'

Mary’s in trouble — and Robin might not be able to help this time

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See-Saw Films/SundanceTV

Top of the Lake

type:
TV Show
creator:
Jane Campion
performer:
Elisabeth Moss
broadcaster:
SundanceTV
seasons:
2
Current Status:
In Season

We gave it a B+

“Chapter 5”

I know, I know: No one likes hearing about other people’s dreams, but we have to talk about this one. Puss picks up Mary from Robin’s in the middle of the night, and then Robin dreams she’s holding a tiny, tiny baby in the palm of her hand  — about the size of the 19-week-old fetus found in Cinnamon’s womb. Then, another tiny, tiny baby appears in her other palm. The scene is bathed in light, an angelic moment for Robin and her two undersized babies.

This scene freaked me out purely because I’ve seen those tiny babies before in my own dreams, so I went on good ol’ DreamMoods.com and found this explanation: “To dream of an extremely small baby symbolizes your helplessness and your fears of letting others become aware of your vulnerabilities and incompetence. You may be afraid to ask for help and as a result tend to take matters into your own hands.” Makes sense! Maybe Jane Campion also frequents DreamMoods.com. Acclaimed TV series creators; they’re just like us.

So, yes, Robin is feeling helpless. We probably didn’t need a dream to tell us that, but Top of the Lake has to get its weird dream sequences in somehow, so here we are. It also seems like this new relationship with Mary is almost a welcome distraction from her traumatic past and everything it’s done to her, physically and emotionally. Worrying about Mary is a chance to stop thinking about herself, to step away from her struggles and look at someone else’s. If she’s spending her time thinking about how to get Mary away from her dangerous boyfriend, she doesn’t have to think about how Johnno betrayed her or how Al attacked her or how Puss bit her or…the list goes on.

Whatever her motivation, explicit or otherwise, for embracing her daughter, Robin is all in at this point. She sees that Julia and Mary have a fraught relationship and that they’ll never have a productive conversation about Puss — or about life, for that matter, at least at this point. She sees that Pyke is doing his best, but is flailing, waffling between rage — “I’ll kill him, I’ll get him f—ed up,” he threatens after finding out Puss took Mary to the underpass — and despair. She clearly loves Mary, but she also has a distance that means maybe she can help her in a way that her adoptive parents can’t.

Her method seems to be to make Mary comfortable, first and foremost. The less Robin makes her feel like she’s judging or being dismissive, the more likely Mary is to share when she’s ready or when she needs help — the fact that she called Robin while she was decked out in lingerie in an area where sex workers congregate is clear evidence of that. She feels safe with Robin.

And so does Pyke, it seems. He and Robin are forming a friendship based on their mutual concern for Mary, and this reaches a head when they try to confront her at school and instead encounter Puss waiting for her. Pyke gets in his face, a tactic that does not work on the very calm Puss, who apparently only bites when he’s forcing women to talk about sexual assault. He and Mary ultimately walk away together, leaving Robin comforting Pyke. They head back to his house, where they drink a lot and end up kissing and moving to the bedroom. This is the least surprising thing to happen on Top of the Lake, but it’s also one of the more satisfying developments — on such a dark show, any lightness feels near transcendent. (Robin and Pyke’s sweet, easy chemistry also helps.)

This isn’t a romantic drama, though, so let’s get back to the murder part — which still has some romance involved, because Brett is very, very attached to Cinnamon. He goes to the morgue to identify her body, which he does, and then he asks for a moment alone with her. I thought Robin was going to let him; instead, she tells him it’s inappropriate, reminding him that he was a customer, not family. He tries to snap some photos of her dead body on his phone and then gets kicked out. It’s all very creepy, and yet, at this point…I still find myself rooting for Brett. He doesn’t seem malicious or ill willed; it seems like there’s something chemically different about him, like he genuinely doesn’t know any better.

That inkling appears to be right. Back at his home, he’s playing a video game when he hears Cinnamon calling his name. He imagines her taking off his clothes, then imagines the two of them naked on the bed together. Later, he passes his mother on the stairs and introduces her to Cinnamon. Cinnamon isn’t there, of course. It’s all a hallucination. (Recap continues on page 2)

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