Top of the Lake

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Top of the Lake
Genre Drama
Created by
Written by
  • Jane Campion
  • Gerard Lee
Directed by
Composer(s) Mark Bradshaw
Country of origin
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes
(list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s) Philippa Campbell
Production location(s) Queenstown, New Zealand
Cinematography Adam Arkapaw
Camera setup Single-camera
Running time
  • 60 minutes (BBC Two, BBC UKTV)
  • 45 minutes (Sundance)
Production company(s)
Original network Sundance Channel
Picture format HDTV
Audio format Surround
First shown in United States
Original release 18 March 2013 (2013-03-18) – present (present)
External links
Production website

Top of the Lake is a mystery drama television series created and written by Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, and directed by Campion and Garth Davis. Its first season aired in 2013, with the second season set to air in 2016.[2] It marks Campion's first work for television since An Angel at My Table in 1990. Filmed and set in New Zealand, the series follows a detective (Elisabeth Moss) investigating the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl. Top of the Lake was co-produced for BBC Two in the UK, BBC UKTV in Australia and New Zealand, and Sundance Channel in the United States.[3][4]


Main cast

  • Elisabeth Moss as Det. Robin Griffin, a Sydney police officer returning to her remote New Zealand hometown of Laketop, facing the crimes surrounding the pregnancy and disappearance of a local 12-year-old girl, Tui.
  • David Wenham as Det. Sgt. Al Parker, the oldschool and well-liked head of the local police station, who also has a café where young offenders are given a second chance.
  • Peter Mullan as Scotsman Matt Mitcham, head of the Mitcham family. The informal leader of the town, feared by the townspeople, but with a complex inner life.
  • Thomas M. Wright as Johnno Mitcham, Matt's estranged youngest son, and Robin's high school sweetheart. He recently returned to Laketop after serving eight years in Bangkwang, a Thai prison, for drug possession.
  • Holly Hunter as GJ, an androgynous spiritual leader, arriving at Laketop with a group of troubled women, who hope GJ and Laketop will help them rediscover themselves.

Supporting cast

  • Kip Chapman and Jay Ryan as Luke and Mark Mitcham, Matt's brute sons.
  • Jacqueline Joe as Tui Mitcham, Matt's 12-year-old daughter who disappears after it is discovered that she is pregnant.
  • Robyn Nevin as Jude Griffin, Robin's mother, suffering from cancer.
  • Calvin Tuteao as Turangi, Jude's caring boyfriend.

GJ's group

Matt's men

  • Ben Barrington as Terry
  • James Blake as Shotover
  • Byron Coll as Penguin
  • Cohen Holloway as Mike
  • Oscar Redding as Sarge
  • Edwin Wright as Scuzz

Tui's friends

  • Luke Buchanan as Jamie
  • Sam Dickson as Jase
  • Connor Olivia Moore as Kayla
  • Layne Opetaia as Daniel
  • Alice Ward as Gemma

The Police Department

Additional characters

  • Edward Campbell as Putty, the "village idiot".
  • Lauren Dawes as Mandy, Johnno's girlfriend.
  • Erica Englert as Narelle, Matt's housekeeper.
  • Mirrah Foulkes as Simone, Jamie's mother.
  • Dra McKay as Delia, Tui's teacher.
  • Jacek Koman as Wolfgang Zanic, Austrian hermit and convicted pedophile.



Actress Jennifer Ehle auditioned for the role of GJ, which went to Holly Hunter. Jane Campion originally offered the role of Robin to Anna Paquin, who had worked with her before on The Piano (1993). Paquin declined due to her pregnancy, and the role went to Elisabeth Moss.[5] Actress Nicole Kidman is rumored to be joining the cast for season 2, which, if true, would be the second time Kidman has worked with Campion.


The series was originally intended as a co-production with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but the network pulled their funding when American-born Elisabeth Moss was cast in the lead role.[6] Australian-based channel UKTV, owned by BBC Worldwide, filled the funding gap left by the ABC.[7] Philippa Campbell was the New Zealand-based producer.


Filming took 18 weeks and was shot entirely on location in Queenstown and Glenorchy, in New Zealand. While Queenstown is referred to during the series, Glenorchy doubles as the fictitious town of Laketop. The scenes in the women's commune were filmed at Moke Lake.[5]


In early 2013, series co-creator Jane Campion said that season one of Top of the Lake comes to a distinct ending and there would be no additional seasons.[8] Despite this, it was announced in October 2014 that the series has been renewed for a second season.[2] In season two, which will be set and filmed in Sydney, Australia,[9] Griffin will investigate a case in Harbour City, Hong Kong. Shooting is set to begin in December 2015.[10]


The first season screened in its entirety at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, in January 2013, as a miniseries. Sundance screened the series as a seven-hour program with one intermission and one lunch break; it was the first miniseries ever screened at Sundance.[11] Top of the Lake was additionally shown at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival.

The series premiered on the Sundance Channel in the United States on 18 March 2013,[12] in Australia on BBC UKTV on 24 March 2013,[13] and in New Zealand the next day (25 March), also on BBC UKTV.[14]


Sundance Channel

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date
1 "Episode 1" Jane Campion Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 18 March 2013
In the small town of Laketop, New Zealand, a young girl named Tui Mitcham tries to drown herself in a lake. After she is rescued, a school nurse notices that Tui is pregnant. Robin Griffin, a police inspector from Sydney who specializes in working with children, is called to interview Tui at the police station.
2 "Episode 2" Garth Davis with Jane Campion Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 18 March 2013
Robin encounters two women from Paradise. They tell her Tui was with them the day before she disappeared but was gone in the morning. Robin organizes the local authorities to search for Tui. During the search, Robin walks into the lake and has a vision of Tui doing the same, the latter clenching her fists in the water.
3 "Episode 3" Garth Davis Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 25 March 2013
Matt Mitcham goes to Paradise and sits in on a session with GJ, the enigmatic leader of the camp. In a mocking tone, Matt asks the group about the human mind. GJ tells Matt that the human mind schemes. Later, Al meets Matt in the middle of the lake for a secret meeting.
4 "Episode 4" Garth Davis with Jane Campion Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 1 April 2013
Robin has dinner at Al's ultramodern, immaculate, lakeside house. Robin tells Al she thinks Tui's note, that said "No One", meant there were multiple rapists. Al counsels Robin she is getting too involved in Tui's case, likely because of Robin's own history of having been gang raped, at age 15.
5 "Episode 5" Jane Campion with Garth Davis Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 8 April 2013
Robin asks Johnno what he wanted to tell her about the night she was raped. Johnno describes how he heard Robin screaming and he peed himself. He says he found a latch to get out of the dog cage in the back of the truck but was too afraid to persist in trying to stop the men from raping her.
6 "Episode 6" Garth Davis with Jane Campion Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 15 April 2013
Robin reveals to Johnno that she plans to make a case against Matt Mitcham, in hopes of encouraging Tui to come home. Robin shares that she caught Jamie attempting to take Tui Rohypnol, a "date rape" drug that Robin suspects Matt manufactures. Johnno warns Robin against bringing a case against Matt, as Matt's drug business provides much of the town with a livelihood.
7 "Episode 7" Jane Campion Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 15 April 2013
Robin goes to work at the police station the next day and tells Al that Matt said he was her father. Matt, certain that Tui could not be pregnant, searches for and finds her with her newborn baby. As he is about to kill the baby, Tui appears and kills Matt. As the final twist, Robin discovers Sgt Parker has been pimping young boys and girls from the barista training, including Tui, to other men for sex.


No. Title Directed by Written by Original UK air date UK viewers
1 "Paradise Sold" Jane Campion Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 13 July 2013 2.70
Tui's pregnancy is discovered, and the Paradise community moves in.
2 "Searchers Search" Garth Davis Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 20 July 2013 1.92
Robin's search for Tui begins.
3 "The Edge of the Universe" Garth Davis Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 27 July 2013 1.57
Robin makes a breakthrough. Over dinner at Al's place he warns her about her past being known.
4 "A Rainbow Above Us" Jane Campion Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 3 August 2013 1.32
Al dismisses Robin from the case. Her passionate affair with Johnno intensifies.
5 "The Dark Creator" Garth Davis Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 10 August 2013 1.50
Robin is back on the case. Matt gathers troops to hunt Tui down. Tui's friends celebrate her birthday in the mountains.
6 "No Goodbyes Thanks" Jane Campion Jane Campion & Gerard Lee 17 August 2013 1.72
Matt reveals his secret about Robin, and the investigation concludes.


Reviews of Top of the Lake have been positive, referring to the series as "masterfully made", "beautiful", "mysterious", "riveting", and "a masterpiece".[16][17][18][19][20][21] It received a score of 86 out of 100 from Metacritic[22] and a score of 93 percent from Rotten Tomatoes.[23]

There were also some less positive reviews. Mike Hale of The New York Times criticized the "elaborately introduced plotlines" and described Tui's disappearance as "less a story element than a metaphor for the kind of armed resistance to male hegemony that constitutes the central idea of Ms. Campion’s body of work."[24] That said, Top of the Lake has also been lauded by feminist critics for its explicit effort to analyse rape culture[25] as well as its radical construction of narratives entirely foregrounding the experiences of single women.[26]

Awards and nominations

AACTA Awards

Year Category Nominated artist/work Result
2014 Best Telefeature, Mini Series or Short Run Series Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Jane Campion and Philippa Campbell Won
Best Direction in a Drama or Comedy Garth Davis for "The Dark Creator" Nominated
Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama Peter Mullan Nominated
Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama Robyn Nevin Nominated
Best Cinematography in Television Adam Arkapaw for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator" Won
Best Sound in Television Richard Flynn, Tony Vaccher, John Dennison, Craig Butters, Danny Longhurst and Blair Slater, for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator" Won
Best Original Music Score in Television Mark Bradshaw, for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator" Nominated
Best Production Design in Television Fiona Crombie for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator" Nominated
Best Costume Design in Television Emily Seresin for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator" Nominated
Best Editing in Television Scott Gray for Episode 5: "The Dark Creator" Nominated

Critics' Choice Television Awards

Year Category Nominated artist/work Result
2013 Best Movie/Miniseries Nominated
Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries Elisabeth Moss Won
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Peter Mullan Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries David Wenham Nominated
Best Supporting Actor in a Movie/Miniseries Thomas M. Wright Nominated

Emmy Awards

Year Category Nominated artist/work Result
2013 Primetime Emmy Awards
Outstanding Miniseries or Movie Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie Elisabeth Moss Nominated
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie Peter Mullan Nominated
Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Jane Campion, Garth Davis Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special Jane Campion, Gerard Lee Nominated
Creative Arts Emmy Awards
Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie, or Special Nominated
Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie Episode: "Part 1" Won
Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or Movie Episode: "Part 5" Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

Year Category Nominated artist/work Result
2014 Best Miniseries or Television Film Nominated
Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film Elisabeth Moss Won

Golden Nymph Awards

Year Category Nominated artist/work Result
2014 Best Miniseries Won
Best Actor — Miniseries Peter Mullan Won
Best Actress — Miniseries Elisabeth Moss Won

Screen Actors Guild Awards

Year Category Nominated artist/work Result
2014 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Elisabeth Moss Nominated
2014 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie Holly Hunter Nominated

New Zealand Film Awards

Year Category Result Ref
2013 Best Television Feature or Drama Series Won [27]

Screen Producers Australia Awards

Year Category Result Ref
2013 Drama Television Production of the Year Won [28]

Equity Ensemble Awards

Year Category Result Ref
2013 Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Miniseries or Telemovie Won [29]


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External links