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Top of the Lake, Episodes 4 & 5, BBC2 Saturdays, 9pm

tvI watched these back to back and while episodes 1 – 3 were good, the series really got going here.

Episode 4 was focussed more on the emotional dramas and was very moving. We knew from earlier revelations that Robin had deep reasons for her anger with her mother, and all the memories and emotions of her rape as a teenager returned in this episode. We also see the effect it had on Johnno, and how he was powerless to stop what happened, but still blamed himself. We see the anger that was pent up in Robin and how her stoic professionalism cracked as she was subjected to echoes from the past.

I was particularly taken by three scenes: the scene where Robin questioned Johnno on whether he had played any part in setting up her attack. You could see how to her, it was so important to hear him say no, while to him, to even be questioned on it was a total affront. It was both brave and realistic to show how such a traumatic incident in the past would affect both their abilities to trust other people again. Once upon a time I used to think that two people wanting to love each other was enough. But now I think the echoes from your past are always stronger. I guess that’s called growing up.

I was also taken by the mobile phone scene. At first it seemed as if a gratuitous sex scene was being set up, and then it turned out to be crucial to the missing Tui plot. The revelation, when it came, truly sent a shiver down my spine – I physically shivered. It was also given additional weight by the presence of the women in the camp, whose presence I have come to see as providing something of a Greek chorus, magnifying the emotions, in this case joy.

There was also a tiny, tiny moment where Robin and her mother sort of made up over their differences to the aftermath of Robin’s rape all those years ago. Just a moment, where both their angers chimed together. I really love that aspect of this series – you don’t always need a massive, overblown moment to make a point.

Much of Episode 5 was taken up with the hunt for Tui. Less emotion, more tension. Let’s just say, once the young people were surrounded by Matt’s men, you knew it was going to have a tragic end, and I had a pretty strong hunch who the victim was going to be.

The portrayal of characters in this series have been excellent. I like the ambiguities the main characters have. I like the way we are kept guessing as to whether Al is a good guy who knows when he has to be pragmatic, or whether he is just corrupt and covering up. I like the way Robin’s anger came out, and how Johnno struggles with what he sees as his weaknesses. I like Robin’s mum contrary strength of character, but also her fear and neediness.

The other excellent feature is the portrayal of young people. How selfless and joyful they are. How there are no simple answers to the troubles they face, and how resilient they are in the face of adversity. And I love the way they don’t think twice about sacrificing themselves for someone they love, because they still have the passion and the belief, and the echoes from their pasts are not yet strong enough to stop them.


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