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A dark return for 'Top of the Lake'

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 23/05/2017 Brent Lang

"Top of the Lake: China Girl" got the Cannes Film Festival treatment on Tuesday with a six-episode marathon screening that had a packed house of cinephiles enjoying some binge TV on the big screen.

The twisty thriller from co-directors, New Zealander Jane Campion and Ariel Kleiman, boasts another knockout turn by Elisabeth Moss as Detective Robin Griffin and stellar work from Nicole Kidman as a mother dealing with a volatile teenage daughter.

There's also plenty of surprises, gorgeous cinematography and a mystery that keeps audiences guessing until the credits roll on the final episode. Fans of the 2013 original won't be disappointed.

Without spoiling the big reveals, here are five things to expect from "Top of the Lake's" return.

1. Robin is in a very bad place

It's been four years since the events of "Top of the Lake," and time has not healed Robin's wounds. She's trying to recover from a breakup with her caddish fiance, tossing back one six pack after another, struggling to get her career back on track after taking a break from the force, suffering from nightmares, and barrelling toward a breakdown.

She's also dealing with the guilt from having given up a daughter for adoption 17 years ago. Her efforts to get back in touch with the child she could not raise help set the plot in motion.

2. A whole new setting

The first season took place in a remote corner of New Zealand. The forests and mountain ranges were almost another character. Here, the setting shifts to Sydney -- a city of skyscrapers, slums, cliffs, freeways, and sandy beaches.

3. It's dark ... very dark

Oh boy, does "China Girl" go to some bleak places. There are prostitution rings, illegal surrogacies, graphic autopsies, a dead woman's corpse stuck in a suitcase, and the creepiest boyfriend ever put on screen (apologies to David Dencik, who plays the kind of older suitor that keeps parents up at night).

4. Elisabeth Moss and Gwendoline Christie have the best chemistry

Moss has to deliver the kind of emotional pyrotechnics that win Emmys, but Christie steals the show as her awkward, hero-worshipping partner. She gets the best lines and delivers the biggest laughs. It's a refreshing change of pace for Christie, best known for her work as a morally upstanding knight Brienne on "Game of Thrones."

5. It's all about the gender politics

Like "Prime Suspect" before it, "China Girl" is as much a "who done it" as it is an examination of workplace sexism. Robin Griffin is as good a detective as any man in her squad, but she has to deal with unwanted advances from co-workers and macho snickering when she tries to assert her authority. The film isn't just concerned with that kind of casual discrimination. It also looks at violence toward women in other forms, from sex trafficking to rape to prostitution. Despite that dark subject matter, at its core, "China Girl" is about motherhood -- the bonds between a parent and a child, and the aching need to love and be loved.

The series is due to screen in New Zealand this year on Sky's UKTV.

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