What we learned from the first two episodes of Top of the Lake: China Girl

Tonight sees the first episode of Top of the Lake: China Girl premiere on Foxtel’s BBC First. It is the follow up to Jane Campion’s 2013 series Top of the Lake and we were lucky enough to attend the world premiere earlier this month in Sydney to watch episodes 1 and 2.

The new season sees Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale, Mad Men, The West Wing) reprising her lead role in the new setting of Sydney with Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Nicole Kidman (Lion, Moulin Rouge!, Big Little Lies) filling out the rest of the cast.

Moss, with Christie by her side, play a detective pair trying to solve a murder-mystery when the body of a girl washes up on Bondi Beach. Moss’ character is newly relocated to Sydney and battling being broken and fragile as she attempts to reconnect with a daughter she gave up at birth. Nicole Kidman plays a neurotic, feminist mother whose own personal life is in shambles as she is in the midst of a divorce after falling in love with another woman.

Here’s what we learned from the first two episodes – and don’t worry, we’re not going to spoil anything for you beyond the show’s opening scene…

Sex sells… and (immediately) kills

Top of the Lake: China Girl immerses the audience in the dirty and provocative underbelly of brothels and the lives of sex-workers in Sydney. From the very first opening scene of the show, the audience will know who is immediately responsible for the murder of the girl and dumping of her body. That where the artful writing of Campion and longtime collaborator Gerard Lee come in. Despite us knowing most of the answers, we are hooked to discover how it will all be unraveled as the lives of these distant story arcs begin to merge.

Kirin J Callinan is a convincing and comforting support

Yep, you read that right. Australia’s notorious on-stage showman continues to dazzle as he makes an appearance as Moss’ Sydney-based brother whom she is reliant on living with. He is is composed and comforting as he tries to make sense of what is traumatizing his sister. Humor unfolds as Callinan and Christie start to become unlikely friends to the ire of Moss who would rather be left alone all day and night as she battles through her current situation. Despite seeing only glimpses of this friendship blossom in episodes 1 and 2, it was enough to cross our fingers for a Kirin J Callinan and Gwendoline Christie spin-off show.

Sydney is its own character

From the grey hues of the city’s alleyways, to the turbulent ocean as waves crash and wash a dead body in a suitcase onto Bondi Beach shore; Sydney becomes an intensifying character in the shows development. Moss’ character secludes herself to the rock cliffs of Sydney’s beaches in attempts to find peace and escape. Scenes in neatly-designed Sydney streets and North Shore houses are juxtaposed against the dimly-lit, messy and loud rooms of brothels who find their way into the familiar streets of Ultimo and lookouts of Sydney Harbour.

Top of the Lake: China Girl begins tonight, August 20th on Foxtel’s BBC First at 8:30pm.