TOP OF THE LAKE Review: “Who’s Your Daddy” / “The Battle of the Mothers”

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In the final two episodes of : CHINA GIRL, Griffin comes close to losing her daughter, as the disgruntled former lover of Cinnamon takes her hostage. Can Griffin find Mary and rescue her before it’s too late?

Griffin continues to make headway into her daughter’s life, but with each step forward, there’s the pull of Alexander luring Mary back into his clutches. He has a sway over her that’s intense, and it’s clear he continues to manipulate her even though she’s beginning to see him for who he really is. It’s hard to imagine her going back to him after he pushed her into prostituting herself, but though she’s disgusted by what he’s made her do, she can’t help but return to him. Mary is in the strange position of being disgusted with Alexander, but still drawn to him by her intense feelings of love. Will it ever come to a point where Mary decides enough is enough, or is Alexander’s hold on her too strong?

We haven’t talked much about Brett, the client who’s in love with Cinnamon, the dead sex worker. So far he’s been on the fringes of the story, hanging out with a bunch of gross brothel aficionados, and pining for Cinnamon. This kid is delusion in a lot of scary ways, but it starts with him believing he and Cinnamon have a relationship deeper than just being a client. When confronted with her death, he doesn’t want to believe it, since he’s been having hallucinations of Cinnamon ever since she disappeared. When he identifies her body at the morgue, he attempts to take pictures of her against Griffin’s commands. Even this proof isn’t enough, and when he returns home he continues to hallucinate encounters with Cinnamon, even introducing her to his confused mother. This delusion is dangerous, and though on some level he may have accepted she’s dead, he continues to live the fake relationship he thought the two of them had. Deep down he knows Cinnamon is dead, so he lashes out at the people he holds responsible.

Miranda and Griffin’s relationship continues to be tense, and it doesn’t end at the office. Since Miranda lives across the hall from Griffin, there’s no escape from the tension even after work, especially since Miranda is sleeping with Griffin’s brother. Their case has gotten to Miranda and made her emotional, which Griffin thinks is due to her pregnancy, but this turns out to be false when Miranda reveals she’s been faking a pregnancy and wearing a fat suit. It seems crazy at first, but the real situation hits harder when she tells Griffin she and Adrian have been using a surrogate who she now suspects of being a brothel worker. Just like many of the other couples, Miranda and Adrian were pointed toward their surrogate by the fertility clinic, and now their surrogate has lost contact with them. Miranda is afraid of losing her baby.

The woman from the fertility clinic who’s been arranging the contact between the couples and the brothel owners running the illegal surrogacy business agrees to meet with all of the couples, including Miranda and Griffin, to explain what’s going on. When everyone shows up for the meeting, they find the woman who is their only contact person for their surrogates has killed herself, leaving everyone in the dark. The surrogates have cut off contact with the couples, and the brothel owners have moved them to a secret apartment complex to remain hidden. Why have they done this? It seems like black market surrogacy is a moneymaker, and desperate couples will pay whatever amount they’re asked to just to have their babies. It’s a cruel business model, but the desperation of the couple’s guarantees a payday. Australian law favors the surrogate’s rights to keep the child if they want to, so the brothel has come up with a form of legalized blackmail.

While Miranda feels like she’s losing control of her unborn child, Griffin becomes a surrogate mother to the daughter she gave up for adoption. Mary and Julia don’t get along, and so being there for Mary has given Griffin a higher stature in Mary’s life. Julia feels herself being replaced and is jealous, but things are out of her control at the moment. At the same time as Griffin gets closer to her daughter, she and Pyke also find an attraction between themselves, and soon end up consummating their relationship. Griffin doesn’t have any time to revel in their blossoming romance, and receives an upsetting phone call during sex with Pyke. She’s still drunk and can’t fully comprehend the seriousness of what’s she’s told.

Brett goes to the brothel to find Alexander, whom he believes responsible for Cinnamon’s death, to kill him. He has a sawed off shotgun, and attempts to shoot Alexander, but misses and kills the brothel owner’s husband. He takes Mary prisoner as he escapes. The abduction leaves Griffin reeling, and an emotional mess. Brett has murdered a cab driver to steal his car, and has disappeared with Mary without a trace. Police believe he’ll hide on one of the crowded beaches to avoid notice. In the morning Griffin and Miranda are tasked to help search the beaches, but Griffin notices something strange on one of the surveillance videos of the beach, a case of beer has been in the same spot all night. When they investigate, Brett is buried in the sand, with only his head sticking out and the box covering it. Miranda kicks the box and Brett immediately shoots her in the stomach before Griffin gets a gun to his head and places him into custody. Where’s Mary?

Griffin goes to a café she heard Alexander worked at in an attempt to find Mary, but finds Alexander in the kitchen, hiding from Brett after the kid attempted to kill him. Alexander tells Griffin that Cinnamon wasn’t murdered; she killed herself because she was so depressed by her situation of being a sex worker and a surrogate. When the brothel owners found she’d hung herself, they put her in the suitcase and threw it into the ocean to get rid of the evidence. Alexander has no idea where Mary is, but he begs Griffin to find her.

Brett let Mary go, and though Julia catches Mary coming home to get some things, she’s unable to stop her from leaving and taking her passport. Alexander has gathered up all of the surrogates and Mary, with the intention of going to Thailand to blackmail the couples from afar. Once the children are born, the parents can come to Thailand and buy their children back. It’s a hurtful and manipulative move, and one Alexander has no shame in. Mary realizes at the gate leading to the plane that she doesn’t want to be with Alexander anymore. The minute he slaps her in the face is the minute their relationship ends. She’s been looking for a way out of his clutches, and this is it. Julia picks her up from the airport and brings her home, safe.

Julia is upset when she realizes what Griffin and Pyke have been up to, because even though she’s moved on to another relationship, she’s jealous Griffin is becoming a surrogate mother to her daughter, and a surrogate wife to her ex-husband. The realization makes her desperate to retain her position, so she tries to wedge herself between Griffin and her family. It’s awkward to witness her desperation to cling to what she once had and gave up after she realizes someone else wants it. Julia leaves her girlfriend and tells Griffin she and Pyke are going to give their relationship another try, but it’s clear Pyke isn’t interested. With Mary safe, and the case closed, it’s up in the air what happens with Griffin and Pyke. There’s a real chemistry I hope will get explored in future seasons. Griffin started the season damaged and hurt by her past, unable to allow anyone to get close to her, but after she finally lets herself be vulnerable with someone, she seems healed emotionally. Jane Campion and Elisabeth Moss have done another wonderful job taking us into a crime story involving Detective Robin Griffin. Here’s hoping we see more from this collaboration in the future.


Season 2, Episodes 5-6 (S02E05-06)
Top of the Lake: China Girl airs Sundays at 8PM on Sundance TV

Read all of our reviews of Top of the Lake: China Girl here. 
Read our reviews of more of your favorite shows here.

For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates.
Follow Jeff on Twitter: @OfSoundnVision
Keep up with all of Jeff’s reviews here.

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