Top-Flight ‘Top of the Lake’ Sequel

Top of the Lake_It was a great gift to receive Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake” four years ago — a terrific showcase for Elisabeth Moss as a tough Australian detective determined to get to the bottom of the case of a girl found dead in the water. It touched on issues of gender and feminism even as it trolled to the worst of humanity in a compelling drama with striking photography. There had been nothing much like it.

What a surprise that there is a follow-up, as vivid and intense as the first. “Top of the Lake: China Girl” (Sundance, 9 p.m.) begins with another waif in the water — this one encased in a blue roller-bag pushed off a cliff near Sydney, a wave of long dark hair emanating from a suitcase crack.

Moss’ Det. Robin Griffin is back to work after shooting a fellow officer for trying to attack her. She’s a little on edge also because she’s begun to contact the daughter she gave up for adoption after a rape, when she was a teenager.

That the daughter’s menacing older boyfriend figures into the crime at hand is one of those coincidences that come in TV fiction. But there is plenty else about Campion’s sequel to recommend it, from its constant discussion of feminist ideas in an ever-sexist world to the treatment of third world women in sex work and the yearnings of motherhood on many levels.

The cast here is on a level of any on television. First and foremost, there is Moss, the undisputed Meryl Streep of television drama (after “Handmaid’s Tale,” “Mad Men” and yes, even “The West Wing”) doing perhaps her best work yet with some especially emotional wrenching scenes toward the end of the six-hour series (that only adds to the intensity in playing out over three consecutive nights).

Then there is Nicole Kidman, coming immediately after her successful TV debut in “Big Little Lies,” as the adoptive mother who resents the biological mother’s sudden interest. Kidman has been striving to her best in most of her recent roles, and she’s very good here.

To finish the Emmy troika, there’s a breakout role for “Gwendoline Christie,” the striking female knight in “Game of Thrones,” who makes a case for roles beyond science fiction and fantasy with her most complex work.

But holding her own among this strong cast is Alice Englert, brash and surprising as the daughter — and also the daughter of Campion and filmmaker Colin David Englert.

David Denick is frighteningly for real as a Manson-like figure for the daughter; Ewen Leslie brings some depth and empty as the dad.

“Top of the Lake: China Girl” packs a lot in and his straight at your emotion. You’ll want to watch it all at once, as I did yesterday. But seeing two episodes a night for three nights in a row will have a similar sort of impact, I think. Don’t miss i

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