***WARNING – PLOT SPOILERS***
Top of the Lake was first screened to BBC audiences in 2013. Co-written, and co-directed by award-winning screenwriter, Jane Campion (The Piano, 1993); the miniseries follows Detective Robin Griffin’s investigation in to the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl, in a remote New Zealand town.
Elisabeth Moss is outstanding in the role of Detective Robin Griffin; a character whose commitment to justice and truth brings her to the edge of her own sanity. Moss won a Golden Globe for her portrayal.
Here are just a few reasons why Robin Griffin is a Feminist Fictional Favourite:
She is committed to justice for women and girls
When Robin meets 12-year-old Tui Mitcham (played by Jacqueline Joe), who has been brought in to the station by male officers after being found pregnant, and waist-deep in a lake; she immediately seeks to make Tui feel safe. With her specialist Detective training in child abuse, and more crucially; her own, harrowing experience of rape when she was sixteen, (which resulted in an unwanted pregnancy); Robin is able to reach out to, and empathise with Tui.
Robin also establishes a good relationship with a women’s self-help group, run by the androgynous GJ (Holly Hunter), located on a secluded area of land called ‘Paradise’. Her investigation in to Tui’s disappearance leads her to ‘Paradise’ several times; and her relationship with the women staying on the site develops her understanding of both professional and personal pieces of her life.
She is dedicated to challenging misogyny in all its forms
When Tui goes missing again, Robin’s male police colleagues are complacent, bordering on apathetic, one even remarks “what’s the worst that can happen to her? She’s already pregnant.” They consistently overlook or ignore crucial developments in Tui’s case, which is being overseen by Robin’s senior, Detective Al Parker (played by David Wenham.) Robin is disgusted by the lack of interest in the investigation; and dedicates herself to solving Tui’s case.
Robin also encounters misogyny in the form of hyper-masculine Matt Mitcham; a local drug dealer and Tui Mitcham’s Father. Matt’s aggressive misogyny manifests itself in many forms; but Robin refuses to be intimidated by him; which leads to her making several, startling discoveries about the main suspect in Tui’s disappearance.
At work, Robin has to deal with inappropriate comments from her senior, Detective Al Parker. Whilst discussing details of Tui’s case, Al often propositions Robin with remarks about dating older men, marriage and sexuality. Robin chooses to ignore most of these remarks; but towards the close of the series, she cannot ignore Al’s inappropriate behaviour; which leads her to make a discovery that shakes the foundations of the town’s police force.
She rebuilds her own life after surviving extensive personal trauma(s)
Robin is figuratively and physically ‘brought to her knees’ throughout Top of the Lake. Details of Tui’s case blend with her own traumatic memories of rape, unwanted pregnancy, and misogyny; and cause her to question her own sanity in an isolating, patriarchal society.
Despite the horrific sexual abuse she has suffered; she is able to form a meaningful and romantic relationship with her childhood romance, and Tui’s half-brother, Johnno (played by Thomas. M Wright) and their relationship survives the strain of the investigation.
Robin perseveres and forces herself through trauma, after trauma in search of the truth, and justice for Tui and for herself; which she eventually achieves.