Top of the Lake
Robin dreams of babies, curled up in her palms like dolls, while a song about babies plays in the background. It’s as good a recap of this season as any. When she wakes up, she finds that Mary has gone back to Alexander, the man who is now pimping her. When Pyke shows up and Robin gives him the news, he weeps and insists that Mary won’t tolerate this for long, which is wishful thinking at best. Robin ponders arresting Alexander, which she should have done back when he assaulted her and sent her to the hospital, but in the end, they do what they have done all along: nothing.
Meanwhile, Brett comes to the station to identify Cinnamon’s body, and asks for a moment to say good-bye. What he really wants to do is take creepy photos, because nothing says love like staring at the decomposing corpse of someone you used to pay for sex.
And just in case dealing with the prostitution of her biological daughter and investigating a murder aren’t enough, Mary has to stop her day and deal yet again with the entitled wheedling of her colleague who wants to have sex with her. She’s turned him down four or five times now, and he cuts off their discussion of the murder to ask again. He punches a wall when he gets nowhere and storms off, prompting another colleague to mention that he “can get a little fixated on women” and often has difficulty hearing the word “no.” Just what you want to hear about a man with a gun and the power of an incredibly sexist police force behind him!
Because no one in this station can be professional, Miranda starts weeping in a meeting with Robin and her lover/boss Adrian because she thinks her baby is dead, though it’s not clear why. She marches back to the IVF center with fury in her eyes and demands an ultrasound from the receptionist behind the desk. When the woman says no, Miranda starts screaming until Robin pulls her back. Out in the parking lot, Robin tries to give her water and remind her to take care of herself, and Miranda responds by lighting up another cigarette. Robin calls her careless and dangerous: sleeping with a married man, sleeping with Liam, drinking during a pregnancy. Well, maybe two out of three. “I’m not having my baby,” Miranda finally admits, pulling up her shirt to reveal the fake belly underneath.
Apparently, she and Adrian are having their child with a surrogate, who has broken off contact and disappeared. I know we’re supposed to feel for her here and I do, but man. Using a surrogate to have a baby with the woman you’re cheating on your wife with is a special kind of screwed-up. Miranda cries about the baby she might have lost, Robin cries about the daughter she might lose, and their hatchet appears buried by their common fear.
The receptionist, Pixie, finally admits that she was passing on a number to infertile couples looking for surrogates, and invites all the affected couples to come to her house where she will explain everything. By the time they all arrive, Pixie has killed herself with a drug overdose, Robin finds a pacifier in her mouth, and there are pictures of babies covering her walls, because baby, baby, baby, baby. Afterward, Robin meets with a couple that thinks they might be the parents of Cinnamon’s baby, and when they see the pictures from Brett’s house, they confirm it. Finally, we learn her real name: Padma.
Back at the brothel, one of the girls — who is pregnant — tells Mary she’s leaving for a holiday in Thailand. Instead, Puss takes her to an apartment complex where she disappears behind a metal door, and he refuses to let Mary come inside. Mary is not feeling great about this situation, and asks the question that has been lurking in her mind since she found out about the murder. “What happened to Cinnamon?” He gets agitated and wants to know if her mother has been asking questions, and never really answer the one Mary asks. She walks away, except, of course, she doesn’t.
Pyke and Robin spend more time together back at the family house, and while poking around in Mary’s room, Robin finds a pregnancy test. It’s negative, but it’s more than enough to terrify them both. They try to pick Mary up from school only to find Alexander waiting, and he drags her away while telling Pyke, “You are not her father, and she is not your daughter.” Like Julia, whom Mary pushed away, and Robin, who had three miscarriages, Pyke is stripped of his role as a parent, a form of loss that is the central horror of this story. In mutual frustration, Robin and Pyke get drunk and have sex. Given the way things are going, I’m guessing this will get her pregnant, because this show has never met a womb it did not want to put a baby inside.
Meanwhile, Brett’s hallucinations of Cinnamon escalate: He has “sex” with her, attempts to introduce her to his mother, and then promises the imaginary naked lady that he will “restore her honor.” He heads out, carrying something that looks like a poster tube in his backpack, and yup — it’s a gun. He stalks through the brothel with a sawed-off shotgun looking for Alexander, the man he blames for Cinnamon’s death. When Brett spots him, Alexander gets away by pushing Mary toward the gunman, jumping in an elevator, and closing the door before she can get in. The gun goes off, killing one of the less terrible people in the brothel, and sadly missing Alexander altogether. Brett takes Mary hostage.
When Miranda gets into the brothel’s surveillance equipment, she sees her surrogate on a remote video feed, though she has no idea where that particular room is. All of their children are lost out there somewhere, and they can’t find them. Anyway, the police think Brett may be hiding on a crowded beach, and so they set out to find him in an operation that turns into a giant game of Where’s Waldo. In turns out, he’s buried himself in the sand up to the neck, and then covered his head with an empty beer box. (I’m not sure how you would … do that to yourself, just from a logistical perspective?) Robin screams for Miranda to draw her weapon, and sure enough his eyes snap open and he pulls a gun from the sand, shooting her in the torso before Robin can stop him.
Mary shows up at home, covered in someone else’s blood and refusing to explain her ordeal to Julia. “I can’t stay,” she tells her, slipping away as she was found. Julia soon realizes that Mary has taken her passport, and that she may be leaving much more permanently. Robin confronts Alexander, stabbing him shallowly with a knife and screaming, “You pimped my daughter!” In a bizarre anticlimax, he responds by revealing the truth about Padma’s death. She hung herself, he says, and they just disposed of her body afterward.
“I’m arresting you,” Mary yells, but of course she doesn’t. The weird thing about the whole situation with Alexander is that the plot requires Robin to feel completely helpless, even though she could do an awful lot as a police officer to mess up his life and put him behind bars. Instead, she constantly threatens him and yet does absolutely nothing, which makes her seem ineffectual and, ironically, like a poor parent.
After Robin holds a gun to Alexander’s head, he tells her the location of the apartment where the surrogates are being held, but by the time she arrives, it’s empty. The women are long gone, off to meet Alexander at the airport because Robin let him go. He left a DVD behind that reads, “PLAY ME,” which contains a poorly shot video that returns to Alexander’s favorite themes of class and revolution, and how awful these wealthy couples were for exploiting these poor women. His preferred revolution is the one where he exploits them, which is why he’s taking all the surrogate mothers to another country to sell their babies for profit. The couples look around in horror and beg the police to do something; they cannot, of course, because legally the babies belong to the surrogate mothers. Like Julia, like Pyke, like Robin, they have all lost their children.
At the airport with Alexander, Mary is still a bit peeved about the whole pushing-her-in-front-of-a-gunman thing. But he has no time for the emotions of his fiancée, whom he almost got killed, so he slaps her across the face, telling her to shut up and get on the plane. I don’t know if it’s the near-death experience or the feeling that she is about to make a truly irreversible mistake, but something snaps inside her and she hits him back. Her looks at her with disbelief for a long moment, like a spell has been broken.
In the end, Mary leaves and makes it home safely, but Miranda’s baby and all of the surrogate babies are gone, and likely never to return. We close by realizing that this could have been avoided if Robin had brought Alexander in only hours before, which is frustrating in the same way that everyone’s hands-off attitude toward Alexander has been frustrating. In a show obsessed with the special relationship between parents and children, the parents at its center seem almost determined not to do any real parenting, and fail utterly to protect their daughter from a horrific predator. Perhaps it’s an attempt to illustrate the vulnerability and helplessness of being a parent, and how you can never truly protect your child from all the dangers in the world. Maybe it would have been more persuasive if it felt like they had tried a little harder.