Top of the Lake

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Top of the Lake TV Poster Image
Cinematic mystery series explores sex, violence, and sorrow.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

While there's some sense of a quest for justice, the overarching mood is bleak and foreboding. Death, disappointment, and uncertainty are common themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main character is a strong female role model who's committed to her job, but she has her share of flaws. Many of the characters she encounters are emotionally or physically wounded, harboring dark secrets and disappointments.


Death and murder are prominent themes, and some characters use weapons. Sudden moments of violence (and blood) are rare. The series revolves around the statutory rape of a 12-year-old girl, which is discussed but not shown onscreen.


Simulated sex acts between consenting adults include intercourse and oral sex. Bare buttocks are visible but no other sensitive parts are shown.


Unbleeped language includes "f--k," "s--t," "c--k," "t-ts," "prick," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One of the main characters is a local drug lord. Marijuana, mephedrone, and alcohol are used in social situations.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Top of the Lake centers on the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl who was the victim of statutory rape (an act that's discussed but not shown onscreen). Simulated adult sex acts include intercourse and oral sex, and bare buttocks are visible but no other sensitive parts are shown. Sudden moments of violence are rare, although death and murder are prominent themes, and some characters use weapons but with minimal bloodletting. Characters also use coarse language, along with alcohol and illegal drugs like marijuana and mephedrone.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byviper_wings October 1, 2015

Beautiful scenery in contrast to terrible secrets

The best or good ? Hard decision...But I chose : The best for several reasons. I do love series with good willing but flawed people Cause in the end ,that is wh... Continue reading
Adult Written byKoolkatmp27 July 13, 2015

Inaccurate sexual content review by website

Contains full frontal female nudity in more than 1 episode and partial male nudity in almost all episodes. Includes multiple scenes of sexual acts, with some sh... Continue reading

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What's the story?

When the pregnant, 12-year-old daughter (Jacqueline Joe) of a local drug lord (Peter Mullan) disappears under mysterious circumstances in the picturesque wilds of Laketop, New Zealand, Sydney-based detective Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), who's returned home to help care for her ailing mother, takes the lead in solving the case. But the deeper she delves into the crime at the TOP OF THE LAKE, the more memories she unearths of her own troubled past.

Is it any good?

Written and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jane Campion (The Piano) -- who's also the first-ever woman to receive the Palme d'Or at Cannes -- Top of the Lake is an uncommonly compelling crime drama with near-cinematic sensibilities. So much so, in fact, that you often forget you're watching a television show. There's artful stillness and palpable sadness is almost every frame, and the collective performances of Moss, Mullan, and newcomer Joe push it firmly into must-see territory.

The languid pacing might not be for everyone, but if you watch, you'll find a deft exploration, not just of a crime, but of a small-town community that's a magnet for broken souls -- from the assorted women who've gathered in a place called Paradise to gain wisdom from the enigmatically "enlightened" GJ (Holly Hunter) to the young victim whose metaphorical fate hangs over them all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about statutory rape and its emotional and physical repercussions. What are the tragic realities of becoming pregnant at such a young age under such circumstances? How well does Top of the Lake portray the seriousness of the situation?

  • How big of a role does sexism play in the innerworkings of the Laketop community, particularly among those in positions of power? How prominently do female characters figure into the plot, and how do they measure up as role models?

  • How does Top of the Lake compare to other mystery series on television? In what ways did the writer-director's film background influence the end result?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery and thrills

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