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The Boston Globe

Television

Television Review

‘Top of the Lake’: human wreckage amid beauty

The isolated New Zealand landscape of “Top of the Lake” is magnificent — cottony fog hovering over a crystalline body of water in the midst of an eternity of heavenly mountains. But the human presence in this seven-part miniseries is a lot less majestic. All of the locals appear to be either brutal, twisted men or the women who’ve been wrecked by them. Tragedy consumes the women here, heart by broken heart, and the glorious mountains are unmoved.

The first hour of “Top of the Lake,” Monday at 9 p.m. on Sundance Channel, comes on like a relentless firestorm of bad news and depravity. It puts the suffocation in “breathtaking.” A pregnant 12-year-old named Tui (Jacqueline Joe) disappears, possibly murdered by the man who raped her, who may be her father, the menacing drug lord Matt Mitcham (Peter Mullan), whose thugs have just drowned a businessman. The detective who tries to find Tui, Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss), is dealing with a dying, abused mother and her own history of sexual abuse. That spectacularly clean lake? Robin’s father died in it. Also in episode 1: A dog is shot to death.

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