And so I watched the second season, Top of the Lake: China Girl (2017), which is dark like the first but with an extra layer of that quirky dark humor from the first season.
It's five years later and Robin (Elisabeth Moss) is back in Sydney. A girl (yet again a young Asian as victim) is found washed up on the beach, dead in a suitcase. Meanwhile, Robin meets the daughter she gave up as a teenage mother. The daughter's adoptive mother, a domineering control freak played by Nicole Kidman, and adoptive father meet the girl's new boyfriend, Alexander "Puss" Braun, an older, melancholic German who rents out part of his building to a brothel. We get to know the girls in this business too, all SE Asians. Then there's the gang of dweebs, who sit around a table at a café for the free WiFi as they work on a website for rating local prostitutes.
Like in the first series, there are few if any likeable guys, maybe just the adoptive father, Pyke. The misogyny is near constant and in our face, plus by this point we don't trust a single male character, even if he's initially pitched to us as perhaps mildly OK. This is a grimy reflection of our world, in a dim light. And I think the second season pulls off the humor less self-consciously, more effectively than the first, but simultaneously the series doesn't seem to know what it is at times. After all six episodes I looked back and didn't feel as though I'd gotten a full picture. Pieces of the plot looked poorly stitched together. Characters weren't fleshed out enough either, which is bound to happen when you cram so many into a fairly short narrative. I wasn't completely disappointed. Nicole Kidman's character and Puss are great TV. And Moss as a cop instead of Offred the handmaid is somehow fascinating. But... if there's a third season, I'll probably give it a pass.