A joy of the current TV season is that one of the medium’s finest actresses, Elisabeth Moss, has key roles in two of the finest series in recent memory -- “Mad Men,” now in its sixth season, and Jane Campion’s “Top of the Lake.” While the athletic, hardened Kiwi detective Robin Griffin and sharp-as-a-tack ‘60s Mad Woman Peggy Olson are worlds, eras and professions away from one another, there are striking similarities between the two characters.
1. Accent-uate the positive. One of the great details from the fifth season of “Mad Men” is Peggy Olson’s slip into her native New Yawkuh accent when chatting with Ginsberg in the offices of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Usually she keeps her accent neutral and her elocution elegant while at work, and then brings out the “Ma!” when visiting her Brooklyn home. Moss’ dexterity with dialects is of course on display in “Top of the Lake,” where she boasts a fairly good Kiwi accent. Interestingly, Robin was raised in Laketop, New Zealand, but has been living for many years in Australia, so the more detail-oriented question remains whether Moss is in fact accurately channeling a New-Zealander-who’s-lived-half-her-life-in-Sydney accent. This my Yankee ear cannot tell.
3. Young woman, big job. With the perennially unemployed or underemployed young women of “Girls” recently buzzing about the TV stratosphere, it’s refreshing to see Moss’ Peggy Olson and Robin Griffin handling high-responsibility dream jobs -- and not buckling under pressure -- at relatively young ages. The comparison between Robin and the BBC’s “Prime Suspect” sleuth Jane Tennison (a career-defining Helen Mirren) is apt, but remember that when we meet DCI Tennison she is about 10 to 15 years older, albeit higher in rank, than her modern “Top of the Lake” counterpart. Both Robin and Peggy embody ambitious, fast-rising women, unafraid to speak their mind and push projects in new, innovative directions, despite facing roadblocks. Which leads me to…
5. Ambiguous sexual tension with an older male authority figure. Detective-sergeant Al Parker’s interest in Robin has deeply malevolent undertones, especially following the suspiciously potent red wine he offers her at a two-person dinner party. Meanwhile, Peggy’s past work relationship with Don Draper, which was a fascinating mix of flirty, friendly and paternal, had viewers wondering season after season if a Don-Peggy hookup was on the horizon. (Thankfully, it wasn’t.) In both cases, Moss’ characters seem to inspire intimidation and familiarity in her bosses, which manifests in vague to explicit sexual interest. With Peggy’s agency move, it looks like Ted Chaough may very well fill Don’s shoes in this regard.
What say you, TOH-ers? Noticed any other interesting similarities between Moss' Peggy and Robin?