Hot on the heels of its Scandinavian source material (The Bridge) comes The Tunnel, a 10-part drama series from the makers of Broadchurch. When the body of a prominent French politician is found smack bang in the middle of the Eurotunnel’s Anglo-French border, it is British and French detectives Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane) and Elise Wassermann (Clemence Poesy) that are called to the scene. Given the nationality of the victim, it is initially Wassermann’s team that lay claim to the investigation. However, upon the gruesome discovery that the one body is in fact the dismembered halves of two murder victims – one French and one British – both Wassermann and Roebuck are thrown together in an unlikely entente cordiale. Cue some playful digs at “Les Roast Beefs” getting in the way.
The perpetrator, keen to keep the momentum going, makes him or herself known to the police by way of scripted video links telling of their plan to make both nations face up to the five ‘truths’ concerning the failings of French and British society. Always one step behind the killer, dubbed as the Truth Terrorist or TT for short by the media pundits, Roebuck and Wassermann realise they will have to not only act swiftly to prevent more bloodshed but also outsmart the individual that has meticulously planned these crimes for months.
At first glance there is nothing new here – two cops from opposite ends of the spectrum form a quirky partnership to solve a crime, one a wise-cracking seasoned veteran of the ‘follow your instincts’ school of policing and the other a hard-nosed young detective with little time for sentimental handling of witnesses and even less when it comes to joking around. The plot too sounds, on the face of it, like something we’ve all heard before – a psychotic madman dishing out punishment towards some greater purpose. However, to cast The Tunnel aside along with the endless flurry of forgettable serial killer dramas out there would be a mistake.
Above all else, the story is slick and gives its lead characters plenty of room to grow without bogging the plot down with pointless detail. The signs of a good serial killer drama earning its salt is its ability to juggle a story that manages to keep the pace up while at the same time managing to make its characters more than just hollow stereotypes of so many TV detective past. The Tunnel, without question, achieves that goal.
The strong script is aided by a strong support cast including Angel Coulby and Keeley Hawes who play Roebuck’s wife and good girl gone bad Suze respectively.
It goes without saying that fans of original Swedish/Danish series The Bridge will see what’s coming a mile away, the writers of The Tunnel clearly opting to stick with a storyline that worked so well the first time round. Before anybody goes deducting points for plagiarism, however, The Tunnel isn’t without its own charm. Working the London riots of 2011, the ugly side of social media and the ongoing debate surrounding police treatment of urban French communities into the story are nice touches that make The Tunnel feel like it was tailored to its target audience as opposed to being a direct rip off.
On the whole, The Tunnel transfers to an Anglo-French setting without a hitch. What does stick in the craw somewhat is well-traveled nature of our serial killer – the uber-organised and fastidious workings of TT are one thing but the idea of a serial killer taking a jolly back and forward along the Eurotunnel while he carries out multiple dastardly deeds in both the UK and France over the course of many months does feel a tad disingenuous. One would ask why detectives Roebuck and Wassarmann failed to check out suspects with a Eurotunnel frequent traveler pass first.
All in all, it’s nice to see a British led drama hitting all the right notes. The Tunnel is engaging, smart and, above all else, highly watchable. Extra brownie points go to Poesy who adds just the right amount of warmth to a difficult character, all the while remaining likable.
There’s a definite clamour for well-made TV drama nowadays following on from the likes of The Bridge and The Killing (or the Scandanoirs as they have been named). Here’s hoping The Tunnel marks a continuation of that trend.