The Tunnel: Series 1 Episode 1 Review
Reviewed by James Wynne.
Starring Stephen Dillane and Clémence Poésy, The Tunnel, remake of Scandinavian drama The Bridge, follows an Anglo-French murder investigation, after a bisected corpse is found in the channel tunnel, deposited centrally upon the divide between France and Britain. Pivotal to The Tunnel’s probable success is the grudging partnership of Karl Roebuck (Dillane) and Elise Wassermann (Poésy) that ensues as a result. The two intensely antipodal personalities make for an enlivening dynamic to see the series through, with Roebuck’s constant japes and jibes being deflected by the staid and priggish Wassermann’s humourless indifference.
Roebuck’s character is a refreshing break from the usual archetype of a tortured male detective, living alone, and unwaveringly devoted to his work, that we see so often heading programmes of this ilk. Roebuck has five children, by *three* different mothers no less, and is in a contented, functional relationship (presumably, with the third of those women). By contrast, Wassermann is living on her own, and is wrought by a defective inability to direct her mind away from her investigations, and the strictures of her profession. Roebuck’s semblant insouciance about his Police work is to the frequent ire of his resentful cohort, but he is a quintessential Briton in that respect (just as his droll humour is typically British in design), and it’s to the writers’ credit that the transition of the original Swedish/Danish consortium to the French/British one of The Tunnel has been achieved with such aplomb.
Both actors are commendably credible in their respective parts. Dillane’s wry comedy never misses its mark, and his endearing portrayal is likely to amass the most favour from the viewers. Poésy, though, elevates herself above and beyond the actors around her with such an intense performance. Wassermann’s perpetual dourness could be a chore to endure in the wrong hands, but Poésy proves more than able to play it so relentlessly straight, whilst still evoking a crucial degree of intrigue, concerning the means by which she came to be this way.
The case itself is more complicated than it first appears. A series of shocking discoveries are made upon closer inspections of the cadaver: it’s been bifurcated; it’s been disembowelled; it is one carcass that’s composed of halves belonging to two different victims, one a French politician, the other a Welsh prostitute. The disparaging connotations this insinuates are glaringly evident, especially when one takes into account the synopsis’ implication that the killer has a firm political agenda. But the arduous and meticulous lengths that have been gone to seem to suggest that there is more to this than simply damning an already notoriously stigmatized occupation.
It would be remiss of me not to accredit the ingenuity of the murderer’s methodology to the creative minds that spawned The Bridge, as it’s such a rarity with the swathes of crime dramas that inhabit the television schedules nowadays for any one of them to properly surprise its viewership. But with each successive revelation of the killer’s processes, The Tunnel gets ever more startling.
The exact nature of immigrant and prostitute trafficker Stephen Beaumont’s connection to the dual murders is somewhat ambiguous for the time being. Joseph Mawle – another of the Game of Thrones alumnus, alongside none other than King Stannis – plays his part with a sleazy, disquieting comportment. Coupled with his denoted association to the British victim, whom was one half of the whole that was left for the French and British authorities to squabble over, what can be presumed of his involvement in affairs at the moment is that he’s likely very closely affiliated with the perpetrator, and was integral in enacting one end of the scheme, at least.
Most bewildering of all, though, is what befalls profane scumbag, and tabloid journalist, Danny Fillier (Tom Bateman). The rigged mechanism he fell prey to was, rather predictably, a ruse, but the politically-motivated attacker’s reasons for targeting him remain a mystery at this point. He’s obviously entangled with the deceased politician in some way, but we’ve not yet been informed exactly how. Whilst the scenes of his entrapment were doubtless meant to elicit a degree of suspense, the transparency of it being an elaborate hoax, and the brief, unpalatable introduction to Fillier we’d been privy to only minutes earlier, made mustering up any amount of empathy a bit of a hardship.
The Tunnel has striven to recreate the quality of The Bridge, and has done so consummately. Mere niggles like the one noted just above, and the slightly jarring cliché of the killer delivering his messages with a Saw-like voice synthesiser, don’t really detract from what is an almost impeccable start to the series.