Plot: The murder of a powerful politician can put immense pressure on the authorities to solve the case quickly, but this specific case is even more complex. As if solving a murder isn’t enough pressure, this politician was killed on the border between France and the UK. This means jurisdiction is complicated and if the case is to be figured out, both sides will need to work together. The detectives dispatched are Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane) from the UK force and Elise Wasserman (Clemence Poesy) from the French authorities. These two couldn’t much more different, with plenty of personality conflicts and their approaches to police work aren’t similar, either. When it turns out the murder has a shocking twist that even further complicates the case, it becomes clear a sadistic killer is responsible and this could be just the start. Can these very different detectives manage to put aside their differences and pursue this killer, or will red tape and personal conflicts cloud the investigation?
Entertainment Value: The Tunnel is based on the acclaimed Scandinavian series The Bridge, so if you’ve seen that, you know about what to expect. But of course, this series takes some new turns and alters the approach at times, so it is still worth a look even if you’ve seen The Bridge. The odd couple dynamic is one we’ve seen countless times, but when done right, it is one of those tropes that can still be effective, despite it being a frequently used one. This element forms the backbone of The Tunnel, so a lot rested on the shoulders of the lead. Stephen Dillane plays a relaxed, laid back detective and Elise Wasserman is the strict, routine driven type, so they have a lot of potential for conflict to drive the relationship. Both turn in terrific performances, especially Dillane who really shows his talent in this series. And this odd couple approach never feels forced, it just has some natural clashes from time to time, while both detectives do their best to get the job done and manage each other. So don’t be turned off by the use of this trope, as it is well handled throughout this first season.
While the show is driven by the odd couple dynamic and police procedural elements, it never feels tired or retread. The series examines the cultural and political angles of both sides of the investigation, often with a wry sense of humor. Obviously some of these kind of references will be missed by international viewers, but I think enough of them are widely accessible to make it all work. A series like this needs a good villain and the one here has social motivations, seeking to expose political corruption and social injustice, which adds some depth. The narrative is mostly effective and balances a lot of elements, not to mention some seeds meant to grow over time. The focus is a little shifty at times and that makes some parts of the plot seem underdeveloped, but the primary threads and characters seem well handled. The pacing is good and all ten episodes are tense and interesting. I don’t think there’s much filler in the episodes either, which is good since the series covers a lot of content. If you’re a fan of detective shows and like an international flavor, The Tunnel is a rock solid watch.