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“The Tunnel” Episode 1-2 Review

The successful Swedish-Danish crime drama, The Bridge, has now spawned two international remakes – a U.S. version starring Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds) and Demian Bichir (A Better Life, The Heat) and now a British-French version called The Tunnel.

In the U.S. version of The Bridge, a serial killer is terrorizing the Texas-Chihuahua, Mexico border, forcing U.S. Detective Sonya Cross and Mexican Detective Marco Ruiz to work together to bring the killer to justice. In The Tunnel, a French politician is found murdered in the Channel Tunnel connecting the U.K. and France, forcing the British and French police to enter into an uneasy partnership after it is discovered that the lower half of the body belongs to a Britisher. Stephen Dillane (Game of Thrones, A Touch of Cloth) and Clemence Poesy (Harry Potter franchise, 127 Hours) star as Detectives Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann.

Like her Swedish and American counterparts, the socially inept Elise lives with Asperger syndrome. Questioning witnesses and potential suspects isn’t exactly Elise’s forte. She’s straightforward, direct, and methodical, which – at times – makes her come across as unsympathetic and slightly antagonistic. This approach even transfers over to her sex life, as we see in the second episode, when she picks up a bartender. Her French colleagues, meanwhile, make fun of her behind her back for her lack of humor and social awareness.

On the other hand, Karl is a family man. Though happily married at the moment, he’s been married a few times. He has five children including a very unruly teenage son, and his current wife is played by Merlin‘s Angel Coulby. He takes a very laidback approach to his work, unlike workaholic Elise. Right away, Elise doesn’t respond to Karl’s sense of humor, and while Karl makes an effort to get along with his new French workmate, even he finds her personality to be a little grating. However, he’s very friendly and open, telling Elise about his vasectomy and disclosing bits of information about his personal life.

The writing for Elise is much tighter compared to the Diane Kruger’s character in the American adaptation of The Bridge. Poesy’s performance is stronger, as well. With Kruger, you get the sense that she’s playing a quirky heroine in a romantic comedy rather than a serious officer of the law. And since I haven’t seen the Swedish-Danish version of The Bridge, I can’t compare Poesy’s performance with that of Sofia Helin, who plays Poesy’s counterpart in the original.

Episode 1 ends with a bomb threat that turns out to be nothing more than a cryptic message for the police and Danny Hillier (Tom Bateman), a potential suspect and tabloid journalist who displays the kind of asshole behavior that you expect from someone in that field of work.

In episode 2, the police dive even deeper into the investigation after the killer releases a video online of the police discovering the two half-bodies in the Channel Tunnel. The killer claims that he murdered the French politician and prostitute to demonstrate social inequality. A prostitute’s life wouldn’t be valued the same as a prominent French politician’s. By the end of the episode, the killer has poisoned nursing home attendees to demonstrate society’s mistreatment of elderly people.

As they continue to work on the case, Karl and Elise’s relationship begins to progress and we see the two of them find some common ground. In the first episode, Karl is able to deduce from a photograph that Elise has a twin sister. Elise opens up to Karl in the following episode when she reveals that her twin drowned. It helps that Dillane and Poesy have great chemistry, despite their characters being such stark opposites. You can tell Karl and Elise feel a sense of camaraderie.

The case itself is engaging and there’s a thriller aspect that gives it some intrigue. Since character development is tied so much into the case and the ongoing investigation, especially for Elise, there’s a good balance between plot and character development.

Of course, the scope of this review is rather limited given the fact that I have yet to see the original. By itself, however, The Tunnel is an enjoyable hour of television.

Rating: A-

Photo: Canal+