This review contains spoilers.
With its third episode, The Tunnel seems to entering a phase where it’s hoping the audience is just going to be able to keep up with everything, and trust in the creators that it’ll all make sense in the long run. The show could never be accused of being boring, but the pace is achieved by the introduction of yet more characters who seem to be fighting at times for a few minutes screen time, sometimes with muddy results.
Last week’s episode concluded with the Truth Terrorist (that term officially popped up in The Tunnel this week) unleashing the second of their “truths” they wish to teach the world. The cliffhanger was constructed so quickly that it was slightly confusing about what this truth actually was, but it’s swiftly cleared up that it relates to how society treats the elderly i.e. leaving them in homes funded by tax payer’s money. TT has staged a massacre of 14 individuals at an old folk’s home with poisoned medication, presumably paid for by said monies. Also cleared up from last week was my assumption that Keeley Hawes’ character Suze had seen the TT when receiving the delivery, but arriving on the scene detectives Karl and Elise inform us that the driver was clean. So, bang goes that theory.
Karl and Elise spend a lot of time wandering around people’s empty apartments this week but their relationship seems to be progressing at a lightning pace, maybe a bit too quickly. The frustration their characters felt at having to work together brought some great chemistry between Stephen Dillane and Clemence Poesy during the first episode, and while some of that is still present and both actors are very good, the dynamic which gave the show some really nice moments is changing perhaps a little bit too fast. Elise is thawing to Karl very rapidly and it seems at odds with the Elise we were presented just two episodes ago. She’s still having trouble understanding some of Karl’s methods of questioning, with little time for what she sees as dishonesty, or untruths. In some ways, you could draw parallels between Elise and the Truth Terrorist. Both have reluctance for pulling a veil over the reality of situations.
Stephen Dillane’s Karl is turning into something of a loveable rogue. He seems so effortless with his ability to get on with almost everyone around him which is why even if his partnership with Elise seems to be developing too quickly at times, Dillane’s performance allows us to still believe it. The one relationship he has trouble with though is with his son. His disarming charm does little to placate the feelings of resentment for years of bad parenting that Adam feels towards his father. Karl may be able to sweet talk his way around witnesses and the French Police force but the one time we see him at his wits end is when trying to get Adam to stop showing his younger sisters a video of a man tied to a chair with duct tape around his mouth.
Said video is part of the Truth Terrorist’s latest media sideshow. If the French thought they were going to get off lightly in their lesson regarding the elderly then they had another thing coming. Part of TT’s agenda concerns the treatment of old soldiers and what better way to make a statement about this than tazering one, kidnapping him and broadcasting his captivity over the internet.
The TT once again chooses to expose this plan to the world via journalist Danny Hillier. Tom Bateman is very good at playing a character who is the lowest of the low when it comes to professional journalism, a trait he’s no doubt been picked by the Truth Terrorist for. He even has a jarringly, obnoxious ring tone. It seems that Jean Claude, the French soldier, has his life in Mr. Hillier’s hands as the TT barks sentences like “You are close to the truth” and “He can be saved” down the phone to him in that electronic voice. Danny is once again on the receiving end of this episode’s cryptic conclusion. With a plan as clearly complex as the one being played out by the villain in The Tunnel, these small reveals of another piece of the puzzle at the end of the last two episodes are serving the show well.
Not serving the show so well at the moment though, are the abundance of sub-plots and characters that seem to be going nowhere. After a lot of focus on shady hostel worker Stephen Beaumont in episode two, he has barely more than a scene this week. Veronica, the girl he shipped off to a remote farmhouse to get her away from his sister’s evil boyfriend, has a nasty encounter that doesn’t appear to tie in with anything else that’s going on so far. Most bizarre of all this week is the introduction of Sophie, a teenage runaway who finds herself sharing tea with a strange young gentleman who plays the Good Samaritan. Being familiar with The Bridge, I have an idea where each of these characters is going to end up but right now in The Tunnel, they’re only adding to a feeling that makes the plot seem slightly disconnected.
What is becoming clear though is that The Tunnel can do a dramatically tense scene, away from its source material. The moment when two teenagers inadvertently stumble across Jean Claude, only to be caught by the Truth Terrorist and their demise shown to everybody watching is a brilliantly constructed sequence. As Jean Claude screams silently into the camera, this demonstrated just what the Truth Terrorist will do to anyone who gets in their way.
The Tunnel continued on its bleak trajectory this week and as the seriousness of the story develops, the humour has been dialled back too. There are a number of themes that keep recurring in the show, that of immigration (Jean Claude we’re told could often be found chatting with immigrants at a local soup kitchen), honesty and inequality are being channelled through a number of the characters.
The show isn’t without its flaws; ideas and plot strands that seemed important last week are ignored the following week (there was scarcely a mention of the bodies found in the tunnel this week). We have to trust that it’s all going to part of a bigger picture that will reveal itself over the next seven episodes. Mystery is good and no one wants to be spoon-fed every tease and turn but at the same time, no one wants to feel lost either.
Read James’ review of the previous episode, here.
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