This review contains spoilers.
After spending a couple of frantic weeks playing cat and mouse with the Truth Terrorist’s second truth, The Tunnel moved along to begin dealing with the next of TT’s lessons, but in a rather different fashion to the one we’d become accustomed to. There was no shortage of pace and story stuffed into this fifth instalment but whereas we’d been learning about TT, now the show shifted its focus back on to our detecting duo, Karl Roebuck and Elise Wassermann.
The Truth Terrorist’s presence was still keenly felt though, no more so in the opening scene which saw his disciple, the schizophrenic Benji, cut his GP’s head off with a samurai sword. This formed part of TT’s third truth that if we ignore the mentally ill then there will be consequences. The Tunnel is very keen on throwing in these moral conundrums for the viewer. While mental health suffering is undoubtedly a weighty issue (and this review is not the place to have that debate), Benji’s actions were surely the result of him not taking the medication he had been prescribed, at TT’s bidding. Perhaps the lesson that TT was trying to impart was the ease with which mental health patients can be manipulated as a result of the society which has tried to placate them with medication.
Benji was apprehended during his sword-wielding rampage and the primary concern of the Police soon becomes tracking down runaway Sophie Campbell, the girl who’d been staying with Benji, now feared to be a loose end the Truth Terrorist will be keen to tie up, permanently.
Almost all this week’s episode is devoted to Karl and Elise’ pursuit of Sophie, with an odd side track here and there. Given that Karl and Elise spend a lot of time crossing the English Channel, it gives the show a perfect opportunity to show those moments where awkward silences need to be filled. Elise, you get the impression, would be quite happy to sit in silence but Karl, at the opposite end of the spectrum, loves the sound of his own voice. It’s great for us as it builds the relationship between the two leads, something that’s been good fun to watch develop so far.
Their first conversation this week tries to branch away from their police work. Stuck on a crossing, Karl asks Elise if she has any CDs in the car. She responds that she doesn’t like music. I loved the reason behind this being that at the age of fourteen her parents had taken her to see The Spice Girls. Besides being a funny anecdote, this was in keeping with the Elise character. Her assumption is that all music experiences would be the same, based on one bad one. It also led nicely into their next discussion on relationships and Elise’s belief that no one could ever be faithful to her, so why should she be. It implied that Elise’s outlook on fidelity had also been born of a bad experience in her past, one which has shaped her sole judgment since. Karl seems sketchy on his views here when she questions him about his wife.
And might well he be, as later this episode he slept with Charlotte Jubert. Lured to her home to retrieve the memory stick that her husband left upon his demise back in episode two, Karl put up a very weak resistance to Charlotte’s attempts at seduction. In the moment this seemed completely out of the blue for the Karl character. He’s been the half of the duo that we’ve always thought of as being the more ‘normal’ one, with the family and nice home. But then consider the number of children he has by several different women. Should that have been a warning sign of his weakness in this area? It’s a nice, new twist to bring to the Karl Roebuck character. Stephen Dillane has played Roebuck with a loveable, schoolboy charm, which he again exhibited this week when persuading his way in to interview Benji in custody, but here we see a more devilish side lurking beneath that charm. Dillane was excellent in the seduction scene, conveying Karl’s quick descent to Charlotte’s persuasion with only a minimal pretence of resistance. In the space of one scene, we were no longer sure that Karl was quite the man we thought he was.
Clemence Poesy’s Elise on the other hand is showing signs that she might not be as cut off from human emotion as we once thought. She recognised what Charlotte Jubert’s intentions were before Roebuck, dismissing him with a “I think she probably wanted you to go alone.” Elise, we’re learning, is a keen observer of behaviour. She tells Karl later in episode when he strenuously objects to using Sophie Campbell as bait for the Truth Terrorist that his actions since his visit to Jubert are irrational – “I’m not judging you, I’m just observing your behaviour”. This followed a fantastic scene with Campbell’s mother in which Elise doesn’t sugar-coat the truth, much to Karl’s despair. If there’s one thing this episode teaches us about Karl, it’s that he has no problem with lying, whether that be to those surrounding the case, or to his wife. He may not like the fact that he lies and feels some sort of shame because of it, but he still does it. A lot. Elise’s line “How can you trust someone who lies to you” touches a nerve with Roebuck.
Dillane and Poesy both continue to build this relationship and these characters very well. It’s nice we see them discussing things other than their work as it makes The Tunnel feel like a much more personal programme. Elise’s invite to the Roebuck family dinner table is as frosty affair as you would expect. Her admission that Roebuck’s wife’s food is “a little bland” is not the most awkward moment though, when the subject of Charlotte Jubert comes up. Angel Coulby’s Laura’s reaction is subtle but tells us that she might well have long standing trust issues with her husband where women are concerned.
The only slight quibble I have with either of the lead actor’s performances at the moment is the wonder as to why Poesy’s accent goes all weird when she’s required to speak English?
Stephen Beaumont returned this week to kill off his sister’s boyfriend. Thankfully for this weirdo of a character, he finally seems to be linked to the main story with the police finally associating him with the girl who made up the lower half of the body found in the tunnel. We get more new characters this week, one of whom, a policeman accused of murdering a child, was abducted in the final seconds of the episode. I’ve made complaints previously about The Tunnel being overcrowded with folk who don’t really seem to be contributing much but I think at this halfway point, we’re coming to trust that the show will tie them in at some point down the line.
As with previous episodes, this one built slowly to the week’s big dramatic scene, and what a finale it was with Elise dive-bombing Sophie Campbell into the water and out of TT’s sniper rifle’s range. This also made for a refreshing change for fans of The Bridge as it was a markedly different outcome for that character. The Tunnel is still following its source material so closely that viewers of The Bridge must surely be thinking that the final resolution isn’t going to hold too many surprises. Time will of course, tell on that one.
The Tunnel has managed to address many of the issues it had during its earlier episodes. The show has now established itself as one which might not always seem coherent, but now has our trust that if we go with it, it’ll likely make sense later. While it still doesn’t feel like the essential viewing of something like Broadchurch, it’s now delivering dramatically solid viewing.
Read James’ review of the previous episode, here.
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