Put down the knitting needles, step away from the herring and get your style on: The Tunnel is here. And it’s good.
Scandinavian dramas have been big TV news for the last few years, with our screens packed with legions of sour-faced people hunting murderers under perpetually cloudy skies. So news that Sky and Canal+ were developing a new drama based on (sorry, “inspired by”) Scandi import The Bridge did not exactly lift the mood at TVClaw.
However, the results of this new cultural entente cordiale are, well, impressive to say the least. Why should you be watching this thriller?
First of all, it’s an Anglo-French re-imagining, not a straight re-make, of The Bridge. So, while The Tunnel shares the same bleak windswept landscapes as its northern forebears (the unlovely industrial estates surrounding both ends of the Channel Tunnel have never looked so forlorn), it has a distinctly French sense of style and a British sense of humour. Think Les Revenants meets Being Human.
French detective Elise Wassermann may have a dour expression and quite the collection of woolly jumpers, but she also has a nifty car. Her English counterpart Karl Roebuck has a limp, but there’s no secret anguish behind it. The father of five is just recovering from a vasectomy.
The Tunnel benefits from great scripts from an Anglo-French writing team headed up by Ben Richards (Spooks, Outcasts, Party Animals), which are delivered by a killer cast.
In a casting coup fit to spark a combustion of genre fans everywhere, the two lead detectives are played by Clémence Poésy (Harry Potter) and Stephen Dillane (Game of Thrones). While the age difference will undoubtedly jar if the pair decide to get it on further down the road, for now they’re a good fit, with Stannis as the more sensitive, flexible cop with a small smile always playing around his lips to Fleur’s tightly wound, hard-line, bad-ass cop.
They’re joined by the always good Joseph Mawle (who co-starred with him in Game of Thrones and her in Birdsong), Keeley Hawes (Upstairs Downstairs), Liz Smith (The Royle Family), Tom Bateman (Da Vinci’s Demons), Tobi Bakare (Silent Witness), Jeanne Balibar (Va Savoir), Thibault de Montalembert (La Sentinelle) and Angel Coulby (Merlin).
Elise is a driven female lead who may be hiding something. Very much in the mould of Homeland‘s Carrie Mathison, Elise is the kind of woman who’ll work all night and then strip off at her desk for some deodorant and a clean woolly jumper. And, being a French police station, natch, her colleagues don’t bat an eyelid. Bof!
A far cry from Ally McBeal not wrecking her make-up in the office bathroom by pretending to splash water on her face.
Now, Karl’s house. It is rather très chic, non? As is his working wardrobe. Now, while there are doubtless tons of stylish coppers working hard in Kent, and yes, presumably house prices may be more reasonable close to the Chunnel, his interior design choices did seem somewhat contrived.
Thank goodness for the presence of his younger wife who just happens to be a successful interior designer. Phew.
The drama continues on The Tunnel, Wednesdays at 9pm on Sky Atlantic HD.