Fourth-episode verdict: The Tunnel/Tunnel (Sky Atlantic/Canal+)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 1

In the UK: WednesdaysTuesdays, 9pm, Sky Atlantic
In France: Mondays, 8.55pm, Canal+. Begins 11th November

I was away last week at the opportune moment, so rather than a third-episode verdict on The Tunnel/Tunnel, the UK and France’s remake of Bron/Broen (aka The Bridge), we’re now up to episode four. And I have to say, it turns out there’s a right way and a wrong way to remake The Bridge and this is very much the right way.

Let’s dispense with the few negatives of the show: the lack of feel for the French side of things, Keeley Hawes and the relatively uncharismatic Clémence Poésy compared to Sofia Helin. Whether it was the original Swedish/Danish show’s subtitling or a simple decision on the part of the show’s creators not to make the show too specific in its references, beyond its settings, there was very little in it that made you think the show was appealing to local rather than an international audience. 

The Tunnel, however, is very, very good at evoking South Kent and Englishness, right down to references to Wagon Wheels and Bargain Hunt. The dialogue, mainly by Ben Richards, is excellent, more subtle and far better at developing and building characters than the original’s was. And while Helin’s Saga Norin very obviously had Asperger’s but the Asperger’s you’d expect of a teenage girl rather than a near 40-year-old woman, ‘Elise Wassermann’ is both younger yet clearly not as developmentally undeveloped as Norin was.

The show, unlike The Bridge (US), also sticks more closely to the original, particularly with the politics, yet does it perhaps more smoothly than the original did. The action scenes are better and more convincing, the direction is better and the whole thing is very tense. There have also been subtle movements of scenes around that make the story flow better and make it seem less arbitrary than the original did in developing and dropping storylines. The police work also feels like real investigation and real deduction.

Unfortunately, though, this is all largely true of the bits involving the UK. By contrast, the show feels like it got little input from any French writers, so the show doesn’t feel as sure of itself dealing with French politics and issues so barely even tries. Poésy may be more plausible than Norin, despite having her own vintage sports car, too, but she’s also nowhere near as interesting, a flat by-the-book character rather than the force of nature that is Norin. Yes, she has sex with random men because she feels the need, but it’s all done in a very ‘cinq à sept’, sexually mature way rather than because of any empathy problems or lack of shame that she might have (although she does have them).

And then there’s Keeley Hawes, who thankfully disappeared after the third episode, having ruined the second episode trying to do a Kent accent. The show’s writers did try to do something interesting with her drug-addicted character, but it just felt like they had a pressing need to have Hawes in the show, rather than because the script demanded it.

All the same, those flaws aside, this is a fine a thriller as the original, and since it’s doing such a hearty job of polishing and even improving the original, I can only heartily recommend it to you.

Barrometer rating: 1
Rob’s prediction: Sky’s first excellent drama, although Canal+ might be more disappointed in it. Hopefully, with a second season of the original already airing, this will get to tread in its footsteps and be more French in the process.

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  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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