Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Tunnel

Go To

Venez dans mes bras
Closer to me, dear
Donnez-vous à moi
Set aside all fear
Restons enlacés, pour l'éternité
Yes, you shall be mine,
'til the end of time.
— "The End of Time", Charlotte Gainsbourg, sung to the tune of A Maiden's Prayer

The Tunnel is the 2013 French/English remake of the Swedish/Danish Nordic Noir series The Bridge, not to be confused with the American/Mexican remake also titled The Bridge. Though it closely follows the plot of the original, a key difference (as the title would suggest) is that a body is found in the Eurotunnel rather than on a bridge, right on the border between France and England.

It follows the investigation of British police DCI Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane) and French Brigade Criminelle Captain Elise Wasserman (Clémence Poésy), who are forced to work together due to the location of the body. The task is given an extra twist when they realize that there are actually two bodies: the head and torso of a French politician and the lower half of a Welsh prostitute.

The investigation soon turns into a hunt for a terrorist (nicknamed the Truth Terrorist, or TT) who is leaving strange messages on social media sites, claiming that everything he does is to draw attention to social problems in both countries.

A second series aired in both Britain and France in 2016, known as The Tunnel: Sabotage. It concluded with a third season, known as The Tunnel: Vengeance.

Has nothing to do with found footage horror movie The Tunnel.

This series provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: On the Channel ferry, Karl waves at a boy in the car in front of him. The boy responds with an obscene gesture, which elicits an amused grin from Karl.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Unlike Saga and Sonya, Elise has been established as a bisexual woman rather than straight, having shown attraction to men but also one women (while she mentions sleeping with a girl in the past as a teenager).
  • Age-Gap Romance: Though not commented on, Karl is obviously much older than his wife Laura. He's played by Stephen Dillane (born 1957) opposite Angel Coulby (born 1980).
  • Alone with the Psycho: Happens regularly, though with various psychos.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • The pimp.
    • Danny Hillier, the obnoxious journalist.
    • Kieran Ashton/ The Truth Terrorist, who is painfully blinded after Karl fires an antique pistol too close to his face.
  • Axe-Crazy: Benji, a mentally ill man groomed by TT into not taking his medication. He later beheads his psychiatrist and several pedestrians with a katana before killing himself.
  • Best Served Cold: The ultimate goal of Kieran's plan, having felt betrayed by Karl and blaming him for his wife/son's death in a car accident.
  • Big Fancy House:
    • Danny Hillier lives in a sleek, modern beach side property on the English coast.
    • DCI Roebuck lives in a fancy, converted barn in the Kent countryside.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Just like the other incarnations of The Bridge, The Tunnel features dialogue in English and French, with English as the lingua franca for coordination between the bi-national police forces. It's even present in the song that's in the main titles!
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: John Sumner, a man who befriends Laura Roebuck and takes her and her children on an outing. He is later revealed to be Kieran Ashton/The Truth Terrorist, and almost kills them with a bomb.
  • Bittersweet Ending: And how! On the bitter side: Elise detonates the bomb around her neck so that the hostages can go free, Jacques Moreau slips back into alcoholism, and Lana faces a life in jail without ever seeing her son again, but on the sweet: the hostages all survive their ordeal, Charlie Moreau is last seen doing well with his tutoring lessons and on the road to recovery, BB and Louise stop dodging their feelings and finally get together, Francois/Saban gets married without ever knowing the burden of his mother's crimes, and it's heavily implied that Karl and Laura salvage their marriage.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: As a British cop, Karl does not carry a weapon. However, when he decides to go after TT himself after his son is kidnapped, he arms himself with his grandfather's old Mauser C96 Broomhandle.
  • British Brevity: The first season is ten episodes long, the second eight, and the third only six.
  • Brutal Honesty: Elise speaks her mind without a filter, to the point of inadvertently offending people. She gets told off by Karl for this, but refuses to lie.
  • Bury Your Gays:
    • The Chemist, a Mad Scientist villain who has a taste for young Brazilian men too and assaults many, is shot dead at the end of Season 2 (as he's an evil, sadistic person, nobody is likely to care).
    • Elise, the only LGBT+ main character (she's revealed to be bisexual in Season 2) sacrifices herself to save 11 innocent people during the series finale.
  • The Casanova: Karl. He has five kids by three different women, and a string of former lovers. He later has an affair with Charlotte Joubert during the investigation.
  • The Cavalry: The French police dispatch an elite unit of Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (riot control) officers to apprehend the Truth Terrorist. He is able to escape after killing and overpowering most of them.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Karl and Laura have a young son who disappears totally in the last two episodes. Even in season three, when Karl meets his wife at the hospital, the two eldest girls and baby twins are accounted for, but there's no sign of their middle son. But he's present at the carnival at the end of the series.
  • City of Adventure: Folkestone and Dover in Kent, and Calais in France.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • The Truth Terrorist kidnaps an elderly war veteran and demands that if four wealthy businesspeople don't donate a significant amount to charity, he will let the man freeze to death live on the internet. Only one of them has the heart to make the donation.
    • And she only did it to get rid of the taint of her unfaithful late husband's memory.
  • Criminal Mind Games: TT's entire modus operandi.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: For his fourth 'truth', the Truth Terrorist murders several youths by placing a potent form of white phosphorous in their pockets. This then sets them on fire, and is so corrosive it dissolves their clothes and ''burns of 90% of their skin" before killing them.
  • Defective Detective: Elise is heavily implied to have Asperger's Syndrome, but her social awkwardness, blunt manner and poor empathy don't really impede her from being a very good detective.
  • Depraved Homosexual: The Chemist is a Mad Scientist who conducts experiments on people to create viruses. He also turns out to be a Serial Rapist who's assaulted many good-looking young Brazilian men (he Has a Type).
  • Dirty Cop: In both Season 2 and 3, there are dirty French cops aiding the bad guys.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: The firearms officers in the Season One finale are more than willing to shoot DCI Roebuck, their superior, if he tries to kill Ashton.
  • Do You Want to Copulate?: Elise bluntly asks a bartender to sleep with her.
  • Eye Scream: Elise gets a virus injected into her eye by The Chemist, a Mad Scientist who had created it, in the Season 2 finale, which causes her to pass out immediately from the pain. Luckily they save her and she's no worse for wear afterward.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Subverted with Julie, a French police officer. In Season 2 she happily tells Karl she's had a son, showing him the photos, and then later gets shot twice by a bad guy. Julie survives, but it looks like she hasn't at first.
  • Fictional Counterpart:
    • Northbourne Police replaces the real-life Kent Police on the English side of the channel.
    • The Daily Citizen, the tabloid newspaper Danny Hillier works for, is an obvious stand in for the Daily Mail.
  • Forgiveness Requires Death: Laurent Delgado, a cop who killed a teenager in a riot, is forgiven by the boys family despite TT setting up the perfect situation for them to kill him. However, as he leaves the family, TT guns him down himself.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Truth Terrorist. In addition to being a criminal mastermind, he is also able to physically overpower and escape several elite police officers sent to arrest him.
  • Government Conspiracy: Vincent reveals to Elise he was part of 'Peloton', a joint operation of several European intelligence agencies who were responsible for killing Alain Joubert. It's later revealed that Kieran Ashton/TT also worked for Peloton.
  • Groin Attack: TT kicks Karl in the balls, which gives Elise the first clue that he might be someone known to them (Karl having just had a vasectomy).
  • Happily Adopted: In Season 3 Saban Kasanovich turns out to be have been adopted by a loving French family. Karl is torn over whether to tell him what his birth mother did in his name. The series implies that he'll never be told, and remain blissfully ignorant.
  • Heroic Suicide: Elise triggers the bomb collar around her neck, killing herself, rather than have 11 innocent people be killed by gas.
  • Hope Spot: In the sixth episode, Laurent Delgado is freed from captivity and spared from death at the mercy of the family of the boy he killed. Relieved, and dripping in gasoline, he stumbles towards a police officer. The officer, actually TT in disguise, then shoots him square in the chest four times, and walks away.
  • I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: After Danny fails to put the fourth truth on the front page, TT kills a young colleague of his by lighting her up with P4O10 — the same chemical he uses in the fourth truth.
    TT: I should have warned her: Danny doesn't do requests.
  • Impersonating an Officer: The Truth Terrorist disguises himself as a French riot control officer in the sixth episode to assassinate Laurent Delgado.
  • It's Personal: As they eventually discover, the Truth Terrorist is Karl's former colleague out for revenge.
  • Jurisdiction Friction:
    • Between Northbourne Police and Brigade Criminelle. It is the reason the Truth Terrorist places the first body in the Eurotunnel.
    • Between Brigade Criminelle and the DCRI, who want to question a suspect the latter is using as an asset.
  • Just Following Orders: A French police officer who killed a little boy during a riot defends himself to his wife with this.
  • Killer Cop:
    • Laurent Delgado, a French riot control officer who killed a teenager during a riot.
    • The Truth Terrorist is revealed to be Kieran Ashton, a former police officer and colleague of Karl.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Laura finds she's pregnant again in Season 1 when Karl just had a vasectomy because he already has four kids and didn't want any more. To top it off, they have twins.
  • Manly Tears: Karl breaks down in tears after Elise's death at home as Laura comforts him.
  • Man on Fire: TT finds a way to set people on fire due to an invisible and scentless chemical placed in their pockets.
  • Married to the Job: Elise lives alone with boxes full of case files, whereas Karl lives in a large country house with his wife and five children. Elise's dedication to her job is best shown when she calls up Karl in the early hours of the morning with a lead.
    Elise: The lower half of the body belonged to another woman. We believe she was British.
    Karl: Right, I'll call you as soon as I am on duty.
    Elise: Then I need the number of someone who can do it now.
  • Meaningful Name: Karl's name is spelt with a 'K' after Karl Marx, since his father (a miner) was an avid Marxist.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: In Season 3, Elise finds out a man she had helped convict of murdering his son didn't do it... because they find the boy is alive. She's shaken by this, and wrestles with how they got it so wrong. We learn he was an alcoholic with a violent past whose story kept changing, which didn't help his case obviously.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: A variation. After TT has kidnapped a school bus full of children, he promises to release them only if the public riots against stores that exploit child labor. Once his hostages are whittled down to two, the terrorist holds an on-line vote to decide which child shall be set free and which shall be executed. One is a black boy, the other a white girl. No prizes for guessing which one the public votes in favor of.
  • Newscaster Cameo: Sky News reports on several of TT's attacks in the show.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Karl and Elise to each other. Ironically, she's probably the only significant female character in the show that Karl hasn't slept with.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Karl suffers this in the first season as his son Adam is murdered by the Truth Terrorist. The season finale sees him nearly retire from the police force after almost killing TT in revenge. It sticks with him over the rest of the series, and he repeatedly mentions that he's never really moved on. He expresses deep sympathy for other parents who've lost children after this, and it helps him relate to a killer seeking her own son whom she'd lost years ago as well. Particularly poignant is when Karl says that every day he wakes up, feels normal for a little while, then remembering what happened hits him again.
  • Perpetual Frowner: Elise never smiles. Her usual expression is a blank or dour look, if not an actual frown.
  • Police Brutality: Laurent Delgado, a French police officer, is accused of killing a teenager during a riot.
  • Queer Establishing Moment: Elise is shown to be bisexual when, after only being with men before, she begins to feel a connection to Eryka in Season 2. They kiss and have sex after this, but their connection doesn't pan out as Eryka is with the bad guys. In Season 3 Elise also tells Karl when she lost her virginity as a teenager, listing it twice with both a boy and a girl.
  • Rail Enthusiast: A young man who knows the sounds of different trains is called in to help them locate where an elderly kidnapping victim has been held from those recorded going past.
  • Red Herring: In episode 2, Elise tracks down an antisemitic farmer in relation to the first murder. He is a strong suspect, as he owns slaughtering equipment similar to what was used to cut the bodies in half, and human remains are found in his storage cooler. However, when she notices he can't speak English (like the TT), she understands he has been framed and his complicity is ruled out.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: For his fourth 'truth', the Truth Terrorist murders four youths who were arrested in the 2011 London riots, by setting them on fire with white phosphorous.
  • Sadistic Choice: Karl is given one in the series finale: kill Elise or let 11 innocent people be killed by gas. Elise realizes he can't choose that, and so kills herself to insure they live.
  • Slut-Shaming: After he learns she arranged to have casual sex with a man she'd met online, Jacques Moreau hits on Elise while they're in the car together (she's driving). She's none too pleased by this and orders him to Get Out! (in the middle of the street). Afterward, he doesn't see what the problem is, making clear that in his mind the very fact that she'd sleep with another man means Elise is a slut who'd surely go with him too (although he's much older and unattractive).
  • Think of the Children!: What the final truth amounts to. Basically, TT provokes rioting against exploiters of child labor, then fools the public into thinking he's going to kill one of the children, only to turn his gun on the only other adult present instead, the idea being to traumatize those who are still watching and expose the public to a very startling point about the influence visuals have on children.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Louise Renard, a black female detective, appears to be the only person of color in Elise's unit with the Calais police.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Elise, who has minimal makeup and dishevelled hair. If the page wasn't already spoken for, she'd be a shoe-in for the trope image.
  • Viewers Are Morons: Danny seems to think so.
    Danny: If they wanted to be challenged, they wouldn't be reading our paper. What they want is to see their opinions in print instead of crayon.
  • Wall Bang Her: Anton and Lana have sex up against a tree in Season 3.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Elise refuses to lie, even for sparing grieving relatives of murder victims' feelings, saying it only leads to more lies when Karl counsels it.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Played with. On the one hand, TT doesn't go through with killing any of the children on the school bus. On the other, he doesn't seem to care much about Karl's daughters in the explosive-laden house, nor did he care much about attempting to off the runaway teen who had seen him. If Laura hadn't kept her foot on the trigger, they would have been killed along with her.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: After the five truths are revealed, TT disposes of Danny with a car bomb under the guise of an interview he was ostensibly to commit to before turning himself in.