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The Finale of 'The Tunnel: Vengeance' is Worth the Wait
August 5, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 4 comments

PBS has never pushed the imported Tunnel series very hard, perhaps because its three seasons have stretched over six years or maybe because it’s always been shrouded in a melancholy darkness.

But the Season 3 finale of The Tunnel: Vengeance, which airs Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET (check local listings) and also wraps up the series, is a masterpiece that reminds us excellent television can sometimes just plain get lost.

It also reminds us, as many good police shows sometimes do not, how the ragged path to the imperfect destination of justice can be unimaginably cruel.

The final bit of vengeance in Sunday’s finale will very likely linger with viewers for some time after the show ends. We won’t go any further than that into spoilers.

There is, however, this. While The Tunnel series has incorporated dozens of plots and subplots, with a large cast that at times has been hard to keep straight, the finale can, against all odds, be watched and understood as a stand-alone.

By the episode’s end, a new viewer will understand what was at stake and what has happened.

Based on the Danish series The Bridge, which itself was remade for American television a couple of years back, the Tunnel series has explored both major crimes and the evolution of a law enforcement culture clash.

British Detective Chief Inspector Karl Roebuck (Stephen Dillane, top) and French Captain/Commander Elise Wassermann (Clémence Poésy, top) originally found themselves working together after the tunnel between Britain and France became an apparent crime scene, and it was unclear in whose jurisdiction it might fall.

Both brought superb police skills and considerable personal baggage to the partnership.

Karl had domestic problems over which he brooded, mostly in silence.

Elise had symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome, which meant she had no apparent awareness of how her actions and comments affected others.

Each at times exasperated the other, but by the time they fell together in a second case, they had become comfortable with, and even fond of, each other. While the stress of the gruesome cases they worked sometimes bubbled through into snappish disagreements, they became a team in the best sense of the word.

As we enter Sunday’s final episode, outside forces again threaten that partnership.

Serial killer Lara Khasanovic (Angeliki Papoulia, left), convinced that The System stole her son many years ago and that he died before she could see him, has devised a fiendish way to punish Karl, whom she is convinced was somehow complicit in her loss.

This situation forces Karl into a choice that we’ve seen on any number of police and crime thrillers over the years, with no guarantee it will end as these moments, on television, usually do.

In a way, this is the payoff The Tunnel has earned with three seasons spent largely in grey areas, visually and emotionally. Its writers have never seen life as neat or tidy, and they don’t seem to think a television show gets any special dispensation to pretend otherwise.

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I lived this show and was quite devastated at the end. That’s the one ending I could not imagine and did not want. I was really looking forward to more seasons, which, of course, are not possible now. Maybe a prequel could be considered that would include both Elise and Karl.
Jul 18, 2020   |  Reply
I really liked this series, even if it was often difficult to follow. I thought this last season had some really unrealistic touches, but the finale was heart-breaking and something that I keep thinking about. Certainly the entire series is worth watching at least once. I, personally, would like to see it again from the beginning.
Aug 8, 2018   |  Reply
Thank you for praising this series, which has not gotten the notice it deserves. The finale was heart-breaking but true to the logic of the series.
Aug 6, 2018   |  Reply
Terrifically stupid ending, I'm really disappointed an otherwise great series is marred by such a thoughtless conclusion.
Aug 6, 2018   |  Reply
I so agree with you! Elise deserved so much more than what the writer gave her! Shame on that writer!
Aug 21, 2018
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