I’ve always loved and hated crime dramas. I find the investigation and solving of crimes incredibly interesting, but crime dramas often have both small episodic cases and a larger overarching storyline – and they struggle to effectively fit both of these into the drama.
Most crime dramas (and even some legal dramas) have failed miserably in the last 1-3 episodes because they realise they have teased out an entire overarching storyline and never bothered to decide how it would end or give themselves enough time to actually conclude it properly. I thoroughly enjoyed Missing Noir M until I realised with two episodes to go that they would muck everything up (they killed a lead’s wife in the last episode then he went to prison for killing the killer? and they never resolved the overarching storyline). I’ve been bitter ever since and although I love crime dramas, I go into them expecting failure and disappointment.
Tunnel is the most fantastic exception.
Super short synopsis: While chasing a serial murderer, a detective from the 1980s travels through time and appears in the present day, where he encounters the criminal once again.
Because its main focus was a particular series of crimes, Tunnel managed to merge the small episodic cases and a larger investigation into the serial killings and the murderer. While it did little to explain the future-past connection and how the past and future could co-exist without significant changes (so that the killer, in the end, could remain in prison), I can only pretend that we as viewers don’t know because Kwang Ho, our main character, also has no idea and just hopes it works successfully.
Although the main premise is a serial killer of young women, Tunnel does a lot to prevent trivialising their murders – not to spoil the drama overall, but the police officers constantly remind themselves that these were people with families in the prime of their lives and they need to stop it happening to others. There’s a beautiful scene in the last episode that truly shows this.
The acting, overall, was fantastic, and it really shows that quality acting and story can be more important than star power. OCN is a cable channel and thus has considerably lower rating share than non-cable channels (and TvN, which is basically a non-cable channel in ratings and content by this point) but Tunnel had consistently high ratings of around 7% by the end, without any idols or big money-making names. The combination of acting and storyline were absolutely brilliant and I can safely say I’ve never seen such a good Korean crime drama (When A Snail Falls In Love takes first place in overall best crime drama).
For a crime drama: 5/5 stars.
Overall: 4.5/5 stars.