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TV review: Drama Matters – Talking to the Dead; The Tunnel

Sophie Rundle in Sky Living's Drama Matters – Talking to the Dead. Photo: Colin Hutton

As a former resident of the Welsh capital, I will not have a word spoken against Cardiff. Having said that, the place does provide a host of suitable locations if you happen to be filming a bleak, dour, downbeat police procedural thriller.

Concluding Sky Atlantic’s excellent Drama Matters series, the two-part Talking to the Dead follows rookie detective constable Fiona Griffiths (Sophie Rundle) on her first day with the major crime team. Griffiths is young, gauche, clumsy, unconventional and unkempt, but underestimate her at your peril. Not only is she smart, but personal tragedy has left her with a deep empathy for the dead that informs all her deductions.

Her first case, a particularly distressing one, concerns the double murder of a prostitute and her four-year-old daughter, which is somehow connected to the disappearance of a multimillionaire businessman several months earlier. Russell Tovey co-stars as her infinitely patient, possibly smitten, detective sergeant.

Although the story itself isn’t anything out of the ordinary, the character of DC Griffiths makes a refreshing, original and interesting addition to the ranks of television’s eccentric detectives. Rundle plays her to perfection, bringing a screen presence to the role that is out of all proportion to the actor’s  small, slight build. She is every inch a star and so, for that matter, is Cardiff. Here’s hoping that Sky decides to follow up with a full series.

A remake of the Scandinavian noire thriller The Bridge, The Tunnel opens with the discovery of a woman’s body at the exact halfway point of the channel tunnel where France and the UK meet. As the top half is in their country, the French police claim jurisdiction, which the British police grudgingly concede.

But when an attempt is made to move the body it falls, freshly disembowelled, in two. A post-mortem reveals it to be a composite of two corpses – one French, one British – and the two forces are obliged to work together on the case.

Which is all very effectively done, creepily atmospheric and splendidly gruesome, but the best reason to watch The Tunnel is the interplay between Stephen Dillane’s easygoing, laddish, rosbif detective inspector and his po-faced, glacial but – wouldn’t you know it – extremely sexy Gallic counterpart, played by Clemence Poesy. Cultures clash, personalities collide, tensions strain and languages get horribly mangled as the pair struggle to collaborate on the increasingly grotesque murder investigation.

The television high point of my week was the exchange of dialogue between Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and her potential new beau, Lord Gillingham (Tom Cullen), in Downton Abbey.

“You fill up my brain!” pleads the lovelorn lord.

“My brain is already filled up by Matthew,” replies the widow.

Being British aristocracy, I shouldn’t imagine either of their brains take too long to fill up.

If that dialogue wasn’t delightfully bizarre enough, there followed a rare side shot of Lady Mary, which made her appear almost two-dimensional, much like the popular children’s book character Flat Stanley.

Drama Matters – Talking to the Dead, Sky Living, Tuesday, October 15 and Thursday, October 17, 9pm
The Tunnel, Sky Atlantic, Wednesday, October 16, 9pm
Downton Abbey, ITV, Sunday, October 13, 9pm

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