Why 'Tunnel' Is the Perfect Korean Drama for Fans of the Crime/Thriller Genre
An 80s crime drama character gets sent to modern day South Korea.
One of the exciting kdramas of 2017 spring season was Tunnel. I wasn't initially planning on watching this drama because I had no interest in the crime/thriller genre, but I gave this drama a chance because Choi Jin-Hyuk is one of my favorite actors. I've seen him in the legal drama, Pride and Prejudice, where he had a similar role of catching the bad guys and solving criminal cases. So when I learned about his role in this kdrama, I had faith that he would give another spectacular performance. Yet aside from such praise in his acting, Tunnel is a drama that intrigued me with its suspenseful storyline.
In 1986, Detective Park Gwang-Ho (Choi Jin-Hyuk) is urgently trying to catch a serial killer that murdered several young women in their late teens to late 20s. On a dark night, Gwang-Ho chases the killer into a tunnel but when exiting on the other side of the tunnel, he finds himself in the year 2017 where the killer continues the torment that he started 30 years ago. With a new team, Detective Kim Sun-Jae (Yoon Hyun-Min) and Shin Jae-Yi (Lee Yoo-Young), a professor of criminal psychology, Gwang-Ho hopes to capture the serial killer once and for all.
When Time Travel Meets Mystery
Tunnel has some crazy time traveling aspect going on. How and why the tunnel is a mechanism of time traveling isn't explained in the drama, but as viewers, we accept these circumstances under which the story is told. Regardless of the era, Detective Gwang-Ho has only one goal, which is to catch the serial killer before he commits any more murders.
I enjoy a good detective story and Tunnel executes its storyline well. There's a mystery element to this show and as viewers, we gather clues about who the serial killer is from what we see on screen, and during each episode, we try to piece together the criminal's profile and motive. The plot unravels each episode, and by the end, we have a great cat and mouse chase that keeps viewers on their toes and holding their breath.
Morality Behind Murder?
By the end of this drama, I was quite intrigued by how the writers convey the murderer's motive through a religious perspective. We learn that the serial killer is a religious man and that his reasoning behind his murders is an act of divine punishment. He kills women because "God" has told him that they have committed sinful acts of lust during their lifetime. These shameful acts that the serial killer viewed as "immoral" are smiling at men and staying out late with friends, but such actions are in fact harmless.
I may be reading too much into this, but I did feel that there is some patriarchal way of thinking going on. The serial killer believes in a certain ideology, that women should remain domesticated in their homes and have limited freedom to roam around and do what they want. In fact, when the serial killer's intentions were revealed in the interrogation room, viewers like me most likely reacted with hostility, as the murderer's reasoning is absurd and sickening. The serial killer has no heart—he didn't regret what he did. Instead, he laughed and smiled maliciously.
This drama isn't romance-focused. From what I've seen in other legal and crime kdramas, a romantic development between the two main characters is always intertwined in the storyline. However, in Tunnel, this isn't the case. Although we see some subtle flirting between Detective Kim Sun-Jae and Shin Jae-Yi, it was more like comic relief, especially since we are held in suspense with regards to solving the murder case for most of the time.
Tunnel is also about family connections. With every innocent woman that passed away, Gwang-Ho vows to capture the serial killer in order for the families of the victims to get closure. Furthermore, while in 2017, Gwang-Ho tries to reconnect with his wife, Yeon Sook, and their child, as he left them behind in 1986. Aside from Gwang-Ho, Kim Sun-Jae also wishes that this murderer is brought to justice as his mother was killed by him, which left his father feeling powerless as he couldn't do anything to help his wife in 1986. Bringing families together by solving this case is highly emphasized throughout this drama. Viewers are brought to tears and feel empathy for the families of these victims (I know I did).
Tunnel is one of the must-watch kdramas in 2017. If you enjoy crime/thriller series and love a good murder mystery, you should definitely watch it. You won't be disappointed as each episode is filled with intensity and urgency as if it's an episode of Criminal Minds.
You can watch the full series on Dramafever.