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New time-travel thriller 'Tunnel' off to a good start

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By Park Jin-hai

Scenes from OCN's new crime thriller 'Tunnel' /Courtesy of CJ E&M
Scenes from OCN's new crime thriller 'Tunnel' /Courtesy of CJ E&M
"Tunnel," new crime thriller on cable channel OCN, got off to a good start, defying previous concerns of another poorly made time travel story.

For the weekend drama, telling the story of a homicide defective Park Kwang-ho of 1980's, played by Choi Jin-hyuk, who time-travels to the present during the chase for a serial killer suspect, viewers expressed their concerns over the similarities with the 2015 crime drama "Signal," which told the story of a detective duo of the past and present connected through the medium of walkie-talkie to solve cold cases.

However, fatigued viewers who have seen too many time-slip dramas in recent years and the repeated failure of such dramas, including "Tomorrow With You" and "Saimdang: Memoir Of Colors," dropped their concern after the first episodes of "Tunnel" hit the airwaves.

Partly thanks to the halo effect of the previous hit thriller "Voice," which drove viewers into extreme tension with its spine-chilling crime scenes for the past two months, the drama started out with 2.8 percent viewership rating Saturday, the channel's record viewership for a debut episode.

The ratings for the second episode, aired Sunday, inched up to 3.1 percent.

The first episode of "Tunnel," featuring Choi as a passionate and warm-hearted detective who does an old-styled door-to-door investigation to catch a serial killer, featured scenes which the viewer could easily draw comparisons with the drama "Signal" or 2003 movie "Memories of Murder."

During the chase of a serial killer suspect, Choi gets hit on his head by a stone and loses consciousness inside a tunnel.

Compared with the recent dramas, which grabs viewers' attention early on with speedy story development, the first episode of "Tunnel" was rather slow-paced.

But, the second episode, which depicts Choi waking up to find out that he has time-traveled 30 years to the present and encountering the fifth victim's body killed by the serial killer he was chasing after in the past, was full of various interesting clues and characters.

Choi meets his partner Kim Sun-jae, played by actor Yoon Hyun-min, a modern-day detective who is smart but lacking in social skills, and Shin Jae-yi, played by actress Lee You-young, a U.K.-educated criminal psychology professor who had a lonely childhood as an adoptee.

If OCN made its name with "Voice" and its shocking visuals, its latest crime thriller showed an updated version of the genre.

Regarding the difference from other criminal dramas, director Shin Yong-hwi said it focuses more on the human side. "The story deals with a serial murder case, but we tried to infuse a sense of humanism in the story as opposed to the grotesque side of a crime show," he said. "Our show is more of a human drama in which people, each with their personal deficiencies, complement each other."

The drama's time-slip element, which the director said he used because "it fits the story, not just following a current trend," seems to greatly balance the story as well. It serves as a necessary tool for the two opposing characters, raising the expectation of what the duo and the psychology professor can do, but not complicating the whole plot.

Park Jin-hai jinhai@koreatimes.co.kr


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