The Ireland-Set Second Season of Jamie Dornan-Starring Thriller 'The Tourist' Is Just as Bingeable as the First

The amnesia-fuelled series swaps the Australian outback for the Emerald Isle's rolling hills, but keeps its excellent leads and twisty plot.
Sarah Ward
Published on January 09, 2024

Knowing when to take the one-and-done route isn't pop culture's forte, as too many movie franchises and TV shows extending beyond their best days keep showing. The Tourist falls into the opposite category: initially planned as a once-off with its six-episode first season in 2022, the Australian-international co-production has found a way to return. The catalyst for that comeback isn't just the show's initial success, but teaming up stars Jamie Dornan (A Haunting in Venice) and Danielle Macdonald (French Exit) for a second time because it worked so swimmingly to begin with. Indeed, when The Tourist swiftly earned its season-two renewal, it was hardly a twist. Some on-screen collaborations simply demand more opportunities to keep shining, and Dornan with Macdonald is one of them.

Same cast, new location, similar-enough scenario: that's the approach in this also six-episode run, as streaming on Stan in Australia and TVNZ+ in New Zealand since Tuesday, January 2. In season one, Dornan's Elliot Stanley awoke in the Aussie outback with zero memory and his life in danger. When it ended, he'd uncovered who he was, complete with a distressing criminal past, but was on the path to starting anew with Helen Chambers (Macdonald), the constable who helped him get to the bottom of his mystery. Screenwriters Harry and Jack Williams (Baptiste, The Missing, Liar) switch part of their initial setup in season two, moving the story to Elliot's homeland and turning Helen into the tourist. Remaining is the lack of recollection about the former's history, even as he actively goes looking for it.

The travelling life has been far kinder to Elliot in the gap between seasons, with The Tourist first rejoining him and Helen on a train in southeast Asia. While not married, they're firmly in the honeymoon phase of their relationship. But the now ex-cop has a revelation for her boyfriend: he's received a letter from one of his childhood pals who wants to meet back home. Quickly, off to the Emerald Isle the show's main duo go. Trying to shave off his bushy holiday beard in a public toilet leads to Elliot being kidnapped, plus Helen playing investigator again. As he attempts to flee his captors (Outlander's Diarmaid Murtagh, Inspektor Jury: Der Tod des Harlekins' Nessa Matthews and The Miracle Club's Mark McKenn), she seeks help from local Detective Sergeant Ruairi Slater (Conor MacNeill, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre), but any dreams that The Tourist's globe-hopping couple had about happy reunions or relaxing Irish getaways are sent packing fast.

Disturbing discoveries; feuding families led by the equally formidable Frank McDonnell (Francis Magee, Then You Run) and Niamh Cassidy (Olwen Fouéré, The Northman); Helen's grating ex Ethan (Greg Larsen, Aunty Donna's Coffee Cafe) hopping on a plane to Ireland in an effort to win her back, even as he's supposedly dealing with his oozing toxicity: they're all key factors in The Tourist's second season. So is doing plot-wise what the series' namesakes often embrace, aka veering here, there and everywhere. The obvious point of comparison has always been the Coen brothers and, in particular, Fargo. Its TV adaptation is currently working through its fifth season, and also hurtles through comic crime chaos as a madcap caper with thoughtful leads. Both have that anything-can-happen feel, and live up to it in their narratives. You betcha both are also well-cast.

As Elliot endeavours to evade his abductors, Helen searches and worries, and frays going back decades are pushed to the fore, the Williams' brothers aren't afraid of tonal and storytelling swerves, or of jam-packing a tale that's taut and tense but also regularly amusing. Directors Fergus O'Brien (Happy Valley), Lisa Mulcahy (Lies We Tell) and Kate Dolan (Kin) don't shy away from stressing season two's setting, either. As also served their season-one counterparts Daniel Nettheim (who made the excellent 2011 Australian film The Hunter) and Chris Sweeney (Liar) well, the helming trio take their visual cues from their surroundings — with coolly bleached hues suiting someone with nothing to grasp onto in the show's initial run, and verdant sights lingering now that Elliot can't stop being confronted by his densely overflowing past.

So follows car and foot chases among rolling hills, a Saw-esque stint, escaping an island, hanging off cliffs, Helen witnessing a murder, unearthed secrets and others that should be buried, escalating violence, and several folks wanting Elliot to reckon with events and choices that he can't recall, all dropping at a breakneck pace that makes binging the series as rapidly as possible the natural reaction. The Tourist is gleefully written to be moreish, yet never manipulatively so. The only misstep: giving Ethan such a prominent part again. In its jump to the other side of the world, bringing Helen's jilted former fiancé back feels like an attempt to ensure that there's more than one Aussie actor popping up — because it certainly isn't a plot necessity.

There's no doubting that The Tourist prefers the rollicking over the realistic in everything that it throws Elliot and Helen's ways; however, Dornan and Macdonald are up to the job. He finds the subtleties and vulnerabilities in a man learning who he is more literally than most, and she gives Helen the perfect balance of kindness and determination. Together and with charisma to burn, they're clearly a pair to build a series around, as the Williams siblings have done twice now. Whether laced with laughs or overtly courting them, comedy suits Dornan — see: Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar — but he brings as much dramatic nuance and depth to the role as he did in fellow recent highlights Belfast and Synchronic.

If The Tourist will end with just two stamps on its passport is yet to be announced. Its driving forces patently hope otherwise, setting up a third season that hasn't yet been greenlit in season two's final moments, and showing that they're keen to keep shaking up their overarching narrative by always leaping in new directions. Regardless of whether more comes to fruition, Dornan and Macdonald have a highlight on their resumes, while viewers have a compellingly entertaining thriller-meets-dramedy that not only made the most of its arrival, but does the same with its 2024 return.

Check out the trailer for second season of The Tourist below:

The Tourist season streams via Stan in Australia and TVNZ+ in New Zealand. Read our review of season one.

Published on January 09, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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