Why go back?
That’s a question that could just as easily apply to The Tourist showrunners Harry and Jack Williams as it does to lead their characters, amnesiac Elliot and ex-traffic cop Helen (Belfast lead Jamie Dornan and Aussie star Danielle Macdonald).
The first one’s easy. The wild ride that saw Helen and Elliot survive a hit job in the outback, thanks to his murky and mostly forgotten past, may have been intended by the Williams brothers (The Missing, Liar) as a one-and-done miniseries, but huge ratings plus critical plaudits for the 2022 show more or less ensured an unplanned second season.
As for why the lovers – now travelling southeast Asia by train 14 months later, smoking spliffs and generally having a real good time together – would return to the scene of his almost certainly terrible crimes, that’s a bit stickier. But The Tourist‘s brand of darkly comic crime thriller basically requires people to do dumb things that are clearly against their best interests. Otherwise why would we watch? Even rom-coms require a few easily avoided bumps along the road to happily ever after, after all.
And so Helen, a natural detective, can’t quite shake off the big question mark hanging over the now-named Elliot’s roots. Which leads her to post-coitally suggest, as you do, that they head to Ireland to follow the lead of an old photograph and accompanying letter posted to him while he was in hospital in Oz. Because what could go wrong, teeing up a meeting with a mystery man when you know, for a fact, that your boyf has done stuff that ensured a bunch of folks wanted him dead half the world away?
It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that their pleasant cafe stop, shot in the same breathtaking County Wicklow spot that oft plays host to the Vikings cast and crew, does not go well. While the capture, escape and van vs smacked-up Elliot on foot pursuit that ensues isn’t quite as epic as season one’s truck vs car smackdown, memorably set to Bette Davis Eyes, it’s still frenetically ferocious.
Once again playing out in astounding surrounds, swapping the red dirt of down under for the thunderous-clouded skies of perma-verdant Éire, this extended sequence is breathtaking in more ways than one and smartly divides the dynamic duo.
A panicked Helen once again finds herself teaming up with an unknown cop in softly spoken detective Ruairi (Conor MacNeill). And while he seems like a step up on the red flag of Damon Herriman’s so-bad-he’s-good big city copper in Season 1, Ruairi’s almost too sweet Helen fan club is closely guarding an eye-opening secret in his basement that’s sure to complicate matters beyond the two of six episodes we received for review.
As will inserting herself between warring Cassidy and McDonnell clans, led by Olwen Fouéré’s stony-faced matriarch Niamh and Francis Magee’s psychotically glowering Frank, respectively. This despite Ruairi warning her off their territorial patches at all costs.
Still, her determined-to-make-enemies sleuthing is slightly less stressful to watch than Elliot’s situation, abducted and squirrelled away in an underground bunker alongside a dead pig. Immediately offered an unappealing out: saw off your own legs and wiggle free through a crawlspace if you dare, oddly he declines that ‘mercy’, instead forced to outwit a trio of pissed off McDonnells in Donal, Orla and Fergal, to whom he implores: ‘Can you just get to the point and tell me what I did?’
Listed in descending angriness order, they’re played by Vikings and Outlanders actor Diarmaid Murtagh, Nessa Matthews and Mark McKenna, each relishing the salty crossfire of intra-sibling strafing that includes lines like: ‘Hey Fergal, if you want a date, get on the apps. This fella’s about to get a different kind of fucked.’
All of this adds up to a bunch of boisterous trouble somewhat unexpectedly undercut by the pathetic return of Helen’s emotionally abusive ex, Ethan (Greg Larsen). He may well be spouting social media-ready ‘good man’ thought bubbles these days, but as for him winging it to Ireland to win her back? Err, good luck with that. And there’s a whole world of trouble signalled by another familiar face sitting in the same row onboard the plane. Elliot’s baggage is not lost, shall we say?
So is The Tourist worth another spin? While it’s not quite as sharply plotted as the original outing, it still adeptly balances its cranking muscular tonal shifts between exasperated wryness to actual violent chills and back. Macdonald and Dornan are spot on again and though they might not share much screentime in the opening eps, directed by Fergus O’Brien, they still spark, both together and apart. The tension strung between Helen and Niamh is particularly riveting.
Whatever the truth of Elliot’s forgotten misdemeanours and the long-festering fury between the Cassidy and McDonnell forces, it’s a pleasure to be in their panicked, sweary and surprisingly battle-ready hands again. With way more questions than answers one third of the way in, as it should be, we’re very glad their craic is back.
The Tourist Season 2 is currently streaming on Stan.