New season of The Tourist brings black humour, thrills and mystery

Streaming exclusively on Stan, the follow-up season to smash hit The Tourist decamps from outback Australia to the Irish underworld. Critic Travis Johnson takes a look at what’s in store.

If The Tourist, Stan’s blackly comic outback crime drama, had wrapped with the sixth and final episode of season one, nobody would have batted an eyelid. Although it ended on an ambiguous note, with Jamie Dornan’s amnesiac former criminal, who we have come to learn is named Elliot Stanley, alone and lamenting still-unremembered horrific past, at the last moment he receives an emoji of a burrito from probationary constable Helen Chambers (Danielle MacDonald) – their sign that everything is going to be okay.

Up until that point, we’ve had six hours of top-notch outback noir action, with Dornan’s mysterious stranger losing his memory when he’s run off the highway in an apparent attempted murder, then fending off a cavalcade of assassins despatched by Alex Dimitriades’ drug lord, Kostas. With his only real help coming from MacDonald’s delightfully down-to-earth country cop, Dornan’s stoic cipher made his fraught way through the sort of Wake in Fright quirky bush nightmare that Australia seems to love putting foreign interlopers through, ultimately winning out but with plenty left unresolved.

Things were going to stay unresolved, but while it was intended as a limited series, The Tourist is now back for another salvo of amnesia-addled crime drama. But rather than giving us more of the same, creators Harry and Jack Williams (The Missing, Baptiste) exchange the ochre and yellow hues of the outback for Ireland’s earthier tones, with Elliot heading for his hometown of Dublin in search for more clues to his mysterious past.

The good news is that the cheery and dogged Helen is in tow. The even good-er news is that Helen and Eliott are officially coupled up, with The Tourist wisely foregoing the standard will they/won’t they tensions of TV and jumping us right into the middle of their ongoing relationship. This has understandably broken the heart of Helen’s oafish, obnoxious former fiancé, Ethan Krum (comic relief MVP Greg Larsen), who jets off to the emerald Isle to try and win her back for reasons that we’re sure make sense to him.

Of course, jealous ex-partners are not the chief concern at hand here, as Elliot and Eliott find themselves caught up in a long-simmering feud between two rival Irish criminal clans, very much like a sort of Gaelic Hatfields and McCoys situation.

On the one hand, there are the McDonnells – headed up by steely and pragmatic patriarch Frank (veteran character actor Francis Magee) – who would rather avoid more generational bloodshed if at all necessary, but are happy to step up as necessary. It is, as it turns out, frequently necessary, thanks to the hard-as-nails Niamh Cassidy (Olwen Fouéré, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald) and her extended brood of ne’er-do-wells. Recent years have seen the Cassidy fortunes dwindling, and they’re ruthlessly determined to hold onto what little power they have left. So, when a wild card in the form of a long-lost family member (of which we family we won’t say just yet) the scene is set for an explosion of violence.

And don’t forget – poor Elliot has no idea what’s going on.

This second season of The Tourist is a big swing, and it’s genuinely impressive how much it connects. It would have been easy enough to offer up another season of outback-set thrills and revelations. But by ditching the original setting and sticking our protagonists into a new context, we’re exploring more unfamiliar territory, both geographically and narratively.

Of course, that means some sacrifices – gone are most of season one’s supporting cast, so don’t expect Shalom Brune-Franklin, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Genevieve Lemon, Danny Adcock, or Damon Herriman to show up much this season (to be fair, some of them didn’t survive season one).

Instead, we have a new roster of supporting players such as Conor MacNeill as Detective Ruairi Slater, an eccentric Garda investigator with a disturbingly intimate personal relationship with a life-size doll or mannequin that wouldn’t look out of place in a Blumhouse movie. On the other side of the law, the McDonnell clan is rounded out by Diarmaid Murtagh and Nessa Matthews as Donal and Orla McDonnell, Frank’s heirs who are quite happy to continue their vendetta against the Cassidy mob, plus Mark Mckenna, a man with a face more quintessentially Irish than a portrait of Shane MacGowan carved into the foam on a pint of Guiness, as youngest son Fergal, who would rather not.

But what remains is The Tourist’s very specific tone, a mix of wry, black humour, genuine thrills, character-rooted mystery, and the occasional but regular splash of shocking violence (the murder that caps off the first episode of season two is not for the squeamish).

Everything else may be different, but this season of The Tourist is still worth the trip.