This review is based on the first two episodes of The Tourist season 2.

A star rating of 4 out of 5.

It's always a worry when a show is renewed despite its writers having previously insisted the story was finished.

Sure, Harry and Jack Williams never closed the door on the show firmly after its smash hit first season. But they've admitted that they "didn't plan" to ever make a season 2, and Jamie Dornan has said that they looked him in the eye and told him that a follow-up would never happen.

The first season of The Tourist was a real bolt from the blue – it wasn't perfect, but it was fun, thrilling and unique, with a fair amount of that owing to the central mystery surrounding Dornan's character, which got answered, and the Australian outback setting.

This second season isn't set in Australia, but instead has been relocated to Ireland. A location switch-up made sense, not just practically, which Dornan has expressed, but also to differentiate season 2 from its predecessor.

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Still, everything about this second season was ringing alarm bells, with the the chances of lightning striking twice seeming slim. Thankfully, the Williams brother have achieved just that.

Helen (Danielle Macdonald) and Elliot (Jamie Dornan) in The Tourist
Helen (Danielle Macdonald) and Elliot (Jamie Dornan) in The Tourist. BBC/Two Brothers/Steffan Hill

The Tourist season 2 sees Elliot and Helen, now firmly in a relationship, on the road together, having travelled all around the world since the end of season 1. They're happy, contented, peaceful – obviously, something has to change.

Helen reveals to Elliot that, before they left Australia, she received a letter from someone named Tommy, claiming to know him from his past life in Ireland, the one he forgot. The couple decide to travel to Ireland in order to meet this Tommy, and learn more about Elliot's mysterious past.

Of course, things very quickly go off the rails, and Elliot finds himself kidnapped by vicious family gang the McDonnells, who know far more about his own life than he does.

In order to track Elliot down and save him, Helen enlists the help of local Garda officer Ruairi Slater, who, it turns out, has some quite substantial issues of his own to work through.

Elliot (Jamie Dornan) in The Tourist
Elliot (Jamie Dornan) in The Tourist. BBC/Two Brothers/Steffan Hill

The first season of this show thrived on the performances of Dornan and Macdonald, as well as their chemistry together, and this season is no different.

It's no surprise, but Dornan remains such a strong leading man. His charisma jumps off the screen, he's a convincing action star and his comic timings is superb. In playing a man who doesn't even know himself, Dornan somehow makes the audience understand him as a character completely, complete with all of his contradictions.

He's a character burdened by a dark past who no longer understands his past self's motivations – that's not an easy character to sell, but Dornan makes it look easy.

Meanwhile, Macdonald gets to play a different version of Helen than the one we met in season 1 – freed from her controlling fiancée Ethan, who also makes a (welcome?) return here, Helen has now become more confidant and self-assured.

It's a growth which feels natural for the character and also helps to make her dynamic with Elliot more on a level playing field. Still, in the transition, Macdonald doesn't lose any of Helen's charm from season 1 – she's just better equipped for the chaos this time around.

Helen (Danielle Macdonald) in The Tourist
Helen (Danielle Macdonald) in The Tourist. BBC/Two Brothers/Steffan Hill

The transfer of location not only doesn't sink this season – in fact, it makes it, and may just have secured its long-term future, were a continuation to be of interest to Dornan, Macdonald and the Williams brothers.

The show has now proven it can essentially reinvent itself time and again without losing any of its charm and certainly without losing its cinematic sheen – this season is gorgeous to look out, with full use being made of Ireland's rolling landscapes.

It's similarly impressive that the Williams brothers have been able to recapture the first season's inimitable tone, as the show bounces between broad comedy and genuine peril without skipping a beat or ever feeling choppy or dissonant.

This season is also just as thrilling, surprising and packed full of twists as the first, while also introducing just as many varied, oddball characters.

The supporting cast this time around includes Diarmaid Murtagh, Nessa Matthews and Mark McKenna, playing the villainous McDonnells, but the definite MVP of the newcomers has got to be Conor MacNeill, whose character Ruairi is a truly unknowable presence whenever he's on-screen.

He will make you want to laugh one moment and make you want to hide the next. Characters don't come much more unnerving than he does at times, or much more sympathetic at others.

Ruairi (Conor MacNeill) and Helen (Danielle Macdonald) in The Tourist
Ruairi (Conor MacNeill) and Helen (Danielle Macdonald) in The Tourist. BBC/Two Brothers/Steffan Hill

Is this season as good or even better than the first? Time will tell. At the time of writing, this critic has only been provided with the first two episodes for review, meaning anything could, and most likely will happen in the next four.

The opening episode is the stronger of the first two, as it expertly sets up an entirely new story and world of characters while keeping the pace ramped up to 11 – there are some thrilling chase sequences here and the episode is also supremely funny, but the story never gets lost amidst all of that.

Episode 2 is still a strong outing, it just naturally has to slow the pace down somewhat, and so leaves less of an immediate impression.

When it comes to season 1 comparisons, this new outing certainly feels of a piece with what came before, while also being totally new and fresh. The location and cast switch ups help to differentiate it, but crucially, this season retains the tone of the first, the frenetic and vibrant energy and the outrageous sense of humour.

It may not rewrite the book when it comes to TV thrillers, but if you're looking for some perfect New Year's Day fare, you won't come much closer than this. It's bold and unique without being off-putting, and features two magnetic central performances from Dornan and Macdonald.

Whether a third season is on the cards is anyone's guess at this point – surely this man can only have so many links to outrageous criminal gangs in his backstory? – but if you were worried about this season in any way tarnishing the legacy of the first, then rest assured – you're in safe hands here.

The Tourist season 2 starts on Monday 1st January on BBC One and iPlayer. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.


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