sat 20/04/2024

The Tourist, Series 2, BBC One review - an amnesiac Jamie Dornan explores his Irish roots | reviews, news & interviews

The Tourist, Series 2, BBC One review - an amnesiac Jamie Dornan explores his Irish roots

The Tourist, Series 2, BBC One review - an amnesiac Jamie Dornan explores his Irish roots

The Williams brothers' twisty thriller brings it all back home

Who are you? Jamie Dornan as Elliot, Danielle Macdonald as Helen

It was barely a month ago that screenwriters Jack and Harry Williams astounded viewers with Boat Story. Now they’re back with a sequel (or maybe just a continuation) of The Tourist, which debuted a year ago with its mind-bending story of the amnesiac Elliot Stanley (Jamie Dornan), who found himself all at sea in the Australian outback.

Now, Elliot is travelling the world with girlfriend Helen (Danielle Macdonald), but they’re diverted from a railway journey to Cambodia by a mysterious letter, which prompts them to travel to Elliot’s native Ireland in search of his real identity. Of which, so far, he has no recollection.

It’s not long before Elliot is having second thoughts about this decision as he's kidnapped and bundled into a van by masked thugs. He finds himself locked in a basement, where a dead pig lies on the table. It has OPEN ME written on it, requiring Elliot to poke his hands into its innards to find a key.The Tourist, Series 2, BBC OneBut this fragment of grotesquerie is just one end of a long and tangly piece of string, which is going to lead Elliot and Helen through a bewildering catalogue of horrors and dead ends before we get to the conclusion of episode 6. The Williams brothers favour an elliptical, deadpan style of storytelling in which its many feints and detours are no less, and maybe more, important than the basic machinery of the plot.

Sometimes they just seem to be enjoying themselves by winding up the viewer. For instance, there’s a scene where Elliot is dangling from a cliff face by his fingertips, while two pursuers stand on the cliff above, conducting a lengthy and pointless discussion. Just when it looks as though they’re leaving and Elliot can pull himself up, their conversation starts up again, merely to prolong his torment.

As the story evolves, the larger contours start to emerge. It involves two warring crime families, the McDonnells and the Cassidys, and Elliot’s relationship to them, which is fiendishly complicated. It’s a story that stretches back generations, and the Williamses have lobbed in references to ancient Celtic fables and interludes of the Irish Gaelic language to make sure we’re fully alerted to its mythical dimension.

The Tourist, Series 2, BBC OneThis also affords scope for potent performances by some terrific Irish actors. Olwen Fouéré (pictured above), with her stark bone structure framed by a dramatic tumble of white hair, is unforgettable as matriarch Niamh Cassidy, squaring up to old enemy Frank McDonnell (Francis Magee, pictured right, once of EastEnders). Frank’s son Donal is portrayed as a roaring, raging cauldron of anger and hatred by Diarmaid Murtagh. Much of the show’s tone and mood is set by panoramic scenes of wild Irish country, from majestic lakes and sandy beaches to moorlands and mountainsides.

Sometimes the Williamses lurch too far in the direction of gratuitous weirdness. Conor MacNeill plays local Garda officer Ruairi Slater, whose superficially friendly but ineffectual demeanour steadily cracks to reveal a ghastly black hole of emotional damage within. Also, the return of Ethan Krum (Greg Larsen) from the first series is not a blessing in disguise, as he hoovers up all the oxygen in the room with his self-obsessed psychobabble.

But a big hand for Jamie Dornan, who negotiates slings, arrows and blows to the head with good grace, wry humour and quiet authority. Despite having played Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades franchise, he’s emerging as a true star.

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