The Tourist

3 out of 5

Created by: Harry and Jack Williams

The Tourist is a fun little twisty thriller with a great cast that would probably be a whole lot more engaging if this formula – which prioritizes kookiness and twists – wasn’t exactly that: a formula. For a series which intends to surprise, holding much of its reveals behind the plot-device amnesia of a recent car crash survivor, played by Jamie Dornan, it perhaps seems odd for it to end up feeling rather predictable, but it too clearly signals its intentions to withhold key info and somewhat telegraphs who can be trusted and who can’t, such that it just turns into a waiting game: what stepping stone will be over-turned this episode; what double-cross; and etc. That it ends up resorting to a dream sequence to elucidate much of its backfilled plotting is indicative of this, piling on oddities as a way of spicing things up, then needing a quick way to dig us back out so we can get on to a conclusion.

Thankfully, writers Harry and Jack Williams are quite skilled at these manipulations, and while some of it gets a little tired, there are just enough plates spinning so we can focus on another when one starts waggling, but also maybe a few too many: some are going to fall, and we’re just supposed to pretend like that didn’t happen and keep watching the remaining ones. And that’s where the other saving graces – the cast – help to keep us watching: Dornan and Danielle Macdonald are fantastic, with the always entertaining Ólafur Darri Ólafsson showing up as bonus points to play a slimy Texan (???) type, Shalom Brune-Franklin an interesting wildcard counterpoint to Dornan, and Damon Herriman another always-excellent inclusion.

We cold open on a big rig chasing a car – driven by Dornan – see the crash, then are in an Australian hospital, probationary cop Helen (Macdonald) nervously asking questions to try to determine if Dornan (whose character is, currently, nameless) is on the level about this memory loss bit. We’d like to believe that he is: the first couple episodes are an amusing bit of clue chasing, with some ante ups thrown in suggesting that that first big chase scene still looms in some fashion, as someone is likely out to kill Dornan. But even this early on, The Tourist is starting to play its games, cutting away to other characters who will play important roles in things, and dangling dialogue carrots which won’t get explained until X point.

At only 6 episodes, we don’t have to wait too long, though there’s the sense that a thriller of this nature, given that it’s still rather formulaic, might work better in a film format. The Tourist is ultimately lacking that something extra that demands it be a TV series – that emotional component that drove something like the first season of the Williams’ brothers’ The Missing into must-see twisty TV – but it’s surely far from boring, especially thanks to an amazing key cast.