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Why The Tourist Should Be Your Next Netflix Binge–And What to Know Before Watching TIME

Take a break from endlessly scrolling through Netflix searching for something new to watch and just press play on The Tourist, the BBC series which stars Jamie Dornan as a mysterious Irishman who wakes up in an Australian hospital with amnesia.

The wry thriller isn’t necessarily new—it premiered on the BBC in 2022 and quickly became one of the U.K.’s most-watched dramas of that year—but it is a recent addition to Netflix, which acquired the exclusive rights to the series last year and started streaming it in February. (Season 1 of The Tourist was previously available to stream in the U.S. on Max.) 

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At just six episodes, The Tourist is a low-risk, high-reward viewing experience full of twists and turns that are sure to keep you on your toes. Think Memento if directed by the Coen Brothers. Even better, if you like what you see, you can launch right into season 2, which is now streaming.

Here is what you need to know about your next great Netflix binge

What is The Tourist about?

The Tourist begins with an Irish guy (played by Dornan) making a pit stop at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, Australia. Nothing seems too out of the ordinary; he fills up his car, questions the gas station attendant’s bathroom key policy, visits the absolutely filthy restroom, and is on his way. But things get weird once he gets back on the road. He finds himself being harassed by a tractor trailer that seems hellbent on mowing him down. Just when it appears that he’s in the clear, he’s T-boned by the truck and left for dead on the side of the dirt road. 

When he wakes up, he’s in the hospital and has no memory of the accident or who he is. He doesn’t have a wallet or ID or phone on him to help jog his memory. This nameless man is now a tourist in his own life, struggling to understand who he was and why someone wanted him dead so badly. With help from a few kind, but not necessarily trustworthy strangers including Probationary Constable Helen Chambers (Danielle Macdonald), local waitress Luci (Shalom Brune-Franklin), and Detective Inspector Lachlan Rogers (Damon Herriman), he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that leaves him with more questions than answers about his dark past. 

Why it’s worth your time

Let’s start with Jamie Dornan. He played the leading man in the Fifty Shades trilogy and the Academy Award-nominated 2021 drama Belfast, but The Tourist feels like the first time he’s been able to truly show his range as an actor. It’s hard to resist that Irish brogue, but it’s even harder to resist his “get you a man that can do both” charm. Fans of the superbly silly Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar already know how funny he can be—not to mention, what a great singer he is. But The Tourist lets him show off his dry, dark wit, while also letting him show off his romantic side. By the end of the series, you’ll be left wondering why he hasn’t yet been cast in a good rom-com. (Sorry, not sorry Wild Mountain Thyme.) In the show’s most gripping action sequences, he manages to channel another amnesiac with killer instincts, Jason Bourne. But thanks to his hangdog expression, Dornan is also able to pull off the existential dread his character feels after realizing he’s not the person he hoped he would be.

Obviously, it’s hard to take your eyes off Dornan, but the scenery in The Tourist isn’t too bad to look at either. The show, set in the Australian outback—like way, way out back—was filmed on location in South Australia around Adelaide, a city known for its coastline. (Adelaide’s North Haven Beach serves as the show’s stand-in for Bali’s Kuta Beach.) It was also shot in the Flinders Ranges, the largest mountain ranges in South Australia, and in Peterborough, a small town in an area near Adelaide known as wheat country, which stood in for the sandy outback scenes. (Season 2 takes place in Ireland, so prepare yourself for greenery as far as the eye can see.) Despite all the drama onscreen, The Tourist makes Australia look like a nice place to visit.

What to remember before watching The Tourist season 2

Whether you’ve already finished the first season and need a bit of a refresher or you’re planning to skip straight to Season 2, this is what you need to know before watching the second season. 

Warning: major spoilers for The Tourist Season 1 ahead.

The Irish guy with amnesia is actually Elliot Stanley, and he’s done some really bad things in his life. 

While in the hospital, Elliot finds a note in his pants pocket with an address for a diner in a tiny town called Burnt Ridge. It’s there he meets Luci (Brune-Franklin), a waitress who is actually his ex-girlfriend. She only chooses to tell him his name and their relationship to one another after they discover a man’s dead body stashed in an oil drum that had been buried. The man was Marko (Damien Strouthos), who, like Elliot, worked for Kostas (Alex Dimitriades), an international drug lord and Luci’s fiancé.

Luci isn’t exactly who she claims to be. She’s a scammer who stole a rather sentimental bag of money from Kostas in order to run off with Elliot. Now the Greek gangster is back to collect. But Kostas isn’t all that interested in the cash; a million dollars is chump change to a guy like him. This is about ego. Kostas, a maniac who spikes his water with LSD to be able to speak with his dead brother, wants to punish Elliot for successfully stealing his girl.

Kostas decides to kidnap the wife of Detective Inspector Lachlan Rogers (Herriman) in hopes that it will scare the decorated officer into doing his bidding. It does; Lachlan apprehends Elliot and kills a young sergeant in the process, becoming one of the bad guys. But is Elliot also a bad guy? Probationary Constable Helen Chambers (Macdonald), the ambitious cop-in-training assigned to his case, doesn’t think so. She believes the fact that he was willing to save her from being shot by Kostas’ henchman means there is good in there somewhere, even if he has done bad things. But Elliot isn’t convinced that someone can really change. 

After drinking from Kostas’ LSD-laced water bottle, he has visions that offer some insight into who he may have been. He sees his first meeting with Kostas, where he’s hired as his accountant. He is able to relive his meet-cute with Luci and sees how toxic their relationship was. He discovers where he buried the bag of money and dreams of laying in bed with Helen. He also speaks to a Russian woman named Lena Pascal, who he’s seen before in his dreams. She tells him she’s in Adelaide and claims that she can help him “fill in the colors” of his past. 

Elliot worries that what he has seen aren’t memories, but hallucinations. When he finds the bag of money in the same spot he had envisioned it though, he believes that Lena may be real, too. Unfortunately, he can’t go looking for her just yet. After Kostas and Luci are killed in a shootout over the million dollars, Lachlan lies to the police in hopes of saving himself. He claims that Elliot and Helen kidnapped him and went on a shooting rampage à la Bonnie and Clyde, killing the young sergeant. Luckily, Helen is able to access the CCTV footage that shows Lachlan transporting Elliot in handcuffs, catching him in his lie. It saves both her and Elliott from going to jail and allows Elliot a chance to speak with Lena, who was not a figment of his imagination—though after their chat he wishes she was.

When Lena comes to meet him at the jail, she reveals that he wasn’t just Kostas’ accountant as he had dreamt, but helped train the drug mules, mostly young immigrant women who swallowed bags of heroin to transport across the globe. Lena tells a story of two girls who died instantly after the bags Elliot gave them exploded in their stomachs. Lena lived, but not without literal scars. She shows him the long gash across her stomach where she was cut open to retrieve the drugs. She claims Elliot was the one who ordered her to be butchered, worried the heroin would go to waste. He apologizes for his cruelty, but she doesn’t absolve him of his guilt. “You have to live with yourself,” she tells him as she leaves.

Elliot doesn’t think he can and attempts to have himself arrested, but Lena won’t press charges. He then attempts to lose his memory again by getting into another car crash. He flips his car over, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work. He can’t forget what Lena told him and neither can Helen, who after learning the evil that Elliot was capable of decides she can no longer see him. But she can’t stop thinking about him and wondering whether he or anyone should be defined by their worst mistakes. 

Elliot wonders the same, but the guilt is just too much. He decides that he can no longer live with himself and attempts to take his life with vodka and pills. Laid out on his bed, waiting to die, he gets a text: a burrito emoji from Helen.

The burrito references a scene earlier in the show, when Elliot and Helen were eating together in a Mexican restaurant. Helen is his hostage, but the night plays out like a first date. Elliot can’t remember what kind of food he likes so she suggests they order everything on the menu so he can figure out his taste now. She encourages him to stop thinking about who he was and start becoming the person he is meant to be. He later tells her that he equates burritos with happiness and her text becomes a lifeline. He might not be able to forget what he’s done, but she believes he has the capacity to change. The joy on his face when he sees her message makes it seem as if Elliot finally believes he can change too. But fans will have to wait until Season 2 to see if he’s able to become a better person.

Shannon Carlin

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