The second episode of The Grand Tour‘s second season had quite a bit to prove. We knew after the last episode that the show was capable of making improvements, but it was unknown whether the new episode would break from the formula that’s worked so well in the past. After watching it, though, I’m very optimistic.

The episode opened with an introduction to the featured race: Jeremy in the new Ford GT against May and a handicapped Hammond on a plane from Central Park to Niagara Falls. The scene looks grim initially for Hammond and May, who have to struggle through New York’s labyrinthine subway system and negotiate notoriously strict American airport security (which doesn’t go particularly well for Hammond). This segment resulted in some genuine laughs, such as James’ caller ID in Clarkson’s phone, which have insofar been too rare in The Grand Tour. Predictably, Clarkson wins in the Ford, though not after being “turned into Richard Hammond” by six hours of the GT’s rock-hard ride and shrieking, un-shut-up-able engine.

Clarkson also reviewed the AMG GT R at the Eboladrome, which is arguably one of the episode’s highlights. As the first power test of the series, it’s an absolutely classic Clarkson review: dry humor, beautiful cinematography, and the requisite montage of some AMGs shredding their back tires. He is understandably confused by all the technical wizardry the GT R contains, and overall it’s not really AMG-ish enough for his taste. It then gets taken round the track by the show’s new driver, who’s quite literally as far from Mike Skinner as they could have gotten, and sets a very brisk time of 1:18.7–right up next to the McLaren 650S.

Up next comes Celebrity Face-Off between cricketer Kevin Pietersen and baseballer Brian Wilson, who both make a living hitting, throwing, and catching small balls, with Pietersen’s smooth, slow-looking lap just edging out Wilson’s tail-out extravaganza by only .3 seconds. That makes Pietersen the fastest person to ever go around the Eboladrome (out of the whopping four people that have done it so far).

I should note, though, that there are a couple of faults with this episode. The first deals more with the overall setup than this particular show, but it bears discussion. The new fast-car-slow-track formula for Celebrity Face-Off simply results in less entertaining laps than TopGear’s slow-car-fast-track setup, even though it’s leaps and bounds better than the general trainwreck that was Celebrity Brain Crash. I think it would have served the show better to send the celebrities around the Eboladrome in a slower car, but that probably would have resulted in a lawsuit from you-know-who. So they appear to be doing the best they can, but somehow it just doesn’t all add up the way I’d like.

The other problem I had with this episode deals with the driver. Not her personally, because she’s obviously fully competent, and I have to give credit to the show for putting a woman in a prominent role, which happens all too rarely on car programs. Her name is Abbie Eaton, but, inexplicably, she’s only introduced and referred to as “the driver.” It seems like a careless omission not to mention her name until the credits.

Despite these problems, I have a declaration to make: this was the best episode of The Grand Tour. Yes, including Season 1. It followed the presenters’ old formula to a T, which might sound low-effort, but it’s exactly what the show’s audience has been clamoring for since 2015 when Clarkson got sacked from TopGear. It was funny, it was crisply-written, and most of all, it was about cars. (Except for that bit with the plane.) It wasn’t even cringey. Not a single 9/11 joke.

Episode 3 will obviously released next Friday, and I hope the show can keep up the rhythm this episode established. What did you think of Episode 2? Let us know in the comments!

2 Responses

  1. phantomobserver

    Re the driver introduction: I don’t regard that as a fault. If it were the BBC, they’d be playing up the “female driver” or “see we have a woman on this boy’s show!” angle, to the point where it comes across as pandering to the PC / elitist crowd. Since being PIC is part of the show’s schtick, it’s right that they don’t make a fuzz about her.

    And there’s something else as well. Mike Skinner was cast into what was essentially a pre-existing “character” role as The American. This time out, I suspect they’ll do what they did with the original Stig: let Eaton’s “driver” character grow organically in the audience’s eyes as they get used to her.

  2. thefonzzz1

    Good report. Exactly my thoughts except for the new driver. She’s just started so let’s give her some credit.
    Just two points, the Celebrity Face Off is not on the Eboladrome and Clarkson wasn’t sacked from that other show, we don’t mention, his contract wasn’t renewed.