The trailer for the second episode of The Grand Tour promised an epic adventure of big guns, big Aston Martins, and drifting adventures in South Africa. The second episode has now been released on Amazon Prime videos and did it meet our expectations? Read the SPOILER ridden review below.
Without a doubt the Top Gear recipe is alive and well in the new Grand Tour. The second in-tent episode filmed in Johannesburg, South Africa harkens back to the old Dunsfold Aerodrome studio days when the trio would bicker about local politics, talk about car news, and showcase their various films. In that respect, the trio did this in spades. However, the overall transitions and quality of films weren’t as polished as we have come to expect, and it certainly did not meet the bar set by the incredible first episode.
They kicked off the show with a fairly extended chat session about filming the show in South Africa and injecting it with political inside joke about its own President not being able to express numbers in the millions. With the chit chat out of the way they moved to bigger and better things, primarily the Aston Martin Vanquish being driven by The Grand Tour Ape, Jeremy Clarkson.
The production of this first film is par for the course for the Grand Tour team. The red Aston Martin Vulcan, which is only one of 24 in existence, offered a sharp contrast against the dilapidated and coarse RAF Wroughton’s Eboladrome test track. Highly vignetted and sharply contrasted filters have been heavily applied throughout the film, and has been properly matched with Clarkson’s clever analogies:
“It’s like being in a room with a bear that’s thinking about attacking you.”
A second Aston Martin Vulcan appeared on the show, this time it was for The American, Top Gear’s Fat Grand Tour cousin, played by Mike Skinner, an American Stock Car Racing Driver. I think we can expect a proper Grand Tour lap time test wouldn’t be complete without American stereotypes spouted by the overweight american flag racing suited driver. Despite the commentary, The American was able to top the Grand Tour’s Lap Board with a time of 1:15.5, besting the McLaren 650 by over 2.4 seconds.
Moving on to the main film of the second episode, the trio was put into a military training obstacle course designed for Special Forces war games in Amman, Jordan. They were to rappel down a helicopter, storm a building, steal a car, extract a VIP from a plane hostage situation, and escort them to the Embassy. The catch to the challenge is if one of them gets shot, they’d have to restart the entire course all over again. This is exactly the theme of Edge Of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise, and we find that the rest of the film has been presented as such.
While the presentation was hilarious, and the banter between the three middle-aged men was on point, we begin to question what The Grand Tour really is during this episode. Is this show going to be car program or is it going to be an expansion of what these three are best at, which is wandering banter about mundane things and exploring all sorts of failure modes. Having watched the film midway through we begin to think that The Grand Tour was the latter and that this was no longer the Top Gear we’ve come to expect.
Their attempt at realigning the show to its automotive roots felt a bit stiff and out of step with the program’s pacing, as they introduced Audi’s S8 Plus as the VIP getaway vehicle. While the driving sequences are impressive and Captain Slow shooting his fully-automatic assault rifles out of the back of sedan is one of the best images in the trio’s history, the whole segment felt like a sad attempt at making a Michael Bay movie. If this was W. Chump & Sons’ goal then they’ve successfully achieved that with high marks.
Breaking up the main film was a segment where Clarkson and Hammond sent May to do something he totally does not want to do. This time it was for him to explore the South African practice of Spinning, where rear wheel drive cars have been modified for the purposes stylized donuts and destroying tires. We liked this segment as this episode’s iteration offered a glimpse into other countries’ automotive cultures and passions. We discovered that we’re not all different really; We all like the smell of burnt tires and clutch as we express our driving skills in various ways. We hope to see more segments like these in the future.
After the brief segue we returned to the military training grounds in Jordan where the trio continued their attempt at saving the Queen. But after several rehashed clips of the trio restarting their mission from scratch after dying, shooting the queen, and shooting themselves, the entire bit felt stretched out and tired at this point. We feel the trio could have taken the military exercise challenge in a totally different way that could have been entertaining, but instead they went with a tongue-in-cheek action movie satire that wasn’t up to par with the trio’s potential.
Don’t get us wrong, this is still some of the best stuff that we can watch on television/streaming videos. The first episode of The Grand Tour has successfully raised the bar of entertainment that we ended up wanting a lot more out of this second episode. However, We still can’t wait to see what these guys have to offer for the third week.
With that said, to summarize the second week’s showing:
The Good: Chemistry, chemistry, and chemistry. It doesn’t matter what type of challenges these guys go through, they have the propensity to make an interesting conversation out of anything they encounter. Watching three older men go through a grueling military exercise is funny enough, but seeing Clarkson, Hammond, and May do it is extremely hilarious!
The Bad: The editing, a la Edge Of Tomorrow, was funny at first but quickly became tired and was more of an attempt to stretch available film footage to fill air time.
The Ugly: Richard Hammond’s knife fight was pretty cringeworthy.
What do you think of The Grand Tour’s second episode? Did we miss the mark? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments!