‘Tokyo Vice’ Episodes 4-5 Spoiler Recap/Review
The following will contain spoilers for the fourth and fifth episodes of Tokyo Vice. For our review of the previous three episodes, click here.
Realistically, a lot of folks tuned in to Tokyo Vice for Michael Mann. And rightfully so; his distinctive digital cinematography and a firm grasp on mood are catnip for a certain subset of media enthusiasts. Yet there are those whose interest ends with his involvement. This is for shame, as the second and third episodes of the series make for an, albeit imperfect, compelling watch all the way through. Deep into the heart of the story, director Hikari keeps the ship steady for impressive episodes 4 and 5.
Jake Edelstein (Ansel Elgort) remains a sturdy protagonist. As his relationship with detective Hiroto Katagiri (Ken Watanabe) blooms, his path into the underbelly of the city illuminates. His determination gets him noticed by the leader of Sato’s clan, Ishida (Shun Sugata). Ishida grows ever paranoid about a member of his organization leaking information to the police, doing so in service of the rival clan. He offers to trade Edelstein information for information, forging a relationship between them. With Edelstein finding more and more about the Yakuza’s involvement in predatory lending practices, resulting in public suicide, his stock grows in the newspaper. For all his diligence paid off, he grows a bigger and bigger target on his back.
Tokyo Vice thrives by keeping the focus on journalistic drama. The stops and starts, endless frustration, and undeniable thrill of chasing a story make for excellent storytelling. Edelstein’s status as an outsider continues to make him a welcome conduit for experiencing Tokyo culture full-heartedly. Hikari, as cliche as this statement is, carries his predecessors’ commitment to making the city a character. Moreover, Elgort adds a plucky, roguish nature to Edelstein, where you want to follow him into the lion’s den. His relationships with his co-workers, along with the deepening of his fractured familial relationship, keep him three-dimensional. He’s almost an addict of sorts, not only for getting the first scoop but for acquiring knowledge. Becoming one with the city. This makes him stand out in contrast with Sato (Shô Kasamatsu).
It would serve Tokyo Vice well to keep sharing the focus between Sato and Edelstein. Undeniably the best performer in the show, Kasamatsu’s understated facial performance screams uncertainty. Sato is in the belly of the beast, despite his barely-hidden reservations. Meanwhile, Edelstein gallantly strolls into this world. Sato acts as a witness to a situation spiraling out of control. One of his two big scenes in this episode block involves Ishida ordering Sato to kill his direct supervisor Yoshihiro Kume (Masayoshi Haneda) who has been unveiled as the traitor. Sato is completely unable to do so, leading to Kume doing the task himself.
His other big scene comes at the end of episode 5, wherein he springs into action, fighting assassins from the other clan. These two scenes make clear his character arc, that of a reluctant heir apparent to a crime empire. Perhaps the strongest scene involves Sato driving Jake home from a meeting with Ishida in episode 4. Sato turns on the radio, singing along to “(I Want It) That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. The sheer unexpected nature of this leads to the two bonding, tumbling into a night on the town. There is the core of the show: a foreigner and a local, both young guys, have their destinies intertwined in the heart of Tokyo. Where their path will lead, who knows, but it’s hard to not wanna find out.
Continuing to disappoint, sadly, is the character of Samantha (Rachel Keller). The reveal that her character is a former missioning who stole tens of thousands of dollars from the church may be shocking, but it doesn’t affect much other than perpetuating a white perspective on the story that doesn’t need one. It’s all one-note, that note being “it’s hard to be in the ‘service’ industry in Tokyo”. Beyond that and her vague ambitions of starting her own club, Samantha’s main contribution to the story now is her burgeoning, near out of nowhere, relationship with Sato. Other than that, it’s all fat that can be trimmed.
As a whole, episodes 4 and 5 continue to pile on the intrigue of Tokyo Vice. Its leads are terrific, the exploration of Tokyo culture is there, and it has a story that continues to pull the viewer in, despite its missteps in regard to the character of Samantha. No matter, even with the shifting of directors Tokyo Vice remains a confidently handled, very watchable piece of television. –James Preston Poole
Tokyo Vice Airs New Episodes Thursdays on HBO Max.