TV Recap: “Tokyo Vice” – Episode 8

Just when things seem to be coming together, the show’s finale throws another storyline into the already-crowded mix.

It feels like false advertising to refer to “Yoshino,” the eighth and final episode of Season 1 of “Tokyo Vice,” as a finale. Yes, it’s the last episode we’re getting for the foreseeable future, and yes, it attempts to capture some of the frantic escalation and big decisions a finale should have, but there’s nothing final about “Yoshino.” Last week, I closed out my recap of the penultimate episodes predicting that the show wouldn’t be able to resolve its many, many narrative threads. What I didn’t predict was that it would introduce even more mysteries at the last minute, ending on a cliffhanger that leaves the fate of a major character hanging in the balance.

The episode opens with a rare moment of happiness for Detective Katagiri (Ken Watanabe), who enjoys breakfast with his wife and daughters, and comments optimistically on catching one of the Yakuza’s bigger fish — secretly-ailing gang leader Tozawa (Ayumi Tanida). Tozawa’s operations range from protection fees to drug and human trafficking. Taking him off the street would be a boon for the city’s police department. Of course, a neo-noir crime show can’t let any of its characters be happy for too long. If anything, being shown to be happy, especially early in an episode, is a guarantee that serious misfortune is coming your way.

In Katagiri’s case, he has to wrestle information out of Miyamoto (Hideaki Itō), a fellow cop who has spent most of his appearances on the show leching at women and minimally helping protagonist Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort). Episode seven revealed that Miyamoto is working with Tozawa, using the gang leader as a source of information in exchange for tipping him off about the occasional bust the cops are planning. Katagiri was suspicious of this, and his suspicions are confirmed. While Miyamoto insists he’s a good guy who has made bad decisions, his attempts to perpetuate a relationship with Tozawa show that he hasn’t learned his lesson. Things take a turn for the fatal — Miyamoto is taken out of the picture by Tozawa, and Katagiri loses his strongest lead. Worse still, Tozawa threatens to go after his family, leaving Katagiri shaken and paranoid.

The show’s expat characters, Jake and Samantha (Rachel Keller), are trying to uncover information about the disappearance of Samantha’s friend Polina, who was in debt to a Tozawa-backed host club. The only way to get this information out of a greasy, Yakuza-obsessed writer is to smoke meth) with him. Samantha suffers the writer’s creepy advances long enough to learn that Polina has been put on Tozawa’s sex cruise on a boat called “Yoshino,” to earn money to pay back her debt. Jake promises to look into it and, still high, Samantha kisses him.

Like her fling with Sato, the kiss lands ambiguously. Samantha’s primary character trait has been using people to get what she wants, so it’s hard to say which of her actions are genuine and which are calculated. You can’t blame her for wanting to find Polina — she even goes so far as to offer up the last of her savings for her new club in order to pay off a ransom. The ransom turns out to be fake, however, a scam by Polina’s ex who could care less about her disappearance. Samantha is pushed to get a loan for the money she lost from Chihara-Kai or lose her new hostess club. At the same time, Jake is beaten up by random Yakuza and debates going home to Missouri. A tape of Polina facing abuse at the hands of her captors reignites his desire for justice, and the episode closes with him showing up at Detective Katagiri’s house to plan Tozawa’s takedown.

It’s nice that the show places Tozawa as the primary antagonist for Katagiri, Jake, Samantha, and even Sato, since he belongs to a rival gang. Arguably, the show’s greatest weakness is the discontinuity brought on by the many threads it introduces and drops. Connecting the main storylines with Tozawa, even if only in the last episode, is a promising sign for a potential second season. His mysterious illness would seem to make him less intimidating, but he promises his mistress that he’ll be around for a long time, and there’s something about Tanida’s performance that makes you believe it. He shifts easily from ailing and depressed to performatively healthy, ready to take down anyone that stands in his way.

But as the show finally grounds itself with a singular antagonist and consolidates some of its storylines, it opens up a whole new avenue of mystery. Sato ends a conversation with Samantha and strolls down the street, only to be stabbed by a mysterious assailant. Multiple times. In the abdomen. Is he dead? Does “Tokyo Vice” dare to kill off one of its most interesting characters? We don’t know. It’s a cliffhanger, just like when Tozawa flies off in his private plane, and whether Polina will be rescued, and what the flash-forward we saw at the beginning of episode one has to do with anything. I suppose a few loose ends are inevitable when your show’s first season is only eight episodes long. If there weren’t a dozen other storylines fighting for screen time, Sato’s stabbing would be an interesting way to complicate the show, but this is a show that doesn’t need more complication. It needs resolution — something the finale failed to offer.

Grade: B-
Created by: J.T. Rogers
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Ken Watanabe, Rachel Keller
Release date: April 28, 2022
Rated: TV-MA

Images courtesy of Looper