When the first season of Tokyo Vice premiered in 2022, the Max crime drama immediately earned attention thanks to a rather auspicious credit: “Directed by Michael Mann.” The Heat filmmaker set the look and feel of the series with a moody, propulsive pilot following American journalist Jake Adelstein (Ansel Elgort) as he joins the staff of a major Tokyo newspaper and gets drawn into the city’s seedy criminal underworld. Mann also served as executive producer for the series, which J.T. Rogers created.
But with its second season, which premieres two of its 10 episodes today, Rogers and his team forge on without Mann. There was a good reason for his absence: “While we were shooting season two, he was in Italy making that little indie film called Ferrari,” Season 2 director Alan Poul jokes to Inverse.
“Michael was terrific, having him as the director for his pilot. The creation of the show was purposefully in the pilot, and he did a beautiful job,” Rogers tells Inverse. “Then all of a sudden, that second episode starts. You’re like, ‘Oh, it’s not what I thought.’”
With Tokyo Vice, Rogers doesn’t want to stick by the parameters of a crime drama. Based on journalist Jake Adelstein’s 2009 memoir of the same name, the series does weave a story around a budding yakuza war, the corrupt police department that benefits from it, and the tireless reporters trying to expose the crimes. On paper, it has all the makings of a crime thriller, but Rogers doesn’t think of Tokyo Vice strictly as a crime drama.
Mann gave the pilot “a particular style,” Rogers says. “But I wanted to immediately pivot in the world as laid down visually, then deepen and alter as we expand.”
Season 2 makes that hard pivot. Picking up immediately after Season 1’s cliffhanger, which saw Jake discovering videotape evidence of Samantha’s (Rachel Keller) friend Polina being killed by a member of the Tozawa clan, the show leaps forward several months, and dials down the intensity dramatically. Instead of rushing forward with its plot of a yakuza-led criminal conspiracy, Season 2 almost takes a case-of-the-week style format, with Jake reporting on smaller, less high-stakes crimes and even — gasp! — falling in love.
“He definitely feels more comfortable,” Ansel Elgort tells Inverse. “You see him more in his routine, and he’s becoming less of a fish out of water. He is actually starting to follow the rules more and fit into the system more than he did in season one, and he kind of approaches things in a different way.”
But it doesn’t take long for Season 2 to ramp the tension back up. While the first season was centered around Jake’s introduction into the criminal underworld, there was a status quo that kept criminals and police in a state of uneasy harmony. That changes with the introduction of a new police lieutenant who recruits Ken Watanabe’s Detective Hiroto Katagiri, still reeling from Tozawa threatening his family, to wage all-out war against the yakuza. “I think Season 1 is a very great prologue of Tokyo Vice, and the real fight is starting in Season 2,” Watanabe tells Inverse.
Where Jake and Katagiri were steadfast allies in Season 1, this season sees them at very different places, and maybe even at odds with each other. It’s in keeping with Rogers’ goal for the series, which is to tell “a character story built in the world of criminal enterprise.”
“This is the show about what it’s like to be a young person in this world and figuring out who you are. What is it like to be an older yakuza war boss or a cop and realize the world you’ve lived with is going away, and now who are you? Because those are the things that I, as a viewer, care about,” Rogers says.
Can we expect even more? Elgort confirms that Tokyo Vice was always meant to be a multiple-season series, but teases that Season 2 “really wraps up the story.”
“By the end, it will leave you satisfied,” he says.
Watanabe has similar praise for the show’s “great script,” teasing that Season 2’s stakes shift “in a big way.”
Both Elgort and Watanabe were noncommittal on whether they’d return for a third season (“It’s an open world!” Elgort says, while Watanabe says he “can’t imagine it”), but director Poul says, “There is definitely room for more.”
“Season 3 is here,” Rogers adds, pointing to his head, “so if we get to do it, I’m ready to go.”
The first two episodes of Tokyo Vice Season 2 are streaming on Max now. New episodes drop weekly on Thursdays.
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