Drops of God uncorks some doozies this week [Apple TV+ recap] ★★★★☆
Drops of God, the impressive new Apple TV+ series about an impossible contest to determine the winner of a fortune in wine, brings us to our second challenge this week.
In the episode, entitled “The Link,” Issei deals with the fallout from his father’s latest and most devastating decision. And Camille is given even more choices as she struggles to come out ahead in the latest contest.
Drops of God recap: ‘The Link’
Season 1, episode 5: Issei Tomine (played by Tomohisa Yamashita) and Camille Léger (Fleur Geffrier) are back for their next challenge. It’s not a taste test like last time, though. Alexandre Léger (Stanley Weber) dreamed up something a little more abstract. This time, they must study a painting, Fede Galizia’s 1607 baroque work Glass Tazza With Peaches, Jasmine Flowers and Apples, and determine which wine matches it. Camille consults Luca Inglese (Diego Ribon), her dead father’s old friend, who tells them it must be Milanese like Galizia herself, and rely on or evoke all three ingredients.
Issei’s grandfather Noboru (Masane Tsukayama) gives a surprise press conference in which he says he and his considerable company, the Tomine diamond concern, stand behind Issei in the contest. That’s quite the change of pace from the old man, who just a few days ago was smashing up Issei’s office and demanding that he drop out of the competition for Léger’s inheritance.
What happened? Maybe it has something to do with Issei’s father Hirokazu (Satoshi Nikaido) going missing. He left his wedding ring and wallet in an envelope, mailed them to his disappointed wife Honoka (Makiko Watanabe), and vanished a few days ago. Issei is livid when he discovers Honoka won’t be searching for him. But then, she knows it’s her fault he disappeared, which naturally doesn’t stop her from guilting Issei about it. Worse, when Issei runs into his grandfather to thank him for his support, the old man tells him if he doesn’t win, he’s basically kicked out of the family. Good luck, I guess?
A tantalizing proposition for Camille
Camille, together with her team of wine experts, Thomas Chassangre (Tom Wozniczka), Miyabi (Kyoko Takenaka) and Lorenzo (Luca Terracciano), starts sampling every Milanese wine they can get their hands on. However, the relentlessness of the sampling makes Camille sick.
Then Luca calls her aside and asks her something that’s bound to distract her. Her father made his money publishing the Léger wine guide every year, in which he sampled a thousand or so new wines and gave a no-bullshit assessment of them. Now that he’s dead there will be no guide … unless a new Léger steps into the breach and takes up the mantle.
She’s reluctant, but then, what if she loses the contest? It might be good to have something to fall back on. And certainly, Luca and his business partner Jacques (Michel Bompoil) give her a hell of a hard sell. She distracts herself by going drinking with Thomas, flirting with him, and trying to kiss him, despite his constant protests and talk of his impending wedding. He rebuffs her advances, but this isn’t the last we’re going to hear about this.
And Issei searches for his missing father
Issei files a police report but the cops tell him that they can’t really do much because his dad pretty clearly stated his intentions about his own disappearance. Can’t really call that “going missing,” can you? So he calls on his journalist acquaintance Yurika Katase (Azusa Okamoto) and asks for her help in locating his dad, but she’s reluctant to get personally involved with someone who constitutes a developing story. Still, she sees the pain in his face and agrees to help him … in exchange, of course, for an exclusive interview.
Yurika does a little digging and finds CCTV footage of Issei’s dad at a train station, which is only so helpful, but it’s more than he had to go on a minute ago.
When Issei’s not looking for his father, he’s doing research into his father figure (and, though Issei doesn’t know it, his birth father), Alexandre. He tracks down a woman named Yoko Sawaguchi (Saya Yoshida) who used to work as Alexandre’s translator at the university in Tokyo, when he taught Issei’s mother and father. Or anyway, he finds her excitable granddaughter, Ayame (Miyu Ando), who says to come back tomorrow.
When they finally meet, Yoko tells Issei about Alexandre and his mother’s affair, which rocks Issei’s world pretty hard. As does the news that it was his dad’s drunken jealousy that got Alexandre fired.
Issei uses the interview as a way to get back at his grandfather (he says conclusively that he won’t be taking over the diamond operation) and to say something nice about his dad, who hears it on TV from his new vantage point: washing dishes at a restaurant. He’s hiding out, living the life of a pauper, to humble himself after having blown it with his family.
Thomas hears that Camille might take over the Léger guide and becomes furious. Two months ago, she didn’t know the first thing about wine, and all her expertise came from his help. And now she’s going to run the most prestigious wine guide in the world. They have a blowout and Thomas leaves Tokyo, feeling unappreciated.
It’s so good I hear music
Very strong stuff this week. The Thomas and Camille business goes to some believably dark places, from their hallway flirtation and Thomas almost going with her impulse, to his being very hurt at the idea of her taking her father’s place. It’s realistic that their relationship is rocky, and that Thomas wouldn’t be forthcoming about either his feelings or his appreciation for everything Camille accomplished. Men don’t take being outshined very well, as Issei’s stoic determination proves.
The Issei narrative makes for a very interesting counterpart to Camille’s, because he doesn’t seem to sweat or despair like she does. But the more we dig, the more we see just how expertly he’s hiding all of his negativity and insecurities. I like his relationship with Yurika Katase, probably the only person in his acquaintance who doesn’t lean heavily on codes of honor and silence. She has no expectations of him. It’s refreshing that he has someone to open up to, until he and Camille can get on the same page. Call it a hunch that that will happen.
In the meantime, their oil-and-water chemistry is scintillating.
Watch Drops of God on Apple TV+
New episodes of Drops of God arrive Fridays on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper and But God Made Him A Poet: Watching John Ford in the 21st Century, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.