Season 2 brought some changes to Police Woman: it went for a more “uptown” feel, with glossier production values, more guest stars and cases that shifted the show into more upscale settings.  Despite these changes, Season Two managed to offer a number of strong episodes that served up plenty of action and some clever variations on the usual cop-show formula.  The following is a list of seven standout episodes from Police Woman: Season Two, each accompanied by a quick rundown of the reasons why.  It is submitted to you in hopes of offering a highlights guide for anyone who wants to explore the show’s cop-show charms.

Cold Wind: When two workers at a soda factory are randomly shot and killed by a mystery assailant, suspicion falls on two employees: one is a emotionally troubled type with gambling debts (Kenneth Mars) while the other is a self-styled intellectual who recently quit his job there (Daniel Benton).  There are some effective twists and turns here, plus a few effective scenes with Pepper going undercover to draw out the younger of the two suspects.  Mars offers a real scene-stealing performance and the episode benefits from inventive scripting, including a plot that manages to involve a book by Baudelaire(!) and an unexpectedly haunting final scene that drives home the downside of investigative police work.

Farewell, Mary Jane: a snappy, action-oriented episode that has Pepper teaming up with a former race-car driver (Sam Elliott!) to set up a drug buy with a crazy, plane-flying dealer (W.L. LeGault) who gets a kick out of murdering anyone he perceives as a threat.  This episode uses the complexities and dangers of a drug deal to suspenseful effect and the appeal is heightened by some great location shooting, including an atmospheric use of the desert.  Dickinson and Elliott have great chemistry but it’s LeGault who walks off with the acting honors here, playing a crazed good ol’ boy that you’ll love to hate.

Blaze Of Glory: the best of the b-movie style episodes from Season 2 has Pepper unwittingly walking into a bank robbery and becoming the hostage of a pair of bank-robbing brothers led by alpha-male Don Stroud.  Pepper plays along, taking on the persona of a starry-eyed hooker as Crowley and the rest of the squad try to track the getaway car down.  This one plays up a hicksploitation car-chase movie vibe, complete with a fiddle-happy country music score, and Stroud has a blast hamming it up as a thief obsessed with going out in a Bonnie & Clyde fashion.  Watch for a fun scene where Dickinson fends off Stroud’s advances by “accidentally” tapping his bullet wound.

The Purge: the squad attempts to bust the warehouse of a mobster and everything goes wrong – not only is the merchandise not there but Crowley accidentally shoots a 15 year-old nephew of the crook after being attacked in the dark.  He’s convinced he was attacked by a larger man and the kid got caught in the crossfire but he can’t prove it – and is thus suspended.  When the police force’s administration refuses to help, Pepper is forced to team up with a con man (beautifully played by David Huddleston) to flush the mobster out into the open with a phony deal.  The plotting is tight and both Dickinson and co-star Earl Holliman get to add some dimension to the Pepper/Crowley relationship when he struggles with being forced to the sidelines.

The Hit: Pepper and the crew are trying to find out who shot a boxer who didn’t take the dive he was paid to take.  Interestingly, the main focus of the episode is the life of the hit man more than the investigation itself.  He’s a sad sack played with memorable pathos by Harris Yulin, a criminal who is suffering a midlife crisis.  He’s lost interest in his work, which has become very sloppy, and is much more interested in the success and future happiness of his teenage daughter (Amy Irving).  The focus on the hitman’s internal crisis gives this episode a Police Story vibe, with a melancholy, almost film noir feel to the way his story is told.  There’s a scene late in the episode between Yulin and Irving that offers the best acting in any episode during this season of Police Woman.

The Pawn Shop: a fun caper episode with a bit of Hollywood commentary on the side as the investigation squad sets up a phony pawn shop in hopes of flushing out a group of savvy criminals who target the nouveau riche residents of a suburb.  Pepper poses as the pawn shop chief and makes her way into the underbelly of high society as Crowley tries to get a positive i.d. on one crook with the help of an aging but man-hungry actress played by a pre-Dynasty Joan Collins.  The repartee between Collins and Earl Holliman makes this episode, with Crowley getting amusingly flustered by Collin’s less-than-subtle attempts to seduce him.  This episode also benefits from a tight script that blends excitement and humor well: it even makes room for a fun second subplot about a pre-teen customer at the pawn shop who has eyes for Pepper.

Task Force – Cop Killer: this two-part season finale really delivers the goods.  Pepper finds herself with a new boyfriend in motorcycle task force chief (played with matinee idol charm by James Darren) when a feminist co-worker gets her involved in volunteering for task force training.  Unfortunately, Pepper’s beau is targeted by someone in a nasty group of bikers led by Don Stroud, in his second fun performance from this season.  The producers obviously sunk a lot of money into this episode as it features a lot of cool location shooting and some great motorcycle stunts.  It also benefits from a strong supporting cast, including Charles Haid as a psychologically fragile task force applicant and Gerald McRaney as one of the bikers.  Best of all, it is tautly directed by Barry Shear, who directed several strong episodes in Season 2.

To read Schlockmania’s review of Police Woman: Season Two, click here.