Schlockmania’s look at the debut season of this key ’80s cop show continues with six more key episodes. Like the episodes covered in the first half of this overview, these show how Miami Vice pioneered the cinematic look and feel that is de rigueur in modern-day television. Read on for the rundown…
Golden Triangle: This two-parter was the first instance of Miami Vice delving into the mystical backstory of Martin Castillo, the supervising lieutenant character so memorably played by Edward James Olmos. The first part of the double-header starts in familiar “chase the dealers” style but it soon reveals Castillo’s history with the D.E.A., his time in Southeast Asia, the wife he lost and (best of all) his martial arts skills. An excellent showcase for Olmos and also important in how it laid the groundwork for the show’s exploration of the international, often government-supported network that moves drugs around the globe.
Smuggler’s Blues: As any fan knows, the use of popular music played a key role in creating the unique vibe of Miami Vice. That element of the show is carried to its furthest extent here, highlighting a hit song by Glenn Frey and featuring him in a key role as a drug-smuggling pilot who helps Crockett and Tubbs flush out a double agent in the D.E.A. Makes impressive use of the title song as the linchpin of the episode’s score. Also features a cinematic, nail-biter of a scene involving the defusing of a bomb. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, a.k.a. Starsky from Starsky & Hutch, who would also direct Band Of The Hand for producer Michael Mann.
Rites Of Passage: Like most t.v. dramas of the era, Miami Vice did not have a continuing storyline from week to week – but it did have some recurring guest characters who would build both the themes and the mythology of the show. This one features Valerie Gordon (Pam Grier!), an old flame of Tubbs and a cop who has come to Miami for her sister, who has drifted into the call girl trade. Grier and Philip Michael Thomas have a nice rapport and the episode is dark stuff, with one of the classic Miami Vice endings. Warning: after you see how they use “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner in this episode, you’ll never think of it in the same way again.
Nobody Lives Forever: An interesting change of pace that involves the crime plot – revolving around a trio of teen thrill-seeking psychos – sharing equal time with a plot about Crockett being distracted from his work by a new romance with architect Brenda (Kim Griest). The romantic scenes have a warmth and intimacy, with strong work by Johnson and Griest, that create an interesting tension with the crime material. This is reflected by Tubbs and Castillo, who have strong dramatic scenes as they force Crockett to decide how dedicated he is to the police life. The balancing act between tender romance and tough action never falters and makes the episode fascinating to watch.
Evan: Perhaps THE best of all episodes from this season, with a layered plot that has Crockett locking horns with a gun dealer’s henchman (William Russ as the title character) who happens to be a former cop. The two have a shared history involving a tragedy in their early days that both have never truly dealt with. Said tragedy involves the sensitive, thoughtful handling a topic that was taboo on t.v. at the time and leads to a fantastic monologue scene for Johnson that is some of his best acting in the series run. This episode is notable for developing the bond between Tubbs and Crockett. Even better, the gripping finale demonstrates the show’s artful touch with rock music by effectively deploying Peter Gabriel’s “Biko” to thrilling, emotionally cathartic effect.
Lombard: This is another key mythology episode for Miami Vice, featuring a gangster character whose crime career had rippled through the first season and who would also make a memorable return in its final season. Lombard is a mobster who the cops have to protect so he can testify in a mob trial and the episode allows the show to explore the complicated mixture of rivalry and friendship between vice cops and the crooks they have to associate with. Farina, a former cop, is fantastic in this early role, calculating and charming by turns, and his work here would lead to him being the star of another Mann-produced cop series, Crime Story.
To read the first half of Schlockmania’s Favorite Episodes From Miami Vice Season 1, click here.