The final season of Miami Vice shows that everyone involved knew the end was coming.  Themes of weariness and questioning the nature of their work run rampant in the episodes as several characters struggle not only with their own ability to do the job but a deeper question of if it’s worth bothering at all.  Also, a few key characters harkening back to the early glories of the show return to bring their stories full circle.

As noted in the first half of this overview, the results were not perfect. The budgets were slimmer and the episode-to-episode quality was haphazard.  However, the show’s creative team was still trying – and at their best, they created some memorable television whose dark take on law enforcement set a tone that future cop shows would pick up. Here are five more highlights from the show’s final season…

To Have And To Hold: A strong episode where the familiar cop show material is balanced with character-oriented drama. Crockett has to step back from his work to help his ex-wife (Belinda Montgomery) deal with their rebellious son, who resents her for becoming pregnant again, while Tubbs falls for a newly-widowed mob bride (Elpidia Carrillo) while dealing an ambitious drug dealer (Miguel Ferrer) undercover.  There’s an interesting theme of troubled sons in both plots and this well-paced episode juggles them effectively.  Even better, the support cast does fantastic work: Carrillo has good chemistry with Thomas, the same is true for Montgomery and Johnson and Ferrer is excellent as a kingpin with yuppified, white collar style of sleaziness.

The Cell Within: this episode stays within the season’s theme of frustration with the flaws of law enforcement but tackles it from a quirky, high-concept angle. It’s largely a solo venture for Tubbs, who finds himself kidnapped by a “reformed” ex-con (the great John P. Ryan) that he put away.  Said ex-con has achieved wealth as a writer and uses it to pursue his own demented yet intellectual approach to justice.  The plot goes for broke in a way that is gloriously pulpy and intriguing brainy all at once and Ryan is tons of fun to watch, devouring scenery in a way similar to his work in Cannon Films from this era.  Look out for erstwhile filmmaker L.M. Kit Carson as a pretentious “sponsor” to Ryan’s character.

Over The Line: Corruption with the police department was a recurring plot motif in Miami Vice but this one tackles it from a uniquely ambitious and thoughtful direction.  Against a backdrop of budget cuts for the police force, Crockett and Tubbs find themselves dealing with a shadow organization of cops determined to pursue justice on their own terms.  It bypasses “psycho cop” thrills of the Magnum Force variety and instead takes the concept in a noirish direction where philosophical debate is as important as the shootouts.  Strong work from Johnson, Thomas and Olmos, all of whom convincingly convey the burnout dogging their characters, as well as Anthony Barrile as a vigilante cop struggling with the ethics of his group’s actions.

World Of Trouble: This is the most satisfying of the final season’s episodes that revisit major supporting characters from the show’s first season.  It’s a showcase for Dennis Farina as fan favorite Al Lombard: he comes out of hiding to reunite with his son and his son’s family but discovers that the corruption of Miami’s crime world is reluctant to leave him or the ones he loves alone.  It’s a nice coda for this character that plays along with the season’s sense of darkness while allowing the character to make a case for his own hard-won sense of honor.  Farina knocks it out of the park here, particularly in the family drama scenes, and the ending manages to be tragic and oddly rousing all at once.

Freefall: The show’s ambitious two-hour finale is one of its finest achievements and the single best episode of its final two seasons.  Crockett and Tubbs are pressed into service in Central America by some shady U.S. feds to extradite a dictator (Ian McShane), only to find themselves mired in a series of double crosses that threaten both their lives and careers. The results fully recapture the ambition and style of Miami Vice‘s beginnings while staying true to the dark take on law enforcement and its costs that developed in its later seasons.  The show’s central cast gets nice support from McShane as well as Robert Beltran and Elpidia Carrillo and t.v. vet Russ Mayberry directs it all in a suitably cinematic style.  The final scenes between Crockett and Tubbs finish their character’s journey in a somber yet heartfelt way, with both Johnson and Thomas doing charismatic work that ends things on the right note.