Miami Vice – Explosive, Stylish and Downright Epic

The lead actors, Don Johnson and Philip Michael Thomas, are excellent.

Certainly the characters are stylish and cool, as is the case in most Michael Mann films, but the show gives them some hard-hitting drama as well. There are moments in this series when you really feel for these guys. Vice cops live tough lives, and the emotional rollercoaster that comes with it is portrayed on screen, too. Being undercover to stop crime is a tough gig, but with all the turmoil that comes with it, it makes for an interesting story. Having Johnson and Thomas effortlessly switch from cool action hero to believable human being is a testament to their skill.

Crockett was the hottest TV personality in the late eighties. An alligator pet, a fancy sports car, and living on a boat made this guy a hit with the ladies.

The show, however, is driven by a strong human element that gives it its dramatic edge. A few episodes into the series, Crockett is struggling through a divorce with his wife, Caroline (Belinda Montgomery), which hurts him deeply. She can’t deal with his job, even though they have a kid together. After remarrying Caitlin Davies (Sheena Easton), he becomes a casualty of his war on crime. It is a notable characteristic of the show that all the ‘cool’ posturing and slick gunplay are done (more often than not) with the intention of letting us know that these characters aren’t superheroes and that their actions have real world consequences. Tubbs’ story is also impacted by this grudge, as he cannot get over his brother’s death at the hands of the Calderone drug cartel. When corruption within their own department becomes a problem, the two also have to question their own loyalty. 

Saundra Santiago’s Gina Calabrese and Olivia Brown’s “Big Booty Trudy” are the two ladies on the Vice team. Both get their own story arcs and hard-hitting stories. Throughout the series, both actresses give incredible performances.

As Lieutenant Martin Castillo, Edward James Olmos (making his debut in episode seven!) embodies a moody, quietly powerful presence unlike anything else seen on television before. Castillo is a quiet, no-nonsense boss, who at first doesn’t agree with Crockett’s style of police work. They clash but eventually find common ground. It’s almost impossible to picture Miami Vice without Castillo. There are plenty of pastels, pop songs, and Jan Hammer’s score in the first few seasons, both visually and sonically 

Season One – The Season That Started It All

As the pilot begins, we meet Miami vice cop James “Sonny” Crockett (Don Johnson), who loses his partner (Jimmy Smits) in a drug bust that doesn’t turn out as planned. In the aftermath of this incident, a New York cop named Ricardo “Rico” Tubbs (Philip Michael Thomas) pays a visit to the Miami Police Department. Crockett and his superiors don’t realise that Tubbs’ story has more to it than they think. Crockett and Tubbs eventually hit it off and before you know it, they’re partners. One of the show’s most memorable segments is the legendary ‘In the air tonight’ segment by Phil Collins. A hitman was hunting Crockett and his family in Calderon’s Return Part 2, while the two-part episode about Castillo, The Golden Triangle, was riveting and intense. 

David Soul and Paul Michael Glaser, two of the stars of the police crime-drama series Starsky and Hutch, directed an episode each in season one. It is Gregory Sierra’s character that dies in Glaser’s episode. Bruce Willis’ character fires rocket launchers as he plays a deadly arms dealer with a short temper in Soul’s episode. Saundra Santiago and Olivia Brown deliver outstanding performances in the episode Give a little, Take a little. 

Season Two

A two-part episode of Vice, The Prodigal Son sees Crockett and Tubbs travel to New York on a case, and is one of the most memorable episodes of Vice. As Tubb’s flame Valerie, Pam Grier returns to the series. Paul Michael Glaser, the Starsky and Hutch star, directed the episode as well.

There are a few episodes in this high-octane second season that aren’t quite as good as those we saw earlier in the season, but the stakes are still high and the season doesn’t deliver anything worth skipping. 

Out Where The Buses Don’t Run features some strong acting. The montage of Crockett and Tubbs driving in the Ferrari Daytona to Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms is a real treat. I got chills watching the episode. 

In the finale, Tubbs is reunited with Calderone’s daughter, who has now given birth to their child. However, Calderone’s son is in Miami seeking revenge for his father’s death. The second season ends on a high note. 

Season Three

In Season Three, the storylines, along with the general tone of the show, become grittier and nihilistic; more episodes end abruptly. It was the debut of Crockett’s more famous car, his white Ferrari Testarossa. Season three has a cameo from a young Liam Neeson as an IRA arms dealer, who has a hand in blowing up Crockett’s initial car. Streetwise features Wesley Snipes and Bill Paxton. This episode is great fun and fans of these actors will really enjoy this episode. Unfortunately this season features the death of one of the main characters, which hits the feelings hard and the loss is felt for the rest of the season. 

Season Four

A significantly lower amount of dark, gritty storylines are used in season four, and some of the lighter episodes veer wildly into science-fiction and comedy, such as the seventh episode, “Missing Hours”. In “Like a Hurricane,” Sheena Easton appears as Crockett’s girlfriend, and later wife, Caitlin Davies. After five episodes, she was killed off in the episode “Deliver Us from Evil”. With the aforementioned Sonny Burnett story arc carrying into season 5, this season represents the only season-end cliffhanger on the show.

Season Five – The Epic Conclusion

In Season 5, the dark and gritty storyline continues in the first two episodes of the series, ‘Hostile Takeover’ and ‘Redemption in Blood’. These episodes wrap up Crockett’s amnesia storyline, which was one of my favourite segments of the show. Don Johnson had plenty of opportunity to flex his acting chops as Crockett as a cold-blooded hitman. ‘Heart of Night,’ the third episode, features Castillo kicking some asses and taking some names. 

Tim Truman has replaced Jan Hammer as composer for the fifth season. Fans will notice there is a distinct difference between the music now and what it used to be. We’re used to Jan Hammer’s score, so at first it seems out of place, but after a few episodes we become used to it with ease. Crockett and Tubbs’ chapter is closed in ‘Freefall’, which sees them part ways. The last episode was a strong send off for the series and its characters, and saying goodbye to these characters after five seasons was a bittersweet moment for me. 

Verdict

This boxset still shows us Miami Vice is one of the greatest shows ever on TV. It showcases some hard-hitting storylines that have a sense of reality. This is created by ending most episodes on an abrupt low that stays with you long after the show is over. 

There is really a sense of attachment to the whole Vice Squad and the characters are brilliantly written. 

You never see a series that can suck in such star power these days. Miami Vice features numerous well-known guest stars as villains or as fellow detectives. Their presence heightens the episodes. It is Vice’s music that steals the show. Everyone will find that 80’s tune that completely steals a scene, In The Air Tonight being one. Brothers In Arms by Dire Straits is another. From the very first episode to the very last, this series doesn’t stop delivering. 

The boxset I reviewed was kindly sent to me by Mill Creek. This boxset features really cool artwork and each season has its own unique artwork which sticks to the style of the boxset. I found no problems with the picture or audio while watching. It was incredible to see this classic series on Blu-ray. This is definitely a box set worth picking up!