Saturday, August 15, 2015

31 Day Miami Vice Challenge, Day 11: Favorite Episode of the Series

When I sat down to think of my favorite episode of the entire series, I immediately knew which one it was. It's not the best episode, which I'll tackle on Day 22, but it is the one I watch nearly every time I want to start a Miami Vice binge (it happens more often than I'd like to admit, actually). I have all the lines memorized, and yet I still get the same emotional ups and downs as when I saw it the first time.
Via Return to the 80s
"Brother's Keeper," the very first episode of Miami Vice, has everything I love about the series: fast cars, fast boats, ridiculous plot points*, bright lights, lots of women in bikinis, awesome music. This episode is why the show caught so many people's attention and why, even to this day, the first couple of seasons are the pinnacle of cool.
Via Miami Vice Online
More specifically to me, however, I love the character development. Sure, it can be a little rough at times, like when Rodriguez (RIP, sir; I still like Castillo better than you) clumsily delivers the exposition about Sonny being a rebellious, no rules vice cop because he doesn't file reports, but Tubbs is handled more efficiently. At first, you don't know where he falls; what is his connection to Calderone? Who was the guy that was shot in the flashback sequence? Is he Jamaican? But then, it all comes out when he realizes he has to at least trust someone if he's going to get Calderone. By the end of the episode, the dynamic between the two leads is firmly established: one is familiar with the game the criminals play, and the other has the rookie passion to bring those guys to justice.

As far as the scenes go, there was a nice mixture of light and dark. In the above picture, with Sonny going into a payphone to call Caroline, the conversation the former lovers have was beautifully scripted and performed. Caroline has no idea why Sonny is even asking her these questions, and she's surrounded by the comforts of home, while Sonny is rushing (well, rushing in the sense that he stopped at a payphone because Calderone isn't set to depart for twenty minutes or something) to capture a newly-bailed drug lord and is alone and outside in the dark of night. Earlier in the episode, Sonny confronts his longtime friend and former partner Scottie Wheeler, pictured below, about being the leak to Calderone. The desperation in both of the men is so gut-wrenching that you can't help but see each of their points of view.
Via AVS Forum
To contrast the darker elements, we get scenes like the pure gold that is Tubbs, at this point still posing as coke dealer Teddy Prentiss, dancing like a madman as he's watching a stripper perform rather tamely (by modern standards), and I can't hear "Somebody's Watching Me" without thinking of it. Then later on, after the vice squad set up Leon to turn himself in as an informant, we see the camaraderie that Scottie and Sonny had, joking with each other as Scottie, now a DEA agent, congratulates the group on their unconventional thinking.

It's this balance that made Vice popular, and had it continued, the series might not have tanked when it did or struggled to stay relevant. It went away from being about the characters and tried to become a statement show, but I at least can go rewatch "Brother's Keeper."


* I do not, for one second, believe that Ricardo Tubbs could have gotten a job working in Miami after essentially going rogue cop. I mean, he even failed to capture the dude he wove a web of lies to apprehend! But whatever, I don't even care. Sonny and Rico FOREVS. 
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