Sunday, August 16, 2015

31 Day Miami Vice Challenge, Day 16: Favorite Season Four Episode

OMG, I'm all caught up. FINALLY.

Ahem, so onto the final challenge for today, in which I try to pick my favorite episode from a season of a series that was spiraling into absurdity. The first part of the season wasn't that bad, actually, but the one that really sticks out in my mind is "Child's Play," which eerily foreshadows today's police relationship with the black community.

In "Child's Play," Crockett shoots a 13-year-old black boy named Jeffrey, who, according to the story at the time, was only drawing a gun to defend his supposed mother. By the end of the episode, it's revealed that the boy was not actually the woman's child and was actually a runaway, Gordon Cavis, essentially trying to join a gun-running gang from Chicago. Cavis has outstanding warrants for assault, burglary, and murder, and the black community leaders were using his invented persona for their own monetary and political gain. If this doesn't sound like a page right out of our own 24-hour news cycle, I don't know what is.

Not only do we have the background of a young black boy suddenly causing the white populace to question whether or not he deserved to get shot by a police officer, but the black community is also the Bad Guy here, for using the event to their advantage. Even if this show was revolutionary for its time, it was primarily written by White Dudes - and Baby Boomers, nonetheless - who were allowing their own perceptions dictate what an entire community would do. Now, I'm not saying that anyone is blameless and that this sort of thing doesn't happen; but when you look at the portrayal of black people in mass media - media that was predominantly marketed toward white people - they always come off in a certain way, and that way is rarely, if ever, positive. Like in an early episode of Law & Order, where a black girl was the supposed victim of a hate crime (she was raped by white police officers and then had racial slurs written all over her). In actuality, she was pregnant by her boyfriend but didn't want her extremely religious family to know, so a prominent black lawyer used her and her lie to rouse the black neighborhood into riots. And remember, Dick Wolf was the executive producer of both shows at this point, so it seems like he was just reusing ideas with the same idea of delegitimizing very real struggles. It's like people all up in arms about the number of false rape reports by women, or when Reagan created the stereotype of a Welfare Queen off of one woman who had already paid for her crimes.

I appear to have gone off on a tangent. Back to the episode.

The thing is, Sonny takes responsibility for the boy and doesn't seem to care that Cavis is wanted for very severe crimes; even after he discovers the boy's true identity - well, he discovers "Jeffrey" doesn't exist - he still tries to pay for any medical treatment he would need to recover from his wound. However, the "mother" has been paying for them in cash from the gun runners, hoping to keep the ruse hidden, which is what reveals everything in the end. Sonny is also dealing with his own issues: his son (who he and the audience haven't seen for three years) lets him know that his mother's fiance wants to adopt him, sending a now-doubly guilty Crockett into a rage that nearly gets him suspended from the force. In the end, Sonny reconciles with both Cavis and his son, and Miami Vice Mountain is quiet again.

All in all, the episode is well-written and well-acted, and even though I disagree with the approach, I do like the relationship that Sonny has with Cavis. They never talk throughout the whole episode - Sonny talks at a comatose Cavis but never actually with the boy - but it's obvious by the end that they have a real connection. Now, if only the police officers involved in the shootings of unarmed black boys would have the same reactions to their choices as Sonny did.

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