Season 1, Episodes 19 and 20: “The Home Invaders” and “Nobody Lives Forever”
Original airdates: Mar. 15 and Mar. 29, 1985
In the previous episodes of Miami Vice, Tubbs sang, Noogie got married, and Crockett took things rather seriously.
While Crockett undeniably stands as the show’s central and most significant character, the first season of Miami Vice has been focused on defining the supporting characters around him, each to varying degrees of success.
This choice isn’t entirely unexpected, but it reflects the producers’ confidence in Don Johnson’s ability to embody Crockett’s character in a fundamental yet compelling way.
Crockett fits the mold of a familiar character—a flawed but inherently good cop—and Johnson excels in portraying this role.
For a series built on procedural foundations and driven by diverse aesthetics, Crockett’s simplicity is oddly captivating.
However, as the first season approaches its conclusion, it appears that the writers decided it was time to delve deeper into Crockett’s past and psyche.
Consequently, both “The Home Invaders” and “Nobody Lives Forever” primarily focus on Crockett, exploring his origins and hinting at his future trajectory.
Similar to episodes that center on Tubbs, these two episodes tend to force the drama a bit, pushing the show’s concept of “raising personal stakes” in a way that feels slightly off.
Nonetheless, both episodes manage to work reasonably well, largely due to Don Johnson’s self-awareness, a quality that Philip Michael Thomas’s character lacks.
Upon my initial viewing of “The Home Invaders,” I assumed the show purposefully wrote Tubbs out of the episode, emphasizing its dedication to Crockett’s narrative arc.
However, I later learned that Thomas’s absence here resulted from an injury he sustained while “doing a stunt” in a previous episode.
Nonetheless, the fact that they could swiftly write Tubbs out of the storyline indicates his character’s relative expendability in this specific context.
In “Invaders,” we delve into Crockett’s professional history when he, along with Castillo and their team, is tasked with assisting the Robbery Division in solving a serial robbery case.
To Crockett’s surprise, he discovers that Robbery is under the leadership of his former boss and mentor, Lt. John Malone.
The mutual respect between Crockett and Malone is evident from the start, a testament to their past working relationship.
However, it becomes apparent that Malone is struggling to crack the case, falling short of Lt. Castillo’s high standards.
Surprisingly, Castillo openly expresses his dissatisfaction with various procedures, providing a stern and disappointed critique (Edward James Olmos excels in this role, embodying the ultimate disappointed and stern father figure).
This situation forces Crockett into an awkward position, torn between defending the man who taught him so much and ensuring the successful closure of the case.
This plot, like many others in the series, isn’t groundbreaking.
Crockett grapples with his allegiances to both authority figures while retaining his characteristic smart-ass attitude towards them.
What sets this episode apart is its relatively low-key approach to a well-worn storyline trope.
Malone isn’t depicted as a fallen, self-destructive character or someone unaware of his job skills.
Instead, he makes a few significant mistakes during the case, which are evident to everyone.
The stakes remain moderate, with no fatalities. Crockett also maintains his composure, refusing to overreact to Castillo’s criticisms or Malone’s errors.
He initially tries to defend Malone, emphasizing his loyalty, but eventually acknowledges the issues at hand.
Although he’s surprised when Malone decides to retire, his reaction is fueled more by personal affection than anything else.
Additionally, “Invaders” showcases Miami Vice’s signature spin on the typical police procedural setpiece: the break-in.
The initial break-in sequence is genuinely thrilling, offering a unique perspective by following the criminals through their process.
Esai Morales makes a guest appearance as one of the robbers, a notable inclusion given his role as the father of Edward James Olmos’s William Adama character in the Battlestar Galactica spinoff/prequel, Caprica.
On the other hand, “Nobody Lives Forever” takes an overly dramatic and rushed approach to delve into Crockett’s romantic life.
It’s evident that the show struggles to tell compelling love stories about its characters, and this episode doesn’t break the pattern.
At the beginning of the episode, Crockett is already embroiled in what’s portrayed as a passionate romance with local architect Brenda.
However, the chemistry between Don Johnson and Kim Griest doesn’t quite match the intense attraction the script suggests, and the relationship’s rapid progression makes it challenging to buy into.
While the episode attempts to explore questions about Crockett’s commitment to his job in the context of seeking love, it would have benefited from a more extended exploration of Crockett and Brenda’s relationship over several episodes.
Crockett appears deeply in love with Brenda, but their relationship quickly becomes a distraction from his work, endangering Tubbs in the process.
This prompts Crockett to seriously reconsider their relationship, even though it seems they haven’t been together for very long.
Unfortunately, the episode includes a lengthy sequence where Crockett takes the boat out onto the water to ponder his situation, intercut with scenes from a mere 20 minutes prior, assuming the audience has already invested deeply in the relationship.
As a rule of thumb, montages featuring scenes from recent events are rarely a good idea. “Vice” has used this technique two or three times now.
Inevitably, the story’s resolution follows a predictable path.
Crockett decides to end things with Brenda, realizing that his true commitment lies with Tubbs, who coincidentally is being pursued on foot by a car.
It’s both amusing and exhilarating to watch Tubbs running from a car and Crockett taking down one of the episode’s underwhelming villains as the man screams, “Noooooboddddy lives foreeeevvveerrr!” The conclusion unfolds rapidly and intensely, at times feeling excessive.
However, Miami Vice occasionally succumbs to its own excesses.
I appreciated that “Nobody Lives Forever” revisited the seemingly dead-but-maybe-not relationship between Crockett and Gina.
Her reaction to Brenda was entirely understandable, as she was a far better match for Crockett. Is it acceptable to ship “Grockett” 25 years later? I’m going to.
GO-FAST BOAT WATCH: The second episode featured the iconic go-fast boat, but as previously mentioned, it was more “go-slow” this time. What a disappointing tease. Crockett and Brenda do take it out for a spin, but it isn’t emphasized too much.
GATOR WATCH: Sadly, I didn’t spot Elvis this time. Poor Elvis, indeed.
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