And with the second episode of Miami Vice we’re not only introduced to the secondary cast but the particular relationship the show has with both sex workers and the stress of working undercover. I took um, a lot of caps, because there’s a getting-ready-to-go-out scene and I love those.
For a full summary of this episode, see the Miami Vice wiki entry for “Heart of Darkness”
Miami Vice was more than just a pastel distraction. It examined some legit issues in both society and law enforcement, had awesome lady characters and people of colour, all while holding fast to Michael Mann’s glorious music video aesthetic.
These posts aren’t really plot summaries, but you’ll find links to Miami Vice wiki articles if you desire all the dirty deets. I’m just going to try and look at some visual themes I’ve picked up after watching the show a half-dozen times through.
There’s an extended and sweaty working out scene and honestly the idea of doing aerobics in tights seems like an engraved invitation to swamp crotch in the least. It is a primo look though. I love the idea of working out in your apartment but wearing a cute belt. Live for yourself, right?
The hunk of beef who is there to fix the air conditioner seems straight out of a porno playbook, and we see the glass jalousie windows that are basically in every home in Miami, according to this show (and I guess they were common in mid-century homes and have logical use but all I can think of is what a bitch they’d be to fix.
Turns out the girl can’t pay for the fix and the scene gets tense and a little non-con, and right when your procedural drama brain thinks this is the body set up, we get a pan out.
It’s a set! A porn set. Our dudes, Crockett and Tubbs, are posing as “pornographic film distributors” from New Jersey—a lol thought with Crockett’s accent, but whatev—who are looking to buy. Rather than the drugs they’re normally investigating, the guy they’re after, Kovics, is under suspicion of using underage performers. That’s generally the vibe I get from Miami Vice as a show: sex work is fine, but for goodness sake, be moral. It’s way too fucking rare to see acceptance of sex work in cop shows.
Anyway, whoop, it’s the cops! Who arrest Crockett and Tubbs, to cement their position as not-cops. Please enjoy the pants situation on Zito there on the left. What are you doing, bud.
Of course, they had nothing to hold them on, so off they go, in a fucking gorgeous car. I’m not gonna lie, I have an embarrassing number of caps that are just really pretty Mercedes and other luxury cars. This pretty one is being tailed, and not well.
Turns out, btw, their driver is this guy named “Artie”, the right-hand man of the dude they’re trying to bust. If you paid attention in the credits you could guess who it was, but I’m not sure if you’d have been nearly as excited in 1984 as the most notable thing the dude in question was in was Cruising.
Back at the station, they’re going through muscle mags for some reason I am not 100% on, but Gina and Trudy are into it. You know they kept copies.
The feds, looking decidedly uncool, show up and give some expos on this Kovics guy and his moustache.
They are gently escorted out because they don’t know how to share information. Look at these nerds and their department store suits.
The word has dropped that the girl from the opening scene is very dead, possibly because she seemed likely to talk to the cops. That is sad, but the chrome on this phone is great. I also am uncomfortable about the idea of using the phones at the murder house to take your police calls, but I guess you have no choice, really, without cell phones.
Oh jeez. Here are the girl’s parents. She was a 16 year old runaway from Kansas, god.
Here, quick, your moment of Tubbs and also this #1 COP mug which seems like a sarcastic thing to have.
Trudy, looking GOOD, is basically a white hat when it comes to computer hacking and has got our dudes some deets on what the FBI is looking for: namely this “Artie” fellow who is actually an undercover agent. THE PLOT THICKENS.
Let me introduce you to the guys who wear my favourite shirts on TV that are forever doomed to be background players except for a couple really weird or sad exceptions. First is Switek, in this lovely blue number, setting up a hidden camera in the cops’ fake hock shop:
And second is Zito, hiding there in the back because I’m trying to protect you from the intensity of his shirt, a sheer number you can see his pack of Camels through. He’s helping out this tech dude, who tells him “Most people don’t know squat about microelectronics.” Bro, it is 1984, they wouldn’t.
Zito and Switek are charismatic dummies and Tubbs educates them and us on what their fake hock shop needs for their own safety and to get better results. Man worked Armed Robbery in NY, he knows his shit.
Actually, maybe you are strong enough to handle Zito’s shirt. Also I love everything happening in this cap. Zito confused, little tech guy peeking, Sonny knowing Zito is about to get learned.
Switek has an in with the FBI thanks to (and I quote from the MV Wiki) “Switek cutting his nephew a break on a drug bust at a UB40 concert.” I will take this moment to show you the front of Switek’s shirt. There’s tentacles and other ocean shit.
Anyway, FBI guy spills that Artie musta gone over (switched sides), he’d stopped talking to his contact, he’d moved out of his bugged apartment, etc. Basically “disappeared.” And we get to see Artie. Fucking Ed O’Neill, as practically an infant even though this is only three years before Married With Children airs.
Think about this guy’s nephew listening to “Red Red Wine.”
Anyway, montage scene of getting ready so just enjoy some caps and imagine it to Going Under by Devo, intercut by lots of pictures of their beautiful car.
And we arrive at the dinner club, which has an amorphous “sea” type of theme, I think? That’s a giant lit ship’s steering wheel reflected so prettily on this car.
So, we meet Artie, wearing a pretty sheer dress shirt (no undershirt either). Men in sheers is semi-normal in this show, but there’s a lot of them in this episode and since nobody interviews the folks who did costuming for this show the way people interview costumers now, I dunno if it was about implied nudity (relating to porn), tying the characters into the world they’re pretending to be part of that is also becoming part of them.
I mean, Sonny is wearing basically a fishnet shirt, a look we don’t really see again, (it is long sleeved, even, we see the unfinished cuffs in that getting ready scene). My theory is it’s a really nice super lightweight wool fishnet. Anyway, it’s giving him some Ricardo Montalbans.
Artie takes them to Kovics and they make nice, angling for this deal.
Artie gets called away to deal with a thing and takes Tubbs and Crockett with.
This suit basically says “dude gonna get beat” and he is. Artie kind of crosses the line, actually, and our dudes gotta pull him off and he freaks, a little. Real reassuring from an undercover dude.
So they go visit Artie’s wife. She is not doing well. Turns out Artie had asked to be pulled out multiple times and the feds hadn’t listened. Eugh.
Don’t worry, Miami Vice almost never lets it get too heavy. While the dudes been gone, what has Elvis been up to?
Time to go meet with Artie and awkwardly/accusatorily come out to each other as being undercover. The excess of mirrored panels in Artie’s apartment have as much chance of being there to reflect (lol) his fractured self as they’re there because it was the mid-fucking-eighties in Miami.
Look at these fucking sculptures, also. They’re just mildly existing in this scene, but cinch the idea of what Artie’s apartment and fake life is. I really want to know where the production team got their art. It’s a huge visual part of what makes the Miami Vice Look, these textures and textiles and paint finishes and sculptures.
How’s the fake hock shop, going boys?
Watching it like it’s home videos. I will say, the hair that guy was selling he said you could swim with, and my brain was like “but how does it look after?” I can’t imagine the fake hair tech in the 1980s was awesome.
Our dudes get some iffy news about what side Artie’s on, and Crockett is upset because he sees a possible self in Artie.
They go to his apartment again and, of course, he isn’t there and Crockett is upset. Take a closer look at this fucking blazer, however. It’s unlined. It’s a shaped linen bag with shoulderpads. I fucking LOVE IT.
Crocket takes his feelings out on Elvis, back at the boat. See, this young man:
Ate up Sonny’s Buddy Holly records. So he does the logical thing and threatens the gator with a gun and throwing his favourite blanket overboard. Elvis is upset but luckily does not have to apologise because a moment after, Crockett realises what he’s doing.
Then, Artie calls to set up a meet and please just enjoy some phones.
Tubbs gets wired and make sure you see this shot of a dude in the backup squad in shorts I took almost a decade ago.
That wire basically immediately malfunctions and is found, damning Tubbs and Crockett. It’s chase scene time. Hey, look, a building I am pretty sure I saw in GTA: Vice City .
The baddies and our dudes are in a gorgeous Cadillac limo and the baddies fucking RAMP it?!?! I’m so proud of this big boy?!
At the docks, Artie (who is not unmasked as undercover) is given a gun to kill our dudes. But!
He has not gone over after all! Sonny is tossed his gun and there’s some blam-blamming.
Artie picks up a fast-shooty gun (in a casual move that makes Ed O’Neil look like a beast) and destroys my heart and the limo, killing Kovics inside.
Then it’s day and Artie is getting taken back, the hero.
He talks a moment with Crockett and Tubbs, he tells them “I did some marginal stuff, I didn’t commit murder.” Nonetheless, he doesn’t know how he’ll fare, going back to the world and his wife, after living the adrenaline high of his life undercover.
At the vice cop bar, Zito and Switek are chatting up folks with the deets on their cool fake hock shop, as though Tubbs did not guide them on how best to do it.
Zito’s shirt! Even Tubb’s two-tone number doesn’t compare. He’s just too classy.
Sonny drops a line about the mirrors at amusement parks that distort the reflection of the viewer. Artie was like that for him, a twisted view of his life undercover, frenzied and lost. So maybe all those mirrors in Artie’s apartment were a thoughtful implementation by set designers after all.
Their lieutenant comes over and lets them know that Artie hung himself during a break in the debriefing and we end with another tight shot of that file copy of his ID.
Man, what a second episode. Both this and the next help set up the personalities of the secondary players in the show and also cement themes that weave through the whole run. See, they gotta get it in before some VERY big shit goes down in a couple episodes.
As much as I’d love to write monographs on this show, I’ve really only got time and energy to cap the shit out of it and share the things I’d be yelling at the TV about anyway. If you like this and want more, become my Patreon supporter to access to posts like these first and also get zip files of the first cull of caps (which is about twice what is used in a post).
Also published on Medium.