Saturday, February 17, 2007

Miami Vice and the 3:00 a.m. Soul

"In the real dark night of the soul, it is always 3 o'clock in the morning, day after day," wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in his 1936 book The Crack-Up.

It’s a poignant, sad, personal expression of his own mental state, when, at 39, Fitzgerald comes to realize that somewhere along the line he has cracked inside. He nods to St. John of the Cross, the originator of "dark night of the soul," by inserting the word “real” into his line: for the mystic the dark night was a step in spiritual development, when the seeker finds traditional prayer unrewarding on a path to a much deeper relationship with God. But the “real” night of the soul for F. Scott and most of us is every-day, fear-laden doubt and isolation, which seems bleakest around 3.

(The Crack-Up is also the source for a line often misattributed to Oscar Wilde: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”)

A recent dark night of mine became illuminated by a SleuthTV rerun of Miami Vice (EST 2:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.). In the darkness of the living room the pulsing of the opening credits whisked me into the sleek, color-saturated mythic universe of Metro Dade and eased, for some moments, the weight of my own entangled thoughts.

I never saw season 4 or 5 of Vice, and most original fans became disillusioned somewhere in season 3. Season 4 is grittier, darker, and I’ve been enjoying it through the Sleuth in-sequence reruns.

And so it is 2:00 a.m., and “Mirror Image” begins. It was the first of the 3 ep. arc where Sonny has amnesia. He’s in an explosion while brokering a mob summit, and with the concussion, has no memory of the police officer Crockett, only the drug dealer Burnett. He becomes a killing machine.

The mind starts to wander into the episode--

Woa—-Antonio "Huggy Bear" Fargas. They're just messing with us here, giving us Starsky & Hutch’s funny snitch as a serious bad guy . . ha! it’s Julia Roberts, just before Mystic Pizza, as the drug moll; eighties make-up isn’t kind to anyone . . . Tubbs looks very fine in that beard . . . I think Don Johnson is underrated for this show . . . Matt Zoller Seitz has a nice appreciation of the series over at the House . . . a young Chris Cooper, fresh from Matewan (what is John Sayles doing these days?), just popped up as the cop who has sold out to the Mob. How funny is that—-on the day that Breach opens, where he plays the worst traitor in U.S. history . . . .

So, the world goes on--things are connected, and the center holds. These are little points, but sometimes at 3:00 a.m. they are enough to ease a dark night.

And you can always connect with a great moment from "The Great McCarthy" in season one. Still hard to believe this scene is from a weekly television show from 1984.