Season 5 of Miami Vice is the final season of the series. The season premiered on November 4, 1988 on NBC, with the continuation of the Sonny Burnett story arc in "Hostile Takeover". The season (and the show) concluded on May 21, 1989 after 17 episodes, with the series finale "Freefall". However, three additional "lost" episodes aired on NBC in the summer of 1989, and one final episode premiered in 1990 on USA Network due to NBC originally deeming its plot unsuitable for broadcast. The entire season was released on DVD on June 26, 2007. Season 5 is currently available for viewing on the NBC website.
- Don Johnson as Metro-Dade Detective James "Sonny" Crockett
- Philip Michael Thomas as Metro-Dade Detective Ricardo "Rico" Tubbs
- Saundra Santiago as Metro-Dade Detective Gina Calabrese
- Michael Talbott as Metro-Dade Detective Stan Switek
- Olivia Brown as Metro-Dade Detective Trudy Joplin
- Edward James Olmos as Metro-Dade Lieutenant Martin "Marty" Castillo
- Martin Ferrero as Isadore "Izzy" Moreno (4 episodes)
- Justin Lazard as Joey Hardin (3 episodes)
- See: List of Guest Stars
- See: Season 5 Music
- The stories become even more dark and violent than in previous seasons, perhaps peaking with the "lost" episode "Too Much, Too Late", which was not originally broadcast because its child-molestation plot was considered too extreme for TV (although it was subsequently aired on USA Network in January of 1990 after the series went into syndication). Language also becomes more gritty to coincide with the dark storylines.
- Stan Switek becomes a far more serious character, and his severe gambling addiction is an underlying plot line throughout the season, coming to a head in the series finale "Freefall".
- Tubbs' hair remains short and his beard disappears shortly after the season starts (although it briefly reappears in "Borrasca", only for him to notably shave it off partway through the episode, indicating that once again the network changed the season's running order). Crockett's hair is shaggier and gradually reaches its longest length in the series.
- Switek's hair also becomes longer and shaggier. He often wears it slicked back while working undercover.
- The clothing style changes yet again to darker shades of color combinations first seen in season 1 and season 2, becoming more modern. Crockett also begins occasionally wearing stonewashed blue jeans, denim jackets and leather.
- Crockett's sidearm changes again, to a newer Smith & Wesson, the .45-caliber 4506 (although it is not seen until "Line of Fire").
- The emphasis on gunplay is markedly higher than before, with characters seen firing weapons whilst diving through the air, sliding across tables, and even dual-wielding firearms.
- Tim Truman replaces Jan Hammer as the series' background music producer. This brings about a significant change in the show's sound, with Truman's harder-edged drum- and guitar-driven score replacing the smooth synth vibes of the previous four seasons. The change divides viewers -- some compare Truman's work unfavorably to Hammer's, while others feel it fits the darker tone of the season. Despite the change, Jan Hammer's "Miami Vice Theme" was left intact over the opening credits until the show's end. Truman's music has never been commercially released.
- Dick Wolf leaves the show to focus on his series Law & Order, which would premiere in the fall of 1990, more than a year after Miami Vice left the air and tied with the series Gunsmoke (and, as of 2018, Wolf's other L&O series, Special Victims Unit) for most seasons on air (20, from 1990-2010). Michael Mann is still credited as executive producer (along with Robert Ward and Richard Brams). This makes him the only person to be credited as executive producer on every episode of Vice, although it is said his position was more of a figurehead in season 5 and he had little actual involvement. With the end of Miami Vice apparent from the beginning of this season, Michael Mann decided against assuming a more active role again that would have been similar to seasons 1 and 2.
- Season 5 started in November rather than September due to a writers' strike during the spring and summer of 1988, delaying production and reducing the number of episodes from 22 to 21 (20 one-hour episodes and the two-hour finale).
- The season aired in several different time slots throughout its run. It aired Friday nights at 10:00pm until February, 1989, when it moved to 9:00pm. The season (and series) finale "Freefall" was aired on Sunday at 9:00pm. The show finally moved to Wednesdays at 10:00pm for the three "lost" episodes that aired on NBC after "Freefall" and limited repeats of fifth season shows.
- Vice was also pre-empted frequently for specials, movies, and sporting events, and finally put on "hiatus" in March, 1989 (for the launch of Dream Street) until April, 1989. Miami Vice's final NBC broadcast was on July 26, 1989 with a repeat of "Fruit of the Poison Tree".
- One repeat episode ("Jack of All Trades"), broadcast on July 5, 1989, was the result of a call-in poll done during the episode "Leap of Faith". Viewers called a 900 number to pick between three fifth season episodes: "The Lost Madonna", "Bad Timing" and "Jack of All Trades". Per some contemporary TV listings, "Too Much, Too Late" was scheduled to air but was pulled by NBC due to the episode's content. Prior to this broadcast, the pilot for the classic comedy Seinfeld (called The Seinfeld Chronicles) aired.
- Originally NBC had only planned to order 13 episodes due to Vice's declining ratings, but the network eventually relented and agreed to a full season. However, the 22nd episode, called "The Edge", was ultimately scrapped before filming due to time constraints.
- USA Network began airing repeats of Vice starting in October, 1988 (with the full two-hour pilot, "Brother's Keeper"), one month before the fifth season began.
- Several episodes this season do not feature Crockett and Tubbs working together, with Switek often serving as a stand-in partner, one of the major fan complaints about the final season. On several occasions, Crockett appears briefly at the beginning of an episode and is then absent for the remainder. Various reasons given for this in the show include giving testimony in court, vacation time, and focusing on the plot of the Young Criminals Unit. In reality, cast members, especially Johnson, were likely away seeking other opportunities given the impending end of the series.
- The "Sonny Burnett" cliffhanger is resolved, but Crockett has to deal with the consequences, especially his nearly killing Tubbs twice, throughout the early episodes.
- Crockett and Tubbs undergo a slow and steady burnout on the job, foreshadowed towards the end of the previous season, culminating in their final showdown in "Freefall".
- Several characters from seasons 1 and 2 return to "tie up loose ends", including Al Lombard, Valerie Gordon and May Ying.
- The "lost" episode "Leap of Faith" is a pilot for a potential spin-off based around the Metro-Dade Young Criminals Unit, but the series was not picked up.
- Miami Vice's year end rating was #64, the lowest of all five seasons. Critics believed that the show had become tired and was simply going through the motions, occasionally rehashing plotlines from earlier seasons.
- † These episodes aired after the series finale, on May 21, 1989 on NBC.
- †† Final original network broadcast of Miami Vice on NBC.
- ††† Winner of a call-in poll by viewers at the end of "Leap of Faith".
- ‡ This episode was never shown on NBC due to its graphic content regardling child molestation, and was aired when Miami Vice reruns were broadcast on USA Network.