This review contains spoilers.
Well... here it is. All good things must come to an end, and after eight (mostly) terrific seasons, it is the final curtain call for 'Magnum, p.i.'.
There are so many directions the finale could have taken, and it would be impossible to please everyone. Even so, I feel that this first half of the closing story is very shaky and dragged out and doesn't fully work – and reading around for other fans' opinions, it seems I'm not alone.
I would have really liked Donald P. Bellisario (series co-creator and writer of some of the show's all-time great episodes) to have penned this one, but it wasn't to be.
While I hate to pick on one particular writer, this episode is co-written by Chris Abbott, and as I have commented in past reviews, I never fully liked the direction in which she took the series and the tone she set.
The story opens with Magnum paying a visit home to his family in Virginia, Tidewater. It re-creates the feeling of the sixth season episode 'Going Home', and is part of the reason that I am not over enthralled with this first half of the finale. Personally I never felt Magnum's family were well cast or particularly interesting; but even beyond my own personal feelings on them, we have never seen enough of his family in the show's run to really care; that wasn't what the show was about.
If the writers felt need to re-visit the family by way of some sort of closure, I would have much preferred that they had worked this into the storyline of the penultimate episode – it would have sat much better than the shaky and rather odd 'Transitions' that was the actual penultimate story.
Far too much time is spent with Magnum's family in this story, and it really makes the overall episode drag as a result. I would have far preferred the time to instead be used for more interaction with Higgins, T.C. and Rick; maybe one last visit to the King Kamehameha Club (which seems seldom seen down this end of the show's run).
When Magnum finally does return to Hawaii, after an emergency phone call from Higgins, the story picks up a little, but is still uneven. It seems Magnum's brief girlfriend Linda Lee Ellison (about whom Higgins has the unintentionally humorous line to Magnum "...I just received a call from a Linda Lee Ellison. She's a television reporter you dated last year for a short time", simply to remind viewers who she is!) is being stalked by a psychopath.
Ever since I first saw 'Resolutions' some years ago now, I wondered why of all characters, they chose to bring back Linda for the finale. Although she was okay in her original episode (season seven's 'Forty'), I felt that she and Magnum were ultimately little more than ships passing in the night, and should have left it at that.
To me, it would have made much more sense to bring back Dana Delany as Magnum's (sort of) fiancée Cynthia, from season seven's feature-length 'L.A.' and the follow up 'Out of Sync' later that season. Although 'L.A.' is one of my far less favourite MPI stories, there was much more of a rapport between Magnum and Cynthia, and I would have bought into her return much more than with Linda.
Anyway, the rest of the first half spends its time between the Linda storyline, and Magnum becoming convinced that daughter Lily Catherine (whom it seemed in 'Unfinished Business' a few episodes previously, had been killed in a car bomb with mother Michelle), is still alive. But this half of the story is far too unfocused to fully work, and almost totally lacks the trademark MPI humour (thankfully this would return in the concluding part). 'Resolutions' is also one of the very few MPI stories that does not have any narration from Magnum.
As well as recording each episode off-air when Five broadcast them in 2002-3 (although the stories were sometimes edited for content), I bought all of the DVD releases as they came out. So I was VERY disappointed to find that the version of 'Resolutions' included on Season 8 was not the original feature-length version, but a two-part syndicated version, with several parts edited out. (Most notably in this first half, much more of the scene at the Military reunion was included in the original version). All-in-all... as I say, there are many directions they could have taken, and it would be impossible to please everyone, but personally I don't particularly like this first half of the finale. I'm amazed that, at time of writing (26th October 2009), this ranks on TV.com's 10 highest rated episodes list. To me, it almost feels like one of the episodes from the show's dodgy spell of seasons 5-6. The whole story we see here could easily have been done in 15 minutes. Thankfully, things really pick up in the final part.
Review continued in Part II...