The last “season” wasn’t really a season, but a collection of specials that aired over 13 years, with the last few each having 3 years in between them.
Due to the spread, this season ends up very varied and quite interesting, definitely a strong endpoint for the series.
The first episode contrasts Columbo’s age with most of the other characters as it takes place in and around a college. The tech used for the murder is pretty modern for the time (a wireless camera and a remotely controlled gun trigger mechanism), though I don’t know how realistic the depiction / usage of it was. We also get to see Columbo’s second car that he mentioned a few times in the past. It seems to be in better shape than his main car, but not significantly.
In the third episode we see Columbo interacting with a younger police officer (sergeant rank) who helps him with the case during the episode. Columbo’s car is driven “topless” for the first time during the episode. We get to see it in a longer sequence during the credits, where Columbo is listening to the song of the ex-rock-star singer that was killed in the episode, as the credits are shown.
There are several episodes in this “season” that deviate from the formula, the fifth is certainly one of them. There’s a personal connection for Columbo because the intended victim is the newly wed wife of his nephew. The whole episode is done with a suspenseful atmosphere as Columbo and the police are searching for the kidnapper and his hideout. This makes Columbo’s ability to operate under pressure and his investigative ability the focus, not so much his other characteristics, but it is very well done. This is also the only episode where the following two series defaults don’t apply: The intended victim does not die and Columbo has no actual contact with the criminal.
Another unusual, but really good episode is the “Undercover” one, episode 9. In this one, Columbo (as the episode title implies) goes undercover to solve a case of missing bank robbery loot. Columbo gets to act in various “roles” during the episode.
Actors I am familiar with appeared in the 7th and 8th episode. The 8th episode is the second one featuring William Shatner playing the main bad guy, in the 7th episode it’s Claudia Christian, playing the daughter of the killer (the character’s mother).
2 episodes feature mobile phones, each time critical to solving the case.
The final episode has a rather nice contrast of the setting being pretty “current” (one of the bad guys being a rave promoter and disco owner) while Columbo is his usual self.
All in all I really like the last season and think this was a strong ending to the series. A shame that not even more episodes were produced. I tip my hat to you, Peter Falk. Oh, just one more thing: I hope everyone reading this also enjoyed it 😉