“Book ’em Danno.”
It’s been 30 years since we last heard that phrase. Still it persisted in the modern lexicon along with the term Five-0, which is still shouted in high-crime areas in cities all over the country whenever a police presence is felt closing in on the bad guys. Hawaii Five-0 ended in 1980. That’s when Tom Selleck took over the sets and production crew on Hawaii to work as Magnum P.I. until 1988 when it all closed down for good, or did it? Wouldn’t you know it, the show has been resurrected and become the hottest drama on television? A younger Steve McGarrett and company are back in action and Hawaii …the world might never be the same again. Roll wave…
Steve McGarrett (O’Loughlin) is a Navy Seal, and his latest mission ended with the murder of his father. The governor of Hawaii has offered him a special unit with complete immunity and means to tackle the tough cases and look into his father’s death. He’s allowed to assemble his own team. His first choice becomes his own partner. Danny “Danno” Williams (Caan) is a detective on the Honolulu Police Department assigned to his father’s case. He’s a divorced father of a young girl. The two work well together, but there’s a ton of buddy cop bickering on this one. Next on the team is Chin Ho Kelly (Kim). He’s a disgraced Honolulu officer who was accused of stealing a ton of money. He didn’t do it but ended up resigning in shame. He was Steve’s father’s last partner when he was a cop, and Steve believes in him and brings him on board. It does cause friction with the local cops who tend to shun Chin. The next member of the team is Chin’s cousin and newly graduated from the Academy. She’s Kono (Park), and she’s the bright-eyed rookie with high ideals and a knack for sophisticated tech and a competition level surfer. Newer members of the team include Heroes ‘ Masi Oka as the medical examiner Dr. Max Bergman. Like his previous character, he’s a bit of a sci-fi geek. It took some getting used to to listen to the techno-babble medical stuff that he delivers now. Michelle Borth returns as officer “Cat” Rollins.
The first thing you need to know is that there have been a lot of changes to the formula. Steve McGarrett is a much younger, hipper and more active. He no longer rolls in at the clean-up to bark orders. This Steve is an ex-Navy Seal who is quite accomplished at weapons and hand-to-hand combat. He’s the primary investigator in the whole thing. Alex O’Loughlin has been trying hard to get a successful series running. He started out as a vampire on the short-lived Moonlight and went on to another series called Three Rivers which lasted even fewer episodes. But give the television executives some rare credit here for believing he could run a quality show. It looks like the third time really is the charm. There’s a lot more action and explosive f/x than you ever could have imagined in the 70’s show. It’s a faster-paced show, and the team has the latest in technology to use on their cases.
So with all of these changes, what makes this show work so well? The most important element has to be the characters and the actors who play them. O’Loughlin and Caan develop almost instant chemistry, although I do think they take the bickering banter a little too far sometimes. When last we saw Daniel Dae Kim, he was finishing his six years on Lost, also filmed in Hawaii. Lucky for us he got the job. Lucky for us, too, he’s quite good in the role, and it’s nice to see him have a more active and English-fluent character. Grace Park comes from the new Battlestar Galactica and brings probably the most balanced character to the show. She actually has a life outside of the office. She’s the geek smart member of the team and she can kick butt as well as the guys. You can really see a lot of Scott Caan’s father, James Caan, in the kid. He has those manners of speech that remind us of Sonny Corleone. He’s a huge find for this series. One of the surprise breakouts is local actor Taylor Wily as KameKone. He’s the show’s Huggy Bear. He owns a shave ice company, but he’s an ex-con with a lot of connections. He’s a huge-looking guy with a heart of gold. This amateur steals every scene he’s in. These characters might not reflect anything from their earlier counterparts, but they are all very compelling in the way they work together. It’s a nice team, and the Hawaiian locations don’t hurt any either.
The season kicks off with a real bang. A group of criminals takes over the station. Steve also ends up protecting the now-imprisoned Wo Fat in jail from some folks who want him dead and come with a lot of weapons and equipment to see that it happens. Steve also discovers that his mother has been secretly visiting with Wo Fat. He may be in jail, but make no mistake. He’s driving things this season and ends up providing us with plenty of thrills by the end of the season.
It’s not really the stories that make for a strong year of this show. Even the normal run-of-the-mill procedural has more flair when you’re doing them from these kinds of locations. The production values get a real boost, and the actors have a lot more unique stuff to play with. The show also attracts a pretty strong guest cast. Previous seasons saw such greats as Scott’s dad James Caan. This year Melanie Griffith plays his mother. It’s a natural fit. The duo played son/mother in a play together recently.
The newcomer of note is Chi McBride as the city’s SWAT captain who doesn’t get along with Steve at all. The two butt heads all season until they slowly warm up to each other enough that Captain Grover has become a regular on the team and in the show. They share a pretty good chemistry that is not unlike the one shared with Danny. It’s an evolving relationship, and I look forward to more from them in the coming seasons.
There’s a bit of a Lost reunion going on this season. Of course, we already had Daniel Dae Kim and the same location for both shows. Terry O’Quinn returns as Commander Joe White. There’s a lot of promise for even more appearances in the future. He was Locke on Lost. One of my favorite characters on Lost was Jorge Garcia’s Hugo. Here he plays Jerry Ortega, who is a bit of a conspiracy nut. Think of The X-Files and the Lone Gunman guys. This character is a load of fun. He appears twice here, and the word is that he’ll continue to be recurring in the upcoming seasons. There’s a great amount of charm to this show when these guys are on the episode. These episodes absolutely stand at the top of my favorite list.
Another standout episode features guest star Michael Madsen as an escaped con who wants to prove he was innocent. We’ve seen these episodes in other shows, but Madsen sells it better than most. He knows a little bit about these rough criminal roles. He’s practically made a career out of playing them.
The show gives you all 22 episodes on six discs. You get a half-hour season rundown. There are short features on the stunts, action, production design and the Lost reunion. The show has been holding its own on a network filled with shows that are in their double-digit seasons. It’s one of the more thrilling shows out there with more action and drama than the makers of the original had the resources to pull off. They also continue to honor that show. I was pleased to see a wall in the writer’s room on one of the extras. There was a Jack Lord poster on the wall. These guys don’t forget where they came from. Meanwhile, this is a different group of cops. You could call them “McGarrett’s merry band of do whatever the hell you want”.