For its first seven years there have been few departures on the refreshed version of Hawaii 5-O. What we have seen instead is additions to the cast pretty much on an annual basis. The result has been a fairly large ensemble that wasn’t there for the start. But Season 8 sees the largest departure to the series since its inception. It started out with Daniel Dae Kim wanting the same pay as the show’s two leads, Scott Caan and Alex Loughlin. That wasn’t going to happen, and before long Kim started to accuse the show runners of being racist because of the difference in pay. Now keep in mind that every series has a lead or leads who get more money than the rest of the cast. Unfortunately, this attempt at a raise brought in racial accusations. That brought Grace Park into the fray to defend Kim. The end result is that both walked and appear to have seen their last days on the show. So this is certainly a milestone year for the series, and I promise you that it didn’t miss a beat. But that also means new additions to the cast.
The first one we meet is Meaghan Rath, who joins the regular cast as Tani Rey. She was going to the police academy and ended up punching an officer. She gets kicked out only to be scooped up by Steve (Loughlin) because he sees the kind of spark in her that he sees in himself. She is trying to keep a troubled brother from drugs and gangs, and it gets her into some scrapes this season. The next new member we meet is Beulah Koale, who stars as Junior Reigns. He has just returned from combat in The Middle East and shows up on Steve’s door looking for a job on the task force. Steve likes his initiative and makes a deal that if he can get through the academy, he’s got a spot on the team. So he is intermittent at first. Steve checks on his progress, and he joins the team several times in the series start and gets to be a permanent member around mid-season. These aren’t the only two new members. An early episode involves a K-9 officer who is shot and killed. His dog is also badly wounded but helps catch the killers. Steve adopts Eddie, and you’ll see a lot of him this season.
One of the best long-running gags on the season is that Steve and Danny (Caan) decide to open up an Italian restaurant together. Throughout the year they are working on getting the building ready for the new business, while everyone they meet warns them that it is bound to fail. Instead it’s a new arena for the characters to engage in that banter we love so much. It also allows for Sopranos star Vincent Pastore to guest for a few episodes as Danny’s Jersey cousin Vito, who comes to help them get things back on track. Of course, his help comes with more trouble than it’s worth and a few tangles with the law.
Quite a few of this season’s episode involve the team in tight spaces. In one episode they are stuck in an ancient vault; another finds Junior trapped in a pitfall. Another episode finds the team on a drifting boat exposed to a bio-weapon. That one, of course, leads to hospital quarantine where Danny gets shot. Danny’s shooting gives us an episode where he flashes forward in his coma to see his daughter get married and his son become a cop. There’s really good stuff here. But Steve and Danny aren’t the only characters to shine in their own episodes.
Captain Grover (McBride) gets closure on his Chicago troubles. He also has a highly charged emotional episode where he talks a man who has been falsely accused of murder from shooting himself. In another example of this season’s tight spaces, he’s in a car with the suspect and tries to keep him alive. In the process he reveals that he was in this situation once before and lost someone. He also talks about a time that he was so low that he nearly killed himself. It’s one of the show’s powerful performances.
There’s a very cool Christmas episode this season. Danny is telling a bedtime story to Charlie so that he’ll go to sleep before Santa arrives. He uses Charlie’s toys to animate his tale of a recent case where a gang of Santa’s took down an armored car and led the team on a search through a crowded shopping mall during shopping season. We get flashbacks as the team tackles the case as well as Danny telling the story. The episode also uses real-life wounded veterans to play themselves in the story.
Jerry (Garcia) gets to play Indiana Jones when he joins the team to search an unsettled island for the tomb of an ancient king. Jerry’s been wanting to get in the field, but this time he’s also dealing with terrorists who are using the island as a base camp.
Chin and Kono are gone but not forgotten. The back story is that Chin now heads up his own task force in California, while Kono is helping him bring down some bad guys. They appear to have been leaving the door open for Grace Parks to return by following her progress through dialog. Most important, her husband Adam (Dale) actually takes on a much bigger role this season. Steve hires him to put together his own team to try to find out who the new big player is. It puts him in severe danger, and Adam gets a lot of screen time and some close calls. He’s also behind a really bad CG scene where he has been kidnapped and is full of fire ants. They look really bad, however. But Ian Anthony Dale is becoming much more of a series regular with a strong story going.
In the final couple of episodes Terry O’Quinn returns as Steve’s old mentor Joe White. Steve and Junior rescue him from terrorists who have been torturing him for months. Michelle Borth also returns as Catherine, who takes Steve on yet another dangerous mission. She seems to be an annual cameo these days. The season finale leaves a few twists open, and now you’ll be caught up when it all starts very soon.
The show handled the cast changes quite well. The two new team members fit rather well, and it came together pretty quickly. The chemistry was strong from the beginning, and I’m confident that there won’t be a loss of quality or viewership going forward. You get all 25 episodes on six discs with a few extras. They include the traditional CBS half-hour season wrapup, gag reel, profile of the new characters (including Eddie), and bonus pilot episodes of two other shows. Have no fear about those changes. Hawaii 5-O isn’t going anywhere. In fact, “This story is just getting started.”