It’s been more than thirty years since Jack Lord last uttered the famous words, “Book ‘em, Danno.” Fans of Detective Steve McGarrett and the original Hawaii Five-0 should be pleased that the new iteration pays homage to series creator Leonard Freeman and provides plenty of nostalgia along the way. What writers Alex Kurtzman, Peter Lenkov and Roberto Orci bring in addition to the police procedural format is robust character development for each member of the team and a willingness to explore moral ambiguity in their characters’ actions.
Starring Alex O’Loughlin (The Shield), Scott Caan (Ocean’s Eleven), Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) and Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica), the first season of Hawaii Five-O is simultaneously a nostalgic reboot, an engaging mystery and a high-octane action series that’s one of the most entertaining on television today. Hit the jump for my review.
Though the Blu-ray presents the gorgeous Hawaiian scenery in crystal clarity, the plot of Hawaii Five-O seems to grow darker and more ominous as the season rolls on. (In the special features, the cast and crew continually remark on this intended contrast.) Whereas the original Hawaii Five-O had Detective McGarret and officers, Danno, Chin Ho and Kono rounding up bad guys week after week, the current incarnation weaves in character backstory and a series of overarching plots. Let’s break down the new additions and how they work out.
The new Five-O plays like an action-packed combination of The A-Team’s antics with the realism of The Shield. Though season one doesn’t choose to go nearly as dark as many episodes of The Shield did, Alex O’Loughlin brings his physical presence and stunt training from that series into Five-O. This time around, McGarrett (O’Loughlin) is a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserves and a former Navy SEAL rather than a Detective in the HPD. The pilot sets up the main plot of the series in which McGarrett’s father in assassinated, thus drawing McGarrett to Hawaii to track the killer down. He’s aided in his search by Governor Pat Jameson (Jean Smart) who grants immunity to McGarrett and his team.
First up on McGarrett’s team is Detective Danny “Danno” Williams, played by Scott Caan. The chemistry between these two was a major focal point for the series’ writers and they absolutely nailed it. In a humorous anecdote from the special features, O’Loughlin and Caan literally met just before filming their scenes for the pilot. Their natural chemistry shines through as their partnership strengthens over the course of the series. It’s a testament to their believable banter when a criminal jokes, “How long have you two been married?” and it doesn’t feel forced. Equally important in this regard is the utterance of the famous line, “Book’ em, Danno,” which comes off as both an homage to the original series and a way to inject humorous tension between McGarrett and Danno.
Rounding out the Five-O team is former HPD Detective Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) and his cousin, Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park), a recent graduate of the police academy. In the original series, these characters were played by Hawaiian actors Kam Fong Chun and Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi (stage name “Zulu”) respectively. Although the roles have gone to two Korean-American actors in the reboot, Five-O as a production employs a lot of local talent both on the screen and behind-the-scenes. Another notable difference with the new incarnations of these characters (other than the fact that Kono is an attractive, young female surfer instead of a big, burly male police officer), is their histories. Chin Ho had been disgraced and dismissed from the force for allegedly taking payoffs. Kono ends up being investigated by Internal Affairs at the end of the first season for some well-meaning thievery that she and the Five-O team get into earlier on.
One main sell of the show is the action it provides week in and week out. The main cast has prior acting experience in both armed and unarmed combat, which allows the writers to “go for it” in every scene. The majority of the show’s stunts are done practically, with the actors often stepping in instead of a double. This was no more apparent than when Caan injured his knee while filming a stunt for the show. The writers used the opportunity to blame McGarrett’s reckless style for Danno’s apparent injury.
In addition to the Five-O team, there are some surprising cameos and recurring roles that pop up along the way to assist in certain episodes. (Each episode title, by the way, is in Hawaiian. The Blu-ray lists the English translation for you, so every episode is kind of like a Hawaiian version of a fortune cookie…or something.) In the episode Mana’o (Belief), Bronson Pinchot (Perfect Strangers) guest stars as Bastille, the owner of an art gallery with ties to drug trafficking, in a nod to his role of Serge in the Beverly Hills Cop series. Other guest stars include James Marsters, Dane Cook, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Rick Springfield and Keith David. Guest stars that turned into recurring roles featured Larisa Oleynik (10 Things I Hate About You) as an ex-CIA analyst, Masi Oka (Heroes) as the medical examiner and, of course, Mark Dacascos (Brotherhood of the Wolf, but you might know him as the chairman on Iron Chef: America) playing the role of main antagonist, Wo Fat.
With as much effort as the writers and actors put into the show to get the audience to buy into the characters and their team, season one takes an interesting turn in the finale. Each of their relationships is strained and tested: McGarrett is set up and arrested for murder, Danno must choose between helping his partner or starting over with his ex-wife and daughter, Kono is taken away by Internal Affairs and Chin Ho resumes his role on the HPD even after they’d disgraced him. He even goes so far as to be the arresting officer of McGarrett, telling Danno at the end of the finale, “There is no more Five-O!”
Fans can rest assured that there definitely is more Five-O as the current season is already underway. The new season features Terry O’Quinn (Lost) as McGarrett’s former mentor and Navy SEAL instructor and is assisting the rest of the team in clearing the McGarrett’s name. Hawaii Five-O can be seen Monday nights at 10pm on CBS.
*Discs 1-6 feature deleted scenes from select episodes
- Legacy – Fans of the original series will note the similarities between the old and new show intros. Much of the scenery and iconic buildings have been shot in a similar manner for the opening sequence. Executive producer and writer Peter Lenkov remarks on interpreting the series in his own way while paying homage to the legacy of the original.
- Picture Perfect: The Making of the Pilot – A behind-the-scenes look at the production for the Hawaii Five-O pilot. Includes: character introductions, the difficulties of shooting on location even in paradise, stunts/action sequences and an inside look at the local premiere.
- Shore Lines: The Story of Season One – A breakdown and summary of all of season one’s major plot lines and highlights from each episode, including guest appearances.
- Aloha Action! – A mini-documentary on a variety of stunt sequences throughout the season. Though most of it was shot practically, there are interesting moments were CG was needed.
- Grace Park’s Hawaiian Tour – A tour of local culture by star Grace Park, who takes a hula lesson, samples Hawaiian food, learns stand-up paddle-surfing and finishes the day off with some shave ice.
- Gag Reel
- CBS On-Air Launch Promos – commercial spots for the series premiere
- Eyelab Online Launch Promos – web-based commercial spots for the series premiere
- Re-scoring the Theme Song – Video of the symphonic recording of the new theme song and how it pays homage to the original, even including some of the original musicians.
- Inside the Box – One of the most ingenious and flexible plot points the writers added to Hawaii Five-O was the “Champ” tool box that McGarrett’s father clued him in on. It contains countless pieces of evidence related to the elder McGarrett’s investigations into the HPD, Yakuza and more.
- Inside Comic-Con 2010 – A look at the panel from 2010’s Comic-Con before the launch of the new series.