It’s been an up-and-down third season in the Aloha State, as Hawaii Five-0 lurched from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again from week to week with a variety of gimmicks which missed as many times as they hit, before delivering a finale which threatened to shake up the team significantly.
Innovative? Yes. Successful? Yes and no
This season seems to have set out with two deliberate agendas: firstly, to create a series of what Jed over at Unpopcult christened ‘WTF? moments’, and secondly to drop in as many crossovers, in-jokes and nods to the past as possible.
The writers succeeded in the former. From Wo Fat‘s audacious rescue in the season opener, to Steve attempting to swim through shark-infested waters while towing Danny in a dinghy, to the beheading of a polo player, H5-0 delivered plenty of arresting images and stunt sequences.
On the second count they were rather less successful. Although credit is due for not sticking to the tried-and-trusted formula, too often this felt like an over-eager puppy trying too hard to please. The reworking of the original series story Hookman – complete with retro-style credits and a creepy guest turn from Robocop‘s Peter Weller – was an enjoyable piece of hokum, complete with a loving blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to Weller’s best-known role (Robocop’s gun can be seen hanging on a wall in a gun shop). We also got to see one final turn for original series villain August March (Ed Asner).
The innovation of airing an episode in which viewers could vote live online for one of three alternate endings would have been a nice gimmick if the actual story hadn’t been one of the weakest and most lazily executed in the show’s history. In between we had some high-profile stunt casting, notably Star Trek‘s George Takei, Victoria’s Secret model Behati Prinsloo, Magnum P.I.’s Larry Manetti and NFL star Arian Foster. And, following on from last season’s NCIS: Los Angeles crossover, we also had a bizarre pre-credits cameo by Dog the Bounty Hunter‘s Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman as himself and a day-in-the-life episode featuring real-life daytime TV show co-host Aisha Tyler from The Talk playing the host of a fictitious daytime TV show.
Fleshing out the characters
Rather more successful were occasional forays into character development for the series principals. We got to see some different sides to Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) through the lens of his relationships with his mother and former spy Doris (a perfectly cast Christine Lahti) and girlfriend Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth), the latter upgraded to series regular and permanently consigning last season’s misfit Lori Weston to history. That didn’t stop Catherine from playing a largely peripheral role during the season – making it two years in a row that the show has struggled to accommodate two leading female characters. She acted largely as a go-between linking Steve and Doris and taking a more central role in a roller derby-based story which is best forgotten. We were also shown what was effectively the series prequel – and also an excuse to stage another North Korea-based shoot-’em-up romp – Steve’s final mission as a SEAL, which led directly to his father’s death.
Of course, Steve’s bromance with Danny Williams (Scott Caan) remains the centrepiece of the show, with even other characters commenting on how much their constant bickering resembles an old married couple. But a couple of Danny-centric plots also helped flesh out his back-story as we discovered the real reason for his dislike of water and a tragic 9/11-based event which revealed the reason behind his daughter Grace’s name.
After the death of his wife Malia, this was a quieter season for Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), other than one notable mid-season episode where he suddenly found himself in distinctly hostile territory: in prison, surrounded by many of the men he had helped put in jail. Cousin Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) saw more time in the field, having been pushed aside by Lori for much of season two, seeing plenty of kick-ass action and becoming entangled in a slow-burning plot involving Michael, the brother of boyfriend Adam Noshimuri, which only fully crystallised in the final two episodes and dispensed with all the niggling gimmicks as it returned us closer to H5-0‘s core format of high-octane action, preposterous plots and bromance.
These final two hours showcased the series at its best, underlining the error of so consciously turning away from its unique signature for much of the season. Hopefully we’ll see the producers having the confidence to stick with the basic formula and reduce the amount of experimentation next season.
The closing scenes of the finale leave us with Kono joining Adam and Doris on a slow boat to China, semi-regular Charlie Fong in hospital after being stabbed and Steve facing the prospect of defending Wo Fat from an unseen hit squad. So where does that leave us heading into season four? The Steve/Wo Fat cliff-hanger demands immediate resolution. The nature of Doris’ relationship with Wo Fat remains a mystery. Kono’s return seems likely (although clearly the door has been left open for Grace Park to be written out if desired), while Doris’ and Adam’s are more uncertain. Romantic doors have been opened once again for both Danny and Chin Ho. And what of Catherine’s chance meeting with Billy Harrington (Knight Rider‘s Justin Bruening)? Was that a possible exit door for her or (more likely) the gentle introduction of a new (semi) regular character? We’ll have to wait a few more months – for the UK, probably until next January – to find out.
Finally, it would be remiss of me to finish without mentioning this season’s most laugh-out-loud moment, one which divided opinion among the show’s fan-base but which I personally loved. It features four men, a helicopter and the theme tune to one of the 1980s’ most-loved series. All together now (you know you want to!):
And, as an utterly gratuitous optional extra, if you’re a fan of both Hawaii Five-0 and Magnum P.I., you’ll love this mash-up: