With a lot on its plate after the disastrous turn of events at the end of season 1, Hawaii Five-0 was certainly looking to get its sophomore season launched with a bang. After all, without a Five-0 team in place, there wasn’t much the series could do, but find a way to quickly get the group back together again.
The episode ‘Ha'i'ole’ asserts itself from the get-go – insisting on little recap from the end of last season wherein Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) was framed for the murder of Governor Jameson (Jean Smart) by his newfound nemesis Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos). Meanwhile, with Kono being investigated by Internal Affairs, Chin Ho (Daniel Day Kim) is back on the HPD squad, seemingly turned against his Five-0 teammates, despite having been previously accused by HPD of a crime he didn’t commit - leaving Danny ‘Danno’ Williams (Scott Caan) as the sole team member who can save the day.
So what’s Danno to do? Call in Lost star Terry O’Quinn, of course.
As it turns out, the arrival of Lt. Commander John White (O’Quinn) was just the infusion of leadership the team needed to begin the task of setting right the crimes of Wo Fat. White acts as mediator between Danno and Chin Ho, as the two come to an accord that although looking shady, helping as a cop, and not a civilian, was the best move Chin Ho could make.
Meanwhile, McGarrett is granted a ticket out of prison thanks to a non-fatal stabbing from none other than the man who killed his father: Victor Hesse (James Marsters). It turns out Hesse outlived his usefulness to Wo Fat, so freeing McGarrett to take down the crime boss is Hesse’s only chance at self-preservation. One violent ambulance ride later, McGarrett is on the run and the team is practically together again. But not before the Navy SEAL has a chance to stop by the house of Dr. Max Bergman (new series regular Masi Oka) to both get patched up and re-introduce the audience to the kooky coroner.
After Danno, Chin Ho and McGarrett reunite, they begin to uncover clues into the elder McGarrett’s investigation of police corruption on the island. With the help of Commander White and Jenna Kaye (Larisa Oleynik) the group manages to uncover undeniable evidence that McGarrett did not kill the Governor, thereby clearing his name and reinstating the Five-0 squad – albeit under greater scrutiny from Lt. Governor Sam Denning (Richard T. Jones).
By the end of the premiere, the gang has managed to exonerate McGarrett, get the team back together, put Kono (Grace Park) in a life-threatening situation (some things never change) and thwart a possible terrorist attack. Not bad for a day’s work.
All in all, Hawaii Five-0 managed to do what it does best in the season 2 opener: move at such breakneck speed that the audience hardly has time to recognize the implausibility of it all. And who can blame them? Hawaii Five-0 airs on the channel that procedural cop shows built, so in order to stand out amongst NCIS, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Criminal Minds, Hawaii Five-0 needs to be a creature of a different breed – namely, an expensive action show.
The plot of ‘Ha'i'ole’ is paper-thin, as are the majority of the characters and their motivations – most are spot on from last season, so there are no real surprises – but all of that is fine; the season opener is intended to quickly resolve the cliffhanger from last season, and set the tone for the rest of the year. Frankly, by setting their sights on objectives easily achieved by Hawaii Five-0 in the past, the season premiere went off mostly without a hitch – as long as the expectation was for the status quo to return to normal, with minor power and relationship shifts.
That’s what audiences have come to expect, and to a certain degree, rely upon when tuning in to one of CBS’ procedural cop shows – familiarity and routine with the occasional surprise thrown in for good measure. For example, the bad guys still exist primarily in one of two flavors: soon-to-be-dead guy or easily broken snitch – which they sometimes combine into the soon-to-be-dead-snitch variety. Another facet that can always be relied upon is the fact that the good guys always win, and the case is always solved in about 42 minutes of airtime.
What is surprising is that for all of the inherent goofiness of a series like Hawaii Five-0, the characters – with the exception of the still-out-of-place Kono – all seem to jive well with one another and encourage the audience to actually care about their relationships outside of catching villains. Naturally, some of the best interaction is between McGarrett and Danno, but with the addition of O’Quinn and Oka, there will likely be more occasions for some interesting interplay amongst the group. Time will tell if the writers utilize these new characters wisely.
Masi Oka, however, was clearly the standout of the episode – bringing some much needed humor into the series without sacrificing the alpha male status of the three big leads. Since Oka has achieved series regular status, hopefully the writers will look to him to provide not only the occasional laugh, but also things for geeks to talk about later – such as the B.P.R.D. poster hanging on Dr. Bergman’s living room wall.
O’Quinn’s benefits are harder to immediately pinpoint. Though it’s nice to see John Locke and Jin Kwon back together again, there was a certain sense of unease around Commander White’s presence during the entire episode. Sure, the writers probably intended to steer the audience into believing White to be a traitor (which ultimately made the final reveal of who was conspiring with Wo Fat all the more shocking), but now that he’s proven himself to be on Five-0’s side, what is to be done with the character? Hopefully, O’Quinn will be present primarily to provide backstory and revelations into Jack McGarrett’s past – and not serve as an unfortunate foil for Steve and his team to overcome.
With all of the exposition required of a series premiere taken care of long ago, the writers of Hawaii Five-0 did a decent job of meeting their audiences’ expectations in season 2. Though nothing really changed – it was honestly business as usual by the time the credits rolled – this season premiere should have plenty of talking points for the show’s fans to discuss.
Hawaii Five-0 airs Monday nights @10pm on CBS.