With “Hawaii Five-0,” CBS delivers the luau version of the crime procedural: It’s damn entertaining, visually stimulating and a semi-exotic escape from the everyday.
What’s even more gratifying is that the network hasn’t just used the reboot as a flimsy excuse to throw CBS favorite Alex O’Loughlin shirtless into a tropical setting. The crimes are far more serious than mere incidents of pineapple pilfering or surfing sabotage. The leads have dark, sometimes tainted pasts that bleed into their work and wry personalities. There’s actual meat in that kahlua pork.
Steve McGarrett (O’Loughlin) is a Navy SEAL who’s returned to Hawaii and has taken up the mantle belonging to his father, purportedly the original series’ hero. He teams up with recent mainlander Det. “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan), local Det. Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) and Chin Ho’s cousin, rookie detective “Kono” Kalakaua (Grace Park) to create an elite task force that doesn’t have to abide by the red tape.
Hands down the best part of the series is the chemistry between new cop partners Steve and Danno. It has all the elements of a good, tumultuous bromance: A memorable meet-cute (“What are you doing on my crime scene?” “I’m a cop!” “I’m a cop!”), playful fisticuffs, begrudging respect and stinging banter. You can’t help but like the two together, and Steve’s driven crime-fighting nature is a solid balance for Danno’s hot temper and off-the-wall pop culture references.
They’re not about to declare “I love you, man” anytime soon though. They’ve got testosterone to spare, and emerge from tussling with the bad guys with cuts on their faces, gunshot wounds to the arms and then still have the energy to deck each other over personality clashes.
Kim and Park are welcome additions to the cast as well, and their sci fi followings won’t be disappointed. Kim’s much more gregarious and loquacious compared to his “Lost” alter ego, and Park’s beauty, on display in bikinis, is just enhanced by her subtle expressions and confident presence. Having the two play Hawaiian natives is another boon to the series. Which brings us to …
… Hawaii. We’ve heard the cliche that the setting for a show can act as a character, and the 50th of the United States certainly makes its presence known on the show. Yes, we get the requisite shots of skin, sun and surf, but the writers have made an effort to present Hawaii as much more than a tourist destination.
A creole or pidgin, aka “bird,” of the Hawaiian language gets featured in many of the conversations. Chin Ho refers to Danno as a “haole,” meaning white person, Caucasian or foreigner. There’s a glossed over incident in the pilot in which Steve and Danno undergo some gentle hazing to prove they’re trustworthy since they’re white. This is not to mean that there’s rampant racism at hand, but there’s definitely that feeling that we’ve entered a world that operates by its own rules, using its own language, moving to its own rhythms.
We have hopes that there will be much more of this flavor incorporated into the show, using Danno as the everyman who’s introduced to the local wonders — like spam musubi. Another upshot of this Hawaii setting is the opportunity for many Asian actors — well known favorites and newcomers alike — to get meaty roles on a major network show.
For those who loved the original series, the theme song is intact, and the phrase “Book ’em, Danno” isn’t used lightly. Other than that, this “Hawaii Five-0 2.0” is its own beast, slow-roasted in the ground until it’s ready for crowd-pleasing perfection.
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Photo credit: CBS