S01E11 I’m thinking about creating a grading scale for Hawaii Five-O. There are certain things I really like about the show and certain things I don’t. If any episode has enough of the good things, then that episode is a good one. However, it has to have enough of the good things to overcome the bad things that are in every episode due to its nature of being a procedural cop show (and on CBS no less).
Let me explain the things I really like about the show, the things that set it apart from other procedural cop shows. The first is the setting, Hawaii. They really take advantage of the location in the show and utilize it in interesting ways. But this is inherent to the show so I can’t count it towards the scale. The things I’m interested in aren’t found in each episode and the writers have to actually try and put them in there.
For example, Grace Park in a bikini. That isn’t necessary to the show, but having a little sex appeal every now and then really spices things up. Another would be the riffing between Danno and McGarrett. Not necessary, but very much appreciated. Hawaii Five-O has also proven itself deft with visually striking stunt work that you don’t see a lot on television. It also utilizes guest stars in a good way, giving them fun things to play with (in terms of characters at least and not toys). And finally, my personal favorite - the gratuitous product placement.
But the show also does some very bad things. It’s worst offense is the extremely terrible expository dialogue. Due to its basic necessity, we’ll have to suffer through this every episode. Another misstep the show often takes is the forced sentimentality, often with characters we just met. How are we supposed to care about this lady if we’ve never seen her before and we’ll never see her again? And its final faux pas is their use of red herrings. These guys spend the first half of each episode chasing leads that never go anywhere (but more on that later).
So tallying up the scores we have five possible “moments” that make the show great along with the three “strikes” that are evident in every episode. And using basic math, the show would need four moments to overcome the three strikes and thus produce a good episode. Of course, they could wise up and only have two strikes in an episode but judging by the season so far, I doubt it.
How did Palekaiko do? Well it had the three strikes, no question about it. And it did have some good riffing between Danno and McGarrett along with a special guest star Masi Oka. The stunt work wasn’t the best of the series, but it was a pretty long (and well shot) car chase so I’ll give them credit for it. But alas we had no Grace Park in a bikini and no horrendous product placements, so this episode just wasn’t that great.
Here’s where the show went really wrong with me: they started out with a great cold open but they completely fluffed out the middle ruining whatever momentum they had (side note, any one else think that the opening was filmed in a spot where they filmed Lost? I know that most jungles looke the same but that clearing looked REALLY familiar, I was kinda hoping Hurley would stumble out). See, they gave us several red herrings in the beginning that we wasted time following. Yes the girl was in debt and married an ugly rich dude and her mother-in-law accused her of faking it. But why spend nearly a quarter of the episode following up with that especially early on? We know it won’t be her because what else were they going to do with the show?
And then new information kept popping up at the exact time that the characters needed it to keep the plot moving. I like trying to figure out what happened in the story along with the characters, but this episode especially just spoon fed it to me. There’s a way to set up information and let it simmer while allowing the characters to actually figure stuff out, not just giving them information and then spit it out. It’s called suspense and the writers could really use a lesson in it. And don’t even get me started on the characters saying stuff that everyone in the room already knows, but the audience doesn’t so we have to say it!
The worst was Masi Oka (who does get a moment bump for being a guest star and delightfully quirky) suddenly recalling the serial killer he heard about that also happened to match the case H5O was working on (see the video above). And then of course that was the bad guy and the whole first half of the episode is completely shelved. If they had followed the guy and then it turns out it was the wife that actually did it, that would’ve been great television.
But for all my complaints there were some great moments in the show. I laughed pretty hard at the opening after Chin and McGarrett were done spear fishing and they shared their memories of McGarrett's father because after all that’s exactly how guys talk to each other after a delightful afternoon of spear fishing. And while the shot of them walking up to their Chevrolet pick up truck was a good product placement, they didn’t call it out so I’m not counting it. Though it was a pretty shot (but I’d like to imagine with a location like Hawaii it’s not hard to find pretty shots).
McGarrett and Danno had some good bickerings in this episode and one thing I was really proud of the writers for doing was having them do it at really random times. Like during the car chase scene (which was pretty good considering this was a network procedural show) and McGarrett chastises him for wanting to puke “it’s a loner!” That was great stuff. And when they finally have the shoot out at the top of a cliff and they start bickering about how to handle the situation was very entertaining, breaking the tension while simultaneous building more tension and being funny. Not an easy feat.
We almost had a "Book 'em Danno" but Danno stopped it. It's been a few weeks since we had one of those, that would've been appreciated it. But alas, oh well.
We also have a special treat in this episode. McGarrett finally opens up to Chin about the clues his father left (but it should be noted this was another example of really bad expository dialogue). He starts listing off the stuff and Chin recognizes the number as a case number and he goes to investigate it. What they find was that McGarrett’s mother’s “accident” might not have been an accident after all and may have been a murder. With a build up like this (over 10 weeks) this particular revelation seemed anti-climatic, but this is the only the third (fourth?) time we’ve gone back to this season long story arc? Hopefully there are better things to come from this.
So there you have it, H5O. You know what makes a good episode, just have McGarrett Bing Grace Park in a bikini while hang gliding through a hotel’s lobby and we’ll be golden.