McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), Kono (Grace Park), Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), and Danno (Scott Caan) work to put the Five-0 unit back together, scramble to clear McGarrett’s name, continue their pursuit of criminal mastermind Wo Fat, and deal with a whole slew of new cases.
Like virtually every piece of dramatic television that adheres to a rigid format, Hawaii Five-0 is more than a little repetitive. There’s very little difference in the storytelling from episode to episode, which is perfectly fine for anyone who tunes in for that very reason, not so much for anyone who prefers longer arcs and/or variety. The only dramatic shows I make a point of watching on a regular basis are driven by long, complex stories. That just happens to be what I like.
I watched the first three or four episodes of Season One of this show before losing interest. I didn’t think the show was awful, but it was clear it was already falling into a structural rut, so I figured I should get out before it really started to annoy me. (A certain sports program that’s long been a staple of Monday nights in the fall and early winter also had something to do with my decision. There’s not much fun in wagering on the outcome of a cop show.) I didn’t want to see more or less the same bloody thing every week, and I had a strong suspicion no one involved in the show had any interest in pushing the proverbial envelope.
Most episodes follow the same basic pattern: A crime is committed or discovered in the cold open. The Five-0 crew is brought in to investigate. Evidence is gathered and filtered through the sort of computer system you see in a lot of current procedurals (i.e., one of those magical machines that probably doesn’t exist anywhere on the planet), and a suspect is identified. McGarrett (a former SEAL) and Danno are seen racing through traffic (Danno makes at least one comment about McGarrett’s reckless driving during every single one of these chases, which gets old fast), the suspect is found, there’s some sort of chase, some red herrings, what everyone originally assumed to be true is found to be untrue, and then there’s a quick resolution a couple minutes before the credits role.
Things do get shaken up a bit every once in a while, with the show’s writers and producers offering up a storyline in which one of the main characters is placed in danger and/or critically injured, which is this show’s version of that old Battlestar Galactic thing where either Starbuck or Apollo crashed on some planet. That’s the sort of thing that can work if used sparingly, but it loses a lot of impact when it happens three or four times a season. Running down bad guys and last-minute twists is the sort of thing you expect to see on a regular basis, but shooting one of the heroes or using the old “you can only rescue one of them” saw is not the sort of same bloody thing you should be using every week.
But here’s the thing: If you’re going to do more or less the same bloody thing every week, Hawaii Five-0 isn’t a bad way to do it. This is a fast, flashy, totally modern, pumped-up revamp of the old series (which I have vague memories of watching; I was too young to care for the show itself but dug the opening credits [the hula girl and that shot of the jet engine were cool] and the classic theme music), mixing action and procedural elements in a way that speedily entertains. It’s not believable for a minute, but it’s zippy enough to make you not really care.
As the pilot (which is arguably the best thing Len Wiseman has ever directed) quickly established, this revamp wants to be a small-screen version of a blockbuster feature. From what I can remember, the original series didn’t feature a car chase every episode, didn’t blow stuff up on a regular basis, and didn’t contain any shots of bristling-with-weaponry helicopters rocketing the heck out of a convoy of military-grade vehicles. Fans of the original may be shocked at what’s been done to an old favorite (and I imagine some will accuse the new show of doing nothing but cashing in on the original’s name), but you can’t really blame the show’s masterminds (Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, and Peter M. Lenkov are credited with developing the series) for playing to modern sensibilities. Something that more closely resembles the original would quite likely be seen as quaint, possibly even boring or staid.
Taking a cue from its predecessor, the show keeps things fresh (or close enough to fresh) by bringing in several guest stars. Ed Asner reprises his role from the original series as a smuggler/thief/fence, and I get the feeling he’ll be back at some point. James Caan appears in one episode, and he spends much of his time insulting his real-life son; it’s an obvious joke, but Caan is so relentless he makes it work. Terry O’Quinn turns up for several episodes, playing McGarrett’s old mentor.
There’s a crossover with NCIS: Los Angeles (and the episode of that series which forms half of the story is thankfully included here; there would’ve been hell to pay if Paramount and CBS hadn’t included it), which is the sort of thing CBS likes to do on a regular basis but never seems to go out of style. Robert Englund shows up during the Halloween episode, which isn’t clever or original in the least, but the producers hired Joe Dante to direct the episode, which is definitely a nice touch.
Best of all, Tom Sizemore has a recurring role as a police chief, and I was glad to see him. It’s good to know he’s finally put his troubles behind him, as he’s too talented a guy to throw it all away or be relegated to direct-to-video crap. (Jimmy Buffett also makes an appearance, but I have nothing good to say about that.)
The show is presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio; the 1080p transfers have been encoded with AVC, and the season is spread across five 50GB discs. Like most shows set in Hawaii, footage from this one could be used by the state’s tourism board, as the scenery looks flat-out great. Virtually every exterior is bathed in sunlight, and this combines with a slightly boosted contrast to give the show a bright, often lush look, with colors that are bold and vivid. Detail is strong, and black levels are solid. Some mild banding is noticeable, and there’s some aliasing and jitter in clothing and on architecture (most prevalent in the quick aerial pans that often serve as transitional moments).
The specs grid on the back on this release indicates that lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks are included here. The Blu-ray of the first season got them, so it only stands to reason this would as well, right? Well, I’m not sure what went wrong where, but the only 5.1 tracks here are lossy Dolby Digital tracks. (There’s been no explanation as to exactly what went wrong or what--if any--remedy is coming.)
There’s certainly nothing wrong with those tracks, but the sound mix is active enough to make you realize just how much punchier a lossless encode would be. There’s quite a bit of atmosphere built into the mix, the action and music make good use of the surrounds, and the ubiquitous sound effect that leads into transitions and commercial breaks sweeps over the listener. Gunshots and explosions are plentiful, and they’re reinforced by a satisfying amount of bass activity. Dialogue sounds very good.
English 2.0 tracks are also included; English SDH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish subtitles are available.
Two episodes have been outfitted with audio commentaries. Executive producer/showrunner Peter M. Lenkov is joined by Alex O’Loughlin, Grace Park, and Daniel Dae Kim for “Haʻiʻol,” the season premiere. Lenkov is joined by co-executive producer Paul Zbyszewski (the two also wrote the episode) for the tenth episode, “Kiʻilua.” They’re okay tracks, dealing more with the season as a whole than those specific episodes.
All of the following are presented in high-def:
Nine episodes come with deleted scenes (25 minutes total). There’s nothing of consequence to them; all were obviously cut for time.
Shore Lines (31 minutes), which consists primarily of interviews with the cast and screw, is an overview of the season’s production.
Aloha Action (23 minutes) offers a look at the planning and creation of several of the season’s biggest action sequences.
Becoming a SEAL (9 minutes) covers the training O’Loughlin underwent in order to get into character.
Hawaii Five-O’Ahu is an interactive feature that allows you to learn more about the season’s various locations.
Closing things out is a gag reel (10 minutes).
Only the show’s most ardent fans should consider purchasing this set, but even they should hold off until the mix-up with the audio had been addressed and/or resolved. Everyone else should just give it a rent.