Tuesday, September 21, 2010
How was the Hawaii Five-O Pilot?
Well, I wasn't disappointed. How about you?
Probably some SPOILERS below.
I'd read that it started off too dark and I can see where that critic was coming from. It was jarring to go from the heavy emotion of the teaser sequence to the fun theme music. But that's one of only three glitches I found in the entire hour.
I loved the casting and not just the main stars. William Sadler (Die Hard 2) played McGarrett's dad, James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville) is the villain who kills him, and Jean Smart (Designing Women, Samantha Who?) is the governor who sets up a task force to bring Marsters (and others like him) to justice. Examined closely, the plot isn't anything special, but this wasn't a plot-driven episode. It was all about the characters and if the show stays that way, I'll be a happy viewer for a long long time.
Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin from The Shield and Moonlight) is appropriately gifted and cocky. A lot's been written about Jack Lord's real personality's spilling over to his version of the character, but that is what it is and McGarrett needs to be kind of a butthole now. But in this episode at least, there's a reason for his abrasiveness and O'Loughlin comes off as likable in spite of the darker aspects of his personality. It'll be interesting to see if he continues being so troubled or if - with the supposed resolution of the pilot (I didn't hear that they ever found the body, did you?) - he'll lighten up. Personally, I hope he stays troubled.
After the break: the rest of the cast and those glitches I mentioned.
Mostly, I like Troubled McGarrett because of how he interacts with Danny Williams (Scott Caan from Ocean's Eleven). I knew that was going to be the case from the trailers; their relationship has always been a huge part of the marketing. Danny's a cop from the mainland who's recently moved to Hawaii to be near his daughter (she moved there with Danny's ex-wife who relocated with her new husband). He's assigned to investigate the murder of McGarrett's dad (who was a cop himself, by the way) and has an unpleasant run-in with McGarrett because of it. McGarrett pulls rank on him (in a very funny - if implausible - scene) and recruits him for his new team because he wants Danny's fresh, outsider perspective; free from island politics and prejudices.
Danny's struggling with his dual role as dad and cop and that complicates things with McGarrett, who's all cop. It's not that McGarrett doesn't sympathize - he gets it and even tries to help set Danny's mind at ease as best he can - but the two men are in such different places that they don't relate easily to each other. They're clearly not going to be antagonists for the entire series - that would get old - but if they're going to form a real friendship, they're going to have to work at it. I love that.
Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) plays Chin Ho Kelly, an old schoolmate of McGarrett's who got booted from the force for allegedly stealing evidence. He feels indebted to McGarrett's dad - who believed Chin Ho was innocent and supported him through the ordeal - so it's not hard for McGarrett to recruit him for the team. From McGarrett's perspective, he's the other side to Danny's coin: an insider who knows who all the players are on the island. He's an easy-going guy who still resents being kicked off the force, but isn't letting it control him. And his very presence reminds us that there's corruption in the police, which is one of the reasons that Jean Smart set up this autonomous special unit. We're sure to see more about that in future episodes.
The final member of the team is Chin Ho's cousin, Kona Kalakaua (Grace Park from Battlestar Galactica). Because the island's such a small place, it's not only Chin Ho who knows who all the players are. The bad guys all know who the good guys are too, which makes it really hard to infiltrate the crooks. Kona is about to graduate from the police academy, but because of her relationship with Chin Ho, her professional prospects aren't great. She jumps at the chance to join McGarrett's force and brings youthful enthusiasm to the group of guys who've all been burned by life in various ways. She also brings a face that the island's criminals don't know. It's just the crooked cops she has to worry about.
I liked all of these people so much that it's easy to forgive the couple of hiccups I found in the script, both of which are about Danny's nickname. He says a couple of times to his daughter, "Danno loves you" and McGarrett wonders what that's about. Danny's inexplicably tight-lipped about it. Sure, he's not very fond of McGarrett for most of the episode and has no reason to share personal information with the guy, but by keeping it a secret to the audience, he turns it into this big mystery. The revelation is so mundane - his daughter couldn't pronounce his name correctly when she was little - that it's a let down when it could've just been a cute moment for us to enjoy and then move on from.
The other glitch is just a cheesy moment when the writers have McGarrett use the nickname in the phrase made famous by the original Hawaii Five-O. I don't have a problem with either cheese or classic lines, but they do it in this really ungraceful way. During the climactic battle with Marsters and his goons, Danny catches a bad guy and asks McGarrett what to do with him. As if he's never caught a bad guy before and doesn't know what cops do with them. Of course you know McGarrett's response and if you were anxiously waiting the entire show for him to say the line, then you may not care how awkward the set-up for it is. But I wasn't on the edge of my seat anticipating the line. I was enjoying the new characters immensely and was disappointed when the actors had to step out of their roles for a couple of seconds to wink at the fans.
I just learned today that this is actually the second attempt to remake the show. The first try was in 1997 and wasn't a reboot, but a TV movie sequel to the '70s version. In it, Dan Williams (still played by original actor James MacArthur) is the governor of Hawaii and is shot in an assassination attempt. Chin Ho and other members of the original Five-O team come out of retirement to help the current Five-O solve the case. I don't know if they were trying to set up a new series or not, but if they were, I wouldn't have been interested. I grew up with Hawaii Five-O and liked it a lot, but I don't want to watch a version where everyone's remembering the old days and how great Steve McGarrett was. I like seeing how great Steve McGarrett is now and this reboot does that. It's cool for him to keep saying, "Book him, Danno" (especially if it irritates Scott Caan's character), but I hope they figure out how to make it work naturally. It shouldn't be that hard.
Otherwise: fantastic show. I especially liked the bit at the end when Kona declares that their unit needs a name and they spend some time brainstorming it. They still haven't decided what it is when the credits roll. I can't wait until next week to find out what they picked.