“Hawaii Five-0” started its second season off with a bang — the team scattered to all parts of the island, McGarrett in jail for murder, Danno not only a fish out of water but a cop without a partner, Chin Ho sporting a shiny new HPD lieutenant’s badge, and Kono on her way down bad-girl street. New friends like Joe White and Lt. Gov. Denning arrived to help the team, and old friends like Jenna Kaye — and enemies like Victor Hesse — seemed to have switched sides during the summer hiatus.
Of course, this all made for a compelling start to the show’s sophomore effort, which is often the season that historically can make or break a show; it is always the one that is most scrutinized by viewers and critics alike, and is typically the hardest season to get through. Gone are the days of, “Oh, it’s season one, they’ll work out the kinks,” and, “Not a bad start for their first season.” No more getting a free pass for filming hiccups, bland villains or uneven plotlines. The honeymoon is officially over.
The second season needs to work or the show can face the dreaded “C-word.” And I don’t mean “celebrate-we’re-home-free.” Yes, that’s more than one word but definitely better than being cancelled, which would make many fans (yes, MANY, contrary to “Five-0” haters) very unhappy.
So it makes sense that “Hawaii Five-0” has taken a lot of risks this season. They had to, in order to woo more viewers, as well as keep the current ones entertained and continuously committed. The risks have been many: They’ve rolled out the red carpet for guest stars, traveled to different islands and foreign lands, and will soon crossover again with another hit CBS show, “NCIS: LA.”
Characters have broken out of jail, visited the famous Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, been tortured in North Korea, jumped out of an airplane, finessed a skydive rescue, delivered a baby, gone under the sea in search of treasure, staged an oceanfront wedding, donned tuxedos, driven the wrong way on a one-way street, and shot lots and lots of bad guys and one innocent husband. Crooner Jimmy Buffett flew them into North Korea, classic television star Patty Duke helped them break a case, and veteran movie star — and proud papa — James Caan would join the cast tomorrow if most of us had our way in the “Five-0” writers’ room.
It has definitely been a challenge this season to combat the dreaded sophomore slump. The breaking news a couple weeks ago that series star Alex O’Loughlin was taking a break from the series to “receive supervised treatment for prescription pain medication due to a recent shoulder injury,” and the continuing Monday night ratings battle against ABC’s popular “Castle” and NBC’s highly pumped (but full of hot air) new series “Smash,” has not made this season an easy one.
We have lost a few great characters this season: Jenna Kaye was killed by Wo Fat after revealing her secrets and helping to save Steve in North Korea; Joe White is “in the wind” running from Wo Fat; and who can forget the unceremonious dumping of homeland security officer Lori Weston (although I’m still unclear why she was fired by the governor)? And don’t forget about the Shelburne question and a few other unresolved demons that will have to be faced in order for Steven to protect his sister and his new Five-0 family.
But we also met a few great characters this season, namely private detective Tony Archer — Anthony to the ladies — played by James Caan, and the deceptively sleazy Capt. Fryer, played by Tom Sizemore. We also learned more about our favorite recurring characters, such as Max Bergman (Masi Oka) — who knew of his love for fast cars and warp speed? And then there’s Kamekona (Taylor Wily) — you have to love a man who loves Spam and can lie faster than he can peel and eat shrimp — as well as our favorite geek god, Charlie Fong (Brian Yang).
I’m still hoping for more scenes and information about the Fongster; perhaps we can see him outside the lab every now and then? But maybe that is what is in store for season three.
Overall, we can definitely see that beating the sophomore slump is not an easy task. But “Hawaii Five-0” seems to have hit the beach running and has been ready for all kinds of waves this season, and whether the waves have been glassy and smooth or completely blown out, fans are determined to enjoy the ride.
Luckily for us, “Hawaii Five-0” was just renewed for a “junior” year — so we’ll have our Five-0 team for a third season.
Redux Side Note:
The Monday, March 19, episode, “Kālele,” will be a “Five-0” blast from the past, as Ed Asner makes his reboot debut reprising his “Hawaii Five-O” character, August March, who helps McGarrett clear his sister, Mary Ann. I’m sure fans will be happy to see Alex O’Loughlin still on board, as well as Taryn Manning’s season two return. However, I sort of doubt the McGarrett reunion will be anything but “happy.”
But like Jack Lord used to always say: “Be there. Aloha.”
Wendie Burbridge is a published writer, playwright and a teacher of literature and fiction writing at Kamehameha Schools-Kapālama. Reach her on Facebook and on Twitter.