Leave it to “Hawaii Five-0” to toss me into a moral quandary. This week’s episode, “Ka Noʻeau” (“The Painter”), left me wondering if I fully understand the concept of good guys and bad guys.
As usual, the Five-0 team left me breathless with love for the good guys who got some sweet revenge, even while their actions were bad, bad, bad. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not rooting for the bad guys to get what they want. I could never love a show that always let the bad guys get away, even if they were technically in the right.
But this week there were two instances when I wished the bad guy would get what they deserved. In a sense, one wish was deliciously granted, and the other, sadly, could not have a satisfying ending.
In Hawaiian, “noʻeau” means “clever, skillful, dexterous, wise, artistic, talented, expert, technical.” Nick Mercer or “Valentine” (Timothy V. Murphy) embodied all of these elements and more. He was known throughout the mob as a world-class assassin because he was so good at making people disappear. They called him The White Death because his artistry rendered his targets basically invisible. The FBI knew he was an enforcer for Detroit crime boss Albert Bagosa (Carmen Argenziano), yet nothing could be pinned on him because of his skill and talent at hiding his crimes. And, I suppose, bodies as well.
Yet, when Five-0 finally caught up with him after he took out Joseph Stegner (Lee Tergesen), another hit man sent to Hawaii to kill the people he was protecting, they found a changed man whose name had new meaning.
He had previously been called Valentine because he had no heart, but after a bad car accident he was given a new one — the donated heart of a young man who had done nothing but good. After his heart transplant, Valentine suddenly could not kill any more and wanted to protect the people he had been contracted to kill. He found a new way to paint them invisible — by hiding them and giving them a new life instead of killing them.
It’s an ironic version of witness protection, organized by the very man the witnesses should run from. With the help of McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Five-0, Valentine was able to keep Bagosa from taking over the secluded compound filled with targets he was supposed to have killed and their families.
I was sad in the end that he had to go to jail. Sure, I knew he had to, as he was the same man who had killed so many before his change of heart. But when McGarrett hesitated to put on cuffs and take Valentine away, I almost thought McG would figure out a way to let him stay with his new family.
But I guess the happy ending was saved for the real ending of this episode. From the start, the action kept moving and getting more and more explosive. First with Stegner, the first contract killer, coming off a flight from Detroit and being detained by the TSA. Two Hawaii actors were prominent in this scene — the first TSA agent who escorted Stegner out of baggage claim was former KITV morning news anchor Ryan Kalei Tsuji, and the TSA agent who attempted to arrest him was local actor and radio personality Devon Nekoba.
The shootout between McG and Valentine on Ward Avenue was awesome. I just love when McGarrett chases cars on foot, shoots up everything, and jumps on the hood of an HPD cruiser in order not to get crushed. And the showdown at the compound when Kono (Grace Park), Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), Grover (Chi McBride), Danno (Scott Caan) and McG each took out a bad guy was smoking hot. Thank you, Jeff Cadiente, for some awesome stunt work and gunplay. Seems like someone was overlooked for this year’s Emmy for best stunt work.
If you blinked you may have missed popular fan favorites in a couple of scenes. Fong (Brian Yang) was back to help get Kono vital information about Valentine; Sgt. Duke (Dennis Chun) filled in McG and Grover about the location of Valentine’s getaway car; and Officer Pua Kai (Shawn Thomsen) took an order from McG to get CSU moving on some blood evidence. I love seeing these actors on screen; I just wish they got more time in front of the cameras.
Not only were the recurring actors good, but the main cast had some heavy lifting in this episode. Caan was stellar, showing several levels of emotion Danno had to navigate through while dealing with his anger and helplessness about his brother. O’Loughlin nailed his stunts, as well as McGarrett’s emotional reaction to what Danno was going through in his crisis. Kim had to show Chin’s self-restraint, as well his ability to swallow a lot of pride to ask the man who killed his father for a helping hand.
Returning director Peter Weller did another amazing job with stunts and action, as well as with the handling of the script by executive producer Peter Lenkov and writer Ken Solarz. Weller is not afraid to push the envelope, and Lenkov and Solarz wove a tight storyline that provided enough twists to keep me guessing and hanging on until the final moment.
And what a final moment it was.
So here’s my second wish. I really wished Danno would find his brother and end any kind of contact with Marco Reyes (Anthony Ruivivar). I really dislike him. He’s worse than a bad guy who comes to kill you. This is the bad guy who hangs around and tortures you, threatens to come back and take another person you love if you don’t comply, and smiles in your face like he’s doing you a huge favor.
Maybe that’s why Danno did what he did in the end. To end the torture and to never let another threat come into his life like Reyes.
I knew Danno’s brother was dead. I think we all did. But to have him wheeled out in a barrel and then offer to basically mail him to Danno was twisted. And after all the grief of not knowing what happened to Matty and all the trouble Chin put himself in to get the money to help Danno, and then to threaten Gracie, I was so ready for Danno to pull the trigger. I was also glad he wiped that damn smile off Reyes’ face.
The build up to that scene was something else. We saw Danno counting down the days when he had to deliver the money. He knew, even if Matty was dead, that he had to show up because Gracie would be next. And we all know Danno would never let that happen.
There was more tension when Chin went to see his brother-in-law, Gabriel Wainwright (Christopher Sean), for the $5.5 million Danno needed to replace from Matty’s buried treasure. Even though Gabriel killed his father and has him in trouble with internal affairs, Chin knew he was the only person who would have that kind of money and who would owed it to Chin, so to speak.
Still, I just know that all of this — Chin getting the money and making a deal to move Gabriel into better prison digs and Danno ending his connection to Reyes — will come back to haunt both of them. It will also haunt McG, because both men are his friends and he will feel like he should have been able to help them in a bigger way. I think it will really cause a huge conflict for Danno. As the one who always follows the rules, he broke a big one.
Or did he?
See, here lies my quandary. Did he kill an unarmed man? Yes. Did he kill an innocent man? That is a definite no.
Did he kill him to avenge his brother and protect his daughter? Yes he did.
Will it make him doubt his actions and will he suffer for it? Perhaps not in a practical sense, but definitely in an emotionally way, I’m sure.
And won’t that be interesting to watch play out for the rest of the season? Yes. Absolutely.
REDUX SIDE NOTE:
You might have thought Mr. Ko looked familiar in this week’s episode. Hawai‘i-born mixed martial artist Enson Inoue played the scary loan shark who Danno faced in order to borrow a few million to save his brother. This was Enson’s first time on “Hawaii Five-0,” following in the footsteps of his brother, Egan Inoue, who played Wo Fat’s bodyguard in the season two premiere and a Taliban fighter last season, which will re-air at a special night and time on Saturday.
From all the social media postings of Enson hanging out with star Alex O’Loughlin, I’m sure Enson may return to bring Mr. Ko back. Perhaps his brother could be a former bodyguard of Wo Fat’s? It’s really not much of a stretch.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.