It’s that time of year again— when the “best of” lists come out and everyone looks back on the past year of favorite moments and memories. For “Hawaii Five-0” fans, 2015 included the end of an explosive season five and the start of an equally exciting season six. 2014 gifted us with the 100th episode and the wrap up of a few key storylines that started in season one like Wo Fat’s (Mark Dacascos) connection to McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), and the mystery of whatever happened to Danno’s (Scott Caan) wayward brother Matty (Dane Cook). 2015 seems to be the year of stronger storylines that focus on the team and their relationships. We still have great action and stunts, but it seems as if the show has finally been able to marry the stellar stunt work with deeper storylines and acting.
While looking at the list of 25 episodes, starting in January (episodes 510 through 525) and ending in December (episodes 601 through 610), I came up with this short list of what I think were the best episodes of the year.
My criteria for choosing the best episodes had to include:
1- strong writing and/or directing
2- focus on the team and their relationships
3- further explanation or development of main characters and their overall arcs.
While I love the stunts and action— I wanted to choose the episodes that moved me and caused me to think about the characters on a deeper level.
I’m sure there will be many who will disagree with one or two (or three!) of my choices, but how about you just add your choices to the comment section and we’ll just make it a longer list. My list is in chronological order by air date and not in ranking order. To be honest, I probably couldn’t have tried to put my choices into a “best” order without being strong armed by Gabriel or the Yakuza waiting to edit my post.
“Poina ʻOle” (“Not Forgotten”)
Directed by Brad Tanenbaum and written by John Dove
Original airdate: January 16, 2015
One of the biggest reasons I chose this episode was because of the parallel storylines between the murder of four reform school boys and McGarrett trying to save another boy who seems headed in a similar direction. The writing was excellent, mainly because of the historical reference the case made to the real life story of the escape of four boys from the Waialeʻe Industrial School in 1946.
The episode also focused on the entire team working the case, and brought in two heavy reminders of the Five-0 teamʻs past. Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) had to face Paul Delano (Daniel Baldwin) who dumped Chin in Halawa and nearly killed him via prison riot. And Grover (Chi McBride) was still dealing with the aftermath of his daughter’s kidnapping by Ian Wright (Nick Jonas).
But I especially loved how everyone worked hard to solve the case about four boys who time seemed to have forgotten. And while everyone was moved by the case, it was Danno and McGarrett’s reaction when they found the grave of the still-shackled boys that really hit home. It’s these kinds of moments— when the team reacts from their gut— that continues to endear us to the show.
“Pono Kaulike” (“Justice for All”)
Directed by Larry Teng and written by Peter M. Lenkov & Ken Solarz
Original airdate: March 6, 2015
This episode made me feel so much— anger, sadness, heartbreak, happiness, elation, satisfaction— just to name a few of the many emotions I experienced while watching this one. It was the episode that freed three characters from a part of their past and introduced us to a whole new darkness for the Five-0 team.
Danno was arrested (rudely in front of Gracie (Teilor Grubbs) no less) and charged with the murder of Marco Reyes (Anthony Ruivivar). I still have no idea why Chin was arrested by internal affairs Detective Coughlin (Robert Knepper). All I remember is that, for some absurd reason, Coughlin was gunning for Chin and so he got it in the eye at the end. I don’t mean to be so callous, but really, if you think you’re going to make nice with Gabriel (Christoper Sean), who was freed so Coughlin could put Chin away, then you deserve to be shanked by a pen.
Overall, the episode gave us a deeper understanding of Danno and the guilt he carried from killing Reyes, and how he felt about his friends and his daughter. It also showed us how steadfast and strong Chin can be in the face of explicable adversity. We also saw McGarrett and Kono (Grace Park) work tirelessly to save their friends. McGarrett especially showed us how much he considers Danno and Gracie to be part of his family.
And we definitely saw how incredibly ruthless Gabriel can be— and that truth has played out well into the sixth season.
“Ka ʻalapahi nui” (“Big Lie”)
Directed by Eagle Egilsson and written by David Wolkove and Sue Palmer
Original air date: October 23, 2015
I know— I skipped the fifth season finale and the season six opener. But really, we know those episodes were great and fun and set up so we all watch at critical moments for the show. But really, the overall stories for both— nuclear bombs in Hawaiʻi and pirates terrorizing the Hawaiian people and her king— were too over-the-top for me. What I love about the show is not the movie quality storylines designed to get the non-fan to tune in, but the shows that focus on the characters and their stories.
And this episode gave us both a bit of the outlandish storyline with a healthy dose of character focus. While the team worked to find a murdering motorcycle gang, behind the scenes stunt coordinator Jeff Cadiente worked overtime to give us some excellent motorcycle stunts. Super cool to watch, but as always, donʻt try them at home.
And speaking of action, we also got a chance to see the team really bond as they trained and completed a Tough Mudder competition. While it was just McG, Danno, Chin, and Kono who participated in the muddy obstacle course— they were trained by Grover and Max (Masi Oka) acted as team doctor. Kamekona (Taylor Wily) and Flippa (Shawn Mokuahi Garnett) added their support to the team, which helped make the circle complete.
Everyone loves a happy ending, and even with a little dirty fun, they team always rallies around each other— I think this is why I liked this episode for one of the best. It showed that the team can handle tough on so many different levels. Tough case, tough people, Tough Mudder course— together they can do anything.
“Piko Pau ʻIole” (“The Artful Dodger”)
Directed by Joel Surnow, story by Peter M. Lenkov and teleplay by Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt
Original air date: November 13, 2015
I loved this episode for so many reasons— the story was great, the characters were well defined, and the many layered storyline really helped to show us further development of Kono and Adam’s (Ian Anthony Dale) relationship, as well as Gabriel’s plans for Chin and the team.
I also enjoyed how guest star Kristoffer Polaha’s character, the world’s most charming con man, Hank Weber, really fit in with McG and Danno. The scenes between the three men were so funny and turned our favorite bromantic moments into a love triangle. Carguments went to an entirely new level with the introduction of Hank.
I know there were so many other episodes that also had great storylines and showed McG and Danno at their sarcastic best, but this episode really got to me. I think it was the mix of the accurate use of the Hawaiian title (the idea of the thieving rat), and the team splitting up to work two cases that impacted them all because Gabriel was at the very center. Add in the devastating decision by Adam to turn himself in for murder, and it all helped to put this one on my list.
Not that I liked what Adam did, but I think I understand what he is trying to do in order to stay with Kono. This episode not only showed us the team’s character, but also further developed Adam, who could have been relegated to just being Mr. Kalākaua.
All of the deeper layers introduced in this episode helped it to rise above some of the others.
“Ka Mākau Kaʻa Kaua” (“The Sweet Science”)
Directed by Bryan Spicer and written by John Dove
Original air date: December 11, 2015
While I wrote a lot last week about this episode, I often don’t really think about the last show too much after I’ve written about it. But this one really stuck with me. All of the team work— McG, Danno, Chin, and Grover catching the assassins in the middle of a boxing match; Jerry (Jorge Garcia) and Abby (Julie Benz) adding to the teamwork; Kono and Adam saying good-bye and the team all coming to comfort her— just made the episode even more special.
While it was a very sad episode— the death of a brother and Adam going to prison— it did allow for good character development of the team and for some of the guest stars to shine. I loved seeing Nicky DeMarco (Larry Manetti) playing boxing manager to new up-and-coming welterweight boxer Luke Nakano (Lewis Tan). Both men were really strong and really added to the excellent episode.
Overall this one made the list because of great teamwork and a good case. I guess the science is pretty simple when it comes to creating the best episodes of “Five-0.” I suppose after five years, it has become second nature. So here’s to several more seasons of seeing the best— the best cast, crew, writers, and directors on television.