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Five-0 Redux

‘Hawaii Five-0’ breathes new fire into their eighth season

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McGarrett and Danny recruit Tani Rey to join the task force when a diabolical hacker releases a dangerous arsonist from prison, on the eighth season premiere of “Hawaii Five-0.”

It looks like the new year of “Hawaii Five-0” is going to be a hot one. There’s a new spirit in this eighth season and it seems as if the changes in the show are perhaps just what the show needed after seven years and 168 episodes. Yet while all the new elements have given the McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and the Five-0 team a new burst of energy– the presence of old tensions and conflicts are a welcome bit of familiarity.

This week’s season premiere “ʻAʻole e ʻōlelo mai ana ke ahi ua ana ia,” which is Hawaiian for “Fire Will Never Say that It Has Had Enough,” was a perfect connection between the past and present that helped bring the show full-circle. Which is really what fans have wanted– a reason to like all the new changes, yet still have a taste of what they had before in their favorite show.

The title is an ʻōlelo no‘eau, a Hawaiian proverb and poetical saying, which means that “the fire of anger or of love will burn as long as it has something to feed upon.” The saying is meant to be taken both literally and figuratively. Of course, we know that fire will burn as long as it has oxygen and flammable material to continue to feed and fan its flames. The figurative part of the saying is “the fire of anger or of love.” Anger, much like love, will burn as long as it has something– or someone– to feed upon. And this anger is seen by several characters and fuels the fire of their revenge and hate.

While this year’s season premiere did not include the usual epic “Sunset on the Beach” party,  the episode was very well done for a season opener. I liked how the two villains intersected in the storyline, and while the finale stunt was quite outlandish– McGarrett using the helicopter to airlift the hunting lodge out of the fire to safety–  it was still wonderfully entertaining. “Hawaii Five-0” likes to release a season opener that plays more like a movie than a television show. They want a big, over the top, stunt because if it plays on a big screen like it normally does on Waikīkī Beach, it looks so incredibly cool.

Yet even without the “Sunset on the Beach” show, the episode was really fun and entertaining. I loved all the one-liners, the humor, the continued feeling of ʻohana shared within the team. The team itself seems tighter. Jerry (Jorge Garcia) is now in charge of the magic table, and Lou (Chi McBride) continues to hold the Big Gun. I did appreciate that both Jerry and Lou seemed to take on more in the investigation and didn’t seem like a side note. Even with the introduction of Tani Ray, played by new series regular Meaghan Rath, it seems as if the team was better balanced.

Rath is really great. She’s likable and tough. She can sure fight– and Danny (Scott Caan) is right– she’s a female version of McGarrett. She doesn’t truck with the rules, she not afraid of anything, and anyone who will fight guest star Randy Couture without wincing is either totally brave or completely nuts– which makes her a perfect addition to Five-0. I also love how she gains the respect of both Lou and Danny– while Steve is completely sold on her from the start.  I’m looking forward to learning more about Tani and her backstory.

Writers and executive producers Peter Lenkov, Eric Guggenheim, and Rob Hanning, who wrote this first episode of the new season, did a great job incorporating Rath, and they also gave us more of our favorite actors and characters. The episode brought back a very popular villain, serial arsonist Jason Duclair, played by Couture. As Duclair’s favorite thing to do is to set things on fire, he certainly brings the fire to burn in this season starter.

The last time we saw Duclair was in “Ka pono kūʻokoʻa” (“The Cost of Freedom”) from season six. Duclair basically went against the grain and saved Adam’s (Ian Anthony Dale) life after the Yakuza orchestrated a prison break in order to kill Adam. While I know that Couture spent most of his career before becoming an actor as a mixed martial artist,  I was still a little surprised at how large he looked in the episode. It’s as if he took his character being in Halawa for the last two years to heart and bulked up.

While he didn’t seem to speak much for most of the episode, he definitely brought the fire that was mentioned by the title. At the start of the episode he doesn’t speak much, but yet he was still so imposing and scary. And then when he did finally speak– about what was in smoke and how it kills people who are trapped by fire– he was beyond frightening. I suppose there is a way you can play a psychopath with very little facial expression– and Couture is the one actor who does this so well. His stoicism comes across as calculating and psychotic. Sadly, he seems to have finally died in this episode, perishing in the brush fire he set himself. I would love for him to return to terrorize the team because he is such a fun and extremely interesting villain.

There’s a second villain in the episode, hacker Aaron Wright, played by guest star, Joey Lawrence. Wright is seeking revenge for the death of his brother, former Five-0 nemesis Ian Wright. Nick Jonas portrayed brother Ian in the season four finale, “ʻO Ka Pili ʻOhana Ka ʻOi” (“Family Comes First”), when he kidnapped Samantha Grover (Paige Hurd), Lou’s (Chi McBride) beautiful daughter, and was killed by Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos).

Ironically, Joey Lawrence is the real-life brother of Andrew Lawrence, who plays HPD Crime Lab Analyst Eric Russo, on the show. I did like Joey Lawrence as Wright, who I think they wanted to make us see as an almost twin of his brother Ian, but Lawrence is a much better actor than Jonas. Lawrence’s Wright brother is not necessarily scary, but he is far more complex. Lawrence gave Aaron a bit of sarcastic personality and he actually uses facial expressions– both acting traits that Jonas lacked as he made his transition from Jonas Brother to actor.

For the most part “the return of the villains” was pretty successful. Beyond the great bad guys, the episode was also a great mix of action and investigation– starting with the search for Aaron Wright, who is paid by drug boss Randy Tao (Hawai’i actor and former police lieutenant, Ernest F. Kong) to release Jason Duclair from prison. Tao wants to know who torched one of his drug houses and believes Duclair could act as an unofficial arson investigator to figure out who burned up his drugs. Wright hacks into the prison computer system and basically opens the jail doors for Duclair to waltz right out of Halawa Correctional Facility.  

Duclair helps Tao find the guy who stole from him, and then Duclair begins to clean house– torching Tao and his men and then sets his sights on Wright. The team heads to find Wright, and finds both villains together– Wright tied to a chair with Duclair ready to set him on fire. Tani– who has decided to join the team at the most inopportune time– is the first to find the two men and fights Duclair. Just as she is in deep trouble, McGarrett, Danny, and Lou come to her aid. Duclair makes a run for it and In his desire to escape Five-0 he sets a huge forest fire and traps himself and the team within its fiery midst.

The episode climax happens as the team, with Duclair in tow, have found shelter in an abandoned hunting lodge as the fire surrounds them. McGarrett leaves to find them help, and Duclair scarily recounts how the smoke will kill McG. Just as the fire gets worse and worse, Duclair runs out into it– perhaps taking his chances in the smoke and the fire that he knows and understands. As the smoke starts to seep into the lodge, and Danny and Lou start to say their goodbyes, McG arrives with a helicopter to save them.

In light of all that happened this summer with the departure of Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, I did like appreciate how McGarrett explained Chin’s move to San Francisco to run his own task force. I thought it was another good reference to the backstory of Five-0 how he used the story of meeting Chin to help Tani see her true worth to the team. And Danny telling Tani about how she reminds him of Kono about how she was on the mainland working with a task force to end a sex trafficking ring– that was a nice way to show how much Danny truly wanted Tani to join them on Five-0. I mean, he did ask if they could keep her after she asks if McGarrett can drive any faster. She’s definitely going to be an excellent addition to the team.

Other things I loved about the episode– Danny and Steve discussing their new partnership– a traditional Italian restaurant in the middle of Chinatown. Which, if you’ve ever been to Chinatown in downtown Honolulu, you know people would love it. I also loved seeing new series regulars Dennis Chun, Kimee Balmilero, and Taylor Wily in the episode. Sgt. Duke Lukela (Chun) was busy helping the firefighters and police officers set up to fight Duclair’s forest fire. And Kamekona (Wily) tells Nakoa (Kekoa Kekumano), as he sees the big plumes of smoke above the Shrimp Truck, that they need to go to the fire area in order to feed the firefighters and first responders. Dr. Cunha (Balmilero) helps to identify the first arson victim which leads the team to the connection between Wright and Duclair. Local Hawaiʻi radio personality Mike Buck also made a guest appearance as the Fire Captain who helps McG and Danny figure out a few fire clues at the first crime scene. And the great inside joke for all Alex O’Loughlin fans– the use of his “Moonlight” character’s name, Mick St. John, as the name Aaron Wright uses to travel to Hawaiʻi.

I usually enjoy the season openers. Yes, they can sometimes be more unrealistic than usual, but don’t we want “Hawaii Five-0” to be exciting and fun? And don’t we want McG to swoop in and save the day? Of course, that should go without saying. Still, even if you can’t suspend your disbelief a little bit– at least we can say that the new season has started off with a new fire that hopefully will carry on all season.

Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright, and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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