It hasn’t been long since audiences bid the 2010 reboot of beloved CBS procedural “Hawaii Five-0” a heartfelt “aloha” following its decade-long run. Already audiences miss the show, but there are 10 years’ worth of shows to keep the “aloha spirit” going for years to come.
Since the finale aired in April, I’ve been looking back at some of the show’s best storylines. The bromance between Danny and Steve, the personalities of the characters, the island spirit and Steve’s mission to solve his father’s murder are some of the storylines that contributed to making the show what it was, and were among the core reasons why it was popular among audiences.
Uncovering Family Secrets And Remembering John McGarrett
Hawaii Five-0’s most prominent storyline began with the “Pilot” and carried on into the finale, tying the entire show together as a whole and wrapping it up in one neat bow. Steve’s father John is murdered in the pilot, and for the next ten years, it keeps Steve in Hawaii, as Steve himself admits in the finale. The storyline wasn’t just about finding John’s killer and avenging his death: it was also about uncovering John’s secrets and having unexpected things concerning John come into Steve’s life that kept his father’s memory alive.
Steve searches his father’s tool box, marked “Champ” (which was what John called Steve during their final conversation to clue him in to its existence), and finds evidence which suggests Steve’s mother’s death was not accidental, but murder. The more Steve digs into his father’s investigation, the more he uncovers family secrets, and ultimately finds his mother alive and well, having faked her death all those years ago. Steve’s relationship with his mother is rocky up until her death, though he tried to make things work despite her deception.
John’s memory was brought back in more ways than just through Steve investigating his death. He was a dedicated cop, and he truly cared for other people. For example, the Season 5 episode, “Ho’oilina”, finds Steve at his father’s grave on the fourth anniversary of his death. When he spots a mystery woman at his father’s grave, he catches up to her and discovers she’s Ellie Clayton (Mirrah Foulkes), a lawyer who lost her father years before. The case was investigated by John, who looked after Ellie in the following years. Knowing how much the case meant to John, Steve is determined to solve the cold case for him, and for Ellie.
The Season 3 episode, “Hookman”, followed a similar formula in that Steve put an old case of his father’s to rest, albeit in an entirely different manner. A man seeking revenge against the arresting officers in his case from years before, including Steve’s own father, is the antagonist in this episode. Because John is no longer alive, the man sets his sights on Steve as a substitute, adding him to the list. Steve and the rest of Five-0 stop him before he can finish his hit list of revenge, and Steve even receives a visit from his deceased father and the two officers murdered by the shooter, receiving a thank-you from their ghosts.
Steve continuously finds ways to connect with his father, whether it’s through an old memory or solving an old case. He jumps at the chance to do something to honor his father: it’s his way of staying connected to John, whom he unfortunately didn’t know well as an adult. Even death cannot separate father and son, after all.
Steve’s Character Development
This leads me to my next storyline: Steve’s character development. When audiences first met Steve, he was tough, almost robotic in a sense, and often went over the line in the name of justice. Over the years Steve softened up a bit, which explains why he didn’t take the shot to kill Daiyu Mei when he had it.
In the finale, the showdown between Daiyu Mei and Steve was about more than just her seeking vengeance on Steve for killing her husband, Wo Fat. It was the end of a chapter for the both of them. Steve had suffered for years because of Wo Fat, and killing him took that burden off his shoulders. While Steve’s and Wo Fat’s storyline started out strong, I thought it ran longer than was necessary and had gone stale.
The thing about Steve and Daiyu Mei is that all loose ends regarding the Wo Fat storyline is tied up. Deiyu Mei’s appearance is a spin-off of that storyline in a manner of speaking, and with Steve arresting her, it puts an end to any more people wanting revenge for the loss of Wo Fat coming out of the woodwork. With Daiyu Mei arrested, having lost her battle, she was forced to make peace as is, and Steve could finally walk away from the nightmare that was Wo Fat. Plus, Steve had the chance to kill her, but didn’t. Perhaps there was a time when he would have, but it’s proof of how far Steve’s come since the pilot episode. Sometimes revenge just isn’t worth it.
In any case, Steve grew to be more compassionate, relied more heavily on teamwork (compared to when he thought Danny was enough to be considered a back-up before) and became more humanistic. One of Danny’s many terms for his partner back in the day was “caveman” – it’s safe to say Steve evolved quite a bit since then.
Steve learned to let people into his life. He had friends in the military, of course, and a relationship with Catherine prior to the “Pilot”, but he became more vulnerable and personal over time. He allowed people to help him, his team became family, and he got to be a father figure for Grace and Nahele. He became closer with his family, especially his previously estranged sister Mary, and proved to be an awesome uncle to Mary’s daughter.
The goodbyes that the team share with him in the finale speaks to the impact Steve has had on them and their lives, and for that impact to be possible, Steve had to allow himself to let go of his painful past and embrace the present and future. He helped them even when he was in the midst of his own struggles, even when he was at his worst. Steve is a real friend of a rare make-up in which he puts others first, always, because he genuinely cares and wants to help.
Steve’s And Danny’s Friendship
Steve’s character development is largely in part to another of Hawaii Five-0’s running storylines: Steve’s and Danny’s friendship. The first episode found them arguing and throwing punches, but the two found a common ground as the show went on. Their friendship is one of the reasons why audiences loved the show so much – their bickering, their bromance, and how they always came through for one another, especially in their hardest times, were cherished moments the show produced.
Steve got a family in Danny and his kids, alongside the rest of Five-0, and mellowed out some, which is what he needed most. Danny, meanwhile, learned to bend the rules some and even came to like Hawaii, and that’s definitely a result of his friendship with Steve. Kudos to Danny for teaching Steve that hanging someone off a rooftop was not okay.
The two may have had disagreements, but they accepted one another, flaws and all. Steve and Danny aren’t good roommates, given their different lifestyles, but they’ve lived under the same roof a time or two throughout the years enough that they’ve grown used to each other’s bad habits. Though it initially drove Danny crazy, he got used to Steve driving his car everywhere without argument. Friendships aren’t perfect, and that’s what Steve and Danny exemplified. Though they were very different, it didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends, practically brothers. Sometimes you just have to get to know a person first.
Chin’s Selflessness And Family Drama
During his time on Hawaii Five-0, Chin was a solid character. His patience and empathy were admirable and unparalleled. This is highlighted by the fact that he took the fall for his uncle’s theft of money from the Honolulu Police Department’s forfeiture locker. Chin’s loyalty to his family is unwavering, and ironically he was cut off by several members of his family, as well as his friends, for taking the hit. He lost his job and his fianceé for his trouble. The only family member that stood by him was Kono.
Despite all this, he’s willing to take on the burden for something he didn’t do, because of his love, loyalty and respect for his uncle, and his understanding of his uncle’s reasons for doing so. Even when his uncle is ready to confess, Chin is still willing to be the prime suspect in the theft, though his uncle insists otherwise.
Chin would rather take on everyone else’s pain and shield them. While this is a tremendous show of consideration and selflessness, it’s also concerning given Chin doesn’t appear to worry about his own fate. Still, his character was underrated, and this storyline was a shining example of his kind personality.
It was an example of only the good things to come from Chin, who would suffer but ultimately be granted a happy ending. He tragically lost his wife Malia, but later found love with Abby, and he even took on the task of raising the daughter left behind by Malia’s brother, who had killed Chin’s father years before. Chin can see past the bad and find the good in just about anything, and it’s what makes him so understanding and by extension, a gifted cop and a thoughtful person.
Kono’s romance with Adam Noshimuri, the son of a former Yakuza leader, was an interesting storyline. It’s never disclosed how they met, but it’s clear that they have strong feelings for one another from the beginning. The two have many ups and downs, including Adam’s brother framing Kono for murder, but their love for each other triumphs all. Kono even goes through a period where she clones Adam’s phone as she has trouble trusting him.
Despite that, the two worked things out and eventually married. However, with Grace Park’s departure from the show, it led to the storyline changing significantly. With Kono moving off the island to work elsewhere, she and Adam eventually divorced. Nonetheless, it was a memorable storyline while it lasted: in many ways, the relationship between the cop and the son of a former Yakuza leader was romantic, almost like the kind of forbidden love reminiscent of soap operas.
In the beginning, it seemed as though Kono were succumbing to lust, or was perhaps blinded by what she thought was love. Yet, the more I saw of her and Adam, the more realistic their relationship was to me.
They survived being fugitives, having people (including Chin initially) doubt their relationship, and even a time when Adam was in prison while Kono lived life on the outside shortly after they were married. They survived high-stress situations and separation. It was true love, and made for a love story worthy of a bestselling novel. I was sad to see Grace Park go, not just for the loss of her character, but also for the loss of the storyline.
Hawaii Five-0 featured its fair share of killers, from all walks of life, motivated by all kinds of different things. Yet, no one compared to Dr. Madison Gray (Elisabeth Röhm), whose story arc lasted over the majority of Season 7. A psychiatrist, she was an evil mastermind, highly intelligent, and persuasive and manipulative enough to convince others to kill for her. She leaves chess pieces behind, blows up Steve’s truck, and has Steve and FBI profiler Alicia (Claire Forlani) kidnapped and nearly killed.
However, in her final appearance, Madison shows up at Honolulu Police Department, drenched in blood, claiming to be someone else. She plays the part convincingly well, but baits Alicia and gets the former profiler to help her escape in exchange for revealing the location of Alicia’s daughter, previously thought deceased.
The real hook of the storyline, however, was Madison’s end goal: turning Alicia, a woman who’d spent her life putting criminals behind bars, into a killer herself. Madison’s character was incredibly complex and radically changed the life of fellow recurring character Alicia, and proved to be a challenging adversary for Steve and the remainder of Five-0. Even Wo Fat could not measure up to Madison in her psychotic, yet extremely calculated manner. Madison is a character worth studying, not just for the brilliance behind her creation, but also to uncover, or at least theorize, why she was the way she was.
Alicia believes Madison is a control freak herself, needing everything to be perfect, and that her issues go back to her childhood, where Madison had a bipolar parent who was submissive to the other parent out of terror, and that Madison suffered that same terror. Alicia suspected the bipolar parent was Madison’s father, and that he taught her to play chess behind locked doors, where he’d do more than just play chess.
According to Alicia, Madison’s father couldn’t let go of his control, never allowing Madison to win the game, which is one of the reasons why Madison harbors a hatred for chess. From that psychological trauma, it could possibly be why Madison likes to play games, particularly mind games, which makes her that much more unpredictable and dangerous. The power of mind games is proven by Alicia succumbing to Madison’s ultimate game of turning Alicia into a killer: really, Madison’s games have no winner.
Hawaii Five-0 was good about creating relatable storylines as well. Whether it was Tani’s struggle to help her brother who grappled with a drug addiction, issues with an ex, or even how friendship cures a bad day, Five-0’s storylines held an even balance between the extreme (like chasing serial killers or discovering life-changing family secrets) and the universally relatable.
The Five-0 team are dedicated crime solvers, but they also took the time to surf, appreciate a good malasada, and be there for one another. On a side note, the show did an amazing job of integrating Hawaiian culture into its storylines, from its traditions to its culinary arts.
For instance, there was an episode in which a crime scene was located in a heiau, a sacred Hawaiian temple, and everyone was patiently waiting for a priest to arrive so all present could be blessed, and subsequently be granted permission to enter the crime scene by the spirits. As this is a major part of Hawaiian culture, it was highly respectful and considerate to include – however, Danny refused to participate and was given a significant bout of karma as a result, including a giant rock in his windshield. It just goes to show that a culture, any culture, should be respected.
Hawaii Five-0 isn’t short on juicy storylines. Whether it’s love, pursuing killers, friendships, uncovering secrets and the like, there was a good variation of storylines for the show’s decade-long run. There are too many storylines to list them all without turning this article into a novel, but it’s a start. Going back and watching these plots unfold once more is sure to keep audiences busy and captivated, just as they did when they aired.
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