There’s been a lot of Hawaii Five-O buzz this week, with the news that the show is bringing on Reiko Aylesworth in a potentially recurring role and casting for a new series regular. In case you’re keeping score, if you add in the two other recurring characters – Max Bergman and Mary Ann McGarrett – that’s doubling the main cast in less than one season, depending on your definition of recurring. Yet both Max and Mary Ann have been suspiciously MIA, at least until tonight, when Max returns to the fold in order to help Five-O with a murder-abduction. (No idea where Mary Ann is for the sixth straight week; her last episode was Max’s first, “Nalowale.” And she was listed there as a series regular.)
The team is called in to help Erica Harris (FlashForward‘s Peyton List), who doesn’t know how she ended up half-naked in a state park, or where her husband Jake is. Danny deduces that she has “trauma induced amnesia,” although her overbearing mother-in-law Nancy (Lost‘s Sheila Kelley, also the wife of The West Wing‘s Richard Schiff; there’s your trivia for the week) thinks Erica’s less victim and more perpetrator. Oh, dysfunctional families, the television staple. Nancy tells the boys her son is a hotshot lawyer and his wife is just in the marriage for the money. Does this sound familiar yet?
Yet this is Hawaii Five-O, which as often as it starts by the numbers, doesn’t always keep playing that way. Enter a private investigator hired by the cynical mom who doesn’t believe his employer, the dead body of Jake Harris, and similar circumstances to a spate of unsolved homicides from the prior year. The show turns from a spousal murder to the hunt for a serial killer without losing momentum. That serial killer is played by an actor who’s good at playing severely unlikeable: Rhys Coiro, who’ll be known to 24 fans as turncoat FBI agent Sean Hillinger in that show’s seventh season. I wanted to hit him with something heavy when he appeared on that show, and I certainly want to do so here, which means that he’s doing his job properly. The final twenty minutes of the episode fall neatly into place with a suitable payoff. Any time you can give me a well-constructed narrative with a bad guy that makes me root for his demise, I’ll be a happy camper.
The show also throws us the first mention of Chin’s ex-fiancee Malia, and more backstory for Steve, in the form of an old case number among his father’s belongings and the reveal that his mother was killed in a car accident. There’s a little bit of everything this episode; the writers haven’t forgotten the threads they’ve started or the ones they’re about to start in the middle of the plot, which is harder than you might think, so bravo to them on that count as well.
Now, for the minutiae: Alex O’Loughlin is a good-looking man, but I’m starting to laugh at the number of opportunities the show finds for him to be shirtless. It’s becoming practically an expectation. That said, there are a lot worse things I could be looking at. I’m also developing a greater appreciation for the acting talents of Grace Park (possibly because I spent my weekend watching Battlestar Galactica), and I see now why some people consider her underused. My favorite part, though, has to be the not-so-subtle jabs the show continues to make at the classic cop show formula; Danny calling Steve a “neanderthal animal” after he kicks in a hotel room door made me choke on my Dr. Pepper. I always appreciate a show that has an honest image of itself, whether it’s poking fun at cliches or not trying to pretend that it’s reinventing the wheel. Hawaii Five-O does both those things, and that’s another reason why I find it endearing. It just begs the question, however: why tinker with what’s already working so well?