Dear Television: please stop feeling compelled to do ‘theme’ episodes for holidays.
Rarely are holiday-related episodes that good; most of them don’t have much substance to them beyond the gimmick of whatever special date they’re centered around. (A rare exception was NBC’s Life, which had a second season episode entitled “Black Friday,” but that episode was good because it was well-written and acted, not necessarily because of any particular festive addition.) This week’s Hawaii Five-0 started by evoking reminders of The Blair Witch Project and didn’t really improve from there.
The Halloween parts of the show just didn’t work for me. Do we need to hear the team bantering about what Lori’s Halloween costume might have been when they’re at an active crime scene? (Was it weird to anyone else that she called Danny “Danno,” by the way?) And although watching Scott Caan as exasperated Danny is always a treat, the writers pushed that a little far with his “I don’t care about curses” schtick. No matter what his beliefs about curses, he’s been around the Five-0 team long enough that I don’t think he’d disrespect theirs. The only part of the spooky stuff I really enjoyed was the use of Ray Parker Jr.’s “Ghostbusters,” a song that never gets old for me.
Yet let’s set that part of the episode aside and look at it on its merits. It’s not one of the show’s better installments. By the midpoint of the episode, I still had just as many questions as I had at the start; sure, I don’t want everything wrapped up by the halfway point, but I do want some decent idea of what’s going on. A muttering drifter (horror legend Robert Englund) is an obvious distraction from a body part-harvesting plot that’s reminiscent of The X-Files: I Want To Believe, which didn’t have the greatest script either. And who couldn’t guess that when Lori went off alone, downstairs, she was going to get knocked upside the head? Not unlike we couldn’t guess that the couple wandering by themselves in the middle of the night were going to get killed? That’s just common sense right there.
In the subplot department, we have Danny continuing to act like a teenage boy around Dr. Gabrielle Asano (Autumn Reeser), whom he’s now calling “Gabby.” Between that and his constantly getting dinged for disrespecting Hawaiian culture, this is not his best episode. Plus, he’s seeing dead people? Scott Caan may be a Golden Globe nominee, but he can only elevate his material so much. Meanwhile, Terry O’Quinn (Joe White) and Mark Dacascos (Wo Fat) are credited in the episode’s press release, but don’t actually appear. That probably would’ve given a jolt to the piece. The latter, at least, has proven to be one heck of a villain.
“Ka Iwi Kapu” is the latest in a long line of unremarkable holiday episodes of television. Beyond that, though, it continues Five-0‘s sophomore growing pains. While the cast still has chemistry and the core team is finally back together, the same flaws are still in play. The character of Lori Weston still sticks out like a square peg in a round hole, and the scripts just aren’t what they once were. They seem more obvious, more heavy-handed, oftentimes meandering.
That’s not to say the show isn’t still worth watching; it certainly has entertainment value. What makes me so frustrated with it is that it can be so much more. In season one, Hawaii Five-0 wasn’t just a show I watched; it was a show I engaged with. Now, I don’t much think about it after it’s over. And holiday-themed episode or no, that’s the real crime.