I remember the first episode of the re-imagined Hawaii Five-0 that I saw. “Mai Ka Wa Kahiko,” or “Out of the Past,” the 15th episode of the second season. I caught it right at the part where Danny (Scott Caan) is driving the wrong way down a road in time to get to a cell phone to receive a call from his ex-partner, who has also kidnapped his daughter. From then on, I was hooked.
I remember buying the first season so I could catch up, which only entranced me further. The characters, the Hawaiian scenery, the cases, the storylines—I found them all compelling and interesting. I related to each character in different ways, from Steve’s (Alex O’Loughlin) strength to Danny’s loyalty, to Chin’s (Daniel Dae Kim) patience and Kono’s (Grace Park) ambition. I discovered the show at one of the times in my life where I needed escapism the most, and Hawaii Five-0 gave me that and more.
Since then, I’ve been an avid viewer and have recently gone back to binge-watching the series now that the show has officially ended with its final, and appropriately titled episode, “Aloha.” The show lasted a decade, nearly as long as the original series’ run of 12 years. Each season boasts its fair share of memorable and noteworthy episodes, but I’ve always considered the first season to be its best.
The first season had a lot of pressure to live up to the original show, but with its own modernized spin. Certain characters (like Kono) and storylines changed for the benefit of luring in a new audience, but it worked effortlessly. The characters all shared a good chemistry, the cases were interesting, and we learned more about the characters and their backgrounds over the course of the season. Steve’s investigation into his father’s death leads him to an intense and deadly confrontation with the Governor of Hawaii herself in the season finale, and Five-0 looks like it’ll never be the same again—until Season 2, anyway.
Steve is the first one we are introduced to, as we witness him partaking in a hostage call in which he tries, and fails, to save his father. He hears the gunshot that kills his father, shouting “NO!” in desperation, then cutting to the next scene in which we see he’s returning to Hawaii after some time away.
Steve is scarred, never the same afterwards. His father’s murder is only the beginning of his woes, and his run-ins with his mortal enemy, Wo Fat. In the first season, Steve begins uncovering his father’s investigation, finding out that his mother’s death, previously thought to be a tragic accident, was actually murder. Steve’s family is clearly dysfunctional, and we learn more about his childhood, in which his mother died and his father sent him and his sister, Mary, away, forever changing their lives. Mary is introduced and shown to be troubled, having followed a different path than her older brother.
Though he has a strained relationship with her, Steve does care about his sister and does what he can to look out for her. Mary, for her part, is just as invested in finding out more about her father’s investigation and is kidnapped because of it. For her safety, Steve sends her back to Los Angeles afterward. The McGarrett family is nothing if not stubborn, insistent on answers, and once they decide something, it’s hard to change their minds—especially Steve’s.
Steve and Danny frequently butt heads, their tactics clearly different. Steve isn’t traditionally law enforcement, having been a Navy SEAL prior to becoming the leader of Five-0. Steve takes the free pass the Governor gave him to go after criminals a little too literally for Danny’s liking, but it’s certainly entertaining for audiences to see just how far Steve will push the limits. Hanging a guy off a roof and throwing another into a shark tank to get them talking are just some of his more ruthless moments, not to mention using a grenade to blow off a door in a pawn shop. These things, as well as Steve taking over Danny’s car and driving most of the time, tend to drive Danny crazy, but Steve makes up for it one way or another.
In the Hawaii Five-0 “Pilot,” Steve gives Danny a weekend stay at a hotel with his daughter so they don’t have to spend it in Danny’s tiny apartment. Steve has moments where he shows that he cares about those around him. He will also do anything to keep them safe and proves this many times, from saving Kono in the second episode of Season 1 and telling her the team would always do everything they could to keep her safe, to saving Danny from an unfortunate exposure to sarin, and getting Chin out of a deadly jam when a bomb is strapped to Chin’s neck.
Steve is especially sensitive to cases involving fathers and sons, his soft side showing significantly. Danny even points this out at one point. Steve uses his father’s investigation as a way to get to know his father again, as it seems to be his main connection to it. Steve is somewhat obsessed with his father’s case, going as far as to break into the Governor’s mansion to get his answers. Steve is not satisfied unless he has the truth and is willing to break all the rules to do it. He’ll break rules anyway, but he’ll cross even more lines when it concerns family. His style is more along the lines of “shoot first, ask questions later,” but it seems to work for him. Steve can be impulsive, but it’s the kind of impulsive that is somewhat calculated. Steve knows what to expect from the outcomes of whatever actions he takes or decisions he may make, and he never hesitates to make the call he feels is right.
His approach is more level-headed and silent compared to Danny’s yelling and tendency to get a little too emotional, so the two balance each other out. Danny teaches Steve to be a little more human, and Steve teaches Danny to mellow out a bit. It’s a win-win.
Steve doesn’t even think twice about going into the asset forfeiture locker at the Honolulu Police Department to steal the money needed for Victor Hesse’s (the man that killed Steve’s father) ransom on Chin’s life when the bomb is strapped to his neck. Kono goes with him to assist. Though it looks like the entire team will be caught for that theft when another attempt to steal the $28 million that’s supposed to be there is made in “Kai e’e,” the money that’s supposed to be missing, used for Chin’s ransom, is surprisingly there. Steve was ready to take the hit on behalf of his team, though his team all show up to take responsibility for their parts as well, unwilling to let their leader carry the burden alone.
Everything comes to a head for Steve when he’s implicated in two murders in the Season 1 finale. He is arrested at the Governor’s mansion just after Wo Fat has tasered Steve, murdered the Governor, framed Steve, and made his escape. In this episode, Steve has just about the worst luck, and the finale ends in a cliffhanger as we wonder what will become of Steve and the Five-0 team he’s worked so hard to create and meld into an “Ohana” (family).
Danny has moved to Hawaii to be near his daughter Grace after his ex-wife, Rachel, remarries and moves to Oahu. He never misses an opportunity to insult Hawaii, hating the beaches, the pineapples on pizza, and just about everything else about the island paradise most people love. He’s shown to have a frosty relationship with his ex, assigning her some dark ringtones to emphasize that point.
However, upon seeing Rachel for the first time in “Heihei,” it’s easy to detect the chemistry she and Danny once shared, and we learn how they met. The two spend a great deal of the episode antagonizing one another, as Danny and Steve are staking out Rachel’s neighbors from her house, but things end on something of a friendly note as Rachel says she’ll call Danny with an update on when to pick up Grace instead of emailing him, which is a big step in regards to their communication and by extension, relationship.
Still, by “E Malama” they’re still clearly struggling, and Danny is utilizing anger management to deal with Stan, Rachel’s husband, who has inadvertently caused a problem that led to Rachel and Grace getting carjacked. However, a couple episodes later in “Loa Aloha,” Rachel spends a day with Danny, Grace, and Danny’s brother Matt, talking about old times and enjoying one another’s company, and she later comforts Danny when Matt takes off, now a fugitive from the law. It’s clear that their chemistry has changed from the beginning of the season to the end, leading up to them having an affair, with Rachel pregnant and preparing to leave Stan for Danny and return to New Jersey.
Danny’s dreams seem to be coming true as he gets his family back, which is what he wanted all along, but he’s delayed from doing so by Steve’s arrest in the Season 1 finale. Danny’s familial struggles aren’t easy, from his ex-wife to his brother’s deceit by breaking the law and choosing to run instead of allowing Danny to help him. The most important thing in the world to Danny is family, and faced with losing his brother, it tears Danny apart.
He’s also loyal to his partners, as we see in “Mana’o,” when his former partner at the Honolulu Police Department, Meka, is brutally killed. He fights to prove Meka’s innocence when it looks like he was dirty, and he has his first real fight with Steve over it as Steve is believing the evidence over Danny’s instincts. It’s only when Danny puts things in a way Steve can relate—meaning what would Steve believe if it were Danny instead of Meka—does Steve understand and repair things with Danny to continue the investigation. Danny is passionate about police work and protecting his colleagues. He does the right thing and is less likely to cross lines than McGarrett. He is very vocal about his opinions and has a tendency to complain, but Danny’s still lovable for being the loyal friend and family man he is. Plus, he drives a pretty sweet ride in the form of a Camaro.
Chin’s working as a security guard when we meet him, recently disgraced as a result of charges against him from the HPD. Chin has been wrongly accused, but it’s done the damage anyhow. As Chin’s “family business” is law enforcement, much of his family has turned against him as a result—except for Kono, his cousin. Chin lost his family and his fiancée, Malia, in the fallout.
He doesn’t hold any ill will toward them. In the third episode, a cousin of his, Sid, treats him viciously, and though it’s hard on Chin, he never completely loses his cool and even saves Sid’s life. Chin takes everything in silent strides, but he does rely on Kono. They are shown to be close, the best of friends, with Kono even declaring she became a cop because of Chin. Chin is protective of Kono, though he has the utmost confidence that she can handle herself. In the second episode, he gifts her a flashlight with the engraving, “To my cousin, who always brings light to darkness.”
When he runs into his ex Malia, it’s revealed that Chin broke things off to protect her from the fallout. Chin is selfless, wanting to take on the burden himself. He even protects his uncle, despite knowing he’s the one that took the money that put Chin in hot water and nearly ruined his career until Steve hired him to join Five-0. Steve’s belief and trust in Chin stems from his father, who trained Chin and spoke highly of him. Steve even relies on Chin to help him uncover his father’s investigation. Chin is trustworthy, coming through again and again for the team from day one. He even insists they not risk their lives or career for him when he himself is placed in mortal danger due to the bomb strapped to his neck. In a way, it’s concerning that Chin doesn’t seem to consider his safety, or anything else regarding his well-being, a priority.
However, it’s because Chin is always looking out for others that he doesn’t focus so much on himself, and that’s one of the reasons why he’s such a great cop and a great person. He’s easy to admire, and he’s inspirational, though he does need more of a balance. He does do more things for himself along the way, but it’s a gradual process as he recovers from the fallout of HPD’s accusations against him for taking money from the asset forfeiture locker.
After a knee injury ends her professional surfing career, Kono has to reinvent herself. She chooses to become a cop, and is close to graduating from the academy when we first meet her. As the rookie, Kono has a lot to prove, but she has no trouble going above and beyond any expectations that Steve, Danny, or Chin may have had. Seconds before she meets Steve and Danny, she punches out another surfer for dropping in on her wave, instantly impressing them. She is something of a mini-McGarrett, adopting some of Steve’s tactics in terms of how badass she is. She can kick some serious butt, especially when it comes to taking out a “cleaner” in “E Malama,” destroying a door in the process. Kono’s tough and relentless when need be, but she’s also very sympathetic.
Kids are Kono’s soft spot. In “Ohana,” she is tasked with looking after the son of a kidnapped man, and she offers to teach him how to make a paper crane to get his mind off of things. She also helps with keeping him calm when they are both kidnapped by the people that took his father. “Ho’apono” shows Kono looking after the daughter of a woman who was murdered, with her father on the run. Kono cheers up the little girl, taking her out for shaved ice, and manages to get the little girl to talk about what she saw leading up to the murder, which helps the investigation. Kono feels immense guilt for losing the little girl after she is kidnapped, but along with the rest of the team, she manages to retrieve her in time. Kono’s motherly skills are impressive, and the depth of sympathy she can show alongside how brutal she can be is a hard balance to achieve, but she manages to find that balance with ease.
Just as Chin is protective of her, Kono feels the same way. Chin is like the older brother she never had—a mentor. It seems to bother her, more so than it bothers Chin, that he’s been falsely accused. In “Ma Ke Kahakai,” Kono confronts him and gets the truth: their uncle stole the money to help their sick aunt get a new kidney. She cries, insisting that Chin’s a cop, which means he has to tell the truth. It matters to her that Chin has been cut off from the family, and she wants him to tell the truth to save himself so his life will be easier.
She’ll also do anything to save his life. She’s the one that brings up the idea of breaking into the forfeiture locker when the Governor refuses to give them the money for Chin’s ransom, and she goes with Steve to get the money without a second thought. Like Steve and Danny, she insists she’d do it all again to save Chin’s life.
Kono hits the ground running. In “Ko’olauloa,” a case gets personal for Kono when Ian, her surfing mentor and the head of her former professional surfing team, is murdered. Kono doesn’t back down, diving into her past to find the killer. We see just who Kono used to be, and just how much she’s had to leave behind to reinvent herself, as well as how much of an influence Ian was on her. She’s conflicted as it initially looks like a former friend was behind the murder, but she does her job anyway, her need to get justice for Ian greater than her inner conflict. The episode did a good job of allowing us to get to know Kono better and sympathize with her.
Season 1 of Hawaii Five-0 ends with Kono being arrested for her part in stealing the money from the asset forfeiture locker, and she and Steve share an intense look as they’re both being booked at the same time. Steve can easily guess why she’s there, and he looks guilty as he takes his picture. Kono doesn’t appear to blame him. Though they share no words, a look is sometimes more than words can ever say.
All four members were scarred and suffering in some way: Chin, disgraced and cut off from his family; Danny, hating Hawaii but trying to do right by his daughter despite his strained relationship with his ex-wife; Kono, no longer able to do what she loves because of a knee injury and having to reinvent herself as a cop; and Steve, having lost his father and adjusting to a new life in Hawaii, running a task force. They all needed one another and came into each other’s lives at just the right time.
They faced everything together as a team. In the second episode, after Kono has been rescued, Steve declares that the team is like family, and they’ll always do everything they can to protect her. Steve makes it clear how he wants his team to be—more than co-workers. He wants them to be friends, to trust one another, and to be there for each other. They are “Ohana.”
They all come together, especially when one of their team members is struggling. Whether it’s Danny struggling with Rachel or his brother Matt, Chin struggling with the fallout of his experience with HPD and having a bomb strapped to his neck, Steve dealing with his father’s death and the investigation, or Kono losing her mentor, they were all there for one another. Steve, Danny, and Kono took the greatest risk by stealing money for Chin’s ransom, unwilling to lose their team member. The act united them all to carry the burden together.
They dealt with a phony natural disaster in the form of a tsunami, kidnapped kids, an ex-Navy SEAL who held tourists hostage and insisted he didn’t kill his wife, protected a general that committed mass murder despite their reservations about it, helped a family solve a murder and get them American citizenship, solved the murder of a man dressed as a superhero, dealt with a football game shooting, and so much more. Their cases were intense, but nothing was too complicated for Five-0 to figure out. The cases were compelling and interesting, complementing the characters’ own personal storylines perfectly. The guest stars, like Martin Starr and Taylor Wily, add to the Hawaii Five-0 cast with their own eccentric and fun characters.
They are named Five-0 after Steve’s football jersey number, which was a significant number in Steve’s family. Five-0 may have started because of Steve’s father’s murder, but despite that awful event, Five-0 turned into something beautiful. They saved the lives of others so they wouldn’t have to face the same pain and loss as Steve, or at least solved the murders to grant them the peace Steve seems to be seeking throughout the first season (and ultimately throughout the remainder of the series).
Hawaii may be a place of paradise, but it doesn’t come without its hard times. Life is imperfect, and it isn’t fair, especially in the lives of those who have chosen law enforcement as their calling. It’s not perfect, and they tend to see the worst of humanity, but at least at the end of the day, they can sit by the beach and watch the sunsets, comforted by nature’s beauty and the fact that tomorrow is a new day.
It looks like they’re broken in the Hawaii Five-0 Season 1 finale, everything they’ve built up having been torn apart, but it’s only the beginning of the tests they’ll undergo together. The bond they all made with one another in the first season can never be broken, even though Chin and Kono left after the seventh season. They’ll always be a team; they were the original four members of Five-0, and they started a legacy that would bring in more team members and change the lives of those around them for the better, living a life that brings its fair share of tragedy but also a sense of justice, peace, and adventure.