With CBS having successfully relaunched their Hawaii Five-O franchise in 2010, the second season of the series continued along a very smooth and fairly predictable path. Though the series had a few standout episodes that broke from the norm of its typical crime drama procedural format, the majority of the episodes followed the safe, reliable formula that made the show a hit during its first season on the air.
Hawaii Five-O: The Second Season (Blu-ray)
Directed by Steve Boyum et al
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 985 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 surround English
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, others
Region: no designation
MSRP: $ 72.99
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Review Date: September 14, 2012
The Hawaii Five-O team is a special task force set up by Hawaii’s governor to deal with unusual and potentially life-threatening crimes for the people of Hawaii. Though the team had been granted immunity and pretty much given carte blanche to do whatever was necessary to prevent trouble or root out the bad guys during its first season, new governor Sam Denning (Richard T. Jones) informs the squad that their actions will be more closely scrutinized by him going forward, and to assist him, he assigns an agent from Homeland Security Lori Weston (Lauren German) to be his eyes and ears on the squad. As before, the team takes on drug lords, kidnappers, terrorists, and all manner of nefarious baddies and don’t much curb their relentless pursuit of justice by any means necessary even with Weston’s presence.
The team is led by ex-Navy SEAL Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) still on the trail of his arch enemy Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) who gave the order to kill his father. In the meantime, Steve and the other members of his team – Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan) and Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) – bring their considerable policing skills to their work. The first five episodes of the season find former member Kono Kalakua (Grace Park) suspended from duty and apparently so embittered by the unfairness of her dismissal that she’s taken up with a band of nefarious ex-cops (led by recurring guest star William Baldwin) who are up to no good. Naturally, things get back to normal by the end of that fifth episode. Completing the line-up of regularly seen cast: Masi Oka has been elevated to series regular as the medical examiner, Taylor Wily appears in more than half the episodes this season as good-natured shave ice vendor and police informant Kamekona, and Brian Yang makes appealing appearances as forensic analyst Charlie Fong.
The series amps up the action and violence considerably from the original Jack Lord series with a much faster-paced approach to the storytelling while at the same time wallowing in the picture postcard visuals that Hawaii affords. The show offers every bit as much eye candy as the original series in terms of beautiful people and lush locales but also falls victim to its formulaic chases and shootouts which occur in almost every episode (The police procedure is also unworthy of an elite squad with the team frequently failing to cover all possible escape routes when surrounding a suspect.) As for the shows which deviate a bit from the norm, Terry O’Quinn makes ten appearances as Joe White, Steve’s mentor and surrogate father who is assisting him in the stalking of Wo Fat. In one of those episodes, Steve is tricked into an ambush and taken to North Korea where Wo Fat has headquarters and must be rescued by White, Danno, and Chin with no government sanction and little back-up. It makes for one of the series’ most cinematic episodes filled with thrills and surprises and great stunt work (outstanding stunts are a hallmark of this series). Danno’s former partner, a dirty, vengeful cop from New Jersey, makes a surprise appearance in another of the show’s strongest episodes even if its logic disintegrates a bit in the episode’s final few moments. Guest turns by James Caan (Scott Caan’s real-life father but playing a retired NYC cop here, no relation) and Edward Asner (reprising a character he played on the original series seen in some brief clips) elevated their respective episodes considerably. There’s a crossover episode with NCIS: LA as a possible smallpox epidemic is thwarted in Hawaii only to resurface on the mainland. And, of course, the season finale sets up the usual cliffhanger tragedies and surprises which will be worked out somehow at the beginning of next season.
Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan demonstrate a notable and endearing brotherly affection and an amusing professional camaraderie throughout the season, their performing chemistry together palpable in every episode. Lauren German’s Lori Weston was obviously brought in to provide a potential new love interest for McGarrett, but there was no chemistry there, and her action skills were nil making her a poor fit for the show. She was history after fifteen episodes. Daniel Dae Kim’s character reconnected with his former girl friend (Reiko Aylesworth), and they were married during the course of the season. Such unions, of course, are not often blessed events on a long-running procedural. Grace Park did excellent work early in the season as Kono seemed to be wrestling with the dark side making the audience somewhat doubtful about her character’s potential longevity on the show. Later in the season, she also undertakes a somewhat risky romantic entanglement that the writers get a fair amount of mileage from.
Here are the twenty-three episodes from season two spread across the package’s five Blu-ray discs. Names in parentheses refer to the participants in that episode’s audio commentary. I have used English translations for the titles of the episodes:
1 – Unbreakable (writer Peter M. Lenkov, stars Alex O’Loughlin, Grace Park, Daniel Dae Kim)
2 – Taken
3 – The Hero
4 – Treasure
5 – Clean
6 – The Good Fight
7 – Sacred Bones
8 – Healing
9 – Identity
10 – Deceiver (writers Peter Lenkov and Paul Zbyszewski)
11 – Trapped
12 – Gone Forever
13 – The Fix
14 – The Package
15 – Out of the Past
16 – The Reckoning
17 – Defender
18 – Radio
19 – Faith
20 – Abandoned
21 – Touch of Death
22 – Caught
23 – Death in the Family
The series is filmed digitally and appears on CBS in 1080i in 1.78:1 transfers. These 1080p AVC high definition transfers clearly outperform their network counterparts offering what is likely the best quality video of any available television series in high definition. Colors are beyond lush (with only occasional fluorescent greens but with the most striking blues and reds seen on a television series) with Hawaii never looking so gorgeous or appealing. Flesh tones can sometimes seem inconsistent from shot to shot, but on the whole they’re fitting for people living in this tropical paradise. Black levels are good as is shadow detail. The transfers are rock solid throughout with no artifacts glimpsed. Each episode has been divided into 7 chapters.
Though the liner notes claim a DTS-HD MA sound mix for the set, the audio encodes here are actually Dolby Digital 5.1 (a 2.0 surround encode is also available with each episode). Though dialogue is well recorded and usually turns up in the center channel, there are some occasional directionalized dialogue snippets within some episodes. Music gets pushed through the entire soundstage and is an enveloping, almost constantly present entity usually hard driving to maximize suspense. Ambient sounds are well chosen and placed accurately throughout the various channels with some occasional pans across and through the sound arena. The LFE channel gets a normally thorough workout in each episode either from bass in the music or the frequent explosions which dot various episodes of the show.
There are two audio commentaries available (see above episode list for shows and participants). The writer/producer commentary on episode 10 is definitely the better of the two choices. This is the epic-sized North Korea-based episode, and the movie-like approach to the storytelling is nicely covered by the two speakers making for interesting background anecdotes. The commentary on the season premiere is filled with praise for one another and a good-natured but fairly empty commentary.
There are twenty deleted scenes spread across the five discs of episodes. They’re presented in 1080p.
Unless otherwise noted, the remaining bonus features are in 1080i.
“Shore Lines: The Story of Hawaii Five-O, Season 2” features the major cast and producers (along with recurring guest stars Terry O’Quinn and Tom Sizemore) discussing the highlight episodes of the season and the story arcs with Kono, Wo Fat, and Steve which drive the season. It runs 30 ½ minutes.
“Aloha Action! Season 2” concentrates on the incredible action scenes featured in season two and the astounding stunt work done throughout the season. It runs 23 ½ minutes.
“Hawaii Five-O’Ahu” is an interactive map of nine locations on Oahu used for filming specific moments during the season. Each one features a clip from the episode under discussion and a cast or crew member who comments on the location (these comments were also incorporated into the “Shore Lines” featurette listed above).
“Becoming a SEAL” is an 8 ¾-minute overview of the 24-week training it takes to become a SEAL, narrated by Gary Fritts who is the SEAL tech advisor on the show.
“Touch of Death: NCIS: LA” is the conclusion of the two-part crossover episode presented in 1080p and running 41 ½ minutes. It is actually a part of the main episode menu rather than a bonus feature.
The gag reel runs 10 ¼ minutes.
4/5 (not an average)
A fast-paced action series with strong ties to its original incarnation but with more character exploration and poignant moments, Hawaii Five-O: The Second Season on Blu-ray will be a must for fans. With near reference quality picture and sound and some informative bonus features, the series is a lot of mindless fun shown at its best on this high definition release.