I have to admit that I didn't know what to expect from the season premiere of Hawaii Five-O. I was merely crossing my fingers and hoping it improved from its nearly shark-jumping first-season finale. Thankfully, that will just be a bad memory, because the show has come back in fine if not excellent form.
Steve's in prison awaiting trial for the murder of Governor Jameson. Danny's visiting him just to introduce his former SEAL instructor, Lieutenant Commander Joe White (Terry O'Quinn of Lost and, to me, the dad from The Cutting Edge), who wants to lend him a hand. Chin Ho, now a lieutenant with HPD, exchanges a few choice words with Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) at the Governor's funeral. Steve gets stabbed in a fight with Victor Hesse (James Marsters), the man who killed his father - but Hesse is acting for Steve's benefit, so that he can escape, which he promptly does. And that's all within the first ten minutes. Yep, it's going to be one of those busy premieres.
Not only is this a hectic premiere plotwise, it's also a practical reunion, bringing back several characters from last season. While Steve starts his rampage - I mean, quest to find Wo Fat - the Five-O team comes back together unofficially to find him before the cops do, with the help of Joe and Jenna Kaye (Larisa Oleynik), now a former CIA agent. And Dr. Max Bergman (Masi Oka, who's made the opening credits this season) patches Steve up after Steve breaks into his house.
We're also introduced to the new acting governor, Sam Dennings (Richard T. Jones from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles). I liked Jones a lot in Terminator, so I hope that he isn't as underused here as Jean Smart was. So far, he seems like a character with his head screwed on properly.
The episode seems to correct some of the eyebrow-raising moments from the finale. We find out that Rachel's baby is fathered by Stan and that she's moving back in with him in an attempt to make their marriage work - something which is a lot more plausible than the child being Danny's, being that their having an affair came out of almost nowhere. And while I'm still not fond of the destruction of Governor Jameson's character, at least that issue is handled well and not made even more melodramatic.
Thankfully, the good things don't change, though. The bickering between Steve and Danny that we came to love from season one is back as Danny gives Steve a piece of his mind when meeting him at Max's house. The show has wisely preserved that chemistry between Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan without forcing it. We get a script that pays off much of what the show set up at the end of last season as well: we're treated to hard evidence regarding John McGarrett's (William Sadler) investigation into Governor Jameson and I'm especially glad that we got the "smoking gun" that proved Steve was innocent. The audience deserved something substantive after months of waiting and the premiere gave it to them. Not to mention, Steve's catchphrase was properly back in action!
Of course, you can't give all the answers in the season's first episode, so I was unsurprised by the last-minute question that the elder McGarrett may have been corrupt. I certainly hope he isn't, but the show does need a mystery for the audience to chew on, and that coupled with the murder of Victor Hesse certainly gives it one. Considering the lukewarm reception to the Jenna character, I was surprised to see her again, but because of that, the reveal of her as working with Wo Fat didn't really surprise me. So far, it feels like something else the writers pulled out of nowhere as it doesn't fit with her established backstory, but if the writers want to turn a good guy bad, the one that the fans didn't really embrace would be the best bet.
With this episode, my confidence is back that Hawaii Five-O can be the strong, successful new show that it was for most of season one. For almost the entire season, it boasted strong characters and real suspense for a procedural. There was something really special about it, and it seems like season two has found that mark again. I'll be more comfortable after a few more episodes, but based on this one look, I'm glad to welcome this show back. Let's hope it keeps getting better.
(c)2011 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved.