Five-0 Redux: Hooking up a classic
BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Since its inception, “Hawaii Five-0” has been touted as a fresh, modern version of the CBS police procedural of the same name. The rebooted series was a faster paced, sexier, and more contemporary version of the original.
That’s not to say the classic, Jack Lord-driven, “Hawaii Five-O” was lesser than or in any way inferior to the new series. It was created for a different type of television viewer.
In our modern age of technological gadgetry, gone are the time-consuming scenes of police detection. Scenes like the one with Lord’s McGarrett spending hours with a pretty blonde clerk, using the eraser end of a No. 2 pencil to look through stacks of death certificates to find the one that would incriminate his target.
Now we have Chin and Kono working the magic table, Max deciphering clues via forensic medicine, and the Fonger analyzing everything from handwriting, blood, and hair samples, to decrypting cell phones, computers, and audio and video evidence. And we have not even begun to discuss the larger weapons, faster cars, use of helicopters, and team’s ability to take a punch or deliver a few jiu jitsu-style moves to the bad guys.
The reboot is definitely not your grandfather’s “Five-0.”
But this week’s episode, an update of the 1973 episode “Hookman,” was all about the reboot making it’s way back to its roots. And they choose a fantastic show to make that journey. After watching the original version online at CBS.com, the method they used to mimic shots, locations, and even lines from the 1973 script, written by Rod Baker and Glen Olson, were spot on. Former L.A. narcotics detective and “Five-0″ writer, Joe Halpin, did a superior job not only staying true to Baker and Olson’s version, but including the appropriate character arcs of the contemporary McGarrett and crew into his update.
Halpin also made excellent use of current technology to heighten the tension of the procedural as well as to move along the pacing of the episode. This was another difference between the reboot and the original version, which took it’s time unveiling the intricacies of how actor Jay J. Armes, who played the original Hookman, could use a scissors, engrave gold plates, and put together his sniper rifle.
In the update, Jason Koger, a double upper amputee, stood in for Peter Weller for the close-ups of his prosthetic hands. Koger’s hands are not very hooklike, but watching what he could do with his prosthetics was still as interesting and fascinating as it was to watch Armes perform the same actions in the original.
(Weller played double duty, by the way, as both Curt “The Hookman” Stoner and as director of the episode.)
And even though the episode was amazingly close to the classic version, all the elements we love about the current “Five-0″ were solidly in place. The cover and concealment discussion during the McKinney (Charlie Murphy) shoot out between Danno and McG was the right amount of manly bromance that fans just eat up. We got an excellent actual cargument during yet another slick car chase, with Danno actually wearing a seat belt, as well as explaining why he is the better police pursuit driver.
I hate to break it to you, Danno, but you will never drive that car as long as McG is your partner.
While the episode made great strides to stay close to the original, Halpin had to make some concessions for modern times. Max (Masi Oka) and Fong (Brian Yang) getting out in the field and helping to discover the actual trajectory of the Ookala (veteran stuntman and actor Norman Compton) shooting was a clever nod to updated forensics. And the method the Hookman used to kill the painter who walks in on him was taken into account, as Stoner’s limbs are not hooks, but actual hands. So instead of stabbing down on his victim, he crushes his throat instead.
Other scenes, like McGarrett arguing with Governor Denning (Richard T. Jones), were a replay of the same scene from the original, with a few additional tweaks. When McG and the Gov walked in the courtyard of the State Capitol, Alex O’Loughlin’s McGarrett doesn’t really hug it out with the Governor, like Jack Lord’s McGarrett basically does in the 1973 scene. And the ending shootout was similar, yet Kono got the kill shot on Stoner — in the original, it is Danno (James MacArthur) who takes out the Hookman. But both McGarretts try and draw him out by driving into his line of fire with their cool cars.
There was so much to enjoy about this episode — the storyline was updated believably, the character actors, the flashback into McG’s life, as well as the action and movement of the episode all made for a cool update. Halpin and Weller definitely hooked up the original to make it work for today’s modern audience.
It would have been nice to have Al Harrington in the update, as he played original Ben Kokua, but I’m not sure how Mamo Kahike could have worked in the updated episode. The Sgt. Duke Lukela character, played by Herman Wedemeyer, had a smaller role in the original version, unlike Dennis Chun’s Lukela, who had a bit more screen time. I definitely did not like it when the modern Lukela was shot — another deviation from the original — but I am optimistic he will return for more time in the reboot. I think Chun is a wonderful link between the classic and modern shows.
The teary ending was probably the biggest difference of the night. In the Jack Lord version, the episode ended with a close up of a strained but satisfied McGarrett. In the updated version, McG is visited by the ghosts of his past. The modern McGarrett cannot escape the “sins of his father,” nor can he shed the demons that haunt him about leaving his home and his family when he was shipped off at a young age and became a Navy SEAL. But by knowing that he made his father proud, as dreamlike as that may seem, perhaps now this McGarrett can find some kind of peace.
Redux Side Note:
Honolulu Star-Advertiser film and television reporter Mike Gordon wrote a very complete feature about the original writers of “Hookman” in Sunday’s newspaper. Also be sure to check out Gordon’s “Outtakes Online” blog here at The Pulse. In his latest post, he spoke with Jason Koger about his experience on the “Five-0″ set.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.