I know….last night’s H50 was not a new episode and not even a Season 5 episode but this episode was so special, was such a monumental achievement for everyone involved in bringing it to our screens I felt I should write the review I didn’t get the chance to write over a year ago.
In May of 2013 my husband and I traveled to Oahu for a much anticipated Hawaiian vacation. It was a fantastic trip…everything I had always dreamed it would be. There were several highlights from that week. I was lucky enough to meet up with several online friends I have come to consider, over the years of Five-0, to be Ohana; and, even though it was May and filming for Season 3 had ended, I even had the happy opportunity to meet a wonderful member of the cast!
But the biggest thrill was just being in Hawaii. All the places I’d seen and learned about from the show and from my online Ohana were right outside my window. Places I never thought I’d ever get to actually see in person. While every single place we visited in Oahu was wonderful the most memorable day for us was the day we took the “Stars and Stripes” Tour which included The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (which we have come to know as “Punchbowl”) and, of course, Pearl Harbor.
I can’t explain the feeling of being on “Battleship Row”, of looking down and seeing the majestic Arizona, the oil still rising from her tanks, and to gaze upon the names of all those who lost their lives on December 7th 1941. To walk the decks of the Missouri and stand in the very spot where peace was finally reached. It took my breath away. The only time I have ever felt anything close was when I visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC.
We all grew up learning about Pearl Harbor in history classes and, if you’re of my generation, listening to our parent’s recall where they were and what they were doing on that Sunday in 1941. When my father used to tell me the story, he could still remember the smell of the rug he was lying on while listing as President Roosevelt gave his famous speech. But there was one part of history I never learned about in class, a part of the story my parents never told me. Perhaps they didn’t know either. The story of what happened to the American citizens of Japanese descent in the weeks that followed the attack.
The fact that a TV show would even attempt to tell a story about the attack on Pearl Harbor as well as the subsequent treatment of Japanese Americans was ambitious enough but considering Five-0 decided to tackle it in both the past and the present was truly mind-boggling.
Looking back and remembering the first time I watched it, and, including last night, the numerous times I’ve re-watched it since, I can still say this episode was really, truly amazing. I mean, where do you start with an episode like this? How many emotions can one episode bring to the surface? How can you describe sitting on your sofa and alternating between chills, outrage, sadness, amazement, warmth and tears? This episode did all that and more. A truly memorable experience whether you are a long time Five-0 viewer or just decided to give this one episode a try.
Right off the bat, you’re back on the beautiful island of Oahu, on a warm and sunny Sunday in December of 1941 and just like the people who lived through it, you’re instantaneously jolted from warmth and peace to explosions, chaos and fear. Over a year later I still can’t figure out how Five-0 was able to make it all look so damn realistic. Watching Ford Island explode before my eyes had me thinking back to the day I stood over the Arizona. I’ve seen news reels from those days, of course, but this, in living color, was just so incredibly real it’s still hard to believe they pulled it off. Of course with Peter Lenkov and Ken Solarz doing the writing and in the brilliant hands of director Larry Teng it’s no surprise this episode was extraordinary from start to finish.
The story of David Toriyama, told in both the past and the present, was extremely well done. I don’t see how the character could have been written nor acted any better. The emotions portrayed by both actors were palatable. Luke Hagi, as the young David….. so happy and full of life, growing up with a loving, happy family. Then his fear and humiliation at being herded into trucks like animals and interred at Honouliuli Internment Camp. James Saito, as the adult David, telling of his lifelong, deep seated rage over what happened to his father as well as all the Japanese who were interred. And finally his happiness at the resolution to his father’s murder, the return of his family heirloom AND his contrition to the man he wrongfully accused. Sheer perfection from beginning to end.
There was one scene in particular that really struck a nerve with me. When David was describing his neighborhood growing up and we see him and his brother walking home from school, they wave to “Mrs. Kennedy” across the street. She smiles and calls out to them “Aloha boys” and waves back. But later as the family is being herded into the truck that same Mrs. Kennedy is looking at them with total disdain, mistrust and hatred as she clutches her daughter to her as if she needs to protect her. She’s acting as if these are people she hasn’t known and lived beside for years. Really gave me chills to see how quickly she forgot who these people were and how they had all lived in happiness and peace. How one day could change all of that forever.
And like the reenactment of the Pearl Harbor attack the attention to detail in the recreation of the Honouliuli Internment Camp was amazing. It must have taken hours and hours of painstaking research to get the details so perfect. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be tossed into one of those camps, treated like criminals and traitors by your own country through no fault of your own. To lose everything in the blink of an eye because a country, as foreign to you as to the white neighbors you once called friends, attacked your country. Definitely not our finest hour.
I will admit that the plot point of having David’s family tied to the McGarrett’s by virtue of David’s father tutoring Steve’s grandfather for an officer’s aptitude test was a bit contrived and convenient. But it added a wonderful layer of personal connection between Steve and David. Almost as if Steve could feel closer to the grandfather he never knew, could get to know him through David’s memories of a sailor with a good and kind heart. From the moment Steve found his grandfather’s picture in the Toriyama family album he seemed to look to David as a grandfather figure. And the moment when Steve returned the stolen Katana to David “on behalf of the U.S. Government and a grateful nation” I almost felt as if Steve was thanking his own grandfather for the sacrifice he made so long ago as well.
The ending between Steve and David, with the baseball glove and David telling Steve he finally recognized why the McGarrett name was so familiar to him (because Steve has the same good heart as his grandfather) is a bit melodramatic, I admit, but I happen to like melodramatic. Over a year later and after numerous viewings, this scene still gets to me. When Steve chokes up and fights his own tears I’m reduced to a bawling mess.
The camera sweeps away from Steve and David and over to the beautiful pure white Arizona Memorial with her flag permanently flying as half-staff. The music, which was stellar throughout, was so stirring in the last few minutes it made my heart swell.
Even now, over a year after it first aired, this episode remains an incredible achievement from top to bottom for everyone involved in bringing it to our screens!
NOTE: Photos of Pearl Harbor, the Arizona, the Missouri and Punchbowl were taken by me in May 2013. Almost all the screen caps used above are also my own. For those that are not mine, I have kept all the original watermarks in place. Any screen cap not mine that does not have a watermark are promo shots courtesy of CBS. Mahalo!