There are no cast changes. Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett still has the same team, the classic Hawaii Five-o team, with James MacArthur as Danno Williams, Kam Fong as Chin Ho Kelly and Zulu as Kono.
And Jack Lord of course has charisma on steroids.
Hawaii Five-O was never just a cop show. The whole idea of the (mythical) state police unit Five-O was that it would deal not just with major crime but also crimes with international ramifications as well as terrorism and even espionage. Five-O is a kind of Hawaiian FBI. So there were always a few spy thriller episodes in each season (and you’re never surprised to see the notorious master spy Wo Fat turn up yet again).
And in each season there are one or two other episodes that are unconventional and perhaps even outrageous. It’s all part of the unique flavour of a unique series.
I think the second season is perhaps just a little stronger than the first. Or it might be more accurate to say that it’s more consistently strong. The first season included a handful of definite misfires (which of course could be said about virtually every television series ever made). In the second season even the misfires (like King Kamehameha Blues) are only partial failures - they’re still at least moderately entertaining.
Once again Hawaii itself plays a major role. More than any other police drama series Hawaii Five-O is a series that could not really be set anywhere else.
There are some pretty decent spy thriller episodes like Forty Feet High and It Kills! which features the return of Wo Fat and Nightmare Road in which a top defence scientist is framed for murder by foreign agents. Another is Three Dead Cows at Makapuu in which the fate of civilisation as we know it hangs in the balance, and McGarrett wonders whose side the U.S. Army is really on. Sweet Terror deals with a terrorist plot to destroy Hawaii’s sugar industry and it’s a better episode than it sounds.
A Thousand Pardons - You're Dead! which is the season opener is a taut story about a racket exploiting army deaths.
The slightly offbeat episodes (which are to be found in every season) include To Hell with Babe Ruth in which a lone Japanese thinks the war is over and wants to blow up Pearl Harbor. Killer Bee is a bit strange also but it’s a fine story about war and psychosis. It’s a nasty twisted little tale. A Vietnam veteran may be spiraling back into madness, kidnapping children. But what’s really going on could be quite different although madness is certainly involved. A rather baroque plot but it works for me.
The straightforward crime are mostly pretty good as well. In All the King's Horses McGarrett risks his career by standing by a notorious big-time gangster who claims to be reformed. It’s a good episode for demonstrating McGarrett’s intense loyalties and his extraordinary stubbornness. Just Lucky, I Guess is a gritty story about the murder of a prostitute.
McGarrett is in the firing line again in Blind Tiger. This time he is blinded by as car bomb. His sight is expected to return but while undergoing rehabilitation he has to learn to accept being dependent on someone else, and of course he knows that there is certain to be another attempt on his life. Not a bad episode.
Run, Johnny, Run is about a young man who had hoped that joining the Navy would get his life back on track. McGarrett, a friend of the family, had hoped so too but it doesn’t seem to have worked out. It’s an episode showing McGarrett’s human side and it’s an OK story.
Cry, Lie involves a plot to destroy Five-O’s credibility by framing Chin Ho on corruption charges. Another good episode.
Most Likely to Murder concerns the murder of a cop’s wife. Danno and the cop concerned are old friends so Danno is particularly keen to crack this case. The investigation uncovers all sorts of disturbing secrets and puts Danno under a lot of pressure. A fine story.
Three Dead Cows at Makapuu is a two-parter and it begins with, you guessed it, three dead cows being found at Makapuu. What matters though is the very very unnatural way that the cows died. The locals think the U.S. Army has been experimenting with nerve gases again and Steve McGarrett is inclined to think they may be right. The truth is even more terrifying and Five-O are faced with a race against time to save Hawaii. An excellent episode.
Hawaii Five-O really gets into top gear with season two which is even better than season one. Everything is working like a well-oiled machine. Insanely entertaining television and highly recommended.
The series is available on DVD and seems to be easy to find just about everywhere.
I reviewed Hawaii Five-O season 1 a while back.