Lately, I’ve been watching Hawaii Five-O during my daily treadmill exercise. At first, it was just a fun bit of nostalgia as I used to watch the show as a kid in the late 60’s. I thought it was dumb then, with its outrageous spy plots, the unerring McGarrett, and the predictable plots, but watching it today, I like the production values, the mens’ suits, and the bright color of the scenes.
Now, after seeing a season, I begin to fathom the true appeal of Five-O: McGarrett is a spiritual guide, a guru figure. He’s always calm, only losing his cool when one of his men is injured by a crook. He is deeply humane: gently leading a serial murder psychopath he has apprehended away to the looney bin, without gloating or celebration. He feels the pain of the victims he interviews: the flicker of muscle movement on his face shows it. Women are drawn to him, but he does not pursue them. He is witty, and enjoys the philosophical games of crime solving.
McGarrett’s arch-enemy is the Red Chinese agent, Wo Fat, with whom he spars on many episodes, holding up the USA end of the cold war game. The Chinese spymaster is no match for Steve. (He is played by New Jersey native, Kenneth Dickerson, aka Khigh Dheigh, who is of north African descent – not Chinese – and who created a foundation for the study of Taoism late in life.) They are an entertaining pair.