'Hawaii Five-0' Targets North Korea, Leaves Out Storytelling Logic

This week's episode of Hawaii Five-O correctly portrayed North Korea as a brutal, isolated nation that harbors terrorists.

But the CBS show's latest installment, which aired on the 101st birthday of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-Sung, jumped the shark all the way over the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and into fantasyland.

(Episode Spoilers Ahead)

The episode, dubbed Olelo Pa’a, opens with McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and his Naval Intelligence officer girlfriend Catherine (Michelle Borth) waiting on the South Korean side of the DMZ for an exchange to take place. The U.S, State Department has spent the past three years negotiating to retrieve the remains of a Navy SEAL who was lost on a clandestine mission several years ago. Naturally, the missing SEAL was a friend of McGarrett’s, who was on that mission with him.

After receiving what he thinks are his friend’s remains back to a South Korean airbase, McGarrett opens the casket and immediately realizes the remains aren't his old friend (the body doesn’t have a tattoo on its forearm). He tells Catherine he’s going into North Korea to retrieve his friend, and instead of talking him out of it, she insists on joining him.

The usual calling in of favors ensues, and they acquire weapons and easily sneak into the North with the help of Jimmy Buffett playing pilot Frank Bama. Then they just happen to encounter a North Korean that McGarrett and his buddy exchanged fire with on his previous mission, and they eventually find the remains in question.

This is where a sane person would grab the body and head for home before they’re discovered in an isolated nation where everyone hates Americans. But upon digging up his friend’s remains McGarrett sees that they’ve been desecrated (his knees and elbows are shattered and he’s been shot in the head), and he decides he’s got to get revenge.

Once again, instead of telling him that they should take the body and go, Catherine simply follows McGarrett as he switches from recovery to vendetta mode. 

A predictable, yet unbelievable, firefight against 10 guys with AK-47s results, where no one gets hit, the two of them are captured and taken to the terrorist camp where, of course, the guy McGarrett wants to kill presents himself. Our heroes get free, seize some weapons and McGarrett kills the guy that desecrated his friend’s body. Just like it would happen in real life.

A good action show gives you great exploits, exciting fight scenes and tests the bounds of reality. But once it takes you to a place where the viewer can’t suspend their disbelief it becomes difficult, even tedious, to watch. Hawaii Five-O went far, far past that point in this episode.

It’s always refreshing when a network show shoves political correctness aside and calls out the bad guys for who they are. But making it seem as though two Americans with AK-47s could infiltrate North Korea and take on a small army by themselves then escape back over the border undetected belies the paranoid, police state that North Korea actually is and makes them seem incompetent and almost cartoonish.


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