Kalâkaua is the name
A flower that wilts not in the sun.
Blooming on the summit
Of the mountain, Mauna Kea.
Burning there at Kilauea,
The light of the sacred woman.
~From the Name song for Kalâkaua (Traditional)
It took me a long time to figure out how I was going to do this review. As I’m writing, we’re in the hiatus between Seasons 2 & 3. In the penultimate episode of Season 2, “Ua Hopu” it is revealed that Kono has been involved in a secret romance with Adam Noshimuri, a man with close family ties to the Japanese mafia organization the Yakuza (though he is supposedly not involved in any criminal activity himself). However, through a series of events, Kono discovers Adam’s intent to engage in illegal activity and she confronts him, intending to stop him. He pulls a gun on her, evidently distraught. Then, off-camera, he binds and gags her, leaving her in an empty house while he goes off to commit the crime. Chin Ho discovers Kono and releases her. Together, they arrive in time to prevent the crime from occurring.
In the final episode of Season 2, “Ua Hala,” Adam and Kono appear to be reconciled, the episode ending with her final on-camera line being a cell phone conversation with Adam, laughingly referencing the events of the previous episode as bad boyfriend behavior. Kono is then captured (again, off-camera) by a man working for Kono’s nemesis, ex-cop and current criminal, Frank Delano. The episode ends with Kono, again bound & gagged, being pushed overboard a boat, apparently left to drown.
My point in referencing these incidents is not to re-hash the debate over Kono and Adam’s relationship, but to reference my frame of mind as to why it took me so long to figure out how to do this review. Because “Ko’olauloa” (The North Shore of Oahu) is all about Kono. And I’m not sure how or what to think about Kono right now.
Kono is an amazing character. She’s easily overlooked due to her limited onscreen minutes, but the show wouldn’t be the same without her. I’ve reviewed five Season 1 episodes of Hawaii Five-0 so far and Kono has shone in each and every one of them, being tough and clever and adaptable — even as she’s shown her naivete and frustrations. We enthused with her. We shared her apprehensions. And she’s more important than I ever realized.
Most scripted television is watched by women & for the sake of my argument I’m assuming Hawaii Five-0 is no different. This means for the majority of viewers, Kono is the most relatable character, even if only subconsciously. She’s alluring, but less enigmatic than Chin Ho. She’s emotional but less prone to outburst than Danny. She tough but…. well, everybody’s less of a BAMF than McG, it’s only a matter of degree. Kono being on the team makes us feel like we could be part of the team.
In Season 1, the show will go out of its way to let us know that Kono’s problems aren’t because she’s a woman, but because she’s a rookie. It doesn’t change the fact that she’s still both. It doesn’t change the fact that Kono gets told to “take the day” by her boss, co-workers and cousin – in comparison to “Malama Ka ‘Aina” when Danny suggests to McG that he take Chin off the case for similar reasons, McG instead opts for “tough love.” So what is it Kono gets here? I’m not saying this to debate the specifics of Chin Ho vs Kono’s situations early in Season 1. I’m just saying it.
Kono comes by her stiff upper lip honestly. Kono is royalty. Kalakaua was the family name of the Hawaiian kings and queens before their kingdom was disbanded and the Island rule changed hands. The show will often refer to “Kalakaua Avenue” as it is one of the main drags of Honolulu, but the pronunciation is closer to “kal-a-kav-a” than how they say Kono’s name, “Kal-a-cow-a.” And this may be intentionally done so (non-Hawaiian) viewers aren’t distracted by the connection. Of course, Kono got her name directly from her Original Five-O Predecessor – the name was not especially picked for her by the current show’s creators. But it doesn’t change the fact that her name means she’s a princess. A Queen.
The focus on Kono’s Season 2 character arc played out in the first five episodes as she did undercover work for Chief Fryer, to bring Frank Delano and his crew to justice. Instead of the understanding and patient Kono we had come to know in Season 1, now we were given a Kono with attitude and bitterness and intentional deceit. Although much of the attitude was an act, these rough edges never really left Kono all season. She was more serious, stoic, strong & silent than ever before. Seeing Kono with Adam in “Ua Hopu” was the first time all season we’d seen her sweet, emotionally vulnerable, tender and playful. It was more like Season 1 Kono, more innocent Kono.
But we know what happened to her.
Kono’s father figure being killed right in front of her draws parallels between McG’s father being killed over the phone from him. As Kono stands up from kneeling at the side of her dead mentor’s body, it’s McG who she locks eyes with as the walks towards her team. He is the one who should understand what she is going through. And though he certainly does, it’s not shown at all. He doesn’t say anything to her about it. And we don’t see Chin Ho consoling her either. Oddly enough, it’s Danny who counsels Kono about handling cases that hit close to home as McG & Chin Ho investigate the shooter (and at this point in the season he’s the only one without a personal investment in any of the cases Five-0 has solved). It seems like a missed opportunity.
This is a beautiful episode. McG, Danno, Chin Ho, the guest cast — they all look great. McG’s working some laid-back smirks (when he’s not busy flaring his nostrils at Kawika) and Danny’s got this great eye/shirt/tongue combo (all in blue) that’s really working for him. There’s some lovely banter (“It’s a strategic op“) & some classic H50 one liners, like “I’m not scared, I’m rationally concerned” and “When I say ‘book ’em danno,’ it’s a term of endearment.” Great stuff. Don’t want to discount any of it because it all factors in to my giving this ep a 7.2/10 score — making it 3rd out of the 6 eps we’ve seen so far (second only to”The Pilot” &”Malama Ka ‘Aina”). It’s also double the most screen time we’ve ever seen for Kono — up to 3 times as much as she’s been on screen for many of the previous episodes. This episode was focused on Kono and is one of the best episodes of the show we’ve seen so far. Just. Sayin.
In my favorite scene of the episode, Kono has called Ben Bass into her office to inform him he is a suspect in Ian Adams’ murder and that he needs to surrender his rifle. It’s hard for her, you can see that. Her voice wavers. Her eyes get glassy and she grits her teeth. But she powers through. She does not let her feelings of nostalgia get in the way. She does not allow her personal relationship with Ben to cloud her judgement. She doesn’t let what she wishes to be true guide her actions. She does what needs to be done. She does the right thing, no matter how it will damage her closeness with Ben. He asks her if he needs a lawyer and she doesn’t hesitate and she tells him, “Yes.” Kono owns everything about this moment. Kono is my hero.
Though we’re only a few weeks into hiatus, there have been a number of prominent blog headlines asking “Is Kono Dead?” or similar questions. And anything is possible. MAJOR SPOILER for Original Hawaii Five-O: Chin Ho is murdered, his body dumped on the steps of Five-O headquarters. (highlight to read) So it’s not out of the question for this show to take a shocking turn. If Kono is in fact killed, it has been stated by the show’s executive producer that this has been done in order to further Chin Ho’s character development. (Right here I cut out an epic-length rant about how women on this Show are expendable and used to provide the male characters with opportunities to act & emote… Yeah.)
If Kono dies, she didn’t die as she spent the last two years living.
That being said, I don’t believe they’re going to kill her off.
Kono never needed to be truly rescued before. Even in “Ohana” when she was captured by the Serbian mobsters, she had freed her hands & was planning her next move when McGarrett, Danny & Chin Ho arrived. My hope is that in the Season 3 premier we’ll see Kono save herself – as she did in the Season 2 premier, when she high-kicked her way out of the trunk of a car and disarmed a man with her hands still bound. But what I think will happen is that Kono will be “white knighted.” Her final conversation with Adam Noshimuri – requesting he make a grand gesture with wine & flowers to apologize for his bad behavior – will be answered when he pulls her from the water, symbolically bringing her back to life, the water washing clean his transgressions towards her. Although I’ll be happy to see Kono survive this ordeal, if it happens the way I predict, I’ll be disappointed.
In the end of “Ko’olauloa,” Kono stands strong, follows her internal moral compass and because she has done so is awarded the pleasure of arresting the man ultimately responsible for Ian Adams’ death. If she had shirked her duty, let Ben off the hook or helped him evade the police, she wouldn’t have deserved the right to do what she is doing now. She earned everyone’s respect.
Whatever happens to Kono, her character arc has been an impressive one. I hope we get many more seasons of television to get to know this fascinating, strong and ambitious woman.
“We are not interested in the possibilities of defeat. They do not exist.”
Thanks everyone, for humoring me through this episode review… very unique episode, I think. So now, the reader Ko’olauloa Review Poll! I swear I tried not to make all the responses Danny’s lines, but this ep was certainly one where he had most of the good ones (at least, ones that were applicable to a ratings poll). I promise you, my dream ratings poll is one where all the responses will be lines said by different characters… So! On a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being having to pick up the tab for a round of virgin Blue Hawaiis and 5 being sick in the best possible way…