Hawaii Five-0 boss on the 'raw' and 'genuine' series finale, and that surprise return
'I went to set two hours before that scene was shot and told everyone that the show was not coming back,' showrunner Peter M. Lenkov says of filming the emotional goodbyes.
Say goodbye, Danno!
Hawaii Five-0 wrapped up its 10-season run Friday with an action-packed, emotional series finale. And the CBS procedural did so by going all the way back to the beginning. The episode, "Aloha," begins 10 years earlier in China, with Victor Hesse (James Marsters) and Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) planning the coordinated attacks on Steve (Alex O'Loughlin) and John McGarrett (William Sadler) from the pilot. Present for this meeting is Wo Fat's wife, Daiyu Mei (Eugenia Yuan), who returns in the present to kidnap Danny (Scott Caan) in hopes of exchanging him for the cipher sent to Steve by his late mother, Doris (Christine Lahti). Steve and the team end up getting to Danny, but not before he takes a bullet in a badass escape attempt, which leaves him in critical condition. Thankfully, he's got Steve by his bedside, and new addition Lincoln Cole (Lance Gross) has a pal who can crack the cipher, eventually leading to a shootout with Daiyu and her henchmen. When Steve has her cornered, she dares him to shoot her, revealing that Wo Fat told John about Doris. He doesn't take the bait, telling his latest recruit to "Book her, Cole."
One week later, Danny is back at Steve's, but his friend is leaving. Throughout the two-part finale, Steve has been showing signs of traumatic stress and wearing down, and he's now ready to depart Hawaii to clear his head and find "peace." Ten years after being forced together as mismatched partners, the duo exchange a hug and "I love you's." But that's just the beginning of the goodbyes as the rest of 5-0 arrives to see him off and they all share their own emotional farewells (read on below for why they felt so raw). We then see Steve get on a plane to an unknown destination, only for "the one who got away," Catherine (Michelle Borth), to show up. It turns out she's the one who cracked the cipher. As the plane begins to take off, she asks, "You ready?" To which he replies, "Yeah," as they hold hands.
Earlier Friday, I shared my own goodbye to Hawaii Five-0 and why I watched all 240 episodes, and below EW chats with showrunner Peter M. Lenkov about adjusting the season finale to a series finale on the fly, deciding on Catherine as Steve's endgame, and hoping to see these characters again.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, why was this the end?
PETER M. LENKOV: Well, truthfully, I think the show is going to end every year. So every year you have to think about that. But I felt like the ending that you saw could have worked as a season finale or a series finale. Everything was built to see Steve McGarrett leave the island, and if we were going to come back, he would have come back in season 11 after a couple episodes. I always thought that the season would end this way, and then when it became a series-ender I went in and retooled some things so it felt like a real, genuine end.
What was the reasoning for the show not coming back? Because it sounds like you would have loved to continue, if possible.
I feel like [CBS] just felt like it was the right time. These are such complicated decisions, and there are so many things that go into it. I think there were still a lot of ideas left for this show, but that's the decision that they made. I feel very lucky that they kept a reboot on the air for 10 years and supported it for 10 years.
I was actually surprised that Alex hung around this long considering how he previously made it seem like he was going to be done sooner than later because of the physical toll. You mentioned a season 11 would have started without him, but could there ever have been a world where you did Hawaii Five-0 without McGarrett?
In my mind, I think so. If the decision was made to keep the show and the decision was made by Alex not to return, I do think we could have continued. I feel like those characters, that family, is so strong and they each have such unique personalities and bring such different skillsets to what they do, I think, yes. And I would have liked to see that. It would have been interesting what a 5-0 task force post-McGarrett would have looked like.
Can you take us through Steve’s arc in these last two episodes? Why was this the direction you wanted to explore with him?
If you watch the show regularly, years ago we planted the seeds of post-traumatic stress, and like post-traumatic stress in the real world, it comes in and out. He's suffered so many losses over the last couple years, especially this year with his mom, last year with Joe White [Terry O'Quinn], that it was starting to get to him, and it would be unrealistic for him to be the same Steve McGarrett he was prior to having suffered these losses. It would affect him, it would cause him to rethink a lot of his decisions and what he does, so everything was built up to him needing to get away from the island for a bit, just to breath and recalibrate and then come back.
Was there ever a decision on where he was going? Was it really New Jersey?
It wasn't New Jersey, that was just a fun little thing. Steve McGarrett came to the island in the pilot and we saw him arriving on the plane in uniform to investigate his father's murder, and the idea was that he would leave the island just to get some air. So I never really thought about where he was going; it was more important that he go somewhere.
And why did you like Catherine as the endgame for him? Was she always going to be there, or was that something you added once you knew this was it?
No, she's always been the endgame for me, no matter what. There are fans that love her and fans that don't love her, but with the fans that don't love her, I think there's a little bit of not understanding her motivation. She's a soldier, and for her that soldier mentality is always "God and country" comes first, and at that the sacrifice of everything else. I think leaving Steve and the things she's done to perhaps hurt him weren't by choice. She has always loved him, and he's always loved her and always felt complete with her. For me, those two being together was always the endgame. The idea of Steve and Danny on those chairs, looking out at the ocean, was always in the cards as well. That friendship will always be there, those two guys will grow old together. But the idea of Steve having a family for himself, being a grandfather, being all the things that his father and grandfather was, that was always in the cards for him.
You mentioned the Danny-and-Steve relationship, and to me that was the heart of the show, and one of the major reasons why I kept watching. Did it feel essential to put that relationship at the heart of the finale?
If somebody was going to take a step back and look at all 240 episodes, those guys started off this journey hating each other, and they end by McGarrett sitting besides Danny's bedside, holding his hand, telling God, "Take me, not him." It really shows the arc that those two have gone on, and they really became brothers. They're as close as anybody can get and they genuinely love each other. And that really was the engine of the show, and at the end of the series they can't live without each other. For me, that's satisfying and feels like a good arc for people to have gone through over so many hours of television.
Did you always envision tying back to the pilot in this way? And what did you like about that idea?
There were two things that were essential to whenever the series was going to end that I needed to put in there. One was, what was in the tackle box? And what was in the box was Steve's father, John, actually suspected that his wife was alive and was investigating that. The other was what for years I called my Pearl Harbor scene, which was, what happened in the hours and days before the attack on Pearl Harbor? I always wanted to see what went into the planning of the Hesse extraction in the pilot and seeing Steve McGarrett as a Navy SEAL before any of this ever happened, before his father was murdered. The idea of seeing the planning stages from the pilot was something that I always wanted to write at some point, and I always knew it was going to be a part of the finale.
Those goodbyes at the McGarrett house felt so real and raw. It really felt like this was the actors saying goodbye to Alex. What was it like watching those take place?
It's funny you say that because I went to set two hours before that scene was shot and told everyone that the show was not coming back. And I had written in the script very loosely what the goodbyes would be in terms of generally what they would say to each other, but we decided to just let them riff, and what you saw in the final episode was really one take and it's them really in their own words saying goodbye to Alex/Steve, knowing that the show was not coming back. So everything you see there is genuine emotion, and like you said, raw, because it's really coming from their heart.
Considering the late notice of knowing this was the end, you didn't have the time, but in an ideal world would you have liked to bring back Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim to help say goodbye? They were obviously such important parts of the show.
There's so many characters that I would have loved to bring back, those two included. It's really just logistics and timing. It has nothing to do with storytelling, because they would have fit in beautifully. We were in prep when I found out the show wasn't coming back, so I had to scramble just to make some changes in the script for it to make sense as a series finale.
Lance Gross came in for these two episodes as Lincoln Cole and is very important for a guest star in a series finale. What’s the story with bringing him in for this arc? It almost seemed like he was being set up as a new Steve.
He's amazing, and I worked with him on MacGyver and I wanted to work with him on something with a bigger role. I thought that if season 10 had McGarrett leaving for a period time and we came back with season 11, he'd return in episode 3 or 4, so I wanted somebody to fill that void, and that was going to be Lincoln Cole. We've done that every year, we've always added new characters, and I wanted to add a new one at the end of the season that would be a big part of the team.
Earlier this year you did the crossover with your other Hawaii-set show, Magnum P.I., so do you see a world where you're integrating some Five-0 characters into Magnum?
Absolutely. I feel like that universe still exists, and on the periphery of our storytelling Five-0 will always have a presence. And based on availability, I'd love if we could put people in.
I can imagine what this show has meant to you and the actors, but what do you think it meant to the people of Hawaii? It seemed like made a real lasting impact.
The original was so important for so many reasons. One of them just being tourism itself, it got people around the world to see this incredible place and made them want to come there. There's a pride; it's an island with a million people, and a million sounds like a lot, but it's not, and everybody it seemed was supporting us from the beginning because we had "Hawaii" in the title. I think they wanted to make sure that the show around the world was well-respected and represented the island well, and I think we did do that. I mean, yeah, we made it look like a dangerous place at times, but the heroes seemed to always win. The economy impact was huge, and there was a real appreciation for that. And we always tried to make it look beautiful and we always respected the culture, and I think they appreciated that.