CBS series Hawaii Five-0 ended with its series finale, “Aloha”, after a decade-long run in 2020 and over 200 episodes. It was a reimagined version of the original Hawaii Five-0, which ran from 1968 to 1980. The series followed a group of law enforcement officers as they solved cases and saw a lot of action and adventure in Hawaii. Fans particularly loved the bromance between Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan).

Over the course of a decade, many cast changes were made to the show’s core group of detectives, and some storylines stretched believability, but fans and critics alike had a lot of fun with the crime show. There were many compelling storylines and character arcs over the years, as well as a variety of intriguing cases. The character development was impressive, especially given the changes in the cast made over time, and it’s largely the episodes focused on that character development that make up the best episodes of Hawaii Five-0.



10 “Pa’a Ka ‘Ipuka I Ka ‘Upena Nananana” (S6E24)

Gabriel suffering from a gunshot wound in Hawaii Five-0

This episode marked a big character development for Chin (Daniel Dae Kim who would leave the show in season 8). While Abby’s (Julie Benz) kidnapping and Max’s (Masi Oka) decision to leave Hawaii for an opportunity with Doctors Without Borders were also going on, Chin got some real closure to an ongoing storyline.

That closure was in his dealings with his deceased wife’s brother Gabriel (Christopher Sean) who murdered Chin’s father as part of a gang initiation many years before. Gabriel dies by the episode’s end, but not before apologizing for the murder and asking Chin to look after his daughter. Chin having to face Gabriel head-on and even attempt to protect him in the episode gave the audience a real window into Chin’s mind. Episodes like this one proved that the best Hawaii Five-0 episodes were emotional ones, not always about how many things could be blown up or how many bullets were flying.

9 “Ina Paha” (S5E07)

Wo Fat and an associate torture Steve in Hawaii Five-0

Another episode that dealt in closure, though more so for the audience, was “Ina Paha.” In the series’ 100th episode, the audience got to see the longest-standing villain in the series come to an end. They also got a new perspective on the Five-0 team in a “what if” scenario. Steve was kidnapped by his arch-enemy, Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) and subsequently tortured. Wo Fat was easily one of Five-0’s best villains. While Wo Fat drugged him, Steve was transported to an alternate reality of 2010 in his mind, in which his father was never murdered and Five-0 was never formed.

The audience got to see the different directions the team had taken in their lives, such as Kono being a world-champion surfer and Grover (Chi McBride) as a tourist. The episode’s end gave audiences, and Steve, the closure needed all along: Steve shoots Wo Fat dead, ending the five-season storyline between them and giving Steve the peace he deserves. It was a great exercise in for the writers’ room to place the characters te audience knew so well into completely new lives.

8 “O Ke Ali’i Wale No Ka’u Makemake” (S6E25)

The team drags Steve from a a plane while Danny climbs out in Hawaii Five-0

The Season 6 finale outlines the meaningful partnership and sense of brotherhood between Steve and Danny, so it’s no wonder that it’s one of the best Hawaii Five-0 episodes. That was the biggest pull for both the critics and audience members that were tuning in to watch live every week. Taking on the rising meth epidemic in Hawaii led the team to more trouble beyond drugs, especially when Steve and Danny went undercover as pilots and Steve was gravely injured.

Danny managed to land the plane on the beach and further saved Steve’s life by providing him with part of his liver to help Steve recover in a life-saving surgery. The team all came together, anxiously hoping for good news while in the hospital waiting for the two partners to emerge, in a true show of “ohana”, which means family. Luckily the two men were shown to be recuperating nicely, giving one another a hard time in the episode’s end, and not leaving the audience with a cliffhanger about their well-being between seasons.

7 “I Ka Wa Mamua” (S3E06)

Danny and Graces namesake held captive in a flashback to New Jersey in Hawaii Five-0

The episode did a phenomenal job of flashing from past to present, telling two stories in one. It’s the unique storytelling of flashbacks-as-distraction that makes for one of the best Hawaii Five-0 episodes. Danny, encouraged by Steve, told a story about a former case of his from his time in New Jersey. Danny told the story as a distraction from his problem: he’s triggered a motion-censored bomb, and he must remain still until the bomb squad can remove it. Steve, being the partner and friend he was, didn’t leave Danny throughout the entire process. Telling the story gave Danny something to focus on and the audience a window into his character.

Danny’s story included a former partner named Grace (who is presumably the inspiration for the name of Danny’s daughter, whom his wife was pregnant with during the past story) who was killed in the line of duty. Danny was eventually freed, of course, just in time to make it to the father-daughter dance. The tension and the high stakes of the episode, however, made the audience think that they could actually lose the character though.

6 “Aloha Ke Kahi I Ke Kahi” (S4E01)

McGarrett and Grover in their first Hawaii Five-0 meeting

The team was held hostage in the Season 4 opener, only for the terrorists to shoot the guy they came for and later surrender. However, the drama was not yet over as Steve had to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend Catherine (Michelle Borth). The hostage-taking group was, of course, related to Wo Fat, who provided for a good throughline in the early seasons of the show. Even after being arrested, the character still managed to stir up trouble and provide the audience with some of the most interesting cases.

This episode marked the first episode for Chi McBride’s Grover, one of the best Hawaii Five-0 characters introduced after Season 1. Grover began his role at odds with Five-0, but eventually became a beloved member of the team. Elsewhere, Kono’s and Adam’s (Ian Anthony Dale) location in China was compromised during the hostage takeover. The episode ended on a cliffhanger for the two of them with Yakuza members coming after them. It remains one of the highest-rated season premieres of the series on review aggregator sites.

5 “Ki’ilua” (S2E10)

Jenna talking to Steve in Hawaii Five-0

Former CIA agent Jenna Kaye (Larisa Oleynik) requested Steve’s help in the recovery of her fiancé from North Korea, but as she’s been working with Wo Fat, it turned out to be a horrible trap. With Joe White’s (Terry O’Quinn) help, Steve’s Five-0 team tracked him and set off on a mission to find him before it was too late.

Luckily Jenna redeemed herself in her final moments, helping the character keep her fan-favorite status, helping Steve to escape after discovering her beloved fiancé was dead all along. Wo Fat escaped, but Steve was saved, and Chin announced the happy news that he’s once again engaged to his former fiancée. The episode was one of the first to take the audience out of Hawaii, and that was part of what made it so great. The stories, though they were compelling on the islands, didn’t have to be confined there. After this episode, the stories would branch out to other places while fleshing out character backstories and bringing more danger to the team.

4 “Oia’i’o” (S1E24)

Steve talking to a group across police tape in Hawaii Five-0

In the Season 1 finale, everything that Five-0 had become, both a team and a family, were torn apart. It all started with the murder of Laura Hills (Kelly Hu) and lead to Steve being framed for the murder. Steve broke into the Governor’s residence, confronting her about Laura’s murder, and realized she was connected to Wo Fat.

Everything quickly went downhill for the team as Wo Fat himself showed up, tasered Steve, and murdered the Governor, leading to Steve’s arrest and the dissolution of Five-0. Meanwhile, Kono was also arrested for her part in a robbery earlier in the season, and Danny had to choose between leaving Hawaii with his family or staying to help his friends. With the separate storylines, the hour seemed like a typical episode at first, but it became one of the best episodes of Hawaii Five-0 because the seemingly typical storylines shook up the status quo and left fans wondering how the show would move forward.

3 “Ha’i’ole” (S2E01)

Chin, Steve, and Danny on a speedboat in Hawaii Five-0

It’s hard to talk about the Season 1 finale without immediately talking about the Season 2 premiere. Fans who had to wait during the hiatus speculated about how the characters could get out of their predicaments, and Season 2 wasted no time. The pace was breakneck to tell the story. In the Season 2 premiere, Steve escaped from prison with help from none other than Victor Hesse (James Marsters), the man that killed his father, and set off as a fugitive. Danny, Chin and Kono (Grace Park) reunited to help their former boss clear his name and capture Wo Fat. It’s still Five-0, but operating outside the lines of the law.

The team only succeeded in the former, thanks to an investigation Steve’s father had been conducting prior to his death, and while Wo Fat escaped again, Steve convinced the newly-appointed Governor to reinstate his team (except for Kono, who still remained under investigation) so they can continue going after Wo Fat and guys like him.

2 “Ua Hala” (S2E23)

The team ducks behind a car with their weapons in Hawaii Five-0 episode Ua Hala

For many fans, the Season 2 finale was the best episode of Hawaii Five-0 during the entire run of the remake. Action, drama, and mystery combined to make a knockout story. “Ua Hala” didn’t stop with the action from moment one. When a cop was shot and killed, which also lead to Medical Examiner Max (Masi Oka) getting shot as well, Five-0 jumped into action. While tracking down the shooter, they were nearly blown to pieces, alongside other Honolulu Police Department officers, when HPD headquarters is blown to smithereens.

As if that weren’t enough, Chin was forced into the difficult position of choosing between the lives of his wife and cousin whose fates the audience didn’t know until the Season 3 premiere. Plus, Danny fought his ex for custody and Steve discovered that “Shelburne” was really his mother, whom he’d thought to be dead for years. The episode had everything that a great episode needed: action-packed drama, hints to character backstory, nearly perfect teamwork, and one twist after another. Only one episode topped it.

1 “Ho’onani Makuakane” (S4E10)

Steve holds his hand over his heart while an older man behind him salutes in Hawaii Five-0

The best Hawaii Five-0 episode is “Ho’onani Makuakane.” This Season 4 episode was one for the books, given it centered on the Five-0 team investigating the attempted murder of a Pearl Harbor veteran by a man who believed said veteran killed his father decades before. Steve found that the would-be murderer had connections to his own grandfather, whom Steve was named after.

As Steve and the team worked, they discovered a cover-up that took place at an internment camp on Oahu, and located the real killer, who was now dead, but also managed to recover a valuable family heirloom. Steve’s family history, history itself, and Danny’s claustrophobia make for an episode with a little bit of everything. When crime shows delve into the past, it can be difficult to get the look and feel just right, but Hawaii Five-0 nailed it. The episode was nominated for a special and visual effects Primetime Emmy and was recognized by the Visual Effects Society.

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