A Morality Tale
We come to the end of this morality tale.
~ Wo Fat in “Woe to Wo Fat” (Season 12)
From the beginning, Hawaii Five-0 was a morality tale. One of the earliest episodes to illustrate this was “Strangers in Our Own Land” (Season 1), which showed the little man versus big business with government pulling the puppet strings.
On the one hand, we see Mrs. Kapali living in what can only be described as a shack. On the other hand, we see David Milner building 400 small houses to provide shelter for the people of Hawaii. We have to ask ourselves, “Was Mrs. Kapali unhappy where she lived?” and “Was David Milner interested in helping the Hawaiian people or himself?”
We have no way of knowing whether Mrs. Kapali liked living where she did or whether she lived there because she could afford nothing better. Quite possibly, the answer lay somewhere in between. After all, we are taught from an early age to content ourselves with what we have (not that many people in this country seem to learn that lesson).
On the other hand, we have no way of knowing to what degree David Milner was padding his pockets at the expense of the Hawaiian people. Almost certainly, he was making a profit; yet, at the same time, he was providing the Hawaiian people with adorable houses.
This, we do know: The City and County of Honolulu wanted the land on which Mrs. Kapali’s shack was sitting in order to develop Waikiki into a mecca for wealthy tourists, who would bring their wealth to the Islands. City Councilman Nathan Manu represented this group and drew considerable ire from those who had known him back in the day when Waikiki was rice paddies and duck ponds. Councilman Manu drew so much ire, in fact, that he was killed as a traitor for joining the group who were turning Waikiki over to big business.
And, yet, as was said in the last scene, Nathan Manu’s death did nothing to change the situation. The shacks were torn down to make room for high-rise hotels, and the Hawaiian people left their homeland and moved to the mainland in search of better salaries and affordable housing.
Who benefitted? Big business? To a point. It should be noted, however, that big business struggles daily to survive as wealthy tourists move on to other tropical retreats and middle-class tourists come in search of more affordable ways to see the Hawaiian Islands. They stay in hostels and bed-and-breakfasts, placing increasing strain on the high-rise hotels that David Milner and his ilk built fifty years ago.
The moral dilemma continues today, when we call David Milner’s products “small houses” (<1,000 square feet). They are being sought in increasing numbers by people who are just starting out with entry-level incomes and those who are finding their careers cut short, in both cases by the wicked ways of big business. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind retiring in Mrs. Trinian’s small house in “Yesterday Died and Tomorrow Won’t Be Born” (Season 1).
In "And a Time to Die" (Season 3), we see Wo Fat stoop to his all-time lowest when he kidnaps an innocent child in order to coerce her father into allowing a patient to die to benefit Wo Fat's mission. While old Wo has the child, he talks about losing his own child and becomes tearful. Does that make his actions more acceptable? Definitely not! It shows that Wo has absolutely no conscience. He's a cold, ruthless, arrogant you-know-what, and that's all he'll ever be. McGarrett says as much in the last scene of "Woe to Wo Fat" (Season 12), when he says there was no morality to any of Wo's deeds.
Time and time again, we see the goodness of the law (as it is intended to be) do battle against the forces of evil (as it has existed since the days of Adam and Eve). It is often a painful battle, as in "FOB Honolulu" (Season 3), when McGarrett's long-time friend went to the dark side for the love of a woman, who was only using him to get what she wanted; in "East Wind - Ill Wind" (Season 10), when the nefarious forces rendered a young woman mute and nearly killed her mentor for the sake of political gain; and, of course, in the several episodes when the forces of evil strove to take down McGarrett before he could block their paths: "The Ninety-Second War" (Season 4), "Man in a Steel Frame" (Season 9), and "Good Help is Hard to Find" (Season 12), to name just a few. It is not easy to prove what one did not do, but in each case, McGarrett managed to do exactly that. He had to. In no case could immorality be allowed to triumph over morality.