In case you missed it, you can still watch Friday night’s special episode of Hawaii Five-O here on-line.
It’s not often you can see a large Asian American cast on prime time television covering a topic, however fiction, of an important but little known chapter of Asian American history–the incarceration of Japanese Americans on the Hawaiian Islands, specifically Honouliuli which held 1,400 prisoners.
A lot has been written about the camps on the West Coast, but much less is available about what took place on Hawaii.
The writers at first ask a lot of the audience. A young boy, David Toriyama as played by James Saito (pictured), saw his father’s bloody body just moments after his death at Honouliuli and sets out more than 70 years later to avenge his dad’s murder.
An aborted attempt to kill the suspect leads to an investigation by Five-O of the subsequent cover up of the father’s murder.
As with any good mystery, when ever the audience figures out they where this is heading, the plot takes a dramatic turn.
Along the way,we learn of the intense hatred and racism Japanese Americans faced after Pearl Harbor.
Friendly neighbors turned on each other and the freedom we often take for granted, suddenly was stripped away from an entire population of people. The assumptions we make about the characters turn out to be wrong.
The story tells a sympathetic story for both Toriyama and the suspect, Ezra Clark, a Pearl Harbor veteran who suffers from Alzheimer’s. As the plot develops, any skepticism you have about the story disappears.
When you think the story is finally over, another surprise awaits.
The story pulls at your heart strings more than once. It wasn’t exactly what you call a tearjerker, but I’m sure more than a few audience members shed a tear or two.
The closing scene with James Saito as David Toriyama was truly powerful.
Last night’s episode is proof that good television is good television. An audience can relate to characters, regardless of their ethnicity, as long as they are acted and written well.
Lets hope other producers will be encouraged to include more Asian American actors in their story line, whether the plot is specifically about Asian Americans or not.