Hawaii Five-0 series finale interview: Peter M. Lenkov on show ending, McGarrett’s journey

Hawaii Five-0 is over and it’s an incredibly difficult thing to think about or imagine, but this is where we are now. The series finale has wrapped up, and you just saw Steve McGarrett get aboard a plan to explore new horizons — and with Catherine Rollins showing up in a surprise appearance. That ending could begin the next phase of Steve’s life, and there’s a perfectly good chance that Alex O’Loughlin’s character makes it back to the island someday and his beloved Five-0 team.

In our postmortem interview, executive producer/showrunner Peter M. Lenkov spent some time with CarterMatt discussing some notable scenes, the future of the franchise, and also if there were any characters he wishes were there as part of the send-off.

CarterMatt – To me, the most powerful moment of the episode was watching all of these different characters say their individual goodbyes to McGarrett and letting them know how much he meant to them — the Grover one just about broke me. What went into making sure that all of those moments were just right?

Peter M. Lenkov – Here’s the thing. That scene was shot two hours after I brought the cast and crew together to tell them we were not coming back for season 11. The reason I did that was because there was going to be a story in the press, and I didn’t want the cast and crew to read about it in the trades. I wanted them to know from me because I thought it would be unfair for them to get text messages or seeing that online in the middle of a business day.

Unfortunately, the timing was bad, but I had to tell them that day. Two hours later, we were shooting that goodbye scene. What I wrote in the script were more scenes of what McGarrett meant to everybody, but we sort of jettisoned that and had everybody ad-lib when they came through the door. Everything you’re seeing is a very truthful, genuine response to knowing that it’s not just over for McGarrett, but it’s over for themselves — this journey has come to an end. What you’re seeing is one take of genuine, raw emotion from all those characters and actors. They’re all responding to the end of the show.

When it comes to the Catherine appearance at the end, was that an idea that came up after learning that this was going to be end, or was it the plan to always include her?

She was always going to be there.

So this is closure in that sense. Of course, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with them or just with Steve moving forward.

It’s why I wanted people to watch the first episode before the finale. Some things are pretty subtle, and some are less subtle than others. McGarrett came to the island on a plane, following this trauma of losing his dad. He has been moving like a white shark ever since, moving forward and never looking back. He’s created this new family and lost a lot of people along the way. The idea here is to have him leave, albeit briefly. He’s not going away forever — he’s going to re-calibrate and then come back, maybe renewed or re-energized.

If I was going to revisit this show, Steve McGarrett would return to Hawaii, resume running the Task Force — maybe not as hands-on as he was before — and maybe start a family. I think that was the one thing that was missing with him, and it’s the thing that he connected on with Danny. He was a good father and Steve was a good uncle. He wanted that for himself.

There’s this moment at the end where you see Steve turn to profile and there’s a smile on his face. I feel like that smile says ‘everything is going to be all right.’ We’ve seen him smile before, but that’s a different kind of smile. It’s a smile because he’s feeling good about himself and what that next chapter is going to be.

It’s funny you mention revisiting the show — I know that you technically still have Magnum PI, but are you actively thinking about anything else with Five-0? Are you thinking about a spin-off, or just dealing with the emotional process of ending with the finale?

I’m in the process of mixing the final episode (at the time of this interview) and then having the episode air — then, taking a moment to breathe and reflect. It’s the same thing with Alex and his character of McGarrett. We both started this journey ten years ago and haven’t stopped moving forward ever since. It’s been such a big part of my life, and I did the job that I was asked to do, which was to keep the torch lit for this franchise. It’s not my show — it’s Leonard Freeman’s show and it’s CBS’ show. All I was asked to do was to not let that torch go out.

I don’t know what the future holds. I’m not sure I’m going to be thinking about reviving it. If they call me and ask me to think about reviving it, I’ll consider it, but I think my job with regards to what I was asked to do is done. I feel like I’m the last guy, and someone told me to turn the light switch off and I did. Ten years ago, I turned it on.

Five-0 in particular has this really incredible bench of recurring guest stars, and it’s one of the reasons why the show works so well. Were there more people you wanted to get in the finale, and it just didn’t work out for whatever reason?

I wish Duke was in there, I wish Kamekona was in there, I wish Flippa was in there … I wish I had brought back some of the other regulars. But, it was just a matter of logistics and timing. I had written the script as just a season 10 finale and not a series finale, and when I found out it was the series finale we were already deep into prep. If I had known that it was going to be the series, I may have added a few more characters. It would have pressed us budget-wise, but I would’ve tried to do it.

I think I’m pretty satisfied with the people in it — I do miss seeing Duke and Kamekona in there, but they live in our world. If you go back and watch the series, their characters are really beloved and we loved writing for them.

And there’s always Magnum…

That’s the other thing! Those actors are local actors, so I’m hoping that they’re available to us to come and play every now and then.

How did you feel about the Hawaii Five-0 series finale overall?

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