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NBC’s "Hawai‘i" Premier

Kīhei de Silva

The killer’s name is Allah-pie (Alapa‘i), a native practitioner of the black art of uhna-uhna (‘anā‘anā). He decapitates his victims on Fridays, the sacred sixth day of traditional Hawaiian sorcerer-gangsters, with a traditional le‘o-mah-know (lei o manō) of Klingonian heft. He deposits the first of their headless bodies in an active East O‘ahu volcano. This, too, fits the traditonal m.o. of our ancestors; we have it on the authority of Allah’s ex-buddy (played by American Indian actor Branscombe "Bobby Six Killer" Richmond because competent Native Hawaiian actors are, of course, impossible to find). We know that Brudda is a for-real Hawaiian martial arts expert because he works out at Valley of the Temples and wears the instantly recognizable lua-master’s outfit of black pants and long-sleeved white shirt.

We know, too, that the episode has been deeply researched and nuanced. Authentic Hawaiian chanting of the rarely heard ooga-booga style accompanies the first appearance of le‘o-mah-know and the subsequent discovery of yet another detached head. That chant—"Kū ka Pūnohu ‘Ula i ka Moana"—belongs (in a strictly non-legal sense, of course) to the repertoire of Lōkālia Montgomery and Kekau‘ilani Kalama who used it to "clear the way" for presentations of traditional dance. The chant’s opening line can be translated as "The red cloud appears on the ocean." While this language is superficially descriptive of a beautifully attired dancer as she approaches her audience, its use in "Hawai‘i" demonstrates a profound understanding of the chant’s hidden meaning: the effect of niho manō on ‘ā‘ī kanaka, of shark’s tooth on human neck.

The episode is entitled "Hawaiian Justice," either in reference to the appropriately faceless Hawaiian Allah-pie who is gunned down at show’s end, or to the team of justice-deliverers that represents, so well, Hawai‘i’s first people. That would be a Black man from "ER," three drab men from "Crossing Jordan," "Terminator," and "Six Feet Under," a Samoan from San Pedro, a Kepanī Army brat from all over, and a Kepanī-haole ballerina from Washington. Lest we forget that "Hawai‘i" is all about the life of the land being perpetuated in righteousness, the episode ends with a soundclip of Israel Kamakawiwo‘ole’s plaintive conclusion to "Hawai‘i ’78." Ua mau ka ‘eha o ka ‘āina i ka hewa.