Magnum P.I.’s opening episode, “Don’t Eat the Snow in Hawaii” introduces the viewer to Hawaii through Magnum, an ex-navy man who took on the job of private investigator. As the main character, he was the focus from the very first moments of the episode, with the setting of 80s Oahu being established right after. The viewer is thrown into the life of Magnum, who is allowed to live freely in a friend’s mansion under the condition that he perform routine security checks on the house – mainly by attempting to break in. The house on the beach is the first view of Hawaii shown, and as other characters such as Higgins, Alice, and other various blonde women are introduced, a particular image of Hawaii begins to form.
Throughout the show Magnum is showed to be involved with other characters enjoying a high quality of life. Glamor is felt by the viewer as they are shown sports cars, nightclubs, and cocaine multiple times throughout the episode, along with a sense of opposition provided by those same things. While there were a few characters who portrayed a more typical image of a local in Hawaii, most of the main characters were white. The lines given to those non white characters, for example T.C., seem aimed more towards comical relief than direct plot development.
Many viewers could relate to the values portrayed by Magnum and the rest of the cast, as the show aired a few years after the Vietnam war. Through flashbacks and jungle music, Magnum’s experience during the Vietnam war is shared, revealing Magnum’s reasons for some of his decisions. Although the show’s protagonists were associated with the US military, the military’s criticism also plays into the show as conflict between Magnum and the navy is established. The motives of high ranking Navy members are questioned, leaving the idea that corruption lurks even in the military, which is simultaneously portrayed as a group containing very loyal individuals. The motif of the ring shared by Magnum and his old crew reinforces the idea as he begins a case that no one else believes in.
The voiceover element of the show, common at the time and in the detective genre, reveals more of Magnum’s intentions and views of the situations that unfold around him. I noticed fate being mentioned a couple times, drawing the viewer closer to Magnum as the protagonist and filling in any unexplained or odd success as meant to be. By portraying Magnum as the type of person with strong intuition that does not need support, other perspectives shown by Magnum become easily trusted, especially during the voiceover, which is more personal than the regular communication between characters.
The premise of the episode has parallels with the real introduction of Hawaii to the world and Captain Cook. The murdered son was a Cook, though he ended up getting his justice, unlike Captain Cook. With all the action occurring in the car chases and shootouts, it may be difficult to see the importance of this connection, and many may dismiss it as a mere coincidence or reference. Every creative move by the director has an intention, however. The way the main characters are who they are, and have the life they do aligns with the history of Hawaii and its colonization.
By the end of the first episode a feel for the different characters is established. The directors continuously build upon that with each aired episode, creating relatable personas that the audience begin to root for. By referencing events and issues of the show’s time period, the director is able to share an opinion with the public.