Last week’s episode of Walker was the most eventful one ever, with many of the emotional story lines laid out in the first seven episodes getting put to the test as that time honored raise-the-stakes moment of television and film takes over – a tornado! As much as a sudden storm and people being caught in it, allowing us to find heroism in the show’s characters, is a common way to bring suspense and danger, somehow being in the middle of a real life pandemic and the very real effects of climate change make it all seem a bit more serious. That worked in the show’s favor, because the sense of danger was palpable. Kudos also to the show’s writer Katherine Alyse and director Stacey K. Black for keeping the pace slow enough to let that sense of danger build, at first from newscasters warning of the coming storm (a warning mostly missed by the characters caught up in their own emotional challenges) and later from the flurry of phone calls back and forth, which seemed a realistic way of depicting what we all would do in that kind of situation.
This was a complex episode, with serious emotional arcs playing out within the context of a natural disaster – the lingering effects of Abeline’s infidelity, Trevor caught between his feelings for Stella and his loyalty to his father, Micki still trying to avoid the reality of Adriana’s revelation by keeping it from Trey, Cordell making his first awkward and tentative steps toward envisioning a new relationship, and a guilt-stricken Liam wanting to come clean to his brother but trying to protect his fiancé and hurting him in the process. Somehow the writer managed to weave those stories in and out of the storm context deftly enough that they all spooled out realistically.
Watching this week was extra fun because Jared Padalecki and some other cast members live tweeted along with the fandom, adding some behind the scenes insights and some priceless dad jokes. For those of us who watched Supernatural for many years, Walker sometimes feels like a fandom reunion, since many Supernatural fans are now watching and interacting around a new shared TV show.
The episode opens, as it often does, with the core family – Walker and his kids. It’s a brief scene but it shows the progress Cordell has made in keeping to his resolve to be a dad to his children, as he makes pancakes and even flips them deftly.
His newfound comfort in that role is contrasted with what Liam is explaining to Micki about how his brother was after Emily’s death.
Liam: You didn’t know him then…constant driving obsession that sucked the life out of every second of his day and consumed him. He was convinced that Carlos didn’t kill Emily. We said that there was no conspiracy. We were wrong.
Liam, as Micki points out, looks like shit. Consumed with guilt and the burden of the secrets he’s been keeping from both his fiancé and his brother – that Carlos isn’t the killer and that the bad guys who probably did kill Emily are now after him and Capt. James. And willing to blow up their car to get to them. He’s avoiding Bret so he can keep up the lie, sleeping in his office, unshaven and hollow eyed. Keegan Allen really made me feel for Liam, his guilt and indecision showing in the way he holds himself, his expression, his physicality as well as his words.
Liam insists he won’t risk putting anyone’s life in danger and is terrified that they could have been followed back to Austin. He does have a confidante in Micki now, though. Her research shows that forensics on the bomb matches Northside Nation’s MO. (I’ll admit that name for the gang makes me want to either roll my eyes or giggle each time someone says it, especially after that weird truck round up of kids playing soccer scene, but it is what it is).
Micki: It was them, Liam. I understand how hard it is, but this isn’t your secret to keep. Walker needs to know. That person is now targeting his brother and his captain.
Liam promises that he’s going to tell Walker the truth, and we can all imagine just how difficult that conversation is going to be – for both of them. And Liam is much too preoccupied with his own stormy relationships to listen to the news warning about the actual storm coming.
The rest of the family misses the warnings too, wrapped up in something much more pleasant – the school dance that Stella and Augie are both going to. Abeline helps Stella get ready, a little scene that touched me with its melancholy (Emily not there) but also its resilience (her grandmother stepping in).
Trevor combs his hair in the car and gets ready too, stopping at the prison first to see his dad and bring him some letter writing supplies. The show loves these transition scenes and I can enjoy them too, but it is possible to overuse them so they become a little distracting.
His dad, Clint (Austin Nichols), is an interesting character. He can get to his son with just a few well chosen words.
Clint: Got a hot date? Taking out Cordell Walker’s daughter…your mom might even forgive him for killing her.
Trevor, clearly conflicted, says that Stella’s mother also passed away. Clint considers.
Clint: Something in common. That’s my boy.
You get the feeling that Clint is assuming that his son is manipulating Stella by bringing up things in common, but Trevor is aware of a real connection. Clint barters for some flowers that a visitor just brought another prisoner, and fashions them together into a little wristlet.
Clint: Give her this nice little gift for me.
That whole interaction was chilling, and I’m intrigued by Clint as a result. He’s driven by the same emotions as Walker (and as John Winchester, if you’ll forgive a Supernatural reference): revenge. And in his own way, he’s loyal to family the same way the Walkers and the Winchesters are. Austin Nichols captures his complexity and manages to make him scary even when he’s making a floral wristlet!
I actually wish we could have seen more of obsessed, driven, rage-filled Cordell after Emily’s death. We hear about it from the people who witnessed it, but I would love a flashback from before he ran away from all those feelings by becoming Duke. It makes the parallels between him and Clint even more interesting, if they’re headed in that direction.
As I said, this show loves its pointed transitions (sometimes a little too much), so the flowers on the wristlet transition to the flowers that Cordell is picking to make a corsage for his daughter to give to her date. Emily appears (in his subconscious) to chide him about not including dandelions, because “those are weeds, babe.”
He also, amusingly, puts words in her mouth when she says “I hate to see you go” and he replies “But you love to watch me walk away.”
He’s cute, seriously.
Walker gives Stella the corsage sans weeds and also a necklace.
Walker: I think your mom would like this for you.
Not gonna lie, I had a moment of amulet feelings because I will probably never get over Supernatural.
Abeline takes pictures, and it’s bittersweet, because the family all knows that should have been Emily. Those small moments are well done on this show, always poignant but not overplayed. The show lets the viewers fill in the blanks, because we’ve all experienced grief and we know what those small moments feel like, when the loss hits you unexpectedly and you long for that person to be there to see what you’re seeing.
Stella and Trevor leave for the dance, and Abeline asks Bonham when they’re going dancing, which seems like her attempting a truce and a little rekindling. Bonham blows her off, saying they need to go to the feed store.
Abeline: You sure know how to plan a date night.
When everyone else is gone, Cordell pauses for a moment, looking up wistfully and missing Emily.
Cordell: Wish you could’ve been here for this…
Padalecki is so good at those quiet moments, letting us see the depth of the grief Walker is still dealing with. One moment you’re full of pride and the next you’re wishing with ever fiber of your being that the person you’ve lost could be there too. The grief comes and goes, like it does for all of us, but when it hits, it can still hit hard and knock us off our feet temporarily.
I don’t think most people reading this blog will mind if I occasionally veer off into Supernatural territory, and Jared has said that his mind still goes to Sam at times as well. I couldn’t help thinking about Sam during this scene, and how many times he must have felt that same pang of longing after Dean’s death – moments of happiness with his son, for example, that he must have wished Dean could be there to see.
It’s important for media to mirror these kinds of difficult situations and emotions, though, because it normalizes our own real life feelings when we are inevitably confronted with loss.
Meanwhile, the news in the background continues to warn about the storm, and something about Bordertown residents and temporary shelters never being installed…
Liam calls and asks if the brothers can grab a beer tomorrow. Cordell, feeling lonely with everyone gone, says why not tonight, but Liam says he’s still working so they agree on the next day. Luckily for Walker, Micki texts with an invitation to game night, and he orders pizza and heads out, relieved. (Also it’s adorable that his texts refer to her as “Flor”, their little in joke).
Meanwhile, Bret takes matters into his own hands and goes to see Liam at his office, as we hear more about the storm, now ‘severe’. We see Liam’s increasing anxiety as he checks to see if Bret was followed, looking down the hallway after unlocking the door. Bret is clearly alarmed by both the state of his fiancé and his cluttered and not-so-sweet-smelling office, entreating Liam to let him take him to dinner and air the office out. Liam is reluctant, but Bret sweeps him into an embrace, saying “come on, let me take care of you.” Who can resist that? This episode let Alex Landi have some more substantive scenes, and his affection for Liam really came through.
Liam finally agrees and says he’ll meet Bret out there.
The newscaster on the ignored television advises that everyone stay away from doors and inside walls, and the tension ramps up.
Bret and Liam get on the elevator to head out, and the tension between them is thick. Bret tries to grab Liam’s hand and he pulls away, refusing to talk about his work trip and so distracted that he’s not even listening to what Bret is saying. Bret finally gets exasperated.
Bret: You’re being weird! Can we talk about it?
The elevator stops suddenly and Liam freaks out (probably thinking it may be another sabotage attempt).
Trey and Micki are also ignoring the news, the television off so they can have what seems to be a nice tradition for them – game night. Trey already senses that Micki is keeping things from him, asking if Walker is getting any juicy details that he’s not. Micki at one point goes to say “I have a psychologist mom” but she stops herself before she says ‘mom’. Trey finishes the sentence for her, but clearly knows there’s more to it. Micki insists she doesn’t want to talk about it, just as Walker arrives with pizza.
Their phone alerts announce a tornado watch, which saves Walker from having to play Yu-Gi-Oh, which amused me. (All the kudos to writer Alyse who I’m guessing is pop culture and fandom savvy). The trio head to the school where the kids are for the dance – because they need supplies, I think? So I’m guessing the school is a storm shelter?
They find the kids and their friends are just about the only ones at the dance – I think the story is that they needed to be there early to set up, but it’s Covid convenient for sure. Cordell chows down on the appetizers, looking much more like Dean Winchester than Sam, and attempts some awkward flirtation with Julie Branlett (Jessica Irvine Drake), the science teacher. When he realizes she’s flirting with him, he stumbles over his words rather adorably, introducing himself as Ranger…father…husband…uhh former husband…
Jared doesn’t make it over the top, so it seems believable even though you might expect that a man who looks like Jared Padalecki would never have to work hard at flirting anyway. The flirtation is interrupted by Ruby concerned about her missing grandfather, who had heart surgery recently and has some kind of pacemaker implant, and is caught in the storm.
Cordell: I think we have a rescue mission that needs a medic.
Which means – the fandom’s favorite trio! Cordell, Micki and Trey head out into the storm, Trey going back to ask the science teacher if she has a magnet he can borrow. Micki teases her partner while they wait for Trey.
Micki: Why were you so weird with that woman, has no one ever flirted with you?
He protests that he hasn’t flirted in a long time, but allows that back there he almost did. Micki and Walker are refreshingly blunt with each other, in contrast to most of the other relationships on the show right now. Micki reminds him to keep quiet about “the whole Adriana thing” and he reminds her that haven’t they learned that secret secrets are not good?
Micki: When you say it out loud you have to accept it. You’re my partner, Trey’s my person.
(More points to the savvy writer who knows the phrases that will ring true to a lot of viewers).
Abeline and Bonham are at the feed store, which Abeline questions because it’s not their usual place, but Bonham dismisses her and goes inside. Abeline’s phone rings and it’s Liam, stuck in the elevator and freaking out. Meanwhile, Cordell calls Bonham and asks him to pick up some supplies. At first, we don’t realize why Bonham looks like he’s about to murder the clerk at the store, but it soon becomes clear that it’s Gary – the man who Abeline had an affair with.
Abeline comes in to tell Bonham they have to go, Liam’s stuck in an elevator, and the tension is so think you could cut it with a knife. Awkward.
She goes back to say something to Gary when Bonham heads outside.
Abeline: This was not my plan, believe me.
Gary yells her name after her, but she follows Bonham out. Back in the truck, she confronts him, both of them angry.
Abeline: What the hell’s the matter with you? You know I ended it!
At least now they’re talking about it, I guess? Molly Hagan and Mitch Pileggi shine when they interact onscreen, both of them capable of portraying a lot of emotion with only a few words – and of showing us a relationship that is anything but simplistic.
In the stuck elevator, Bret tries to comfort Liam, reassuring.
Bret: Babe, we’re safe, calm down. We’re good, we’re okay.
Liam confesses that something happened on his work trip to Mexico, and we think he’s finally going to tell Bret the truth. Instead, clearly distraught, he lies and says that he hooked up with a bartender.
Bret: You? Mr. Family Values? You cheated?
Liam immediately assumes that their relationship is over – which is, of course, what he’s trying to do. End it so that Bret won’t be in danger.
Liam: I was drunk and I’ve ruined things…it’s unforgiveable…I can’t believe I’ve done this, you’re better off…
Bret angrily protests that Liam does not get to decide what he forgives, and then they’re freed from the elevator by Liam’s still-awkwardly-tense parents. Now there are multiple awkwardly tense couples. They head to the dance, where Stella and Trevor are bonding, Stella telling Trevor about the time she and August built a fort out of the gymnasium mats.
Stella: It was the last time we felt like kids, the year before mom was killed.
That small line was pretty powerful and spot on – kids do feel like they have to grow up suddenly when they lose a parent, or even worse, both parents. Stella and August lost their mom, lost the family in which they could be carefree kids with two parents who loved them, temporarily lost their dad too when he ran away to be someone else. That’s a lot of loss, and it makes so much sense psychologically that Stella would remember that last time she felt like a child with such longing.
She tries to get Trevor to talk about his own childhood and his parents, but he deflects, saying his mom is dead and his dad is in prison. They share an almost kiss, then get interrupted to go dance. There’s a little interlude when the kids are actually having fun, girls and boys and girls and girls and boys and boys dancing together – a subtle thing, but important to see and to normalize. The kids are not hung up about any of it, Stella dancing with Bel, Trevor dancing with August, Stella with Trevor, all of them just having a good time and being kids.
Trevor disappears for a short time and then surprises them with a house of gymnasium mats like from Stella’s fond memory, strung with lights. Trevor gallantly puts his coat on a chilly Stella and they all go through the mat house, delighted. The spell breaks when Stella finds the prison pass in Trevor’s pocket – and realizes that Clint West is Trevor’s dad.
The storm is getting worse by then, as Trey and Micki and Walker drive right into it, trying to figure out what their “trio name” should be. (It’s okay, writer, you can say “ship name” if you want.) Micki comes up with “Trickier” because she and Trey are already “Tricki” which, again, this is a fandom savvy writer because that really is their ship name, and I’m enjoying it.
They find a storm ravaged area where Ruby’s grandfather has been in a car accident, lying in the road, the tornado roaring down on them. Beautiful cinematography in all the storm scenes – frightening but also gorgeous.
Micki has a panic attack partly kicked off by the lights which evoke that traumatic memory of her aunt paying off her mother at the tracks. She drops the magnet in the road as the wind whips branches and debris around.
Walker realizes what’s happening instantly, and knows how to use some basic grounding techniques to help her anchor herself – come back to the here and now by taking inventory of what you see, feel, hear around you.
Walker: Tree, branch, telephone pole…
Micki: Tree, branch, asphalt, you’re an ass…
Walker: Yes. Good, you good?
Okay, it was a little quicker than that might have happened in real life for sure, but the basics were there. Padalecki is no stranger to anxiety and panic attacks, as he wrote about in his chapter in the book Family Don’t End With Blood, so I have no doubt he wanted to ensure that scene was realistic.
They take shelter with the injured man in a storm drain, Walker going back out to get the magnet that she dropped. The wind whips up and he gets hit by a big tree branch, and now it’s Micki’s turn to rescue him, pulling the tree off him and helping him back to the temporary shelter.
Jared Padalecki live tweeting the episode: OUCH! Why do I have to get “TREE-ted” like that?!?! (See what I did there?
Trey uses the magnet to treat the man’s heart issue as they all shelter in place.
Once they’re back in the truck, Micki apologizes for freezing and getting Walker hurt, though he shrugs it off and says he’s fine. Trey, however, notes that whatever is going on is a bigger deal than Micki is letting on, and it’s getting in her way. He’s right. Micki finally admits that she found out last week that Adriana was her aunt, not her mother.
Trey: Last week? Walker knows already?
He’s clearly hurt, but there’s no time to process it as they drive into a scene of destruction from the tornado, cars thrown around, some on top of each other and piles of debris. Trey climbs up to rescue a driver trapped in her car, then falls himself as he tries to get down. Micki hovers as they wait for him to be taken away by EMS.
Trey: I’m pretty sure I have a concussion. So you gonna tell me about Adriana?
Micki admits she was trying to protect herself, that she didn’t want it to be true and just wanted to pretend like it wasn’t part of her story.
Micki: And you are such a big part of my story, I just… if I told you, it would mean that it’s a part of me too.
Lindsey Morgan and Jeff Pierre acted the hell out of that scene. Again, the show manages to depict something realistic about grief and loss. When it’s a traumatic loss of some kind – in Micki’s case, loss of her identity as Adriana’s daughter, loss of her mother in a sense, loss of the meaning she’s made of her life up until now – when that loss feels too big, we just don’t want to integrate it into our life story. We want to keep it separate, as though that will somehow make it not true – not real.
But of course, as Trey points out, that avoidance has consequences.
Micki asks Cordell if he understands why she didn’t want to tell Trey, and he says yes – because she didn’t want it to be real.
Micki: Remember that. Now go be with your family.
We know, though Cordell doesn’t, that she’s thinking of Liam – and another painful secret that’s about to come out.
Back at the school, they’ve let Ruby know that her grandfather is safe, and she spontaneously throws her arms around August in gratitude.
He looks shocked, perhaps having given up on her being interested in him – but isn’t that always the time that interest begins? On TV anyway.
Also at the school, Abeline expresses disbelief that Liam would stray, and Bonham goes to talk to his clearly distraught son. Liam is sitting alone, head down, the picture of dejection. Bonham reminds Liam that Bret made sacrifices to be with him.
Bonham: That man traveled across the country for you. If you’re not ready to get up every day and show him that you love him, maybe you don’t deserve him. Love is a verb, Liam. It’s something you do actively.
Liam: You have no idea what I’m sacrificing, Dad.
It’s a small scene but an important one. Partly because this show does a great job of normalizing all kinds of relationships that we don’t always get to see in a matter of fact way on mainstream television. You might be tempted to stereotype a man like Bonham as someone who might not be totally okay with his son being gay, but that’s not the case – he gives Liam the same advice about respecting your partner and prioritizing your relationship that he’d give anyone he loved. Their relationship is depicted and taken as seriously as it should be.
His words are not just for Liam, though; they are also for himself, and his relationship with Abeline. We don’t see romantic relationships between people who are grandparent age on mainstream television taken seriously either – on Walker, those relationships are also respected, complex and multifaceted. And you might also add in the flirtation with the science teacher, who is not the stereotypical drop-dead-gorgeous woman you expect from a show on the CW. She’s attractive in a believable way and actually looks like she could be a science teacher instead of an actress, and that’s also refreshing. It’s subtle but it’s there, and the nuanced way that all these relationships are treated is quietly important.
Walker returns to the school, where the science teacher writes down her phone number and gives it to him if he’s ever “in the mood for some over sharing.” He says he doesn’t know if he’s quite ready, but will hold onto it, and she says “good, I’m around,” with a smile.
Bonham, trying to take his own advice, hands Abeline a flower, confessing that he’s been angry for so long, more than he thought.
Abeline: I have too. At myself, for screwing up. And at you, for how you handled it. And then at me again… We never really talked about it.
Bonham doesn’t want to talk though, saying that “tonight is about the dancing, just about being close.” He holds out his hand and she takes it, and they dance, Abeline clutching the flower. He kisses her hand as the music plays.
While Walker contemplates a new relationship and his parents try to renew theirs, other relationships may be ending. Liam tries to convince Bret that it had nothing to do with him, that it’s “me, my stuff.” Bret, however, is hurt and has had enough, saying he realizes that he was ignoring all the moments when Liam was already picking other people over him – a reference, I’m guessing, to Liam prioritizing his family.
Liam: Bret, I love you…
Bret: You don’t get to say that. You just want to be in control. You even want to control how I view this break up. You can’t control how people feel.
He tells Liam to stay with his folks for a while, and says goodbye, leaving Liam devastated and looking like he’s about to break down and sob.
A tearful Stella confronts Trevor, accusing him of planning their meeting with his dad, but Trevor insists he wouldn’t have ruined their relationship, that he didn’t even know if he could love someone as good as her. Like Bonham, he asks if they can just dance, pretend that she’s not a Capulet and he’s not a Montague. They dance, both of them upset, and then he says he’s sorry and leaves.
Outside, Trey and Micki get real about their relationship too.
Trey: We’re in a relationship now. You’re not responsible for what hurt you in the past, but you are for what you do in the present. Keeping me in the dark about important life stuff is not okay.
She agrees and says she hears him and is sorry, that she’ll let him in before trying to make it all neat and easy to explain – he’ll get the messy too.
(More writer kudos – that’s a perfect way to put it and a great way to wrap up some of the relationship evolution that’s going on in this episode for so many of the characters).
Trey jokes, as they wheel him away, that Micki owes some penance when they get home – in the form of playing some Yu-Gi-Oh!
The episode ends with a devastating scene between the Walker brothers. Cordell joins Liam on a bench outside, at first sharing that he got a woman’s number. Liam holds it together enough to express his happiness for his brother, saying that “I want that for you, so much.”
Walker (realizing his little brother is not okay): What’s going on?
Liam: I lied to Bret so he would leave me, because I think something really bad is about to happen, and I keep trying to control it and keep the people I love safe, but all it’s doing is taking away their choice, and I.. I’m not gonna do that to you anymore.
Micki and Liam have learned the same thing from their partners, and he tells Cordell the truth now.
Liam: James and I did some digging into Emily’s case, and you were right. There is evidence that Carlos is not her killer.
You can see every emotion that Walker is feeling as he takes this in – the confusion, the shock.
Liam: Whoever took her from us is still out there… with ties to Northside Nation, and they’re dangerous…
Walker goes from shock to horror, and then rage, struggling to keep himself under control as his brother breaks down beside him.
Liam: I’m sorry.
The Cordell we met in the beginning of the series would probably explode, swear revenge, maybe say something hurtful to his brother. But he’s learned something from his experience since he’s been back, and from his partner. Tears in his eyes, and clearly struggling, he reaches out with empathy to his brother anyway, remembering what Micki said to him. He can see that Liam is hurting, but he’s also in incredible pain himself.
Walker: It must have been hard for you to say out loud.
Cordell gets up and Liam goes to stand too, but Walker puts a hand on his shoulder, a reassurance but also an ‘I need space.’ He walks away, seeing Emily standing close by, also crying. They walk away side by side, leaving a broken Liam sitting on the bench, alone.
All the kudos to Keegan Allen and Jared Padalecki for really bringing that scene. It makes me extra emotional that Jared is now playing the big brother instead of the little brother (as he did for 15 seasons on Supernatural), something he actually is in real life and that he probably learned a lot about from Dean Winchester too. Kudos to Gen Padalecki too, who made that small wordless moment meaningful with just her devastated look.
I wonder where all these relationships will go from here…
It seems I can’t write a short review of this show – my apologies for the long recap and review, but in all fairness, a lot happened in this episode! And Walker is a treat for my psychologist brain to dig into, what can I say? Looking forward to a new episode next week too.
Gorgeous caps by @spndeangirl
You can read Jared Padalecki’s powerful chapters
in Family Don’t End With Blood and There’ll Be
Peace When You Are Done – about how fandom
has changed his life. Links on the home page
or at peacewhenyouaredone.com