The Walker fandom – and the Supernatural fandom – got some good news yesterday, with the pilot pickup of a prequel called ‘Walker: Independence’ and a Supernatural prequel called ‘The Winchesters’. Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles both took to social media to celebrate and to congratulate each other on their respective new projects. For fans of the original Walker, who are eagerly awaiting news of its third season, knowing the Walker universe is about to expand was a welcome bit of news.
Walker will be taking a mini hiatus until the end of February, so there was a lot of anticipation for last week’s episode to hold fans over for that drought. It was a hard hitting episode in several ways, aptly titled ‘Sucker Punch’ – which is exactly what happened to a lot of the characters. Directed by frequent Supernatural director Amyn Kaderali, there were some beautiful and powerful shots that brought the force of those punches home.
The episode picks up shortly after the last one ended, Captain James returning to HQ after recovering from his gunshot wounds. Liam is there because he gave him a ride, and Trey is too just because (because their bromance is in full swing, obviously, complete with welcome back fist bump).
Walker, however, is not there – instead he’s the first to get sucker punched at Serano’s bail hearing. Despite Denises’ argument against it, the judge grants Serano bail at only $50,000. Serano smirks; Walker grimaces.
On the way out, Serano can’t resist the opportunity to gloat. Denise reminds Cordell that the case has to stay on the up and up and asks for his promise not to try something like Liam did.
Walker: If Micki taught me anything, it’s that the ends don’t justify the means.
I like that the show is keeping Micki alive by showing us that the characters have not forgotten her – far from it. Cordell promises he’ll go completely by the book and refuses to get rattled by Serano getting in his face and asking, with a thinly veiled threat, “how’s the family?” Walker really did learn a lot from Micki, and he’s evolved and grown in the length of time we’ve known him. He doesn’t rise to the bait, though he does engage in the power play with a thinly veiled threat of his own.
Walker returned after a mini hiatus over the holidays last week, much to fans’ anticipation. Jared Padalaecki did an Instagram Live with Entertainment Weekly’s Sam Highfill in the morning, teasing what to expect later that evening, and he live tweeted the episode, which made the return extra exciting.
The fandom that has followed Padalecki from show to show, especially from Supernatural, is accustomed to some interaction (okay, yes, we’re a bit spoiled!) and Jared has kept up that tradition on Walker, sometimes jumping on Twitter to reply to random fan questions and generally wreaking wonderful havoc in the fandom. Some of the other Walker cast are also interactive, including Keegan Allen’s popular posts that are often right in line with what the fans themselves would request. The high degree of interaction has solidified the Walker fandom quickly, with its own fan wikis and content accounts – and, so far anyway, not too much in the way of fandom in-fighting. Fingers crossed it stays that way!
So there was alot of anticipation about last week’s episode, and the episode moved just about every story line along – and delivered a cliffhanger ending too!
The titular question applies to just about everyone over the course of the episode, but the first iteration is for the brothers Walker. The episode starts out with the Walkers preparing a meal together, everyone joking around until Cordell accidentally knocks a bowl full of fresh rolls out of Liam’s hands. It shatters, an apt metaphor for the fragility of the brothers’ relationship right now.
Cordell snaps at him, Liam snaps back, and Augie and Stella want to know what the hell is going on. Liam decides to tell them about his suspicions about Dan Miller and how he made an ill advised false police report.
Stella: That’s not good.
Stella with the understatement. The brothers glare at each other.
Cordell: It’s a misdemeanor. Your uncle could be disbarred.
Liam: Thanks, Cordell, I know that.
Abilene says that’s enough as Liam storms out. She’s not exactly thrilled with either of her sons right now and I am, as always, loving her Mama Bear approach to trying to keep this volatile family of hers on a relatively even keel. It rarely works but I appreciate her efforts.
Walker goes to the office, watching as someone takes Micki’s name plate down and carts it off in a box, and ouch. It’s not clear at first, but apparently weeks have passed, and they haven’t been easy ones.
So much happened in this week’s episode of Walker, “Bar None,” that it feels impossible to recap it all. So instead, I’ll try to trace the twists and turns that the main characters – and the plot – took in 42 jam-packed minutes of television.
The main evolution belongs to Cordell himself, and it’s an evolution I’m enjoying tremendously. He starts out the episode defensive about the accusations of use of excessive force against him and the upcoming evaluation he’s set to undergo. He’s still falling back on the rationalization that the guy he attacked provoked it, as well as the privileged assurance that “everyone knows” that judges protect “the white hat”. He shrugs off the systemic bias with a “that’s how the system is” comment. This is all familiar from discussions we’ve all been having in the real world about qualified immunity and racism, but it’s powerful to see the white male law enforcement lead embody the problems we’re actually facing – and over the course of the episode, not only evolve and adopt a different perspective but also challenge some toxic masculinity tropes along the way.
I think a lot of people are surprised that ‘Walker’ is doing what it said it would, and isn’t afraid to go there. Showrunner Anna Fricke and Jared Padalecki have both said this is what they intended, but the show actually making it happen is satisfying to watch.
The other evolution we see in Cordell is his slow and painful progress in accepting Emily’s death and feeling the conflicting emotions that loss has brought. His struggle plays out against the metaphor of the Side Step itself, Emily’s favorite place that holds so many of Cordell’s fond memories of her. Walker stayed away from it and his family and friends to avoid those painful memories, as many of us are tempted to do when a loss feels overwhelming. At this point, the structure is failing, the foundation unsteady and unable to be an effective support – just like Walker’s coping strategies. He’s just not ready, at the start of the episode, to see it.
In the opening scene, Walker makes a flippant toast to a stuffed boar head on the wall of the Side Step, which takes us on a flashback to six years ago and Emily (Gen Padalecki) gifting him the boar’s head as the world’s strangest birthday present.
Hoyt (Matt Barr) in the past: Denise the deer.
Cordell (deadpan): It’s a boar.
You get the feeling Emily really was a bit crazy – and also that was something Cordell loved about her. I’m not a big fan of stuffed animal heads, let alone on walls, so this was not my favorite part of the episode, but I have to give the show points for being a little quirky. Quirky is good.
In the present, at the Side Step, Geri (Odette Annable) gives Cordell his mail, including the life insurance check from Emily’s death. They all realize it’s been a year, but Walker is determined to ignore that significance, although Stella and August want to honor their mother by doing her favorite thing – going camping. Cordell is planning to do it, for them, but refuses to acknowledge the emotional impact the anniversary is having on him.
Walker: It’s just a normal day, no different than any other day.
Denise the boar’s head: Falls off the wall.
Walker: Denise! You just had to make this about you…
The metaphors in this show are a tad on the nose, but Jared’s delivery of that line was so funny, I laughed out loud.
Geri informs Walker that she’s selling the bar, that she’s had a million offers from developers and it needs more work than she can do. He protests, but she says “it’s time.” Selling the bar equals moving on for Geri too. She’s ready, but Cordell is not.
Despite Walker’s insistence that it’s just another day, his level of upset at the thought of the bar being sold is a pretty good indication that he’s far from chill about it. Anniversaries of loss are always difficult. One of the things I’ve learned as a therapist is that sometimes we’re not even consciously aware that it’s a loss anniversary, yet we feel the impact anyway. Feeling raw emotionally is sometimes a clue that it’s the anniversary of losing someone or something, because we’re unconsciously aware of that loss. Walker goes so far as to declare the place a crime scene to get rid of a developer interested in buying it. Geri is pissed, accusing him of being in denial – and not just about the bar. She says she needs a fresh start, implying that maybe he does too.
Walker won’t hear it though. He insists he’ll fix up the place himself.
The metaphor holds, Walker wanting to throw his time and energy into constructing even sturdier walls against the awareness of his loss, telling himself that he can do that and have them hold a while longer. Maybe forever. Geri is skeptical.
I love the title of this episode (thank you, writer Meghan Fitzmartin). In fact, I’m listening to Toto right now as I write this review. ‘Africa’, the lyrics of which inspired this episode’s title, is a pop culture phenomenon, but it’s also special to the Supernatural fandom, and nobody knows that better than Meghan. It’s so special that I broke my ‘don’t let yourself get onstage for karaoke at a Supernatural con’ rule and joined my friend Alana and her cousin for our karaoke version of Africa along with Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Matt Cohen and Richard Speight, Jr. – who were all dumbfounded that I was up there doing it. That’s the power this song has over me! Chris Schmelke plays it in photo ops regularly, and I’ve witnessed all sorts of people succumbing to its power, including Jared and Jensen and impromptu waltzes. After ‘Carry On’, it’s one of the songs that is most reminiscent of this wild ride I’ve been on for fifteen years with this show, and it’s always going to bring both smiles and tears every time I hear it. So thank you, Meghan.
This was one of those episodes that kicked up a lot of divergent opinions in the fandom – some people loved it, some people hated it, and a lot of people had conflicting emotions. You can probably guess that I’m one of them, as this show often leaves me feeling that way recently. There was a lot I enjoyed, and then there were a few things that drove me crazy.
I’m glad we got one more flashback episode, because frankly I could watch Weechesters for an entire spinoff tv series and be ecstatic about that. Amyn Kaderali always does a great job directing this show, and he did so here, setting up some truly scary moments while at the same time showcasing Jerry Wanek’s iconic motel décor beautifully.
There were scenes I loved and dialogue I loved. There were also a few things that made me jump up and down and start yelling at my tv screen, which is never a good sign when I’m watching Supernatural. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating – every episode matters now. Every scene, every interaction, every moment, matters now. We have FOUR episodes left. Once again, that makes me cherish just having time with the Winchesters, but also grow frustrated quickly when something doesn’t quite work. Let me start from the beginning, which happens to be in the present.
The Rooster’s Sunrise Motel is quintessential Supernatural. “If I Didn’t Care” plays as adult Travis (Ryan Alexander McDonald) checks into a particular room – 214. Interesting song choice – If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be trying to get past this trauma? If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t lie to you to try to protect you? There are a lot of options.
Anyway, the opening scene was scary as hell, Travis trying to talk himself into being calm and facing his fears, while we see the closet door slowly opening behind him. AAHHHH!!! A ghostly kid taunts and attacks him. Poor Travis.
Last week’s Supernatural was the first written by Jeremy Adams, who I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with at Comic Con last summer. He’s a great guy and a big fan of the show and the genre, and his enthusiasm for what he was writing came through in the episode – and was largely what I liked about it. The episode was split between more serious moments and pure fun, and it was the fun parts that will be most memorable about it for me.
Jeremy’s excitement about being on the Supernatural set was also infectious, and he was kind enough to give us all sorts of behind the scenes goodies too. Here’s Jeremy being appreciated by the cast…
We also got some lovely behind the scenes content from guest star Shoshannah Stern, who was back as Eileen. It’s no secret that I think Shoshannah is awesome, and she understands fandom and our love of this show.
We got the cast practicing signing videos, and this priceless between scenes rest time photo with Jared and Misha. Awww.
Even Jensen got into the act, sharing some photos of him and guest star (and long time real life pal) Christian Kane relaxing between scenes and practicing some stunt fighting too. Still got it, boys!
Let me talk about the fun stuff first, because that’s what I enjoyed the most. The episode wasn’t actually a meta episode, but I don’t know that I’ve ever watched an episode thinking more about what was happening in “real life” and less about the characters and the story. To the extent that I couldn’t see Dean singing with Lee as much as Jensen singing with his old friend Christian Kane.
Usually that wouldn’t make me happy, because it’s the characters and the story that I love with all my heart. But it’s the last season, the last chance that this cast has to do some of the things they’ve wanted to for a long time, and it was infectiously joyful to see Jensen so happy to be able to finally have Kane on his show – both of them were clearly having the time of their lives. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Jensen sing live, and some of those little mannerisms of seeming indecision were definitely his, and it made me smile.
I was oddly nostalgic myself about Jensen and Christian singing together on Supernatural, because one of the first times I saw Jensen sing (not in person, I wasn’t that lucky, but god bless the fans who filmed it) was at a Kane concert for Christian’s birthday. It was so rare and so special to see Jensen sing back then – and I must have watched that little clip… well, probably a lot. So seeing them perform together on the actual show was a reminder of how long they’ve known each other and how long I’ve been watching this show!
It’s rare we get to see Dean Winchester that happy, which was another reason it kept looking like Jensen to me instead of Dean – at first. I mean, look at that FACE!
Toss in a few little meta commentaries about lip synching Eye of the Tiger and that whole first scene in Swayze’s Bar was all about reality instead of fiction. (If that was all the episode was, I would’ve been sorely disappointed, though).
The other part of the episode that worked for me was Dean’s journey from apathy and feeling mostly hopeless to rediscovering his “always keep fighting” determination. The classic hero’s journey, with Dean coming out on the other side of his trauma and hopelessness, realizing who he is and what he wants and resolving to go after that. Lee is a mirror for Dean, at one point even saying “I am you – I just woke up and saw that the world was broken.”
That’s what Dean was on his way to becoming, to giving up just like that. But faced with who he would be if he did give up, Dean finds his motivation to keep going. Yeah, the world is seriously effed up, and it would be tempting to give up like Lee did and just look out for yourself. But that’s not Dean Winchester.
Dean: Then you fix it! You fight for it!
And that’s exactly what he’s now determined to do – or at least I’m hoping that’s where he is now and that he’ll stay there. I liked the way the character of Lee, a gifted hunter and fierce fighter who had gone dark side, provided the spark for Dean to make a decision about how he wanted to end up – a hunter, now and always. That’s my Show.
After all, as he says, someone’s gotta kill the bad guys.