Believe it or not, it’s already time for the penultimate episode of Walker’s first season! This was another episode that was well paced, with a lot happening but not so much that it felt jampacked or overwhelming. Jared Padalecki’s former Supernatural costar and frequent director, Richard Speight, Jr., joined the Walker family to helm this episode, with many of his signature striking shots enriching ‘Dig’.
In addition to the main characters, Stan (Jeffrey Nordling) had a roller coaster of an evolution, from feeling on top of the world and confident of his success and power, to all his deceptions and shady alliances coming down on him by the end of the episode. Nordling is talented enough to let us see Stan as not just a stereotypical villain, but a man who longs for the family bonds that the Walkers have and the resilience those relationships give them. Instead of using that as motivation, however, Stan is envious and bitter – and ultimately dangerous. Nevertheless, especially in a few scenes with Abilene, we see that Stan has a human side too, and Nordling makes me wonder what went so wrong that he ended up in the position he’s in now, harmful to the people around him and tied to North Side Nation whether he likes it or not.
The episode begins with Stan reinstating Walker with the Rangers – and warning him that they don’t need “some new breed of Ranger in touch with your feelings or whatever.” Stan at times seems like the embodiment of toxic masculinity beliefs and an example of what those beliefs can shape you into. Walker, however, has come to realize that he doesn’t have to embrace anger and aggression as the only acceptable emotions.
Walker: Well, Stan, maybe it’s time we embraced some change.
Stan is unconvinced, warning Walker to “color inside the lines” – that is, don’t stray from those traditional values especially when it comes to masculinity or law enforcement. He knows how to play on the norms that we all absorb, Cordell included, to push him back into that ‘box’.
Stan: I’m hoping for both our sakes, you won’t have to take orders from your kid brother.
That was a good example of how we all police each other to stay inside those lines, with reminders of the consequences if we don’t. It’s all about competition and winning in Stan’s book, with relationships taking a back seat in importance.
Stan pins a ‘Vote for Stan’ button on Walker, as Cordell tries not to grimace.
Stan: Welcome back, Ranger.
Even that is a reminder – I’m the one in power, giving you back the position you want. That means you’ll support me, that’s the way the game is played.
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).
Last week’s episode of Walker, titled “Tracks”, was written by the same duo who penned the previous excellent episode, Casey Fisher & Paula Sabbaga, and directed by Bola Ogun. Both the writers and the director delivered an episode with heart and more of those twists and turns that this show is perhaps becoming known for. Because so much happened in each of the storylines, I’ll try to break this up and follow each subplot. First up, Cordell and Micki and their deepening partnership (and their ongoing family relationship challenges).
Walker and Micki and Micki’s Mom: Love, Protection and Partnership
Cordell seems to be finally settling into being a dad to his kids, Augie cooking breakfast and Walker taking the time to tease both his teenage children (Stella and her dad imitating each other was adorable – I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, Jared Padalecki is talented at comedy).
Totally shallow gif of Walker’s back as he heads to the kitchen for breakfast with the kids. Sorry not sorry.
His skepticism about his kids’ romantic interests seems on point, including being skeptical about Ruby as the one who told Augie to crash the undercover operation. (I’m glad that isn’t being forgotten, because that was not a smart thing to do for a teenager who should have known better.) Stella is more concerned with texting Trevor and scheming to get him to come along on the soccer trip, diverting her dad with suggestions that they talk about something simpler — like gun control or his hearing. Touche, Stella.
Walker manages to burn his hand on the hot skillet (he’s a bit accident prone for a Ranger, but it humanizes the character so I don’t really mind). When he stops by Micki’s, Trey notices the bandage.
Trey: You hurt your hand again? You’re a little too committed to that bit…
I love the dynamic between these two.
Trey heads out to chaperone the soccer trip and Walker realizes that Micki is reeling, worried about her mother because a DWI hit and run doesn’t add up for Adriana, who Micki points out doesn’t even drink and whose “MO is accountability.” Micki hypothesizes that maybe her mom was falsely accused because she was “a Mexican American driving a fancy car”. I like how the show continues to put those possibilities out there, and that we see Micki’s resentment.
Walker and Micki’s partnership really solidifies in this episode. Walker offers to come with her to bail out Adriana (Alex Meneses), making it an official case, and Capt. James says take all the time you need. (Because James and Liam are headed to Mexico to investigate Geri’s disappearance and the art gallery where the money ended up. They’re both feeling terrible about lying to Walker.)
To Micki’s shock, her mother is not exactly relieved that her daughter bailed her out, saying that she shouldn’t have done that and that she’ll “take care of this myself.”
Four episodes into the series, and this was a never-a-dull-moment episode, with a more complicated case of the week and some excellent emotional beats too.
The opening is adrenaline-fueled from the start. Walker and Micki respond to a call about a shooting in an oil field and chase the shooter in his truck. They go against some ‘new regulations’ to stop him, Walker yelling to Micki to “bulldog it” and Micki doing some impressive driving to cut the guy off.
They find him unconscious and bleeding from a head wound. Micki notices his gang tattoos from the Olvidados gang before the ambulance arrives. The next day, Micki gets pulled onstage at the big press conference celebrating putting away a gang member, although she’s reluctant to take the podium, both because her partner isn’t there and out of an awareness of tokenism.
Micki refers to the spectacle of the press conference as a ‘dog and pony show’. It occurs to me that both Jared Padalecki and his former Supernatural costar, Jensen Ackles, have moved on to shows that are, in their own way, questioning the way our society works (and doesn’t work). The press conference on Walker turns out to be an example of media manipulation – not as spectacular as the interrogation of media and PR on ‘The Boys’ but the awareness is there.
Afterwards, Micki is confronted by a young girl accusing her of betraying her own people and not “doing her homework,” insisting Enzo (her father) was no longer a gang member.
Delia (Paola Andino): You betray your people!
Ramirez starts to wonder if she did go along too quickly with the party line; in fact, following her instincts eventually solves the case.
One of the themes of this episode is Walker still trying to get to know his new partner better. He takes note of former colleagues from the Police Department who have a nickname for her, Muskrat, complaining that she won’t even tell him her middle name. More on that later.
Walker’s re-integration into his family’s life also continues, as he and the kids move boxes full of their stuff into their new home. August finds a box of his dad’s old things and starts exploring, putting on the cap that’s in the box, trying to get in touch with the parts of his dad he feels cut off from.
Walker has an oddly strong reaction when he sees what August is looking at, yanking the box away and saying it’s just “old case stuff.” Augie, like the teenager he is, surreptitiously grabs a camera and cell phone from the box and hides them before his father takes the box. That night, he plugs the phone in and charges it up. Curiosity killed the cat and all that, but I don’t blame August for wanting to know more about the time his father was away. Obviously Cordell couldn’t share details of his undercover case, but you get the feeling he could have sat down and shared some of the past eleven months with his children who were feeling abandoned all that time.
Augie, with the help of Ruby, develops some of the photos that were in the camera – there’s one of a smiling, carefree looking Cordell, with a woman. Not August’s mother.
Secrets are another theme of the episode, because August isn’t the only one finding things. As he puts the box of old things away, Walker discovers more family secrets in the basement – a box of letters written to his mother. Not from his father.
In possibly my favorite scene, later in the episode, Cordell helps his mother label jars of her famous jalapeno jam. She says August has been asking “existential questions” about whether his dad is happy, and Walker has that same question for his mother, asking about the letters from Gary.
She says it was in the past, and Cordell wonders if his dad knows and if that’s why he was at one point sleeping in the bunkhouse. Abilene says it’s because he snores, but Cordell doesn’t believe it. She responds (appropriately) that they’re still the parents and they get to have their secrets – that she’s sure he and Emily didn’t tell their children everything.
Cordell smiles and agrees, saying that Emily used to snore like a bear cub.
The mention of his wife, the fond memories, and the quiet time with his own mother, bring tears to Cordell’s eyes.
Cordell: I miss her so much, Mama.
Padalecki makes that moment so vulnerable. The way he still calls her ‘Mama’, and the way she enfolds him in her arms, this big 6’5” man, who looks like a lost little boy as he clings to her and lets her comfort him. It made me extra emotional because it’s something Padalecki’s former character, Sam Winchester, so desperately longed for and never really got. Somehow that made me even more happy for Cordell.
I continue to love Molly Hagan as Abilene too; you can see how much she hurts for her son, how much she wants to console him and how much genuine empathy she has for him too. This family is flawed and imperfect and entirely human, and like the Winchesters, dealing with a lot of trauma and loss, but they sure as hell are trying and there’s a lot of love there. With my psychologist hat on, I appreciate the thoughtful way the show is exploring these complicated relationships, and the way the cast is making themselves vulnerable enough to portray all those conflicting emotions.
We know from another brief scene that things are not all peachy between Abilene and Bonham, and finding out that there was a Gary at a time when things weren’t going so well means that at one point they were even less peachy.
Stella keeps some secrets of her own from her dad, including her budding crush on the guy working at the stables where she’s serving her community service, Trevor (Gavin Casalegno). When Cordell comes by to check on her, Stella hides in a stall with Trevor, as mortified by her dad as every teenager in the entire world has been.
After a pilot that caught my interest in some surprising ways, the second episode of the new CW show ‘Walker’ managed to sustain that interest, mostly by continuing to explore the characters’ psychological reactions to loss as well as give us more insight into their relationships. There was also a case-of-the-week, which gave us some exciting moments, and a little progress on the main mystery of what happened to Walker’s wife, Emily (Gen Padalecki), but what sticks with me most are the emotional beats.
And an odd craving for queso.
There was again a flurry of articles and interviews about the new show, including Keegan Allen (Liam) taking over the CWWalker Instagram account for the day. He clearly had a lot of fun doing that, with many of the cast also getting into the act, and even including some fanart. I’m only including one because I saw @StabGigi say she was thrilled to have her awesome art included. It’s clear the cast and crew are getting along great, and the same sort of cooperative atmosphere that Jared and Jensen established early on for Supernatural are something that Jared has clearly taken to Walker.
Before we get to the emotional moments of the episode, a brief case-of-the-week synopsis: A man is killed by a falling beam in a raging horse barn fire, along with some hapless horses, which Micki (Lindsey Morgan) is assigned to investigate (interrupting her romantic interlude with boyfriend Trey (Jeff Pierre), alas). She pulls her partner in, though we quickly find out from Captain James (Coby Bell) that Walker is technically not a Texas Ranger at the moment, since he needs to be re-certified. Walker (Jared Padalecki) and Micki ace the shooting range part of the partner recertification, but Walker freezes when it’s time for the riding portion, spiraling into memories of Emily gifting him with a custom tooled saddle and saddlebag with their initials carved into the leather. Despite Walker being ‘off the case’, he and Ramirez have already begun to think of each other as partners, so she consults with him on the case anyway. They eventually figure out that the stable owner burned it down to kill his injured racehorse for the insurance money before anyone knew Texas Nightshade was hurt and losing value. The jockey, however, couldn’t go through with it and let the horse run free to save it. Walker is able to find the horse and overcome his hesitation just in time to ride in to save the day, pulling Micki up behind him so the two of them can stop the bad guys from getting away. Captain James counts the heroics as Walker passing his riding test, which I have to agree with. Pretty impressive!
Meanwhile, in the emotional part of the episode, Walker is still having frequent flashbacks to happier times with his wife, remembering when she gifted him with the beautiful saddle that he can no longer bring himself to use. It’s poignant and painful that he carries it around in his pickup truck but can’t bring himself to ride with it. When he goes back to the house that he and Emily shared, he pictures them there as a family when the kids were young, establishing a home with the kids’ handprints in the concrete on their front walk. The handprints are still there today, but much like the saddle, it now brings Walker more pain than joy.
Once again, I appreciate the way this show explores grief. It is painful, and while we want to hang onto the things that help us remember our loved ones, it also hurts to do so. I get the feeling that Walker’s past year has been spent mostly avoiding those memories and the feelings they bring, so now that he’s back, he’s finding them all fresh and raw and overwhelming. I feel for him, even when he’s screwing up and hurting other people with his not-so-healthy coping mechanisms. He’s suffering, and Jared Padalecki shows us that vividly.
Walker’s ongoing struggle to reconnect with his family continues to be excruciatingly slow and difficult – which also seems realistic. The fact that he’s constantly distracted by his own emotional turmoil and thoughts of the past means that he’s not very good at being present for his children – which is exactly the problem they’ve had with him for the past eleven months. Instead of joining the family for breakfast, he goes to his old home first (finding beer bottles and a window pushed out, evidence of Stella’s propensity to come back and party there in an effort to deal with her own grief) so he arrives late to family breakfast. He hasn’t been there to be part of their established routines – which are so important to children who’ve experienced loss and trauma – so his parents and brother have stepped into all those roles. Liam is the one who knows that Stella has a game that day and the one who takes the kids to school. It’s clear that Walker wants to do those things now that he’s back, but he’s still not paying the kind of attention that those responsibilities require, and the kids are reluctant to trust him and depend on him.