Walker Wraps Season One With an Ending Twist in ‘Drive’

As I sit down to write a review of the first season’s finale, let me be honest about something. I wasn’t sure I’d love Walker. As a Supernatural fan who had come to love Sam Winchester and the man who played him so brilliantly, of course I was going to give Jared Padalecki’s new show a try. I’d worked with Jared to write an autobiographical book chapter in ‘Family Don’t End With Blood’ and gotten to know him a little, so I was thrilled when he was given this new show to film right in his own backyard. I had never watched the original Walker Texas Ranger either; it wasn’t my kind of show.  The first few episodes, I watched because it was Jared, and I was happy for him. But little by little, Walker grew on me. The characters began to be fleshed out, and the themes of the show began to make themselves clear, especially how grief and loss can impact a family – and sometimes tear them apart. My psychologist brain was intrigued. And then my heart got pulled in.

As the season progressed, Walker paralleled what was happening with the Supernatural fandom, a family also being torn apart by grief and loss. Walker became a refuge – a brand new little fandom which has not yet fragmented into ship wars and favorite character factions trying to tear each other apart on any given day. The Walker fandom right now is a smaller group of fans who seem happy to watch the show and ship anyone and everyone and let everyone else ship different anyones and everyones without any shaming (imagine!) – or ship no one at all. Who happily post thirsty gifs of shirtless Cordell and Trey but are also excited to hear about props from the engaging crew or to celebrate that week’s guest star. Who are rooting for Liam and Bret to get back together – and also for Abeline and Bonham.  Who celebrate Micki and Geri’s burgeoning friendship (or ship them, whatever…) and the way Augie and Stella can open up to each other a little. Thursdays have been a drama-free let’s-all-watch-and-enjoy evening, with Padalecki and some of the other cast joining in to live tweet or do Instagram takeovers. It’s been FUN. I’d almost forgotten when fandom was FUN.

The cast and crew shared some little videos of Lindsey Morgan and Coby Bell wrapping their seasons, and the hugs that the cast shared as they celebrated, and it seems like they had as much fun filming the show as the fandom did watching it – even though it was clearly challenging to film during the pandemic. Many of the actors have talked about the positive atmosphere on the set and credited Jared with setting that tone – just like he and Jensen Ackles did on Supernatural. I feel like oddly proud of that, watching that legacy be carried on.

Brothers hug
Lindsey Morgan wraps

I’m so glad that Walker is already renewed for a Season 2, so I have more of that to look forward to. For now, here are my thoughts on the Season 1 finale, as Walker wraps up its very first season.

The final episode picks up right where we left off, in a tense confrontation between Walker and former boss Stan. Walker confronts Stan over the two dead bodies (literally), holding a gun on him, accusing him of forcing Carlos to confess to Emily’s murder. Stan keeps protesting that’s not what happened, though he admits he was there. He insists it was his idea to pay Carlos and that Cali forced his hand. (We will later find out that this is partly true, but the truth is also a lot more painful than Stan is letting on). Cordell realizes that the dead reporter must have had something on him, and starts to understand just how dark this scenario really is. Jared Padalecki makes this scene incredibly tense from the very start, as he brokenly asks Stan, “did you kill my wife?”

“Cordi,” Stan answers, using the familiar nickname – a reminder that this is a man who has been nearly part of the family for a very long time, making it an even worse betrayal when he denies it.

Cordell suspects Stan still has people on the inside who will help him, so instead of taking him in and following the rules, he orders him to get in the car and “drive”.

Shout out to the suspenseful music here, which amps up the tension without getting in the way of it. This episode really did feel like a roller coaster at times.

While Stan and Cordell are driving and all hell is breaking loose, the rest of the Walkers are at Stan’s (very large) house that he offered to them for the wedding vow renewals. The juxtaposition of the rest of the family all casually setting up flowers and decorations at Stan’s house while Stan is driving at gunpoint is striking.

Augie finds a key under a statue (as you do) and they let themselves in. As they take in the opulence, Augie wonders why, if he lives in a house this nice, Stan wants to be DA, which is a relevant question. Why does Stan have such a nice house?? Hmmm.

(Of course the entire fandom has found Stan sus from the jump, so no one is actually surprised by the house).

The rest of the family is clueless and un-angsty for the Walker clan, Stella saying that her dad has “actually been pretty cool lately.”  Stan even has a framed photo of Cordell’s swearing in, with a pregnant Emily beaming proudly.

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 The Characters on Walker ‘Dig’ Deep with Episode 1.17

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.

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A Little Bit of Healing in Walker ‘Mehar’s Jacket’

I’m on vacation with the family for the next few weeks, so this will be a bit less in depth than my usual recap/reviews of Walker (okay, that kinda did not pan out to be true….)  But anyway, that happens to work well for this episode, which comes on the heels of the action-packed thirteenth episode that was originally intended to be the season finale. Everyone is rocked by Hoyt’s sudden death, and that has everyone rethinking their priorities and reevaluating their relationships.

As Bonham puts it, ‘we’re all adrift’. He copes by working on the house. Abeline copes by worrying about everyone and trying to take care of a bunch of adults who probably don’t need as much taking care of as she needs to do. Liam protests that he can take care of himself as he recuperates from the gunshot.

I love the screencap below, Walker contemplating the crime tape and looking at (I think) that hitching post that sort of started them all down this unfortunate path.

And Walker and Geri cope by taking Stella and Augie on a trip.

Walker is mired in guilt over Hoyt’s death and over how impacted his kids have been by all the losses of the last year, blaming himself entirely. Geri also feels guilty; she’s wearing Hoyt’s jacket and has the bar coaster on which he wrote his last will and testament, leaving behind a plot of land. Geri had mentioned to him once that it would be a nice place to settle down, and he apparently took it seriously and bought it.

Geri and Walker decide to take a trip out to see it, taking the kids with them to make a day of it.

Walker: I think Hoyt would’ve liked that.

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The Walkers ‘Defend The Ranch’ in Episode 13

The 13th episode of Walker’s first season was intended to be the season finale, and it felt like one. There was a whole lot of drama, twists and turns, and an ending that looked like a tragic tableau from a stage play. As usually is true for me and this show, the emotional aftermath is the part that’s most fascinating. But not always very easy to witness.

Sometimes the drama comes close to over the top for me with this show, but I’m starting to view that as a difference in the type of show it is, after digging deep into a show like Supernatural for so long. Walker paints with broader strokes and its tropes are broader too, from the way music is used to the characters’ dress and appearance (Clint even dresses in villainous all black, for example). There are the stereotypical car chases and shoot outs and rodeos and everyone has a gun and knows how to shoot it, and that sometimes seems just too expected for me, but that may be the point. Within that stereotypical set up, however, the show explores more personal and psychological themes with unexpected depth. And that’s the part of it that I’m really enjoying.

I guessed the major tragedy that was going to happen in this episode, though not how or when. I liked that the episode played out almost in real time, no jumping back and forth, which upped the suspense. I can see how this would have worked as a season finale – and in fact, it’s hard to imagine how they are going to continue with five more episodes after this one. It’s a hard script to pull off because so much happens, and there were a few times when it strained credulity to go with it. Again, that might be part of the fun, it’s just that I’m used to picking apart Supernatural and trying to make sure canon makes sense (as much as that was possible…)

At any rate, I enjoyed this episode. The episode picks up right where the previous one left off, with Liam shot and seemingly not alive, Cordell calling his name and trying to go to him but Clint warning him not to. Abeline comes out and sees her son on the ground and screams his name too, falling to her knees in the grass – Molly Hagan always makes me feel for her, all my own instincts as a mother pulled in because she makes it real.

Trevor follows his father’s instructions and yanks Walker’s holster and gun away from him. Clint is unconcerned about Liam, though Trevor is clearly upset and conflicted.

Clint: The attorney who helped put us away? Don’t matter, he’s dead now.

(Yes, there’s a gif of that last shot out there but I couldn’t find it to include…)

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Walker Episode 11 – The Price of “Freedom”

The CW’s ‘Walker’ aired a dramatic new episode last week, and ushered in some big changes that will continue to play out for the second part of the season. The episode is titled “Freedom” and in a sense, that’s what many of the characters got – sometimes in a way they absolutely did not want.

They also gave us Jared Padalecki in a white tee shirt and Jeff Pierre without any shirt at all, which is just a comment on the aesthetic beauty of this show like I comment on every week, honest.

An Awkward Welcome Home

The episode begins with Hoyt’s welcome home party at the Side Step, Cordell and Augie getting the place ready while Micki and Trey keep watch in the parking lot so they can surprise him.

Augie is making welcome home videos for Hoyt, attempting to tape his father’s message while Cordell is busy trying to figure out what to text Geri. He keeps typing and then deleting, increasingly anxious. The other video messages to Hoyt are heartfelt, including a clearly joyous Abeline and Geri saying that Hoyt deserves good things, which just makes Cordell feel more guilty and conflicted. When he finally tries to record his message it’s incredibly awkward, starting out calling Hoyt “my best friend, a brother to me” and continuing to something about him sparking joy in Walker’s life. He gives up in exasperation.

I’ve said it before – about Sam Winchester as well as Cordell Walker – but Jared Padalecki can pull off the comedic aspects of his characters so well. I appreciate that in a show that can be either suspenseful or angsty, as this one can.

Micki and Trey wait in the car for Hoyt and Geri to get there, Trey putting on her hat and teasing about how good it looks on him (it does). Micki reassures him that his TBI struggles haven’t made him unreliable or changed how she feels about him, reminding him that he can rely on her for a change.

Micki: You are the most reliable person in my life

Trey (grinning) Relationship achievement unlocked!

I like that they’re continuing to follow Trey’s TBI (traumatic brain injury) story line instead of magically wrapping it up too quickly.

Geri and Hoyt pull up, him assuring her that he’s “going legit” because she deserves more, and her clearly avoiding him, turning away and putting on lipstick before she goes inside. He senses something is wrong.

Hoyt: You got someone you’re trying to impress here?

As they walk in, he asks her again, did he do something? (Other than being incarcerated?)

She says no and he believes it (because he clearly wants to, and that’s what we all do when we just desperately want to believe something is true).

Cordell sneaks up behind them and knocks Hoyt’s hat off, then tackles him to the ground, saying it’s payback (for that scene we saw in one of the first episodes).  They laugh, because wrestling is clearly a thing for them (ala the Winchesters), and then they hug (also ala the Winchesters).

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