The tenth episode of the CW’s ‘Walker’ starts with Jared Padalecki (Cordell Walker, that is) looking right into the camera, which was unexpected – and I almost always like unexpected. I thought for a second he was about to break the fourth wall, but instead he asks,”Ready to get to work?”
(I may have answered “yes!” out loud before I even understood the question, because … Jared Padalecki!)
Walker puts on his safety glasses and he and the kids and Liam and Bonham start breaking down walls and hammering and sawing things.
The renovation of the Side Step has begun.
Bonham opens a can of strategically featured Benjamin Moore paint while music plays and Cordell looks at him skeptically.
Bonham: Are you questioning my palate? (pallette?)
Damn it, are we talking taste or color range here?
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.”
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.
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.