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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‘Walker’ Delivers a Hard Hitting Episode with ‘Bad Apples’

Once again on vacation, so a true drive by review, but I wanted to say a few words about last week’s new Walker episode. A lot happened but the episode was really nicely paced, so it didn’t feel crowded as they sometimes have and it also didn’t drag. Writer Aaron Carew penned a script that tackled some of the most disturbing and pressing issues facing us in real life in an unflinching (albeit television ready) way, from a corrupt group of cops to the impact of racism, both overt and more subtle. Coby Bell especially did an amazing job showing the almost superhuman restraint required of Captain Bell in waiting until his case against the bad cop was so air tight it couldn’t be ignored, and his understanding that race is part of that equation (something Carew clearly understood as well).

Walker can sometimes get a little heavy handed, but its willingness to hit right on the nose can also feel therapeutic. We all live in a world where it feels like the ‘bad guys’ are winning too much of the time, so seeing a creepy bad cop get taken down is undeniably satisfying. He was certainly a creep writ large, and the moment when he plants some illegal drugs on James’ son and drags him out of his car for no reason could have been over the top – except that happens in real life to young Black men and that made it terrifying instead. As someone pointed out online, the way DJ handled himself during the fabricated traffic stop was telling – telegraphing and announcing his every move before he made it just in case, carefully and slowly placing both hands on the wheel, complying with every command even though he knew he had done absolutely nothing wrong. And unfortunately, that was not unrealistic.

The bad guy’s lack of any redeeming qualities whatsoever doesn’t  necessarily make for nuanced storytelling, but it did make me want to stand up and cheer when James, Walker, Micki and Liam all showed how badass they are and took the asshole down! As several fans who are persons of color themselves pointed out, the episode was careful to show that taking down one asshole – one ‘bad apple’ – is not going to solve any systemic problems. The focus was not just on that one bad apple, but on how the system itself protects bad apples – even when the ‘threat’ is coming from within law enforcement.  (As evidenced by Capt. James’ car being bombed and the scope of people in power who are caught up in the cover-ups)

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Walker Turns A Corner with ‘Four Stones in Hand’

I really enjoyed last week’s gentler, slower paced Walker episode, Four Stones In Hand.

The title refers to the hypervigilance that comes from being accustomed to being on the defensive, which is the position many of the show’s characters find themselves in after the events of the last year. As we’ve gone through Season 1, most of the characters have been slowly fleshed out, their complexity and emotional reactions to the stress of losses and trauma becoming more and more obvious. With this episode, many of the characters seem to turn a corner, dropping enough of their defenses to start on the bumpy road to healing. Fifteen episodes in, that feels like the right timing, because in real life when we humans are hurt, we hang onto those defenses for a long time – sometimes longer than we need to, just to make sure. I like that ‘Walker’ hasn’t rushed to sweep the traumatic events of the past onscreen year under the proverbial rug, but instead has allowed us to watch the characters struggle and now try to deal with the messy aftermath.

This episode is nicely framed, beginning with Liam’s challenge to his big brother – and ending with the Walker brothers in a slightly different, less defended, place. And they’re not the only ones.

Cordell is pretending to go over paperwork for the Side Step when he’s joined by Liam.

Cordell: I’m worried about you (as Liam heals from his gunshot wound).

Liam: I’m worried about YOU.

And rightly so. Cordell is listening to a police scanner, unable to let go of his motivation to keep solving crimes (I’m tempted to say, saving people hunting things…) although he knows he’s on leave. He tries to BS Liam about that, but it doesn’t work; the brothers know each other. And Cordell is not okay, still flashing back to the violent death of his best friend.

Liam: You chose to take a breather, but it feels like you’re not breathing.

Cordell insists he’s going to, and Liam challenges him to prove it.

Liam: Keep your mind on something other than solving crimes for one day.

He hands Cordell a Rubik’s Cube and challenges him to solve it.

(I confess to never having had the patience to do that, but Cordell accepts the challenge.)

gifs jarpadandjensens

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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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