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.
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
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).
Somehow ‘Walker’ has reached its midseason already – and while this wasn’t technically billed as a midseason finale, it certainly felt like one!
The episode begins with a scene that’s really hard to watch – Walker at the medical examiner’s office to identify his wife’s body. Geri frantically tries to wipe Emily’s blood off her jacket and finally takes it off before she goes to stand with him, distraught. She asks if he’s told the kids yet and he answers that he will, “in time.” It’s an understandable reaction – when a loss is so gigantic, you almost don’t want to make it real by talking about it – and you don’t want to cause your children the same kind of incredible pain that you’re feeling.
James comes out to tell them to come in, and Geri clutches his hand, overlays it with hers, tearfully reminding him “I love you, buddy.”
Jared Padalecki (confronted with his real life wife playing dead on a slab) makes Cordell’s extreme grief and rage intensely believable. I couldn’t help but feel for Jared, having heard him talk about how hard it was to portray his previous character, Sam Winchester, in scenes where his brother (Jensen Ackles) had died. That was his real life best friend; this was his real life wife. Acting has got to be hard on the heart sometimes!
I had a difficult time watching Walker’s grief from my own perspective. Not only is Padalecki brilliant in portraying it, but I am still so raw from witnessing him portray Sam Winchester’s grief at the end of Supernatural that seeing him in a similar state again was almost unbearable. His half-hysterical “we’ve gotta get her out of here, it’s too cold” just broke my heart, the denial so understandable, so painful. James tries to say that revenge won’t bring him peace, but he’s not ready to hear it, breaking down as he touches Emily’s face for the last time. It’s such a similar moment of abject grief as Sam sobbing as he says goodbye to Dean, and when I was watching this episode live, I had to pause to collect myself. That says something really good about Jared’s acting, but ouch.
Jared was incredible filming both these scenes, but they are so hard to watch. I suspect they always will be.
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.
Third episodes of new television shows are often the times when the narrative takes off in a slightly different direction, which is a bit of what happened with last week’s episode of the new Walker on the CW. I enjoyed the episode – and there were quite a few people on my timeline who liked it even better than the first two – but there were also some parts that didn’t work quite as well for me. Part of that is because I was so impressed in the first two episodes with how realistically the show portrayed the Walker family’s grief over Emily’s death, making that the centerpiece of the family drama in the show. This episode still touched on that theme, but also took the show in a slightly different direction and introduced a new guest character.
Leading up to the episode, the network did a great job with promotion once again – including celebrating the good news that the show has already been renewed for Season 2! That’s an impressive accomplishment after only two episodes have aired, and a testament to the fan base that these actors bring with them, including many from my ‘home’ fandom, Supernatural. The cast all tweeted their celebration, and so did many of Padalecki’s former Supernatural castmates. It felt good for the still-new Walker fandom to already have something to celebrate!
On Thursday, Jeff Pierre took over the Walker Instagram for the day, which made for more fun and some cameos from the other actors. Jeff Pierre is already a fan favorite thanks to his sense of humor and easy way of interacting with fans – and he and many of the show’s cast are clearly comfortable with social media.
Jared Padalecki live tweeted the East coast airing of the episode, so I watched and did a little tweeting and also enjoyed Jared’s commentary, some of which was cheeky and hilarious. Live tweeting used to happen every now and then for Supernatural, but it’s been a long time, so it felt really good to know that he was enjoying the episode right along with us. The last year of SPN fandom was contentious to say the least, and it felt especially good to feel like we were all just there to have fun together. I really hope that atmosphere sticks around – not that I won’t critique the show, because that’s what episode reviews do, but make no mistake, I have always enjoyed the shows I review. Otherwise I wouldn’t be watching!
So, Episode 3.
There was quite a bit to enjoy about that new character they introduced — Hoyt (Matt Barr), who high kicks his way back into the Walkers’ lives after a lengthy absence. We first meet him bare chested in short shorts and chaps, covered in sweat and glitter and dancing in a strip club. I am trying mightily not to compare Walker to the show that preceded it in this time slot on the CW, my all time favorite Supernatural, but Jared Padalecki just being in both keeps tying them together in my mind. So I laughed out loud when we got a male exotic dancer because yes, there are a fair number of Supernatural fans watching, and yes, some of us would have appreciated a similar scene at some point in that show’s 15 years. Sam and Dean go undercover at strip clubs on the regular in fanfic, why not in canon?
Anyway, points for that, Walker. Not what we expected from Walker’s best friend from childhood, and I like being surprised.
I continue to enjoy the fact that I don’t enjoy all the characters in this show, at least not all the time. Give me shades of gray instead of black and white, and characters complicated enough to sometimes inspire empathy and sometimes annoyance, and I’ll be happy. Hoyt was annoying more often than not, but we also learned enough about his backstory to come up with some explanations of why. In some ways, he’s the stereotypical con man, which isn’t necessarily all that interesting – smooth lies underneath equally smooth charm. He’s manipulative and smart enough to be good at it, which Walker both expects and doesn’t want to believe.