This week’s Walker decided to deviate from the normal progression of storytelling and instead go deeper to explain what had happened to get all the characters to their current points. This Walker episode strove to tell the story of two families - at their messiest. Some things they were able to do, others they weren’t.
What They Were Able to Do
The writers, along with the painfully brilliant acting of Jared Padalecki, made the audience feel for the titular character. We felt his struggle to be strong, his pain, his sense of not only loss, but being lost. In his conversation with the ghost of Emily, that we know is from his mind, we see how he doesn’t want to appear weak to his kids, a holdover probably from his stoic father. And yet, he doesn’t know how to be a single parent.
We also feel his sense of being attacked, of not being good enough, of being a danger to his family and kids. We understand his need to get away, because we’re angry at his family, especially Stella, who took drastic measures then blamed her dad. Like the game night in the pilot, his family doesn’t offer guidance or help, just ridicule. So our hearts ache for this grieving widower, who even lambasts himself as a coward.
We were also better shown his undercover Duke persona, and how deeply he had to become another person - to the point of almost shooting his future partner and, in order to make the arrest, encourage Clint in his desire to do at least one more score instead of siding with Crystal’s desire to stop. We see how badly this makes him feel as he talks to Capt. James with Crystal’s blood still literally on his hands.
Lastly, we feel Cordell's absolute fear and devastation as Clint comes to enact revenge and ends up shooting…
Through flashbacks, we see how Liam has changed from the once far away and longed for family member, to the rock in this time of crisis. As the family member least connected to Emily, he’s able to be the anchor while the rest of his family struggles to pull themselves together. He’s the understanding and dependable one; the emergency contact though he lives across country. Showing how vital he was to the family makes his uncertain future that much more poignant.
Bonham and Abeline
Speaking of uncertain futures, the reveal of Bonham’s cancer diagnosis and his inability to tell his family hits hard. Many people have lost loved ones to cancer. It is a topic that causes incredibly painful emotions. We also get to see how tenuous the Walker parents’ relationship truly is. Abeline ends her affair with Gary, not because she loves Bonham, but to stay together for the family, especially…
Stella and August
This episode showed how messed up by their mother’s death the kids are. They want to do what they think is the best, especially for them, but in true teenager fashion, their rash actions just create more problems. Stella driving the truck into the heirloom hitching post and blaming her dad in hopes to be a wake up call, and therefore not lose him like they did their mom, instead drives him away, and leads to the whole family being in danger. August’s desire to not rock the boat by confessing what happened leaves the whole family rocked.
We also get the sense that the adults in their lives are more worried about the pain the kids must be feeling than disciplining them to make good choices, as evidenced by Liam helping to cover up Stella’s injury as she rashly tried to prevent someone from beating her mother’s high score. This explains the pattern of behavior where the kids don’t fully appreciate the dangers around them, leading them to make decisions that put them and the whole family in harm’s way. Such as Stella’s actions with…
Trevor and his parents, Clint and Crystal West
As much as this episode exposed the Walkers as dysfunctional, the Wests are more so. Crystal and Clint had been neglecting their son as they committed multiple crimes, but Trevor loves and misses them regardless. However, Crystal has a change of heart and wants to be with her son. Sadly, that’s not to be. We then see why a person like Clint would blame Walker for her death - even though Clint was eager to do the job as well. Crystal's death was made more tragic because she was finally turning a corner thanks to ..
The look back on Micki’s trooper days was very telling: A dismissive boss, a gifted law enforcement officer struggling against the system, why she would be affected by that toxic environment, and why her being a Texas Ranger under Capt. James is so important and a better fit.
What They Didn’t Do
One of the potential problems with flashback episodes is that you need to be careful, or you can wreck the continuity. In doing so, you pull people out of the story. Sadly, the writers weren’t careful enough. Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and assume the months' timeline is a vague timeline instead of a hard one, we have the problem of Micki becoming a Ranger. The fact that she just met Larry James, who wasn’t even yet a captain, the day that Walker’s undercover operation ended, puts the timeline in doubt. We know by that evening, not only was Larry James now captain, but Micki Ramirez and he talked about her being a ranger, the paperwork was put through, she did all her certification, and was a ranger the next day. All of that happening in a scant few hours strains credulity, thus leaving continuity lovers like me scratching our heads and not invested in the story.
But the biggest thing they didn’t accomplish was to bring the audience through the previous episodes and out of the mess of the Walker family. So, we’re still hurt on behalf of Cordell and angry at Stella. When that is added to all the current drama - the Wests, Hoyt, and Bonham’s undisclosed diagnosis - it overwhelms the audience’s emotions and can make them overly frustrated. Add that to lack of forward movement with the plot, and it can lower people’s appreciation of the episode.
Overall, this was a brilliantly acted character study of all the players, letting us delve deeper into their psyches and why they have done what they have done. That combined with truly evocative music creates the warm pleasant feeling Walker is so known for. But a few hiccups mar the continuity and the feelings the audience has for some of the characters.
I give it 4 out of 5 stars.