The Morning After
Welcome Back, Walker!
I have to admit it was comforting to have Jared and his new Walker family back on my television screen again. It’s been 11 weeks since season one’s finale cliffhanger teased us with the image of “big brother” spying on Cordell and his parents’ homes. That’s a very intriguing plot twist that I’ve been anxious to see unfold in season two. I’m also intrigued by the question of whether Cordell was the primary target of the assassination attempt at the courthouse. What could that ranger possibly have done to warrant a contract hit? Walker’s season 2 premiere episode, “They Started It”, reminded us of both of these mysteries. In addition, it introduced numerous new questions that have the potential to drive an interesting season.
The “Del Rio Situation”
The tangential plotline of the Cordell family’s danger is Micki’s now 3-month long undercover investigation into some kind of organization in Del Rio, Texas. Captain James thinks this group might be responsible for the climatic shooting last season. Since they are obviously going to be a big piece of the puzzle, I thought it would be prudent to go back to 1.18 “Drive” to revisit all the information we were given on this suspicious crew.
Capt. James: The Del Rio situation-- it's looking like ex-military.
Micki: Oh, yeah, I crossed there when I served, sir.
Capt. James: I know. That's why I'd like your eyes on this if you're interested.
Capt. James: Look, it might be that Stan wasn't the target. I took a look at the CCTV footage. The first hit was definitely on Walker.
Micki: You think someone was trying to kill Walker? This Del Rio group?
I was relieved to discover that my confusion about “this Del Rio group” wasn’t due to poor memory or senility but rather because we really weren’t given much to go on about this new menace. All we were told is that there is a “situation” that's “looking like ex-military.” What does that mean? Are they unimportant guns-for-hire working for the real culprit who started the corruption and ambush in Austin, or are they a paramilitary gang who didn’t have a war to fight when they returned from active duty so they became the drug cartel behind the Northside Nation? It’s very unclear – perhaps purposely so. I don’t know if we’ll get more clarification as the story progresses or if their role as the “big bad” will continue as nothing more than a vague threat. I’m hoping the former so we can better understand who they are and why they are suspected of being connected to the corrupt commissioner who was shot. Without that context to frame the danger that is underpinning Micki and Cordell’s stories (and continuing last season’s tendency of needing to fill in details that are assumed in the episode), I thought we could at least better understand where they are, and where Micki is undercover.
Del Rio is a 4.25 hour drive (234 miles) southwest of Austin, on the border of Mexico.
Named the "The Friendliest Little Border Town in Texas" by Southern Living magazine, Del Rio is home of the Laughlin Air Force Base, the busiest training facility for the United States Air Force (according to Google). Del Rio has only around 36,000 people, so its classification as “little” town is fairly accurate. Lest this turn into a 5th grade geography report, that’s enough information to at least understand that it was no small feat for Trey to drop in on Micki at a random trivia night bar (that he said he had spent weeks trying to find), nor for Cordell to get tailed on his unannounced trip to his partner's operation.
Ironically, it was Stella who recognized and voiced the practical, logistical difficulty of Cordell and Micki being rangers who cover the entire state of Texas:
Stella: Okay. I'm just... I'm freaking a little because my dad didn't come home last night, which never feels great.
August: Stella, don't worry. It's a case case, not a Duke case, all right? He's coming back.
At least someone noticed that a 8.5 hour round trip, plus time taken to confront your MIA law enforcement partner, draw guns, and get into fights, keeps one away from home for a while (and Trey was sure doing a lot of driving back and forth!)
The Past is (not so much) in the Past
Back home on the ranch, season 2 opened with new neighbors moving in next door – or rather old neighbors moving back, complete with bad feelings, old grudges and lots of jaded history in tow.
Cordell: We've known each other since we were kids, and I imagine the D.A.'s office and the Rangers will be working closely together.
Denise: A lot's happened since we were kids. So, why don't both of us just put the past behind us.
As someone who spent the last year trying to come to terms with losing a past life he treasured, this season Cordell is the voice of reason, encouraging just about everyone around him, personally and professionally, to let go of the past:
But my point is I don't want to, just, you know, kick up the dust on some old family feud. I am finally ready to keep the past in the past
Personally, I’m not all that excited about a Hatfields and McCoys drama plotline. There’s a reason I didn’t watch Dallas all those years ago. The idea of reconciling past traumas in order to live a healthier life in the present is an idea that drove much of season 1, however. As early as 1.06 “Bar None”, we identified the thread of trying to recreate (or idealize) the past in order to avoid pain or justify behavior in the present. Last year, Cordell, his children, his brother and his parents all struggled to face uncomfortable truths about their past. Everyone buried their grief over Emily’s death, but Cordell most of all. August and Stella had to forgive their dad’s past emotional and physical absence. Abeline and Bonham had to move forward after her past affair. Liam tried recreating the past when he used his grandfather’s (great grandfather’s?) campaign signs, and had to face his fears to reconcile with Bret (when/why did Bret move back to New York, by the way? Last I knew, he had a condo in Austin.). Everyone learned that dealing with old wounds is necessary for individual and interpersonal happiness.
Although the pettiness of the Davidson mom, son-in-law and grandson was very tiresome to watch, maybe their long held biases is the next iteration of the thread of moving on from the past. Perhaps their self-righteous audacity will provide fertile ground to explore how one lets go of inbred hatreds. There also seem to be ample misunderstandings and differing memories of the past to unravel. Hurt can run deep, and over time, causes scars that turn into blind hostility. Even Stella’s recognition of her PTSD from last year’s events was a refreshing acknowledgement that emotions, whether formed in the moment or from months or years of pain, greatly impact people’s perspective.
Stella: I think I'm still messed-up about stuff that happened last year.
Trey: That's fair.
Stella: And when it comes to family, it's just like I get aggro now. I just... I don't want something to happen again.
Trey: Yeah, I get that.
Stella: And, also, I'm supposed to think about college and decide my entire, like, life path? How do I do that?
Trey: Well, there are steps. It's a process, Stella… I went through three jobs in the past year alone. It's okay to take a minute to figure things out.
I believe Trey was referring to more than the process of choosing a college. Addressing Stella’s bigger issue, he was referring to the process of healing. My favorite line of the episode was Trey telling Stella that it’s okay to take a moment to figure things out. Sometimes you have to hit the pause button on life in order to build a healthier future. If that is Jared’s and the show’s mental health message this season, I will patiently watch the two families go from jabs and undercuts, confusion and assumptions, to truths and healing. That’s a worthwhile process to exemplify.
Title Thread – “They Started It”
Colton: They started it!
Stella: He’s lying!
Liam: And now she stole my job. She stole it.
Liam: They started it!
Cordell: Then let’s end it!
This season opened with two generations of Davidsons and Walkers blaming each other for all the things they saw going wrong in their lives.
Colton recognized people he was supposed to hate because of what his grandmother had told him, but Stella and August were too quick to escalate a bad situation with a stranger because of their internalized fears.
Liam is rightfully hurting because of the humiliation of losing a job to someone who appeared out of nowhere to usurp Austin’s position of power, so, like Stella and August, he was also too quick to react to the taunting by the Davidsons.
Both the kids’ and the adults’ fights primed questions of who was to blame. Who started the high school fight? Was it the road rage and verbal insults? Who keyed Stella’s car? Who threw the first punch? The questions of blame for these relatively small incidents were answered quickly in the episode.
What happened to Liam, and to a lesser extent Abeline and Bonham, had decades to fester and get buried under years of rewriting history so those questions are much more complex and will undoubtedly be investigated and revealed slowly throughout the season:
What were the circumstances surrounding Abeline’s broken engagement? Who’s to blame for those hurt feelings?
Who started the barn fire? Who’s to blame for the Davidson’s dad’s death?
Is the Davidson’s return related to the guy watching the Walkers? Did the mysterious power that ruled the former corrupt commissioner and DA pull some strings to keep the Walkers out of the DA position? The Davidsons' return and Denise “stealing” the job of District Attorney from Liam seems just a bit too convenient.
Where does Northside Nation’s grip on Austin start? Who’s behind the shooting and placing Cordell in the crosshairs?
Is Micki’s undercover immersion really to protect Cordell, or is she falling into the same escapism trap that engulfed him? Who’s to blame for her not checking in, not calling home, and wanting “more time” as her alias?
“They Started It” superbly illustrated how misunderstandings escalate into fights, and how time reshapes our perceptions of history to fit our own narratives. Consider Micki’s conversation with Walker, for example. Throughout the entire scene I was thinking, “Say what now??” She’s doing the same thing to herself that he did to himself while he was undercover so he won’t do it again to himself –so he has to stop her from doing it to herself? Who’s blaming who for what there?
Morgan is going to get blamed for being a traitor until he gets out of lockup and points the finger at… who? He didn’t know Micki’s name yet, per her own admission. Spider recovered the confiscated drugs so why was he killed? It seemed his car was simply towed so why would Serano think he had been betrayed? Perceptions, blame and confusion were the underlying themes in “They Started It” to set up season 2.
Secrets and Lies
Bonham told Abeline “No more secrets” which I propose is a clever textual transition from last season’s “secrets” (or purposely withholding truths) theme that was threaded into many episodes, to this season’s focus on differing perceptions of truths. It’s too soon to know how that will manifest as a thread – perhaps blame or, more likely, the search for truth – but it reflects a maturing of the family and the show away from childish secret keeping to the complexities of fooling ourselves rather than others. If addressed with that sophistication, this season will be a worthwhile psychological journey.
Time Will Tell
“They Started It” was an apt play on words for Walker’s second season’s premiere episode. Overall, I’m happy with how they (the writers and producers of Walker), started it (their second season). If the danger looming over the Walker family is the primary mystery that is pursued, as family feuds explore lessons of biases and perceptions, this will be an interesting season. Echoing Cordell’s words that were presumably intended for his fans, “I missed you, too” Walker!
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“They Started It” Transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts
1.18 “Drive” quote courtesy of TV Show Transcripts