That was sweet. I know that’s an odd thing to say about an episode that showed us Liam getting “blitzed” drunk to forget his humiliation and despair; the Serano case falling apart, putting Trey and the Walkers in danger again; and Captain James getting shot – twice – in a gang ambush, but those events seems secondary to the introspection and relationship building that was at the core of “Where Do We Go From Here?” From the opening affirmation between “Mawline” and her grandson:

Abeline: You do crack me up. I don't know if you crack anyone else up, but you crack me up.
Auggie: Hey, that's what matters.

...to the ending broment reconciliation, the lasting impression from this episode was made by the many sensitive conversations that happened between friends, family and even former enemies. Each supportive interaction helped individuals understand their own and others’ actions more compassionately while advancing the storyline.

Title Thread: “Where Do We Go From Here?”

Stella: I should have made Uncle Liam talk to me. I should have seen it coming.

Trey: Hey, hey, that's not your job. I swear, you got more compassion than some folks twice your age. I could tell you right now there's been plenty of stuff that I should have seen coming, and I just stepped right out of the way.

Stella: Are you talking about Micki? I'm sorry, I just... I know my dad misses her. I do, too. She made me appreciate the mental health benefits of target practice.

The second half of Walker’s second season kicked off with Stella, Trey, Liam and Cordell all struggling to understand their futures. Stella’s dilemma was the most obvious, as choosing a path after high school is an expected stage in life. Her confusion was handled extremely well, providing a backdrop for her and her dad to have some “we” time that not only allowed them to bond but also gave both of them a perspective that helped with their personal dilemmas. Stella’s emotional awareness also added sympathetic and endearing qualities to a character that is far too often shown as annoyingly rash. Her suggestion that she and her dad repeat a “strategy” Emily used when someone was hurting helped Cordell’s obvious parenting awkwardness by conveying what she (Stella) needed to process her anxiety. Even though Stella was scared about her own future, she was also sensitive to Trey’s and Cordell’s pain while trying to redefine their lives without Micki. On top of all that swirling emotion, she noted and wanted to help with her uncle’s crisis.

Trey: What's next? It's literally everywhere.

Stella: Yeah. Right? Like, how am I supposed to think about what's next when I can't even deal with what happened three weeks ago?

Trey: When your uncle left?

Stella: It just feels like something to add to the list of bad things. Uncle Liam, he was always there when we needed him. It doesn't feel right not to return the favor.

Trey: Yeah. Yeah, I hear that. With everything that happened on the ranch last year, it's...

Stella: Right. Yeah. When everyone else was figuring out who they were going to be or where they were going to go, I was figuring out how to cauterize a wound.

Trey: Yeah, that's a lot for one kid to handle.

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Like Stella, Trey was also sensitive to others’ needs even though he himself was hurting. His compassion enabled Stella’s and Cordell’s “we day.”

Cordell: Trey called me. Said maybe you could use some support this afternoon.

Stella: Okay, well, I'm fine.

Cordell: Really?

Stella: Maybe not.

Cordell showed up for his daughter, and in return, they both benefited from their “we” time.

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Stella: I don't know how to say what's up sometimes, but... spending time with you actually helped. I mean, you made me feel better, and... all you did was lose.

Cordell: Yeah, it was close [“Close” was another word that was used often in this episode. Maybe they’re “close” to figuring out Dan’s lying, or convicting Serano? Thoughts?]

Stella: So... where do we go from here?
Cordell: Well, that was Bret who just texted me. He said that he and Liam are headed to Ranger HQ. I guess we'll start with going there.

I appreciated that answer. Sometimes, most of the time, when the future is too daunting to decipher, the best “plan” is to just take one step forward at a time.

In return for his kindness, Trey also got some much needed attention from Captain James. The captain’s visit to Trey may have been motivated by the Serano case, but he took the opportunity to keep Trey company (while stalling to find out about the suspicious gray car) and pass along encouragement.

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Capt. James: Hey, man, you know, Micki leaving... doesn't mean you have to, right?

Trey: Not right now. I still got to finish up our lease. My lease. She signed it over to me, so...

Capt. James: Well, whatever happens with the lease, I hope you stay in Austin. I would hate to think that Micki leaving drove you away. You know what I mean?
Trey: Yeah. Hey, I appreciate that, Cap.

Trey hearing that he was valued as an individual, separate from his role as Micki’s partner, may have helped him decide to remain in the circle of friends he had made in Austin. It was heartwarming to hear a guy pass along this kind of assurance to another guy. Trey’s conclusion that his purpose in life is to be a school counselor seemed unrealistically quick as break-up, mid-life crises go, but mercifully decisive to keep the plot moving along.

Trey: Yeah. Yeah. I think maybe my purpose might be helping kids find theirs. I guess you didn't ruin my life after all, Cap.

Capt. James: That's good to know.

Capt. James also had a few good words for his Assistant District Attorney who had gone AWOL.

Liam: You told me to come.

Capt. James: I didn't think that Grizzly Adams was gonna go on a bender before he showed up.

Liam: It wasn't a bender, Larry, okay? Look, this isn't great... I just wanted so much to be right, and to be so spectacularly wrong is embarrassing.

Capt. James: We're past that. And I'm thinking maybe there's something more going on here. It just seems like... ever since you lost the D.A. race, you've been spinning.

Liam: I lost D.A. to a man who killed my sister-in-law, so...

Capt. James: I know. I know. I just need you to really think about what it is that you want. Do you really want to be A.D.A.? 'Cause there are other places you can do good, Liam. But it would be a damn shame to lose you altogether.

The captain was doing all he could to tell people they were wanted, appreciated and seen. At a time when big brother Cordell was crabbing at Liam for doing something illegal and unethical, Liam badly needed to hear a friend and professional colleague still had faith in him. Thanks to Stella, Bret’s return also provided much needed (and very welcome) support for Liam. Bret’s arrival was one of the high points of the episode. He and Liam are so good together.

Bret: Stella called me a few days ago. She said she was a little worried that you'd be chopping wood in a cabin alone.

It hurts to see how Liam is punishing himself for following his instincts. We all know that he is right to suspect Dan, and it’s torture watching him endure everyone’s ridicule until he can be vindicated (which may not happen until the story’s climax in the season’s finale). Cordell’s realization that bending the rules was something Liam  probably learned from his big brother was a small ray of sunshine in the doom and gloom of Liam’s humiliation.

Cordell: Because I think I might be the person who taught him to do something stupid in the name of doing something right.

The story of how Cordell solved Liam’s bullying problem in high school was endearing, while also making a social statement about the realistic troubles of young gay people. It also showed how much Cordell tries to look out for his little brother, and was probably the point at which Cordell’s anger turned into understanding. I’m wondering if the fake bro fight might not also foreshadow how they smoke out the truth about Dan and/or Denise. Thoughts?

Cordell: You remember how much Em always seemed to know everything and see everything? And she definitely saw all the problems between you and me.

Liam: Come on, man, we're good.

Cordell: No, no, we're not. We're not good. You know we're not. Losing Micki - it hurt. You know, it's still a hole that I'm grappling with. I mean, she was the partner I didn't realize I needed after everything. But you are my partner, too. You're my brother. And I guess I realized today that sometimes, when I'm too close to it, I can't see the fall. … I don't think you've fallen. But I think you're slipping.

Liam: My God, I'm so far away from who I... who I want to be. From who I am to you. And when I saw what Serano's lawyers were trying to do, I saw my chance at absolution.

Cordell: Yeah. I get it. Hey, facing up to your problems and owning up to your mistakes, that takes courage and that takes heart. By the way, whenever you want to give your official statement... I'll be there.

Liam: Yeah. Thanks. That'd be great. That'd be great, man, thank you. That's all I need from you.

Cordell’s earlier condemnation of Liam (over a broken bowl) was one of the few forced drama moments in the episode. That “drama for drama’s sake” friction was unnecessary and unworthy of the intuitive writing that was shown in the rest of this episode. It was annoying to see Cordell so judgmental given that last year he was alone in following his instincts about Emily’s murder but received no support from his family. It seems he would remember how that felt and would now be more open minded to Liam’s suspicions.

Abeline: The kids don't need to know.
Liam: No, you know what? It's fine. No secrets, Mama.

It is encouraging, however, to see the family acknowledge their rough patches… although I’m not entirely sure Cordell’s motivation wasn’t further humiliating Liam vs. pursuing open communication to jointly resolve conflict.

Make the Call

Using phones as tools to help versus hurt others was an underlying thread in “Where Do We Go From Here.” Stella called Bret to support Uncle Liam, while Trey called Cordell to help Stella. The captain repeatedly tried calling Liam to warn him of a possible legal ambush, and insisted that Cordell continue calling despite Liam giving him the silent treatment (which was deserved, in my opinion). The emphasis on phone calls skillfully reminded us that the criminal story we’re following took a turn for the worse because of Liam’s poorly considered phone call, but calling and talking to those who are hurting is often the first step in opening the lines of communication and healing.

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Capt. James: So, I got a call from our D.A…. Liam return your calls yet? …

Cordell:  No. It's been, like, three weeks. He's sent some short texts to Mom and Dad, the kids...

Do me a favor. Call your brother. I'm gonna keep trying him, too. I'm gonna keep trying him, too. You know, I can't have him blowing this case up more than he already has.

Cordell: Okay, well, like I said, he's not taking my calls. And if Liam doesn't want to talk to me, then I'm done trying.
Capt. James: No, you're not. This is Liam that we're talking about. You owe him, Cordell.

Using primary and alternate meanings of the word “call”, and even hilarious references to communicating without words (text emojis - amoeba vs microbe), almost every character reminded us of Liam’s call - a call which put him in the crosshairs and infuriated his brother:

Stella: What about you? What future calls?

Liam: Otherwise, I got to call a ride.

Cordell: Funny enough, I'm thinking about a time Liam and I got called into the principal office.

Colton: She also mentioned that you and Gramps used to talk after you called off the engagement.

Capt. James [to Trey]: What's this called?

Liam: It's not fun if you call attention to us having fun.

Capt. James: I called APD, got you a security detail for the night.

But again, Stella was the voice of wisdom, advising her dad that talking is the best way to break down troubling situations:

Cordell: I'll give you a pass if you give me a plan. Where do we want to go from here? You want to go to the movies?

Stella: No, the point is, you have to be able to talk.

Cordell: Yeah, of course. What do you need to talk about?

Although Cordell was a bit awkward at the whole talking thing, he figured it out in the end, helping Stella take the first step towards her future and repairing his relationship with his brother

Old School/ The Past is (not so much) in the Past

Capt. James:  Oh, hey. You got the old-school. I used to play that with DJ.

Several prior Threads reviews this season noted references to school subjects and “old school” ways. The reason behind this thread has been a mystery. Possibilities ranged from the obvious reminder of the kids’ school to Jared’s desire to show that people are always learning to be better, but I now wonder if it was setting up the spin-off origin story that has since been announced.

August: Legend has it that the troubles with the Walkers and the Davidsons date back all the way to the 1870s.

Abeline’s beautiful singing and oral history lesson about the past of both the Davidson and Walker families conveyed the reality that so much of our lives comes from stories that only our grandparents and great grandparents know. Our anchor to the present is missing if we don’t understand the events that came before us that shaped our communities and our families.

Emily: Well, as your Granny Nancy used to say, it's not mean, it's strategic. Okay, so, now... you want to look at all the pieces on the court, and you decide how you want to play.
Stella: She always said it was about how it all worked together. And maybe... don't make a bad choice just to spite the other person.
Cordell: Are you trying to double- meaning a round of bocce?

This is an example of the subtlety that elevated this episode. A few sentences plugged the spin-off, prodded Cordell to talk to his brother, advised us all to look at all the pieces of the game and make a personal decision as to who we want to be as a person (“how you want to play”), stated the moral of the story regarding Liam’s phone call, and I believe foreshadowed a pivotal tenet that will guide the actions the Walkers’ ultimately take to uncover the truth about Denise, Dan, the barn fire, and the Serano case. That small conversation delivered much more than just a “double meaning.”

Perceptions

Another example of subtlety was Cordell and Captain James presenting the two opposing views as to whether Denise is on the take or acting righteously.

Capt. James: Yeah. Well, one more thing. A little cherry on top. You're not allowed on any case involving Serano or Northside Nation.

Cordell: Wow. I thought Denise was better than that. I'm saying I realize that Liam called in a false report on her husband. I'm saying I never expected her to go full retaliation.

Capt. James: It doesn't read retaliation to me. I think she's just a good D.A. whose highest-profile case is in jeopardy. Either way, I'm handling the Serano stuff from now on, personally, all right?

Colton asking for Abeline’s perspective on their families’ shared history, and him providing his own observations of how things have been for the Davidsons, was a heartwarming reminder that understanding can be achieved through listening. It also made the Davidsons far more sympathetic characters – which is either setting us up to feel sorry for Denise when Dan takes the fall, or setting us up to get sucker punched when we learn they are all villains!

The light touch. Teases, reminders and speculation without insulting, obvious anvils. Bravo.

Music

Colton may go into music production. August listened to music on his headphones, played some very nice piano and uses Garageband to write songs. Abeline serenaded us with a few beautiful bars of a song. Music added to the serenity of this episode. It’s unclear if it will have a deeper meaning, but for now, it’s a welcome component of Walker.

Time Will Tell

I haven’t yet mentioned how wonderful it was to see Genevieve back as Emily. Her voice and her eyes always convey the love she has for her family (on and off the screen). She and Bret add so much heart to the Walkers’ story. Their presence, Molly’s singing, everyone’s compassion, with a few nuggets of wisdom thrown in, made this an episode I truly enjoyed.

Stella: I wish there was something I could do to fix it or...
Trey: Hey, hey, you can't do anything. And that's okay. You know, I think maybe you panicked earlier because you feel like you don't have the right to think about your own future. Something that's just for you. But you do.

Not being able to fix everything is one of the hardest lessons to learn, especially as a parent, so it was oddly reassuring to hear Trey remind us all that some things just have to work themselves out without us. It was also nice to hear him give everyone permission to think about their own future. He, Stella, Liam and Cordell are certainly working on that right now.

“Where We Go From Here” is indeed a question worth asking. The Serano case, Liam’s career and his partnership with Bret, Cordell’s new partner (recall the captain’s mention of new recruits), Cordell’s relationship with Geri, and the resolution of the barn fire mystery are all interesting plotlines that have captured my attention for the second half of this season. Yes, the episode ended on a “cliffhanger” so to speak, but Capt. James stepping out in plain sight of a guy firing bullets at him was just dumb, and a trained soldier yelling out “Cap” repeatedly instead of calling 911 for backup was not very realistic (the irony of not making the call?). That closing scene was the episode’s other “forced drama” moment that succumbed to using tropes for action and suspense. My hope is that the writing for the rest of the season will avoid such blatancy and deliver much more of the nuanced story that made this episode one of the season’s highlights. Walker can deliver heart, intelligence and finesse when it wants to. More of that please. Time will tell.

- Nightsky


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Transcript courtesy of TV Show Transcripts