Now that’s a great episode! Plenty of action, interpersonal drama and revelations, with solid storytelling. When Walker’s writers are in the zone, they really get it right!
The episode picks up right where we left off, with Captain James down and Trey pinned on the porch.
Under fire from the shooter, Trey makes a run for the captain and returns fire with James’ gun until the shooter runs away.
Trey finds James’ bloodied badge. Cops arrive too late to chase the suspect, and we meet a very proficient female officer named Jack.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Cordell is playing Clue with the kids and taking the crime-solving a bit too professionally. Trey calls, and then Cordell, Bonham, Liam, and the kids show up at the hospital. The doctor tells them James will be okay. There’s no lead on the shooter.
Cordell sits with James, who makes him temporary captain. James’s son DJ and his ex-wife come to see him.
There’s a round-the-clock group working on the shooting at Ranger HQ but the ballistics report isn’t back yet, and the car didn’t yield any clues. Cordell goes to see if he can get anything useful from Stan who is in jail and looks like he’s been in a fight. Stan is nasty as ever, taunting Cordell, but he points out that if North Side Nation/Serano calls a hit, they use professionals and this wasn’t a pro attempt.
Stan is confrontational, but still gives information without appearing to cooperate. He adds that Serano didn’t need to hit James because Liam’s ‘screw up’ might let Serano walk. Then he says that ‘you can never really know someone,’ suggesting Cordell look into James’ past for old enemies, and adds that the heroes/villains can be difficult to tell apart, and you should look for the bad guys among the good ones. Cordell makes it clear that nothing is forgiven. “Enjoy rotting in here,” he says on his way out.
James and his ex relive fond memories in the hospital, and James says that his plans for the future are a lot less clear than before his injury.
Cordell reports in, and argues with James on how to handle the case, leading to a spike in stress that has James flatlining.
Turns out the captain has a secondary infection and needs to avoid stress. This places his recovery in jeopardy. Trey explains sepsis in layperson’s language.
Liam wants to help, but Cordell points out Liam isn’t the Assistant District Attorney anymore. (Is this a temporary or permanent move?) Cordell asks Liam to take care of the families.
Geri shows up with flowers and admits this kind of stuff is out of her league. She tells Cordell, ‘You’re good at the dark and scary. You thrive in chaos.” (Gee thanks—I think? Shades of Sam “our whole life is a horror movie” Winchester.) Cordell admits that with Micki and James out of commission, he doesn’t have backup and he’s used to having a partner. He doubts himself, and Geri encourages him.
We get shades of Sam and Dean when Cordell asks, “Why is it always me and you at the end of the world?”
Cordell rallies the HQ team and reminds them that it’s personal because James was targeted. He sends them to look at old cases. Liam shows up but hangs in the background. Cordell admits to being nervous and scared, and suggests they ask, ‘What Would James Do?’ Liam calls in a favor for a visitor’s pass.
DJ, Auggie, and Stella wait for news. DJ asks if they ever wished their dad had a ‘regular’ job. Auggie says he used to wish that, but not any more. Stella reminisces about sleepovers when they were kids and offers a card game like they played back then as a diversion. Both kids are very caring and nurturing with DJ.
A guy named Cole shows up in James’ room with a gun. Cordell teams up with Officer Jack. James tries to talk Cole down. Cole says James made a deal he didn’t keep.
Cordell bursts in with a gun, but James tries to keep anyone from shooting.
Then a SWAT sniper takes Cole down, and says he was ‘just doing his job.’
DJ asks his dad to take time for them to go to Idaho, time away from the job. James said he wanted Micki to share some of the burden of trying to change things, but now that’s not going to work. His ex-wife says that she feared that James wouldn’t come home one day, or that he’d get so far into the job that he wouldn’t let her or DJ in, and they lost him. He asks why she didn’t tell him, and she says ‘you just couldn’t hear me.’ Obviously they’re warming up to each other.
The doctor’s update says the infection is gone. Trey and Bonham have a heart-to-heart and Bonham says ‘sometimes love just isn’t enough’ about Trey’s feelings for Micki. Trey says he doesn’t want to live in a perpetual crisis. Bonham notes that going through bad things brings people together, and then gives Trey a key to the ranch and says he’ll always have a home.
James and Cordell talk. James says Cordell made the right choice to listen against protocol and instinct and not shoot Cole, that there has to be a way to stop violence without begetting more violence. Cordell has realized that being captain isn’t for him, that he’d rather answer the call. They end up in a good place, and we get another Supernatural memory with ‘We’ve got work to do. Together.’
In the end, Liam goes to see Stan in jail. Stan hands him a letter. Liam tells Stan that what he did was beyond the realm of forgiveness. Stan tells Liam that he’s ‘right’ about the Davidsons, and to go to Stan’s house where there’s a desk with files in a false bottom. But he warns Liam, ‘You might not always like what you find.’
Wow! This was a tightly written episode that never let up on the tension even as we saw multiple points of view. Too often, the differing perspectives switch between such varied scenarios that all the suspense is lost. What also helped was that whether we were seeing Cordell or James or the kids or Liam, everything centered on the main case—James’ shooting—unlike episodes where too many plot lines compete for attention.
We also saw some character growth and revelations. James realizes that his single-minded pursuit of the job cost him his family, and sees the failure of the system when Cole shares how his deal fell apart. James also has to reassess his goals, how to move forward without Micki, and where Cordell fits best with everything that has changed.
Cordell realizes he prefers to take orders than give them, that he’s best in a support position. Liam is still grappling with all the changes in his life, but he stays on the case regardless of his official role. Stan plays hard to get, but for all his cantankerousness, he gives up a lot of useful information. Auggie has grown up enough to see the value in what his dad does for a living, and Stella steps into a nurturing role Abilene would be proud of. Trey is still reeling from the changes, but he takes action under fire and comes through for his family-of-the-heart. Will we see more of Officer Jack? I hope so!
In between the action, we got insights into how the justice system fails individuals, and how violence in policing begets more violence.
In case you missed it, Walker also does a great job of not only having a diverse main cast, but also by normalizing diversity in its walk-on and supporting roles. Notice how often the ‘background’ characters, even ones we’ll never see again, don’t default to white and/or male. No big announcements or fanfare, just people in all kinds of roles doing their jobs which is a powerful message even when unspoken.
Jared gets kudos for following the storyline about corruption in the DA’s office and Austin police department in a show filmed in Austin given the real life drama going on in Austin.
I think Cordell is in the ‘in between’—trying to leave behind who he was and become someone better. That can be a trying time for confidence, because you can’t default to what worked before, but you don’t have a new pattern established and reliable.
Having Cordell realize he doesn’t want to be in charge is a big breakthrough for him in a culture that applauds constant promotions. It’s a reflection of growing confidence not to need that affirmation and to be okay with excelling in a supporting role. It’s also different from what we saw in Supernatural where Sam became ‘Chief’ and moved into his own as a leader after always following Dean’s lead.
I also think that Cordell may be channeling the struggle a lot of men feel who are rejecting the way they were raised (that didn’t work for their fathers/older brothers), but who are still finding their way to what it means to be a strong, confident guy who doesn’t damage everyone around them (and ultimately themselves). He’s also living up to the Supernatural revelation that strong men and heroes can have times of self-doubt, admit feeling fear and pain, and be unsure of themselves and their choices. I hope that as Captain James changes, he comes to see Cordell in a different light for what he truly brings to the table instead of having his impression tainted by old baggage. (People who knew us in the past can be the ones least likely to let us change, even if it’s for the better.)
Way to go, Walker! Please writers—give us more like this! As always, the acting and casting is awesome and Jared knocks it out of the park.
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Screencaps by Raloria on LJ