If pilot episodes didn’t have to be called “Pilot”, I think this one would’ve been called Portmanteau.
The first episode of Walker: Independence finally aired and boy did it throw me for a loop. I’ll have to be mindful and do separate viewings of it and Walker in the future because watching them back-to-back was not a good idea.
But that’s a complaint for the commentary section at the end. Let’s have a look at this introductory episode scene-by-scene, shall we?
The episode opens with Abigail and Liam Collins having some good old-fashioned married fun in their covered wagon. There’s not much room to move around in there but they’re making it work. Unfortunately, they have poor timing as the rest of their wagon train is moving along without them, leaving them alone in the plains of Texas with their painted wagon.
Side note: “I Dream With My Eyes Open” painted on the roof of their wagon really stuck out to me for some reason.
Night falls and Abby and Liam discuss the big change coming in their life. We learn that Liam took the sheriff position in Independence, Texas because of the corrupt police force in Boston and a scandal regarding his last case. However, Abby seems to think that there’s something else going on, some other reason for him wanting to leave that he’s not telling her. He insists that he’s not keeping any secrets from her, even when she pensively plays the piano.
Then the horses start fussing. Liam thinks it’s probably just a wild animal but gets his shotgun to check anyway. Abby watches him from the covered wagon with concern. Then, gunshots. Liam stumbles back to the wagon, clutching his bloody stomach, and collapses. Abby sees a man in black standing behind his prone body. The man fires again and the bullet catches her on the shoulder, sending her to the ground. A lantern falls on the wagon and breaks, setting the whole thing aflame. The man walks closer, likely to see if she’s dead, but the flames flare up and send him away.
Abby crawls to her now-dead husband and wails in grief. The brand-new life they were planning together on the frontier is now in ashes.
The next shot is in the daylight. Abby is wandering through the plains, dazed and hurt, and her hand grazes the tall grass. When she can walk no more, she collapses into the dirt. Just then, a small group of Native American men ride over the hill. They are the last thing she sees before she closes her eyes.
Our next shot is of Hoyt Rawlins digging his own grave and quoting scripture. Behind him, a very pissed of man is ready to shoot him. It looks like Hoyt has been a very naughty boy: pretending to be a preacher, stealing, and committing adultery. Hardly the actions of a man of the cloth. But for all his flaws and missteps, Hoyt is quite the talker, and he gets the man to confess one last sin to him: he went gambling in Independence, just outside of Austin, and lost quite a lot of money. Hoyt smiles and he decides that sounds like a good place to go. Then he whirls his shovel around to knock out the other man, climbs out of his grave, and steals himself a gun and a horse. Then, it’s off to Independence.
Side note: Hoyt naming his horse “Cordell” has spawned many a dirty joke and will likely continue to do so for the rest of the season/series
Back with Abby, she’s waking up in a tent in the Apache village. The men who found her are talking about her. Most of them are worried about what will happen to them if people find her here; they know they will be blamed for her injury. One of them, Calian, is not as worried. It’s been a long time, and no one has come; besides, they (white people? Americans?) are not so bad.
Abby speaks up and gets their attention, prompting Calian to turn around and check on her. We find out that Abby has been with them for 4 days and has healed well. He asks where she is from and Abby is surprised to hear that he recognizes the name of Boston. Calian explains that he used to work as a scout for the U.S. Cavalry, which would likely also explain his good English. One of his friends tells him not to tell her anything and, while Abby can’t understand the words, a small part of what he says stands out to her. She repeats it and asks Calian. He tells her it means Walks in Tall Grass, the name they gave her after they found her.
Abby then asks if she can be taken to Independence and he agrees, but only takes her as far as the hill near the town. He won’t go down there but he does tell her to inform Deputy Augustus of her husband’s murder. Calian knows that he is a good man that can be trusted.
Abby finally enters the town of Independence. She walks slowly, observing everything around her. Then a strange woman approaches her and asks a lot of questions about who Abby is and how she got here. Within four questions, she’s deduced that Abby is from Boston and is not a prostitute. She asks Abby what she thinks of the town and where she’ll be staying; Abby brushes her off and says she’s not sure if she’ll be staying for all that long. That gets her a cryptic “Everyone says that at first.” Abby is now a little unnerved and makes efforts to leave the conversation, asking the woman where she can find Deputy Augustus. The woman kindly directs her down the street and walks off on her own errands.
Two steps later, Abby runs into Hoyt as he stumbles out of the saloon. Hoyt “apologizes” for his misstep and Abby is having none of it, calling him out for drinking so early in the day. Hoyt simply says he doesn’t care for the opinions of royalty and even splashes her with water when she tries to pass by him. Abby is quite annoyed with him but doesn’t run away when he grabs for her hand. However, as much as she would love to slap him for his behavior, she has other issues on her mind. She walks away, and Hoyt smirks as he looks at her ring on his finger.
At long last, Abby finds Deputy Augustus. She’s disarmed by his kind demeanor and southern twang and tells him that Calian told her to speak with him. Augustus is not surprised by this; it’s likely not the first time Calian has sent a wayward stranger his way without escort. He asks what he can do for her and she starts to tell him that the new sheriff is dead, only to find out that someone has been sworn in for the position just this morning. Behind Augustus, a new figure steps out.
Here's where we meet Tom Davidson, the new sheriff. Abby instantly recognizes him as the man in black who killed her husband and she doesn’t do a good job of hiding it. She shakily asks for confirmation that he’s the new sheriff. Tom explains that he is, that the position opened up just a few days ago after the last man failed to show up in time to receive it. When Abby asks where he came from, he says Texarkana and she comments that the name is a portmanteau: a combination of three words in one. In this case: Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. It seems everyone is learning new things today in Independence.
Tom asks if he can do anything for her and she starts to report Liam’s murder but suddenly realizes that her ring is gone. She changes her script mid-sentence and says that she thought her ring was stolen but she just remembered where she left it. She then turns and storms back toward the saloon.
In the saloon, we see Hoyt again. He’s telling a joke at a poker game and everyone except one man is having a good time. Hoyt raises the bid, and the Killjoy Man complains that he can’t match the cash. Hoyt presses him to match it, certain that this guy has something of monetary value on him. Killjoy Man produces a nice gun and says he bought it off a Mexican who claimed it was left behind after the Alamo during the Texas Revolution.
Immediately, Hoyt’s demeanor changes. He stiffens and his smile falls away and he tells Killjoy Man that a good men died that day for the sake of Texas. That seems to be the exact reaction the Killjoy Man wanted and jokingly wonders if Hoyt lost anybody that day. Hoyt doesn’t respond, just flips his cards over with confidence that is quickly dashed when Killjoy Man reveals his hand. Hoyt lost and he gets up from the table without another word. Killjoy Man tries to rile him up, telling him he’ll have better luck next time and getting aggressive when Hoyt doesn’t respond. Just as Killjoy Man reaches for his gun, Hoyt whips out his own and points it at him, ready to shoot. The mood is killed and Hoyt turns around to leave.
Abby is waiting outside for him and starts to berate him for taking her ring and thinking about gambling it off. In response, he apologizes and gives it back to her before walking away. But she’s not done with him and asks him if he would’ve really killed the man back in the saloon. He dodges her question, asking if she’s following him instead as he heads for the hotel in town.
Before Abby can get any kind of answers out of him, Hoyt enters the hotel and sees Lucia Reyes. He smiles up at her, face soft and eyes alight like we haven’t seen for the episode yet and she greets him just as warmly. She tells him that her brother will be busy for a while and Hoyt picks her up so they can have their “catch up” time, leaving Abby downstairs.
Abby sits at the piano and plays the tune she was playing in the wagon. The woman from town comes downstairs and sees her there in a new dress, one far less suited for the outdoors. She asks if Abby had changed her mind about staying in town after all. Abby says she found a reason to stay but it may not be a good one. The woman has got some more questions (and a little flirting) but Abby’s more in step with her this time and plays along.
She asks about the owner of the establishment, who has his portrait on the wall. Kate introduces him as Nathaniel Hagan, who runs the place as a hotel and dance hall. Well, at least until the new sheriff buys him out if the rumors are to be believed. More girls come downstairs in similar outfits to the one the woman is wearing, and she must end their conversation. She finally introduces herself as Kate and invites Abby to watch the show they’re putting on for Tom Davidson’s welcome party. Abby isn’t sure she wants to go but Kate insists and lets her know that there are rooms available for cheap at the hotel. Well, at least until the sheriff raises the rent. Kate mentions that Tom tried to get Kai to do his laundry for free and points him out to Abby as he comes down the stairs. Kai mistakes Abby for one of Hagan’s white doves and gives her a basket of laundry to carry. Instead of correcting him, Abby follows him to the laundry.
Upstairs, in a hotel room, Hoyt and Lucia are getting reacquainted with each other. Lucia asks what Hoyt has been up to for the month he’s been gone. He gives her a very vague answer and Lucia isn’t too happy with it, but she’ll let it slide for now. Hoyt can tell something’s wrong though and asks her what’s on her mind. She just shakes her head and they get back to kissing.
We go back outside the hotel to Kia’s laundry. Once the baskets are deposited, Kai tells her she’s free to go back to the hotel. Abby corrects him and says she just helped him for the sake of helping. In exchange for the help, Kai offers her some egg drop soup. She gladly eats it, likely hungry from her day of activity. While she eats, she asks Kai where he’s from. He says he’s from Macau, China. He got out here by working on the railroads. Eventually, he earned enough money and learned enough English to settle down and open his business. He came to Independence because it’s a growing city with a lot of potential and he wants to grow with it.
Side note: Knowing what we know about Independence, hearing people talk about how it will thrive with the railroad is a little depressing.
Back with Hoyt and Lucia, he’s dropping her off with her brother. Lucia asks how long he’ll be staying this time. He doesn’t give her a direct answer but implies he won’t be around for long. Then they find her older brother, Luis, who’s packing up the day’s shopping. Luis doesn’t seem too happy to see Hoyt and asks Lucia what they’ve been doing; she was supposed to be buying a dress. They say that they just happened to run into each other in town and went for a walk. Then Hoyt notices what’s in the back of Luis’ cart and asks if there’s trouble at the ranch. Luis tries to brush him off but eventually admits that they had some cattle stolen recently and a new family has moved in next door. It’s time for the Reyes’ to go but Hoyt tells Lucia to meet him by the oak trees later.
Back with Abby, she leaves Kai’s laundry and sees a cart for a telegraph company. This sparks an idea in her and she heads for the bank. On her way, she passes Augustus, who’s whistling a familiar tune; it’s the same one she was playing on the piano earlier. She asks where he heard it, and he says he heard Tom humming it earlier that day. Abby is understandably a little freaked out by this but carries on. Then she sees Hoyt standing outside of the bank, looking awfully suspicious.
This does not deter her, and she enters the bank. She tells the teller that her husband had wired money there earlier and she’d like to withdraw some of it. However, she can’t do so without some kind of ID or a name. When the teller asks who she is, she gets lost in thought. With all the people around, she seems nervous to reveal her true name. Then she remembers the name the Apache gave her and introduces herself as Abigail Walker. It’s a lovely sentiment but not one that will get any money from Liam Collins’ account.
But that’s an issue for another time as Hoyt barges in for a robbery. Everyone but Abby gets on the ground at his order, and he gets the tellers to put money in his sack. He tries to get Abby to play along but she does the opposite and warns him that someone is about to play the hero. That gives him the chance to stomp on the guy’s wrist and steal his gun. Once the money is handed over, she suggests he finish off his crime streak with a hostage as well.
This leads us to one of the most chaotic horse rides I’ve seen on television. Hoyt clearly did not plan out his escape route as he ducks and dodges between buildings, changing his route multiple times and almost running into the deputy. He does manage to steal a nice dress for his dear Lucia before escaping town and he stops the horse near an abandoned shed outside of town.
Abby decides that now is as good a time as any to deliver some well-deserved slaps before asking him to help her kill Tom Davidson. She explains that Tom killed her husband, and she needs his help to get revenge. Hoyt asks why she doesn’t try to go about it legitimately or ask someone else for help. Abby retorts that she can’t; her own family is as crooked and rotten as the Boston police force and it’s not as if she, an outsider, can publicly accuse Tom of murder when the whole town is on his side. Besides, he’s a criminal, one that knows what it’s like to kill a man. He should be able to do this. He asks why she’s so sure of that and she responds that her husband served in the Civil War too; she recognizes the look.
Hoyt denies her request. He’s an outlaw but he’s not stupid. Killing Tom Davidson will only cause him trouble. She threatens him with reporting him to the sheriff’s office for the robbery if he doesn’t. He’s willing to take that chance and gets on his horse to leave, but not before she sneaks his gun out of his saddle bag.
Sometime later, we see Augustus riding out of town to meet with Calian on the hill. He tells Calian about the robbery earlier and the kidnapping of Abigail Walker. Calian says that he will start tracking her first thing in the morning. Augustus makes a counteroffer: Calian can come into town and help him look instead. Calian silently agrees and they ride off together.
At the Reyes’ ranch, Hoyt and Lucia meet by an old tree. Lucia says he looks like did something that got him into trouble and he neither confirms nor denies that. He does present her with the dress he grabbed earlier and asks her to wear it to sing at Hagan’s that night. She’s apprehensive; her mother would hate it. Hoyt reminds her that her mother also used to sing for people; in fact, that’s how he met Lucia’s father. Lucia laughs and says that’s how she met Hoyt’s father as well. Hoyt’s smile dims and he says he never got to hear the other end of that story.
Side note: Hoyt and Lucia are literally the cutest couple on television ever and I swear to all that is good and holy if they break them up to shove Hoyt at Abby, I will never watch this show again.
At Hagan’s the whole town is gearing up to celebrate Tom Davidson. Lucia is singing onstage in her new dress while Hoyt watches on in the audience with flowers and a smile. Abby comes to the hall too, Hoyt’s gun in hand, and she starts heading for the back. Kate sees her and welcomes her with a little more flirting. Abby sees Tom and everyone else she’s met today as she heads for the bar to wait for her time.
Lucia finishes singing onstage and steps off to meet with Hoyt, who gives her the flowers. Their happy moment is interrupted by Augustus, who’s very suspicious of Hoyt. But he leaves the happy couple to it and goes about his way.
Hagan takes the stage next and tells everyone to raise their glasses, and guns, for the new sheriff, Tom Davidson. Abby takes this as her moment and takes aim to kill Tom. But just as she pulls the trigger, Hoyt knocks her arm, redirecting her shot, and the bullet ends up grazing Tom’s sleeve instead. Then the girls come out to dance and Kate gets the crowd riled up.
He leads Abby away and asks her if she really thinks she’s doing the right thing. Abby won’t hear it and insists that she needs to take care of this now. Then Hoyt informs her that Tom Davidson is from Boston, just like her and Liam, and not Texarkana like he previously claimed. This stops Abby’s tirade and gives Hoyt room to elaborate. He heard from Lucia that the Davidson family is buying up property around the town and stealing cattle. Abby finishes by saying that having a sheriff in the family would help them stay out of trouble.
While they whisper more on the identity of Tom, Lucia sees them together. She looks unhappy to see him so close to another woman. Then she checks the bouquet he gave her and sees a bundle of cash inside it.
Also watching Hoyt and Abby is Calian, who is sneaking around on the upstairs landing.
On the other side of the room, Tom promises Augustus that he’s going to do his best as sheriff. After all, he’s got big plans for Independence. Augustus points out the graze on Tom’s sleeve and tells him he’s got good luck on his first day.
Back with Hoyt and Abby, they’re both ready and willing to go after the sheriff. Abby for her husband, and Hoyt for Lucia and her family. But first, they need to go back to where it all began: Liam’s murder.
The next day, in town, we see Kate reading over a telegram draft. We see that she’s written down most of the happenings in Independence and is sending it to Alan Pinkerton. She strolls off to send her message under Kai’s watchful eye.
Abby takes Hoyt out to the burned covered wagon. Most of it was destroyed by the flames but some of it is salvageable. Abby tears up upon seeing her husband’s abandoned and dead body and she kneels over him.
Just then, Hoyt senses they’ve been followed and pulls his gun. Calian calls for Abby using her Apache name and asks her to tell her friend not to shoot. Abby immediately gets up and tries to get Hoyt to put his gun down. He does after a bit of insistence and the two men introduce themselves.
Abby breaks the tension between the strangers by asking them to help her bury her husband. Abby and Hoyt cover Liam’s body with rocks while Calian says an Apache blessing over the body. She puts her ring on top of the rocks and steps away to pick up Liam’s gun and one of the surviving law books. She wanders toward the edge of the hill and Hoyt and Calian follow her. She says that she may be out for vengeance, or perhaps it’s just justice. Tom Davidson needs to pay for what he did. She then says that the people of Independence are like a portmanteau; they’re not all what they seem.
And, with a final shot of our three heroes, the Walker legacy begins.
This episode was….a lot. Like most pilots, it was a series of exposition dumps as we got to know our world and characters a bit. And it did an excellent job of that. I’m genuinely interested to know more about all of our new friends (Yes, even the Davidson one).
It looks like the Davidson family are carpetbaggers looking to take advantage of the cheap land available in the South following the Civil War. In order to be more welcomed by the town, Tom is pretending to be from somewhere in the South. It’ll be interesting to see just how much they’ll be able to get away with.
Kate Carver is a detective for the Pinkerton Agency rather than an FBI agent. I’m actually interested to see where this goes. I wonder how long she’s been in Independence and what she’s looking to uncover.
I was a little surprised to see Calian and Augustus have a relationship already. I wonder if they met during Calian’s time with the US Cavalry.
What interested me most this episode was the possibility of Hoyt’s backstory. This version of Hoyt seems to have a close relationship with Lucia’s family, not unlike the one modern Hoyt had with the Walkers. I also suspect that he lost his father during the Texas Revolution. I wonder if he has any other family or where they are. I’m also curious about what side of the Civil War he fought on.
Of course, Abby Walker is the star of the show. I’m very curious to learn more about her family and what led her to Independence. I like the detail that she’s a schoolteacher; I wonder if we’ll ever get to see her lead a lesson. I also think there’s potential for her and Kate to work together to take out the Davidsons, along with Augustus.
We didn’t get much of Kai this episode but I liked what we did get. He seems like a genuinely kind soul. I wonder if he’ll have a part to play in the fight against the Davidsons. It also looks like he’s got an interest in Kate, so I’m curious to see where that goes.
My only complaint with this episode was some of Abby’s dialogue. Some lines, like the one about her family, came across as rehearsed. When I made notes watching this episode, I wrote that she spoke like a character from Shakespeare. There was just something off and unnatural about it. Katherine McNamara did an excellent job with it but it did take me out of the show in some places.
Overall, a solid introductory episode that just leaves me wanting more. 9/10.
What did y’all think of the episode? Was there anything that stood out to you about our new characters? Who are you most looking forward to learning more about? Who’s your favorite, if you have one? And, the most important question of all: would you have let Abby shoot Tom during the party at Hagan’s? Let me know in the comments! I’m curious to read y’all’s thoughts!
Catch up on Esther's detailed Walker and Walker:Independence Recaps and insightful Character Profiles, all found on Esther's Writer's Page!