Once again on vacation, so a true drive-by review, but I wanted to say a few words about last week’s new “Walker” episode. A lot happened, but the episode was really nicely paced, so it didn’t feel crowded as they sometimes have and it also didn’t drag.
Writer Aaron Carew penned a script that tackled some of the most disturbing and pressing issues facing us in real life in an unflinching (albeit television-ready) way, from a corrupt group of cops to the impact of racism, both overt and more subtle. Coby Bell especially did an amazing job showing the almost superhuman restraint required of Captain Bell in waiting until his case against the bad cop was so airtight it couldn’t be ignored, and his understanding that race is part of that equation (something Carew clearly understood as well).
“Walker” can sometimes get a little heavy-handed, but its willingness to hit right on the nose can also feel therapeutic. We all live in a world where it feels like the ‘bad guys’ are winning too much of the time, so seeing a creepy bad cop get taken down is undeniably satisfying. He was certainly a creep writ large, and the moment when he plants some illegal drugs on James’ son and drags him out of his car for no reason could have been over the top – except that happens in real life to young Black men and that made it terrifying instead.
As someone pointed out online, the way DJ handled himself during the fabricated traffic stop was telling – telegraphing and announcing his every move before he made it just in case, carefully and slowly placing both hands on the wheel, complying with every command even though he knew he had done absolutely nothing wrong. And unfortunately, that was not unrealistic.
The bad guy’s lack of any redeeming qualities whatsoever doesn’t necessarily make for nuanced storytelling, but it did make me want to stand up and cheer when James, Walker, Micki, and Liam all showed how badass they are and took the asshole down! As several fans who are persons of color themselves pointed out, the episode was careful to show that taking down one asshole – one ‘bad apple’ – is not going to solve any systemic problems. The focus was not just on that one bad apple, but on how the system itself protects bad apples – even when the ‘threat’ is coming from within law enforcement. (As evidenced by Capt. James’ car being bombed and the scope of people in power who are caught up in the cover-ups)
Nevertheless, the team taking down that one very bad guy felt good, and symbolic of what needs to happen on a much broader scale.
The diner scene in which James confronts Campbell (aptly played by Jesse Bush) was particularly satisfying. Campbell scoffs that he’ll have the charges dismissed easily, so the look on his face is priceless when he looks up to see his arrest warrant announced on the evening news on the television in the restaurant.
Officer Campbell’s indisputable badness also inspires several of the main characters to turn a corner and make a big decision. Cordell decides to return to the Rangers – or rather it’s Stella who realizes that he’s still needed there, and that being a Ranger is part of her dad’s identity that he misses a great deal. Like every child, Stella wanted her father to prove to her that she comes first; now that he’s done that, she can let go of her childhood demands and start seeing her dad as a person with needs of his own. And a job that, in part, defines him.
The two have a nice father-daughter moment over that revelation, punctuated by Augie’s perfectly timed “I’m on board” when Cordell says he’ll have to check with his son too. I’ve been frustrated by Stella at times during this season, but she did a lot of growing up in this episode.
Liam also turns a corner in this episode, after a touching heart-to-heart with his brother about ex-fiance Bret. Cordell is in Bret’s corner, encouraging Liam to tell him the truth about everything that happened. Liam gets up the guts to do that, and sparks fly when Bret and Liam have an actual conversation – and then the new guy in Bret’s life sticks his head out the door and asks if everything is okay.
We’ve all been there, Liam, but ouch. I was so glad to see Bret sign up to work on Liam’s campaign later, though they’re keeping it professional – which just means a lot more sparks will fly, I’m guessing. And I am down with that! It’s fanfic level set up, and that’s a high compliment coming from me.
Micki turns a corner too, though a more subtle one. Captain James keeps telling her to trust him and let him take the bad guy down, but she doesn’t initially listen. She goes after him and ends up getting both of them caught spying on him, which results in the terrifying arrest and fabricated drug charges for Captain James’ poor son in retaliation. Joshua Brockington does a fabulous job as DJ, showing us the young man’s empathy in his connection with Stella and also his justifiable anger when he’s set up and arrested because his father “pissed off a bad cop.”
DJ: All because I’m the son of a Black ranger. You know what makes this worse? I thought I was safe. I thought stuff like this wasn’t gonna happen to me because of who my dad is.
That rang true, and Coby Bell and Brockington were both excellent. I hope we see more of DJ on the show. For Micki, the consequences and her eventual realization that James has been working to bring this guy down for a long time – with a whole room of “Supernatural”-level photos taped to walls intelligence – make it clear that she should have trusted that he’d bring her in when it made sense. By the episode’s end, she admits to him that in order to be able to lead, she needs to learn how to follow.
Ramirez and James do some bonding in this episode, sharing an understanding of what it’s like to be ‘other’ and how this impacts doing your job – especially one like this.
Walker and Trey do some bonding too on horseback with Trey in a tee shirt. Not that that’s relevant… They’re both going through a bit of an identity crisis, trying to figure out what they really want to do with their lives and what they want to be. For Trey, that isn’t med school after all, and Walker encourages him to essentially ‘follow your heart.’
Walker gives Trey the advice to go after what he really wants, but at the same time, he’s having a hard time doing that himself, his Ranger belt buckle still in his pocket because he’s having trouble giving it up. (Stella catches him regarding it fondly and later gives it back to him after he’s tried to hide what he was doing and encourages him to go back to the Rangers).
There’s also some adorable Tricki content, with Micki surprising Trey with a lab coat when he gets into med school but also being the most understanding partner ever when he tells her that he no longer wants that. What does he want instead? To be a psychologist!
(Obviously, I’m biased, but yay, go for it Trey!)
That’s a complicated change, though, since Micki has such a conflicted relationship with the therapist mother/aunt who raised her. I love their supportiveness of each other, though – it seems like a truly healthy relationship and that’s a rarity on TV sometimes.
The ending scenes are rather triumphant, and that also feels good sometimes. Not everything is about realism every single time, after all. Liam’s boss owns up to his corruption (at least in private to Liam) and packs up his office, telling Liam to stick to his moral guns – something he clearly could not do.
Liam gives a rousing speech, which Bret overhears and takes to heart personally also, telling Liam he wants to work on his campaign. (Perhaps not realistic, but did it feel good? Yes!
Though, as someone else pointed out, this hopefully is not a way to tame their relationship. Instead, a setup for some sexual tension that will have a satisfying payoff.
Stella and Augie give Cordell permission to go back to the Rangers, and he shows up just in time to go take down the bad guy, white hat and badge and everything. It was a meaningful moment when Walker was sworn back in, and coincidentally Jared Padalecki just looked damn good in that white hat and with an expression of determination on his handsome face.
Walker fandom: He’s baaaaaack!
The takedown itself is amusing, Cordell kicking a cart in front of Campbell and bowling him over, then adding insult to injury with a little sarcastic “Whoa there, now, where’s the fire?”
They all have a celebratory drink at the Side Step as the episode ends, and I have to admit it was nice to have an episode end with an all-is-well feeling for a change. I’m sure it won’t last – this is television drama after all – but I’ll take it for one lovely Thursday night.
Happy birthday, Jared Padalecki! You’re kicking ass with “Walker” and I’m so incredibly happy for you. Next week “Walker” is back with Dig 1.17.