“Walker” returned after a mini hiatus over the holidays last week, much to fans’ anticipation. Jared Padalecki did an Instagram Live with Entertainment Weekly’s Sam Highfill in the morning, teasing what to expect later that evening, and he live-tweeted the episode, which made the return extra exciting.
The titular question applies to just about everyone over the course of the episode, but the first iteration is for the brothers’ Walker. The episode starts out with the Walkers preparing a meal together, everyone joking around until Cordell accidentally knocks a bowl full of fresh rolls out of Liam’s hands. It shatters, an apt metaphor for the fragility of the brothers’ relationship right now.
Cordell snaps at him, Liam snaps back, and Augie and Stella want to know what the hell is going on. Liam decides to tell them about his suspicions about Dan Miller and how he made an ill-advised false police report.
Stella: That’s not good.
Stella with the understatement. The brothers glare at each other.
Cordell: It’s a misdemeanor. Your uncle could be disbarred.
Liam: Thanks, Cordell, I know that.
Abilene says that’s enough as Liam storms out. She’s not exactly thrilled with either of her sons right now and I am, as always, loving her Mama Bear approach to trying to keep this volatile family of hers on a relatively even keel. It rarely works but I appreciate her efforts.
Walker goes to the office, watching as someone takes Micki’s nameplate down and carts it off in a box, and ouch. He’s still reeling from her departure, and to make things worse, the Serano case is getting more complicated. Serano, predictably, is trying to cast doubt on whether Liam might have tampered with some evidence since he filed a false police report, so there’s a continuance and an investigation and the possibility of Serano getting out on bail. Oh, and apparently it’s been three weeks since Cordell has even talked to Liam. What the hell? He disappeared for the holidays even? They’re as bad as the “Supernatural” Winchesters with their refusal to communicate sometimes!
Captain James gives Cordell the news that he’s not allowed on any case involving Serano or Northside Nation. Cordell blames Denise for retaliating, though Capt. James thinks maybe she’s just being a good DA. Time will tell…
James encourages Cordell to call his brother so he’s not caught off guard by Serano’s lawyers, but Walker’s too pissed.
Cordell: If he doesn’t wanna talk to me, then I’m done trying!
James: No you’re not.
The brothers fall back into being ten-year-olds having a spat pretty easily, unfortunately.
Liam and Cordell aren’t the only ones trying to figure out where they go from here.
Stella’s Identity Crisis
Stella is also asking that question. She has a full-on identity crisis as she’s walking through a college fair, where it seems to her that everyone but her knows exactly what their future will entail.
She has a little bonding moment with Trey, who’s having an identity crisis of his own, both of them asking “What’s next?”
Stella’s feeling abandoned by her uncle, who’s always been there when she needed him. Trey’s feeling lost without Micki. They’re in the same boat, he says – which for some unknown reason is “a boat full of happy salmon” as the poster behind them says. Random – and my brain of course took it in a “Supernatural” direction, because Salmon Dean is a thing….but you probably had to be there. It’s an advertisement for a college in Maine, which becomes significant later on.
Also later in the episode, Stella and Trey bond over missing Micki, lamenting that they can’t fix things no matter how much they want to. Trey reminds her that she has the right to think about her own future and pick something that’s just for her.
Trey calls Walker after their conversation to tell him Stella’s having a hard time, and he is a good dad and shows up to greet her after school. I wish we all had the flexibility in our lives and jobs to do that every time one of our kids is having a tough day. There are days when I would have given anything to be able to drop everything just to pick them up – I’m happy for Cordell that he’s able to do that more now than he used to, and that he realizes how important it is that he does it when he can.
Cordell asks her where does she want to go from here, and Stella remembers a day when her mother picked her up from school in a flashback. She had a stomach ache that turned out to be more emotional than physical when the first day of high school overwhelmed her – another time when she felt out of step with her peers and not ready for something everyone else seemed fine with. I think we’ve all had that feeling – it’s universal and universally awful.
Emily (with Gen Padalecki returning) was understanding about it, though she had to take off work to come get her daughter. I’m not sure it’s the best idea to reinforce it with a “we day” of just the two of them, but it’s a fond memory for Stella.
I’m glad the show isn’t forgetting Emily and continues to show how often the kids and Cordell think of her and how they still miss her. It’s realistic, grief that is still very real for them – but little by little they’re also able to enjoy those good memories instead of only being sad. Grieving is a slow process, but that’s how it ideally goes.
In the present, Stella suggests that she and her father have a “we day” to talk.
Stella: Dad, we’re so awkward…
It’s true, but Cordell is honestly trying. He shares his own path after high school, considering other things and then enlisting when 9/11 happened. Stella wonders if he ever feels like he missed out on going to college. He says sometimes, but he also reminds her that there are many happy and successful people who didn’t. This was an interesting scene because Padalecki himself didn’t go to college, although he was already accepted and enrolled and college is more the norm in the Padalecki family. I couldn’t help but think about the real-life parallels, and also that it’s probably a helpful message that doesn’t get put out there all that often.
We find out that Emily went to college but stayed local in Austin, and that Liam’s decision to go to college out of state came as a big surprise to the family. I am really excited that the show is getting a little deeper into Cordell and Liam’s history and relationship – there’s clearly so much unsaid between them, and some simmering resentments as well as a whole lot of love.
Walker and Stella play a game of bocce, which was something Emily’s mom taught her. Cordell reminds her that Emily was a cutthroat bocce player as Stella remembers her mom teaching her how to play.
Stella: She always said it’s about how it all works together, and don’t make a bad choice just to spite the other person.
Cordell recognizes the double meaning there of course and then gets a text from Bret that he and Liam are headed to HQ.
Cordell: I hope you know, it matters to me what’s going on in your world.
It’s a nice father/daughter moment, Walker trying to carry on the tradition that Emily started.
Meanwhile, August and his grandmother Abilene are pushing back against expectations about the Davidson-Walker feud, creating new answers to the ‘where do we go from here’ question.
Challenging the Barn Burner
Abeline and August have some “outside time” planting flowers and a container garden and it’s one of my favorite little scenes. I’m an Abeline stan, I admit it. Augie asks if she’s heard from his uncle.
Abeline: Last night I asked him if he was still alive and he sent me an emoji of an amoeba. I didn’t even know they made emojis of amoebas.
I literally laughed out loud. Molly Hagan can deliver a comedic line with the best of them, and this script by Katherine Alyse and Anna Fricke has some wonderful lines.
Augie: I think that’s technically a microbe…
Colton comes by looking for Stella and worried about her, and Augie invites him to help him with a track he’s working on. Abilene questions whether Colton’s parents would want him at their house, and he says he wasn’t planning on telling them. Augie says ‘please’ and Colton looks a little lost, and of course, Abilene says yes. She cannot resist a lost soul and I love that about her.
I also love how open and enthusiastic August is, how he doesn’t give a damn that Colton is part of the family they’re ‘feuding’ with. He just sees a like-minded person who he now considers a friend and wants to spend time and collaborate and share their love of music.
Colton and Augie collaborate, playing a tune on the piano, and Abilene starts singing to the music. Colton is surprised she knows the song since his mom used to sing it to him. Abilene says that Marv, his grandfather, used to sing it. Colton is curious, saying that his family made the Walkers sound like supervillains. Both August and Colton can’t understand why before Dan even met them, he was “amped to hate you”.
Colton confides that Dan’s family was “crap” and that’s part of why they adopted him, to do right by someone else. Abilene says she didn’t know that, and you can see her opinion of Colton changing just like that. Molly Hagan is so good, have I mentioned?
Colton: It’s been rough moving, and then we got here and my parents started talking divorce.
Abilene: I can’t imagine it’s been easy. Colton, it’s clear your parents are good people – judging by how you turned out.
She tells him to call her Abilene. Awww.
Abilene and the boys have some nachos and we get a little hint of backstory that could be in the spinoff, that the feud between the Davidsons and the Walkers dates back all the way to the 1870s. Abilene and Gail used to be friends, and though she kept in touch with Marv, Abilene assures Colton that “he loved your Gammy.”
Abilene: He was human. It sounds like a simple thing to say, but to be human is a gift.
As Colton and Augie grow closer, Augie confides that he found a lantern in the barn with his family’s brand. They get interrupted then, but it’s foreboding, a reminder that something will eventually come of that find. Probably something not so good.
Trey is asking ‘where do we go from here’ too, in terms of his love life and literally where he’ll decide to stay. He’s left with the house that he and Micki lived in but she’s gone, and that leaves him unsure of his future in multiple ways.
The Bromance We Didn’t Know We Needed
Poor Trey is sleeping on top of the covers on the bed he used to share with Micki, clearly feeling down. Captain James drops by, questioning a gray car parked outside and saying he wants to keep Trey safe.
Trey (chuckling): I’ve done three tours, I think I can handle myself.
They share some traditional Haitian juice that Trey grew up drinking. James encourages Trey to stick around in Austin and they end up bonding and playing video games and it’s a bromance we didn’t even know we needed until it happened. James offers to talk about Micki, though neither really knows what to say, agreeing that they’re both trying to figure out what they could’ve done differently. Trey has come to some acceptance, though, saying this was what she needed and that she was taking care of herself. It’s a real-life parallel again for Lindsey Morgan’s departure.
Captain James gets a call and abruptly says “we gotta go” and Trey gets with the program immediately, sensing the danger and play acting a casual beer run as they leave his house and drive away, past the ominous gray car still parked there. Serano’s men are not exactly stealthy, are they? Sitting there in plain sight for hours on end looks just a wee bit suspicious.
James followed his instincts and ran the car’s plate. They head to HQ together.
The ‘where do we go from here’ question works in multiple ways for Liam too, about his professional aspirations, his relationship with his big brother, and about another important relationship – with ex-fiancé Bret.
Avoiding the Answers
We catch up with Liam in a sort of music video montage, Liam hiding out in the remote woods and taking all his frustrations out on some trees that he’s chopping up. (Keegan Allen says that’s something he does in real life to keep in shape, and it shows). Liam in a henley and jeans is a very good look.
He doesn’t want to answer his constantly ringing phone, however, in full-on avoidance mode. He finally does pick up when Captain James calls, retorting that he’s ‘not doing so good, thanks for asking,’ when James tells him the continuance for Serano was approved.
James: There’s no time for feelings!
James tells him to come make a statement, and Liam, ever the little brother, petulantly asks if Cordi will be there. James essentially tells him to cut it out, that he’s trying to protect Liam.
Liam returns to civilization, and I was so excited I gasped out loud when we see Bret’s reflection in the window, heading toward his ex-fiancé.
Liam’s smile when he sees Bret is a beautiful thing, and most of fandom who are definitely rooting for the two of them were probably smiling just as widely. They greet each other with a hug, which I guess makes sense if they’re not technically back together (but if they are eventually, I hope their relationship is depicted the same way as the other couples on the show).
I love the banter between Liam and Bret, and the easy chemistry that Keegan Allen and Alex Landi have onscreen.
Liam drinks way too much, still in avoidance mode.
Bret, looking at the menu: Barn Burner?? Oh that’s the new Davidson one… a little on the nose, don’t you think?
YES I do think. I kinda love Bret. Okay, I entirely love Bret.
Liam doesn’t want to answer his phone, but Bret doesn’t fall for the ‘it’s a telemarketer’ excuse.
Liam finally picks up saying “it’s Bret”, which gets him a snarky laugh. It’s Serano’s legal team, which Liam tries to blow off until the attorney asks “is this your official recusal?”
Bret shakes his head, warning, and Liam is smart enough to say no, all their legal instincts telling them that it would be a mistake.
The boys play pool, looking a little like Winchesters, and Bret tries to get Liam to open up about “what’s going on in there”. Liam says he wanted to change the system, but he feels like the system changed him instead – and Micki and Stan too.
The more they talk, the more Liam suddenly realizes that he has to make a statement about what he did wrong, otherwise they’ll accuse Cordell of wrongdoing or lying, and as one of the arresting officers, try to get Serano’s arrest thrown out.
Liam: You have to take me to Ranger HQ.
Bret: You’re blitzed! I’m not taking you anywhere.
Liam insists they have coffee there (as though that will instantly sober him up lol) and Bret finally agrees.
Liam: Okay but you’re driving.
No kidding, Liam!
They get to HQ and Liam is way too drunk for this, but I have to say Keegan Allen just killed it as drunk Liam. As did the writers of this episode, Kathryn Alyse and Anna Fricke. Liam’s dialogue is witty and hilarious and Keegan makes you 100% believe Liam is totally wasted, sappy and handsy. Bret is indulgent, Trey and James are incredulous.
Cordell, meanwhile, has listened to his daughter’s bocce analogies and come to some realizations. As they pull up to HQ, he says he’s remembering a time he and Liam got called into the principal’s office when they were kids.
Cordell: Kids at school, they put your uncle through the wringer. He knew who he was, and kids came after him for it. So one day I picked a fight with him – a fight I knew he would win. And that shut everyone else up.
Stella: Guys are weird.
Cordell: I think I might be the person who taught him to do something stupid in the name of doing something right.
Such a big brother thing to say, and such a protective big brother thing to do. I love that Cordell is willing to examine his own feelings and actions and sometimes to change his mind and see another perspective.
Liam: By the way, do we still consider this the holidays? Because I could go for a peppermint woowoo…
Bret (trying to get him to shut up): Okay, that’s fantastic.
Serano’s attorneys show up, and drunk Liam asks them where they get off being that smug because he’s just that drunk.
Serano’s attorney: You’re a joke, William Walker.
Liam: Your outfit is a joke…
At that point, I literally started laughing out loud. This whole scene is absolute gold. All the kudos to Keegan and Alex for making it priceless.
James and Liam have a little heart-to-heart about what’s really going on with him.
Liam: I lost DA to a man who killed my sister-in-law.
He really has been through a lot, including getting shot, and the PTSD has taken a toll. Liam and Bret have a little heart to heart too, also asking their version of the episode’s title question.
Liam: I miss you every day.
Bret: Me too. What are we doing?
Liam: I think we’re waiting for me to be a person worth making a promise to.
Bret: I’m waiting for you to see that you are worth being that person. We’re on the same page here.
Fandom: Us too!!
Cordi gives Bret a big hug and he takes Stella home, leaving the brothers Walker to talk. Big brother Cordell slaps little brother on the shoulder, pats him on the back of the head, reconnecting. He apologizes for “hitting your ball out of the way”, using the bocce analogy. Liam tries to avoid again, saying they’re good, but Cordell says no, they’re not, and Liam knows it too. That losing Micki hurt him and left a hole, that she was the partner he didn’t know he needed after everything that happened.
Cordi: But you are my partner too, you’re my brother.
He says he sees Liam slipping, that he was too close to see it before. The brothers sit down, talk for real.
Liam: I got so far away from who I want to be.
Cordell: I get it. Owning up to your mistakes takes courage, takes heart. Whenever you want to give your official statement, I’ll be there.
Cordell pulls Liam in, head on his big brother’s shoulder. Awww.
These quiet scenes are my favorite. Padalecki shines when he gets the chance to really connect one on one with a scene partner, and Allen is just as good at showing emotional vulnerability.
So, Where Do We Go From Here?
The Walker family plays cards to end the day, Stella winning again, Liam and the kids ganging up on Cordell and Bret agreeing with “yeah, they do that.”
Cordell quotes Shakespeare, and Stella tells them that she started her first application – to Colby College. In Maine. Emily almost went there too, recruited for soccer. She justifies it by saying that Uncle Liam went to college back east, while Cordell has a more lukewarm reaction. Shades of Sam Winchester going off to college in California – though Cordell is being a lot more reasonable than John Winchester, that’s for sure.
The last scene was a shocker, or it would have been except that a lot of us were spoiled for the fact that Captain James gets shot in this episode. So, as I watched him drop off Trey and the two of them banter happily, I was sitting there going nononononono. Sure enough, a guy starts shooting, hitting James in the leg as he yells for Trey to get down, and then, as James steps out, hitting him again right in the chest. The bullet goes all the way through and James goes down, Trey yelling “Cap! Cap!”
The scene was still upsetting even though I was prepared for it. Captain James is a beloved character, and the shot was just graphic enough to be stomach-turning (though tame compared to what I was used to on “Supernatural”). Kinda glad this wasn’t the one Jensen Ackles had to direct, though.
Next week we get another new “Walker” with Two Points for Honesty, so we’ll find out how James is doing – we know he pulls through, thankfully, but it seems like he’ll have some recovering to do. Stay tuned!