Directed by Bosede Williams and written by Blythe Ann Johnson, the new episode of “Walker” picks up where the last one left off – a cliffhanger of an ending with Captain James shot and lying in Trey’s front yard bleeding, while Trey calls out to him desperately, “Cap! Cap!”
Typical of James, he warns Trey to stay safe where he is, but Trey goes into full badass mode, yelling “No, that’s not an option” and running out to get him to safety, returning fire at the gunman until he drives away.
James: Did he get you?
Trey: You’ve got two holes in you and you’re asking about me?
This episode gives us a deeper understanding of both James and Trey, with Coby Bell and Jeff Pierre really stepping up to the plate to show us who these men are and how their histories have brought them to where they are today. In some ways, the episode is all about courage, which looks very different in different situations. Sure, Trey saving James is courageous, but so is his ability to figure out what he does and does not want to do with his life. Both Trey and Walker, in this episode, confront a decision about what being a hero really means, and both are self-aware and secure enough to realize it doesn’t only mean the one calling the shots or running into a hail of bullets. An important message that we don’t get to see in media very often.
A trooper named Alexis Jackson rushes them to the hospital, with a ‘Call me Jack’ that means she might be back. It’s too soon for a Micki replacement, but Jack drives like a badass as James tries to keep giving orders – until he literally passes out. Trey utilizes a stuffed animal that’s in Jack’s patrol car to try to stop the bleeding as he asks her how long until the hospital.
Jack: Five minutes maybe?
Trey: Better make it two.
Jack: Copy that.
Jack is Scotty in this scenario, if you’ve ever watched original “Star Trek.”
They’ve said her name multiple times, so my guess is we’ll see Jack again. Ione Butler did a great job making her memorable in only a few short scenes, so that bodes well for the character’s future.
As they wheel James into surgery, Trey realizes he’s got the Captain’s badge in his pocket, James still trying to give instructions.
James: Tell Walker…
Trey fingers the bloodied badge as they wheel James down the corridor.
Walker gets a call from Trey (and Stella gets a call from James’ son DJ at the same time), interrupting a family game of Clue that Cordell is thinking about very deeply while his kids try to get him to move it along.
Most of the Walker family heads to the hospital, where Trey in his bloody shirt and Jack are waiting for news – Liam, Stella, Augie and Bonham all come with Cordell to support both him and James. I love how supportive the entire Walker clan is of each other. They bicker like every family but when someone needs help, it’s all of the Walkers on one side, a united front.
Trey gives Walker the captain’s badge.
At first, the doctor gives them good news; that the bullet missed any major arteries and he’s got a positive prognosis. James comes to with Walker sleeping sitting up beside him and immediately asks about the shooter, wondering if it’s connected to Serano. Cordell assures him that they’ll find the guy, and James says yes, that he doesn’t want anyone else running point on this.
Walker tries to give him the badge back so he can pick up the responsibility, misunderstanding, but James says no, that he needs Cordell running point on it, as temporary Captain.
Cordell is hesitant, but James reassures him, “it’s you, man.”
He also says he doesn’t want anyone playing judge, jury or executioner on his behalf, no matter the intention – he asks Cordell to make sure that doesn’t happen.
DJ (Joshua Brockington) visits his dad, worried but relieved. James’ ex wife Kelly (Kearran Giovanni) does too – Cordell greets her with a warm hug, and she hugs Trey too, thanking him for being there and saving the day. Trey’s got a blue scrubs top on to replace his bloody shirt and it looks quite fetching on him, gotta say.
Kelly tries to get James to stop working, but Cordell and James both pretty much refuse, digging back into the investigation, which so far has come up with nothing.
James: Hey, you got this.
It’s clear that James is hurting, though he keeps pushing through.
Cordell goes to visit someone in prison, and we’re surprised when it turns out to be Stan (Jeffrey Nordling). I am a big Stan fan, not in the sense that he’s a lovable character, but in the sense that he’s complex and fascinating and I get the feeling he really does care about the rest of them even as he’s stuck in narcissism and went down the slippery slope of trying to take care of himself first a long time ago. Cordell admits that Stan did warn him in the nick of time about Serano having it out for him, but also says the tip could have used more context. Stan counters that he thought Walker would use his investigative skills to figure it out. It seems Stan isn’t faring too well in prison, which is not surprising – he has a big bruise on his face and is limping.
Stan doesn’t think it was Serano who put out a hit on James, since Serano would have made it professional – and besides, Serano may end up getting off because of Liam’s mistake.
I love the tense confrontation between Cordell and Stan, both men leaning in, speaking softly and oh so seriously. Cordell points out that although Stan worked both sides, he also promoted James, seemed to support him, so maybe he knows him well enough to know something. Stan leans in, holding Cordell’s gaze.
Stan: You can never really know someone. There’s always gonna be secrets. Doesn’t matter who they are. Hell, I walked around for eight years with the biggest one of all.
Walker: You tryin’ to piss me off? You and James are nothing alike.
Stan agrees but then goes on: Everyone is a hero in their own story and a villain in someone else’s, and sometimes from the outside it’s difficult to know which you’re looking at.
He’s right. That intrigues me about him.
Stan: If you’re lookin’ for a bad guy, you might wanna start lookin’ among the good ones.
Cordell: If that’s all you’ve got to say, enjoy rotting in here.
Quite a parting shot!
That was an incredible scene. Jeff Nordling is so damn good and so is Jared Padalecki, and Nordling and Padalecki having a showdown was delectable. I really hope we see lots more of Nordling – he’s the kind of ‘bad guy’ who I love watching and can never bring myself to outright hate. I like that ambivalence, those shades of gray. He’s smart – and he’s right about the fact that sometimes people aren’t who they seem.
Back at the hospital, James and Kelly reconnect over shared memories of ginger ale and Vicks Vapo Rub and the day that DJ was born. Big head, eleven pounds – ouch, it hurts just thinking about it. Kelly is fondly remembering James in a ‘World’s Best Grandma’ shirt from the gift shop, but she also has a lot of memories about James working too much, newborn in one hand and case file in the other.
Kelly: How long you gonna keep on like this?
James says he thought he knew exactly who was gonna take his place (Micki) but now the future is a lot less clear. She suggests he should start thinking about it.
Walker comes back to give him an update, saying he’s looking better – though James ominously says he’s feeling a little worse (he probably should have told the nurse that, just saying…). Cordell is also too stuck on trying to solve the case to notice that James looks like shit, asking again if he remembers anything else and sharing that they can cross Serano off the list – that even Stan couldn’t even wrap his head around that.
James is pissed that Cordell went to Stan, the two of them getting worked up and angry, which seems like a very very bad idea, but they’re both too caught up to realize. Cordell says he knows that James only put him in charge on a technicality because his first choice (Micki) wasn’t there, but James says no, don’t do that, in between rubbing at his head and looking like something is very wrong.
His heart rate drops alarmingly, then the machines start beeping and Cordell yells for help – which at this point means the crash cart! They ask Cordell to leave as they start the procedure.
In a realistic twist – because in real life sometimes you think everything is gonna be all right and life throws you a curveball – the doctor informs them all that sepsis has set in, and it’s touch and go for the next 12 hours. Too soon to be sure that he’s going to be okay. Trey explains sepsis with a home security network analogy, which apparently is how the writer’s dad explained sepsis to her when she actually had it!
Then Cordell tries to reassure everyone that “James, he ain’t done. He’s gonna get through this. There’s no other outcome that makes any sense.”
Bonham grips DJ’s shoulder, the dad to everyone.
As Cordell is leaving, he promises to get to the bottom of this.
Liam stops him, saying he wants to help.
Walker asks Liam to be there for everyone, to make sure they know they’re not alone, and Liam says okay, asking if his big brother is all right – Walker says he is, but I’m not sure Liam believes it. Not sure any of us do either.
Geri arrives at the hospital soon after and finds Cordell, lost in thought, standing in front of a pretty Austin mural. He takes his façade off when he sees it’s her, falling into a hug that he seems to need very much.
Walker: I’m out of my league here, Ger.
She says he’s used to the dark and scary, between Em and Hoyt, even Micki, that he thrives in the chaos but always second-guesses himself.
Walker: This is different, I’m used to having someone by my side, and now Micki is…and Captain James is in there… and I have to go talk to all of his Rangers and they’ll be looking to me for answers. I don’t think I can do it.
Geri: Well, you’re already doing it, and you’ve got more people on your side than you know.
Walker: Ever wonder why it’s always you and me at the end of the world?
He takes her encouragement, though, puts on his hat and pulls the Rangers together to give them a pep talk. He reminds me of Sam Winchester in the bunker, becoming the leader that we all always knew he could be. Cordell steps up too, saying that James was the target and it seems this was a crime of passion – so they need to look into all James’ old cases for potential suspects. He also lets them know that the Captain is in a rough spot and he can’t promise them that everything will be okay, but that he did promise that they’d figure this out. He’s still worried about being in charge, saying that “the Star is only as good as the person wearing it, right? Right now the person wearing it is a little nervous, scared. I imagine some of you might be scared too, but that’s okay, we can use it for fuel. I keep asking myself, what would James do? We can honor him by bringing about justice – morally.”
Then he sort of makes my heart ache.
Walker: We got work to do.
It’s a shout-out to “Supernatural,” what the Winchesters always said when they were up against seemingly impossible odds but refused to give up. I had to grab a tissue. I’m so grateful that Jared doesn’t forget either.
Walker’s speech was all about courage too – that it doesn’t mean not being afraid, but doing what’s right even when you are. That the fear can be fuel and motivation to do that, and that it takes courage to fight for justice morally and not just with any means you can get your hands on.
Liam listens to Cordell’s speech, clearly worried, and then makes a phone call. Later he tells Cordell that there is a recently released guy who was cozying up to Serano and was booked by James years ago – and taken to the same hospital where James is a short while ago. Allegedly for a car accident, but was that to disguise a gunshot wound? Or just to get into the hospital where James is? Uh oh. Smart Liam for the win!
Meanwhile, the kids try to imagine their dads doing “a normal job”, DJ wishing he could press ‘pause’. Stella works hard to cheer him up, reminiscing about their sleepovers as kids and how they made their own rules, playing with rainbow candies. Stella gets some from the vending machine and suggests that instead of pressing pause, maybe they can pretend for a little while – and it works.
Cut to James’ hospital room, where an unfamiliar orderly comes into James’ room. And draws a gun.
Walker gets to the hospital and tells Jack they’re looking for this guy Cole, who Liam clued him in about. Jack says that they have someone on guard – who clearly did a bang-up job. (Turns out they were taken out by Cole, though he assures James the guard will be all right). Walker comes in, gun drawn and tells Cole to drop it, but James tells him to stand down, they’re “just catchin’ up.”
Cole is clearly anguished and has serious mental health issues, and James is trying his best to defuse the situation. Another commentary on courage and what it looks like sometimes.
A tense standoff ensues, Walker reluctantly listens to James and lowers his weapon as James tries to talk Cole down. It’s a Sixth Sense type moment with James as Bruce Willis, Cole saying that James promised him everything would be all right, but he lied. James says he asked for leniency and is sorry it didn’t happen. Cole tells his sad story, that he defended himself in prison and got 15 years for manslaughter. James says he’s sorry, that things like that are why he realized he had to be the one to call the shots, to try to change things.
Cole is agitated, says it’s not fair that James survived, raises his gun again. Walker immediately raises his own, trained on Cole, but James again intervenes.
James: Walker, you made me a promise man, put your gun down.
James: Cole, listen, no one is gonna die here today.
Walker says Cole needs to make the first move, and we see him lower the gun – just as a SWAT team comes down the hallway, and my heart was immediately in my throat.
Just as James tells him his anger is justified and Cole lowers his weapon, BOOM, the SWAT officer shoots him through the door. I admit I felt sick to my stomach – Cole was clearly not okay and James had gotten through to him, it seems. His experience in the system was unfair to say the least, his whole life changed because that leniency didn’t happen. It’s realistic enough to hit hard.
James looks equally sick to his stomach, looking at the SWAT guy standing impassively at the door and Cole lying dead on the floor.
SWAT guy: Just doin’ my job.
More sick to my stomach. More realism that hits hard.
The messages in this episode are subtle, but they come through. Sometimes the courageous thing is not mindlessly ‘just doin’ my job.’ Coby Bell did an incredible job showing us James’ understanding of all those realities, his determination to change them, and his frustration and fatigue in often being unable to, confronted with a system that resists change at every turn.
DJ says goodbye to his parents, calling his dad ‘a black Batman’ much to his embarrassment (and possibly delight), and says they could all use a break, with a boy’s weekend in Boise planned.
James walks his ex-wife out after. James again says that Micki took on some of the burden for him and now James doesn’t know who can do that.
James: I’m really trying to change things around here, but I need help.
Kelly confides how scared she was that James wouldn’t come home, and says her fears came true. That he was so focused on protecting them, he forgot to let her and his family in. She leaves room for some hope for them, though, suggesting that he call sometimes when the sky isn’t falling.
Kelly: Bye, babe.
They hug and she leaves, James sighing and looking after her.
The doctor gives them the good news that James will be discharged the next day, and tells Trey that he saved the Captain’s life.
Bonham plays dad to Trey too, apologizing for letting the cat out of the bag, but Trey realizes that Garrison was just the tip of the iceberg, that sometimes love just isn’t enough. He also says he knows that he’s good in a crisis but that’s not how he wants to live his life, he knows now ‘where to go from here’ as last week’s episode kept asking. That takes courage too, to decide that what you want to do is not to play the stereotypical ‘hero’ but to change the world in other ways.
Bonham understands, compares it to when he came home from the service and returned to the ranch. He gives Trey a key to the ranch, saying he’ll always have a place to land if he needs it – a home.
Trey: Thank you.
Bonham: Yes sir.
James confides in Cordell, who assures him he’s doing a great job. But James says it’s not just about calling the right shots, it’s also about having someone who can follow them and make the right choice, regardless of protocol.
James: You made the right call, you listened to me over the protocol, over the instincts drilled into you. Sometimes there are ways to stop violence that doesn’t bring more violence.
It’s an important message, and I’m glad James is making it more explicit what he’s been trying to do with the Rangers, making systemic change.
Cordell says he realizes that James’ shoes are big shoes to fill, and that’s not what he wants.
Cordell: I needed that kick in the ass, but I realize now that I don’t want to be the one calling the shots. I can’t do what you do. I want to be the one that answers that call.
James: Good, because I’m gonna need you.
Cordell: You got me.
There’s another subtle “Supernatural” shout-out with the reference to a kick in the ass, since “Kick it in the ass” is what beloved director Kim Manners always used to say to get the cast and crew inspired. I also love the realization that Walker comes to – not all of us need to be the one in charge. Not everyone needs to be the Captain, the boss, the one calling the shots. Too often in our media, it seems like the hero has to be that person – and that’s a damaging message because we can’t all be “in charge” all the time. Heroes are in all sorts of positions. If the pandemic has taught us anything, I hope it’s taught us that the ones who are quietly helping others in some way are the actual definition of heroes, even if that’s not how they’re usually defined in books and movies and television. One of the best things about this show is that Walker is far from a stereotypical hero, and this little scene solidified that.
They both agree they need more Mickis.
James: Maybe even a few more Cordells.
Cordell questions whether James could handle that and they share a laugh.
It’s a nice bonding moment, and as James says, it’s a start. Recruit, train, retrain.
James: And we’ll do it. Together.
We end with an ominous scene, as so often happens on this show. It’s also a really powerful one. Liam visits Stan in prison, apparently in return for good intel. A dangerous game to play. Stan says he sent Liam a letter.
Liam: I wasn’t in the market for a pen pal. But you know, there’s a whole demographic of people who get their rocks off marrying murderers behind bars.
Stan: Yeah, you have changed. Careful, it’s a slippery slope.
Gotta say, I am really fascinated with this new, slightly darker version of Liam. Just as Cordell has been changed by all that’s happened to him in the past few years, and the show hasn’t shied away from depicting that, Liam has been changed too. Stan is right. He’s not the optimistic, idealistic young man he was when we met him in the pilot. He’s experienced loss and grief, had any illusions of a safe or just world pulled out from under him, dealt with PTSD from being shot at his own family home. Experiences like that inevitably change you, and I’m so glad we’re getting to see the psychological aftermath with Liam too.
And speaking of courage, Liam is also trying to do what he thinks he has to do, even when that’s most definitely risky.
Just like with the tense scene between Cordell and Stan, this scene with Jeff Nordling and Keegan Allen is super charged and SO well acted by both. Liam isn’t interested in forgiveness and says he’ll never see Stan again.
Stan shrugs and brilliantly hooks him right back in. He says that Liam was right about the Davidsons, especially Gale, pulling his attention back. Stan represented the Walkers after the fire, the boring financial stuff, land disputes, implying he knows a lot more than he’s ever let on. He says Esme will let Liam into the property. There’s a desk with a false bottom that has something that Liam might need, that he’ll know when he sees it.
Stan gets up to limp out but turns back and this time it’s he who gets the parting shot.
Stan: While you’re rummaging around in the past there, keep in mind you may not always like what you find.
Damn. Way to leave it cliffhanging again. We know there are a lot of mysteries in the Walkers’ past. Are we about to get a clue to one of them?
Stay tuned for next week’s “Walker” new episode Sucker Punch to find out!