Third episodes of new television shows are often the times when the narrative takes off in a slightly different direction, which is a bit of what happened with last week’s episode of the new “Walker” on the CW. I enjoyed the episode – and there were quite a few people on my timeline who liked it even better than the first two – but there were some parts that didn’t work as well for me.
Part of that is because I was so impressed in the first two episodes with how realistically the show portrayed the Walker (Jared Padalecki) family’s grief over Emily’s death, making that the centerpiece of the family drama in the show. This episode still touched on that theme, but also took the show in a slightly different direction and introduced a new guest character.
“Walker” Already Renewed
Leading up to the episode, the network did a great job with promotion once again – including celebrating the good news that the show has already been renewed for Season 2! That’s an impressive accomplishment after only two episodes have aired, and a testament to the fan base that these actors bring with them, including many from my ‘home’ fandom, “Supernatural.” The cast all tweeted their celebration, and so did many of Padalecki’s former “Supernatural” castmates. It felt good for the still-new “Walker” fandom to already have something to celebrate!
On Thursday, Jeff Pierre took over the “Walker” Instagram for the day, which made for more fun and some cameos from the other actors. Jeff Pierre is already a fan favorite thanks to his sense of humor and easy way of interacting with fans – and he and many of the show’s cast are clearly comfortable with social media.
So, Episode 3.
There was quite a bit to enjoy about that new character they introduced — Hoyt (Matt Barr), who high kicks his way back into the Walkers’ lives after a lengthy absence. We first meet him bare chested in short shorts and chaps, covered in sweat and glitter and dancing in a strip club. I am trying mightily not to compare “Walker” to the show that preceded it in this time slot on the CW, my all time favorite “Supernatural,” but Jared Padalecki keeps tying them together in my mind. So, I laughed out loud when we got a male exotic dancer because yes, there are a fair number of “Supernatural” fans watching, and yes, we would have appreciated a similar scene at some point in that show’s 15 years. Sam and Dean go undercover at strip clubs on the regular in fanfic, why not in canon?
Anyway, points for that, “Walker.” Not what we expected from Walker’s best friend from childhood, and I like being surprised.
I continue to enjoy the fact that I don’t enjoy all the characters in this show, at least not all the time. Give me shades of gray instead of black and white, and characters complicated enough to sometimes inspire empathy and sometimes annoyance, and I’ll be happy. Hoyt was annoying more often than not, but we also learned enough about his backstory to come up with some explanations of why.
In some ways, he’s the stereotypical con man, which isn’t necessarily all that interesting – smooth lies underneath equally smooth charm. He’s manipulative and smart enough to be good at it, which Walker both expects and doesn’t want to believe. I didn’t really see enough of Walker and Hoyt’s pasts to let me feel greatly invested in their relationship, and neither character took down their walls enough with each other to let me see how they feel about each other, either now or back then.
Their initial fight, with Walker accusing Hoyt of stealing Micki’s truck, isn’t the pulled punches of men who grew up brothers, and their hug isn’t invested with the complex emotion that kind of relationship would engender either. Walker seems as annoyed by Hoyt as I am for most of the time, though he’s reluctant to bring him in. What makes the relationship more interesting is that when Hoyt isn’t looking, there’s more concern and sadness on Walker’s face than he’s trying to show his friend thanks to Padalecki’s acting. I get the feeling things turned pretty tragic between the two men, as much as Hoyt is trying to pretend that’s not the case.
As Bonham says about his son, Cordell has a blind spot for faces from the past.
I guess most of us do, really. Once you’ve cared about someone, it’s difficult to give up on them. For me at least.
The interactions that showed us clearly another side to Hoyt – and to her – were his conversations with Addie (Molly Hagan). Her perpetually gruff husband (Mitch Pileggi) tries to hide all the fine china and good liquor before Hoyt’s visit, but Addie is determined that Hoyt deserves respect and the love she clearly still feels for him. It drives a wedge between Walker’s parents that is a small focus in the episode, but somehow grabbed more of my attention and emotional investment than expected anyway.
Hagan is capable of conveying a lot of nuance in the relatively brief time she’s on screen, and her affection for Hoyt made me feel more empathy than I would have otherwise. He’s a different man with her, genuinely excited to go mushroom hunting with her — and genuinely guilty when he chooses making easy money over their time together. That phone call, where he says he’s sorry and she absolves him, was kind of heartbreaking.
Addie: You are not letting me down. Just because your family is bad doesn’t mean you are. You saved my boy and I’ll never forget that. I hope you find still waters one of these days.
Maybe it appeals to my mom side, or maybe to my therapist side, but I don’t like to give up on people, and clearly neither does she. Despite her reassuring words, however, it hurts to see that Hoyt hasn’t been able to change all that much, and Hagan is as skilled at showing that hurt as Jared Padalecki is.
I hope Hoyt makes a return appearance and we get to find out more about his friendship with Walker. Addie alludes to feeling indebted to him because he saved her boy in some way, but we don’t yet know what that means. At one point, perhaps, the roles were reversed. I like that the show is keeping things mysterious and doesn’t roll everything out at once.
We find out more about Walker and Emily’s past too. I like that the show continues to do some challenging of masculinity tropes, toxic and otherwise; it’s Emily who owns the classic car in this series, a cherry red Mustang named “Stella”, and Cordell the one who doesn’t know how to drive stick and has to be encouraged to learn. I liked the symbolism of the Bobblehead – “for good luck — no judgement, always smiling.” It’s a nice through-line from past to present, a mantra that Walker hangs onto. It’s not the powerful sort of mantra that “Always keep fighting” was for “Supernatural,” but I like its message, especially the ‘no judgment’ part.
I still don’t feel as invested in Walker and Emily’s relationship as I think I’m supposed to be; I still don’t feel like I know her much at all. She was a good mom, by all accounts. She had good taste in cars. She had a wild side, since she started the tradition of the bonfire where the local teens go to do some drinking. Hoyt tells Stella he’s “not the only outlaw in the family”, referring to Emily when they was young.
It’s an amusing, though tense, scene at the Walker dinner table over the expensive steaks that Hoyt gifted them, the Walker brothers skeptical of Hoyt’s intentions and Stella and August a little in awe of him as embodying the rebel they’re both itching to be. They’re teenagers, after all.
Hoyt does get serious at one point as he says grace, expressing his gratitude for the Walker family; though if you wanted to be cynical, you could see that as manipulation too. Time will tell.
Seems Emily was maybe a little bit impulsive too. In a flashback scene spurred by Hoyt reintroducing Walker to the Mustang, she tells Walker they’re having a baby and decides to bet the Mustang in a poker game to make money. The problem with that? You can lose. Which she apparently did, despite them knowing that it was a risk that Hoyt might not play fair. So, Hoyt was the kind of friend who takes his winnings when his friends are broke and having a baby? Well, I did say I wanted this show complicated and not glossing over everything to make it okay!
The Padaleckis are so natural together that sometimes I can’t help but see them as Gen and Jared, throwing me temporarily out of the story. I guess that’s the downside of having your real-life wife be your TV wife too!
While most of the Walkers are eating the Wagyu steaks that Hoyt brought (possibly as a peace offering), Bonham takes his to the barn or garage or something. When Micki shows up looking for her stolen truck, they end up having an impromptu steak dinner together. That struck me as a bit odd, but I guess it’s showing us that Bonham is on the outs with his wife about Hoyt and Micki is a bit on the outs with Cordell about him too.
Interesting things go on between Walker and Micki in this episode, though we don’t get as much insight into her character as we have in prior episodes. As the episode begins, seventeen years after Emily taught him to drive a stick, Walker puts the Bobblehead in Micki’s new truck and tries to get to know her better. He guesses her middle name. Incorrectly.
They do a little bit of bonding over the “crazy teen years” they both apparently had, before heading inside the male dancer strip club where Hoyt had been dancing (waiting too long and losing the arms dealer they’re tailing – and he gave a little bit of a lap dance to).
Walker: Is there a VIP room?
Manager (cocking an eyebrow at the pair): Why, are you two interested?
The arms dealer and the (partially) naked cowboy get away – in Micki’s new truck.
Micki: My new truck!
Walker: My bobblehead is in there!
I do appreciate the humor the show keeps infusing throughout, and Padalecki and Morgan are both up to the task of those little one liners that make me snort at the television.
As much as Walker and Ramirez are not on the same page this episode, there is already a loyalty there. When their fellow officers laugh at Micki’s truck being stolen, Walker takes responsibility, and that’s not lost on his partner. I loved “Supernatural” for the off-the-charts chemistry between Sam and Dean, a rare fifteen season exploration of a platonic relationship, and so far Walker is doing a great job conveying something similar with Walker and Micki.
Lindsey and Jared have great banter, but it’s both affectionate and platonic, which is again a challenge to pull off believably – but they’re doing it. I’m rooting for these two, not shipping them.
Micki and Walker end up disagreeing about how the situation with Hoyt should be handled, though. Ramirez worries to Capt. James that Walker’s friends with the suspect and asks if she should let it slide if he’s crossing the line. James replies that Walker is probably hanging out with Hoyt and convincing himself that he’s not crossing the line. (He is).
She finds Cordell and Hoyt drinking with Geri at the Sidestep (everyone drinks in the middle of the workday all the time on this show, and I would be spending my workday flat on my back if I tried that). Hoyt and Geri clearly have a romantic past and she’s both pissy with him and indulgent.
In this scene he’s manipulative as hell, getting down on one knee and offering a plastic ring in service of asking forgiveness for something we don’t yet know about. Micki joins them and sets him up a little bit, bringing Hoyt in for attempting to bribe a Ranger (by buying her a drink). When Walker protests, she tells him “I’m checking your blind spot, reminding you there is a line. He’s playing you. You want to be everyone’s friend.”
That line is the theme of this episode, in multiple ways.
Lindsey Morgan gets a few zingers in too.
Micki: Step aside, Mr. Conflict of Interest.
I kinda like that about Walker, honestly, that he is conflicted, even though Hoyt is clearly a Bad Guy. Considering what we know about how hard Micki is working to not mess up and the pressure she feels, it makes sense that she’s standing way on one side of that line that’s not always so easy to see – and not really as clear as she or perhaps the show is pretending. I hope it doesn’t lose its focus on the shades of gray that are right there and veer off into black and white territory.
Hoyt manipulates Ramirez too once they’re at the station, lying instead of giving up actual helpful information. When Walker and Micki, attractively clad in bulletproof vests and looking pretty badass, arrive at the location he gave them, there are no arms dealers — but there is Emily’s car.
I guess Hoyt feels guilty on some level, either for taking it in the first place or for what he’s doing now swooping back into the Walker family’s life on false pretenses. He even left a note.
Walker: If he drew balls on that, I swear…
I have mixed feelings about the developments we saw in this episode with August (Kale Culley) and Stella (Violet Brinson). I like them both being peer pressured into going to the bonfire, even though both recognize that it’s probably a bad idea. Stella goes for her friends, August goes because his crush Ruby asks him to. Once again, I like that the show is being fairly realistic about how these two are reacting. Part of their rebellion is normative adolescent development and individuation, and part of it is a big F you to their dad who abandoned them (after their mother died and in a sense abandoned them).
Also realistically, August gets plastered and makes a fool of himself, nearly walking on the bonfire barefoot before Stella stops him. All that anger he’s been keeping locked up spills out, since alcohol is after all an effective disinhibitor.
August: Are you trying to drive him away with your acting out? Do you want him to leave again?
He pointedly does not realize that he is in fact acting out at that very moment, but that seems pretty realistic for a fifteen year old too.
August then gets sick, predictably, and Stella calls her dad for help. (This was not the way my siblings and I would have handled it, I have to say. So he was puking? Get him home and let him sleep it off. But call dad? Probably not. Not saying our way was the smart way, though.) Dad doesn’t answer (per usual) so she calls Uncle Liam (Keegan Allen), who (per usual) does answer and comes to pick them up.
Another stellar comedic moment is fiancé Bret (Alex Landi) at first not wanting to help since “Stella can’t keep getting a get out of jail free card” and then changing his mind when he hears that August is drunk.
Bret: August is drunk? Okay, I’m not missing that!
I like what little we got to see of Liam and Bret, especially when they drop the ‘holding the line’ bit and just start rocking out in the car with the niece and the very drunk nephew.
Liam has either listened to Bret or realized he has to give his big brother a chance to step up to the plate, because he tells Stella that although she can always count on him, it’s her father who needs to go to the hearing with her the next day.
The story lines intersect in the last fifteen minutes.
Walker and Micki outsmart the arms dealers and then Hoyt, who almost makes an escape in Micki’s truck. They cut the power and he’s arrested, still playing the cocky con man.
Hoyt: Score one for Team Sassy Boots.
As they walk away, Walker asks Micki what ever happened to her friend from those wild teen days, and she says he didn’t make it, he skated along – until he skated off the edge.
Micki: He never got the tough love he needed. It’s not easy but it’s the right thing to do.
Hoyt winks at them, unrepentant.
Walker: Maybe he’s not the only one who needs some tough love.
That was a bit of a heavy handed “message” that veers to one side of that line this show is trying to straddle. Walker goes to the hearing with Stella, not wearing his uniform so as to avoid giving the wrong impression.
Walker: I’m going as your father, not a Ranger.
He wakes up a sleeping/passed out August on the couch with a pillow to the head and a “wake up, frat boy, time to go!” which seems harsh but I guess is realistic for the way a lot of guys would do this.
They drive the Mustang to the hearing, the emotionality of which is not lost on Emily’s children. It’s another step forward for Walker, more able to remember Emily with a smile mixed in with the sadness, and to incorporate her (literally with the car and the bobblehead) into his life now without her.
Meanwhile, Bonham tries to get back his closeness with Abbie, offering to go on the mushroom hunt with her and saying he’s sorry about Hoyt. She turns him down – maybe it’s a little too late, maybe she’s just still hurting.
Bonham: I miss you, Abbie.
Abbie: I know.
A small scene, but again Molly Hagan kinda kills it. What’s going on with these two? I want to know more. They’re trying to figure out that line too, and right now Abbie is on one side and Bonham is on the other.
Also meanwhile, Micki goes back to the bar and returns the plastic ring to Geri, saying Hoyt left it for her.
Micki: I’m sorry, I was just doing my job.
Geri puts it on, asks Micki if she wants another shot, but Micki says it’s sad to drink alone. Geri pours two drinks and the women do a shot together.
Geri: That’ll be $45. Sorry. Just doin’ my job.
I loved that little scene – we actually get to explore a relationship between two women, complicated by power struggles and perhaps differing world views but also undeniably a spark of respect there. And some great chemistry between Odette Annable and Lindsey Morgan.
Stella apologizes to her dad as they leave the courthouse.
Walker: Stella, you faced the music. You’re gonna work off that fine. (She got 100 hours of community service and a suspended license too, and whoa, that seems like A LOT of hours for having a little weed her first time!)
August scoffs a laugh, and Walker glares at him.
Walker: You all right?
August: (awkwardly) Yeah.
August: (even more awkwardly) Yeah.
Walker (close to an eyeroll)
Nice job by Kale Culley and Jared Padalecki there.
They drive down a road that looks a lot like where Padalecki’s former costar Jensen Ackles’ Family Business Beer Company brewery is in Dripping Springs, and Walker stops the car and orders “everybody out”. He announces that Stella is gonna learn how to drive stick, since she still has a license for one more day. She grins and takes the wheel.
Walker to August: And you’re gonna sweat it out. We’re your pace car.
August: Are you serious?
Walker: Serious as a hangover.
He tells Stella that the car is a girl, and puts the bobblehead on the dash.
Stella: What’s her name?
Walker (channeling Emily many years ago and bringing the episode full circle): You’re doing great, Stella.
I get what they’re going for here, but I am not a big fan of the whole ‘tough love’ thing. As a psychologist, I’ve seen it backfire way too many times. Boundaries and limits and consequences are good; making your hungover teenager run behind your car? I’m not so sure. Both Stella and August seemed to get really harsh consequences to their very normal adolescent rebellions in this episode. I’m not sure what to make of it, but in real life, I’m not so sure it wouldn’t backfire on Walker a little. I guess we’ll see.
I get it, Walker is trying to be more of a father, and part of that is both being there and setting appropriate limits. I guess it’s also inevitable that he’s going to make mistakes.
I’ll be disappointed if the realistic way Stella and August’s grieving has been portrayed up until now gets swept away and morphs into something stereotypical and “put some respect into those kids” sort of simplistic, though. I like that Walker has been painted as imperfect, and I don’t want to see him stop struggling and just become the “hero”. I don’t want to see the complexity of the issues facing law enforcement and the justice system reduced to “tough love is good” either, because that would be … not good.
Trusting the show, so far, not to take us there. We’ll see what next week brings with “Walker” 104 Don’t Fence Me In!