The midseason finale episode of “Walker” begins with a scene that’s really hard to watch – Walker at the medical examiner’s office to identify his wife’s body. Geri frantically tries to wipe Emily’s blood off her jacket and finally takes it off before she goes to stand with him, distraught. She asks if he’s told the kids yet and he answers that he will, “in time.” It’s an understandable reaction – when a loss is so gigantic, you almost don’t want to make it real by talking about it – and you don’t want to cause your children the same kind of incredible pain that you’re feeling.
James comes out to tell them to come in, and Geri clutches his hand, overlays it with hers, tearfully reminding him “I love you, buddy.”
Jared Padalecki (confronted with his real-life wife playing dead on a slab) makes Cordell’s extreme grief and rage intensely believable. I couldn’t help but feel for Jared, having heard him talk about how hard it was to portray his previous character, Sam Winchester, in scenes where his brother had died. That was his real-life best friend; this was his real-life wife. Acting has got to be hard on the heart sometimes!
I had a difficult time watching Walker’s grief from my own perspective. Not only is Padalecki brilliant in portraying it, but I am still so raw from witnessing him portray Sam Winchester’s grief at the end of “Supernatural” that seeing him in a similar state again was almost unbearable. His half-hysterical “we’ve gotta get her out of here, it’s too cold” just broke my heart, the denial so understandable, so painful. James tries to say that revenge won’t bring him peace, but he’s not ready to hear it, breaking down as he touches Emily’s face for the last time. It’s such a similar moment of abject grief as Sam sobbing as he says goodbye to Dean (Jensen Ackles), and when I was watching this episode live, I had to pause to collect myself. That says something really good about Jared’s acting, but ouch.
Walker is still reeling from James and Liam’s news that Carlos Mendoza did not kill Emily (and that Cordell was right about that), and he’s once again single minded in needing to go after her real killer. His kids, who have been through way too much already and have just started to settle back into some kind of “normalcy” and to start to rely on their dad again, are also rocked by the news. (Which, to his credit, Cordell tells them himself).
Augie responds with rage to rival his father’s, while Stella doesn’t want to lose that precious normalcy she’s just getting back. That egocentrism is to be expected for adolescents, because social relationships especially are of primary importance. Just as Stella was starting to heal and form new relationships (like the one with Trevor), her life is once again turned upside down and her father is once again seeming reckless and revenge driven.
Stella: It feels like you’re going hunting. And we’re just gonna let you?
(A call back to Padalecki’s former character, hunter Sam Winchester. Cordell looks just as badass and just as determined as Sam often did at that moment, Stella is right. That’s not the Impala’s trunk, but he’s loading up his weapons just the same.)
And before somebody says don’t make this about “Supernatural,” Jared also tweeted “Going hunting”… I so appreciate that he’s right there with us in the grieving process fans of SPN are going through, wanting to incorporate a lasting love of that other show and character into this new one. It’s a healthy way of adapting to loss, which is never easy.
Once again, Jared live tweeted the show with us, which is always so much fun.
Walker: I can’t stand idle. I’m trying to bring peace to our family, your mother. It’s okay if you can’t support that, but can you understand that?
Stella and Augie leave the room, Abilene telling Cordell that they just need their space.
He was honest with them, which I think is part of the character’s evolution.
Captain James, who’s still feeling very bad about not believing Walker and giving him such a hard time about refusing to give up his suspicions about Emily’s killer, convinces Cordell to team up with him again. To go old school. Like old times.
James: Maybe we should ride out today, as partners. Get our reunion tour on.
Walker: Not sure I need a partner at my side who didn’t believe me in the first place.
James says he’s trying to turn that around. Walker’s convinced when he realizes that the Captain has already bugged the poker game, where Northside Nation is talking about burying a Ranger’s wife. In the van, the two at first verbally spar, James trying to reconnect with humor and Walker saying it’s a violation of the rules they wrote for their partnership back in the day on a napkin (Violation of rule 14 seems to be something about taking off your boots in the car). James says that maybe Rule 17 should be applicable too, but Cordell isn’t ready to just go back to that easy camaraderie.
Walker: I know you always have my back. But a lot has happened since we wrote down rules on a bar napkin.
Their attempts at reconnection are interrupted by Geri, who is both in the file on Northside Nation, and unexpectedly also at the poker game. Does anyone think that can be a coincidence?
James tells Walker what they know – that the hush money that Northside Nation paid to Carlos was laundered through Geri, who has been missing until this moment. Despite Walker’s shock, and James’ hypothesis that Emily figured out what Geri was mixed up in and became a loose end, his protective instincts kick in when it comes to Geri and he jumps out of the van and confronts her. She’s defensive, demanding to know what he’s really asking.
Geri: Did I kill Emily, is that what you wanna know? No I didn’t kill my best friend! If I knew who did I’d kill them myself!
Geri insists she’s here to pay money back to Oswald for a bad loan, the Northside Nation thug who was skeevy with Stella and taunted Cordell at the station. Geri and Walker are having a full on fight right outside where NSN is playing poker, which seems like a very bad idea. Luckily James interrupts them and takes Geri to the van, while he and Cordell try to figure out whether to believe her. She starts pounding on the van window to get their attention and Cordell shushes her, until she tells them their wire is dead (adding, “geniuses”).
When she realizes that NN might be who killed Emily, she insists she’s going in there to infiltrate the gang and try to get Oswald to incriminate himself on tape.
Geri: She was my best friend. I found her…I closed her eyes…I want the truth as bad as you two do.
It’s still a helluva coincidence, though.
Cordell and James listen through the wire as Geri tries to pay Oswald, overhearing her make disparaging comments about Walker when he insists she’s not selling the bar to “the Ranger”. Who’s a jackass.
Walker: I choose to take that as good undercover work.
Cordell tries to tell her what to do; she does the opposite.
Oswald says he’s going to become a problem for her if she doesn’t back out of the sale. That it’s “probably best to let sleeping dogs lie, especially if you gotta put ‘em down yourself. Once in the desert is enough, you get what I’m saying?”
Do we??? That was a provocative – and ambiguous – statement.
Geri seems too unhinged from the jump, barely holding it together, and Walker keeps wanting to go in too soon so nothing bad goes down, especially after that reference. James reminds him they don’t have anything that would hold up in court, saying let’s not take our shot and miss again, and Walker snarks back at him.
Walker: You mean you can’t take your shot and miss again. Partner.
I don’t know what to make of the whole Geri situation, to be honest, but her defensiveness seemed almost over the top here. She really didn’t know who Oswald was, and just happened to show up to the poker game at the same time? I tend to think coincidences are…. rare. (Though not always on TV).
Walker tries to get Geri to retreat when it’s clear she can’t remain calm, once again talking someone through an almost panic attack, this time through a wire, and painting a picture of what must be their teenage meeting.
Walker: Geri, hey, hey….7th grade… Middle school gym… you had on a Houston Oilers backpack… you called me a jackass for making fun of Hoyt’s hair but he had that JTT haircut….
He tells her that he believes her, and asks her to bail if she needs to, saying he wants her safe.
To James, Walker admits: “I can’t lose her too.”
Unfortunately, Geri doesn’t back down. She walks right up to Oswald and confronts him, saying she heard Emily got killed because of NSN, and he figures out that she’s wired and grabs her, holding a gun on her.
Oswald: Who’s on the other end?
Walker and James burst in, guns drawn, demanding that Oswald let Geri go. There’s a tense standoff where Walker gets sassy with Oswald and bonds with James over their rules, which seems to be what they did when they were partners. They find out that Oswald actually has an alibi for the night Emily was killed, so the hypothesis that it was him disappears.
All this stalls everything long enough that their backup gets there, so Oswald admits defeat and lets Geri go. She turns around and punches him in the mouth.
Geri: Consider my debt paid.
Unfortunately for all of them, however, he insists he didn’t kill Emily. So who did?
Cali, the blonde woman who seemed sympathetic to Geri earlier, confides in her that she knows what happened the night Emily died, and that she’s willing to talk – for some immunity and protection.
James apologizes again to Walker, saying he wishes they’d solved the murder, that he hates letting his partner down and that he wants to make things right – “make us right.” He also confides that he’s been struggling with the reality that for some people, having a black Captain is a bit much, despite how much he’s been trying to prove himself, and Cordell says he’s sorry he wasn’t there for the transition.
They bring a cuffed Cali out. “Take off these cuffs,” she says to Walker and James, “and I’ll give you proof of who murdered your wife.”
Pointedly, she doesn’t say who that is.
As the rest of the NSN gang get led away, Cali convinces Walker and James to uncuff her, saying she has the proof of who killed Emily on her phone. Which she left inside the building.
Me: Hold up, what? You, experienced Rangers, are gonna let her stroll back into the building by herself to ostensibly retrieve her phone???
The answer, unaccountably, is yes. Television and movies are about suspending belief…
Of course, Cali turns out to be playing them – they find out Oswald’s alibi checked out and know Cali was lying to them, and then Walker realizes that he’s seen her before — that night at the border, he recognizes her flicking her lighter (for some reason I don’t entirely understand).
Shooting at them from inside the building, and they go in after her and Walker confronts her when James gets a gun on her. Cali admits that Emily was in the wrong place at the wrong time when NSN was doing an illegal prescription drug transport across the border. Stopping short of saying she killed her, she’s goading Walker, and he nearly loses it and shoots her just like that. James talks him out of it, saying think of his kids, that it won’t make everything better, and finally, he puts down his gun.
Suddenly Geri appears, and as Cali pulls a another gun, Geri shoots her, killing her.
Walker rushes to comfort Geri, a refrain of the “I love you, buddy” that we saw at the start, but all I could think of was wait, she shot her before she could say who actually killed Emily?
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (literally), the rest of the family is also reeling from the news. Bonham is as focused on revenge as his son and his grandson, saying that he hopes they find the “sumbitch” and doesn’t care what happens next. Abeline reminds Cordell that the kids need to hear it from him (and adds to Bonham that she also hopes they find the sumbitch.) Mitch Pileggi and Hagan really inhabit their roles; I don’t know how much riding they’ve done before this, but they look entirely comfortable and at home on their horses and I enjoy seeing the slice-of-life on the ranch scenes on this show because they give us important context for the whole Walker family.
Liam is having a very hard time keeping busy enough to not mourn the breakup with Bret. I do appreciate the way the show gives us all the various permutations of what people do when they’re grieving. Liam is in full-on avoidance mode, which is pretty common after a big loss. He’s also, clearly, angry – at himself, at Bret, at life in general maybe. He first destroys the trellis that Bonham built for the planned wedding (which was really sweet btw), taking out all his rage on the poor structure. Liam seems 100% set on making the split with Bret permanent, though I can’t help but wonder if what’s happening with his brother and NSN will change that. It should, right? Or does Liam not really want it to? He insists he’s okay and that they “ended it like gentlemen,” but I don’t think his parents are convinced.
Micki, since James is partnered with Walker, goes to the ranch to keep an eye on everyone and keep them safe, just in case. She asks about the “Walker For Governor” sign and Liam dismisses it, saying it didn’t age well – and he also lost. She asks if he ever thought about tossing his hat in the ring, but Liam says that it was hard to have political ambitions when “your fiancé keeps threatening to leave the state”, reminding us that while I think most of us were really rooting for Liam and Bret and while Liam also shares some fond memories with a smile, they were having problems that had nothing to do with Northside Nation.
Beto O’Rourke gets a shout out somewhere in here, which I hope he caught and enjoyed.
Liam also avoids his grief by coming up with all kinds of chores for himself, including installing a Google Nest that nobody seems to really want (product placement, anyone?) He’s also worried about Cordell, wondering “what kind of man my brother will come home as.” Walker really traumatized his whole family with his abandonment and disappearance into Duke.
Abeline tries to get Liam to talk about it (and to shave his scruff, for some reason), but he turns around and accuses her of busying herself worrying about him so she doesn’t have to worry about when Cordell will come home.
Abilene: You know it’s not like that.
Liam: Mom, it’s always been like that.
Interesting conversation. I hope we get more backstory about the brothers’ and the family’s history that’s clearly complicating lots of things now.
August and Stella are taking their fears and frustrations out on each other, as siblings are wont to do, wrestling over Augie’s cell phone – apparently because Trevor texted him and not Stella. Stella prevails, but Augie grabs his phone back, saying that Trevor only texted him to cancel some plans. Micki asks what happened and Stella explains that Trevor ghosted her at the dance but doesn’t say why unfortunately. Micki decides that the kids need some other way to work out their frustrations, and that it should be with some target practice.
Not my favorite scene. I realize this show has guns, that these people are Rangers. That Bonham and Abeline are ranchers who also have rifles. That the show keeps trying to show women as the ones who are strong and capable, as Micki and Stella knock down their bottle targets. But that feels different than suggesting to two kids that this is the best way to work out their anger.
Augie says he’s been going to therapy, which seems like a much better idea for dealing with all their losses. Micki confides that having a psychologist for a mom was a lot of everyday teenage problems having deep underlying meaning, which clearly didn’t sit well with her, and I’m not sure whether to get defensive on behalf of my profession (and my being a mom) or to realize she’s still dealing with a lot of Adriana resentment. Augie also admits he hopes his dad “kills this bastard” while Stella says she doesn’t feel that way at all, that she’s sad that things were just starting to seem normal. Micki, despite her bitterness about her mom’s profession, says that Adriana used to say there were no wrong feelings… not right, not wrong, just honest.
Micki: Might be something you two wanna think about.
That I agree with. It’s also nicely in line with the range of feelings people have in response to loss. We all cope differently, and that’s sometimes hard within families.
Walker returns home to find out that Ramirez was there all day.
James: Good day though, huh?
Walker agrees. (Though it’s not my definition of a good day!) He gives James the original napkin where they wrote down the partner rules, which strained believability for me that he’s been carrying a napkin in his pocket for years (but hey, I’m someone who believes Sam Winchester carried around the amulet in his pocket for a decade, so…)
James: You’re a softie, man.
Cordell: I will burn this!
He admits that James was right, that he’s been distant, because ever since that night in the medical examiner’s office, when he sees James, he sees that.
Walker: And that has to change. I want to make us right too.
I’m glad because I like the two of them together, but I also don’t feel like the show has given me enough time with Captain James to make me feel very invested in his relationship with Walker. We can infer that they were close when they were partners, but we haven’t really seen it, so none of this pulled at my heartstrings as much as I think it was intended to. The napkin and the “make us right” conversation seemed kind of over the top as a result.
As Cordell’s heading home, Bonham consults the Google Nest for a dinner menu. Geri drinks alone at the bar. Liam shaves his grief beard. Abeline smiles to see that, and Liam revisits her advice to him to concentrate on what’s next – looking at the Walker For Governor sign.
Walker returns in one piece, his kids launching themselves into his arms for a big hug, and the family sits down to dinner.
Cordell makes a toast, his eyes on Emily standing off to the side watching.
Cordell: I’m glad we’re together here today. This isn’t the path we chose, but maybe there’s some comfort in knowing your mother left this world doing what she chose. Helping people.
They drink to getting some closure, and finally some peace.
Cordell: To mom. To Emily. (looking across the lawn) To you.
Across the yard, Emily whispers “I love you.”
It’s entirely understandable that the Walkers all want that peace, but I can’t help but wonder if they’ve once again ‘solved’ this case too quickly because they want to put it behind them. Nevertheless, it’s a nice way of reflecting the slow process of adapting to loss, eventually finding the good things that have come from the loss too, and incorporating the love into what will come.
Back at the house, Stella and Augie fall asleep on the couch, their heads on their father’s shoulders.
He banks the fire and then goes out (which is weird because a) fire and b) hopefully he left a note? I know the kids aren’t kids but still).
Walker goes to the bar, where Geri’s sitting on the floor, drinking and saying her goodbyes. She asks if it gets easier.
Walker: Losing someone?
Geri: Taking someone.
Walker: In time.
It’s a full circle moment to what he said at the start, that he’d tell the kids what happened to their mother “in time” and that time seems to have come. It also works on a broader level, in a show that’s so much about grief and loss – a reminder that everyone grieves in their own time, in their own way.
A song with lyrics about “peace of mind” plays and Walker and Geri sit on the floor together, Walker saying that “it’s just you and me that really understand.”
He says he’s sorry.
Geri: I’m glad it’s you and me.
They lean in, touching foreheads, and anyone who watched the “Supernatural” finale immediately got thrown back to the tragic scene in the barn.
And then…. they kiss.
I can’t say I didn’t see that coming, because people have been speculating about it all along, but I also can’t say I was rooting for it. If you were, I’m happy for you though!
Multiple fans had been tweeting about how nice it was that a man and woman could be ‘just friends’ on the show like Cordell and Geri, so there were a bunch of ‘That tweet did not age well” tweets – and I was sort of enjoying that too. It also felt jarring to have him leave the dinner where he felt so connected to Emily and then kiss her best friend.
At the same time, it is compelling to have that one other person who really understands the depth of your grief and can share it, who has shared your history with that person, and who knows the real you more than most people. It’s part of what bound Sam and Dean Winchester together so tightly, and I think Cordell and Geri share something similar. Not to say that I trust her – I’m not sure I do. At the very least, there’s more to the story of that night and what happened to Emily, I think.
The close-up once again of their hands, clasped in mutual support like at the start of the episode when we flashback to that night in the medical examiner’s office, reminds us that is at least some of what this connection is about. It’s also reminiscent of the finale of “Supernatural” once again, Sam and Dean’s lifelong bond symbolized by a similar close shot of their hands, support until the very end.
We won’t find out right away if there’s more to Emily’s story or if this really is the wrap-up of that part of the show, because “Walker” doesn’t return with a new episode (Encore 1.10) until May 6. Fans can do a lot of speculation in the meantime!