The season finale of “Walker” tied up a lot of loose ends for Season 2 – and then kicked off a whole new mystery, and a dramatic one at that!
The episode is titled “Something’s Missing” and that is both literally and figuratively true throughout the show. (One of the things I like best about “Walker” is that they love to run parallel themes throughout an episode and then reference it somehow in the title, and it’s a fun game for a reviewer to pick out all the instances of that theme – or at least it is for this reviewer!)
The first thing that’s missing is Emily, because Stella Blue is about to graduate. If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that the toughest times are big life events, the celebrations that you always thought that special person would be at.
I facilitated a grief counseling group at a university counseling center for many years, and I heard from so many students nearing graduation just how hard it was to approach that milestone without a parent they had always imagined there to be proud of them. Emily not being there is hard for Stella, and it’s hard for Cordell too. Cordell is every parent, wondering where the time went and saying that it seems like yesterday that Emily told him she was pregnant.
Later in the episode, they share a tender father-daughter moment over one of the games they used to play on family game night, something Cordell hasn’t been able to do since he lost his wife. Stella says it seems like a good time to start over, or to carry on where they left off. Cordell admits he would never have taken the game out of the box, that it’s so like her – and her mom – to make him face it.
That’s also a theme of the episode, going back to the exploration of grief and loss that I have always valued most in this show – that you can’t go over it or around it, eventually you have to go through it. Everyone does that differently and on their own timetable, but Stella and Geri and Cordell have all learned that it’s true. Cordell is proud of his daughter.
Cordell: You make all of us feel. You’re the one that keeps this family together. I ran, you stayed.
Stella: I ran a few times too.
Stella has grown up a lot over the past two years of real time, and on the show as well. Cordell gives her a gift, knowing she’s been struggling with individuation and the question of staying close or going away for college.
Cordell: I want you to know now…it’s okay to go.
That made me tear up partly because it was such a beautifully played father-daughter scene, and partly because that’s a line from the “Supernatural” finale too, when Sam gives his brother the gift of permission to go in a more permanent way. I don’t know if it was a deliberate call back, but it made me even more emotional than I was. I’m sure the parallel wasn’t lost on Padalecki, who understands intimately the importance of that finale to many fans.
Another thing that’s missing, but not for long, in this episode is certainty. The certainty of figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life. While Stella seems close to figuring that out, both Liam and Trey are at a transition point in their lives and unsure of where they should be going.
James tells Trey that he has to stay out of official Ranger business if he’s not an official Ranger – which James offers him after making some calls. They’re willing to treat his military experience as time served so he could be an actual Ranger – which came as no surprise to most of the fandom, who has been expecting it.
I feel better about that than them offering to employ him as a psychologist when he isn’t one, but that’s probably just me feeling bitter about all those years of a PhD program to get to that point. It makes sense to make Trey a Ranger so they can keep Jeff Pierre and his popular character on the show, and Trey certainly seems qualified.
Trey talks to his mom about the Ranger offer; she’s not all that happy about it, worrying about all the stress and anxiety. I can relate to his mom – that would so be me if one of my kids announced that!
Liam is also unsure of his next step, saying he’s not so sure he wants to go back to being a lawyer and is envious of his father for always knowing what he wanted to do. Later in the episode, he thanks Bonham for forgiving him when he wanted to move away, and Bonham says that it helped make him who he is. So did you, and the ranch, Liam says. And when Bonham says that the ranch isn’t for everyone…
Liam tells his father: I think it is, for me.
I didn’t really see that coming and I think I will miss Liam being a lawyer and the son who doesn’t really fall into line with the ‘family business,’ but I hope that it turns out to be a good choice for the character. And enjoy Keegan Allen on horseback more.
There’s still a lot of information missing too – both on who the paramilitary group is that was trying to silence a Texas Ranger and on what really happened that night the Davidson’s barn burnt down.
Cassie continues to have a bad feeling that they’re being watched right up to the end of the episode, where it turns out her bad feeling was spot on. She also moves in down the hall from Trey, which offers the possibility of lots of comedic shenanigans, which Ashley and Jeff are more than capable of. She has her first date since moving to Austin also, which goes spectacularly wrong when their flirty joking about each other being a cop and a hired killer turns out to be a little too on point. He leaves her with the bill and goes out the back door, armed with a little more information. Poor Cassie – that was a truly bad date!
The major story line, and the big thing that’s missing for Geri, is the truth about what happened that night in the barn that killed her father, Marv. Geri is still concerned about what Gale said, convinced she’s hiding something and believing Dan that Denise cut the saddle.
Cordell says that as a Walker he’s not going to be able to find anything out, but as a Davidson, she can. So, they set up a fake fight which probably hits some real nerves about him sleeping with informants and her dragging into them bedrooms and Cordi sarcastically saying “oh, all the Davidson girls together” when Gale arrives. It was painful to watch, honestly. Gale is almost the voice of reason telling Geri to walk away and both Cordi and Geri look a bit shell-shocked afterwards.
The Davidsons are pretty ruthless to each other at this point, their family seeming to fall apart despite the perceived ‘wins.’ Geri asks why Gale never did remarry, after Denise reminds her mother that Marv (that total asshole) proposed to Abby right before he proposed to her.
Gale says all that tragedy and heartbreak gave her pause, which seems legit to me, and she seems sincere when she tells Geri that she deserves someone worthy of her love. Geri says she wants to know more about her father and Gale agrees.
Geri’s smart in that she admits that it’s stuck in her head what Gale said the other day, which is the truth. It gets Gale to open up and I hesitate to say this because I know everyone loathes Gale, but I once again felt really bad for her when she told the story of always wanting lots of kids and then Marv lying to her that her baby didn’t make it and not getting to even see the baby “after” because he wouldn’t let her. What kind of asshole was he?
Gale is stuck on her narrative of the Walkers stealing her baby from her and Cordell being responsible for the fire, even though a part of her knows that’s not what happened. Geri recognizes it as grief and guilt, and Cordell suggests that Geri take her to the barn, where if she does feel guilt, she might come clean.
Geri asks Gale, “for me, for my journey, I need to see where my father died.”
It’s a good idea, but it also does show that Gale really does care about her daughter. Because she does it, even though she clearly does not want to. She reminds Geri that they were “driven out”, which was clearly a trauma on top of a trauma for her – one that stealing the ranch back hasn’t magically cured. Geri shares that you can’t go over or under ‘it,’ you have to go ‘through it,’ and so Gale follows her into the barn.
Geri shares her anger at Hoyt about his death and how she got through it, so Gale shares that she was angry at Marv too. That they fought, about money, the ranch, Abby. And he talked to Abby about all of it. Geri sympathizes and that helps Gale go on, admitting that Marv finally told her that her baby was alive, and they argued – the night of the comet when the barn burnt down.
Once again, I know this is an unpopular feeling, but I cried during the flashback when Gale remembered her shock and agony when Marv told her, when he excused what he did with “she’s had a good life, let it go.” I don’t know if it’s because I’m a mother and I’m fierce about my kids, but that to me seems like one of the literal worst things you could do to another human being. To a parent.
Gale: And he was like…proud…like he fixed things for us. Something inside me just snapped.
It doesn’t justify her hitting him with the lantern or leaving him there after the lantern set the barn on fire. But Paula Marshall did an amazing job of portraying Gale’s horror and sadness and how much it still is destroying her (and many people around her).
Geri is shocked and tearful too, accusing Gale of lying about Cordi as Gale clings to her rationalization that he brought the lantern so it was somehow his fault, something she’s deluded herself about all these years to avoid the guilt that the reality would bring.
As they argue, the lantern is once again knocked to the floor and starts a roaring fire – and wow, did no one learn any lessons about not bringing those old-fashioned lanterns into old barns??? Cordell sees the barn on fire as he drives up, with flashbacks to young Cordell on that night also running back to the barn trying to save Marv.
He finally knows that the guilt that’s plagued him all this time was based on something not true.
Cordell pulls up and hugs a freaked-out Geri, who tells him Gale is still inside. Cordell gathers her up and manages to get them both out of the raging fire just in time, looking like Dean Winchester carrying his little brother out of another house burning up.
Geri is worried about her mother, relieved when she starts to come around as the barn burns down behind them.
Once help arrives, Bonham and Abby check on their son – he says he finally knows that he wasn’t even in the barn when Marv came in.
Abby: It hung over you your whole life.
Liam: Well, maybe it’s finally over.
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One of the things I love about this show is the realistic exploration of parent/child relationships right into adulthood. Abeline’s tender brush of her son’s cheek to comfort him, tells me so much about how much it hurt her, to see him hurting so badly. Her anger at Gale is thoroughly believable in that context.
Gale says she’ll confess to everything, and that it feels insignificant to say sorry. She thanks Cordell for getting her out of there.
Cordell: It’s the only way we can move forward.
No cuffs, he tells the guards.
Denise says she should have known it was never his fault.
Cordell: I think we both just started believing our own nightmares. But you lost your father. You all lost a lot.
Abby also confronts Gale. Gale admits she was prideful, that sitting with the truth was too much.
Abby: When Marv told me, no matter what I thought of you, I was furious for you. I didn’t know if you knew, if I should tell you myself. And then the trial and how Cordell fell apart…
Mother to mother, there is an understanding between them.
Gale: I never hated you. And I am. I’m so sorry.
Poor Stella and Colton sit on the side, witnessing everything that’s happening – as Colton says, witnessing the end.
Colton: But not for us, right?
Stella says no, we’re not defined by them.
Colton: Except in ways we totally are.
Denise reunites with Dan, saying she feels like she’s waking up from a long nightmare, that she doesn’t even know what’s real anymore. Dan is there for her, sticking by her. She apologizes to Colton and with Dan’s supportive nod, confesses to him that she cut the saddle strap, saying she can’t let all the stuff between their families hang over Colton and Stella.
Dan offers to intercede with Colton (I kinda love Dan at this point tbh), but Denise says no.
Denise: No, you have put up with more than I have ever given you credit for.
She tries to explain to Colton, who can’t understand why she would do such a thing.
Denise: I needed the Walkers to be robbed of something, the way we were with Daddy.
Her son forgives her, hugs her as she cries and apologizes.
Cordell and Geri have a heart to heart outside the still smoldering barn, hugging.
They agree that there’s no real feeling of relief, even though they’ve filled in the missing blanks – but so much of what they’ve learned is hurtful and tragic, especially for Geri. She says that it was too soon for them to be in a relationship, that they weren’t ready to be with each other.
They skipped too many steps. He agrees but seems reluctant to entirely go along with that – you get the feeling that Cordi would be more willing to try again sooner rather than later. Geri reminds him that Stella Blue is graduating and that’s what’s important.
Geri: Let’s focus on that, ok?
But Cordell looks ambivalent and regretful as she walks away.
The Walkers move back into the ranch, though Abby acknowledges it doesn’t feel quite right.
Bonham: We’ve still got a lot to celebrate though
Abby: With you? Always.
Awww. I’m still a Bonham and Abilene fan.
The last scene starts out playful, Cordi and Trey and Liam on a friendly competitive race. Cordell is comfortable with where he is and is supportive of Trey being a Ranger too. Cordell gets a head start by cheating and then Trey does the same, poor Liam pulling up the rear as they all fly over the dirt roads in the hot Austin sun.
Liam and Trey think Cordell is up ahead of them, but instead there’s a mysterious van – and an unconscious Cordell in the back.
Stella: Where’s Dad?
Jared Padalecki fans: Kidnapped Cordell, finally!
It’s an intriguing set up for the next season. I know many fans are feeling sad about Cordri not happening for right now, but it may have also been a bit too soon for the narrative to put them together early in Season 2 when they may have quite a few more seasons to go.
For now, poor Stella will once again be missing her dad as she goes into a big milestone in her life – but hopefully not for too long! (Also hopefully Cordell’s hair can be free and wavy like it was by the end of this episode next season, instead of that ultra-slicked-down thing they’ve done to it too often). As for me, I’m relieved that the family feud story line is over and looking forward to what the next season will bring.
Walker returns in October for its third season!