“Walker’s” penultimate episode ‘A Matter of Miles’ was an uncomfortable one to watch – intentionally so. The gulf between the various ‘sides’ feels pretty much uncrossable now, many characters feeling like their backs are against the wall after coasting along without expressing things like anger, resentment, guilt and suspicion for too long. There’s a sense of desperation that pervades all the tenuous relationships, amping up the tension for pretty much the entire episode. I found myself feeling like I needed a break mid episode from all that tension, so I could imagine how the characters were intended to be feeling!
There are two main story lines running in parallel throughout – the return of Miles and the mystery of what he and Fenton were really up to and who is/are the bad guy(s) here, and the escalating feud between the Walkers and the Davidsons. I don’t like black and white anything, I’m always here for the nuance, but this episode painted the Davidsons with a much broader brush.
I’ve been expecting that to happen, since they’ve been set up to be the ‘bad guys’ all along and obviously the Walkers have to turn out to be the ‘good guys.’ But there were only a few characters who I could say I actually liked in this one – the rest, on both sides, were just plain unpleasant. I get where the Walker family’s anger is coming from – who could not be angry at people who literally took your home right out from under you? But the show did a good job early on of showing the Davidsons as people who’ve endured as much loss and tragedy as the Walkers – including all their land – so there’s anger and bitterness and now a drive for revenge on both sides of the fence. Understandable maybe, but stressful to watch!
Gale and Denise in this episode are much more the stereotypical villains, saying one seemingly reasonable thing to Geri and then snarking about the real reason they’ve agreed to dinner with the enemy behind her back. I half expected them to do an evil cackle at some points, enjoying that they have the power to wreck anything that was the Walkers – especially Abeline’s. Tearing up her vegetable garden even if it means no more nice fresh vegies was a petty, purely vengeful thing to do.
Abby is right – no matter how much Gale takes from them, it’s never going to heal the rage she feels about Abilene having Marv’s love and the Walkers having all the land and her not getting to raise her child (even if most of that was probably Marv’s mistakes, not the Walkers’ fault). It’s impossible not to dislike Gale and Denise heartily in this episode.
Unfortunately, it was also impossible for me not to dislike how some of the other characters who I usually like a lot were acting. Bonham is a barely contained boiling-over pot of anger throughout the painful dinner, tossing barbs at the Davidsons any chance he gets. Probably it was putting the Walkers in an impossible situation, asking them to come back to the house that was theirs and still feels to them like theirs (witness Cordell walking in without knocking and almost tossing his hat on the peg he expects to still be there) and expecting them to sit down and make nice.
But the reason they’re all there is (on the surface anyway) for Stella and Colton’s sake, so maybe everyone could have sucked it up and gotten through it for an hour for the kids? I usually like Bonham a lot; I did not like him much in this episode. Maybe I’ve been mired too much in anger and revenge writing about ‘The Boys’, but all that anger and stomping around wasn’t fun to watch. I do appreciate that, like ‘The Boys,’ ‘Walker’ has had a lot to say about toxic masculinity too. To his credit, Bonham is the one to let go of the chair at the head of the table after grabbing it, and he has the good sense to walk out of the room and try to cool down when his anger is getting the better of him.
On the other hand, his blunt advice to Geri that “blood doesn’t have to mean loyalty” may have been factually correct, but it was undeniably harsh to a woman who has just found out she even HAS blood relatives and to whom that is clearly important. She calls him out on his hypocrisy because she’s right that Bonham is all about family first, and he does mean blood family for the most part. There’s a whole thing in the entire show about being “a Walker”, so what he said felt off to me too. Again, to his credit, he backs down with Cordell’s encouragement.
Liam, one of my favorite characters on the show, is like a bulldog with a bone in this episode, relentlessly circling back to his goal of trying to rile Gale and Denise up so much that they’ll slip up and implicate themselves in the saddle cutting. He succeeds in riling them up for sure, but at the cost of having Stella, Colton, August and Geri pretty damn upset.
Bonham warns him that the kids will be upset that he’s hijacking their attempt at a good faith dinner to get information, but he insists they’ll forgive him when they get the ranch back.
Me, with my psychologist hat on: Umm, that’s not the way this works. Like, at all.
Bonham and Liam were cute with their mochas and espresso though.
Even Abilene, who I stan more than anyone else, was brittle and cold and angry, clearly in the position of power when it comes to Gale even when standing in the kitchen that Gale took from her. All the kudos to Molly Hagan for making that come through, and Abeline is not wrong in what she says, but the entire episode was exhausting for the anger that suffused it for 42 minutes.
I spent the entirety of the family feud part of the episode grateful for the kids and Geri, and all my warm feelings anchored around them. Stella and Colton are adorable together as the blatant Romeo and Juliet of the show, both of them seeing their feuding families for how ridiculous they are both being at times.
Stella: Do you have any sage? I feel like we should burn some sage.
Colton (deadpans): No but I know where we can find some hemlock.
Along with Augie, who rightly points out that when Stella and Colton go to college, he’ll be left here alone in the middle of all this, they try to encourage their families to get along and that’s beautifully hopeful in that version of adolescent unrealistic expectations that I love to see. Every time we bounced back to one of the kids making an editorial comment on their out of control adult family members, it did my heart good.
Augie: Are we seriously doing this right now? This was supposed to be a celebration that we didn’t all die the other day, that our families were finally working together for once!
Poor Augie even tries to entertain everyone by doing card tricks, which to me felt just like every child I’ve worked with who’s caught in the middle of a contentious family situation and spends their life trying to amuse and distract everyone to stop the fighting. Ouch. Luckily in this episode Augie also meets a new girl, Kit, while shopping for a guitar – so maybe he won’t be as alone as he fears he will be.
I also felt for Geri the entire time, and Odette Annable showed her character’s complicated feelings throughout. She too is caught in the middle of the feud, relating to both families, and trying so damn hard to get them to find some common ground. I love that her affection for Cordell has not wavered in spite of the family feud and their romantic breakup, and that Cordell’s love for her has not wavered either. The two of them, like the kids, are also an island of reasonable and calm in the midst of a sea of anger and vengeance.
My favorite line of the night was Cordell’s, delivered by powerfully by Jared Padalecki.
Cordell: The kids and Geri, all this eye for an eye stuff – everyone is gonna end up blind.
He also says to Liam that there has to be some limit to what they can all take.
Me: Yes, and what we can all take too!
We do get a little bit of my own favorite thing, Liam and Dan’s complicated reluctant but persistent sort of friendship. Liam believes Dan will testify and be on their side, even if it is for his own selfish reasons, and it becomes clear to everyone at the awkward dinner that Dan and Liam tried to find a way to work out the land dispute that didn’t involve an insane horse race (even if that did fail).
Cordell, in part for Geri’s sake, tries to stay calm for most of the awkward dinner, except for one-pointed barb at Denise. He was understandably shaken by Denise taking Augie into the station that one time without him knowing about it, and he reiterates that’s why he jumped on board the insane race train and pretty much canceled any lingering warm feelings he had for Denise as a result of their childhood and adolescent closeness.
I get that – and I very much get being protective of your kids – but that incident, while definitely wrong, stands in the narrative as something towering when I’m not sure it is. Cordi loves his kids a lot though, so I can go with it.
Neither Denise nor Gale confess anything during the awkward dinner – in fact, Denise takes a temporary trip down the high road and apologizes for her arrest of Bonham, saying that it was wrong. But Gale was clearly shaken, because she maybe slips up later with Geri, saying that she always knew they’d be reunited. Geri is confused and questions her, and Gale quickly says that she meant it could be in heaven if not in life, but Geri senses something off.
I think we all wondered if it was going to turn out that Gale did know, and that perhaps Marv being in the burning barn wasn’t an accident after all. Geri sees it pretty clearly when Nate confirms that nobody else knew she was alive except Marv – what would Gale do if she found out that Marv had hidden her child from her? I honestly cannot imagine many more horrific things to do to someone.
I’m afraid for Geri, who just found out she has a mother and a sister and is trying so hard to bond with them, if she’s about to find out what I think she’s about to find out. I’m glad that she and Cordell still have a bond between them because I think she’s going to need it.
The other story line is the mysterious Miles. Cassie is overjoyed that he’s alive, but also hurt and angry that he left her out of whatever was happening. Miles insists that it was necessary – that he and Fenton cooked up a plan to stage his death in order to keep everyone safe.
Cassie rightly points out that the ruse was at a great cost to her, that she spent months looking for him, and everyone made her feel like she was crazy to believe he was still alive. She also asks why he used her gun, wondering if he wanted her to feel responsible.
Miles is thrown by this, insisting he didn’t do that and doesn’t know how it happened.
Cordell rightly points out that Fenton is not the kind of man who should be trusted, and that whatever’s going on, nobody is safe anyway – witness the guys with guns who showed up at the trailer and tried to kill them!
Cassie calls Rita and brings her in, and she falls into Miles’ arms, shocked to see him alive. She also confesses that she’s been with Fenton, and is even more shocked to learn that Fenton knew Miles was alive the entire time. Oops.
James confronts Fenton and tries to get him to come clean about who’s after Miles and what is really going on. The two face off for hours, but Fenton keeps insisting that he didn’t mean to fall in love with Rita, that he cares about both of them, and that he’s a dead man already. He refuses to give any more details. When James takes a break, Fenton slips a pill from his belt and kills himself. So, serious business obviously…
Trey tries to mediate between Cassie and Miles at a safe house, with Miles still insisting that this was “the cabal of all cabals” that he and Fenton were working against, and that he believed he had to do what he did to keep his family safe. Safe is a relative term, though, as they soon find out as armed men storm the “safe house”.
The confrontation scene is dark and dimly lit and it’s hard to see what’s happening, but Trey and Miles and Cassie are all badass and Cordell shows up to save the day and run down a guy with his truck who was about to fire what looks like a grenade launcher. Padalecki was still recovering from the auto accident so this was a great way to let him be heroic without real-life exacerbating his injuries.
Cassie gets a chance to save Miles, shooting the bad guy just in time, which must have been healing for her. It’s a beautifully filmed scene, kicked off by the ominous “It’s too late” when they realize they need to move Miles. The confrontation is complete with rock music as it often is in many shows, and I will never think that makes any sense because it’s gritty and violent and horrible and the music makes it sound like some kind of montage that’s meant to be cool instead of the terribly violent thing it is. The good guys prevail.
Cassie says goodbye to Miles, telling him that he believed in her and that was life changing for her. He has had some realizations of his own, realizing he’d checked out long before he disappeared, and hopefully using his second chance to check back in with his family for real. The mystery surrounding Miles and Fenton will apparently carry on and perhaps into next season.
The last scene is Geri reunited with Cordell after the shoot-out. She greets him with a warm hug, relieved that he’s okay.
Geri confides in Cordi about Gale’s odd comment and what it might mean. They meet with Nate, who confirms that no one else knew she was alive, that Frank would not have risked losing her. Geri wonders how Gale knew, and what she would have been capable of, if she had found out.
The final shot is Gale in the kitchen, slicing a lemon with a very big knife. She puts it jauntily on the side of her iced tea and takes a sip.
Talk about a ‘look who’s the villain’ set up! She did not twirl a mustache, but only because she didn’t have one. It’s not where I wanted to go, but this show usually does a good job with the emotionally devastating stories, so I have faith that what all the characters have to go through next will be handled in a way that’s true to life (and probably makes my heart ache).
I worry for Geri, and for Stella and Colton, and I guess that says something very good about this show, because it’s made me care about them. I don’t ship anyone, but I love that Cordi and Geri have remained so supportive of each other, and I’m hoping that will get them through.
Let’s see what the next episode brings – because it’s looking like it will bring some long-awaited bombshells!