One of the most prominent themes throughout the Walkerverse is family. In Walker, the main cast is made up of members of three generations of the Walker family. They are surrounded by other families as well, such as the Davidsons’, the James’ and the Perezes. In Walker: Independence, the biological families of the characters take a backseat but are still prominent, while found-family relationships are more at the forefront.
The family themes scattered throughout the stories of the Walkerverse cover a wide range, from the positive message of how a strong family can support you and build you up into a better version of yourself, to the depressing realization that the people closest to you can hurt you the most. I want to spend a little time talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the families in the Walkerverse and what we can learn from them.
By and large, the majority of the familial relationships we see in Walker are positive. Siblings who lift each other up, parents who give sound advice, and spouses who bring out the best in us run rampant in the show. There are almost too many to count but I’ll do my best to cover them all.
There are some very strong married couples showcased in Walker. These couples lift each other up and strive to bring out the best in each other. Their relationship journeys aren’t without bumps but they stand by each other, no matter what. But more than that, they are the lifeblood of their family and support the whole structure.
Bonham and Abeline are probably the best example in the whole show. When we were first introduced to them, their marriage was on the rocks following Abeline’s affair. Over the course of season one, we saw them make apologies to each other and slowly learn to love each other again until they were ready to renew their vows in the season 1 finale. Then, in season 2, we got to celebrate their 40th anniversary and enjoy the fruits of their love as they chose each other every day. Alongside their journey towards healing their marriage, we also got to watch their family heal and grow around them, asserting them as the strong roots of their family.
Cordell and Emily’s relationship is one that we (unfortunately) haven’t gotten to see much of but we know they loved each other very much. Emily was the somewhat rebellious free spirit to Cordell’s more down to earth personality and they complimented each other well. We also know that Emily was Cordell’s emotional rock (and still is via her figment state). After Emily died, Cordell was lost and their family unit splintered. Cordell went off on an undercover mission for far too long and his kids were left with other family. Even when he returned, he struggled to find his footing within the family without her. It’s not until Cordell gained closure on Emily’s death by bringing her killers to justice that he was able to refocus on his family and start mending the broken bridges between him and his children.
Larry and Kelly are another couple we’ve seen too little of but they’re still worth mentioning. Though they love each other, Larry’s complete focus on his job drove a wedge between them and eventually Kelly got tired of waiting on him, so they divorced. Over the past couple seasons, we’ve seen them come back together as Larry learns to reconnect with his emotions and get better at communicating them to Kelly. Though his determination in the workforce hasn’t faded, he’s learned to make time for the people who matter most and now they’re on track to get back to where they were before (without all the issues). We’ve also seen DJ flourish under their parenting as he succeeds in school despite being so far away.
The Walkerverse also gives us some very strong examples of good siblings. They always have each other’s backs and trust each other with their deepest secrets. They’re not always on the same page and they definitely mess up but ultimately, their love for each other conquers all.
Cordell and Liam are the most prominent sibling duo in the Walkerverse. These brothers have been through a lot together. Emily’s death, Liam’s horrible breakup with Bret, Liam losing his temper and his job, and the two of them surviving Grey Flag together, are a few of the hard times they’ve endured together. Cordell and Liam have been there to lift each other up for (almost) every step of the way. They’ve both made their fumbles (Liam shutting down Cordell’s concerns about Emily’s murder in season 1, Cordell shutting down Liam’s trauma in season 3), but they always find their way back to each other.
Stella and August have a similar dynamic to their father and uncle with Stella mostly taking the lead on their shenanigans and August usually being happy to go along with it to support her. He was by her side both when they were convincing Cordell he’d fallen asleep at the wheel and when she wanted to steal their mother’s car back from Shannon. But, in the middle of all that, August does feel like Stella gets most of the spotlight and he holds some resentment toward her for that. While she may not understand him, Stella takes her role as his big sister seriously and makes efforts to show him how much she supports him.
In Walker: Independence, Abigail and Charlotte only got a small bit of the spotlight and their relationship may not be the best but I still felt it was worth a mention. Though they may have had large disagreements over the ethics of using their father’s money and on Liam’s engagement to Charlotte, they are sisters at the end of the day. Abigail may not regret sticking to her principles, but she does regret that in doing so, she caused such a large rift with her sister in the first place. Luckily for her, Charlotte was willing to mend their broken bridge and help her sister hide from the man who killed her husband.
Siblings throughout the Walkerverse have their ups and downs, some that we wonder if they can ever come back from. But these strong sibling dynamics showcase just how impactful it can be to have someone in your life who knows you better than anyone else.
The most prominent family dynamic in Walker is, obviously, the Walkers. With three generations living under one roof, there are a lot of opinions and differing family values going on in one home. Abeline and Bonham have different ideas about what parenting styles work best than Cordell does. Bonham has different ideas on what his sons’ futures should look like than they do. Stella and August are often stuck in the middle of spats between the adults in the family. It’s no wonder there’s so much drama that comes out of just the family.
But between the low points, the Walkers have a lot of high points. Regardless of their disagreements, this family has each other’s backs. We’ve already spoken about the siblings, but there are so many other examples of supportive family here. Abeline and Bonham are fiercely protective of both of their sons and quickly jump to their defense, whether the opponent is a criminal organization or a close family friend. Liam was willing to leave behind his life and career in New York to support his niece and nephew while they were dealing with grieving their mother and temporarily losing their father. Abeline and Bonham also step in to help Cordell cover the parenting bases he misses without Emily. And Cordell’s kids know that he will usually come and help them if they call. While the Walkers aren’t a perfect family, their love for each other trumps any disagreements that may come between them and they have a very strong family tree.
We also see an example of this in the modern Davidson family with Gale, Denise, Dan and Colton. Denise and Dan’s marriage was on the rocks for the majority of season two and it looked like Colton was the only thing holding them together. Whether this is healthy or not is debatable but it was clear that they loved their son enough to at least attempt to give him a stable family. We saw that Gale is also involved in keeping her daughter’s marriage together, though she tended to take Dan’s side more often than not.
We, unfortunately, don’t get to see Denise and Colton together very often in the show but his relationship with Dan is very strong and their scenes together are some of my favorite Dan Miller moments. Dan especially went out of his way to not only get Colton special concert tickets but expressed that he was okay with his son pursuing a relationship with Stella, even if she is from the rival family. They may not be the perfect family but they do have their strong points.
But family doesn’t stop where the DNA ends. Strong family can also be found in the friendships around us. The Ranger crew in Walker and the whole Scooby gang in Walker: Independence are great examples of that.
Partners, Past and Present
Cordell Walker has been quick to adopt his partners as family throughout the show and even pre-canon. Larry James is known as “Uncle Larry” to Stella and August, and Cordell also has uncle privileges with Larry’s son DJ. Micki Ramirez and Cassie Perez were also both quickly brought into the fold of the Walker family. Micki had her family status confirmed after Walker took his temporary leave of absence in season 1 and Cassie was (perhaps a little too quickly) welcomed into the family to help fight against the Davidsons.
There is another family dynamic present within the rangers as a unit, one that has become especially prevalent in season 3. Larry, Trey, Cordell, and Cassie make up their own little family unit with clearly defined roles. Captain Larry James easily slides into the role of a father trying to keep his children under control (“Excuse me, three-year-olds!” anyone?). Cordell is the oldest child, ready and waiting to make his father proud and keep the other two in line. Trey is the middle child, still trying to find his footing in the family and in life. Cassie is the youngest child full of spunk and eager to prove herself while the rest of the group tries to coddle and protect her. An honorable mention goes to Micki Ramirez, the veritable eldest daughter who was tasked with taking care of an older “sibling” because Dad told her to.
Kate and Hagan
While most of the Walker: Independence gang could be considered some level of found family, I couldn’t find a clear family dynamic among the whole group. They are all very good friends, but I wouldn’t classify them in that way. However, there is a very clear father-daughter bond between Kate and Hagan that more than deserves the recognition.
As early 1.02 (“Home to a Stranger”), we saw an easy banter between the two of them and it was a joy to watch. While this initially came off as them just being very close, 1.04 (“Pax Romana”) cemented a different, deeper dynamic. Hagan fought Teresa Davidson on selling the hotel no matter how much money she offered and even after a threat to his own life. But then, when she threatened Kate, he folded and signed the ownership over to Tom. He was willing to die on this hill, but he wasn’t willing to sacrifice Kate’s life. Mark Sheppard stated that Hagan saw Kate as a daughter and this episode made that crystal clear, and Kate’s reaction to finding this out is the perfect portrayal of a child feeling betrayed by a parent.
When Hagan returned in 1.10 (“All In”), their reunion was rocky but enjoyable nonetheless. After they did a little conning to help Lucia, Hagan told Kate about his plans to keep traveling and Kate was nearly in tears when she offered to go with him. She missed him deeply and, as much as Hagan may have wanted her to come with him to see the world, he gave her a little fatherly advice: to quit running from herself and use that spunk of hers to keep the spirit of Hagan’s alive.
All this comes full circle in the finale episode, when we learned that Hagan insisted on a clause that would shift ownership of the hotel to Kate if Tom was ever unable to manage it. Hagan never stopped fighting for Kate, even when he was cornered, and found a way to leave his legacy to her.
While, generally speaking, family is meant to lift you up, even the most well-meaning people can go about things in the wrong way. And, of course, those who don’t mean well are bound to make a few missteps. These people fall under the umbrella of overbearing family members. Our Walkerverse examples here are: Abeline Walker, and the Reyes’.
Abeline Walker is a mother through and through, even though both of her sons are adults and forming families of their own. It is her natural instinct to meddle and, while it does sometimes lead to good things, sometimes it rubs people the wrong way. Her fights with her brother are one example, but the most prominent thread of this is how she inserts herself in Cordell’s parenting.
It’s almost a staple of the show that Abby will take almost any opportunity to insert herself in a situation and dynamic that doesn’t directly involve her. The earliest example of this was 1.02 (“Back in the Saddle”) when she pressured Cordell into fully moving onto the ranch when he wanted to move back to his own house. This behavior has continued throughout the series, with Abby taking a motherly role with Stella and August and overriding Cordell’s own parenting (much to his annoyance). One of the more extreme examples of her interference was during the incident regarding August’s party, when she not only overrode Cordell’s decision to leave Stella in the cells overnight, but also called into his work and got him a day off to sort himself out. While this may have been the right choice to make (especially in regards to Stella), it clearly annoyed Cordell to the point where he doubled down on refusing to listen to Stella’s story.
There’s nothing wrong with Abby caring for her children and her family. The problem is when she oversteps her boundaries and smothers them. Her near-constant interference in her son’s life has often lead to conflict between them. Cordell gets annoyed when Abby oversteps her boundaries and inserts her own parenting values into his family. It’s disrespectful and it impacts his relationship with his kids in ways he can’t control. However, it is worth mentioning that he does little to establish and enforce this boundary with her despite how often he gets annoyed with her crossing it.
In Walker: Independence, it can be argued that Francis and Anna Maria Reyes simply want what is best for their daughter (and I think we can all agree that Hoyt Rawlins does not fall into that category). However, the way they go about doing it is by stifling her and pressuring her into a life that she doesn’t believe she can be happy with. Refusing to let her sing at Hagan’s and making snide remarks about her choice in boyfriends are just a few things that push her away and make her feel trapped in the family.
From Francis and Anna Maria’s perspective, they’re just looking out for her. They see the way Hoyt breaks Lucia’s heart and they want better for her. And, as much as she may enjoy singing, they worry about the kind of crowd Hagan’s attracts and for her safety. There’s nothing wrong with them worrying for her and wanting her to find a better, safer path in life, but pushing her at Calian and just telling her “No” without explaining why aren’t methods that Lucia appreciates. We see through her talks with her mother and Calian that she feels stifled by her parents’ actions. She knows they love her and want what’s best for her, but she also wishes they would listen to her opinion on that.
There’s nothing wrong with family loving you, but when they overstep their boundaries and assert dominance without reason, they can cause more harm than any good they may intend.
While overstepping family members can be troublesome, absentee family can be just as bad, if not worse. Two great examples of how absentee family can affect the most vulnerable members of the family are given to us in the show: Clay Cooper and Kevin Golden; and Cordell and August Walker.
Walker didn’t give us much chance to explore the relationship between Clay and Kevin and how it got to be so broken but we know enough about what happened to talk about it and speculate how it affected both of them. Based on the dialog between Kevin and Clay during their confrontation in 3.15 (“False Flag Part Two”), we know that they came from an abusive household and Clay promised to help Kevin escape from it when he came back from Afghanistan. Clay didn’t come back and was believed to be KIA, leaving Kevin alone in an abusive home.
This, unfortunately, led Kevin down a bad path. Kevin grew disillusioned with The System that once offered him so much and was attracted to domestic terrorism both as a means of revenge and as a place to belong, something his family couldn’t offer him. If Clay had returned home or if Kevin had found the support he needed from somewhere else, he might have avoided this dark and dangerous road.
The situation between Cordell and August is not as dire as what we saw between Clay and Kevin but it’s very similar. Cordell has been neglecting August in favor of work drama, Stella, and several other issues since the pilot.
August made a few minor cries for help over that time and Cordell did stop to listen to him for a moment, to give him some reassurance and maybe some guidance, but that wouldn’t last for long. By the next episode, he would be back to worrying about a million other things and August would go to the backburner. August was able to deal with it for a long time but when Stella chose not to go to college and August wasn’t granted “his year” in the spotlight, there was a noticeable change in his behavior. Well, noticeable to everyone who wasn’t Cordell at least.
August still did try to remain “August the Noble” but after Cordell failed to come to the alumni football game, something snapped and August threw a party on family property in a last-ditch effort to get Dad’s attention. When this failed, his disrespectful behavior and arrogance ramped up significantly and he started lashing out at the rest of his family. This eventually culminated in the big outburst during the Thanksgiving dinner when Cordell was slapped in the face with just how far August had fallen from grace over the course of season 3 and how blind he’d let himself be to it. Following this, Cordell made promises to help August, which he failed to deliver on, and August ended up finding guidance in other male figures in his life, including the questionable Kevin Golden.
While there is a strong parallel between Cordell neglecting August and Clay abandoning Kevin, Cordell still has a chance to make things right between them. I hope the writers will set a little time aside to let this happen or at least make a reference to off-screen bonding. I want to make it clear that this is not a direct comparison between Cordell and Clay, and Kevin and August, but rather pointing out a clear parallel set out by the narrative. Cordell and Clay especially are set to be foils of each other, with both of them on a rough path, feeling as if their families don’t need them, and learning the hard way why that’s not true.
The takeaway from all this is that, no matter how mature your child might act, they’re not going to figure out how to be an adult on their own. It’s the responsibility of a parent (or at least a parental figure) to help the child learn and grow. When children, especially boys, lack a strong parental figure and support system, they find one wherever they can, even if it’s not in a good place. Cordell and the rest of the Walker family may have saved August from following in Kevin’s footsteps, but that still got a little too close for comfort.
The worst of the worst when it comes to family are abusers. Abusive family can come in many shapes in sizes and the Walkerverse gives us a decent diversity with at least one example from each show. From Walker, I’m going to refer to Gale and Marv and from Walker: Independence, we have Stella Rawlins and the Davidson clan.
We didn’t get much more than a taste of Marv and we got more than we could really handle of Gale but it goes without saying that these two did not have a happy marriage and hardly presented a happy home life. We know that they made no effort to protect Denise from their marriage problems and Marv openly paraded his previous relationship with Abeline in front of everyone. Not exactly a happy household for Denise to grow up in. (No wonder she ended up like that…..) Going beyond that, Marv’s deceit about handing Geri over to Frank Broussard and Gale’s deceit about Cordell’s involvement with the barn fire don’t exactly earn them points as parents of the year.
I could fill an entire article with all the problems presented with the 1870s Davidson family and I would love to go in-depth on them and how they shaped Tom into being the man he is, but I just don’t have the space for more than a very quick overview.
To begin with, both Aunt Teresa and Tom’s father are incredibly manipulative people. From what we’ve seen of Teresa, she’s overbearing and micromanages both Tom and Shane. She also plays Tom and Shane against each other, telling both brothers that they’re more competent than the other and she can only rely on them to do the job right. This is how she convinced Tom to take over the sheriff’s job in Independence and how she got Shane to follow through on killing Liam. She also uses Tom’s stay in the asylum and how she rescued him from it as a leash to keep him in line, a favor to constantly hold over his head.
Tom’s father is an invisible presence in the show but we can feel his influence through Tom. We know he’s a “hard man to please” and that he wasn’t exactly a loving father to either of his sons. He was physically abusive to Tom over small infractions and he left Shane feeling unloved and unnoticed in comparison to his brother. There’s also the heavy implication that he actively sabotaged Tom’s love life to keep him in line and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the one who arranged Tom’s stay in the asylum to make him more obedient.
In the end, Tom ended up the way he did because his family tore him down, stripped away his individuality, and rebuilt him into being someone they could use. What’s worse, is that Tom has learned that this abuse is love and has continued the cycle of abuse with Abigail. As he said in his confession during 1.13 (“Let Him Hang”), he shattered Abby’s life by killing her husband and, in her vulnerable state, gave her purpose – all of this as an act of love mirroring the way Aunt Teresa saved him from the asylum (that she may or may not have arranged for him to be put in).
Stella Rawlins may have loved her son but that didn’t stop her from hurting Hoyt in her own special way. We may have gotten only one scene with them in 1.12 (“How We Got Here”) but that was more than enough to show us their dynamic and all the problems within.
Ignoring the multitude of issues that go along with raising a child in a life of crime, Stella’s treatment of Hoyt can only be described as abuse. Within the first minute of their scene together, we see Stella disregarding Hoyt’s feelings about wanting a home and twisting his thoughts against him (“You tired of seeing the world with me? You wanna put down roots and quit living?”, emotionally manipulating him into staying with her in their life of crime, and treating robbing a bank like a game. While we don’t get any background on why Stella chose to become an outlaw, I think it’s fair to say that the only reasons she brought Hoyt along with her was to use him as a distraction and to gain sympathy from other people. In doing so, she isolated him from other people, including a family that would care for him and give him a home, and made him the person solely responsible for her emotional and mental well-being. Stella does care for Hoyt in her own way, I won’t deny that, but there’s no denying just how much she hurt him by denying him a home and a family for her own selfish wants.
While Hoyt may have found a home with the Reyes family after his mother’s arrest, we can still see the effects of Stella’s parenting. The trauma he got from not only losing his father before he even knew him and from watching his mother being dragged away by lawmen, created a man who has trouble putting down roots and navigating committed relationships.
Whether your family is as supportive as the Walkers or as destructive as the Davidsons, family has a way of shaping you into the person you are when you leave the nest. Once you leave, the platonic family you run into in your social life can continue to change you. Family gives you your strengths and your weaknesses and witnesses your highs and your lows. The Walkerverse has, in my opinion, done a great job of showcasing a variety of familial relationships, from good to bad to worse, and how they affect us all.
Catch up on Esther’s detailed Walker Recaps and insightful Character Profiles, all found on Esther’s Writer’s Page!