Hoyt Rawlins was introduced in the first season of Walker, in the third episode, “Bobble Head”, and it was a memorable introduction indeed. Hoyt was shown to be a charming, fun-loving outlaw with a soft spot for two very special women: Geri Broussard and Abeline Walker. He’s also Cordell’s best friend going back to their school days and he shares a close bond with Cordell's family, having been dubbed “Uncle” Hoyt by Stella and August. Despite everything he has in Austin, he’s often away for months at a time to work or serve time. Hoyt Rawlins is a man who leaves us asking questions about his past, present, and future. Sadly, he was ripped out of the series after only a few episodes during the tragic almost-finale, “Defend the Ranch” where he lost his life doing just that.
Though Hoyt may have left the script, he left a mark behind on the show that won’t be easily forgotten. Personally, I believe he was taken from us too soon and that there was more of his story to tell. While I understand Matt Barr had other projects to work on and that we’ll technically be getting Hoyt back in Walker: Independence, it’s just not the same. So, in honor of our favorite outlaw, I’d like to lay out what little we do know about his character and lament the loss of what might have been.
From his very first episode, Hoyt Rawlins is a character full of mystery. He’s Cordell’s best friend but he’s also an outlaw. He’s in love with Geri but he always leaves her behind to live life elsewhere. He’s got an incredibly close relationship with Abby but he’s at odds with Bonham. How these contradictions came about is largely a mystery, but there are some clues that can give us a rough idea.
We know that Hoyt comes out of a rough childhood from lines in “Bobble Head”. When Cordell and Hoyt reunite for the first time since Emily’s death, Walker starts to call him a “Son of a bitch”, but Hoyt playfully cuts in and tells his friend not to speak about his mother like that and then claims he never knew her. Later in the episode, during a phone call, Abby tells him that just because he comes from bad people, that doesn’t make him bad. In “Freedom”, Abby recounts the times when he was younger and Cordell started bringing him over to the Walker home. The Hoyt she describes is shifty, uncertain, and not someone who easily handed out his trust. Finally, in “They Started It”, Geri brings up some stories that she heard about the family from Cordell and Hoyt, one of which was that Hoyt wasn’t allowed to attend Denise’s birthday parties because he came from the “bad” (or at least economically disadvantaged) side of town.
We know that Hoyt played football with Cordell in high school and that at some point he started his on-and-off relationship with Geri. We also know that he was good friends with Emily and that even as an adult, he held respect for the wild side of her younger years.
There’s another interesting line from Abby in “Bobble Head” that clues us into Hoyt’s past. During their final conversation, Abby tells him “You saved my boy. I’ll never forget that.” Though we never get any elaboration on what happened, it’s clear that the event referenced here had a significant impact on Abby and how she views Hoyt. It's possible that this happened during Cordell’s time in the Marines, which could mean that Hoyt followed his friend into service. Or it could reference something that happened during Cordell’s time in law enforcement, where Hoyt just happened to be there to help at the right time. Or it could be something else entirely. It's unlikely we’ll ever have more than speculation for this. It’s lines like these that make me think the writers did have a longer storyline planned for Hoyt that was cut short due to Matt Barr moving on to other projects.
Aside from this, we have no concrete clues about Hoyt’s life pre-series. We can speculate based on other bits of dialogue what else might have happened but all we can really know for sure is that Hoyt spent a lot of time committing crime, doing time, and proposing to Geri. Something that I wish the show had delved into more is Hoyt’s motivation for doing any of those things. Why would Hoyt keep leaving Austin when he has so much there waiting for him? Why would he commit himself to a life of crime when he has a support network that would allow him to have something more stable? Why did he propose to Geri so many times despite knowing he would likely be rejected? Alas, we can only speculate.
My personal theory for Hoyt’s life of crime is that his rough childhood made him disillusioned with the world at a young age. Unlike Cordell, he never had the luxury of thinking that law enforcement officers and the government as a whole truly had the average person’s best interest at heart. Perhaps he was subject to a government custody program at some point in his youth and, as a result, decided he wanted nothing to do with being part of “the system”, leading to a life where he had no income or property to be taxed or purchases to be tracked.
Perhaps his family was involved in the crime world to an extent. Maybe his dad was part of a gang or involved in drugs and he was exposed to all of this when he was young. Maybe the truth is some strange combination of both. I have doubts that they will go back and revisit Hoyt’s character in any meaningful way so we’re only left to speculate.
Now, let’s explore what we see of Hoyt in the present.
When we first meet him in “Bobble Head”, he’s arranged to be a wheelman for a notorious gun runner stationed in Austin, the very same one that Cordell and Micki are trying to catch. Throughout the episode, Hoyt retains a calm, cocky demeanor. This certainly isn’t his first rodeo and he wants everyone to know it. Even when confronted by his best friend, he remained unfazed, giving back as good as he got. The only time he let the mask slip was during his conversation with Abby at the end of the episode, when he sincerely apologizes for missing out on their mushroom hunting trip.
The next time we see Hoyt is during “Bar None”. When Liam and Larry James hit a wall in their secret investigation into Emily’s murder, they turn to Hoyt for answers. The plan is to move him into the same cell as the man who confessed to Emily’s murder, Carlos Mendoza, so that he can get more information on him and maybe provide them with some insight on whether or not he really did it. Hoyt initially pushes back against the idea because he doesn’t want to be anywhere near Mendoza, but Liam and James tell him that there’s a strong chance he isn’t the killer. Hoyt calls them out on not involving Cordell in their plan but agrees to it with the warning that if Mendoza is guilty, neither of them are going to be leaving that prison.
Hoyt hides his disdain from Mendoza and quickly strikes up a conversation about the art he has on the walls of his cell. He slowly learns more information with baiting questions and gains Mendoza’s trust. By the time Liam and James return, he’s learned enough from what Mendoza did (and, more importantly, didn’t) say to know that he’s innocent. From here, we can deduce that he’s often in situations where he has to watch what he says and “read between the lines” to get the real message. It almost makes me think he could’ve become a detective or perhaps even a ranger if he’d taken that path.
We don’t see him again until “Freedom”. It’s Hoyt’s first day out of prison and the whole family is there to celebrate. Unfortunately, Cordell and Geri are still a little too caught up in their own problems to celebrate with him, but Hoyt's got other things on his mind. He admits to Abby that he’d like to turn his life around for good and be the man that Geri deserves - someone who’s present and stable, someone she can build a future with. Abby is more than happy to encourage him on this path and even hands down her old engagement ring from Marv for him to pop the question. With her support, he’s nervous but willing to take the plunge.
This decision ultimately becomes the beginning of the end for him. Geri rejects his proposal, citing her kiss with Cordell as a reason. When he tries to push past that, she tells him that she just isn’t ready for this and she wants to take her life in a different direction. Hoyt becomes a lot less forgiving after that and storms off to the ranch to confront his supposed best friend. This lands him in the middle of a battle of wills (and bullets) between Cordell and the infamous Clint West, an encounter that ultimately leads to Hoyt's death.
And where does that leave Hoyt’s story?
In a word: Incomplete.
We know very little of Hoyt’s past and even less of his motivations for how he acts in the present. His story ends with an unresolved conflict as he bleeds to death for a home that he was never truly welcome in.
A character’s death is usually meant to do one of two things: motivate a protagonist to act in a certain way, or to complete their story. Hoyt’s story was incomplete, so his death was used to motivate Cordell’s “need” for revenge against Clint. Which is all well and good except for the fact that Clint had already: taken Cordell's family hostage, shot Liam with the intention of killing him, and forced Cordell to take part in a robbery. I feel that those three things alone are enough to stoke a need for revenge on anyone. Hoyt dying was just unnecessary. It felt like a cheap ploy for drama and it was conveniently timed so that neither Cordell nor Geri would really have to deal with how they betrayed him. Hoyt died on the same day that he learned that his best friend and the love of his life had kissed without telling him, and the same day the love of his life rejected his proposal in part because of that kiss.
Hoyt deserved the chance to have closure with Geri and Cordell. He deserved to know why they kissed and, more importantly, why they kept him out of the loop. He deserved the chance to ask Geri if she was ever really that serious about their relationship. He deserved the chance to witness Bonham accept his place in Abby’s heart. He deserved to go on that mushroom hunt with the most important woman in his life. The way I see it, the writers missed out on some excellent character development for the sake of convenience. And that, my friends, is just another tragic stab in the gut for Hoyt Rawlins.
This may just be my personal bias talking, but I believe the show could've benefitted from his continued presence, especially in the second season. Even if he remained a guest star with a limited presence, I think having even a false hope that we could see him again would have brightened the tone a bit. I think it would have been interesting to have someone there with a legitimate vendetta against the Davidsons that wasn’t a Walker. I also think this would’ve given the writers something to expand on that wasn’t just ‘Oh look how EVIL the Davidsons are’ for the fifth episode in a row. There was so much potential for a character like that and squandering him was a mistake on the writers’ part.
So ends my tribute to Hoyt Rawlins, the outlaw with a heart of gold who was taken from us far too soon. Am I being a little dramatic, or am I justified in labeling this a tragedy? How many ways could the writers have taken Hoyt out of the script without entirely eliminating him? Would keeping him around have improved the show at all or was his tragic ending for the better? Let me know what you think!
Gain more insights on Walker's Characters and enjoy Esther's detailed episode Recaps/ Reviews, all found on her Writer's Page!