This is a pilot, which means we’re just meant to get a glimpse of Cordell Walker and his universe. Most of the episode was just a mere intro to characters and a setup for what’s to come, which means it’s heavier on character exposition and drama and less on the action and plot. Still, I walked away with a feeling of some good potential.
Meet Cordell Walker, a Texas Ranger, and a real mess. His wife (the ever gorgeous Genevieve Padalecki) gets murdered in the opening scene so he did whatever any father with two grieving kids would do, he goes away on assignment for 11 months, leaving the kids with grandpa and grandma and his younger brother who steps in to help with the whole Dad role. When Cordell comes back, he decides to go to a park alone and get drunk instead of see his family who are anxiously waiting for him. When he does eventually go see them, well, they have a few minutes for hugs before he jumps back to work. Actually, that’s what he does throughout the entire episode, putting work before his family’s needs. It’s a safe way of avoiding unpleasant conversations or dealing with the whole guilt over abandoning his family thing.
While Cordell was away, his old partner was promoted to captain, so enter new partner. She’s a Mexican-American young woman named Micki who is breaking new ground for the Texas Rangers. She's tough as nails and won’t take crap from her new partner, even if he relegates her to grunt work. They actually meet the night before he goes back to the office, when she was finishing her last day as a state trooper. She was the one who took his drunken ass home. She knows that Walker is a mess and a loose cannon, which is probably why she was chosen, to keep him in line.
Cordell also isn't the only loose cannon Walker. His daughter Stella is having some trouble too, getting arrested for possession and skipping school. Guess what? She takes her hostility out on Dad. Go figure. His son is a saint holding up the family, but we know that never goes well long term. Meltdown coming at some point. His parents have a nice ranch in the foothills of Austin and for them, tending to Cordell's issues is just par for the course.
While all this family drama is going on, Micki and Cordell work this very routine case together, open and shut as a matter of fact, finding a local business that’s fencing heroin. However, since they were part of a cartel, chances are they haven’t seen the last of this group. Cordell is actually asked to be part of the task force to go after this organization, which will take him away for a few months. He accepts until he goes home that night and gets guilted by his mother and children to stay local instead. Mom has setup a guest house on their property where he and the kids can live, so the episode closes with the 3 Walkers on the couch in their new home watching TV together. It’s an uneasy yet heartwarming scene, aka the first step toward healing.
This episode is written by series creator Anna Fricke, who has extraordinary writing and series credits including “Being Human,” “Men In Trees,” and “Everwood.” She has a really big connection to the “Supernatural” world, as she is married to long time SPN producer and writer Jeremy Carver. The episode was directed by Jessica Yu, who among other many great film and TV accomplishments directed one of my all time favorite “The West Wing” episodes, season five’s “The Supremes." She did an amazing job visually with this pilot.
Not a bad start at all. The strength of this series is the cast. They all blend very well together. Cordell and Micki (Lindsay Morgan) have some really strong partner chemistry, and not in a sexual way which is refreshing. They are building trust and need to have each other's back. Mitch Pileggi as Bonham Walker, the family patriarch, is brilliant. He’s not a touchy feely type guy and not afraid to say what’s on his mind. I’m not exactly sure about Cordell and his brother Liam (Keegan Allen), but since brother was the one that usually got the call when Cordell wasn’t available, I imagine these two are going to have some airing of grievances soon. Who knows, maybe he’s the one that will get through to big bro and his tough guy act. I love that Cordell ultimately decided to listen to his mother Abilene (Molly Hagan) and try to make a go of it with his family. In the end, Mama always knows best.
Cordell Walker seemed utterly lost this whole episode, jumping from one thing to the next. While that was disconcerting to the story, it had to happen to demonstrate the really uncomfortable place this guy is in. He’s not at ease with his family, he’s not at ease with his job, he’s not even at ease having a line dance with a friend at the bar. He has to be jumping from one thing to the next, often hiding behind the responsibilities of his job. That very likely is the only way he can keep his sanity. He also returns to parents and a brother tired of doing his parental duties. For example, he questions the fact that the family enrolled his daughter in a Catholic school and is amazed to hear she’s doing soccer instead of softball. The defense was pretty clear, they’re doing an okay job without him. That animosity adds to the disjointed feeling of the story, but again, disjointed is exactly where this family is right now.
It was really nice to see Jared and Gen on screen again, playing the loving husband and wife, even if it was just for the opening scene. Why did they have to kill her off? I do wonder how long Gen will get to play the ghost wife, but it is obvious she haunts Cordell. Perhaps we’ll get to see a lot of flashbacks with them together. They do reveal in the episode that a killer was found and confessed, but given the setup of the whole cartel thing, I’m thinking that’s not the end of it. Cordell seeing his dead wife at the end is probably the other clue.
I loved Micki and her boyfriend together. Those two are so fun! More scenes with them please. I also loved the scenery of the Austin area, which is a beautiful place. The whole thing in parts had a nice, cinematic quality just by capturing the unique landscapes Austin has to offer. The family estate view of hill country is quite amazing. I recognized a few of the downtown shots too from my tour there in 2019. I am going to enjoy these location shoots. I'm just happy that Jared gets to be near his family while filming.
Why Walker, Texas Ranger?
I do question why they had to do the whole “Walker, Texas Ranger” re-imagining. I know why they did that. Back when I was doing coverage for our now defunct sister site, TV For the Rest of Us, I got to interview Craig Silverstein, the producer of the TV show “Nikita,” quite a few times. In our first meeting, I asked him why in the world would they reboot this franchise? His answer was pretty interesting. “They (The CW) were looking for a female, kick-ass action show, their Alias they wanted. Warner Brothers owns Nikita and the rights to the name. It was just up to me to try to figure out a take that was different enough, that it wasn’t a straight redo.” One fact check on the Internet later and what do you know, both “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “Walker” are owned by CBS. It’s easier and more cost effective for studios to recycle a name and a franchise that they own.
Still, this is nothing like the original series and isn’t considered to be a sequel, a la the reboots of “Hawaii Five-0,” “MacGyver,” and “Magnum P.I.” I think this premise would have been just fine if they left the “Walker” part out of it. But "re-imaginings" are the thing these days because that brand recognition sells. I sincerely doubt though that the old Chuck Norris die hards are going to tune in to get lost Jared’s melodrama. They want ass kicking. This is hardly introducing the franchise to a new set of viewers. But I don’t want that to take away from the story they are trying to tell, which is a viable premise with a popular lead actor that will bring a real audience draw.
All in all, this wasn’t the most exciting episode. It established premise and characters and it did it’s job well. There’s plenty of potential to build story here, after all it’s the Texas Rangers, but as to where they are going to go with this, it’s not clear. Perhaps that’s better, this is a drama, not a sci-fi serial show, so it’s easier to go with the flow. I have a lot of faith in Anna Fricke and you know Jared is a solid leading man, so that’s enough for me to give this more time.
Overall grade, a B-. Will you be watching next week? I will.