A Week Later
Bravo, Walker! “Drive”, season one’s climactic finale, had the storytelling power and agility we’ve been waiting for all season! Everything the characters said was important and relevant. Their decisions were logical and relatable. The emotional intensity was earned and shared by the audience. The action was believable. The revelations were spell binding. And Cordell Walker was redeemed. From the importance of the poker chips to his instincts telling him that Emily’s murder wasn’t solved, Walker was right all along. This episode was a triumph for the series as well as for its title character.
Secrets and Lies
Stan killed Emily! He wasn’t just in charge of the cover-up operation after the fact. Cali told the truth that she didn’t kill Emily and that Emily was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, but we were right that the rangers still hadn’t discovered the true murderer when they pinned everything on Cali. It was Stan who delivered the kill shot that ended Emily’s life. Denying it even after Cordell figured it all out and had Stan at gunpoint, Stan eventually claimed he was put in a kill or be killed situation by Cali the night he was running drugs with the gang. The details of his involvement were delicious to hear:
Cordell: When did you turn?
Stan: Some of us in law enforcement felt the strain of budget cuts. Cops, judges, weren't going to make their pension. It wasn't right. So I decided to get creative.
Cordell: So you started putting drugs back on the streets? Unbelievable.
Stan: Seemed efficient. But we got greedy. We had the product from a drug bust. We just needed the distribution, and the established dealers. That was Northside. Once they were in, and knew the play, they just...
Cordell: Oh, they just wanted to keep it going.
Stan: You know how hard it is to crawl out of an abyss? You and James put a big old dent in Northside, but they're still out there.
Cordell: Yeah, I figured as much. Otherwise, you'd be behind bars right now.
Cordell’s instincts as a ranger have been spot on since the beginning. He suspected there was more to Emily’s murder, and he knew that there were more corrupt cops who had infiltrated city, county and state law enforcement.
Cordell: Do you have any idea what I'm dealing with right now? What I just found out? You killed my wife.
Stan: I didn't kill her.
Cordell: You're lying, Stan. I can feel it. I just don't know how to prove it... yet. Listen, we both know you still got people on the inside. So, uh, if you're getting nervous thinking if I'm gonna do this by the books or put a bullet in your head, that's fine with me, Stan.
Being run off a road (last episode), shot at, and hunted down by both corrupt and legitimate law enforcement officials didn’t allow Cordell time to take pride in being right, but it was an important step in him reclaiming his reputation and confidence in himself.
Cordell: You're trying to get ahead of this, huh? Shift the narrative. You know all the angles in the courtroom, right, Stan? So what is it here? Huh?
Stan: Ranger with a checkered past still grieving the loss of his wife forces a confession from a trusted family friend. Thing is, none of that's a lie now, is it? There's no evidence, son. And you know why? Because I didn't kill your wife. I'm another crooked politician. Yeah, bring me in. But going all lone wolf on this isn't gonna help anybody.
Cordell: Yeah, you're right.
Cordell was making all the right choices. He may have been emotionally compromised but he was still thinking strategically and being smart. Curiously, his family and friends still didn’t believe him, though.
Liam’s first reaction was “my brother’s holding Stan hostage. I have to tell my family.” He didn’t say, “this says my bro’s holding a hostage but I don’t believe it.”
Captain James also acted like he thought Cordell broke under the pressure:
Damn it, Walker. We should've seen it.
Does that mean that they should have seen that Walker was still emotionally unstable and shouldn’t have come back to work, or that they should have figured out that Stan was the inside man? The captain’s conversation with Micki implies he believed Stan rather than giving Cordell the benefit of the doubt.
Capt James: He's saying that Walker is holding him hostage. I don't know. He's not answering my calls. I think it's probably because he...
Micki: He doesn't want to disobey an order.
Capt James: Actually, that's not my guess, but, yeah, we'll go with that.
Even on this, Walker was absolutely correct that he wouldn’t have been believed, and his life (literally), career and future were all at stake. Without proof, it was his word against a DPS commissioner. Walker brought down the Rodeo Kings with his deep undercover operation, he found and turned over the missing money, he recognized Cali as having been present the night of the murder, he saved his entire family after they were betrayed by the King's family and held hostage by their ringleader – yet even after all that, Cordell was still regarded as an unreliable, or maybe hot-headed, ranger.
It was a great relief to see that at least Micki believed in her partner this time.
Cordell: Micki, you're the only person I can trust right now.
Micki: What do you need?
Cordell: Stan knew I was going to see Carlos. His guys were probably gonna take care of him after they killed me.
Micki: Oh, my God. I told him. This is all my fault. I'm leaving to get Carlos now, okay? Walker... I'm sorry.
Finally, some accountability for actions! At last someone apologized to Cordell for their mistakes as opposed to pointing out his flaws! Micki also believed Cordell simply because of her faith in him, without questioning details or impugning his credibility. I’m relieved and thrilled he finally has her trust! Remember how she confronted Walker on the bridge when it was reported that he robbed a bank with Hoyt?
Her immediate “What do you need?” this time after he again was tagged as a criminal showed her growth as a character and as a partner.
Cordell’s family also believed him when he explained everything over the phone... but was it because they trusted him implicitly or because August found the poker chips and there was finally some physical evidence that corroborated Cordell’s story? Bonham, Liam, Abby and the kids all rallied behind Cordell but not until there was proof.
That may be a family’s realistic reaction given their jaded impression of Cordell, but it’s not how we’d like to have our family and friends to react when we’re begging them for support (and it’s not how Sam or Dean would have reacted to their brother’s plea to believe them). Abby even mentioned that tragic “intervention” when everyone ganged up on Cordell to convince him he was wrong and a disappointment to them all. Again, Stan vindicated Cordell:
Yeah, I pushed you out of town, undercover, 'cause I knew you'd never stop looking into what happened to Emily. I knew you'd never quit. Hell, I thought the Rodeo Kings might even end you.
Although the weight of what he was hearing was probably overwhelming Cordell at the moment, eventually it will feel good to look back and realize that his was the lone voice of reason through it all.
Title Thread – Drive
Go! Start the truck! Drive through it.
Cordell: Drive! Go!
Often the only way past troubles is to go straight through them. There’s no detouring around them or ignoring them. You just have to find the will, determination and ‘drive’ to meet the trouble head on. Cordell knew everything was up to him when he told Stan to drive around until the desperate ranger and widow could think of a way to prove his innocence and Stan’s guilt.
Another testament to Cordell’s ranger instincts and skills was taking Stan back to the scene of the crime. Cordell gambled that forcing Stan to recreate that fateful night amid a ‘gang’ of accusing faces (Stan repeatedly succumbed to gang pressure) would break down Stan’s lies and finally guilt him into admitting the truth to himself and others. Cordell’s fortitude to persevere through everything that happened to him in the last year showed his ‘drive’ to get to the truth and defend his family.
Making Good Decisions
Capt. James: Cordell, these past months, you had a lot of chances to... make the wrong decision, but... you ended up doing the right thing in almost impossible circumstances, and I'm... I'm pretty sure I know why.
Walker: Yeah, of course. You know, 'cause I really dug deep and put in the hard work, yeah?
Capt. James: Uh, no, it's 'cause I'm a genius, and I partnered you two up.
Micki: Oh, come on, Cap.
Walker: No, no. Yeah, he's a little bit right.
Capt. James: I'm a lot a bit right.
Cordell: He's a lot a bit right. Thank you both for trusting me and believing in me.
My one frustration with the episode is that the writers couldn’t even give Walker credit for saving himself, ever after everything he said and did was vindicated as the truth and as right. Captain James took credit for paring Micki with Cordell, supposedly keeping Cordell from straying further down the dark path they kept telling us he was on (but we never believed to be true).
Micki’s role in keeping Cordell on the straight and narrow was reiterated by the parallel of Walker stopping Stan. Stan stating that if Walker hadn’t stopped him, he (Stan) would have just gone deeper into the abyss. Just as Walker stopped Stan from further abusing his power and position of trust, Micki was crediting with putting Walker on the “right path” (Stan’s words about Walker). Stan’s warning coupled with the captain’s accolades of Micki shifted “a lot” of the credit for “saving” Walker to her instead of him.
Having never bought into the assertion that Walker was astray to begin with or needed to be “saved”, Micki’s role of savior was hard to swallow. I agree with Cordell that he did the hard work and dug himself out of both his grief and his maverick tendencies! I would have preferred that Walker be allowed to “take a moment to feel good” (Micki’s advice to the Captain) about himself before crediting his character growth to someone else.
Having said that, I applaud the morale of the story that the support and guidance of friends and family often helps us to do the right thing when we are tempted by greed, power, anger, depression, hopelessness or whatever evil might threaten to weaken us. I also applaud the message that good cops can make a difference in fighting corruption and abuses of power from within. Each of us is responsible for our own choices, but we can certainly play a role in helping others choose justice, truth and righteousness.
Starting over… with family
Bonham: Let us help you. Don't shut us out. Trust me, what you need now is family. Don't do this alone.
“Drive” pulled together the season’s theme that family strengthens us and enriches our lives.
Micki forgave and forged a new relationship with her mom, her aunt and Trey’s family. Liam realized that he didn’t take a promotion to partner in NY because he wanted to focus on family, and that Brett was a part of that family.
Bonham and Abeline reconciled. Bonham surrendered his pride to let his family know the truth and support his battle with cancer. Cordell helped his children understand what family means to him, and the teens recognized that they love being part of the family.
Even Geri realized that she was better off with her adopted family:
I thought I cut ties, but it's harder than I thought. You know, this family-- it's not an easy thing to walk away from.
The word ‘family’ was mentioned 14 times in the script. It’s obviously a core of the show’s messages and a welcome cornerstone for the next season.
Teasers for Next Season
While family is an obvious thread that will connect this year and the coming years of the series, “Drive” contained a few surprise teasers for next season.
Northside Nation, Crime Syndicates, Police Corruption...
Stan: They tried to kill us!
Cordell: Yeah, you're expendable now, Stan.
Stan: I know too much. Northside Nation, my cops on the inside. They don't want me to talk.
Stan confirmed that they haven’t uncovered the depth of the police and government officials’ corruption, but he said he was ready to bring them all down with his testimony. If he lives, it seems he’ll be able to tie up the Northside Nation plotline. A few things contradict that expectation, though.
Brett: If DPS commissioner pays this well, why does Stan want to be District Attorney?
Good question Brett! The opulence of being on the take with Northside Nation was obvious by the size and luxury of Stan’s hacienda. He was at least reaping the rewards of betraying his oath and his friends!
Why would he want to be DA then? He’s already proven that being a DPS Commissioner gives him the access and authority to sideline investigations (or investigators who are getting to close to the truth), be privy to witness statements, influence priorities and decisions in the DA’s office, and craft false narratives that stand up in court. DPS Commissioner is probably a better launching point for a gubernatorial campaign. So why DA? Why would he or his puppeteers want him there?
I’m curious if Geri, Micki and Carlos’ discovery that legitimate businesses were somehow being used to launder money for the gang might also go somewhere:
Geri: when I found out that Northside was involved in Emily's murder and that they were running their money through my own damn bar-- that's why I left for a little bit. Just makes me sick. What I got myself into, what it cost.
Micki: The same people who paid him off.
Carlos: They ran the money through my family businesses. And my niece's art gallery was the biggest.
Micki: That's just like they ran it through The Side Step.
I hate to say it, but I’m still not sure we can trust Geri. Am I turning into a conspiracy theorist or could she be the long game crime syndicate mastermind? I can’t tell if her whole emotional explanation was a deflection, the concluding clarifications of how everything tied together this season, or a teaser. What do you think? It sounded like a closing comment because Captain James somewhat confirmed that Northside Nation will probably be ‘old news’ when he primed the pump for the next big bad.
Capt. James: The question is, who takes their place, right?...
Micki: So, any leads on the sniper?
Capt. James: Well, there's gonna be an investigation. Try to figure out what the hell happened.
Micki: Wait. You think they had inside help?
Capt. James: I don't. Chatter's pointing to a new crime syndicate, connections in Del Rio…
... and Cordell and Micki's Roles in Bringing them Down
But even as the captain signaled closure on season one's known criminals, he opened up new ways that Cordell and Micki might be involved in a larger conspiracy.
Capt. James: It might be that Stan wasn't the target. I took a look at the CCTV footage. The first hit was definitely on Walker.
Micki: You think someone was trying to kill Walker? This Del Rio group?
Capt James: Look, we could really use you down there, but only if you're up for it.
Why would Walker be a target?
Then the mention of Del Rio and Micki possibly going undercover set up the season 2 conspiracy mystery. She’s completed her first year as a ranger so maybe undercover work is her reward. Will she be undercover at the beginning of season 2 much like Walker was undercover at the beginning of season 1? They also emphasized a military connection, which may pull in Trey (note that he reminded us of his deployment in Fallujah and Kandahar when they went on their undercover mission in the hospital together). But is this a new crime syndicate or just tentacles of a larger cabal that uses corrupt cops and vulnerable small businesses to launder their money?
What did Stan whisper to Cordell?
Another clue that makes me wonder if there’s a larger crime organization in Texas behind the Northside Nation is the fact that Stan whispered a deathbed secret to Cordell. Could it have been “they’re watching you”? If the organized crime plotline was to be closed out with Stan’s Northside Nation testimony, why would he have a secret to pass along to Cordell?
Big Brother’s Watching
Was the guy in the video village the sniper? I think so. Who was he? Why would Walker be more important to silence than Stan? Obviously, Cordell’s reputation and “drive” to “dig” into crime will be the basis of season 2.
Walker ended its first season with a strong stroke of writing. As always, the entire cast should take a moment to feel good about their acting, which has been stellar all season. Jared also deserves to take a moment to congratulate himself on a strong concept brought to life in his new series. I love that he and the show are tackling hard social topics that need to be addressed, and that they are making a flawed, loving family have real challenges but come together in the end.
My hope is that the second season continues the course correction we saw in “Drive” with smart characters whose choices are understandable, and a more balanced view of Cordell - as the flawed but outstanding ranger, father and man who always tries to do the right thing. The show’s premise seems to be that none of the characters are solitary heroes; they all need each other to be their best selves, so if everyone (including Cordell) gets called out for their mistakes and gets credit when they get things right, Walker as a series has a bright future.
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