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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Halfway through its first season, Walker finally answers one of its biggest questions

Image of Jared Padalecki in The CW's Walker
Jared Padalecki stars in Walker
Photo: Rebecca Brenneman/The CW
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When The CW’s Walker reboot premiered back in January, the series was focused on the hole in the Walker family left by the murder of Cordell’s wife, Emily. Her loss threw so much about Cordell’s home life into relief: his distant relationship with teenage kids Stella and Augie, his friction with his parents Abeline and Bonham, and his competitive relationship with assistant DA brother Liam. Who killed Emily while she was leaving water for migrants along the U.S./Mexico border? Could Cordell have done anything to save her? And was Carlos Mendoza, the man who confessed to Emily’s murder, really responsible—or was he taking the blame for someone else?


All those questions have guided the subsequent episodes of Walker, which for the most part has adopted the soapy pacing and melodramatic structure that The CW has made its bread and butter. What have we missed since our last recap, for fourth episode “Don’t Fence Me In”? Walker and Micki are trusting each other more, especially because some of Micki’s personal history rivals Cordell’s in terms of drama: Her mother, who is a psychiatrist, is actually her aunt, who stepped in to care for Micki when her mother’s addictions worsened. Micki helped save Cordell’s ass during an altercation with the Rodeo Kings, bank robbers who Cordell was investigating while undercover for 11 months, but neither Texas Ranger knows that Trevor, a guy Stella was dating, is the son of one of those robbers. Augie, Liam, and Abeline and Bonham are all dealing with various romantic troubles. And Hoyt, handsome gold glitter stripper man, is still in prison, the real tragedy of all.

New characters with dramatic backstories! Misunderstood intentions and miscommunications! Gangs and cartels, tornadoes, school dances and first dates! Walker tends to jam all these elements together into episodes that veer drastically between varying tones and tenors, but things finally slow down a bit in “Rule Number 17.” This ninth episode marks the midway point of the 18-episode season, and it also answers the question that has been shadowing the past eight hours: Who killed Emily Walker?

“Rule Number 17” begins with a flashback to a year or so before: Cordell is called to the medical examiner’s office to identify Emily’s body, some hours after her desperate phone call to him from the border. Seeing Emily there, cold and blue, breaks something in Cordell. He is overwhelmed by rage and grief both, and in the episodes that have focused on events since then, we’ve seen how those dual emotions were channeled into his work. His stint chasing the Rodeo Kings and running away from his family. His difficulties relating to his children, who don’t understand why their father could just leave them after their mother’s death. And, most primarily, his tentative steps forward into a new bond with partner Micki, who steps up now that Cordell’s suspicions regarding Carlos’s culpability turn out to be valid.

After Liam and Captain James admit what they learned in Mexico—that Carlos didn’t kill Emily, that his daughter is dealing drugs and is involved in the Northside Nation gang that’s been terrorizing the community, and that Emily’s murderer is in fact still loose—Cordell and James decide to “go old school on this one.” They team up, leaving Micki to protect the Walker family. In going over old evidence from the case, they again question Emily’s best friend and Walker’s childhood friend Geri, who was with Emily that night. Emily, whose bar has been struggling, has a connection to the Northside Nation: She took out a $25,000 loan from Oswald, one of the gang’s shady members, to keep her business afloat. Did either Cordell or James really believe that Geri murdered Emily? I don’t think so, but Walker devotes a few minutes to a heated argument between Cordell and Geri anyway. After her “No, I didn’t kill my best friend!” seems pretty definitive, Geri forces her way into the investigation, offering to infiltrate a Northside Nation poker game to try and grill Oswald for information.

Let me say this in the kindest possible way: The still-traumatized-from-finding-her-friend’s-body Geri has absolutely no chill, and it’s clear that Oswald can immediately tell she’s up to something once she stalks into his card game. Cordell, Geri, and James are so convinced that Oswald is guilty of Emily’s murder that they hinder themselves, and instead of investigating the other people at the game, they assume Oswald’s guilt—incorrectly, of course. Because Oswald, although he takes Geri hostage and tries to spark a shootout between the Texas Rangers and the Northside Nation, didn’t kill Emily. Instead, the motorcycle-jacket-wearing blonde Cali did, for as simple a reason as Emily being in the wrong place at the wrong time and seeing that Cali and the rest of the Northside Nation were transporting prescription drugs across the border.


It’s a moment of personal growth when Cordell listens to James and doesn’t shoot Cali after this admission, instead lowering his gun and moving to arrest her. But then Geri appears out of nowhere, having somehow snuck back into the warehouse, trailed the trio, and then shooting Cali at just the right moment before she could shoot Cordell—and it seems like she’s not going to be like, prosecuted or anything? (Conspiracy theory: Is Geri covering her own tracks by killing Cali?) Instead, James and Cordell congratulate themselves on a job well done. James oversees the release of Carlos Mendoza from prison. Cordell returns home for a family dinner on the Walker ranch, and raises a toast to his wife’s spirit, who is watching their celebration. And well, I don’t mean to be tactless, but: Is Emily also watching when Geri and Cordell make out inside in Geri’s bar? Because solving your wife’s murder doesn’t mean you should start kissing your best friend, I don’t think—Cordell Walker stays messy.

Stray observations

  • Some real white privilege in Cordell and James letting Cali run back into the building to retrieve her phone. Two Texas Rangers and not one of them can escort her to keep an eye on this woman? Come on, y’all.
  • Micki taking Stella and Augie shooting to work out their feelings, and then badmouthing therapy during that same outing … that was a choice!
  • Any wedding trellis on a TV show is operating in the shadow of the Gilmore Girls chuppah. Even still, Liam taking a sledgehammer to that thing after his breakup with Brett seemed kind of hasty, didn’t it?
  • “The Walkers as cowboy Kennedys” is basically what Taylor Sheridan’s entire Yellowstone universe is.
  • Congratulations to Google Nest Hub for some of the most blatant product placement I’ve seen in a while! “It just helps,” yeah, okay, sure.
  • “Real broken legal system we got.” Yes, Oswald, that is the American way!
  • To all my fellow The CW-watching Millennials, I ask: Did you see that Trevor’s Rodeo Kings dad is played by Austin Nichols of One Tree Hill? Iconique.
  • See you in a few months for our finale recap and discussion of whether this Walker reboot ultimately worked!