Back in the exciting times of the original show, “Walker: Texas Ranger”, you could tune in and see Chuck Norris as Cordell Walker, Texas Ranger, living the legend of Texas rangers everywhere. The story goes that a town asked for help from the Rangers for some upheaval in their town, and when the train arrived, there was only one Ranger. One riot, one Ranger. And each week, whatever happened and despite whatever help he had throughout the episode, Cordell usually ended up in a fight with multiple bad guys and used his martial arts to defeat, arrest, and book ’em. Occasionally, he lost his hat in the attack, but would always retrieve it. Lots of fight scenes, sometimes with shots of people flying here, there and everywhere either being thrown or diving great distances to tackle someone.
Plus, there was always the case of the week. Usually it took the form of someone seemingly innocent being either forced to be shady or just being shady, they’d get found out mostly by the smell test from Walker’s nose, and within 44 minutes, it was over. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
Meet a new Walker
While the original Walker had everything together, the new Walker’s life is a complete mess. In addition to having a dead wife, he’s also been MIA in his kid’s life for the last year. Now he’s back, but his two kids struggled without him, and he really doesn’t know how to be a father. Which isn’t a surprise, he didn’t know how to be a father before he left either. He was terrified of being alone with his family even, a backstory that made no sense with the wife he was with, but hey, whatever. She gets dead, he hides in undercover work, now the show starts.
While he is still supposed to be some cop superstar, you wouldn’t know it from the episode. The cop work is almost non-existent in Ep1, perhaps because they spend so much time introducing everyone around town including multiple family members, coworkers, some kid who was apparently undercover or knew something or whatever. It wasn’t even clear, but it was the big breakthrough in the 2 minute long case of the week.
I get that it is Ep 1, and there’s a lot to “introduce”. But you kind of need a cop show to include some actual casework. Meh.
Walker himself is played by Jared Petecki of Supernatural fame, and lots of people will line up to watch just cuz it’s him. Me? I’ve only made it through S1 of Supernatural and I don’t find him much of an actor. Strong and silent doesn’t go very far if you don’t have presence, and I didn’t see much in any of the scenes in Ep 1. What I kept thinking for most of the episode was how great it would be if it was Timothy Olyphant, if it was the U.S. Marshals, and if I had more episodes of Justified to watch. Olyphant was just as screwed up, but at least he had presence. Meh.
The supporting cast
Somebody is going to trim some budget really soon. The cast is HUGE.
Walker, sure. Obvious.
He has a partner? Check. Lindsey Morgan from The 100, looking WAY too small and too earnest to be a Texas Ranger badass. A Mexican American woman Ranger, sorry. And HE’s the one having problems at work. Uh huh.
He has a boss? Check. Coby Bell, formerly of The Gifted, and I didn’t mind him in it. His character bounced around a lot with the writer’s lack of direction, but he was fine then, and he seems comfortable here.
Let’s expand to his family. Father, mother, brother, son, daughter. I probably missed someone in there. And in Ep 1 alone, the writers made sure to give him a scene with ALL of them one on one. Why? I have no idea. But do we really need to meet all FIVE family members? Mitch Pileggi plays the dad, and I like him in just about anything, even if the character sucks. I liked him in X-Files obviously, but also Day Break (1 season), an episode of Cold Case, Stargate: Atlantis, an episode of Castle, and even Blue Bloods. Maybe Supergirl blew chunks, but hey, I like the guy in almost everything. So am I happy to see him here? Nope, he has nothing to do.
Molly Hagan plays the mom, and I confess, I love her. I do. I have ever since she was the voice of compassion on Herman’s Head way back in ’91. Over the years, I have liked her when she popped up on Star Trek shows, Early Edition, JAG, Monk, NCIS, Eli Stone, Cold Case, and Castle. I always do this mental dance, “What’s her name, and where did I see her last” before remembering Herman’s Head. So, sure, I’m glad she’s here, just like Mitch, but as far as I can tell, her role is to shout at the family or have deep meaningful discussions while she rewires a lamp or something. Yawn. Don’t get me wrong, I’m willing to watch her rewire a lamp any day and twice on Sunday. But it isn’t exactly great television.
Moving on, we come to the angry daughter. Violet Brinson plays Stella, but why they gave her a name, I don’t know, she could literally just be angry daughter for the whole episode. Her brother, Arlo, is played by Kale Culley and either of one may be master thespians, but we’ll never know based on the 45 seconds of screen time they have to be “angry daughter” and “anxious to please son”. And neither have anything to do with the cases. Why do I care?
Last but not least is the loving brother. The one who stepped in as substitute Dad while Walker was off undercover. He wants Walker to focus on being a dad and forget everything else. Why? Because he obviously had something to do with the wife’s death a year before, or at least knew something, and hasn’t said. It’s like he walked straight out of central casting as the brother who will turn out to have been between a rock and a hard place and knew whatever got the wife killed, but is REALLY sorry about it all. He’s played by Keegan Allen, and I hope he has something else for his character to do other than be a future “fifth business” reveal. His job, dun dun dun, is as an ADA, so we should theoretically be seeing a lot of him.
And I’m not done. Wait, there’s more. If you act now, we’ll throw in MORE supporting cast members who have nothing to do with Ep 1! We have the partner’s boyfriend (just to make it clear there’s no romance going on with his partner, that would be crazy, right?). Jeff Pierre is the actor and remember that name as you are going to see it in the credits. Maybe not on screen for longer than 30s, but you’ll see it. And there’s some chick at a bar that he knows played by Odette Annable, his dead wife (played by his real-world wife Genevieve Padalecki), and his daughter’s friend (Gabriela Flores). But wait, there’s more. I’m sure we’ll get to meet the kid who was afraid at a pottery store, the daughter’s teachers, maybe her dentist, who will no doubt turn out to be an old lover of Walker’s who’s in a bit of trouble that erupts just as his daughter is in for a cleaning. Holy crap, there are PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. Oh, wait, no they have farm animals, there should be room for a hot female vet to stare lovingly at the father while the kids get jealous.
And nobody in any of the cast is really DOING anything for the entire episode.
Okay. Calm myself. It’s not like the original Walker was some master class in acting. They showed up, caught the bad guys, kicked some butt, spouted a few words like “drugs are bad” and cashed their cheques. I’m confident this group can do it too. Just as long as the writers remember that it’s a cop show at some point.
But that last part is the weak link. The show’s creator, Anna Fricke, notched her belt with shows like Everwood, Men in Trees, Being Human. I would love to be confident that the show will find its footing in action, not relationship angst. I just don’t see it being her go-to scene. Now, if she wants to write about him moving to Alaska to find himself after his wife dies, taking his two kids to live with him in a small town, I might be able to follow that one.
What the heck. It’s a coin toss for me for renewal. The brand is solid, and if they can do case-of-the-week FAST, the brand for Walker + the love for Patecki should be renewal gold. If they turn it into Everwood, Texas Style, me thinks no one will find it. Because the people showing up for Patecki and Walker are not looking for Everwood. I’ll go with Renewal, reluctantly. And I’ll watch for another episode or two to see if it goes ANYWHERE.