The Morning After
Would someone please buy both the Walkers and the Davidsons battery powered, modern flashlights! They come in many different sizes and styles. For families so attached to the past, may I suggest a lantern light? That’s twice now that their kerosene lanterns burned down the barn and killed or nearly killed a family member! It’s time to update their safety equipment!
Lantern Flashlight, L. L. Bean Trailblazer $30; Rechargeable $50 Ultra Bright LED Lantern, Amazon $13
Walker’s season 2 finale, “Something’s Missing”, answered the remaining ‘Who dunnit?’ questions that were anxiously asked all year:
Who killed Marv?
Who burned down the barn?
Who cut the saddle strap?
Did Gale know her baby was alive?
Will the Walkers get their ranch back?
In an intense hour filled with action and emotional expression, all was revealed. Many of the answers were what we expected, but a few surprises prolonged the intensity up to the very last scene.
The Past is (No Longer) in the Past
Gale: Well, I was angry with Marv, too. For how long, I couldn't, I couldn't say, but... Oh, we fought. About money, the ranch, Abby. And he talked to Abby about all of it.
Geri: But to go behind your back? Tell her the truth about your baby?...You know, she never knew...if he told you.
Gale: Of course he did.
In a clever callback to how Cordell finally pushed Stan to confess to Emily’s murder last year, Geri and Cordell schemed to bring Gale back to the scene of a crime that she had literally and psychologically denied for the past twenty years. Surrounded by the sights and memories of the barn, Geri skillfully prodded Gale to relive the emotional confrontation between herself and her husband, when he nonchalantly revealed that Gale’s child was alive, taken from her twelve years earlier.
Gale: Do you wanna tell me...
Marv: Fine. Calm down.
Gale: Don't tell me to calm down. Yes, I want to know the truth.
Marv: Fine. She's alive.
Geri: So when he told you...
Gale: What? When he remembered to tell me you were still alive? It was like an afterthought. It was like, "Oh, by the way."
The truth about Gale's baby pushed Gale to kill Geri’s father, either with the blow from the lantern, or by locking the barn door, intentionally trapping him inside the fire that was accidentally started by the lantern. It was a crime of passion…
Gale: you don't understand how angry I was.
… followed by a second crime of jealousy and envy,
Geri: You lied about Cordi.
Gale: He brought the lantern. And I blamed him for that. But everything just got just muddled in my head.
Gale resented that her husband talked more to Abby than he did to her. She resented that he only told her about their baby when Abby insisted he do so. Out of all of Gale’s realizations, the most honest was her admission to Abby:
I never hated you. I just hated that I wasn't you.
So Gale sued the Walkers for, I’m guessing, wrongful death. I went back to the very first episode this season, “They Started It”, to refresh the details of Gale’s vengeful pursuits:
Liam: That fire. Denise and Cordi were there. Everybody has a different version of what happened.
Bonham: Son, it was an accident.
Liam: Yeah, but they blamed us for it. If I remember, I feel like they tried to sue us?
Abeline: Yes. And it was all settled in court. And I seem to remember the whole experience sparking the young lawyer in you.
Liam: Well, now they're back, and...
Bonham: Like we said, it was settled.
Two points of interest about the full circle closure Gale’s confession gave the Walkers. First, the season opened with an episode title that clearly told us the story's outcome. The Davidsons claimed the Walkers started the fire and the families’ feud, when in reality the Davidsons started the fire and the false persecution of the Walkers. “They Started It” was the truth, even if we didn’t know it until the finale.
Secondly, if Liam pursued law as a career because he was driven to finding the truth when people are wrongfully accused of a crime, he was relieved of that emotional burden once the truth about his family was revealed. He decided to give up being a lawyer and become a rancher when his obsession with learning the truth about the Davidsons was fulfilled. Perhaps Denise was also driven to pursuing law, and Cordell with identifying and apprehending those who commit crimes, because of the childhood trauma of the accusations and court ordeal they both endured. Whether or not Liam is aware of his life coming full circle is unclear, but as Gale’s, Denise’s and Cordell’s memories proved, our minds can spin a reality that will drive the direction of our lives without our conscious participation in its narrative of our story.
Denise: I feel like I'm waking up from a long nightmare. My opinions, my grudges, the kind of marriage that I modeled us after, I don't even know what's real anymore.
Gale’s skewed version of reality spread outward from herself, like the flames of the barn fire she started, engulfing all the children of both families. Their beliefs about themselves, their place in the world, and how they would live their lives were defined by that’s night’s trauma.
Denise: I should have known. I should have known it was never your fault.
Cordell: Yeah, well... I think we both just started believing our own nightmares.
Gale’s confession exonerated Cordell, freeing him from the false guilt he had carried his whole life:
Cordell: You know, this whole time, I thought, I thought I did this, thought it was my fault. My memory made me think that, that I caused Marv to come in and-and save my life, to-to save Denise and me. Uh, but I wasn't even there. I-I wasn't even, I wasn't even here.
Augie: How could she take you guys to court like that? Like, why'd she think she'd ever get away with it?
Bonham: 'Cause we didn't know the truth.
The flames of Gale’s anger burned both Denise and Cordell. Cordell’s burns scarred him for life, but he was still able to "move forward" with the support of his loving family. Denise fanned the flames of blame and anger, allowing them continue to burn her life to the ground. When Gale was forced to face the truth, her anger's flames were extinguished, allowing Denise to see for the first time the flames of her anger separate from those of her mother. Denise saw the fallacy she had accepted to support her mother and mask her own feelings of loss. The flames of her anger were also then extinguished, revealing the biases she had held for so long.
I did it. I cut the saddle that day. After everything that happened today, I can't let all of this stuff between our families keep hanging over your head anymore…. That lantern. I needed the Walkers to be robbed of something, the same way that we were with Daddy.
It turns out that Denise’s “foolproof alibi” that she was working the morning of the race wasn’t meant to be taken with a hand wave of acceptance for the expediency of solving television crime stories. Dan was right to suspect her. She stole the Walker’s home and land, and she blamed Bonham for her father’s death. She can’t be allowed to remain the District Attorney for Travis County, right? She certainly has proven that she doesn’t have the moral character or the impartiality to fairly investigate or persecute crime. In my opinion, it’s a shame that Liam no longer wants the job. I think that would have been a better full circle vindication for him than abandoning his legal career for ranching (see later discussion on “what’s next?”).
Title Thread: Something’s Missing
If “They Started It” was the ominous foreshadowing of this season’s story, I’m deeply curious about the closing title, “Something’s Missing.”
For Gale, the thing that was missing for so long was her baby, and the truth that her husband kept from her about that baby. When their baby, i.e. Geri, grew up, the thing Geri was missing was her mother, and the truth about her birth that was kept from her by her adopted father.
For the Walkers and Davidsons, the thing they sensed was missing for decades was the truth about what happened the night of Marv’s death. Ironically, it was the vehemence of the Davidsons’ need for revenge that ultimately exposed the truth. If Denise hadn’t arrested Bonham, Nate would never have come forward with his vital information about Marv, the fire and the baby. Geri became the neutral channel, a mutuality, through which the truth was found.
For Cassie, the thing that had been missing for so long was her partner, Miles. He was found last week, along with the truth about his disappearance, but the pieces of that puzzle that are still missing have Cassie worried. Her instincts are warning her that they are still exposed to danger, and it turns out that she was correct, and the thing that is missing now is Cordell.
Liam: Where are we gonna have your last bash as a high schooler?
Stella: It doesn't matter to me as long as we're all together.
Kidnapped on the day of Stella's graduation, Cassie is missing her partner again (she would be totally justified in developing a complex about the lengths people will go to avoid working with her!). Now, both Emily and Cordell will be missing from Stella’s graduation ceremony. Cordell's disappearance, and the missing information about the new gang in town, provided the cliffhanger tease to season 3.
The antithesis of “something’s missing” is being whole, being together. “Together” was mentioned seven times in the episode. Some of the dialog echoed Gale’s slip up of “I always knew we’d be together again.” Other mentions foreshadowed Cordell’s separation from the family. A third purpose seemed to signify the strength that comes from being together with loves ones.
I can’t help but feel that I’m missing something obvious, though. The episode titles this season have been so multi-layered, I can’t shake the sense that there’s a deeper metaphor, or at least more things that were or are missing. Does the title only refer to literally the last scene of the episode? Can you think of other things that were “missing”?
Gale: You know, when we, uh, when we came back here, I... I saw a chance to get back everything that we lost. And we did, pretty much. But I was awful. And prideful. I think I just had to go so far over that way because sitting in the truth, it was, it was too much.
“Something’s Missing” revealed the truth that had been kept secret for so long. In finally answering so many questions, it gave us a scorecard by which we could tally how many theories we had right this year. To be sure, there were some surprises.
For example, Gale and Denise were both guilty. We were right about childhood trauma having unfortunate lingering psychological impact on Denise, but I’m not sure I ever suspected both Davidson women were criminals. Moreover, they acted independently of each other. Denise didn’t rig the race either in defense of or in cahoots with her mom. A thread earlier this season contrasted how the Davidsons didn’t work together but the Walkers and Geri did, so that could now be seen as foreshadowing that mother and daughter each chose their own way to spite the Walkers, not having the least suspicion or knowledge of the other’s nefarious actions. In the end, their family crumbled whereas the Walker family triumphed.
Similarly, at the beginning of the season, would you ever have predicted Dan would be the righteous member of the Davidson family? His immunity deal saves him from having to own up to the death of the Serano henchman, so he’s cleared of that crime, and his choice to work together with the good guys last week completed his redemption arc. Didn’t see that one coming.
“What’s Next?” was a question asked during various conversations, echoing the title of the seventh episode this year (“Where Do We Go From Here?) and teasing the next season. Notably, Trey, Stella, Liam and Geri are all at a crossroads (a term used last week) in their lives, as they consider their next steps.
Trey as a ranger is a welcome twist. Left without a role in the story after Micki’s departure, this suits him much better than solely being someone’s significant other. Jeff Pierre contributes a great deal to this cast so I’m thrilled to have his talents recognized. Kudos to the writers for finding a powerful way for him to contribute to the series. The explanation about Trey’s military background being swapped for 7 years of trooper experience was also much appreciated. Story details matter.
Trey: How is it shaping your choices, your family?
Cordell: You know, Trey...regrets are different than loss, acceptance. I mean, I think about roads not taken every day. But I wouldn't change a damn thing about where I'm coming from. You're cut out for this. And, uh, frankly, the idea of you and me fighting the good fight together?
Oddly, I heard a bit of Jared saying that to Jeff, welcoming him into a larger role in the show.
Cordell spent a notable amount of time praising Stella, but much of what he said caught me by surprise. Honestly, I’m not sure all of his compliments have been supported in the story. I need to think more about his view of Stella – or hope that Esther or Cat’s character profiles delve into whether her actions over the past 2 years warrant Cordell’s assertion:
“You make all of us feel. It's you. You are the one that keeps this family together.”
Jared thinks very deeply about his characters’ development, so I really want to start from the assumption that he/Cordell is right and there was a moral to Stella’s story that needs to be studied to be revealed. A significant amount of time and an important scene of closure was dedicated to recalling Emily, the game they played the night she was murdered, and Stella’s role in the past two years, so that all suggests I “missed something.”
I still contend that we don’t know Stella’s decision about college. Everyone has assumed that she’s going away to college, but words to that effect have been conspicuously missing from the dialog. “What’s Next?” seems to be a latent question for her. I did enjoy learning that her middle name is actually “Blue” (Blu?, Bleu?), though! I always thought it was just her dad’s nickname for her.
On the other hand, I know I don’t agree with Liam’s statement that his dad made him who he is, and I was surprised by Liam’s sudden interest in ranching.
Liam: Daddy, you remember what you said to me, standing right here, on the day of my high school graduation?
Bonham: Well, I'd like to think it was something about being proud.
Liam: Yeah, you were. You did say that. But you also said, "I forgive you."…for leaving. I know that it bothered you, me going east. But you, you supported it. You let me do that whole exercise.
Bonham: Wasn't an exercise. It did a lot for you, it made you who you are.
Liam: You made me who I am.
I believe a child is the sum of the values taught to them during their childhood, the model lived out in front of them by their parents’/guardians, their parents’ view of the child, the child’s innate personality, and the mark left on them by their own experiences. It’s interesting that Liam negates his role in defining himself. That says to me that he still doesn’t know who he is yet.
It’s also interesting that pride was brought up here again, because earlier Liam commented to his father:
You working this land, I mean, you knew who you were. Your whole life. You were even humble enough to help Dan with the ranch.
It was Bonham’s pride that made him shake hands on that stupid race for the ranch in the first place, so his balance of humility and pride has been explored. Gale admitted being “prideful” as well, so pride was a thread woven into this season. It is one of several moral lessons that I saw more clearly in hindsight after hearing a particularly insightful answer from Jared in a convention meet and greet session. These are the types of overarching threads that would take an entire season rewatch to identify, but I might start the ball rolling with a “Season 2 Themes” article then together with you find all the hidden gems we missed.
Lastly, Geri’s head has to be spinning from the flip flop loyalties of her family identity. She came through for the Walkers, in essence betraying the Davidsons, but she ended up in a place where she’s confused again about who she is. Her actions were in search of the truth about her life story, which is really all she’s wanted all year, but she’s just as confused about her next steps as Trey, Stella and Liam. Sadly, that means Geri wants to continue to pump the brakes on her relationship with Cordell, leaving what’s next for them open to exploration next season.
The Last Word
“Something’s Missing” was a superb ending to Walker’s second season, closing out most of its mysteries. The writing in this episode was excellent, mentioning many of the events of the last two years thus reprising the Walker family’s journey so far, and setting up an exciting premise for season 3. With a few exceptions, the writing this season has been tighter and better than the first season, so the show feels like it’s finding it footing. Its cast continues to be meticulously excellent every week, so the potential is there for an even better third season. We’ll be here, Jared, anxiously waiting to see Cordell’s next life lessons.
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