It's only been a few months since Supernatural went off of the air, but Jared Padalecki is back with another starring role on The CW.
This time, he's taking the lead as Cordell Walker, the Texas Ranger first embodied by Chuck Norris. He is best known for that portrayal, so any reboot has big shoes to fill.
Padalecki isn't a stranger to starring roles, but he's without his long-term scene partner, Jensen Ackles. Does he do justice on his own to the Walker, Texas Ranger legacy?
The short answer is yes. Padalecki is comfortable and charming as the embattled, legendary Texas Ranger and grieving husband, Cordell Walker. He's well suited to a more adult role than he's used to playing and as someone with a family that keeps him centered.
Casting Padalecki's wife, Genevieve, as Walker's late wife, Emily, adds gravitas to Walker's pain at losing his wife, making his raw emotions more believable.
Keegan Allen as his brother, Liam, works well in the role, as do Mitch Pileggi and Molly Hagen as Bonham and Abeline Walker. Young actors Violet Brinson and Kale Culley round out the Walker family as Walker's children, Stella and August aka Auggie.
If the show were solely about Walker's desire to solve his wife's death and make good with his family after escaping them in his grief by going undercover for ten months, we'd have a great little drama on our hands.
But after Walker Season 1 Episode 1, well, nothing is ever that simple.
So, the longer answer as to whether any of that is enough to sustain the series long-term comes when Walker leaves the homestead and gets back to the job.
While Walker was undercover, his former partner, Larry (Coby Bell), got promoted and has found a new partner for Walker to take his place.
Enter The 100 vet Lindsey Morgan as Micki Ramirez, and that's where the seemingly grounded tale gets a little harder to take for a few reasons. One is Micki as a character, and the other is that the writing falls apart when Walker is away from his family.
We first meet Micki as a State Trooper who discovers the recently returned Walker visiting the bottle in the back of his pickup before getting the courage to go home after his undercover stint. She's cool. She doesn't charge him with anything, and she even offers him a ride home.
It's pretty clear that Walker has a lot on his mind, and he uses his time in her car unloading on her as the first person he's talked to as himself in ages.
Fast forward to the next day, and Micki is introduced as his new partner. She's up on his history and has already chatted with him. It seems like a good deal.
Except for a brand new Ranger who herself recognizes that Walker is a legend, she's far too confident and cocky while dealing with him. It's offputting and unrealistic.
Would a first-time Ranger behave that way when partnered with someone whose career she's followed? He's one of the best in his field, but Micki has no problem inserting herself at every turn. If she did that with compassion, understanding his family drama, that would make sense.
But there isn't any indication that's Micki's reasoning. She's just kind of a smartass. And, frankly, I'd expect her to be a smartass once she got her feet wet on the job. After all, Texas Rangers are the embodiment of tough justice. They're modern-day warriors.
The speed at which Micki felt comfortable enough in her new job just doesn't work as it should, and that doesn't do her character any favors.
The same can't be said for the partnership between Walker and Micki. Other than his surprise that she's a woman and the fact she didn't tell him who she was the night they met, they seem to get along fine.
When Walker is injured, Micki takes him home to her military boyfriend, Trey, who is also just back in town. Everyone gets on well, but when Micki talks with Trey about Walker, it's not with admiration and respect. Something just feels off.
So, on that side, the jury is out. I'll be interested to hear what you have to say on the subject.
It seems like the people behind Walker want to focus on family drama. That would be an excellent choice if only it wasn't set up to be a procedural. And not a very unique one, at that.
Creator Anna Fricke has been involved with many greats including Everwood, Men in Trees, and Being Human. There isn't a show she'd done that I've disliked. But Walker doesn't stand out with the pilot.
Backtracking a bit, we have the mystery behind Emily's death looming large.
Although we didn't get to know her at all before she died, by the time Walker returned from his self-imposed exile (aka undercover work) after her death, reactions from family suggest Emily was the glue that held the family together.
Emily seemed to be some kind of peace officer or even a volunteer working to help immigrants across the border. She was killed on the border after a frantic phone call that something wasn't right. Her death surely threw her family for a loop; we know it threw Walker.
Unfortunately, instead of taking time to assure his kids that all would be well, he seemed to have retreated into his job and lost touch for about ten months at the time they needed him the most.
Stella, most of all, is spiraling. She's getting into trouble, and it's hard to blame her.
Despite having loving grandparents and a great uncle in Liam, she wanted her dad. Losing one parent is enough. Losing another even to grief is too much for teenagers to take. At least, Auggie seemed to be on a more even keel upon Walker's return.
But that could indicate that Auggie is dealing with his loss differently, and if he doesn't get beg for attention, his sister's hijinks could lead his family to believe he's just fine when he could also be laying low not to cause more problems for those he loves.
That's a common dynamic within families and certainly within families on TV and in the movies. And if Walker missed the signals from Stella that she was begging for help (something that Micki saw and pointed out to Walker), he would also miss less substantive cries for help from Auggie if he needed it.
We didn't learn much about Liam other than that he is the assistant DA, he is gay, and he was on the emergency contact list for the kids, proving he's a dedicated family man.
Bonham and Abeline have personalities to match their names, strong and unique. What else would we expect from Texas ranchers? Advice flows freely from mom and dad, and they seem to be young at heart, full of love for their family.
I'm excited for Walker's best friend, Hoyt (Matt Barr), to come into the picture since he's supposed to be Walker's antitheses or the bad-boy type. Barr is so fun in everything he does, and I hope he'll make a great scene partner for Padalecki.
All in all, there's a lot of potential for Walker. The cast is great, and the characters relatively well-developed in under an hour. While I would have preferred a slightly different introduction to Micki, Morgan has always been a joy to watch. She was a must-see member of The 100.
Surely, Micki will grow as the episodes continue.
The biggest issue at hand is that there isn't anything new here. A few lovely scenes of Austin make it fun for those familiar with the small city, but otherwise, it's a family drama with a somewhat annoying procedural element that doesn't really make sense.
So, what do you think? Are you onboard for more Walker? Hit the comments to share your thoughts, but weigh in now with our handy dandy poll!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.