Season 1, Episode 4, "Don't Fence Me In"

Illustration for article titled iWalker/i fumbles the model-minority question in the Micki-focused “Dont Fence Me In”

Photo: The CW

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“Shake that apple tree, you never know what’s gonna fall,” Captain James says to Walker and Micki at the end of “Don’t Fence Me In,” and oh hey! That line of dialogue sums up every plot and subplot in this fourth episode of Walker: Micki’s suspicions regarding their respected colleague Monty (Patrick Kirton) and his tidy investigation of the murder of Mr. Harlan, head of a sizable oil company near Austin; Walker’s realization that his mother was having an affair during a rocky patch with his father; and Augie’s meddling in Walker’s box of undercover stuff, leading to him texting a female contact of Walker’s from those 10 months he was working out of town after Emily’s murder. All this, but Walker couldn’t write in the return of the glittery gold cowboy stripper from last week? For. Shame.

In all seriousness, though, “Don’t Fence Me In” is one of the better episodes of Walker so far. The series is undoubtedly still doing too much within each episode; aside from the Micki/Walker investigation of the Harlan family, any other element from this week could have been built up over time. Abeline was trading passionate letters with Gary from the bird feed store? Build it out! Augie is curious about his father’s time away, and starts snooping in his stuff? Build it out! Micki is still struggling with the need to prove herself as the sole Latina woman among the mostly white, mostly white Rangers, and that’s further exacerbated by a young Mexican American woman calling her a “gringa” token? Build it out! It’s clear that Walker is interested in the what-happened-to-Emily long game (especially once Liam learns that Captain James pulled surveillance footage included in her case file), but not every episode needs to operate as a total reset before the next.

Along those lines, though, I am sorry to report that there is not even a mention of Hoyt this week. He was supposed to be Cordell’s best childhood friend and another son to Abeline! No one is mourning this iridescent man’s absence? It’s only me? Bonham isn’t even taking the opportunity to smirk? I’m disappointed in the entire Walker family!

“Don’t Fence Me In” begins with Texas Ranger Monty calling for backup: He just found the head of Harlan Oil murdered, and the man who he saw committing the crime has fled the scene. When Micki and Walker chase the suspect down and “bulldog it,” cutting him off so they can apprehend him, they find the man, Mexican American Enzo Carillo, already suffering from head wounds before they arrest him. Enzo used to be affiliated with the Olvidados gang, Monty says, and clearly he rejoined them for some reason to kill Harlan and steal his money, and the case seems to be closed. Toast to a job well done, toast to Monty’s 30 years on the job, and keep it moving.

But when Captain James pushes Micki to the front of a press conference to announce more information about Enzo’s arrest, Micki meets Enzo’s daughter, Delia, who is aghast that the Latina Micki is standing with the Rangers against Enzo, and against, as Micki sees it, Mexicans at large. She swears that her father would never commit this crime, and is it a little “model minority” that the show makes Delia a pre-med student, so her insistence of her father’s innocence would seem more trustworthy? Yup! It’s not great! Have we all forgotten Better Luck Tomorrow so quickly?

Anyway, Delia insists that Enzo was Mr. Harlan’s committed ranch hand, and lets Micki and Walker know that Mr. Harlan would hang out with them all the time—attending her quinceañera, trying to speak Spanish at their social events, and generally being an okay dude (but not okay enough, I suppose, to pay Enzo more or foot the cost of Delia’s medical school … hm). Delia’s certainty of her father’s innocence inspires Micki and Walker to take another look at Harlan’s own family, including his wife, played by OG Aunt Zelda Beth Broderick, and his terrible children, who are like cashmere Coachella ponchos come to life. And when Micki sees a familial resemblance between Mr. Harlan and Enzo when sketching their faces (… I have nothing pithy to say here, I just am confused by this element of her character development), and when the partners puncture Mrs. Harlan’s alibi by learning that she is having an affair with Monty, all the pieces fall into place. Mrs. Harlan and Monty conspired to kill Mr. Harlan, who suspected their affair and adjusted his will to leave everything to secret son Enzo; when their attempted murder was interrupted by Enzo, who didn’t know that Mr. Harlan was his father, Monty bludgeoned him before Enzo got in his car and tried to drive away. With Monty disgraced and Mrs. Harlan also arrested, the entirety of the Harlan estate passes to Delia. Three cheers for a Knives Out ending!

It’s probably foolhardy to assume that Walker would have given Micki any real inward reflection about her chosen profession and about the nature of the police in this country, but even still, that fantastical scenario Trey uses to comfort her—about a “little brown girl” who will see Micki on TV and “want to be you” —is a major yikes. As is Walker telling her she did nothing wrong because she was just doing her job; as is Delia’s later acceptance of Micki once she gets the Harlan payout; as is the reveal that Enzo was already well on his way to being dead by the time Micki rammed him with her car during that chase. That all lets Micki continue being the straight shooter good cop to Cordell “Off the Books” Walker, whose domestic life shifts back to the forefront this week.

Illustration for article titled iWalker/i fumbles the model-minority question in the Micki-focused “Dont Fence Me In”

Photo: The CW

Can Cordell ever catch a break? First there’s his realization that his parents’ marriage was so rocky that his mother had feelings for another man. Then he learns that Stella’s friend Bel’s parents are now on ICE’s radar after Bel and Stella were arrested for marijuana possession. Then Stella ducks him at the stables where she’s doing community service because she’s too busy flirting with The CW’s version of Timothée Chalamet. And Augie develops a photo of Walker with another woman who wasn’t Emily, and then texts that woman—Twyla Jean—once he boots up Walker’s old phone he used while he was undercover. So many questions here! Like why Augie is such a snoop! And why Walker kept a burner phone after his assignment ended! You gotta destroy that stuff immediately! And why wouldn’t you store all your undercover gear, I don’t know, at work, where your problematic TV teenagers don’t find it? Duke Culpepper should have known better.

Stray observations

  • Emily personality update: She used to snore. That’s all we get this week about Walker’s beloved wife, and it’s not much!
  • “Muskrat” is an absolutely terrible nickname. Truly atrocious.
  • How old is Micki supposed to be? She met Trey while they served in the military together. She then served eight years with the Austin Police Department. Mid-30s, maybe? I only ask because her house is beautifully decorated and I covet it deeply and am trying to figure out when that level of domestic maturity will happen in my life!
  • Did anyone guess that the first blatantly non-car product placement we would get in Walker is for Benjamin Moore paint and their Color Portfolio app? I did not have that in my “weird stuff in 2021” bingo card.
  • Jalapeño pepper jam is a very good condiment for a charcuterie board. Put it on a Triscuit with some dried apricots and some soppressata and change your life.
  • I just now realized that the Walkers’ friend Stan Morrison—who definitely had something to do with Emily’s murder, right?—is played by Jeffrey Nordling, the same actor who was Laura Dern’s atrocious husband on Big Little Lies. I knew this man had a recognizably punchable face!
  • If you’re interested in learning more about corpse flowers, the Internet tells me their Latin binomial name, Amorphophallus titanium, translates to something like … giant misshapen penis? So that’s fun!

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