By Samantha Highfill
January 21, 2021 at 09:12 PM EST
Credit: Rebecca Brenneman/The CW

Jared Padalecki on a CW show about complicated family relationships and an (at least recently) absentee father? After Padalecki spent 15 years on Supernatural, it does sound a bit familiar. But the good news is that, ultimately, Walker and Supernatural each stand on their own. In the new series' pilot, Padalecki and company succeed in establishing a completely new character in a completely new world, one where ghosts only exist in Walker's mind.

The pilot begins with the origin story of the aforementioned ghost. In the first scene, Walker says goodbye to his wife, Emily (played by Genevieve Padalecki). She's off on a trip but assures him that she'll take his "approved route." As for Walker, his parents and kids are waiting at home for game night to begin.

But game night takes a turn when Walker gets a call from an upset Emily. She's crying, and she's running, saying "something's not right." Walker then hears a couple of gun shots before the call ends. So as to not scare the kids, he walks outside to call Emily back, and when she doesn't answer, he breaks down in tears. If I'm being honest, this was my one question with this pilot: If he knows her "approved route," wouldn't he hop in the car and try to get to her rather than assume she's dead when she's not answering? I feel like there has to be more to this story.

One small time jump later, and Walker is finally returning home after more than 10 months away from his family working an undercover case. Only, he misses his big homecoming dinner because he's getting drunk at his and Emily's "spot" at Lady Bird Lake. Walker's old partner, and now boss, Larry James (Coby Bell), sends a patrol car to get him, and that's where we meet Micki Ramirez (Lindsey Morgan). She gets him home, where he passes out on the couch to wake up the next day, retrieve his truck, and finally make it out to his parents' house.

His son, August (Kale Culley), is excited to see him, but his daughter, Stella (Violet Brinson) is nowhere to be found. But this is where we meet his mom Abeline (Molly Hagan), dad Bonham (Mitch Pileggi), and brother Liam (Keegan Allen), who is noted as being a new assistant district attorney. It also seems Liam has been helping take care of Walker's kids in his absence.

Walker wastes no time in getting back to work, which is where he meets his new partner: Micki Ramirez. Last night was her final night on state patrol, and now she and Walker are looking into a couple of guys assaulting an officer during a roadside assistance call. First step in their investigation? Lunch, so they can get to know each other and Micki can tell Walker "don't mess it up for me." She's new here, she's a woman, and she's a Mexican-American. She's already going to have a fight in front of her, so she doesn't need Walker making matters worse.

That night, at family dinner, Walker learns that his mom enlisted August and Stella in Catholic school, something he isn't exactly thrilled about. But hey, he wasn't here. And just as it becomes painfully obvious that Walker's missed a lot, he gets a call. He has to go pick Stella up at the police station.

Stella was arrested for possession, and Walker finds her and her friend Bell at the police station. And let's just say their reunion isn't exactly warm. On the drive home, Stella calls Walker out for his own substance abuse before moving on to the fact that they didn't hear from him for three months when he was undercover. It's clear that Stella's hurt, and these two have a lot to work through.

Meanwhile, Micki returns home to find Trey (Jeff Pierre), her non-boyfriend (but maybe boyfriend?), is home from deployment. As she tells him about her new partner, we learn a bit more about Walker: Apparently, he signed up for the Marines after 9/11.

Elsewhere, Liam takes Walker out for a drink where we meet Geri (Odette Annable), an old friend, and the person Emily was on her way to pick up when she said her final goodbye to her husband. It's clear Walker and Geri haven't talked in a while — apparently, they both got sick of Geri not being able to answer Walker's many questions about the night Emily died. And instead of talking now, they decide to two-step. At least until Walker gets a text from Micki and has to go.

After piecing through surveillance footage, Micki identifies the car they're after, and it seems it's connected to a local store that was started as a place to rehab criminals. Walker and Micki head that way. As Walker walks around the store, he picks up a small cross and starts goofing around and asking Jesus about his kids' new school, but when the store owner and his sister emerge, he chucks the cross at Micki, who pockets it.

The owner's sister points them to two guys they have working in the back, and one of them instantly starts going at Walker, talking about how his wife died and how he "couldn't protect her." Then the guy swings at Walker, so ... Walker takes him down. But when it goes a little too far, Micki pulls him off.

Micki then takes Walker to her place to dress his bleeding hand, which is where Walker gets to meet Trey (and Trey warns him not to piss off Micki again). But Walker's day just keeps getting better when the school calls him. It seems Stella didn't come home on the bus.

Walker heads to Bell's house — the friend who was arrested with Stella — to look for her, but Bell's mom explains she's not there. Instead, she tells Walker that Bell's arrest made it likely they're going to get deported because they don't have their papers yet. Walker says he'll try to help.

Back at the station — do Rangers call it a station? — Micki and Walker have a breakthrough on the case when they bust open the cross figurine from the store and find heroine. Micki sends Walker off to find Stella while she deals with it.

And not surprisingly, Walker finds Stella at Lady Bird Lake, where they butt heads over his work-life balance. He tries to explain that, in his job, when he gets a call, he has to go, but she's not buying it. She and August needed him, and he wasn't there. And without Emily, who's going to fix things?

Once Walker gets her home, he arrives at the store to help Micki, who ultimately has to chase down and tackle the owner's sister. So, they got their guy. But this case might be just the beginning. Apparently, this drug ring is a link to the cartel, so now Walker's being recommended for a new task force. He says he'll think about it.

At his parents' house, Walker sits down with Liam, who wants to know why he's fidgeting with that poker chip again. (Apparently that's what he does when he's thinking about Emily's death.) Walker explains that Emily was dropping food and water by stations in the desert the night she died, so it makes no sense that she'd have a poker chip on her. He also can't stop thinking about how her eyes were closed when they found her, like someone had laid her to rest. And now, the perp saying he didn't protect her makes him think he missed something.

Liam reminds him that a man named Carlos Mendoza confessed to the murder, but it's clear Walker isn't convinced.

Inside, Walker's mom subtlety tells him about how they've fixed up a farmhouse at the edge of the property that would be perfect for a family of three. And when Walker mentions the task force, August interrupts (because he knows Stella's listening). Together, Walker and August check out the farmhouse, and precious people-pleaser August asks if they can sleep out there tonight.

Eventually, thanks to a push from grandma Abeline, Stella ends up out there as well. Walker tells her he's not going to take the job, and she sits down. Not on the couch, but it's a start.

When you hear about a reimagining of Walker, Texas Ranger, I don't think this show is what you imagine, and that's why it works. This is very much a family drama, and for fans of Padalecki, it's a chance to see him in a role unlike anything he's done. I, for one, look forward to seeing where this cast of very likable characters goes from here.

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