‘Walker’ reboot forges new path; indie film ‘Silence’

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‘WALKER’ ON THE CW

The CW network, skewing to a younger demographic than CBS, has decided that it would be a good idea to reboot “Walker, Texas Ranger” of Chuck Norris fame into simply “Walker” with Jared Padalecki, who is unlikely to remind anybody of the original lawman.

With his chiseled looks and scruffy face, only the cowboy hat and the shiny badge worn by this new Cordell Walker would suggest that someone who looks more like a Calvin Klein jeans model would actually be the tough guy Texas Ranger of yore.

Judging from the first episode, the new Walker is less about action than dealing with family drama, but that has much to do with the initial storyline of the lawman grieving over the violent death of his wife Emily (Genevieve Padalecki).

Walker’s coping mechanism with sorrow sent him away on an undercover mission for nearly a year, during which time his teenage kids Stella (Violet Brinson) and August (Kale Culley) were left behind in the care of grandparents Bonham (Mitch Pileggi) and Abeline Walker (Molly Hagan).

To say that Walker’s children were resentful of their father’s prolonged absence would be an understatement, but that’s why this new series, at least from the outset, spends time on resolving family issues that even draw Walker’s brother (Keegan Allen) into the picture.

Meanwhile, the workplace changes in a few dramatic ways for Walker when he learns that his old Ranger partner Larry James (Coby Bell) is now a captain and his new boss, while he acquires a female partner in Micki Ramirez (Lindsey Morgan).

“Walker” makes a few nods to political correctness that probably never would have happened in the original. For one, having a Latina Texas Ranger for a partner is definitely a departure on both gender and ethnic grounds, and Ranger Ramirez makes for a resilient colleague.

On more familiar ground in terms of what would be expected in the old days, Walker proves so aggressive when a punk suspect takes a swing at him that his partner steps in so he won’t cross the line into unnecessary brutality.

One has to wonder how Walker’s penchant for bending the rules is going to play out over time with a partner who represents a generational difference more tuned into restraint and going by the book.

During the network’s virtual press tour, the best question posed to showrunner Anne Fricke was why this series would use the name Walker as opposed to something brand new that doesn’t recall the memory of Chuck Norris.

We already know that the latest Cordell Walker is no longer the Texas Ranger skilled in the martial arts. Fricke noted that “Walker” is about “the life of this character and the family and friends around him.”

Using the name “Walker” allows this new series, as Fricke observed, “to keep the familiarity” that comes from inheriting a legacy while also forging a path that aside from classic Stetson hats and the Texas twang feels so divergent from the original.

This revamped version of “Walker” may find itself on solid footing since the network reports that the series debut rustled up the largest audience for a new series premiere on The CW in the last five years.



‘SILENCE & DARKNESS’ NOT RATED

An unnerving family dynamic emerges in the idyllic Vermont countryside where an ostensibly loving father cares for two daughters with different disabilities that don’t impede their living relatively normal lives.

Beth (Joan Glackin) is deaf, while Anna (Mina Walker) is blind. The inseparable girls communicate with sign language conducted by touch, and they dance, cook and even prep for a talent show as a guitar-playing duo.

Their father (Jordan Lage) is a doctor practicing in a small town, who has a fetish for dental hygiene and flossing that becomes creepy when it affects his strange affair with a married woman (Ariel Zevon).

We don’t know much about the devoted sisters other than the symbiotic nature of their reliance on each other, melded together to act as one whole human being. But we do realize they have their own coded messages they tap on each other’s arms and hands.

Acting in a seemingly sterile, clerical manner, the father monitors and records their behavior on cassette tapes as if parenting has become a clinical experiment of child psychology. Or is this something more sinister?

The happy equilibrium of the household starts to crack on the day that their neighbor Mrs. Bishop (Sandra Gartner) pounds hysterically on their front door, claiming her dog has found a human bone in the woods near the house.

Father dismisses the frenzied rant, letting his daughters know that he thinks “Mrs. Bishop may be off her meds.” This leads the girls to ask about their mother’s death, which causes the father to react violently.

From this point forward, a sense of dread creeps into the picture, and life becomes more uncomfortable for the girls as they realize something is not right. “Silence & Darkness” takes a turn to eerie menace.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.