Stream It Or Skip It: ‘Walker: Independence’ On The CW, A Wild West Prequel To ‘Walker’ That Takes Place In A Mysterious Frontier Town


In 2021, The CW (and later HBO Max) found a hit in a remake of Walker: Texas Ranger that was less Walker and more Everwood, which makes sense since the showrunner was Everwood veteran Anna Fricke. Now, like Yellowstone, the show has spawned a wild west-era prequel, where an ancestor of Cordell Walker tries to set a Texas town on the right path.

Opening Shot: A wagon train traveling down a dusty trail. Inside one of the wagons, a couple is having sex.

The Gist: It’s the late 1800s, and the wagon trail is in Texas. Abby Walker (Katherine McNamara) and her husband Liam (Brandon Sklenar) have left their affluent lives in Boston because the city has ground both of them down. Since Liam has law enforcement experience, he’s taken a job as the sheriff in the frontier boomtown of Independence.

They don’t make it, though; a dark-dressed man comes upon their camp overnight, kills Liam, shoots Abby and sets their wagon on fire. Days later, Abby wakes up at an Apache camp, with a scout named Calian (Justin Johnson Cortez) helping her communicate with his fellow tribe members and get her back on her feet. She wants to go to Independence and find out who may have killed her husband. He helps her, but is reluctant to go into the town, for various reasons.

In the tiny town, the first person she meets is Kate Carver (Katie Findlay), a burlesque dancer at the local saloon/brothel. She’s very curious about Abby, because educated women like her rarely come through town. She also meets the deputy, Augustus (Philemon Chambers); she’s about to report Liam’s murder but then she’s introduced to the new sheriff, Tom Davidson (Greg Hovanessian), whom she recognizes as the man who killed Liam.

She also runs into Hoyt Rawlins (Matt Barr), a con artist who has come to town to take advantage of its more trusting residents. After she helps him escape a botched robbery of the bank, she tells him she needs his help to bring down the sheriff, who seems to have a business interest in the town. She starts by wanting to go back to where the attack first happened; there the two encounter Calian, and both men help her bury Liam, whose body has been left to rot.

Walker: Independence
Photo: Anna Kooris/THE CW

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Walker: Independence seems to have more than a passing resemblance to another recent prequel, 1883.

Our Take: Just like with the Jared Padalecki-led version of Walker, creator Anna Fricke is interested in building out a world for Abby Walker in Walker: Independence rather than just rely on action sequences and black-and-white moralism. The prequel dabbles a bit more than its parent show in The CW’s soon-to-be-changed penchant for making things modern and sexy, given our first glimpse of Abby and her doomed husband against a modern soundtrack.

But Fricke and Seamus Fahey, who co-wrote the pilot, have done a good job of giving an idea that, despite its tiny size, there’s a lot going on in Independence, and that everyone that Abby has met during her first days there have their own motivations for picking sides.

She’ll have her allies, whether they’re reluctant ones like Hoyt or more loyal ones like Calian or maybe Kai (Lawrence Kao), a Chinese immigrant who now owns a restaurant in town. Tom is definitely the enemy, but there will be shadings there, especially when it comes to what his plans are for the town. And her motivation, good old fashioned revenge, feels like it’s being portrayed as more of a slow burn that will be channeled into Abby becoming a frontier freedom fighter, especially as Hoyt, Calian and others show her how to survive in a town like Independence.

Walker: Independence is less thoughtful and emotional than the parent show, but it’s still built up more than enough of a story that viewers will follow it and not just get bored of wild west shoot ’em ups.

Sex and Skin: The first scene is the only sex in the pilot, and of course, it’s network-safe sex.

Parting Shot: After Hoyt and Calian helps her bury her husband, Ally tells them that “Tom Davidson must be stopped, so none of this ever happens again.”

Sleeper Star: Gabriela Quezada is Lucia, who seems to have developed a relationship with Hoyt, and she’s obviously jealous at the attention he’s paying to Abby, despite the fact that in the early going, the relationship is purely business.

Most Pilot-y Line: Abby and Liam had a piano in their wagon; Abby liked to play it and sing to Liam. We know that people took all sorts of belongings on wagon trains, but we felt bad for the horses who had to lug that piano around.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Walker: Independence is a pretty straightforward western that is helped by a well-considered world that’s been built around its main character.

Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.



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