Texas Ranger Cordell Walker, one of the last old-fashioned heroes in the West, is a protective friend but a relentless foe who will stop at nothing to bring a criminal to justice.
Geographically, this series may be set in Texas, but when you watch Walker, you're firmly rooted in Chuck Norris Country, where even Buddhist monks can kick some butt ("Violence where there are alternatives is immoral, violence where there are none is survival"), and a heartwarming Christmas episode can end with the words "And no one died." At times, this season (actually the show's fifth) plays more like Little Chuck on the Prairie, as Norris channels Michael Landon with several uplifting spiritual episodes. In "The Neighborhood," the innocent young victim of a drive-by shooting miraculously heals after being bathed in blinding heavenly light in her hospital room. In the two-part "Sons of Thunder," a friend remarks to a newly established karate instructor, "There's a lot of people that really need the martial arts." The instructor holds up a Bible and replies, "That's not all they need." And Walker, who, remember, is part-Cherokee, shows his mystical side in "Ghost Rider," in which the spirit of a murdered Native-American boy, guides Walker to catch his killer. Not to worry; Chuck still dispenses some righteous punishment to a rash of loathsome and despicable evil-doers, including vicious white supremacists who take over a minority-owned TV station, a band of vigilante cops, a global assassin, and one monster who hijacks a busload of children and buries them alive. "You're going to have to kill me," he snarls at Walker. "Why don't I just make you wish you were dead," Walker coolly replies.
Throughout, Chuck uses the show as a bully pulpit for Walker to preach against drugs and gangs, and for brotherhood. "I have something to say," he addresses the camera after canceling the supremacists' on-air rants. "America is based on freedom and justice for everyone." And of course, when words fail, there's always the roundhouse kick to the face. This season, Walker and Asst. D.A. Alex Cahill (Sheree J. Wilson) are something of an item. In the episode "Redemption," she finds herself opposing her estranged and alcoholic father on a high-profile case. Tammy Lauren makes an indelible first impression as aspiring Ranger "Bobbie" Hunt in "99th Ranger." Also seen this season are some familiar TV Land faves, including Robert Vaughn as the corrupt head of an experimental dairy farm in "Plague," Brian Keith (Family Affair) as a powerful man with a skeleton in the family closet in "Ghost Rider," Scott Valentine (Family Ties) as an ill-fated gun-runner in "The Brotherhood," and Dan Lauria (The Wonder Years) as a mob boss who wants to bring his 10-year-old son into the family business. Subtlety and finesse are not Chuck Norris' style, but "i"Walker, Texas Ranger is undeniably crudely effective. And that's a Chuck Norris fact that's no joke. --Donald Liebenson