Tracker Season 1 Report Card: Best Moments & Missed Opportunities

There’s something to be said for a first-season show where the struggle is real to find many negatives.

It’s rare for a television series to have a perfect season, and we’re certainly not going to say that Tracker Season 1 didn’t have any flaws, but the show had a damn good start.

Justin Hartley was perfectly cast as reward seeker Colter Shaw, an independent man with a fractured family who devoted his life to travel, solitude, and helping to find missing people, sometimes even when they didn’t necessarily want to be found.

Tracker Season 1 Report Card Collage

The action drama was refreshing because it differed from the typical procedurals found everywhere else.

Tracker had cases of the week, but they were far from typical, and just the sheer fact that Colter took cases all over the country made for episodes that were wildly different from one week to the next.

Changes in scenery and fresh guest stars every week never allowed the series to become stagnant, and while the supporting cast was severely underused at times when they did show up, they helped to humanize Colter as people who knew him better than the strangers he met in small towns across America.

CBS picked up Tracker for season 2 fairly early in its freshmen run, an excellent sign for the series and the faith the network had in its latest hit.

As we wait for fall 2024, we’re looking back at the season and breaking down some brighter and lower spots, so come check out our report card.

Brothers Reunited - Tracker Season 1 Episode 12

Best Episode – Tracker Season 1 Episode 12: Off the Books

From the pilot forward, Rusell Shaw was just a name we heard pretty regularly, as Colter’s oldest sibling (and possible killer) was spoken about often as he sought to get in touch with Colter.

But we never saw him.

That all changed when Russell showed up during this hour.

He wanted to do more than talk to Colter about their past; he also needed his help.

We’ll chat about Jensen Ackles’s appearance a little later (hint, hint, he was one of the brighter spots), but he added a major jolt to the season’s final hours and gave us some vital information about the Shaw Family drama.

Caught In The Act - Tracker Season 1 Episode 12

The case here involved an old Army buddy of Rusell’s who went missing, and Colter Russell teamed up to track him while also mending some of their childhood wounds along the way.

Related: How Tracker Can Avoid Common Procedural Pitfalls

Tracker can have fun moments, but things are generally kept straight-laced.

They leaned into the actor they had in Ackles and played him as more lighthearted and free against Colter’s stoic personality.

Things took a wild turn for the brothers, who worked surprisingly well together, considering their estrangement, when they found themselves in a massive gunfight that ended with Russell getting nicked in the shoulder.

It was a violent end to a fascinating hour that was the series’ best, with a focused storyline and great chemistry between Ackles and Hartley.

Startled Colter - Tracker Season 1 Episode 2

Worst Episode – Tracker Season 1 Episode 2: Missoula

To be fair, there weren’t many “bad” hours of the series, but some were less intriguing than others.

‘Missoula’ was an hour that took Colter to Montana, where he quickly found the man, Jackson, he was sent to find.

But he soon learned that Jackson didn’t want to be “saved.”

What followed was a strange interrogation by the cult leader, who knew a lot about Colter, which seemed weird considering when did he have the time to find out all this information?

Digging In - Tracker Season 1 Episode 2

Did Google really give the cult leader that much information?

The best parts of the episode were the parts revolving around the Shaw Family drama, with the case of the week falling very flat because it wasn’t terribly interesting to see Colter try to free someone who didn’t want to be free.

Jackson eventually came around, but the hour was much more about Colter and his family issues, which made it an odd hour in the grand scheme of things because even the eventual hours when his siblings were present were less about the family than this one.

Best Guest Star – Jensen Ackles

Russell Is Ready - Tracker Season 1 Episode 12

With Colter venturing to a new city every week, we met many characters throughout the 13-episode season.

A few characters stood out this season, but none more than Jensen Ackles, who joined the series to play Colter’s wayward older, Russell Shaw.

There was no telling what kind of person Russell would be, as he only knew a little through flashbacks and that he was trying whatever he could to contact Colter.

When he showed up, Russell was a little cocky but in a confident way that made him more charming than anything else.

He flirted shamelessly with Reenie one second or the receptionist at a morgue, hoping to gain access.

He then quickly slipped into his as action star alongside his brother, as they found themselves in dangerous quarters when the race was on to find Russell’s Army buddy.

Related: Why Tracker and Reacher are Peak ‘Drifterpreneur’ TV

Ackles was a natural fit alongside Hartley.

The two shared a fresh and organic chemistry that allowed you to easily buy into their being estranged siblings who still had a lot of love for one another.

Mother & Son Out Looking - Tracker Season 1 Episode 2

His appearance was brief but mighty, and of the cavalcade of guest stars that came through this season, Russell was the one we’d love to make an encore next season.

Best Storyline – The Shaw Family Drama

The mystery of Ashton and Mary Dove Shaw is at the heart of Tracker, as the Shaw history and dynamics heavily influenced Colter, the man he became, and his approach to his reward-seeking job.

Throughout the season, the story floated in and out of focus, with some hours leaning more heavily on it than others, but regardless of how much screentime it got, it was a continuous thread that tied many things together.

Colter often used his complicated history with his father, Ashton, and his upbringing to relate to others on his quest to find or even relate to the missing people once they were rescued.

Siblings Work Together - Tracker Season 1 Episode 11

I said it all season in my Tracker reviews, but they’re treating this mystery as a slow burn, which is a good thing, as this series is perfectly constructed to last for a long time.

You don’t want to breeze through your biggest strength too quickly.

Here’s hoping the foundation they laid in the first season will pay dividends as the series continues.

Worst Storyline – The Lack of a Story For Velma & Teddi

Velma Bruin - Tracker Season 1 Episode 1

During Tracker Season 1 Episode 1, we met Colter first, of course, but soon after that, we were introduced to Velma and Teddi, a couple who acted as Colter’s handlers.

They had a standing relationship with Colter and a somewhat close relationship with him.

Well, as close of a relationship as one can have with Colter.

Yet, as the season waned, we saw less of the pair, and they became less relevant to the cases.

If that wasn’t bad enough, they eliminated any peeks into their everyday lives.

Teddie Bruin Works - Tracker Season 1 Episode 1

And they keep the episodes so packed that glimpses into anyone’s life that weren’t Colter would have been challenging to pull off; it hurt these two, who became forgotten entities in the grand scheme.

Hopefully, the powers that be learn from this season and figure out a way to incorporate them better like they were able to do with Bobby eventually.

Related: Robin Weigert: Tracker Star Was a TV Legend Before CBS’ Newest Hit

Colter’s whole thing revolves around him being on the road alone.

But Velma, Teddi, Bobby, and Reenie are important to all these cases, and the audience deserves to know them better.

Biggest Shock – The End of Tracker Season 1 Episode 9: Aurora

There were twists and shocks in every episode, but some landed harder than others.

Investigation Time - Tracker Season 1 Episode 9

‘Aurora’ was arguably the second-best hour after ‘Off the Books. ‘

It was a spooky hour that ended with a very random yet surprising reveal.

Colter was searching for a missing girl who’d been missing for several years, and the biggest lead in years came from a photo published in a local paper that had the teen’s father swearing she was alive and not too far from home.

The case saw Colter visiting an abandoned hospital and sitting across from a convicted killer, all before discovering, by accident, that the convicted killer’s sister was the kidnapper all along!

Upon first viewing, this episode was a little hard to follow.

Still, in retrospect, it was an exciting and complex case with quite the ending, which is saying something because there were a lot of wacky endings throughout the season.

But this one was genuinely one you couldn’t see coming.

Thinking & Eating - Tracker Season 1 Episode 13

Overall Season Grade – B

There was a lot to enjoy about Tracker Season 1, and there are still things that could be improved upon when the series returns.

But it was a solid first effort and very deserving of its early season 2 pickup.

Justin Hartley made for a fantastic lead and easily carried the show on his capable shoulders week in and out.

Related: Can Justin Hartley Carry An Action Show Like Tracker?

The supporting cast was also solid, if not woefully underused at times, with a special shout-out to Fiona Rene, who quickly became a fan-favorite as the intelligent and strong-willed Reenie.

There’s excellent chemistry amongst the core group, and they can build on many things that worked during their first season, making for an even better second effort.

Let’s flip that B to an A!

Let us know in the comments how you felt about the season and what you’d like to see when it returns this fall!

Whitney Evans is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lover of all things TV. Follow her on X.

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