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Series premiere: Valor

Picture of man watching big screen tv to represent TV reviews

From the description, my prediction was:

CW: Valor – I would like to leave this one on the list as making it, and if it wasn’t the CW, I’d put it ahead of Black Lightning, with a serialized story about a failed copter mission in Somalia and flashbacks, could be great – CANCELLED;

The basis for the show is a helicopter mission to Somalia to deliver some soldiers to bring back a Somalia warlord as a prisoner. Except as they get back on board the copter, the locals show up, open fire, damage the helicopter and they have to ditch. The show then jumps forward a month to them back in the U.S., the two pilots made it, their gunner didn’t … he is MIA with the other soldiers who ditched before the crash. Pretty soon you find out that the two pilots lied in their after-action reports, and they’re hiding something. By the end of the episode you find out that after the crash, they got to shore with their prisoner who was not a warlord but an American soldier. There’s something else going on, the remaining soldier / CIA spook wants to kill him plus one of the pilots, but the female pilot shoots him first. He died, the prisoner got away, and the pilots were rescued after being in the hills for a week. Then they lied about everything afterwards to cover up the murder of the spook. But if secrets stay buried, there’s no show, so the gunner turns out to be alive and a POW, with his captors wanting to trade him for ISIS captives. No deal will happen, so the only way to get him back is a rescue mission.

I have three problems with the show, and I won’t be watching past this pilot. Don’t get me wrong, the plot is vaguely interesting albeit obvious — it was clear it was an American prisoner before it was revealed, there was some sexual tension between the pilots before it was revealed, and there was a crutch leaning on painkillers that was obvious before it was revealed.

However, that just makes it formulaic, not terminal. For me, the first problem is the sexual tension between the pilots. It is abundantly clear why the “stud” lead is attracted to her, he’ll sleep with anything. But there’s virtually nothing to explain why she would remotely consider him. Plus she has a boyfriend, and of course they have to have a fight in the Ep to give her “permission” to maybe do something with this other guy, even if she doesn’t. But it isn’t the sex that’s the problem — it’s the fact that these two leads lied to cover up the death, they’re potentially cheating on their partners, they’re violating tons of orders, and they’re not that heroic. I didn’t particularly care about either of them, and while it focuses on her, dragging her down also drags down the show. While they mouth the words, I see neither integrity nor honour to care what happens to either one of them. This isn’t Top Gun in copters, there’s no JAG or NCIS duty going on here.

Second, and maybe related to the first, the entire mission is going to be about either overtly black and white simplistic solutions or morally ambiguous choices. Neither of which are going to be particularly interesting because the simplistic ones are boring and the characters they have so far can’t navigate the grey zones since they seem to have almost no moral compass or code to guide them. While they want to rescue their friend, it seems almost as much about saving their own reputations and careers.

Third, the show is a bit of a one-trick pony. Unlike Quantico that did the flashback training to inform their actions going forward, this is telling the story in two different timelines, and really more like telling two stories. When those timelines catch up to each other, what then? Will they do the same thing next year for a potential renewal? Or just turn it into Top Gun with copters. The challenge too is they made the copter part BORING. WTF? How do you take the most exciting part and make it boring? I’ve seen more exciting flying twenty years ago with early Apache shows. Heck, even AirWolf and Blue Thunder made some of it look cool. Here? Not so much.

For the acting, there are only really two of any note, i.e. the two leads. Christina Ochoa plays Madani, the female pilot, and she’s not bad. I hope she gets something else next year, cuz I’m pretty sure this one will be gone. Matt Barr plays the male pilot, Gallo, and the whole time I was watching him, I was scratching my head where I had seen him before. I was sure he wasn’t the lead, but more a secondary character. Couldn’t place him at all, and I was starting to think maybe just a single episode of some series. And while he might have twigged my mind from shows like Castle, it was on Sleepy Hollow playing Hawley, the general black market anything for a buck dealer who ended up hooking up with the sister. I liked him then, and I really like him here. Just don’t like his character much.

Too bad the show didn’t live up to the hype, but I think this one will get cancelled.