This week on Valor, we finally pay off the fact that I don’t even know the name of the soldier Jimmy was taken hostage with, and spend some more time with Jimmy in general. Since the plot of the show low-key revolves around him, it was nice to take some real time to get to know him, even if I didn’t enjoy it terribly much. Jimmy and his fellow soldier escape out of the back of a transport vehicle when Khalid, their captor, takes them, planning to sell them to ISIS after narrowly escaping the Shadow Raiders last episode. I’m sure there’s some kind of tactical military whatever justification for this, but it seems to be a little nonsensical to leave a message of the floor of their prison cell that will indicate their location and then flee that location. But hey, you do you, Jimmy.
When they jump out of the vehicle, Jimmy’s companion breaks a rib, which eventually kills him by the end of the episode — just writing him off now so I can stop mentioning him by various vague epithets to cover for the fact that I have no idea what his name is. Jimmy runs from his captors through the woods, and eventually finds a small inhabited shack. He decides to ask for help, which seems absurd, but works out for him — the guy there ends up being sympathetic to Jimmy, who shows him a picture of his wife and kid, saying that he’s just trying to get home. Although the man doesn’t have a phone, Jimmy’s able to get a hot meal and some down time before Khalid’s men catch up, and he has to make a run for it again. He’s only six miles from the border, but his friend dies en route, and Jimmy is caught by Khalid’s men sitting next to him. The CIA gets a picture back of the dead soldier with a domino on him. I’m wondering if we’re starting to cross Valor with Cult here and the CW universe is just leaking out all over the place.
Back on the home front, Ian and the rest of the unit try to solve the mystery of Jimmy’s note on the tiles. Ian asks for permission to follow a lead, and goes to talk to an academic. It’s fine and it makes sense and it’s good that we show Ian is talented and thorough so when he blows up his relationship later with his ambition so we can still pretend Nora is a sympathetic character even though she’s constantly lying to him and at least emotionally cheating on him, but I just found it so odd because there’s a point made of Ian asking for permission, and we take the time to follow him, and the answer is just pretty standard intelligence stuff we didn’t even really need to go over? Like, she tells him that “small pearl” is slang for a city by the river in Ethiopia. Ian figures out which city, which is grand and all, but I’m really unclear why we took the time for this whole thing.
None of that is anything compared to what I find to be the weirdest part of the episode. Nora using pain pills to get through missions is bad, definitely. And the pills she gave to the injured soldier last episode were illegally obtained. However, nobody except Nora and later Gallo know that. So when Gallo gets called in to the Colonel’s office, and the Colonel tells him that Nora gave pain pills to the soldier and her prescription was expired… it’s a bit of a leap to assume anything shady is going on. Nora was injured and legally and reasonably prescribed pain medication, which is generally taken as needed; the Colonel has no reason not to think Nora just had some leftover and so gave it to the soldier for obvious reasons, rather than jumping to “is something shady going on?” But anyway, this supposition fuels their conflict for the episode.
Gallo is torn because, basically, Nora has significant blackmail on him, and she’s the only person who’s also low key investigating this cult slash conspiracy situation with him. She’s part of his cover up, she knows where his bodies are buried, and so forth. He also made out with her that one time, which is a problem for both of them, but more a problem for him, as her commanding officer. Throughout the episode Gallo shouts a lot about how he’s her C.O., but he’s done a horrible job of maintaining any kind of authority, and Nora has never even remotely acted like he was her boss, so all of the arguments feel a little thin and silly. Gallo sets out to prove that Nora isn’t fit for duty, basically, so that he doesn’t actually have to make the call and risk her wrath. But of course, Nora performs well and does appear to be fit for duty. After lots of fighting and back and forth, Nora finally realizes how messed up it is that she’s pinning other people’s safety on her personal desire to continue flying to answer her own questions, and tells Gallo that she won’t protest if he decides to ground her. (Spoilers: he’s already made the decision, and the decision was to trust her. Nice, but like… not super justified, honestly.)
Nora goes to a gala with Ian, where Ian’s mother continues to push the trite plot line that she likes Nora, but doesn’t think she’ll be a good trophy wife for Ian’s political ambitions. Yawn city. She ends up bailing on the gala early, feeling like a fraud amidst all of the praise she receives. She tells Ian she’s sick, but she really goes to immediately call her drug dealer pal to get more pills, and Ian follows her out to find her on the phone. Nora tells him about her addiction, and because Ian is apparently the sweetest man in the entire world, he takes it quite personally — he’s upset that she didn’t tell him and share with him more than he’s upset about her problem. Nora so doesn’t deserve him.
That’s sort of my central problem with Valor. I really like Nora in theory — tough, first female pilot in special ops, driven, plays the drums, has an interesting backstory. But I find her so abrasive in practice. She’s constantly fighting with people, and most of the time she’s wrong, and it makes it hard to want to side with her after a while even when she is justified. I’m not sure if it’s an acting issue or a writing issue or a combination of many things, but I’m just not really rooting for her. I’m not rooting against her. I just think she’s wrong and unfair and a little bit cruel more often than not, and it gets frustrating.
The last plot thread we follow is Jess, Jimmy’s wife. We find out that Tokyo refers to a cutesy trip they vaguely planned when Jess told Jimmy she was pregnant, and they decided to keep it, only a few months into their relationship. Jess also starts going around, trying to figure out ways to bring Jimmy home, feeling the army isn’t doing enough — she even goes to Ian’s mother, the congresswoman. This is also a little frustrating, because last episode Jess’s arc was realizing that Jimmy put his faith and life in the hands of the army, and she should trust his trust in them. While generally, in real life, this may or may not be a good stance, we do know because we spend all of our time with them that everybody is working to bring him home all the time, so it gets frustrating to watch her this episode circle back around to “nobody’s doing anything.” Obviously she doesn’t know what’s going on internally, but still. She ends up going to a friend who apparently has knowledge of how to leak classified information without getting caught — not entirely sure what Jess is planning on leaking, but seems safe to say that sh*t is about to hit the fan.
Season 1, Episode 6 (S03E06)
Valor airs Mondays at 9PM on The CW
Alyssa Thorne | Contributor