VALOR Review: “Ciphers”


Valor has moved to a new Saturday night slot. I’d say mark your schedules, but let’s be real, this sort of feels like where Valor goes to die. It might be for the best, because the best thing I can say at this point is that, since we’ve now peeled back most of the mystery, or at least allowed the plot to get to a point where the characters discuss it in more than vague whispers, it at least makes sense? I get what’s going on now, and why it’s an issue, which — to be honest — I really didn’t fully grasp until this episode.

I’ve been a bit confused as to why, if something was hinky, Nora and Gallo didn’t immediately go to their higher ups when they realized their prisoner wasn’t Somali, but American and instead assumed “massive conspiracy.” But this episode, Nora finally tells Ian what’s been happening the past few months, and the part he reacts most strongly to is the fact that Nora killed Richard, and covered it up. So I guess all of this was, to start, a bit to protect Nora — it’s entirely possible that I’m dense or glossed over it or whatever, but like 90% of my resistance to this whole lunatic plot line would’ve gone away if we’d started at “Nora needs to hide these events because she killed a guy” and moved on to big domino conspiracy. I knew they lied about the events, but I thought it was all about Gondry; I didn’t realize Nora shooting the other guy would’ve been suspect as well.

Anyway, Nora does tell Ian everything. He takes it fairly well, all things considered, but despite Ian being by-the-book guy and a pretty dedicated soldier, his biggest issue is that Nora lied to him. Not saying that’s not an expected and normal emotional response, but it was pretty wild to me that at no point was there any suspense or question about whether Ian would turn Nora and Gallo in — it’s completely centered around their personal relationship. It’s a choice, and not one I like to be honest, but whatever.

Meanwhile, Gallo has received a VHS from Gondry’s sister that he left behind in the event of is death. It includes a coded message that Gallo can’t crack.

Thea and Magnus call Nora, Ian, and Gallo in for debriefing following the mission to capture Gondry, but it quickly becomes clear that what they actually want to know about is Somalia. Thea is convinced that Nora and Gallo are lying (rightly), but they hold fast to their stories.

In an unrelated plot line presumably to give Ian something to do in his personal life after he and Nora break up (sorry, spoilers), Ian goes to a cute professor who’s super into him named Olivia for an improved translation of a specific dialect. He’s very professional and soldier-y with her, but she’s super into him, so I think she’ll probably be back soon.

The improved translation gets to Colonel Haskins’ desk, where he notices a phrase he’s seen before and it leads he and Ian to some other discoveries. He, earlier in this episode, was discussing with his wife the possibility of retiring after this mission. But after realizing he still has more to offer, he decides he won’t be retiring after all. His wife takes this well, which is good for him, but kind of weird as a choice. What’s the point of throwing this plot line in? Haskins isn’t retiring — not that we worried he was prior to this episode — and there is zero conflict between he and his family over it. It neither presents a potential change in the workplace nor introduces any new dimension to his home life. I’m happy to go home with Haskins more, ‘cause why not, but it just seems like it should serve a purpose other than taking up time.

Gallo and Nora regroup and watch Mondry’s video, but can’t make sense of the code. They decide to call Thea, knowing that she also believes Gondry wasn’t a traitor. It’s a big gamble, but Thea agrees to help them, and keep everything quiet until they know what they have. She quickly cracks the code, which gets them coordinates and a storage unit number. Inside the storage unit, they find a bunch of documents on Khalid.

Once they bring the documents to Magnus, they find out two important bits of information. For one, they have the location of all of Khalid’s bases, including the one they believe he and Jimmy to be at, so it looks like Jimmy’s finally getting rescued. For another, they get the codename of the actual traitor, who isn’t Gondry, but Richard, the guy Nora shot. Thea makes a stink about not having know Richard was an operative, and Magnus says it’s above her (and almost everybody’s) security clearance. This paired with the fact that we still don’t know the identity of some of the domino-havers and Thea’s pretty cagey about it means there’s likely more to this conspiracy we’ll uncover but, like… Now not only have Nora and Gallo lied multiple times in official briefings for speculative reasons, but Nora found out that the guy she shot was actually a traitor. So… I guess that’s a relief.

She and Ian have a confrontation after all is said and done, and Ian reveals that he can’t look at her without thinking about all of the lies. She tells him she’ll do whatever it takes to earn back his trust, but he points out that they both deserve better than a relationship where he’s just working on not resenting her and she’s bending over backwards to prove herself to him. He breaks it off — FINALLY. God. Ian is such a nice guy who only ever seems to do the right thing and protects Nora relentlessly even when she’s awful. I’m thrilled they broke up. Ian deserves to go off and live his fancy CIA life with a new girlfriend who isn’t a total crazy person.

The other intel we get this episode comes from Haskins’ cracking the pattern in the communication chatter — there is indeed uranium smuggled into the United States that somebody is going to use to build a bomb. So not only do they need to find Khalid for Jimmy, they also need to figure out how to stop that from going off.

At least everything makes sense now, but Valor is still a far cry from good. I don’t feel particularly invested in any of the characters (except maybe Thea), partly because for an almost annoyingly serialized show, the personal stories are pretty self contained, and there’s almost no character development to speak of. It’s not a painful watch, but it’s not an enriching one, and mostly I just want to get to the end because all of the mystery and intrigue is kind of boring.


TB-TV-Grade-C+Season 1, Episode 10 (S01E10)
Valor airs Saturdays at 9PM on The CW

Read all of our reviews of Valor here.
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