VALOR Review: “Command and Control”


I never know what to feel about Valor. I don’t want to say it’s just bad, because I’ve seen almost every CW show ever made and so my bar for that is extraordinarily low. But it’s not good? Like, I will defend CW content to the death because in my opinion so much of it is very, very good and very, very underappreciated (less so lately, luckily), but it definitely tilts toward melodramatic, beautiful people living melodramatic, beautiful lives. And Valor definitely leans in that direction, but so inconsistently, so when they go all out on some soap opera plot line, it feels wildly out of place. But I don’t really enjoy the actual plot that’s taking place — it’s not incredibly comprehensible, the stakes are sort of nonspecific (although we do sort of get at that this week), and it’s just… not the most engaging. So anyway, all that to say I don’t know quite how to file it or what to expect out of it so I always sort of end up vaguely annoyed and disappointed at the end.

This week Nora and Gallo are tasked with prepping a plan to retrieve Jimmy since they know where he is now. There are a bunch of telephone poles leading up to the bunker, and so Gallo’s plan is to land prior to the row of telephone poles and have the special ops guys sprint to the bunker. They only have two minutes to do so, and when they get there (just barely in the time frame) they’re exhausted, further exacerbating the conflict between Gallo and Coogan, the head of the special ops team with whom he has some vague beef. Nora’s plan was to hover over the poles and have the guys shimmy down a rope, but Gallo shot it down as being too risky.

My favorite scene of the whole thing is definitely Cho and Nora bench pressing together and Cho convincing Nora to tell Haskins her plan, since they’re worried about Gallo’s working out. Haskins likes her plan, they test run it, and he decides to go with it over Gallo’s. Gallo is understandably annoyed at Nora for circumventing the chain of command, although every time they start to have it out over their issues one of them cuts it off or says the other is making it personal. This is the part of their relationship I don’t get. Obviously they were going to get together from the beginning, but it’s super weird to me how they keep saying to eachother that their relationship isn’t entirely professional, or that the other is making things personal, because most of the time neither of these things really seems to be the case. It’s a lot of telling, and other than some smoldering eye contact, not a whole lot of showing. The conspiracy they’ve been sitting on is the only unprofessional part of their relationship, save that one kiss in the first episode, but even that is work-related so… yeah, I find all of this so strange and forced.

Their conflict culminates in Nora going over to Gallo’s late at night before they’re meant to deploy at 5 AM the next day. They have a brief conversation followed by the most awkward hook up I have ever seen in my life. It’s like they went for that tropey (but enjoyable, don’t get me wrong) scene where they’re arguing and get closer and closer and then stare at each other, and then make out… and didn’t quite know how to do it? So instead, they argue, Gallo kicks Nora out — none of this conversation is flirty, by the way, it’s Gallo telling her to get the hell out repeatedly, which in context doesn’t seem like a big deal but I can’t help but think how badly that would play if the genders were reversed — but when she goes to leave she steps past him, and then awkwardly stops with her face near his, manufacturing sexual tension that was never there.

Like, listen. I’m a sucker for melodramatic CW romance. Throw in some forbidden love and constant bickering and I’m so there. But this feels like somebody forgot to flesh out the blueprint to this relationship, and so it’s just odd to watch, honestly.

They sleep together, and as we see them lounging together afterwards, the craziest part of this whole exchange occurs: Nora says they only have an hour until they deploy. Sure, forbidden love, sleeping together even though it’s expressly against their description, that I can suspend my disbelief for — but they literally did not sleep the night before deploying on a mission to save their friend and fellow soldier that is so risky we actually spent the first half of the episode debating over how risky it is. This is crazy. This is not okay. Wow. As mentioned, I’m here for the drama and the romance and all that over the top deliciousness — I enjoy that — but if the show’s going to spend so much time trying to make me care about what’s going on in their professional lives, I need the characters to seemingly care about their professional lives at all.

In other news, Ian goes on a date with the cute translator lady. They have a good time, although he declines to go home with her since he’s still in a weird place following his break up with Nora. (This was actually sort of hilarious because almost immediately after he says that we cut to Nora and Gallo, post-coital.)

Thea is trying to figure out the larger conspiracy. She thinks Magnus is involved, because she doesn’t believe that Magnus didn’t know that Lasky was a traitor. In order to suss this out, she bugs herself (I have so many questions) and tries to basically interrogate him in the car on their way to investigate a house that may be hiding the stolen uranium. Her interrogation is so specific and in no way subtle, and really makes you wonder how Thea ever became a CIA agent, because a twelve year old could probably hide their intent better. Magnus shuts her down and threatens her; also a super not subtle behavior since he’s clearly trying to hide something from her.

When they get to the house, Ian tells them they need to remove any electronics from their person because there may be unstable materials around and stuff could explode, or whatever. This obviously includes the bug on Thea’s lapel, and so she tells Magnus to go ahead, removes it, and crushes it on the asphalt. Ian obviously sees her do this, because apparently we’re using this episode to show how every single character except for Ian is wildly incompetent.

Thea later goes to Haskins to say that she thinks Magnus does know something, because he got so defensive. However, she also tells Haskins that she thinks Ian saw her bug and reported it to Magnus. I get that Ian is the only useful person in this whole show and he has a strong moral compass and so forth, but considering he knows about all of Nora’s shady doings, it seems a little risky to expose somebody else’s.

Magnus calls Haskins and Thea into his office to apologize to Thea and basically say he reacted badly because he’s embarrassed he didn’t know. Probably not, y’know, true.

Everybody deploys, and after going through some interpersonal struggles with fellow army wives who resent her for leaking classified information to the press, Jess is invited by Haskins to see everybody off. She donated she and Jimmy’s “Tokyo fund” to an army family where the husband was injured, to help them get back on their feet, and so Haskins rewards her by inviting her. It’s nice that we gave Jess something kind to do since she just seems relentlessly awful (like everybody else on this show), but it’s also a little bonkers because we take a whole scene for Jess to talk to Nora about how she has to go back to work because she’s cleaned out their savings account and all they have left is the Tokyo fund. Like, help your fellow man and all that, but if you’re dead broke with two kids and are looking at the possibility of being a single parent household for the rest of their lives… maybe don’t donate all of your money to somebody else. Not that it isn’t nice, and compassionate, and incredibly self-sacrificing. Just a little odd to juxtapose these things in the span of forty-five minutes.

So yeah, they’re heading out on their mission, so we may finally get some salvation or resolution for Jimmy. Nora and Gallo have finally gotten together, so we can see where that takes us. Thea is digging into Magnus who may or may not turn out to be a bad guy, which is bad for Ian since he’s pretty decidedly thrown in his lot with Magnus. The last few minutes of the episode, though, are Thea and company realizing that the bomb might be heading for this international convention Magnus is attending, and that Ian’s mother is also attending. While I don’t love the structure of these two major, slightly hard to keep track of plots (prisoner of war, stolen uranium, happening with different people on two different continents and both seemingly connected by these domino people we keep failing to fully explain), it was nice to be like “the bomb exists and it might impact these two characters we specifically know” because when it was just wild uranium floating around the ether it felt less concrete.

Anyway, next week should be lots of stuff blowing up, so that’s something to look forward to.

TB-TV-Grade-C+Season 1, Episode 11 (S01E11)
Valor airs Saturdays at 9PM on The CW

Read all of our reviews of Valor here.
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Keep up with all of Alyssa’s reviews here.

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