'Valor' series premiere uninspiring
While the premise and lead of The CW’s new military drama, “Valor,” are worthy of a salute, its cryptic storyline and soapy romance scenes don’t warrant the same reaction. The series follows Chief Warrant Officer and co-pilot Nora Madani’s (Christina Ochoa, “Animal Kingdom”) professional and personal stresses after returning as one of the two surviving Army members of a failed covert helicopter mission in Somalia. Ever since their homecoming, Madani and fellow survivor Captain Leland Gallo (Matt Barr, “Hellcats”) whisper discreetly to each other and appear to be withholding vital information regarding the whereabouts of missing mission-member Jimmy Kam (W. Tré Davis). On top of this, the questions of what the real target of the assignment was and what really went down in Somalia remain unanswered. After it is uncovered that Sergeant Kam was captured as a POW, along with another US soldier, the harsh reality of the distressing situation begins to eat Madani and Gallo alive, and CIA investigator Thea (Melissa Roxburgh, “Star Trek Beyond”), is brought on the case to figure out why.
Even though unearthing the true nature of the mission through thrilling flashbacks seems enticing, the mostly bland and formulaic characters leave little room for emotional investment. Sure, making every member of the cast attracitve is on-brand with the soap opera-esque CW, but making every single esteemed military member young and pretty? Now that’s just inaccurate. Moreover, not only are the characters never properly introduced in the pilot, making it difficult to follow who is who, but the majority of them fall flat, executed ineffectively by B-list actors and carrying little to no backstories.
In fact, the only character the audience gains insight about is Madani, and she subsequently becomes the only convincing, captivating member of the Shadow Raiders squad. It is explained that Madani is one of the first females to ever fly and serve in a Special Operations team and that she constantly must prove herself and her skills to her male counterparts, giving “Valor” the potential to be a freshly feminist, empowering military show. This thematic aspect and Ochoa’s believable character portrayal sets the series apart from its new war drama competition, NBC’s “The Brave” and CBS’s “SEAL Team,” in a way that may attract a different demographic and prove to give the show some longevity (at least for the extent of a full season). The only problem with promoting “Valor” as a female inspiring series is that Madani currently lacks morality, as she pops pills left and right to calm her PTSD and has frequent thoughts of cheating on her boyfriend, Lieutenant Ian Porter (Charlie Barnett, “Chicago Fire”).
“Valor” is not only weakened and made forgettable by its inadequate supporting cast, but also by its unclear and meandering plot. It’s understandable for the series not to bust right out of the gates revealing the true motive and goal of the Somalian mission, leaving viewers to wonder and formulate conspiracies about how and why Kam was captured and what Madani and Gallo are hiding. Yet the show surely owed its viewers some sort of mystery-backed bait in the pilot to keep them curious for next week, whether it be a last-minute discovery drop or a complex, complicated flashback, and still no such bait was cast. The pilot offers little space for emotional connection to the protagonists, other than Kam being a family man and Madani being a female pilot pioneer, making it a questionable decision to only keep tuning in to see how their futures play out.
Also, in the pilot alone, there were far too many predictable instances of romance and possible love triangles to try and rid “Valor” of the soap-opera inspired label. With the possibility for an interesting conspiracy to unravel amongst the Army, is it really necessary for steamy love scenes to overshadow that focus? The show prioritizes good-looking actors and character love affairs over telling a story in a purposeful way, and ultimately, there is not much uniqueness about the plot. Much to its dullness, the story of the show blends in with any and all other network dramas.
While “Valor” has the capacity and leading lady to gain some traction amid this season’s lineup of dramas, it appears the series lacks the enthusiasm, suspense and captivation to maintain high viewership. With lackluster helicopter graphics, unconvincing characters and relationships and insufficient, infrequent clues about the failed mission, the show is dearly missing many crucial aspects of what an enthralling military series should be. In all, the pilot of “Valor” left me starved and unsatisfied, and yet I don’t care enough to want more.