What the Show “Valor” Gets Wrong about the Special Forces

Valor is one of a number of TV shows centered around the U.S. military that made their debut in the fall. It made an effort to get some things right, but at the same time, it managed to make its fair share of mistakes as well, whether because of narrative convenience, the need to complete the checklist for TV shows that are broadcast on The CW, or some other cause.

What Did Valor Get Wrong?

For starters, Valor is another TV show that is focused on special forces, which is something that it shares with The Brave and SEAL Team. This is not a coincidence. After all, special forces are a natural fit for an episodic series. First, special forces operate in smaller teams, which makes it much easier for a series to focus on a smaller cast of core characters instead of having to bring in a succession of side-characters to tell the stories that it wants to tell. Second, special forces often have short, defined operations, which are much more convenient for episodic storytelling than something that is both longer and murkier in nature.

Third, a significant number of these operations provided storytellers with a chance to pack action into their series, which is one of the main reasons that people watch military-themed TV shows in the first place. Unfortunately, while the focus on special forces is understandable, the extent to which this happens nonetheless results in a misleading picture of what the U.S. military looks like as well as what the U.S. military does, which is rather unfortunate when it encompasses a wide range of people in a wide range of roles. With that said, Valor does get some credit in that it is centered around pilots, which enables it to stand out a little bit compared to other series of its kind.

Speaking of which, the people behind Valor have stated that they wanted to bring up how war impacts the soldiers themselves, which seems like a sensible choice considering that The CW TV shows are so focused on inter-personal drama. After all, the commitments that members of the U.S. military have to make are a significant source of potential tension in their personal relationships, which is why it comes up so much in such TV shows. Unfortunately, Valor likes to resort to cliches.

For example, the character played by Christina Ochoa has an addiction to prescription pain killers, with the result that there is a scene in which she snorts a pill and then tells the higher-ups that she is capable of performing the tasks entrusted to her. On the one hand, this sort of cliche is a useful method for storytellers to inform the viewers exactly what they are going for because said individuals have been trained by years and years of military-themed media to draw the right conclusions. On the other hand, this is still a lazy way of telling how war impacts soldiers, which is not helped by the fact that said impact can manifest itself in a wide range of ways in a wide range of people.

For that matter, it should be noted that there are other challenges that can confront veterans, as shown by One Day at a Time‘s protagonist’s efforts to wrangle treatment from the bureaucracy for the chronic pain that she still suffers as a result of her injuries from her service. Something similar but not quite the same might’ve resulted in a fresher, more well-rounded narrative, if perhaps not interesting in the sense that is demanded of a TV show shown on The CW.


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