Valor Season 1 Episode 2 Review: Esprit de Corps

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I’ve learned something about Valor now that is we’ve reached Valor Season 1 Episode 2.

In this show's universe, you can tell a lot about a male character by his beard. Our hero Captain Leland Gallo and his newly arrived rival Adam

Our hero Captain Leland Gallo and his freshly arrived rival Adam Coogan (Bryan Craig) both have scruffy hipster beards that violate army regulations.

Bryan Craig on Valor Season 1 Episode 2

I’m not invested to enough to research just how un-regulation the scruffy hipster beards are, but the show’s writers helpfully add some dialogue that indicates that while regulations have been relaxed and are more relaxed for special ops guys, Leland’s beard is a bridge too far.

He’s told to dial back the scruff. One would presume that Adam’s beard is not regulation as well since it’s arguably more scruffy than Leland’s.

He was using us to render an American citizen.


These beards are meant to tell us that these guys are rebels, even though they are in the military.

For a significant part of the episode, Leland and Adam and their respective beards snipe at each other.  In any case, by the end of the episode, Leland has trimmed his beard, and this is supposed to be symbolic. 

Unfortunately, the addition of Adam does nothing to enhance the show's drama. He just shows up, snarks on Leland and we learn they were romantic rivals over a nurse that died in combat.

Plus, Adam shoots some oil drums, and they blow up.

Guns and Ammo - Valor Season 1 Episode 2

It is unclear what the point of the explosion is. Sure, we’re told that this blowing up of random stuff is impressive to the congresspeople who are riding along, but that seems a little tacked on. Mostly, it’s just there so there will be an obligatory action scene.

Leland also continues his rivalry with Ian, the clean-shaven intelligence officer who has the misfortune to be Nora’s loving and supportive boyfriend.

Ian, whose storyline is more successful than Adam’s, is also not stupid and knows something’s up.

He suspects Nora and Leland are lying about what went on in Somalia, which is correct. He also suspects that Nora and Leland are hot for each other, which is correct.

Poor Ian. He’s the most sympathetic character, and we’re not supposed to like him because he’s too square to have a scruffy hipster beard. At least the implausibly young CIA team leader appreciates him enough to continue her mild sexual harassment of him as she pumps him for information on Nora.

Great Power - Valor

In any case, Valor isn’t very good. I hate to say that because it actually has a more interesting central mystery than the more successful and prestigious military shows The Brave and SEAL Team, respectively.

The best thing about Valor is the intricate mystery surrounding David Goundry, the American man Nora and Leland rescued in Somalia and who has disappeared.

Yes, we know that the CIA was up to something sinister, and Nora and Leland stopped it violently, but I have no idea how this situation will play out or how it will affect the rescue of Jimmy and the other POWs. 

Leland and Nora - Valor Season 1 Episode 2

Alas, the intricate plot isn’t enough to save the show from its soapy impulses. On top of the beard-off between Leland and Adam and the beard versus no beard thing between Leland and Ian, we also have:

  • Jimmy’s wife’s stress over his captivity and dealing with military wives.
  • Ian’s Congresswoman mother’s dislike of Nora
  • Nora popping pills
  • The rivalry between the army and the CIA
  • The CIA investigating Nora and Leland’s investigation
  • Jimmy’s aborted escape attempt in Somalia
  • Nora's isolation from the other women on the base, who are wives
  • The military semi formal

All of the above story elements are painted in broad strokes, with a line or two, and it’s all very hard to follow. 

It’s a shame, too, because if the show focused on the central mystery and the love triangle between Ian, Nora, and Leland, they might have time to develop the characters better.

As of right now, we have a lot of stock characters being pulled between a soap opera and a military mystery. 

Military Cocktail Party on Valor Season 1 Episode 2

It’s hard to fault the actors, who are doing their CW best to look sexy, gaze at each other and be exciting. Moreover, when Valor flashes back to the grim incident in Somalia, Christina Ochoa as Nora and Matt Barr as Leland actually manage to generate some excitement.

Then, the show snaps back into standard-issue CW mode, and things fall apart.

I don’t like wasting time with dog and pony shows.


Am I being too harsh? Do you think that this show and its beards can evolve into something? Do you feel as sorry for Ian as I do?

Let me know in the comments. 

Also, if you missed the show, you can watch Valor online here. 

Esprit de Corps Review

Editor Rating: 2.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (49 Votes)

Melissa Marshall is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Valor Season 1 Episode 2 Quotes

I don’t like wasting time with dog and pony shows.


He was using us to render an American citizen.