Striking Blue Thunder – Episode 6: Skydiver

The Plot:

APEX must protect the president of a Latin American country from a counter-revolutionary group bent on assassination.

Review and Analysis:

Although most action shows and movies of the 1980s tended to have a bend towards Conservatism, particularly when it comes to Latin-American governments, Blue Thunder actually stands out by not having the governing body of the fictional Central/South American country working as a Soviet satrap.  The reason for this, however, is because the Zamoran President, Eva Parada, has invited American corporations to do business in her country.  One wonders, however, if her Corporate America-friendly country would ever participate in something like the Banana Massacre of 1928.  One must understand the kind of frequency in which these events occur, especially in countries where the local government is nothing more than a paid security force of said private American corporations.

The Woman More Dangerous than the Men:

Another bloodthirsty woman more “dangerous” than the Man. This happens…often.

A staple in many 1980s action shows is the “more dangerous” woman.  Most of the time, it is because she is supposed to occupy the image of a background or helpless/harmless woman.  Also, because she is “gorgeous,” we as the audience are not supposed to believe that she is capable of doing anything except leading men into sexual encounters with her – or failing that, taking their money and leaving them sexually frustrated (aka gold-digging).  Thus, it is treated as a surprise when it is revealed that she is more dangerous, daring, and bloodthirsty than the men that she has affiliated herself with – and this is supposed to be seen as a sign of “Empowering” Women to become “Strong.”

It is Gretchen that suggests that President Parada, every American Corporate Executive, and the entire Blue Thunder team needs to be killed.

It is also Gretchen’s idea to scout APEX and Blue Thunder specifically, and then find ways to distract Blue Thunder for their first Embassy bombing.

Gretchen also is the one who explains how American Capitalism works to the Zamorans.

When you watch this episode, there seems to be nothing that happens that Gretchen doesn’t have her fingers around.

Blond Ambition:

Gretchen is already more “bloodthirsty” than any of the members of the Revolutionary Forces of Zamora (RFZ).  She does the planning, and the she is as aggressive as any villain.  And, in the grand scheme of things, she is the ONLY woman ever portrayed as being a villain in this series.


What Passes for “The Good”:

A 1980s Action Show Patsy.

A 1980s Action Show Patsy.

When you listen to Eva Parada’s speech, one thing that seems to be missing – and it is glaring – is who would share in the spoils from allowing outside corporations access to Zamora’s resources.

Frank Cheney mentions that there have been a Leftist Revolution and a Military Coup (although he doesn’t mention how recently these happened) in the country.  What isn’t spoken is how Parada herself came to power, although the use of the title “President” is supposed to indicate that there was a “fair and honest” election that took place here.  Also, the fact that she was “opening” her country to American corporations was also to highlight that the process was an exercise of Free Choice and Free Market.  As a result, any resistance to Parada was going to be construed as appealing to the Soviet Bloc and supportive of Communism (and its little brother Socialism).

What Passes for “The Evil”:

When the bombs go off, there is a tape recording that is played afterwards.

Transcription Follows:

Attention American Industrialists,

The Revolutionary Forces of Zamora will not tolerate your presence in our land.  A land that belongs to the People; not to Eva Parada and her wealthy supporters.  Any representative of any corporation who sets foot on our soil will be killed.  We have demonstrated your vulnerability at the heart of your nation! What do you think your chances would be in Zamora?

Re-read the speech.  Take note that the question I posed before about who benefits from the use of Zamoran resources.  The answer seems clear:  Not the people of Zamora who aren’t wealthy.

This comes back to the idea of “The Will of the People.”  Because, in this instance, we are suppose to side with President Parada because of concepts that may (or may not) be supported by the “Unwashed Masses.”  These masses who are never shown.

The Evil Air Force:

A Transmorphing Plane:

When this plane flies over the Zamoran Embassy, it looks like this:

In the dark, no one can see you jump.

In the dark, no one can see you jump.

When Blue Thunder catches up to it, it looks like this:

Now it's smaller.  And only one engine.  1980s action shows aren't known for consistency.

Now it’s smaller. And only one engine. 1980s action shows aren’t known for consistency.

And it is supposed to be the same plane that Wonderlove picked up on the radar and night vision sensors.

Also, a Grumman F-8F Bearcat, 2-seater trainer.  The internal .50 caliber machine guns were removed before it was sold to surplus, so the Zamoran Sleeper Cell added 2 .50 caliber gun pods as well as 2 250 lb. bombs to the wing mounts.

What Blue Thunder Hates:

Who were these people again?

Who were these people again?

Those who hate American capitalism.  The Revolutionary Forces of Zamora are supposed to be Communist-supporters by default.  And why?

Because they hate American capitalism – in which foreign-based private companies have near total control over a patch of land that has resources that can be sold on the dollar to others outside the country.  The company controlling the resources profits, as do the companies further in the production line.  The wealthy supporters of this system also benefit from stock investment.  The governments also benefit from contracts to “protect” the companies, through squelching of lawsuits by the locals or the use of the local police to stop the locals from protesting.

However, the local population rarely benefits from this.  From being displaced from the their homes, to being paid sweatshop-level wages (if they are ever paid at all), it has been extremely rare that outside companies, particularly American ones, have ever looked to work the local populace on equitable terms.  And forget about giving the natives a fair shake.

The Overcomplicated Villain (and Villainess) Plot:

Gretchen uses her feminine wiles to enable the following:

  • Phase 1:  Gather intelligence on Blue Thunder.  This included an unscheduled skydive at a local air show – and having a “talk” with the Air Show Director.
  • Phase 2:  Infiltrate the Party at the Zamoran Embassy.  Other than Blue Thunder and some local LAPD units, the Embassy was patrolled by a contracted Security Services Company.  No one suspected Gretchen of being anything than unaccompanied Arm Candy.
  • Phase 3:  Convince several members of the Blue Thunder unit to go skydiving.

In Phase 2, Gretchen does what we had seen Secret Agents like James Bond do; change from a diving outfit to something more formal underneath.  This, after planting explosives AND a tape synchronized to the explosions.

Phase 3, however, takes all the cake in the world.  Gretchen manages to get the crew of Rolling Thunder onto a plan for a skydiving lesson.  She (and Hector) then fly out to the California woods and leave them on a plane without parachutes.  They then jump from the plane (with their own parachutes) and meet up with a member of their group, who drive them to the airfield where an armed plane is waiting for both of them.  Hector and Gretchen then take-off and attack the Zamoran Embassy in said armed plane.

Upon reaching the Embassy, they would drop the 2 bombs and hope for a direct hit on the embassy itself.  Any ground resistance (such as cops firing .38 pistol rounds) would be strafed by the machine gun pods.  All of this, however, is contingent on Blue Thunder being out of the picture.

The 2nd Amendment Toga Party:

Or, why Action Shows tend to fail when it comes to them.

When Hector strafes the Zamoran Embassy, he fires a salvo of .50 caliber bullets at the police and the embassy staff.

A .50 caliber bullet hits the police and does nothing?

A .50 caliber bullet hits the police car and it does nothing?

The bullets hit no people (despite them running into the line of fire) and cause no damage to any inanimate objects they hit – like the police car in the image posted above.  An actual .50 caliber bullet would have torn the wheel, the hub it was attached to, the front control arm, and the strut clean off.

Also, Grumman fighter planes tend to be moderately armored.  Also, these planes have self-sealing fuel tanks.  They are designed to actually take some punishment and not turn into a ball of fire upon taking even critical damage.

But at this point of the show, we have to be quick about the wrap up, so Frank Chaney does this:

Targeting the Fuel Tanks of an Armed Plane.  That is equipped with explosives.

Targeting the Fuel Tanks of an Armed Plane. That is equipped with explosives.

Note that Chaney never bothers to order the plane to land, disengage, or surrender.  Instead, we get treated to Gretchen repeating her lines about Madame Parada getting away and they needed to make another run.  This was supposed to provide the justification of Blue Thunder shooting its vulcan gun.  And, in the end:

The plane blows up.  With live ammunition still onboard.

The plane blows up. With live ammunition still onboard.

The F8F goes up in a ball of fire.  The wreckage, of course, will cause even more destruction down below, never mind the 2nd bomb that was still on the plane’s wing.

This mission and its outcome would have gotten Chaney grounded.  APEX would also have the option of dismissing him, and the LAPD would have to get the lawyers from the City Solicitor’s Office to fight off the inevitable lawsuits stemming from the damage and medical bills because of the shootdown.

The Military Absence of Presence:

Much like “Revenge in the Sky,” the glaring absence of the US Military intervening is something necessary for the plot.  The California Air National Guard would have dispatched F-16 interceptors; these jets are Mach 2+ capable and could fly at speeds more than 3 times that of the Zamoran Bearcat.

Such an intercept would have been called for because an aircraft attacking the sovereign ground of a foreign nation (which an embassy is) falls under the auspices of the FAA.  And they would have called for the Cali Air Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing.

More on the Sleeper Cell:

No real history is given about these people.  It is implied, through Gretchen’s impassioned speech, that the RFZ are either “illegal” (I hate this term) on a work visa, or are resident aliens.

The Trite Roundup:

Because Frank Chaney destroyed the Bearcat during the mission, any hope of finding the rest of the RFZ is probably lost.  While President Parada awarded APEX with Medals of Honor, the case is still open.  Presumably, the death of Hector and Gretchen would be like killing the Hydra heads at the same time; without their drive and leadership, the RFZ would either disband or go back to deep sleeper status.  And since Parada would be allowing the US Corporations into Zamora, the RFA resistance would be diminished greatly.

Final Thoughts:

Action shows play on fears.  In this case, it is the fear that any person you deal with may be part of some larger conspiracy that could leave you dead.  For this episode, an attractive (White) woman has somehow ended up in the thrall of a Zamoran Revolutionary and has cast her lot with him to the point of being more willing to kill than he is.  The episode also asks the viewer to not side with actual people, but to side with concepts.  Viewers are also asked to believe in the idea of Corporations being Benevolent Entities; the Belief that Corporations will always give consumers and employees a fair shake at all times despite compelling evidence to the contrary.  Also, the episode takes a leap of faith that Eva Parada was installed as President of Zamora through a fair and honest election, while demonizing the RFZ because they ask for the right of self-determination through violent means.  It is also implied that the RFZ represents a tiny fraction of Zamora, despite their rhetoric (and Parada’s lack of mentioning the people sharing in their spoils).

Skydiver has no winners.  Just lots of propaganda.  And bad action.

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