In yet another sequel to a film of old, “Top Gun: Maverick” is a much anticipated return to the movie world of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, some 33 years after the original film took place.

The very premise of the movie alone forces us to suspend at least some disbelief, as the first trailer pointed out that somehow, more than three decades after the events of the first film, Maverick has managed to stay in the Navy and avoid any sizeable career progression.

I’ll level with you: there’s no truly realistic way to frame the idea of a fighter jock staying at the stick for close to 40 years, unless we’re talking about getting flight hours in for a command level position. In fact, with ol’ Maverick’s history of flying different platforms and mounting successful air combat operations from aboard a carrier, there’s a solid chance that the Navy would have groomed him into a Strike Group commander at this point, hoping to leverage his combat experience in preparation for the possibility of the next great near-peer conflict.

Maverick’s experience in real combat operations and flying multiple platforms would be extremely valuable in a leader.

But instead he’s relegated to flight duty — which isn’t a role one lands in as a shitbird (or crappy service member). America takes its fighter ops, fighter jets and the safety of its carrier personnel pretty seriously. That means Maverick must still be demonstrating a high degree of proficiency and professional conduct, while not doing either well enough to get tossed a promotion-bone even a few decades late.

Movie logic tends to find ways to dismiss the logical career progression of a Navy man. For example, James Kirk, of Star Trek fame, first had to find new and creative ways to get around his new rank of Admiral in order to get back into the fight. The franchise eventually just settled on pretending no one in the original cast ever saw any real appreciable changes in rank — despite saving the Federation (and the galaxy) on more than one occasion.

Maverick’s career progression seems to mirror Kirk’s in a way: coupling a general disregard for regulation and decorum with a seemingly superhuman ability to complete a mission that leaves fist-shaking commanders with no other recourse but to keep each protagonist in the cockpits of their respective hot rods. Does the logic hold water out here in the real world? Not really — but in Hollywood, it plays. In fact, I’d be willing to accept the idea that “Top Gun” exists in the same universe as those original Star Trek movies, and it was precedents set during the Cold War (and forthcoming World War) that helped to inform a culture that prized Kirk’s brand of “cowboy diplomacy” centuries later.

Whether it’s the same universe or not, it’s safe to say that the way Navy careers progress in these movies isn’t quite like the real world. If we’re willing to accept that conceit, then we just need to look for reasons that Maverick would be passed over for promotion, as boards convened each year since Ronald Reagan was in office. And to be honest… it’s not hard to find some.

Nothing to see here but a super professional relationship between a civilian instructor and a student pilot.

Top Gun” was a pulse-pounding exploration into the world of fighter-jockery, but it’s long been my belief that Iceman, not Maverick, was the hero of the movie. Like most antagonists in 1980s movies, Iceman was vilified for being cocky… but also for being good at his job. Unlike Maverick, who shouldn’t have been allowed to fly while he was suffering from debilitating anxiety attacks, Iceman demonstrates not only a high level of proficiency at the stick, but continuous concern for regulations and the safety of his fellow pilots.