Special Ops: Lioness

A CIA leader recruits a female Marine for her mission to take out the leader of militia, in Taylor Sheridan's latest drama.

Just a single episode of Special Ops: Lioness has been provided for review, leaving me somewhat cautious about Taylor Sheridan’s new action drama, screening on Paramount+.

It comes with plenty of cachet, following from his successes with the Yellowstone universe, Mayor of Kingstown, and Tulsa King. Amongst its producers are Nicole Kidman (who undertakes a supporting role or possibly cameo), whike Morgan Freeman will also appear (not in ep. 1).

The action centres around a U.S. Military program, Lioness, which uses female operatives to befriend the wives / girlfriends / daughters of targets in order for the latter to be taken out.

Zoe Saldaña (Avatar: The Way of Water, Avengers: Endgame) stars as Joe, a CIA leader who recruits Cruz (Laysla De Oliveira) into a Middle East-based plot. But we have a lot of back story before the final sequence in Kuwait.

The action begins with a bang in Syria as one of Joe’s secret operatives is compromised by the enemy, resulting in some arresting firepower, machine guns and explosions. Okay, this is money on the screen.

But 4 years later in Oklahoma, we meet Cruz working a dead-end diner job and subjected to domestic violence at the hands of her violent boyfriend. When she busts free she lands, literally, in the local Marine office which sets her on a new path. As it turns out, Cruz is a helluva weapon herself, outclassing male Marines in all her test results, mental and physical.

That leads her to being recruited by Joe for her next mission to ultimately eliminate the leader of Iranian backed militia.

There’s a scene in the CIA in which Joe is debriefed by her seniors (Michael Kelly, Nicole Kidman) and one domestic sequence with family, in which hubby Neil (Dave Annable) reveals their open relationship. I guess that qualifies as away-from-home rules?

Both Zoe Saldaña and Laysla De Oliveira look to be doing their level best to outdo one another as strong women who can hold their own with the biggest bad-ass Marines and take a punch to the face (literally for one). But they will get the job done at all costs, without showing vulnerability. Joe is frequently dour, but at least Cruz has shown us her tough facade is a result of escaping a crisis.

Comparisons with shows such as Homeland will be easily made, but so far Lioness is familiar terrain without being particularly compelling.

Still, we are largely in set-up mode as a first episode. Where it will traverse, including acknowledging any shortcomings in the military itself, is unclear.

So far Lioness‘ cover is not yet blown.

Special Ops: Lioness screens Sundays on Paramount+.

6 Responses

  1. With Afghanistan a constant reminder of recent US foreign policy failure, trying to find a new way of keeping the special forces as America’s flag waving 21st century super warriors must provide a few headaches for screenplay writers. Taylor Sheridan is a shrewd content creator and does understand the action genre well enough to develop his heroes with some serious character flaws and Special Ops:Lioness is no different. Generally the first episode of any new show is usually the strongest, in this case it introduces two La Femme Nikita characters, with the Cruz Manuelos (Laysla De Oliveira) character described as being ‘in better physical shape than a man’, the obvious questions posed about the tough special forces selection standards was deftly avoided, this doesn’t matter for Joe, (Zoe Saldana), this is her show, she is the alpha female, emotionless inside a dark shell. I like Zoe but Gina Carano would be a better choice and much more believable in this dark leadership role.

  2. It is simultaneously straight-up “join the military” propaganda played so straight I was actually laughing at it. As well as complete, “You’d be a moron to join up.” I found it definitely more entertaining than the recent Jack Ryan which I only watched the first couple of episodes. Yet this was at times very stupid. I look forward to continuing to watch.

      1. The very gritty ‘No Man’s Land’ is on tonight on SBS 1 in it’s 2nd repeat-covers a fair deal of the same territory from a variety of perspectives.

  3. Interesting that you only had one episode to review David as two episodes dropped on Paramount+. I will need to see more before I make up my mind,(and Morgan Freeman wasn’t in episode 2 either. ) but I wasn’t overly impressed.

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