Special Ops: Lioness
After leaving a life of spousal abuse and torment, Cruz Manuelos (Laysla De Oliveira) enlists in the Marines and is taken under the wing of experienced intelligence agent Joe (Zoe Saldana). The pressure is on for Joe, whose last undercover operation went awry, resulting in the termination of an operative and she is determined not to fail again. Cruz is tasked with befriending the daughter of a suspected terrorist who is being surveyed by the US Central Intelligence Agency, but the mission proves to be one the with highest severity and she must utilise every ounce of her military training to ensure her survival and the mission’s success.
We already know how versatile Saldana is as an actress and physical performer and once again, it is her time to shine in an environment filled with grit, determination and steeliness, created by Taylor Sheridan. The casting of De Oliveria as the damaged yet driven Cruz is also a stroke of genius, proving an immediately likeable badass heroine alongside the more hard-shelled Joe. The tone is set from the opening scenes with explosions, military jargon and bullets flying from every corner of the screen, but the action takes a sinister turn almost instantly as we come to the sharp realisation that the pain of war means this ride will not be easy. What follows is Taylor Sheridan doing what Taylor Sheridan does best – building nerve-shredding levels of tension through steady plot development.
To help carry this script is a healthy cast of A-listers, including Morgan Freeman as Edwin Mullins and Nicole Kidman as Kaitlyn Meade, leader of the Lioness programme. The series does have a slightly over-Americanised patriotic feel to it, trying to inspire you to pick up your flags and fight the terrorists, but then this could be said about a number of military-based dramas. The summary is always the same; the terrorists are bad, so let’s kick some ass. The true art to making a series such as this successful, however, is how you tell and portray that ass-kicking. Thanks to Sheridan’s writing, the inspiration from the Marine Corps real-life team of lionesses, and the performances from the lead cast members, these stereotypical tropes that have been exhausted over time are just about avoided as the viewer finds themselves equally invested in the characters themselves and the action taking place.
Whether the show should be renewed for a second season is another question altogether. The competitive field in the streaming industry is becoming more difficult to navigate by the day and Paramount+, the team behind Special Ops: Lioness may wait to see not only viewers’ reactions but general take up for this series before making the call to pump a large sum of money into future instalments. It is undeniable that the cast is there, as is the potential, but is the audience appetite?
Special Ops: Lioness is released on Paramount+ on 23rd July 2023.
Watch the trailer for Special Ops: Lioness here: