Just a single episode of Special Operations: Lioness was provided for review, leaving me a bit wary of Taylor Sheridan’s new action drama, screened on Paramount+.
It comes with a lot of prestige, following its successes with the Yellowstone universe, Mayor of Kingstown, AND Tula King. Among its producers is Nicole Kidman (who undertakes a supporting role or perhaps a cameo), while Morgan Freeman (not in episode 1) will also appear.
The action centers on a US military program, Lioness, which uses female agents to befriend the wives/girlfriends/daughters of targets so that the latter are eliminated.
Zoe Saldana (Avatar: The Water Way, Avengers: Endgame) plays Joe, a CIA leader who recruits Cruz (Laysla De Oliveira) into a Middle East-based plot. But we have a lot of background before the final sequence in Kuwait.
The action starts with a bang in Syria when one of Joe’s secret agents is compromised by the enemy, resulting in firepower, machine guns and explosions. Okay, this is screen money.
But 4 years later in Oklahoma, we meet Cruz working at a dead-end diner and experiencing domestic violence at the hands of her abusive boyfriend. When she gets rid of her, she lands, quite literally, in the local Navy office, which sets her on a new path. As it turns out, Cruz is one hell of a weapon herself, outclassing male Marines in all of her mental and physical test results.
This leads to her being recruited by Joe for his next mission to permanently eliminate the Iranian-backed militia leader.
There’s a scene in the CIA where Joe is being interrogated by his elders (Michael Kelly, Nicole Kidman) and a domestic sequence with the family, where husband Neil (Dave Annable) reveals their open relationship. I guess that qualifies as away rules?
Both Zoe Saldaña and Laysla De Oliveira seem to be doing their best to outdo each other as strong women who can hold their own against the worst Marines and get punched in the face (literally for one). But they will get the job done at all costs, showing no vulnerability. Joe is often brooding, but at least Cruz showed us that his tough exterior is the result of running away from a crisis.
Compare to shows like Homeland it will be easily accomplished, but so far Lioness it’s familiar ground without being particularly compelling.
However, we’re largely in set-up mode as the first episode. It’s unclear where it will cross, including acknowledging any shortcomings in the military itself.
Until now Lioness‘ the cover isn’t blown yet.
Special Ops: Lioness airs Sundays on Paramount+.