Special Ops: Lioness

Special Ops: Lioness is an American spy thriller television series created by Taylor Sheridan. The premise is about a female Marine tasked with befriending the daughter of a suspected terrorist who is being surveilled by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The series stars Zoe Saldaña, Laysla De Oliveira, Dave Annable, Jill Wagner, Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman. The first two episodes have been released on Paramount+.


Ostensibly, Special Ops: Lioness has Joe (Saldaña) front and centre as a CIA operative in charge of the titular project. However, it is De Oliveira as Cruz, who functions as the main character of the story. Cruz is the asset who will get close to the mark, to attempt to discover the whereabouts of a terrorist target.

In Special Ops: Lioness episode 1, we get the backstory of Cruz, as a girlfriend of a gangster who became a marine in an attempt to free herself from her ex’s abuse. She excels in her military training and recommended by her superiors when Joe comes looking for a replacement for an asset that was had her cover blown, and Joe had to order a response that resulted in the asset’s death. Which is to set up the inherent risk and danger that Cruz faces in her mission. By the end of the first episode, Joe and Cruz, and the rest of her team, are in Kuwait and Cruz makes contact with her mark.

The second episode does not quite pick up with the Cruz’s mission and instead, gives us background on Joe – she is married to a doctor with two daughters – it also features a harrowing torture sequence involving Cruz, which we discover is part of her training. All rather distracting in the scheme of things and is either effective exposition or irrelevant padding. Cannot really decide which is which.

Apparently, the series is based on a real-life CIA special ops, which highlights how much the war on terror has changed since series like Homeland, represented the edge of the spy thriller TV genre. Certainly, the series is well put together, with the two leads both strong performers and equally easy on the eyes. For fans of the new zeitgeist of Middle-Eastern spy dramas, this one is definitely for you! Recommended!

Watch now on Paramount+

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