‘Special Ops: Lioness’ Review: Zoe Saldaña Fights Through Taylor Sheridan’s Strange Story in So-So Spy Thriller

Between Night agent And Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, it does not show the secret spy is there now. But as these shows try to make a name for themselves, none of this would be possible without a clever, subtle charm. hometown. is a series that focuses on female characters who challenge gender stereotypes, Claire Danes‘ Icon Carrie Mathison walks out of a filthy Russian prison for others to like Zoe SaldañaParamount’s Joe+ new series Special Ops: Lioness, can run in the desert of Syria. But how far she ran was not yet seen in Taylor Sheridan Series based on real life CIA work. Featuring an all-star cast led by Saldaña, the series delivers the visual comfort we’ve all craved from an espionage comedy that balances the gritty and realistic. Despite its high energy and direction, something felt wrong.


Based on the real-life Project Lioness, an all-female unit developed for the Army and Navy, the series follows hard-headed Marine Joe (Saldaña), the leader of a CIA team focused on women, working as a friend and flipping the loyalties of wives, mothers, girlfriends, and other women in contact with male terrorist leaders. While Joe tries to make things right following the shocking opening of your seat, the Lioness Project, headed by Kaitlyn Meade (Nicole Kidman) and Donald Westfield (Michael Kelly) received significant upgrades through increased recruitment. Both registered an aggressive naval attack, Cruz (Laysla De Oliveira) to go undercover alongside Joe. But with the huge personality difference between the two, the matchup is fluid as Joe is level-headed and focused, while Cruz is keen to know that it’s not all fixable. It is in these connected dynamics between Joe and Cruz, and their interactions outside of work that we see the series unfold some rich, complex layers of intrigue through characters knee-deep in cynicism.

RELATED: The True Story Behind Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Special Ops: Lioness’


Zoe Saldaña steps into new shoes in ‘Special Ops: Lioness’

Laysla De Oliveira, Zoe Saldana and Nicole Kidman in action from Special Ops: Lioness
Image via Paramount

Not working in the galaxy with her motley crew in the Marvel franchise, Saldaña is back on Earth and playing what is her grittiest and most complex role to date. While Joe initially seems to act and make decisions without a second thought, it is a character that weighs on her. Suffering from a major bout of PTSD and feelings of unease after a Syrian mission gone tragically wrong, Saldaña delivers an impressive performance that will leave audiences wanting to know about Joe as much as Cruz hopes, maybe even more. In the pilot, “Contract Soldier”, viewers will get a chance to see Joe’s home life, which includes his husband, Neil (Dave Annable), and two daughters — one of whom didn’t like it when she came back. Her relationship with her family is no doubt strained and one that affects thousands of real military members every day, something Sheridan captures most effectively through rich narratives, with effects consistent with the liberation and withdrawal that occurs on both sides.

For Cruz, Canadian actor De Oliveira offers a powerful performance that is equally enduring and uncompromising. Playing a rugged character like Cruz isn’t easy because she’s stuck in her trauma and pain, but De Oliveira plays it with a huge heart and a sensitive vulnerability, even if her on-screen counterpart doesn’t have any emotion. Although Cruz was able to take a different path in life after being abused by her boyfriend for years, living on her own after her mother’s death, dropping out of college, and crying herself to sleep, it’s this progression after every struggle that makes us root for her. It may seem strange to create a character like that to find meaning, but it works as De Oliveira helps Cruz prove that it means dedicating oneself to a greater purpose. While Cruz may seem like she’s separated from others, she gives the audience a sense of just wanting to belong as we see in her interactions with Joe and her new unit.

Joining De Oliveira and Saldaña is Kidman, who is always a joy to watch and manages to make a sharp impression. Although we don’t see much of her in the premiere, we understand her character, Kaitlyn is a strong ally with Joe. As a senior CIA supervisor, she has had an extensive career playing politics and easing the burden of being a woman in the intelligence community. Combine that dynamic with Kelly’s Donald, the deputy director, and you have a fireball of consultants looking to bring out the best in their units. Kelly may have been seen less than Kidman in the pilot, but he was still an impact to watch. As a man who must answer to the elders, Donald does what he believes is right, regardless of the consequences and it is this kind of action from Kelly that compels us to want to know more about him.

‘Special Ops: Lioness’ has a strong character but a flawed story

Zoe Saldana and her team in Special Ops: Lioness
Image via Paramount

Watched only the first episode Special Ops: LionessThe audience will not see Morgan Freeman Just. As the trailers have shown, it appears that the veteran actor is playing the President of the United States, which may be the best fit for a star like him. The show’s supporting cast is as captivating as its leads, especially Annable and the audience’s brief, but fascinating encounters with Stephanie Nur As Aaliyah, the daughter of a high-level terrorist Cruz must infiltrate.

Special Ops: Lioness A strong character study in the very complex world of espionage, with personalities written with the utmost ambition and skill. The show is at its best when it is bathed in dark and sinister moods, and is willing to play with its actors through nuanced ambiguity. Television is often driven by plot, but Sheridan manages to create characters that tell the story and lead the way with an ambiguous resonance. With a healthy pace and balance of action, the series also manages some dramatic elements with its locations and images, which makes it engaging to watch.

But while Sheridan has been scrutinized in the past for the way he writes women, Special Ops: Lioness Created in some ways through the empowerment of women to lead the responsibilities of men’s missions. One might argue that Cruz is just another example of a female character being written as exploitation material because she is a woman of color, abused and beaten by her partner and under life control. On the surface, she is a character born of stereotypes and life is just being bullied. In fact, there is a point in the premiere where Cruz is running from her abusive boyfriend and falls in front of the door of the US Marines recruiting center. Cruz’s commander is another woman of color, a station chief who calls in women and shows us what it’s like to play in the war room at CIA headquarters with a commander who isn’t of color.

It looks a little weird on the surface, but Sheridan has managed to capture the reality of US Army makeup to create a set that looks realistic. As it stands today, women make up 17 percent of the armed forces, hence the lack of storytelling in movies and television about these female heroes. Add to that the fact that the structure of the Marine Corps and studies refer to Hispanic men and women overrepresent among recruits. So, it all makes sense and ties things together, right?

Taylor Sheridan also struggles with writing women

Zoe Saldana in Special Ops: Lioness
Image via Paramount

Not really. Examining these women’s roles in Special Ops: Lioness Important because while they challenge gender roles and appeal to gender equality, they still reinforce the hegemonic masculinity that is often at the forefront of our armed forces. In understanding who Cruz and Joe are, we can see that these two have personal weaknesses like the other characters, but many times their wickedness undermines their credibility and advances the dominant masculinity through the idolatry of American militarism. Sheridan’s quirky writing in many ways casts the two genders into stereotypes, making them cold or distant, oppressed and traumatized, which again, one could argue is a manifestation of their PTSD. But it is symptomatic of a larger problem outside of Sheridan’s writing room where there is no room for diversity or women’s voices, only a single understanding of life through a male perspective, continuing to be rooted in patriarchal values.

Are we supposed to believe that a young Syrian girl is surprised by the West when her first meeting with an American, an asylum officer, will be her new best friend? So, she should be naive? This is American exclusion at its best, as it continues to exploit women on both sides for agendas entrenched in cis-heteropatriarchy. While only the premiere episode was made for the press, one can hope that the depiction of religion is at least conveyed by Sheridan beautiful and without stereotypes, even if it does not pass The Riz Test. This show should not be compared to others, but it could do better in representing women by hiring female writers to create insight and comment on their military experiences.

When it comes to Cruz, one of the standout characters in the show thanks to De Oliveira’s razor-sharp performance, why does a woman have to be abused to find her purpose? Cruz has complete autonomy in her decisions, but will not be persuaded to fall at the feet of the Marines. where Wind currents And Sicario portraying their female leaders as inept and often undermined by their partners, Special Ops: Lioness Continue to write women in a cultural context where men save the day through a patriarchal system that controls control of all decisions. This is not to say that women can’t be soldiers and work for the betterment of their country, to address the real threats that keep us up at night.

‘Special Ops: Lioness’ has an American-style exclusion problem

Laysla De Oliveira runs in a scene from Special Ops: Lioness
Image via Paramount

But it begs the question of the deception of powerful women in these systems when they are written by men. Joe is a strong person who takes her job seriously and does not hesitate in the opening of the show to make very damaging decisions. But focusing on these weaknesses, especially her strained marriage, and poor parent-child relationship, supports the assertion that women who play masculine roles are often handicapped by their femininity. By portraying Joe and Cruz as intelligent women who are incredibly lonely and unsatisfied, there is no support for alternative forms of femininity that reflect our modern society and that is due to the lack of diversity in Sheridan’s writing. The representation of gender equality is on the surface, but it’s all a front against American exceptionalism, rooted in a male agenda.

Sandwiched between outstanding performances, engaging writing, and some effective direction, Special Ops: Lioness will be a new favorite for viewers this season. While the action has not been revealed, it is an exciting drama, slow, immersive, embraces its pulpier to make the audience follow. With the way the premiere is setting up the season across its eight episodes, there will be twists and turns along the way with potential room for an amazing movie that keeps us on the edge of our seats. But as it stands now, more work needs to be done.

score: b-

Special Ops: Lioness Premieres July 23 on Paramount+.

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