SPECIAL OPS: LIONESS. Taylor Sheridan in full [REVIEW]

The entirety of the next TV series created by Taylor Sheridan is already available for viewing.

Agnieszka Stasiowska

18 January 2024

Yellowstone made a sensation. Its spin-offs – 1883 and 1923 – also gained loyal viewers. Encouraged by the success, Taylor Sheridan boldly ventures into new waters. The story of a post-prison mobster starring Sylvester Stallone (Tulsa King) is already available, as well as the new addition – SPECIAL OPS: Lioness.

Lioness tells the story of a young soldier recruited for a special operation by an even more special counterterrorism unit. To make things neat and proper, the unit is led by a woman, supervised by another woman, and everything depends on the recruited young woman and her relationship with the daughter of the primary target. We know where the devil can’t…

The action opens quite dramatically as our heroine’s predecessor dies, deeply affecting Joe (Zoe Saldaña), responsible for the operation. To avoid another failure, this time she selects a girl who excels in deadly training for her team. With concerns for Cruz (Laysla de Oliveira), she sends her on a spying mission, instructing her to gain the trust and friendship of the daughter of one of the biggest terrorists in the Middle East, Aaliyah (Stephanie Nur).

And all of this looks quite promising and is equally well-executed. Sheridan knows how to handle action, maintain tension, and although the script sometimes leads him dangerously close to cunning clichés, he manages to sprinkle in motifs that leave the viewer wide-eyed and thoughtful. While Joe’s team’s storyline is a sleek thriller that is easy and enjoyable to watch, the oversight of the operation by Kaitlyn (the reliable Nicole Kidman) and Bryon (Michael Kelly) is the other side of the coin, dirty politics rarely fair to the average person. This is a place where a human being is just a number in the files, and money is the highest value.

You can’t accuse Lioness of being underdeveloped in terms of action, and you can’t nitpick the execution. Both field actions and stuffy conference rooms where the fate of the world is decided are presented in a typical but still very good way. It all has atmosphere, looks real, and works. So what doesn’t work?

Stereotypical Woman

Taylor Sheridan excels in creating characters. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed that the women in his productions are unbearably stereotypical. It seems like the creator of the series can’t stop himself, tone down his heroines a bit, make them more credible. The same goes for Lioness. The problem is that here, women make up the majority. Let’s take a closer look at them. At the top of the pyramid is Kaitlyn (Nicole Kidman). She is a woman high up in the corporate hierarchy, so she has no private life. Her marriage exists only on paper, and occasional meetings with her husband are limited to purely business exchanges. Just below is Joe (Zoe Saldaña), who operates in the field, meaning her marriage is going through a crisis. Naturally, there is a handsome husband on board, appropriately ranked as a respected doctor, heroically taking care of their two daughters. Heroically, but ineffectively, because it’s clear that a mother working in the field operation must also have problems with her offspring. Despite the problems, of course, everyone loves each other, reassuring each other about it roughly every half episode amid streams of tears. At the bottom of the ladder is Cruz (Laysla de Oliveira), who is good at running and shooting, not thinking. Her exceptionally good training results had to be justified by the fact that she experienced violence in a toxic relationship because she can’t just be good. And to free her from the horrible dependence on a man, an immediate friendly relationship with Aaliyah had to be pushed in the opposite direction of platonic.

Strong, Open Finale

Too much of it, too stereotypical, and too embarrassingly at times. It would have been better to completely drop the doctor-husband subplot and the sappy stories with the offspring, and there would have been some balance. Is it so hard to believe that a woman can manage her professional and private life without such hysteria – regardless of whether she runs with a weapon in the desert or puts in hours at a corporate desk? The character of the heroine could be created differently than just placing her in the context of a relationship with a man, more or less unsuccessful. Unfortunately, this is not Taylor Sheridan’s strong suit, and it shows in all of his series, without exception.

The final episode of SPECIAL OPS: Lioness, probably the best of the whole series, is clearly an open ending. There are rumors that we will get a second season in the fall of this year. Despite feeling at times like watching a Brazilian soap opera during the first season, I’ll watch another one. Kidman and Saldaña are undoubtedly names that guarantee a certain level, even if the characters assigned to them are, to put it mildly, shallow. Overlooking these shortcomings, the viewer receives a solid dose of well-executed action, and that’s enough to avoid disappointment.

Agnieszka Stasiowska

Agnieszka Stasiowska

She seeks different sensations in film, so she doesn't close herself off to any genre. She believes that every film has its own audience, and when it doesn't appeal to her, it is sure to strike a different, more inclined heart.

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