The Reel Review
The leader of a predominantly female CIA espionage unit must juggle her personal life with her career as she leads the hunt for the leading financier of terrorism in the Middle East, in this Paramount+ spy thriller starring Zoe Saldaña and Nicole Kidman. The series is very loosely based on an actual female spy team that previously existed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Show creator Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone, Sicario) does it again, with a thrilling, taut Homeland-styled thriller packed with action and themes reminiscent of his many other projects. There is A LOT going on in this series – the poor family of Saldaña’s characters seems to have a major crisis daily. Besides Saldaña, Laysla De Oliviera (Locke & Key, In the Tall Grass) is her recruit who befriends the daughter of a Saudi oil tycoon and terrorist, hoping to get close enough to kill him, with Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman in supporting roles as the CIA chiefs.
Despite a few wildly improbable story twists, the story is entertaining, Saldaña and De Oliviera are convincing, and the ending is refreshingly unpredictable. Is Special Ops: Lioness original? Not totally. But it is fun.
• The series is inspired by the real-life unit, Task Force Lioness, created by the U.S. Marines, to identify female terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Lionesses were a short-term program which also recruited and trained local women to conduct culturally sensitive security searches of local women. A typical Lioness team was comprised of two female soldiers – a searcher and a guardian angel protecting the searcher.
• Many of the actors in Special Ops: Lioness have appeared in other Taylor Sheridan projects – Dave Annable (Yellowstone), Lamonica Garrett and Stephanie Nur (1883), Austin Hebert (1883, Yellowstone, Mayor of Kingstown), and James Jordan (Wind River).
• Toronto native Laysla De Oliveira is of Brazilian ancestry. After starting a modeling career at 14, she studied acting and dance, later making the transition to full-time acting.