Special Ops: Lioness - Season One: An Intriguing Premise's Potential Goes Unfulfilled (Blu-ray)
One of the biggest names in the entertainment industry of late has been Taylor Sheridan, whose incredible career started with small acting parts before exploding when he primarily switched to writing almost a decade ago. His first produced feature, "Sicario," earned several nominations, including a nod from the WGA, while his second, "Hell or High Water," would garner him his first Oscar nomination. Since then, he's also expanded into TV with hits like "Yellowstone," "1883," and "1923." His most recent project, "Special Ops: Lioness," delves into the dangerous & thrilling world of espionage, where one wrong move could spell disaster. Could it be yet another grand success for Sheridan, or will this be one of those unfortunate attempts that doesn't quite work out?
Joe (Zoe Saldana) leads a special operations group for the CIA known as "Lioness," a program that's responsible for placing recruits near high-profile targets to act as a mole. We first meet her in the middle of a mission that goes terribly wrong, resulting in the death of the recruit, and subsequently requiring Joe to seek out another. This brings her to the Marines, where she meets Cruz Manuelos (Laysla De Oliveira), a young woman who ran away from her abusive boyfriend and ended up at a recruiting office.
Cruz's remarkable performance during training makes her a perfect fit for the Lioness program, and so it's not long before Joe makes her choice and explains the mission. She wants Cruz to become friends with Aaliyah Amrohi (Stephanie Nur), the daughter of a major terrorist, and report back anything she learns about his whereabouts. It's a mission fraught with danger, but should it succeed, it would deal a major blow to the terrorist network, and so Cruz decides to accept the risk of an operation that could easily get her killed if her cover is blown.
"Special Ops: Lioness" is one of those shows that has an intriguing concept at its core, one that could be the basis for a program filled with plenty of action and nail-biting thrills as Cruz navigates her uniquely dangerous position in which any minor slip-up could result in a very quick end to the mission. However, after a decent first episode in which the premise is set up in a satisfying-enough manner, the show curiously becomes very languid as it struggles in subsequent episodes to find anything for its characters to do or any significant, engaging way to advance the plot.
In short, there is indeed an intriguing idea here, but it would appear that Sheridan just didn't really know what to do with it, leading to a show that mostly meanders about for its remaining seven episodes, and ultimately reaching an anti-climactic climax that isn't worth the wait. Even Sheridan seemed to realize that the main plot wasn't working very well, so he attempts to fill the time with other minor subplots, including Joe's family drama, which doesn't really get anywhere or add anything to the story, and side-events with the Lioness team, which strangely don't have much to do with anything at all.
Overall, the writing comes off as very lazy and uninspired, as if there was a very basic idea outlined, but not much effort put into how to turn it into a full season of television. The cast was certainly up for it, with Zoe Saldana and Laysla De Oliveira giving pretty good performances (and that's not to mention all-too-brief appearances by Nicole Kidman and Morgan Freeman), but the material just doesn't give them much to work with. If the show should come back for another season, one can only hope that Sheridan will spend a lot more time developing the storyline and injecting it with much more substance in order to avoid it turning into another forgettable slog. There is certainly potential here, now he just needs to take advantage of it.
"Special Ops: Lioness - Season One" arrives on Blu-ray in a 16:9, 1080p transfer of outstanding quality. This can be a pretty dark show at times, but the picture remains quite sharp throughout all eight episodes. Likewise, the 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is fantastic, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and music in excellent quality. Overall, the show's debut season has been given marvelous treatment for its physical home release.
Embedded with Special Ops: Lioness (22 Minutes): A behind the scenes look at the show, featuring interviews with the cast & crew.
Battle Forged Calm: Tactics & Training (9 Minutes): A featurette that delves into the tactical training the cast went through.
Inside the Series (19 Minutes): Another behind the scenes peek, hosted by LaMonica Garrett ("Tucker").
Behind the Story Featurettes: A series of eight featurettes that explore each episode of the season.
"Special Ops: Lioness - Season One" has an intriguing idea at its core, one that should've been filled with plenty of thrills and excitement, but unfortunately creator Taylor Sheridan simply never finds a way to tap into the show's remarkable potential, resulting in a show that mainly meanders and drags for the vast majority of its eight-episode premiere season.
Available on Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.