You can probably guess what you’re getting from a show titled Special Unit: Lioness. The somewhat awkward reckoning—”Special forces“was appended to the title late in production – letting you know this is a series about sophisticated modern warfare. A world of life and death and unwavering professionalism. In fact, the series begins in the Syrian desert, in media res. A spy operation gone awry: an asset – a woman – has been compromised thanks to a telltale tattoo. There is a cacophony of gunfire; When IS invades, CIA agent Joe (Zoe Saldaña) has to make a terrible decision.
It’s definitely an explosive way to start a series. From there, the episode (released on Paramount+) takes a breather. We get a glimpse into Joe’s private life. Your job is to spearhead the CIA’s “Lioness” initiative, which secretly matches women with the wives and families of suspected terrorists in order to keep tabs on the target and eventually allow the CIA to kill them. It’s ruthless work and requires a ruthless personality – although we sense Joe has a heart beneath the layers of flint. As the failures of the Syrian mission are uncovered, Joe gains a new prospect to work with: a hardened Marine named Cruz (Laysla De Oliveira). We meet Cruz in a flashback as she escapes an abusive relationship. She takes refuge in a US Marines office; She soon became one of them.
The lioness It’s a shame considering how talented it is in front of and behind the camera to ever really roar. De Oliveira appears prickly on screen and is unhelped by the predictable, dry writing style. Nicole Kidman, who plays another CIA character, seems only half engaged with the material. Michael Kelly (house of cards) performs better as Joe’s no-nonsense boss. The biggest name on the call sheet is Morgan Freeman in a rare regular TV role. Not that he was present in episode one.
Thanks to his roles in the “Avatar” and “Marvel” film series, Saldaña is now one of the highest-grossing cinema stars of all time. While she’s pretty smart in front of a green screen, she always felt that the best was yet to come and that a meaty showpiece of her role was just around the corner. On paper, Joe is that role: tough but morally contradictory. As it turns out, Saldaña is a good but not memorable lead actor.
In fact, nothing about this series is memorable. lioness was created by Taylor Sheridan, the seminal author of sicario and director of wind flow and the superb bank robbery drama hell or flood. Recently, Sheridan has built a small television empire thanks to the huge success of his western drama in the United States Yellowstone. (lioness is the seventh TV show he’s created since 2018, with two more in the works.) So maybe he’s a bit few and far between. There are points it remembers Homeland — but without the intrigue of this series’ original premise (“Is Damian Lewis a terrorist?”). It’s a double life drama that – frankly – needs a life.