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The Most Taylor Sheridan Lines in the 'Special Ops: Lioness' Premiere

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 26, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | July 26, 2023 |


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Taylor Sheridan’s latest Paramount+ assembly line production is Special Ops: Lioness. Zoe Saldana plays Joe, the leader of a CIA program that recruits women to get close to high-value targets through their wives, mistresses, and daughters. The recruited woman, in this case, is Cruz (Laysla De Oliveira), who is literally saved from her abusive boyfriend when she is chased into a Marine recruiting office, where she admits to the recruiting officer that she hit her boyfriend with a frying pan.

“In war, if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying,” he tells her, a line that the show calls back to twice more in the first two episodes.

Both Joe and Cruz are quintessential Sheridan characters: They speak bluntly, they possess no sense of humor; and the stakes are always high. To wit, after Cruz aces all of her tests in the Marines and sets the record for most pull-ups, an officer gives her the opportunity to join the program.

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“We are the strong. We protect the weak. We are merciless in that endeavor. Is that an endeavor you wish to pursue? There are 1.4 million armed active duty in the armed forces. They all do their part. But there’s not a thousand among them that we can call on that can make a difference. I think you can be one of those few. It means walking away from the life you’ve lived up to this point and never looking back. That life is over.”
“I have no life, sir.”
“You do now.”

Joe, on the other hand, does have a home life, though she is not yet willing to share it with Cruz. Joe is married to Neal (Dave Annable), a pediatric oncologist, whose bedside manner with the parents of a terminal child gets him punched in the face.

After surgery, what is her life like?
Her life is pain.

Sheridan’s writing is like Aaron Sorkin’s if someone came along and broke off all the personality and left only jagged chunks of arrogance. That’s not to say that it doesn’t work, but with six series (and counting) over the last several years, his character types can feel repetitive despite the star talent that inhabits them (Nicole Kidman is also here as Joe’s CIA boss delivering the same clipped lines, and Morgan Freeman is due to show up at some point).

Joe and Neal are also a loving husband and wife, which is apparent by the sweet nothings Taylor Sheridan gives them to exchange with one another.

“They say love is all you need,” Neal says to Joe right before they have sex.
“That’s not a saying, baby. That’s a song.”

Neal is a good father and a great cook, too. He offers to make Joe bolognese (pronounced the Italian way) when she gets home.

“Are you still off gluten?” Neal asks.

“I’ve been in the desert for six months, baby. I’ll lick gluten off this counter.”

Charming.

The relationship between Joe and Cruz, at the outset, is a contentious one. Joe is extra careful with Cruz after having recently lost another asset, which means putting the screws to her by, for instance, having her kidnapped and repeatedly beaten and tortured to see how long she can go before breaking because, as Joe says:

“What I don’t like is writing letters to parents explaining how they died in some bullshit training exercise because I can’t tell them that their daughter was beheaded then set on fire. Of course, I don’t have to worry about that with you. You don’t have any parents.”

That’s basically the show through two episodes. Cruz has met her target only once, but she’s poised to become her best friend so that the CIA can kill her father, a guy named Amrohi, whose “terrorism is fueled by something much simpler: Greed. He’s a prince who seeks unrest on behalf of other princes so the 150 million subjects in their regions keep the focus on us, the great devil, and never the half a trillion dollars his family controls.”

Special Ops: Lioness airs Sunday nights on Paramount+.