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Special Ops: Lioness Premiere Review Season 1 Episode 1 Sacrificial Soldiers Special Ops: Lioness Premiere Review Season 1 Episode 1 Sacrificial Soldiers

TV Reviews

Special Ops: Lioness Series Premiere Review – Sacrificial Soldiers (101)

Credit: Paramount+/ Special Ops: Lioness

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Paramount+’s new spy thriller Special Ops: Lioness, hailing from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, has one thing working for it—two incredible female leads… and Nicole Kidman. 

WARNING: This review has spoilers from Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 1

It’s unclear if, and when, Kidman will join the ranks of her co-stars Zoe Saldaña and Laysla De Oliveira, who carry much of the weight of the first episode, as Kidman’s Kaitlyn Meade only appearing for a brief three-minute-ish cameo. 

The intensity kicks off immediately with a scene set in Syria as Saldaña’s asset’s cover is blown forcing her to order a missile strike on one of her own; while also dealing with the fallout both professionally and emotionally. As she explains in her debriefing of why she made the hard call, her asset was “already dead” after she was made and she wanted to protect the “sanctity of their operation,” and likely, her asset. It’s the kind of thing you can expect when you have women leading the charge, and hopefully, we’ll see more of it in action soon as, for now, they’re simply setting up the trap.

The first few minutes are a little hard to follow at times considering this is the first time we’re even laying eyes on Saldaña’s character, Joe, but as the episode progresses, it all starts to click into place, painting a much fuller picture of where the season will go. 

Joe spearheads the CIA’s Lioness program and recruits female soldiers that go undercover and help them infiltrate wives and daughters of key terrorist targets, gaining more intel on them and their whereabouts so that American soldiers can go in and take them out. It’s high-risk-high-reward, but it’s also demanding as hell, as a brief scene at Joe’s mansion, where her husband Neil (Dave Annabelle) seems to be doing most of the parenting in her absence—which has also led to her children hating her. It’s clear that they’ve both accepted that Joe can’t have it both, and her top priority is her career, as her visit is a quick turnaround before she’s back up and running, recruiting her newest asset and setting her sights on a brand new target. 

Enter De Oliveira’s character Cruz, a badass in all the ways as life has dealt her a hard hand. She works a minimum-wage job and is stuck in an abusive relationship, a situation that she found herself in after her mother passed away in high school and she stopped caring about her future altogether. One day, she decides to fight back, and as she escapes the grips of her violent boyfriend, she finds shelter at a Marine recruitment center, which opens the door to her new future. She no longer wants to be the victim; she wants to be the one saving people. It’s pretty cliche, but it works mainly because De Oliveira acts up a storm.  Pretty soon, she’s the Marine’s top candidate, passing the written test with flying colors, but she’s not just the right fit on paper, proving that she also has the physical strength for the job. She’s their shining star—and the perfect person for the job that Joe has lined up. 

Joe and Cruz hold their own in their first meeting, continuing to feed into the strong female character trope, and while it’s a long road to friendship (Joe learned the hard way with her first operative), Cruz gets her first assignment—befriending Aaliyah, the daughter of an Iranian militia leader. 

She doesn’t know much about her mark, intentionally, aside from the fact that she has expensive taste. Their “accidental” meeting at the luxury store goes off (almost) without a hitch—Cruz, on a hangover, briefly forgets her cover name but eventually pulls through and pulls it off. 

It’s almost too perfect—and I was half expecting Aaliyah to catch on or have some red flag go up, but Joe seems confident that Cruz is “in.”

There’s a lot riding on this, so hopefully Cruz, who is still very much a rookie, can stay emotionally uninvested enough to go through with it as this is not an assignment for the weak of heart; it’s cruel and dangerous. There’s also no telling if Joe’s assessment of Aaliyah was fair, or if there’s much more to the fashion-savvy woman than meets the eye, but only time will tell.

While Special Ops: Lioness served up a gripping as a pilot, it’ll be determined if it has what it takes to stay the course, though, again, with an actress as seasoned as Saldaña, and De Oliveira—who has previously proven herself as Dodge on Locke & Key— I have no doubt. Where the script lags or lacks, these two rise to the occasion and deliver nuanced performances that have you feeling a range of emotions and expressing a sense of understanding even if you’ve never been in a similar situation before. 

As Joe and Cruz’s relationship progresses, and Cruz gets closer to Aaliyah, will we see her past come into play? Will Joe’s family life continue being weaved in with what’s expected of her professionally? Will her family be put in the line of danger?

Kidman will hopefully add on a layer of complexity as Meade, but it’s clear that this operation will likely gain more depth as it hits the battlefield with a loaded cast also starring Morgan Freeman as U.S. Secretary of State Edwin Mullins, Michael Kelly as CIA Deputy Director Byron Westfield, and Sam Asghari (yes, Britney Spears’s husband) as an “unapologetic womanizer.”

Special Ops: Lioness airs Sundays on Paramount+. 

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Lizzy Buczak is the founder of CraveYouTV. What started off as a silly blog in her sophomore year at Columbia College Chicago turned her passion for watching TV into an opportunity! She has been in charge of CraveYou since 2011, writing reviews and news content for a wide variety of shows. Lizzy is a Music Business and Journalism major who has written for RADIO.COM, TV Fanatic, Time Out Chicago, Innerview, Pop’stache and Family Time.

Walker

Walker Review – Lessons From the Gift Shop (4×03)

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Walker Review - Lessons From the Gift Shop (4x03)

Walker Season 4 Episode 3 kicked Stella’s PTSD storyline into high gear, as it was revealed that she wasn’t simply overthinking or being consumed by the trauma—someone was really hunting her and Sadie for Witt’s murder. 

The ominous sign in her dorm room frightened her, and rightfully so, as it was just the beginning of the threats. Sadie tried to dismiss it, but she soon realized Stella had every reason to worry as her car was doused in gasoline, with a photo of Witt and a box of matches left behind. 

They were able to come up with some leads, but before they followed up on them, they carved out some time for the family sale at the HQ before calling it a night, only to find an unwelcome surprise waiting for them in the backseat of their car—Witt with a gun placed to Stella’s head. 

And that effectively answers Sadie’s question as to who might be hunting them down, though, the question of why still remains. 

Witt is very much alive and exacting his revenge, but until we know why he was at Geri’s place and targeting Sadie and Stella in the first place, we won’t know what it is that he actually wants from them.

Witt and Sadie have a past—one that she’s not proud of—so an educated guess is that he’s following up on that. 

Whatever it is, it’s clear Witt is a bad guy. And despite Walker’s trying to give his daughter space, he’s going to need to get involved sooner rather than later. 

What’s unclear is if he has any connection to Walker’s serial killer case. While that would be intriguing, I don’t see there being any logical or obvious connection between the two, especially since the case of The Jackal comes with a history dating back years prior. 

However, it’s still top of mind for Cordell and Trey, who have now roped in Cassie. The only part that threw her off? That they’re keeping it on the hush-hush from the Captain, who, as we previously found out, couldn’t be looped in because of the toll that the case previously took on his life and relationship. It cost him a great deal before, but I also don’t know how they’ll be able to work it off the books, especially as Jackal starts leaving behind a trail of clues and bodies. When it picks up momentum, it’s going to need all of their attention. 

Other moments throughout the episode kept things more grounded as Cassie and Liam bonded while going through her storage unit as she planted her roots in Austin and moved in with Geri. Trey also gave August a bit of a reality check with his first boot camp session—which Bonham wants to get involved in because the youth these days is “soft”—though it’s clear he has a long way to go before getting this “adult” thing down. It’s a science, and as Trey informed him, it’s definitely not all or nothing. You cannot allow yourself to get consumed by the activity of the moment—you need your hobbies for a little bit of a reprieve when things get tough to keep you sane. 

As for Geri and Cordell, they finally said the L-word to each other for the first time, which was a big step in their communication. It’s not easy navigating a romance later on in life, especially a romance with a person you’ve known your whole life. Nothing about their relationship is easy, but it’s their future, so Walker has to stop living in the past and looking through that lens if he wants to make this work. They made some good progress, so I’m interested to see how he’ll balance a taxing case, being a dad who constantly has to worry about his kiddos, and his personal life throughout the season.

What did you think of the episode?

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The Cleaning Lady

The Cleaning Lady Review – Arman’s Velorio (3×07)

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The Cleaning Lady Review - Arman's Velorio (3x07)

With each passing week, The Cleaning Lady makes audiences feel the weight of Adan Canto’s passing more and more. 

The mark that Canto made on the series is evident—and moving on without him hasn’t been easy. We all feel cheated from a storyline that we deserved, but, as with loss, all we can do is relish in the moments that we carry in our hearts and grieve alongside all those he touched. 

Thony and Nadia are affected the most on the series as they were the two women that were closest to him. 

Thony feels responsible for his death, considering that he risked his life to save hers in the hide speed chase in the desert. She also feels the heaviness of the words left unsaid, a reminder not to hide your feelings from the person who means the world to you.

But even though we were all rooting for a Thony and Arman relationship, it’s hard not to feel for Nadia, who lost the love of her life for the second time. She didn’t get closure or a chance to say goodbye, which some might say Thony got through that brief exchange with Arman right before the car plunged off the cliff. 

As Nadia also admits, she lost Arman a long time ago when Thony entered their lives—and nothing she did was able to bring him back and restore their lives to how they once were. But she held onto that hope for so long, with his death now making his absence permanent. 

She might hate Thony, but in a way, they are also bonded for life as the women who knew Arman best. They share a connection, and now, with the uncertainty of who can be trusted lingering at every corner, I think they’ll be forced to rely on each other more than ever. Grieving together to keep Arman’s memory alive, while working together to keep each other safe. 

Arman’s family, Jorge and Ramona, can’t be trusted. It’s unclear where they stand with each step. They believed Thony when she showed them that Dante was responsible for Arman’s abduction—and Ramona even proved how ruthless she was when she executed her lover on the spot—however, after Arman’s parents arrived at the velorio and called her Marina, Thony realized it was the name Arman wrote on the table where he was held captive. This can only mean that his aunt was involved in his kidnapping, though it’s unclear if Jorge was also involved or if he’s being kept in the dark. 

Did Ramona kidnap Arman to get money from Nadia? And who called the feds ahead of the exchange? Was it Dante and Ramona? Did she ever actually care about her nephew or was it one big act?

And then there’s the Thony problem. She was handed an out on a gold platter—and she still refused to take it. Hasn’t she learned her lesson? You’d think after all that’s transpired, she’d call it quits on this lifestyle and prioritize taking care of her child. 

Instead, she feels the need to avenge Arman’s death by making the people responsible pay, which, in the process, is going to cost her and her loved ones. She just can’t let it go, but it’s such a dangerous situation to keep putting yourself in. 

Upon Arman’s death, the finger-pointing started immediately, and there’s no telling how far Jorge and Ramona, specifically, are willing to go to protect themselves. 

While some of the family and the “who called the feds” drama took away from Arman’s memorial, the creative forces still managed to pay their respects to the character that Arman built over the course of two seasons—the hero to Thony and her son. It’s why Thony feels responsible and like she owes him because he always saved her, up until the very end, never once hesitating even if it made things inconvenient for him. The significance of Thony wearing all white to his memorial—while everyone dressed in black—was also crystal clear as she was his guiding light in life, the one who tried to pull him out of the darkness that continuously enveloped him and, as a result, her. 

The moment when Thony gave Luca the model car belonging to Arman—which he held onto for all these years—and asked him to keep it safe is what really broke me. It was such a simple yet effective scene, paired with Arman’s final ride into the sunset, a scene from the season 2 finale that set up Thony and Arman’s power couple arc, a storyline that we also had to mourn and say goodbye to. 

There’s also the new men in Thony’s life that are a bit concerning. Jorge, of course, for many obvious reasons, but Jeremy, who was part of the chase that led to Arman’s death and who still has plenty of questions about what transpired. He’s the only one who can place Thony at the scene—and I’d imagine Nadia wouldn’t be pleased to find out that Arman might’ve survived if he wasn’t one again playing hero for Thony. I also don’t trust Jeremy’s intentions with the security cameras. Does it give him access to see what’s going on in Thony and Fi’s household?

What did you think of the episode?

Keep Reading and Supporting CraveYouTV: Vanessa Morgan Is Finally Getting the Recognition She Deserves With ‘Wild Cards’

 

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The Cleaning Lady

The Cleaning Lady Review Season 3 Episode 5 – All of Me

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The Cleaning Lady Review Season 3 Episode 5 - All of Me

The Cleaning Lady Season 3 Episode 5 thrives on keeping us—and Thony—in a state of constant anxiety.

Not only is it nerve-racking that she has a court date that will determine whether or not she can keep Luca, but when her interview with CPS’ Susan nears, Luca is nowhere to be found. 

Thony tries to play it off as though he’s just running late, but when Fi and JD return home without him, it’s pretty clear that something else is going on. Susan is not easily fooled, and she quickly catches onto the fact that Luca has gone missing. 

While finding Luca was Thony’s top priority, she knew that jumping the gun and putting out an amber alert would come with grave consequences—not only for her court case but also for her relationship with the cartel.

JD’s call to tell Susan about Dante, the man who picked Thony up earlier in the day, came from a good place as he thought he had Luca’s best interests at heart. It’s hard to be mad at him when he was just following his gut, but man, when he gave Susan all the information, as someone who understands the kind of people that Thony is in bed with, you knew that it wouldn’t end well for her.

Thankfully, Thony is like a cat with nine lives, and she always lands right-side up. She was able to find Luca at the aquarium (he previously said he wanted to be like a turtle and hide in his shell), and was able to convince Jorge to expunge the amber alert so that it couldn’t be used in court and against her. 

Jorge is proving to be a lot like his cousin—he has a soft spot for Thony and is swooping in to save her at every turn, even though she doesn’t exactly deserve it. She’s more trouble than she’s worth, quite frankly, but men can’t seem but to get invested in assisting her. 

Fiona, Jaz, and Chris all took the stand to attest to how good of a mother, aunt, and friend Thony is, but it was her own testimony about going to great lengths to save her son that pulled on heartstrings. 

The judge agreed to let Luca stay with his mother, with continually CPS supervision, which was a huge win. 

But one thing that really bothers me is that the court wasn’t there when Thony was running out of options for her dying son. The judge didn’t care that she didn’t have money for treatment, nor did anyone care that he would’ve died without it. It’s so easy to look at something after the fact and deem it wrong, but how can saving your child’s life at any cost be wrong?

Thony will never apologize for what she did because if she didn’t do it, Luca wouldn’t have been here. 

And the only reason Luca ran away in the first place was because he didn’t want to be taken from his mother. The court might think they are doing their due diligence, but look at the stress that this whole situation has placed on him.

It may have been a huge victory for Thony, but it also came at a potential price as the amber alert meant that Dante was in a prison cell when the call for a ransom exchange came through, meaning that they lost their shot at getting Arman back—and no one seems to know if he’s dead or alive at this point. 

Though, I have to say I agree with Jorge more than Ramon—giving into the ransom seems weak, so I hope she has a bigger plan in place for getting her nephew back.

I also find it strange how Fiona is constantly surprised upon finding out who Thony is working with. How did she think Thony managed to arrange her transport back to the States? Wouldn’t she assume that the cartel—or someone equally as dangerous—had to be involved? Thony has a lot of pull and resources at her disposal, but it comes at a price. 

Whether that price will prove to be worth it in the end, well, only time will tell.

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