Special Ops: Lioness Episode 7 Review: Setting the Stage for the Grand and Potentially-Overblown Finale

We review the seventh episode of Special Ops: Lioness season 1, which mostly acts as set up for the finale next week.
Lioness Laysla De Oliveira Zoe Saldaña Paramount Plus

Episode 7 of Special Ops: Lioness, now available to stream on Paramount Plus, has one goal, which is essentially a continuation of what the last episode tried to do. It wants to raise all the stakes for the season finale next week. This can be especially frustrating after episode 6 already was pointless for the most part aside from very small developments seen as Taylor Sheridan placing the pieces in the right spots on the chessboard.

Episode 7 of Lioness Is Once Again Slowing Down

I speculated in my discussion piece last week that this could be the prelude to a one-two-punch coming with the final two episodes, but despite what the first few minutes of “Wish the Fight Away” may make you think by hitting the ground running, the episode is mostly focused on delivering the second half of the storyline initiated in episode 6 about the fleeting romance between Cruz and Aaliyah, a pipe dream for both of them that ultimately distracts the audience from the real threat and turns Lioness into a convoluted series with too many ideas that fall flat on their face.

Nicole Kidman Laysla De Oliveira Lioness Paramount Plus
Laysla De Oliveira as Cruz Manuelos and Nicole Kidman as Kaitlyn Meade In Special Ops: Lioness, episode 7, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Luke Varley/Paramount+

This romance sounds like something that Sheridan would have explored in a second season, if he were given one, and focused the entire heart of the narrative around it. That way, we would have an entire eight-episode run focusing on their relationship behind us, and we could actually explore the many complexities of their relationship.

After all, we know how Cruz feels, but how does Aaliyah? We know that she wants to know what it’s like to love someone for real, yes, but how does a woman with her background react to being involved with another woman? Could we see her afraid that they’ll get caught? Who would actually suffer more from that, Cruz or her? I imagine it would be Cruz, so how really afraid is she about what they might do to her friend?

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After all, the heart of this season is Joe and her relationship with her daughter, which thankfully gave us the true highlight of the episode in “Wish the Fight Away” and it alone made it worth the watch — Zoe Saldaña continues to deliver her best work yet in every scene in Lioness, from her ruthless boss mode in her scenes with Cruz to her conflicted mother mode in her scenes at home.

Mild Spoilers Ahead for Lioness Episode 7 “Wish the Fight Away”

Lioness Stephanie Nur Laysla De Oliveira Lioness Paramount Plus
L-R Stephanie Nur as Aaliyah and Laysla De Oliveira as Cruz Manuelos In Special Ops: Lioness, episode 7, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Karolina Wojtasik/Paramount+

The problem as we now go into the finale is that there are too many loose ends and probably not enough time to tie them all up. We have a whole wedding to take care of, as well as multiple subplots from each of the characters, so I have my doubts we will be able to have a steady-paced final episode next week. And I don’t like judging it before I actually see it; it just seems like these last few episodes could have been combined into one to give more breathing room to the conclusion of the season.

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After all, besides the (sort of rushed) come-together and fallout between Cruz and Aaliyah, there wasn’t much that episode 7 brought to the table. It’s true that it was an emotional episode for Laysla De Oliveira, and she actually delivered quite a good performance, but I just have a hard time buying into her character because it’s been mistreated by the scripts. We spent the first half of the season fearing that Aaliyah’s father’s terrorist group would find out who she was because of her bruises, and if one wasn’t enough, we had two separate sets of bruises to cover up.

Hannah Love Lanier as Kate and Zoe Saldana as JoeIn Special Ops: Lioness, episode 7, season 1, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Greg Lewis/Paramount+

Now we’ve spent two episodes focused on her undercooked romantic relationship that blossomed around the time we were starting to buy into their friendship. The truth is that if it wasn’t for De Oliveira, the entire Cruz character would have fallen apart very easily — not to mention that this is a relationship that started in a very forced way. Sure, we can buy that Aaliyah wanted a friend, but it was very convenient to the plot the way it all evolved at the beginning.

The most fascinating relationship of the show, though, continues to be Nicole Kidman’s Kaitlyn’s with her husband. At this point, if there is a marriage in the series that was orchestrated by some overlord’s power and not love, it surely looks like that’s it.

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All of that being said, I still think the first few episodes of the season are quite good, so I am holding out hope that the finale will live up to them.

special ops: lioness poster

RATING: 5/10

Have you seen the latest episode of Lioness? What did you think about it? Do you disagree with any of my points? Let me know on our social media, and stay tuned for more!

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