In Taylor Sheridan’s projects, women often take on the role of lone wolves and fit into specific archetypes, such as the vulnerable naif, the ferocious badass, or the steely matriarch. Sheridan himself is a lone wolf in the industry, preferring individual work over collaborative writing in writers’ rooms. His rise to success has been marked by an embrace of genre tropes, contributing to his reputation in Hollywood.
His latest series, “Special Ops: Lioness,” stands out as the first of his shows to feature a true multiplicity of female leads and an explicitly gendered premise. The story loosely follows a real CIA program, where undercover agents form relationships with suspected terrorists’ female family members to gather intelligence. However, Sheridan’s depiction of women remains limited in nuance, despite the increase in female protagonists.
The show is unapologetically military propaganda, positioning the United States Armed Forces as the protectors of the weak and framing the entire Middle East as vulnerable. It lacks curiosity about the circumstances that lead to conflicts in the region, serving a vision of U.S. hegemony that may not resonate with all viewers.
Nicole Kidman stars and executive produces the series but has limited screen time in the premiere episode. Her character, Joe, leads the Lioness team, while Laysla De Oliveira portrays Cruz, a ferocious combatant who becomes an asset to the team. The show incorporates masculine conflicts and struggles into the lives of its female leads, perpetuating stereotypes and limiting their character development.
“Lioness” may bring some new elements to Sheridan’s repertoire, but it still reflects his penchant for writing scripts for multiple shows simultaneously, which can lead to a lack of depth in character development. The series may not appeal to those seeking a more nuanced exploration of gender dynamics and geopolitical complexities.