Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 3 drops Cruz into the world of Aaliyah Amrohi without a parachute.
Cruz, undercover alone for the first time, leaves Joe and the Lioness team behind.
Without the ability to keep contact with her, they’re left to work double time and manage to build weeks’ worth of tension in one high-intensity hour.
As we delve deeper into the world of the Middle Eastern elite, it’s clear that Cruz is at a deficit. She’s trying to fit in, but Joe instructs her to be as dull as possible.
While Cruz is undercover, Joe never stops moving. This may be to her detriment, but it’s Joe’s way. She’s fast, efficient, and never in one place for long.
Throughout Special Ops: Lioness Season 1, we’ve seen the overall plot threads begin to be woven together. Joe’s family life, which she’s sparing about at work, has become complicated as her daughter Kate rebels.
Joe’s guilt over losing her last operator has grown to impossible heights, pushing her to put Cruz through a gruesome training that left her battered and bruised.
Cruz, on the other hand, is taking everything in stride. She’s angry, nervous, and ready for whatever’s coming. The only thing she doesn’t have is an awareness of what she’s up against.
Joe, on the other hand, does. Though she’s everywhere all at once, she’s also never taken her eyes off Cruz.
The separate stories that ebb and flow together throughout this episode are masterfully crafted. While Cruz is becoming acquainted with Aaliyah’s world, we’re more entrenched in Joe’s than ever.
Joe, it appears, has a past. While that was a given, we see her interact with a new piece of it: Kyle.
While Kyle’s relationship with Joe isn’t defined, they know each other well. Kyle runs operations for another team, and when he finds Joe after a meeting with Kaitlyn, he’s in a bind.
Kyle needs members of the Lioness team to help him with an operation, and while Joe is reluctant, she offers their help for a favor in return. Surely, Kyle will owe Joe something significant before the end of the season.
As the tension builds in Joe’s work life, her personal life has also taken a hit. Joe’s relationship with her daughter became apparent after a confrontation with Kate in Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 2.
Kate is resentful of her mother for being unavailable and simultaneously appears as a carbon copy of Joe.
She’s all strong-will and biting words, but she’s not ready to take on the world yet. Joe, who recognizes herself in Kate, understands this.
It scares her when she recognizes herself so clearly. Being assertive is a blessing and a curse, which Kate doesn’t understand yet.
Kate’s simply raw power, ready to ignite the moment she feels misunderstood or misrepresented.
Joe has difficulty sitting with this, while Neil has done his best to handle it alone.
Kate continues testing her limits in Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 3. Both women’s claws emerge when Joe catches Kate in a compromising position with a boy.
Living under her father’s rules, Kate quickly reminds Joe that she didn’t ask for this life. Joe deals with the problem and calls the boy’s mother, not caring if Kate is embarrassed or upset. As the mother, she’s in charge regardless of Kate’s desires.
The energy between Zoe Saldaña’s Joe and Hannah Love Lanier’s Kate has been tension-filled since the premiere but has grown to new heights in the last episodes.
While Neil tries to navigate between his daughter’s rebellion and his wife’s presence, Kate and Joe test each other with every move.
It’s clear Joe’s in over her head when it comes to mothering a teenager, which is why it’s fascinating to see how she takes care of Cruz.
With the same care she has for her daughter but a sharper edge, Joe is a mother in every facet of her identity.
The lying and deceit of a daughter come naturally to Cruz, who has to think quickly on her feet when she finds herself in a bind that Joe can’t get her out of.
After suffering a spirit-breaking beating at the hands of Joe’s S.E.R.E. team during Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 2, Cruz is bruised and battered in a way she can’t hide.
When Aaliyah calls in a doctor to get a consult on Cruz’s bruising, the operative must quickly spin a story that doesn’t raise suspicion.
Though she’d said she was in a car wreck, the doctor could tell the bruising came from manual assault. Though he won’t say anything to Aaliyah, he tries to explain he’ll have to report it to the authorities.
Cruz breaks down in tears, telling the doctor she’s trying. When the doctor agrees to let it go, Joe breathes a sigh of relief in a hotel room 15 minutes away.
Laysla De Oliveira delivers, capitalizing on the stress Cruz has been feeling and the overwhelming situation she’s been put into.
Cruz may not be her daughter, but Joe has trained her in a way only a mother can.
The dynamic between the characters, who notably only speak once throughout the episode, is palpable in every scene.
Cruz is Joe’s most important person in this moment of her life. Ahead of her family, ahead of herself, Cruz takes precedence.
She’s meant to watch Cruz with the hawk-like eyes of a parent, even if that comes at the sacrifice of being a parent to her child.
As the stakes rise on Special Ops: Lioness, things are beginning to boil beneath the surface.
From the suspicious conversation between Kaitlyn (Nicole Kidman) and her husband Harold to Kyle’s side mission gone awry, Special Ops: Lioness is setting up a convergence of epic proportions.
As Cruz heads off to an unknown location with Aaliyah and her fiance, Ehsan, she navigates relaying the flight information to Joe and the Lioness Team with surprising ease.
Joe is impressed, but there’s no time for that. As per usual, there’s no time for anything.
Cruz is off to another location, and with Aaliyah under her thumb, things are going as smoothly as possible. Joe, while not celebratory, is pleased with her choice of operative.
Even taking a moment to revel in the little victory isn’t possible, though. It’s clear on Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 that things won’t stop moving for anyone until they’re physically forced to.
Cher Thompson is a staff writer for TV Fanatic, who you can follow on Twitter.