Special Ops: Lioness premiered via Paramount+ on Sunday (July 23), and the new series — from Yellowstone co-creator and writer Taylor Sheridan — brings cinematic values and tight, crackling dialogue to the small screen. The debut episode features a surprise death and several characters who are looking for redemption.

What Is the Premise of Special Ops: Lioness?

Loosely based on a real-life military program, Special Ops: Lioness is about a U.S. program that embeds female operatives near high-value male enemy targets by having them get close to their wives, girlfriends or daughters, then finding out enough information about them to figure out a way to kill them.

Who Stars in Special Ops: Lioness?

Special Ops: Lioness stars Zoe Saldana as Joe, a woman who's attempting to balance her life with her husband and kids against her professional life as the main recruiter for the CIA's Lioness program. She enlists Cruz, a standout Marine with a troubled past, as an undercover operative in the series premiere.

Laysla De Oliveira plays Cruz. Nicole Kidman plays Kaitlyn Meade, while Morgan Freeman plays Edwin Mullins. Meade and Mullins oversee the Lioness program.

Michael Kelly plays Donald Westfield, and the cast also contains some familiar faces from the Yellowstone franchise: Dave Annabele (Lee Dutton, Yellowstone Season 1) plays Joe's husband, Neil, while LaMonica Garrett (Thomas from 1883) plays Tucker and James Jordan (Cookie on 1883, livestock agent Steve Hendon on Yellowstone) plays Two Cups.

Who Dies in the Premiere of Special Ops: Lioness?

A Lioness operative has her cover blown in the opening scenes of Special Ops: Lioness, and she's waiting for Joe's tactical team to come to her rescue when she is found by a group of ISIS members, who begin to beat and kick her. Realizing that she will be brutally killed, Joe makes the difficult decision to order a drone strike on the ISIS compound, killing the asset along with her assailants.

What Is the Backstory in Special Ops: Lioness?

In a flashback to four years earlier, we see Cruz working a minimum wage job at a burger joint in Oklahoma City, where she is trapped in an abusive relationship. She assaults her boyfriend while attempting to escape, and he chases her through town until she dodges into the local Marine recruitment center, where she then decides to escape her troubled life by enlisting.

Viewers subsequently learn that she was once a standout student and athlete in high school before her mother died. She never knew her father, and one brother is dead, while another is in prison. She became a stripper to support herself before deciding against that life, and with the Marines as a way out, she becomes a top-of-the-line recruit and gets fast-tracked into the special program as a replacement for the asset who died.

We see that Cruz is looking for a new life and a shot at making a difference, while Joe is trying to make up for a key mistake she made that cost her other operative her life.

How Can I Watch Special Ops: Lioness?

Special Ops: Lioness debuted for streaming on Paramount+ on Sunday morning at 3AM ET. New episodes of the spy thriller will air every Sunday via the Paramount+ streaming service. New users can get a free trial before committing to the service.

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