The finale of Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 is a fast-paced, high-intensity hour that leaves us both satisfied and curious about what’s to come.
With a successful mission behind them, Joe and Cruz wound up in deeply difficult and vastly different emotional spaces, grappling with what’s next.
The episode opens with the team at a frantic pace, touching down in their jet and giving Cruz her final pieces of advice before she’s sent off with Kyle to get to Mallorca on time.
The nerves for Joe and Cruz are palpable as they have a final discussion, though they don’t recognize it in each other. Joe, who left Cruz at the end of Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 7 with some homework to do, gives one final pep talk before shipping Cruz off.
For Joe, sending Cruz to do her team’s bidding has always been a gamble, and with all eyes on their operation, her leadership has never been more vital.
Cruz’s feelings for Aaliyah have been threatening to spill over, and even understanding why she’s working to take out Amrohi hasn’t made things much more manageable.
As has been the theme throughout their time together, Joe and Cruz are locked in a power struggle, much like that of a mother and a daughter.
In moments where we have seen Joe dealing with her daughter, she tends to be stoic and reserved, only revealing parts of herself to get to the crux of Kate’s issues. She does this with Cruz, as well.
Throughout their last moments together before Cruz is seen off, Zoe Saldaña’s Joe is reserved and somewhat quiet but ultimately stands her ground in a way that proves she knows exactly what she’s talking about.
To send Cruz off with the best possible mindset, Joe keeps things short and explains what to do when the mission is finished. She doesn’t leave a margin for error or offer any alternatives. She trusts Cruz to listen and do what she’s been trained for.
At The White House, Byron heads up the team of Staff, including Secretary of State Mullins, hoping to soothe them as Kaitlyn and Joe move with the Lioness team.
Mullins, for his part, isn’t happy about the operation. It could cause an international incident, especially if things go wrong. Byron does his best to alleviate the White House Staff, keeping in touch with Kaitlyn throughout the mission.
While the White House Staff are difficult to please, Nicole Kidman’s Kaitlyn prioritizes the Lioness team and tells Byron what he needs to know instead of everything going on in the field.
The team heads out to sea to get the best vantage point for a rescue of Cruz if needed.
Cruz, for her part, plays things off well as she makes her way to the wedding venue, which is a large compound separated into two separate areas for the men and women.
Before she’s brought to Aaliyah, Cruz is taken to see Ehsan in an office. While it’s unclear what details he knows, if any, it’s pretty apparent that he’s not a fan of Cruz.
The two share a few pleasantries before Ehsan tells Cruz that once he marries Aaliyah, they won’t be allowed to see each other anymore.
Cruz is more possessive than seems safe but doesn’t back down from telling Ehsan he shouldn’t marry Aaliyah.
Rather than leaving the venue immediately as she asks, Cruz is escorted to the women’s quarters, where she’s met with an excited Aaliyah.
Aaliyah and Cruz quickly gravitate towards one another, and their connection is as palpable as ever. The tragic love story we’ve been watching pan out throughout the season has reached its bitter end.
Stephanie Nur’s Aaliyah, waxing poetic about her love for Cruz without naming it, has a quiet ache that she seems to wrestle with through every word.
She’s plain with Cruz: she doesn’t want to get married, especially not to Ehsan.
She knows she’ll eventually have children, and though it doesn’t excite her, she hopes maybe she’ll be able to feel the love she’s lost in her relationships with them.
Cruz is wrenched by emotion, visibly struggling as they make their way through the wedding venue, meet Aaliyah’s mother, and talk, then head to Cruz’s room together, unable to let each other go.
As the Lioness team waits things out aboard the yacht they’ve rented, Joe has difficulty keeping her mind off her family.
Before this mission, Joe may have found this feat a bit easier. Now, knowing Kate is home and injured, things are more challenging.
When Dave Annabel’s Neil calls Joe in the middle of the night after Kate wakes from a night terror, Joe has an adverse reaction. She comforts Kate but snaps at Neil for not giving her any warning.
Joe’s been clear that she has to be in a specific headspace for missions and told Neil this would be tough.
Though Joe’s boundaries have shifted throughout Special Ops: Lioness Season 1, she’s still prioritizing her career as this mission ends. Her mothering, especially of her children, has to wait until she’s back on US soil.
While Joe copes with the difficulty of pushing her family out of her mind, Cruz’s emotions have never been closer to the surface.
Aaliyah leaves Cruz alone for a time but comes back in the middle of the night, full of doubts. She doesn’t want to get married; she can’t get married, but she doesn’t know how to get out of it.
She explains that she spoke to Ehsan and told him she didn’t want to marry him, but it doesn’t matter because Aaliyah gets no say in her own life. Harkening back to Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 6, Cruz, clearly heartbroken and confused, comforts Aaliyah.
It’s a mistake, it seems, as the two grow close. The buzz between them ignites again, and both can’t help themselves. Aaliyah kisses Cruz again, unable to stop herself, and it takes a moment before Cruz pulls away.
The moment is enough to pull Cruz away from her goal of finding Aaliyah’s father and shake her up, pushing her to leave the room momentarily.
When Cruz leaves Aaliyah, we unexpectedly face the mission’s crux. As Cruz finally meets Amrohi, a charming older man with grey hair who offers her gelato, Ehsan discovers Cruz’s true identity.
In one of the most heart-stopping moments of the finale, Ehsan charges into the kitchen to find Cruz with Amrohi.
Laysla De Oliveira’s Cruz perfectly snaps into action after Ehsan screams that she’s a US Marine, killing Ehsan and Amrohi before fleeing the area.
As soon as she’s out in the open, even though she’s shoeless and covered in blood, Cruz signals the Lioness team and runs as fast as she can towards the water, the only way she’ll be able to escape.
Though the last few episodes have been building to this moment, seeing the mission finally be executed and watching Cruz run for her life is a thrilling, breathless sequence, only usurped by what comes next.
Cruz is visibly shaken after she’s rescued and brought aboard the Lioness team’s yacht, assuring Kaitlyn that Amrohi is dead. She punches Joe, is taken away, then heads back out to the boat’s deck to go for Joe again.
The two let each other have it, Cruz screaming in Joe’s face in a rage similar to their fight in Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 2. It’s unclear exactly where the anger comes from – whether it’s heartbreak, adrenaline, disappointment, or elsewhere.
Joe, in part, understands. She’s firm with Cruz without being harsh. She doesn’t let her get away with everything but cuts her more slack than she needs to.
As Joe tells Cruz she’s changed history, the moment is heavy and tense. She’s done something significant, and Joe wants her to savor it.
Cruz, in turn, disagrees. With more scorn than necessary, Cruz tells Joe she’s merely changed the oil prices and quits the task force, leaving Joe alone on the deck.
The moment pulls every thread Joe and Cruz have been weaving throughout Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 into a haphazard bow, untidy but tied together.
Joe has finished parenting Cruz, has let her fly alone, and doesn’t know how to deal with the repercussions.
Cruz, alternately, doesn’t feel like she’s done anything right throughout her time with the Lioness team and doesn’t know how to cope with the choices she’s had to make.
Joe is finally shown heading home and finding herself collapsing into her husband, explaining how difficult things have been. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen her be genuinely emotional.
With everyone in some state of unrest, Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 comes to a close that feels triumphant and bitter all at once.
Cher Thompson is a staff writer for TV Fanatic, who you can follow on Twitter.