It’s a blessing and a curse that Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 5 doesn’t allow Joe to linger or wallow over issues.
As she deals with the direct aftermath of her daughter Kate’s traumatic car accident, Cruz heals from her assault on her own.
Joe’s complex emotions about Kate and Cruz are palpable, but with no time to waste, we can never sit in the feelings for long before the next punch is thrown.
As Joe navigates problems she’s never dealt with, Cruz does her best to stay afloat after a series of difficulties.
Without knowing the gravity of what Joe’s going through, Cruz feels comfortable pushing her superiors’ buttons in a way she hasn’t before.
For Zoe Saldaña’s consistently stoic Joe, this episode offers a genuine look into her emotions in a raw, authentic way that packs a punch. Aware that her daughter is feeling the weight of sacrifice, Joe is doing her best to remain firm in the face of fear.
Her facade crumbles quickly when she finds her daughter alone in the hospital’s recovery area, uncertain of what’s happening. Joe is quick to debrief. It’s part of her job as a leader and parent, but understanding what Kate needs and being that are two different animals.
Joe is brutally honest with Kate about her condition and her own failings as a parent.
While Kate finds her mother frustrating, she misses her, plain and simple. Being without a mother is difficult, especially with Kate understanding that Joe is choosing her career over her responsibilities as a parent.
The breadth of emotion between the actors is palpable, but Kate isn’t the only person Joe is trying to handle with care.
Joe’s relationship with her husband, Dave Annabel’s Neil, has been a contention throughout the series. The pair are deeply in love but have chosen high-pressure, demanding careers that keep them busy, sometimes too busy for their family.
Neil has been Joe’s most prominent defender to their daughters, his colleagues, and Joe herself throughout the series. On Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 5, Neil’s patience is wearing thin.
His fear over Kate’s condition, over how he’s been unable to keep their daughter out of imminent danger on his own, is evident in every grave expression he wears. He’s a quiet force throughout the episode, but by the end, it’s clear that he’s unhappy.
Joe tells him she loves him, but he doesn’t return the sentiment immediately. The moment is uncomfortable and tense, surely leading somewhere more precarious.
As Joe navigates her home life, the versatile Laysla De Oliveira‘s Cruz struggles through her issues after being drugged and assaulted.
Cruz’s memory hasn’t retained anything of note, but her body feels the signs of trauma. With every action she takes early in the episode, it’s clear that Cruz is hurting.
While she has support from the Lioness team, Cruz’s identity doesn’t feel complete, especially as she’s been spending so much time as Zara with Aaliyah Amrohi, who’s been looking for her friend.
Looking for answers or purpose, Cruz continues to ignore Aaliyah and moves with the Lioness team as they take on a more extensive operation in Texas following Kyle’s botched recovery efforts on Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 3.
After dealing with her daughter and the emotional overhaul Kate required, Joe arrives in Texas with something to prove. It’s quickly evident that she’s trying to assert herself, calling out Cruz as an asset rather than a part of the Lioness team.
The attitudes both women are wearing don’t mesh. Joe’s directive to lead falls flat when she’s reminded that the team needs numbers. Cruz’s attempt to prove herself is squashed when Joe tries to push her to the back of the line, literally and figuratively.
Both are stubborn to a fault, making it clear that they don’t have time for one another’s point of view.
For Joe, protecting Cruz has been her number one priority. Putting her in the line of fire for an op that may or may not pan out doesn’t seem necessary.
For Cruz, she’s faltered more than once as the Lioness team’s asset. Proving herself feels like the only possible option.
As Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 continues, the relationship between Joe and Cruz has been quietly simmering to a boil.
The women have some vast similarities in their backgrounds and approaches, but Cruz’s refusal to see Joe as the authority figure she is is reminiscent of Joe’s fourteen-year-old daughter in a way that pushes her buttons.
The two have never seen eye to eye entirely. Joe understands that Cruz is an asset to the team, knows her strength, and understands she’s capable.
What Joe underestimates is herself, and she does it often. There’s a quiet confidence in Joe that comes out when she’s feeling threatened, but it usually fades into the background when she’s dealing with forces like Kate or Cruz.
It’s not that she doesn’t feel she can prove herself; she seems to think they won’t believe her authority is absolute. Joe’s trying to mother each of them in different ways, but she’s having trouble keeping them out of danger.
Special Ops: Lioness Season 1 Episode 4 explored how Joe functions as a member of her family from the outside, especially in moments of crisis.
This episode observed the inverse: how Joe functions in her career when tasked with being a present parent. Joe dealt with Kate in an emotion-fueled moment, then pushed back on Cruz in a way she couldn’t with her own daughter.
As Cruz continues to make choices that could ultimately hinder Joe and the Lioness team, it seems clear that the duo will continue to butt heads.
Moving into the final stretch of Special Ops: Lioness Season 1, the path feels littered with explosives. It’s only a matter of time before we, as the audience, see which will detonate first.
Cher Thompson is a staff writer for TV Fanatic, who you can follow on Twitter.