Special Ops: Lioness – Season 1 Episode 2 “The Beating” Recap & Review

The Beating

Episode 2 of Special Ops begins with a meeting between Kaitlyn Meade (Nicole Kidman) and Joe. Aaliya is now in New York having previously gone to visit Paris. Cruz has stood to her task by placing seeds of friendship with her.

Joe requests to put Cruz “through the grinder” with her CAG team to ensure she doesn’t have any surprises waiting when push comes to shove. Kaitlyn agrees but asks her to displace Cruz from Fort Bragg immediately. They cannot afford to have Aaliyah and Cruz run into each other by chance.

We then get insights into Joe’s family. Her partner, Neal, is a doctor, who navigates a tough situation at work. The doctors discover that a six-year-old patient, Maddy, has cancer but Neal wants the family to know all options before being confronted with the hopelessness of the situation. Neal breaks the heart-wrenching news to the couple. He explains that, in his experience, Maddy will not be able to survive the surgery. The cancer is aggressive and gives her only 6 months to live. When Neal suggests they do not go ahead with the surgery, Maddy’s father jumps at him with fists. While the doctor clearly understands having it would elongate Maddy’s suffering, the father’s emotions blind him.

Kate, Joe’s daughter, gets suspended from school for beating a fellow student. Neal angrily confronts her in the car when Kate says that “A white man like you won’t understand.”

Joe comes home and takes note of the situation. Neal confesses to Joe that his job where most of his patients die before they come of age takes a toll on him. But he still finds hope because the remaining ones do make it. Joe embraces Neal to comfort him. Next, she deals with her brat-head kid Kate, who has no measure of what her parents are going through. Joe’s stick and carrot style sets Kate right for now. She asks her to show some love to Neal, whose day might get a little better with it.

We switch attention to Cruz, who is having a tough time sleeping. She goes out for a run in the wee hours of the morning and is kidnapped. As Joe and Neal get some “we time” together, their phones ring simultaneously. Duty calls. Even though it is heroic (what they do), that is the reason for the dysfunction in their family.

Cruz is brutally tortured by Joe’s team. She is given the worst treatment but Cruz endures. She is livid with Joe, who explains that she wanted to test if Cruz was up to the task of escaping the clutches of the enemy when her cover is blown.

Joe mocks Cruz’s life choices, informing her that Edgar, her abusive partner, is now dead. This seems to be part of Cruz’s training exercise but Cruz squirms in her chair. Joe wants to know Cruz’s breaking point and signs off on the torture to continue. Cody further piles on the pressure by asking Cruz invasive questions. It is revealed that her father, Josecito, had no one else in the house to take care of him. Cody pins her to the ground and restrains her when the man in charge calls it off. Joe doesn’t want to but decides to call it off when Cruz is pushed to her limits. When Cody backs down, Cruz violently beats him and the other operatives. More men are needed to pull her back as she screams in anger and pain. 

Joe brings Cruz to Fort Bragg. Before she leaves, Joe asks Cruz for insights she has gathered from Aaliyah. But Cruz says that she won’t talk about her father. Joe explains that Asmar is driven by greed and not a religious agenda. Even though his family is obscenely rich, they do not share it with the country. When Cruz is able to make her way to Asmar, she must not hesitate to pull the trigger. And more importantly, she must endure anything and everything they put her through until Joe and her team can extract her.

Cruz comes inside to meet the team she will be staying with. These are the same operatives we met before – Joe’s team. When they learn that Cruz was put through a S.E.R.E test alone, they gather together and head for the bar. They confront Cody and his mates, which materializes into a real bar fight. In the middle of it all, Aaliyah calls Cruz, who lies that she got into a car wreck. Aaliyah proposes they meet the next day and Cruz cannot say no.

The Episode Review

The gruesome torture scenes definitely need a viewer advisory. That was arguably one of the most brutal torture scenes in recent memory.

We didn’t make much progress in the story in this episode. The tone was quite uneven as we went from sombre heartbreak with Neal and Maddy to hardcore dramatics with Cruz and the SERE test. I am hopeful that all of this will connect into the backend of the story when push does come to shove. 

Episode 2 was less about the spy and more about what it takes to recover after being broken in that capacity. That is perhaps where Cruz still looks unprepared. That being said, anybody would struggle in her shoes.

Zoe Saldana has put on a heartless, soulless face until now. She relished in her portrayal in this episode, bringing authenticity and gravitas. The next meeting with Aaliyah is going to be interesting and the plot should take off from there.

Perspectives from veterans and former operatives are welcome as without the insight, it is difficult to make sense of episode 2.

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You can read our season 1 review of Special Ops: Lioness here!
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