Warrior Nun Series Review: A lovely premise impeded by inconsistent writing
Warrior Nun sticks to the tried and tested 'chosen one' allegory but the series does not add anything new to the age-old trope
If there aren't enough secret societies, myths and conspiracies surrounding the Vatican already, at least in the fictitious world of literature, comics and films, Netflix's latest series Warrior Nun adds another ancient order to the list. But what separates this from the rest is that like its lead Ava Silva (Alba Baptista, in her English-language debut), the series too rarely takes itself seriously. While this predominantly works beneficially, thanks to the light tone and wholesome humour, it is also counterproductive at times and quite badly so as well.
Created by: Simon Barry
Cast: Alba Baptista, Toya Turner, Thekla Reuten, Lorena Andrea
Streaming on: Netflix
Warrior Nun starts off with a high note. We see women in chainmail wielding weapons and trying to save a mortally wounded comrade. We're introduced to words such as Divinium, Tarask, and Wraith Demons as we see a nun take a halo-like artefact from the fallen soldier's back and place it on a dead Ava, an abused tetraplegic orphan, who gets resurrected. This is just one of the many Christian references this series is laced with. For starters, even the episodes are named after Biblical verses. The first episode where Ava comes back to life is titled Psalm 46:5 ('God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day'). And while we're at it, all the pivotal characters are named after their biblical counterparts. For example, Ava is the Hebrew word for 'life' and in the Bible, it means 'iniquity' which, sort of feels appropriate given how Ava is initially — a non-believer who gets borderline reckless after finally being able to do things as she pleases, including finding love in a guy named JC (get it?).
Macroscopically, Warrior Nun sticks to the tried and tested 'chosen one' allegory and when the lead goes through the usual persuasion, denial, tragic-incident-that-changes-our-hero's-heart, training, and is all set for the finale, we only find it tiring because the series does not add anything new to the age-old trope. The premise makes this a blend of various classics such as Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Charlie's Angels and Ghostbusters, served with The Da Vinci Code, on a bed of Stranger Things and topped with Assassin's Creed. To bring in the science vs religion angle we've got Jillian Salvius (Thekla Reuten) who heads an aptly named ArqTech, a company that tries to build portals to travel across realms. While the women in the series throw a lot of questions about the unfair treatment of their gender by the Church, these views are diluted as the show progresses towards its lacklustre core. In the last episode, the series even gives up completely on creativity and takes the usual route of making one dreaded character turn benevolent, akin to Harry Potter's Professor Snape. If that's not enough, probably to balance things up a bit, a character who is shown to be the most righteous person in the room ends up belonging to the opposite team. It's like the makers had a checklist that they had to follow to the T. It's quite disheartening when you get to know that the series is partially based on a comic book named Warrior Nun Areala.
When Warrior Nun steers a little from its core concept, is where the fun bits lie. Ava's voiceovers which sometimes come out as dialogues without her knowledge are some of the best bits of the series. Literally and figuratively, she is the life of the series. She questions everything, right from patriarchy to even commenting on her revival, when she says, "Catholics are a little twitchy about who gets to be resurrected unless they control the narrative." Humour is Warrior Nun's biggest weapon and thankfully there's more of it on display than shotguns and crossbows. The rest of the women of The Order of the Cruciform Sword have their own arcs which I wish were explored a little more because characters such as Olivia Delcán's Sister Camila are a pleasure to watch.
Pacing, on the other hand, is the series' biggest complication, and despite starting with a bang, by the time we get to the penultimate episode of Season 1, Warrior Nun loses steam, making it a quite tiring if you're a binge-watcher. If there's a Season 2 (considering this one ends in a cliff-hanger), I hope the series does not stick to run-of-the-mill cliches and gives us more. The world created by the series has what it takes to give us more, and the fact that season one rarely tries to do that is a cardinal sin.