Nun Shall Pass
‘Warrior Nun’ on Netflix takes itself a little too seriously
The trailer for Warrior Nun, Netflix’s new supernatural fighting show, pops. It pulsates, intrigues, and gets the viewer ready to dive in to a kinetic adventure with the badass titular character and her equally alluring sidekicks. As a woman with a deep weakness for the Chosen One trope, I was down for a rapturous experience, but the show never achieves divinity. Rather than building upon the “one special hero” legacies of all those who fought their way through before, this show glides along the worn and self-serious CW path, with enough swears, sexiness, and blood thrown in to earn an edgy TV-MA rating.
As the series opens, the body of a nineteen-year-old woman lies cold in a morgue in Spain. She led a tragic life as an unwanted orphan, and now, she’s dead, the cause of death on her paperwork tellingly blank. A superfluity of nuns conveniently ends up under attack right there, and their mortally-wounded leader dies. In a panic, the Mother Superior flips her dead brethren’s body over, removes a fiery glowing circle from her back, and hastily stuffs it in the back of the corpse, who wakes up.
Not a strikingly original opening, but it fits the genre’s conventions in a pleasingly iZombie sort of way. A trail of red smoke crawls menacingly into the room, and alive again Ava attacks it on pure instinct. She confidently struts out of the building as a wickedly cool circle shines through her clothing in the center of her back, generating a million Hot Topic clothing lines with each step.
With its setup secure, the show then meanders into its unexpected John Green Element. Turns out, young Ava was a sheltered quadriplegic suffering at the hands of cruel nuns, and now she’s free and ready to live her best life. For a Warrior Nun, that apparently means feeling the sand on her toes, dancing giddily, and providing incessant voiceover. She narrates in a Katniss-style monotone while jumping into the deep end of a pool at a random mansion to explain she can’t swim, and offers girlish commentary about her dreamy rescuer, who happens to be squatting at the unguarded palatial estate with his crew.
Ava’s every ho-hum thought flows freely. Sometimes, she blurts out what she means to keep inside. How embarrassing! Useless info is painfully overexplained, forcing the viewer to ponder the big questions. Why is Ava so blasé about her own reanimation? Why do the dreamboat and his American Apparel-ready friends dig her? And most importantly, where does one find an unlocked, unstaffed, uninhabited mansion with a fully stocked pantry and bar? Is that just how Spain is?
Lest we forget the evil/good element, there is the Order of the Cruciform Sword, aka, those nuns, who need their back circle thingie back. Turns out, it’s a halo, and it’s their sacred duty to protect it, and the thus the world, from demons. The Netflix standard-issue Fiery Lesbian Character, Shotgun Mary, knows her sisters were betrayed, and makes the investigation her own personal side mission while the rest of the gang goes on a fetch quest for Ava.
The pacing of Warrior Nun is so leisurely that it takes three episodes for them to connect, and for Ava to start to question her super-cool powers. While deviation from the standard setup/knock down of shows of this ilk is great in theory, the execution here fails. Warrior Nun’s lethargically bloated 10 episodes makes one wish the producers had stuck with their original plan to make Warrior Nun into a movie.
In case a passel of betrayed demon fighting nuns and sappy teen romance aren’t engrossing enough, a side plot regarding a mad scientist bent on opening quantum portals to other worlds randomly works its way into the story, too. It will all tie together eventually, but like the religious order, we need to have faith. Warrior Nun intends to shock and surprise with plot twists and “gotcha” connections that are clunkier than the dialogue and flatter than the acting.
In pursuit of deeper meaning, there are plenty of pseudointellectual speeches offering exposition as well as free Christianity 101 lessons. For an extra scosche of piety, every episode’s name is a Bible verse. Sadly, Warrior Nun is not the one show to save us all, but maybe with a little less pretension and a little more intention, it won’t require an act of God for season two to be exponentially more fun.