Review: Netflix’s Warrior Nun Is All Build Up With No Salvation In Sight
I was incredibly excited for Netflix’s Warrior Nun series. I likened the trailer to Buffy The Vampire Slayer for its badass female empowerment premise. Especially against the backdrop of a religious fantasy setting. The original comic gets praise for not being too offensive. But after seeing Warrior Nun, I wish it was edgier and dared to offend, instead of playing it safe with a bland story that seemingly goes nowhere. While some may enjoy the empty, showy action in the show, others may find themselves disappointed.
Just a word of caution, our review of Netflix’s Warrior Nun will be full of spoilers. Tread onward at your own risk!
Netflix’s Warrior Nun Original Series Showed Promise
Image via Netflix.
The Warrior Nun comic book that inspired the Netflix original series was pretty epic. It was about a secret order of the Church tasked with fighting supernatural and demonic threats to the world. The protagonist was a titular Warrior Nun who received an Angel’s Halo, embedded in her back. This granted her a series of powers that allowed her to lead the Order of the Cruciform Sword, along with other butt kicking female soldiers of the Church. Through generations, the Halo passes on to the next worthy nun. Season 1 is about one particular heroine who accidentally becomes the next Warrior Nun.
The trailer for the new Netflix adaptation showcased all the best elements of the series, causing me to squeal with glee. A group of uptight and combative religious types infiltrated by a young girl who accidentally gets the Halo and is their saviour is perfect drama-fodder. It’s even got all the tropes going for it; reluctant hero, belief vs. free will, science vs. faith, shotguns and swords and everything to make it one of the best shows on Netflix. But my faith in the series was not rewarded, as Netflix’s Warrior Nun review will highlight.
The Show Is A Nun Fighting Demons With Powers She Got From An Actual Angel
Netflix’s Warrior Nun series is all about a long line of Nuns as soldiers, with only one worthy of the angelic Halo. The first episode opens with the current chosen one, Sister Shannon (Melina Matthews) injured in an ambush. After a tense, emotional goodbye, the Halo is removed for the next chosen one. However, the Halo accidentally ends up in the body of a dead nobody after a surprise attack by the bad guys. The otherworldly properties of the Halo bring the girl back to life, making her the new wielder of the Halo.
So the new Warrior Nun is an untrained, non-Nun and non-believer, who is supposed to lead the Order against demons she doesn’t even know exists. Add to this the politics of the Church, led by a corrupt Cardinal (Joaquim de Almeida), and the bitterness of the soldier originally supposed to be the next chosen one, Lilith (Lorena Andrea). Which would be good enough. Yet, the overarching threat of the first season of Warrior Nun comes from a tech-billionaire who has, supposedly, discovered a portal to Heaven? This puts her in direct conflict with the church, showing an entirely new angle to the age-old science vs. religion debate. Yet, perhaps the series tried to do too much too fast.
Warrior Nuns Plays It Too Safe With It’s Potentially Controversial Subject Matter
Image via Netflix.
Despite the amazing concept and premise, Netflix’s Warrior Nun fails to deliver on any of its interesting storylines. The broad conflict between science and religion is never fully explored. The potential to make this superficial premise of a fighting nun, into something much more is never fully realized by the show. The writers did not craft sufficient story arcs or even personal character development to put in context faith in the modern world. The entire Order reconciles their use of violence and murder against their hyper religiosity, and no one even comments on the contradiction. And it’s not just otherworldly creatures they kill.
There’s a scene early on in the season where Mary (Toya Turner), a nun who is rogue and doesn’t play by the rules, kills a human after interrogating him at gunpoint. It’s a regular scene that is shocking because of how they frame it in the show. A woman in a habit shooting a man off of a cliff. It’s shocking given what you think the repercussions would be in the story, or at least emotionally. But the show never addresses it again.
In an alternate world, Warrior Nun would be a shockingly controversial show that pushes the boundaries of religious concepts framing them in an engaging way against a supernatural backdrop. It’s been done before by shows like Supernatural, Lucifer, Constantine and many others. But Warrior Nun decides to play it safe, not commenting on any of the things that make up its foundation.
Warrior Nun Feels Out Of Place Amongst Other Great Netflix Originals
Image via Netflix.
Despite the fact that Warrior Nun is based on a successful comic book, at times it doesn’t feel like it. It almost feels like one of those low-budget sci-fi fantasy shows on a niche cable channel. And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it’s not what one expects from a Netflix original comic book adaptation. And it’s not just the lack of special effects or action set pieces, it’s also the writing.
The billionaire Jillian Salvius (Thekla Reuten), who develops the portal, does so as a means of, something or other. The science behind the creation of he portal is flimsy. Oh, and it’s not really a portal to ‘heaven’, given she doesn’t actually know where it leads, but thinks is a place without death. For some reason. We learn later that her motivation is her young dying son, who life depends on going to this dimension. Again, for some reason. Seeing how she doesn’t know any details herself, so neither do we.
There is also another scene where the main protagonist kills a nun who euthanizes sick kids in her orphanage. She definitely deserved it, given her evil-ness. But you would think that the act would be something the heroine has some trouble dealing with in at least one subsequent scene afterwards Especially given that she’s just a regular girl who all of a sudden has these new incredible powers? But nope! It doesn’t come up ever again.
Netflix’s Warrior Nun Review Has One Beacon Of Redemption
Image via Netflix.
Despite all of the issues with Warrior Nun, there is one thing that makes the series bearable and actually fun to watch: Alba Bapista as Ava, the reluctant new Warrior Nun. Bapista is absolutely delightful and feels like she’s in a completely different show altogether. Ava’s journey away from the Church to experience life in a new way, carries the first half of the season. Dealing with her new powers, and finding her purposes, drives the second half.
The later half gets boosts of energy every time Bapista is on screen. Her quips, charm, and generally wonderful demeanour basically is the show. The way she portrays a young girl experiencing her first crush, friends, a new family and a sense of belonging will put a smile on your face. I’m excited to see more of her, if not in more Warrior Nun, the other projects.
Netflix’s Warrior Nun season 1 is now streaming on Netflix.
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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.