If you are a huge fan of any superhero franchise, then ‘Warrior Nun’ is the show for you to binge watch. But if you are expecting a story that is out-of-this-world, then you may be disappointed.
A normal, average protagonist is living life in their own terms when suddenly the weight and responsibility to save the world is upon them. This individual is portrayed to care less about the world and is rather self-centred, but only in the beginning. Towards the end, the protagonist understands the value of life and takes on the mission to fight and protect the world, more than anything. The protagonist is the ‘Chosen One’. Sounds a little familiar doesn’t it?
It must because it is literally the premise of every other superhero movie, ever!
Yet another fantasy, built on the idea of the ‘Chosen One’, the Warrior Nun is loosely based on Ben Dunn’s comic series Warrior Nun Areala. However, what the former lacks is originality, consistency in writing and proper pacing.
The story revolves around a 19-year-old girl named Ava Silva, an orphan who died mysteriously and is brought to the church for burial but is resurrected when a nun implants the halo in her back to protect the corpse from demons. The halo is a crucial part to the story as it is the sacred relic of the Order of the Cruciform Sword (OCS)- a secret society of women warriors going back to the First Crusade.
Who is Ava? What is the significance of the halo? Who are these warrior nuns? The narrative unravels these details in a span of 10 episodes in Season 1.
So many questions, an interesting plot full of mystery that eventually amounts to nothing by means of unnecessary voice-over narrations and ridiculous background music which ultimately doesn’t communicate the theme to the audience. For instance, Billie Eilish playing in the background as warriors are fighting demons is so off-putting.
In an attempt to attract Gen Z, Warrior Nun stands as an epic fail. Despite being an all-women show, even the protagonist being a female lead, the show loses its essence when Ava is seen to be surprisingly strong due to the halo’s powers that we almost forget that she was a quadriplegic since she was 7. But the most unrealistic part of the show is the protagonist herself. Ava seems to be less deserving of the halo and the viewer’s attention.
The show unfolds parts of Ava’s life, depicting her struggle growing up in a Catholic Orphanage in Spain and devoid of any freedom until the halo gave her powers to be able to live a ‘normal’ life. Not for long, however. The Warrior Nuns hunt her down to get their holy relic back, with hopes of convincing Ava to be their leader. Warrior Nuns are about fighting the Tarasque, a creature with biblical origins, known as one of the most powerful monsters in Dungeons & Dragons but Ava is all about having fun, dancing, falling in love and running on the beach. She is a teen, after all.
She even meets a hunky squatter, JC who she develops a romantic relationship with. The show failed to portray a strong female-lead given the chance and pondered too much on Ava dissing her responsibilities as the halo bearer, shedding more time on self-reflection and constantly bringing up the fact that she “doesn’t owe anyone anything”.
What doesn’t add up in the show is Ava’s cool nature, sassy attitude, pop-culture nous and spontaneous gaining of combat skills with the halo despite growing up in a facility run by a controlling and abusive nun. She states in one of the scenes that all her knowledge is from watching TV. Wonder how she learnt the technique to break a leg.
Beyond such disparities, in the end Ava realises the reason behind her rejuvenation while she is stuck with Shotgun Mary, another Warrior Nun who hasn’t taken the oath but serves under the OCS. Ava is instantly thrilled to meet Mary who is the very notion of an unconventional nun. Shotgun Mary’s character comes across as fearless yet with empathy, becoming a reflection for Ava to own up to her responsibility.
Besides the protagonist, the Warrior Nuns are characters to root for. Sister Beatrice and Sister Lilith are two strong females that set an example for Ava in this show. It almost feels like Ava’s character needs to redeem herself based on the principles of Sister Beatrice, and the vigour to fight under any circumstance from Sister Lilith. Though the plot focused on portraying Sister Lilith as a mongrel for power as she was the next in line for the halo, we witness an able leader in her towards the last few episodes when she sacrifices herself to protect Ava. Once again, putting Ava in a position to learn to stay and fight rather than escape.
Some of the major aspects in this show are the constant back-and-forth monologues between religion and faith, questioning the very existence of ‘what is real’ is something worth mentioning. We also get to watch a scientist, Jillian Salvius the head of ArqTech, and her company that builds magical portals out of Divinium (a sacred material which is Vatican’s prime secret for millennium). There is also debates between Ava and Jillian on the patriarchal standards set by church and its constant scrutiny of science to install just religious faith amongst people, however much of it has already been ridiculed in Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.
And to make things easier for the audience, the ArqTech logo’s ‘T’ is shaped like a pitchfork clarifying that they are the bad guys. However, before we began locating the issue, one of the greatest discoveries for Ava is her dreams that take her closer to the answer. In one of the dreams, she meets the former halo-bearer Sister Shannon who speaks of numerous women warriors who have faced unfortunate deaths at the command of men. This moment is a turning point in the series when Ava decides to break this vicious wheel of dying nuns and once for all, stop the demons!
Though the cinematography and mise-en-scene in this show is breathtaking, giving us hopes to travel to Spain, the show is merely about beautification rather than depth. The Warrior Nuns start their journey to reach a delicate location of the Vatican to find the secret it has been guarding. The only problem being, Assassin’s Creed Franchise and even the popular Da Vinci Code have been successful at showcasing such a theme.
Unfortunately, Warrior Nun fails to meet the mark due to lack of subtlety in the show. For instance, a nun who walks casually in a beach with a blue sword hanging in her back , Ava walking across the streets stabbed and bleeding or Shotgun Mary walking inside a ship with 2 shotguns. The minor details matter in a superhero franchise and Warrior Nun remains oblivious.
The problem in the show is not the plot or the notion to challenge an on-going debate between science and church. It is the characterisation of the people within the frame. Despite the characters being superheros, the world they are picturing the scenario in, is normal and it was essential to question the absurdities that befall. In movies like James Bond Franchise or even John Wick, we are aware of the obstacles the protagonist may encounter and the possibility of a jam-packed fight sequence. However, in Warrior Nun that is not the case. There are many questions unanswered and it ends abruptly, making fans scream in confusion. I think this ending is possibly for the better.
Some mysteries go unsolved and it gives us another season to await and explore the superhero journey and maybe, this time there will be more narrative and less Ava.
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