Netflix’s ‘Warrior Nun’: Ava Silvers might be the Buffy Summers replacement we've been waiting for
Could 'Warrior Nun' be a worthy successor to the phenomenon known as 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'? Here is a quick but thorough comparison of both series
Well, it took 17 years, but we finally got it. A series that could be a worthy successor to that phenomenon known as 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'. Here is a quick but thorough comparison of both series, weighing in on the strength, weaknesses, and similarities between the two shows.
But first, a disclaimer. Any comparison between the two shows will be a little skewed because we are weighing seven seasons worth of stories of the sprawling Buffyverse vs the one season of 'Warrior Nun' with just 10 episodes. Then there is the nostalgia factor and the fact that these shows are paced very differently, thanks to the network TV format vs the streaming platform binge model.
But even so, let's dive into this.
Things that 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' did better:
1) Great dialogue: If there is one thing the Scooby gang did well, it was the repartee-filled dialogue and witty one-liners. It helped of course that the series was set in a high-school, where snark was the weapon of choice if you wanted to survive obnoxious queen bees during the day and fanged monsters at night. Lines from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' have become part of pop culture lore. Sample these for zingers from Xander for instance: "I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide until it goes away.” and this one "Just think of me as… as your… You know, I’m searching for supportive things and I’m coming up all bras. So, something slightly more manly, think of me as that.” Xander and Spike pretty much were stand-up routines all on their ownsome and the rest of the gang, including Buffy, had some pretty good zingers to sling, especially in tough situations. 'Warrior Nun' tries hard to get that same humor-laced energy going, especially with Ava's silent monologuing around "cute boy" JC, but overall, most of the nuns are pretty serious about their calling.
2) The Scoobies: The core team that surrounded Buffy and became her surrogate family was the key to the success of the show. We might have tuned in for the vampire-kicking action but we stayed for "the family", affectionately nicknamed the "Scooby gang" or the Scoobies. Their interactions and the bond they forged over seven seasons spanned complex and heart-warming arcs as the characters supported, learned, and fought alongside each other. 'Warrior Nun' mentions the nuns being a family several times but they are often at each other's throats, especially Shotgun Mary and Sister Lilith. In addition, none of the sisters are exactly warm. With the exception of the friendship between Shotgun Mary and Ava, there is a more professional air to the relationship Ava has with the other nuns. That might change as we get more seasons, but let's just say there isn't a whole lot of back-slapping and bonding happening on the first season of 'Warrior Nun'.
3) Memorable villains: Let's face it. Buffy had some great villains in the first few seasons until we came down to the desperate 'First Evil' times in the last season. The unholy family of three Spike, Drusilla, Angel, were complex villains, shifting between good, bad, vulnerable, and cruel by turn that made for great TV. Buffy's villains were human in a way that made us invested in what happened to them. 'Warrior Nun' Big Bad ultimately turns out to be the "angel" Adriel, and throughout the entire show, we only see CGI "wraith demons" that look like red mist and the Tasarak demon. While they do rack up the tension, they aren't exactly the sort of villains that hog the spotlight.
4) Musical episode: Buffy started the trend of musical episodes and its 'Once more with Feeling' episode is a milestone in pop culture. The show embraced camp along with more serious episodes all the time, which is why an all-singing, all-dancing episode worked so well. 'Warrior Nun' has a pretty groovy soundtrack, but it is too gritty and leans towards a more realistic aesthetic. Don't expect a musical episode for 'Warrior Nun' because it probably won't happen.
Things that 'Warrior Nun' does better:
1) Science Vs Religion: 'Warrior Nun' does an excellent job depicting the Science Vs Religion debate bringing in modern realities into the equation. Jillian Salvius, the CEO of Arqtech is in the business of creating miracles of science, opening a gateway to a parallel dimension. She does this by experimenting on the material "Divinium", that belongs to the Church in the form of holy relics. In the beginning, we believe that she and her assistant, an ex-Vatican archivist, are the villains. But as the story progresses, things get a lot murkier. How power is manipulated by Cardinal Duretti and narratives are twisted because of belief and faith become essential to the story, especially the season's finale. The ending shows the limitations of the Church's language of good and evil, "demons" and "angels" to deal with otherwordly beings that do not look like us and hail from a parallel universe. In the end, we realize that a blend of faith, science, common-sense, and pure gut feel is what helps the nuns and Ava keep their heads above water. Just like how real people deal with real problems. The Buffyverse was nowhere as deep in questioning magic and the supernatural and the "ritual" that powered the first Slayer. Magic was merely a means to an end on the show with no attempt to explain its existence or why it existed.
2) Gothic Church aesthetic: 'Warrior Nun' was shot in Spain, in gorgeous gothic cathedrals, spooky catacombs, and amid spectacular natural vistas. The nun's order is based in the "Cat's Cradle" that is part-fortress and part-convent, perched on a hill. Ava's adventures after regaining the use of her limbs see her partying in a club that was once a prison, transformed into a psychedelic dungeon wonderland. The series has 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' beat when it comes to locations. Sunnydale, in comparison, was a pretty nondescript town and, let's face it, 'the Bronze', where everybody hung out was pretty lame.
3) Fight sequences: 'Warrior Nun' has only a few fighting scenes but they are wonderful to behold -- especially when Sister Beatrice takes down a whole private army of security guards all on her own. It is so well done that even Black Widow would cheer her lithe, agile dance, dodging bullets with just a stick and some deft martial techniques. To be fair, we've had a whole universe of superhero action films rain down on us since Buffy ended, that 'Warrior Nun' draws on. In comparison, Buffy's fight sequences became a rinse-repeat cycle of familiar moves that didn't really have the wow factor.
Score: 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer': 4. 'Warrior Nun': 3
However, what both shows did and do get right is feeling the Pride with some great references to LGBTQ+ relationships and girl power. And in that, we can all rejoice.
'Warrior Nun' premiered on July 2 on Netflix.