'Warrior Nun' Season 1 Review: A surprisingly slow-paced but beautifully crafted series
The show is meticulously crafted, with characters whose personalities shine strong, but might not be for people who came in expecting a mindless action series
Spoilers for 'Warrior Nun' Season 1
The first thing that you should know about 'Warrior Nun' is that, despite what the trailers, the comics, and 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' and even the show's name might imply, there is almost zero demon-slaying in this first season. This is not a show about nuns vs demons, not really. What it is, is a well-crafted story about a young girl with a second chance at life, and her journey towards accepting a destiny that's bigger than herself.
The second thing you should know is that the nuns still absolutely kick ass.
Season 1 is very much an origin story for the quadriplegic Ava Silver (Alba Baptista), the titular Warrior Nun. After being killed by an unscrupulous caregiver, her corpse winds up in the morgue that happens to belong to a sect of secret battle nuns - the Order of the Cruciform Sword. The Order is betrayed and the previous Warrior Nun is killed. The only place to hide her power-granting halo is within Ava's body and this has the unexpected side-effect of bringing Ava back to life. Not only is Ava restored to life but she gains full control of her limbs for the first time since childhood and she is determined not to let her second chance at life go to waste.
Rarely has a protagonist ever avoided the hero's call for as long as Ava manages to. Time and time again, she runs from her destiny and every time you think that she's finally ready to accept it, she runs again. With a lesser show and a lesser lead actor, this would be incredibly frustrating, and for many it still might be. 'Warrior Nun' is the kind of series name that attracts a certain kind of audience and it's debatable how much the show caters to them, specifically. The show is slow-paced and one episode, in particular, is an almost meditative experience centered on just two of the show's leads as they try to come to an understanding with each other.
It's well written. Every one of the lead characters is given some very nuanced material to work with and they work with it well. Alba Baptista gives a compelling performance, with a charisma that sizzles onscreen. Her performance, mixed with the narration of her inner voice, does an effective job of portraying everything that Ava is going through and though the audience may not agree with her choices, the show makes it easier to understand them.
The series also takes it time to develop its ancillary characters - mainly, the other nuns and the priest who leads them. Shotgun Mary (Toya Turner), Sister Lilith (Lorena Andrea) and Sister Beatrice (Kristina Tonteri-Young) all obviously have a history between them and it at times can feel like there's an entire earlier three seasons of the show we've missed out on. The show's slow pace gives just enough time to get to know all of them and their own complicated relationships with their faith. Lilith's ambition, Mary's determination, and Beatrice's law-abidingness are just stepping stones to much more complex characters, all of whom are instantly endearing in their own way.
Though the series may be lacking in demons, it does not lack for action as the nuns go on enough missions for their Order or have disagreements that they battle out between themselves, for the series to still fit comfortably within the action genre of TV. None of it is action for action's sake either, there is a lot of great storytelling that happens throughout the series' fight scenes, which just makes it all the better. Every named nun has their own unique fighting style and it shows.
The show's confident pacing is its greatest strength. The series seems to be aiming to establish several seasons worth of familiarity with its characters in its first season, and it recognizes that that's a process that can be done but can't be rushed. With a well-pieced story, a charismatic cast, great action and some intriguing themes, the worst part about 'Warrior Nun' is how long fans are going to have to wait for Season 2.
All episodes of 'Warrior Nun' Season 1 are now available to stream on Netflix.